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Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

The Shot Caller's Report - Running Backs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups: Week 16
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs

Bye Weeks:

Grab a Helmet

Ray Rice

There's no reason to sit Rice now.

Ray Rice v. NYG: Because he’s such an integral part of the Ravens’ passing attack (his 76 targets rank second to Darren Sproles’ 85 at the position), Rice’s performance relies more heavily than most running backs on the performance of his quarterback. And, as we just discussed, his quarterback has been a little uneven this year. Rice’s two worst performances, in fact, coincided precisely with Flacco’s two worst outings. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the former’s 2012 numbers (14.3 points/game) are well off the league-leading pace he set in 2011 (18.6 points/game). Is that enough to consider benching him in the critical 16th week, however? It wouldn’t be if I owned him. Rice is still a top 5 running back this year and Baltimore is still motivated to win as they don’t want to slide into the playoffs on a five-game skid (they’ve already lost three straight). Provided he didn’t bury you last weekend and Flacco only kind of bombs, the former Scarlet Knight is someone you must continue to count on.

Reggie Bush v. BUF: Bush has become a relatively minor part of the passing attack in Miami, which is strange when you consider how valuable he was as a pass-grabber in New Orleans and how average the Dolphins’ receiving corps has been (and still is) since he joined the organization. During his time in the Big Easy, the former Heisman winner averaged about 59 receptions, 430 yards, and 2.5 receiving TDs per season. As a Dolphin (based on current projections for the last two weeks), he’s averaged only 42 receptions, about 275 receiving yards, and has caught only a single touchdown pass, none so far in 2012. Granted, Bush no longer has Drew Brees slinging him the rock, but even his targets are way down from a high of 122 in his rookie season. Where’s the silver lining in all this? Bush is averaging over 200 carries per season as a Dolphin, a mark he never came close to reaching in New Orleans. In other words, he’s become a more traditional back with more reliable touches. Need some more reasons for optimism this week? Daniel Thomas is out (read: less poaching) and the Bills are horrible against the run (5.1 yards/carry). Start Bush.

Danny Woodhead @ JAX: Several weeks back, the Pats could boast of the deepest stable of running backs in the league. That’s probably still the case, but how they apportion those touches amongst the various stable mates seems to change on an almost weekly basis. Stevan Ridley gets most of the love, of course, and has translated that affection into a 1,000-yard campaign, only the second by a New England running back in the past eight years. Woodhead and Shane Vereen often alternate as the second option, but the former, an undrafted jitterbug out of tiny Chadron St., may have firmed up his hold on that slot with a stellar Week 15 performance against the Niners (61 yards and two scores). Woodhead is also the most accomplished receiving option of the Patriot backs, making him more versatile for fantasy purposes (especially in PPR leagues). Not hurting matters is the fact he did something neither Ridley nor Vereen could manage to do in the loss against San Francisco: hold onto the football. Don’t be queasy about starting Woodhead v. the crummy Jags defense this Sunday.

Grab a Gatorade

Chris Johnson @ GB: For 20 of his 21 carries last Monday night, Johnson did precisely what I figured he would do against the Jets: nothing. That 21st carry, however (his 8th of the night, actually), was a doozy, a 94-yard grand slam that propelled the lowly Titans to the upset victory. With one tote, he managed to outscore all but 13 backs on the weekend. This has become Johnson’s MO, it seems, the ol’ rope-a-dope wherein he lulls opposing defenders to sleep and then…bam! Can he pull off a similar feat against Green Bay in Week 16? I’m gonna level with you: I HAVE NO IDEA! It’s personal between me and CJ at this point, however, and my gut tells me the Pack, possessors of great back-end speed in the secondary, will prevent a game-changing homer this Sunday. Feel free to start him if you think otherwise, but know this: You’re literally gambling with your fantasy life if you plug Johnson in.

Bryce Brown v. WAS: It was an occasionally spectacular, if terribly uneven, run for Mr. Brown as the Eagles’ uncontested meal ticket, but however you ultimately want to characterize it, one thing is certain: it’s over. Shady McCoy returns to the fold this weekend and has already been named the nominal starter by Andy Reid. Brown was positively scintillating his first two weeks as the starter, topping the running back rankings for both Weeks 12 and 13. Then, he basically disappeared, managing only 40 yards on his next 28 carries in successive outings against Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. He also showed one glaring Achilles’ heel, a propensity for dropping the ball on the turf. Brown won’t become obsolete, by any stretch, but McCoy’s return coupled with the acute fumbleitis makes him a really risky play the rest of the way. If he got you this far without, paradoxically, dooming you, don’t give him a chance to do so now.

Beanie Wells v. CHI: There’s no way you got this far riding Beanie Wells, but I guess it’s possible you plucked him off the waiver wire in time for a late championship sprint. If so, you had to be tickled with last week’s out-of-nowhere effort against the downtrodden Lions, a 67-yard, THREE-touchdown jackpot that ranked as the second best RB performance of the weekend (told you it was a weird week). Just don’t get used to it because the Bears are coming town and they are peeved, not to mention desperate. Wells has done this before, actually – see his 228-yard explosion against the Rams last year – but invariably returns to earth with a thud. Chicago needs it way more, is better in almost every facet of the game, and is especially proficient at defending opposing running backs (just 14.7 points/game yielded, 4th best in the league). Set Wells right back down where he belongs: on your bench.

Wide Receivers