Every week Committee Meetings breaks down some top storylines from the league's most head-scratching backfield committees in hopes of gaining some clarity for fantasy owners. If you're wondering about a backfield that's not discussed below, feel free to Tweet @MattFranchise for some additional advice.
The story of the week is obviously Adrian Peterson. The man torched the Falcons defense for 187 total yards, two touchdowns and 30.70 fantasy points on 29 carries in Week 12. There's no denying that even at age 30, All Day is the best running back in the NFL and in fantasy. We also saw some solid outings from waiver wire pickups like Spencer Ware (17.5 fantasy points), Javorius Allen (14.4 fantasy points) and Thomas Rawls (14.1 fantasy points). We'd even go so far to say that Eddie Lacy is back after his second-striaght 100-yard game on Thanksgiving. Just in time for the fantasy playoffs, too, which are right around the corner.
Let's dig a little deeper and find out what we learned about the fantasy running back landscape in Week 12.
Forte, Langford split workload
Matt Forte | Jeremy Langford // Bears
In Matt Forte's first game back since suffering a knee injury in Week 8, he split the workload with Jeremy Langford, which we sort of saw coming. The way Langford was playing with Forte out, the Bears couldn't just bench him. Forte looked fine, but maybe wasn't up to full speed just yet. He was being very patient behind the line and failed to get into the end zone on several runs inside the 5-yard line, although he was just inches shy on a chance early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 16 touches for 53 total yards, so it was a disappointing return for his fantasy owners. He should be able to get back on track against the 49ers in Week 13.
Langford's production was almost identical to Fortes with 53 total yards on 13 touches, but since he scored a touchdown he came away as the better fantasy play. Langford has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last four games, and over the last four weeks he's fantasy's second-highest scoring running back behind only Adrian Peterson. We have to assume that Chicago is going to keep feeding him the ball, although he only got one red zone carry compared to Forte's five, which is concerning. Still, Langford should at worst be a flex play in Week 13 against a 49ers defense that has bled fantasy points to running backs all season long.
Detroit RBs getting it together
Joique Bell | Ameer Abdullah | Theo Riddick // Lions
Are the Lions finally getting their stuff together when it comes to the ground game? Rookie Ameer Abdullah led the backfield in snaps and touches for the second straight week, and he looked good doing it. He showed great vision and burst on a 23-yard run up the middle in the first quarter and on several other significant gains throughout the game. And while his main problem this season has been ball security, he was protecting the rock well with two hands when he was hitting the hole or knew that contact was coming. Abdullah has proven that he's capable of a bigger workload and it's nice to see the Lions coaching staff finally giving him a real chance. He was the only Detroit running back who didn't get in the end zone against the Eagles on Thanksgiving, but if he keeps seeing somewhere around 15 touches per game, it's only a matter of time.
Theo Riddick only touched the ball seven times during the game but when he's being used as a wide receiver, seven touches is enough. He converted his opportunities into 68 total yards and a touchdown. Riddick has 55 receptions so far and is on pace for 80 receptions for the season. His role is expanded if the Lions are ever playing catchup, but this game was not one of those situations since it was a blowout in Detroit's favor. Riddick remains a solid flex play in PPR formats with upside based on game script.
As for Joique Bell, well, he deserves some credit for posting 82 total yards and a touchdown on just nine touches. But nearly half of his total yardage came on a single 39-yard reception. He's clearly been surpassed by Abduallah and Riddick in the pecking order and has virtually no upside in fantasy besides a few possible touchdown vulture situations. But we're not counting on those, and you shouldn't either. We'll see the Lions again this Thursday night when they take on the Packers in Detroit.
Cardinals backfield plagued by injuries
Chris Johnson | Andre Ellington | David Johnson // Cardinals
The injuries just keep on coming this season. It's an epidemic. The Cardinals backfield was the latest casualty on Sunday as Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington both left the game early with injuries. We found out on Monday that Johnson suffered a fractured tibia, which will obviously keep him on the shelf for a significant period of time. Another RB1 done. Johnson was having a great comeback season and currently ranks fourth in the NFL with 814 rushing yards.
Ellington apparently suffered a turf toe injury. Turf toe doesn't sound severe but it can be a debilitating issue. He had dealt with the same type of ailment last season which kept him from performing to his full potential for several weeks. We're not sure yet if Ellington will play in Week 13, so for now, fantasy owners need to go get rookie David Johnson on the waiver wire.
Johnson obviously saw an increase in playing time when his teammates went down, and while he only managed 30 total yards on his 10 touches, he did score a touchdown. It was only the second game all season that Johnson saw more than eight offensive touches and while we know that the rookie is capable of making big plays, it seems like Bruce Arians doesn't trust him enough yet to be a true workhorse. So there's a chance that Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams split the workload with Johnson going forward. But until we see how this is going to play out, it might be better to just leave the Cardinals backs on your bench for a week. If you must, Johnson is the one to start since he has that aforementioned big-play ability and is always a threat to score on any given play. He poses a threat in the passing game as well.
Anderson breaks out
Ronnie Hillman | C.J. Anderson // Broncos
After writing last week about how Ronnie Hillman's snap count was on the rise in Denver, the Broncos rolled with the hot hand of C.J. Anderson on Sunday night in a win against the Patriots. Anderson ran hard the whole game with runs to the outside, up the middle and even saw some usage as a pass catcher. He plowed throughPatriots defenders and his toughness was on display with plays like this insane stiff arm on Patrick Chung. Anderson collected 153 total yards and two touchdowns by the end of overtime, including a game-winning 48-yard scoring scamper. When a guy is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, it's tough to take the ball out of his hands, so Gary Kubiak and the Broncos kept feeding him. It was the breakout we had been waiting for all season, but unfortunately many fantasy owners had given up on Anderson by now. Maybe he's just a late bloomer: In Weeks 12-17 last season he averaged 108 yards per game and scored eight touchdowns in the final six games of the year. He'll be a high-upside play against the NFL's worst run stopping defense next week when Denver heads to San Diego.
Ronnie Hillman also scored in Week 12, so fantasy owners who started him at least came away with double digit points but he was clearly out-shined by Anderson's big game. Hillman may be a bit speedier than his teammate but he doesn't have the same kind of power or toughness. Hillman is a solid chance-of-pace back and complements Anderson well, but it's hard to imagine Denver giving Hillman the start in Week 13 after Anderson's break out. We'll be curious to see how things shape up for the Broncos backfield against the Chargers on Sunday.
Not much to see in New England
LeGarrette Blount | Brandon Bolden | James White // Patriots
To be honest, there isn't a whole lot to say about New England's running backs from Week 12. Between LeGarrette Blount, James White and Brandon Bolden, the Patriots backfield split 22 total touches against the Broncos. Bolden came away as the winner from a fantasy perspective as he piled up 95 total yards, including 84 receiving yards, and a touchdown. But his usage in this game was a result of game script and shouldn't be looked into as anything more. Also of note is the fact that Blount has seen his snap count and carries diminish over the last three games, which should raise a red flag for his owners. We thought when Dion Lewis went out for the season that Blount's volume would remain somewhere in the 17-20 touches per game range, but leave it to Bill Belichick to keep that from happening. Blount should still be a solid flex play next week against an Eagles' team that's playing some of the worst football in the NFL while Bolden and White are virtually useless in fantasy.