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Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

The Shot Caller's Report - Running Backs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups: Week 8
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs

Bye Weeks:
Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston

Grab a Helmet

Chris Johnson v. IND: If I hadn’t flip-flopped on Johnson about seven times already this season, I’d be gloating more about last week’s expertly called shot, a breakout performance against the Bills’ woeful front seven. The artist formerly known as C2K tallied over 100 yards and two scores (aka, a really good day) well before the second quarter had even started. He broke a long homer-less streak with a mammoth 83-yard bomb on just his fourth carry of the afternoon. All told, he finished with just a shade under two bills for the game (195 yards) and managed to tally over 30 fantasy points despite Jamie Harper poaching two more potential touchdowns later in the contest. So, he’s totally back, right? Well…. He still makes me crazy nervous. Also, calling the Bills front seven “woeful” is being kind (they give up an atrocious 6.0 yards/carry). We’ll probably need to see that type of output a few more times before we start getting really excited. Luckily, the Colts aren’t a whole lot better against the run (4.8 yards/carry) so there’s a strong possibility for more excitement in the very near future.

Willis McGahee

Favorable matchups for McGahee begin this week with the Saints.

Willis McGahee v. NO: Like Johnson, McGahee’s faced some of the league’s better run defenses to start the 2012 season (Pittsburgh, Houston, Oakland, New England, and San Diego). Unlike Johnson, he’s managed to produce something reasonably decent in most of his matchups, enough so that he’s the 13th ranked RB from a points-per-game perspective (12.4). That places him in pretty good company (right behind LeSean McCoy) and now he’s got some favorable matchups to look forward to. First up is New Orleans in Week 8, the league’s second-worst rushing defense (160.3 yards/game and 4.8/carry). If McGahee is somehow slowed on the ground, take heart: He’s been a surprisingly solid contributor in the passing game, as well, operating underneath as Peyton Manning’s primary check-down option. He’s not the sexiest of assets at the running back position but I’m sure glad he’s playing for my squad this week.

Rashad Jennings @ GB: Little Bro, bless his heart, is one of the unluckiest fantasy GMs in history. He drafted Jennings – a guy I touted back in August – fairly late in our 12-team keeper league, thinking he was getting a cheap starter and a guy he could potentially parlay into something better early in the season. As it turned out, Jennings saw only eight Week 1 carries against a tough Minny defense and then did virtually nothing of note for several games as Maurice Jones-Drew assumed the reins again. Jennings was finally recalled to duty when MJD went down in Week 7, precisely one week late for Little Bro who naturally, had dropped him so he could nab Felix Jones in advance of our titanic, brother v. brother showdown. Oops. Little Bro’s out of free agent money now but if you aren’t, go spend some on the former Liberty standout. He’s a solid stopgap solution and is one of the more useful receiving options out of the backfield for Blaine Gabbert (if you’re afraid the Jags will be trailing by too much to run the ball).

Grab a Gatorade

Steven Jackson or Daryl Richardson v. NE (in London): In case you hadn’t noticed, the Rams are in the midst of a very deliberate changing of the guard (see what I did there?). They intend to transition more of Steven Jackson’s once-ample workload to the more explosive and younger Richardson. However, they don’t seem to be in any hurry to make the complete switch any time soon. Until they fully commit to the reverse setup (Richardson as lead man and Jackson as supporting cast member), neither back seems particularly start-worthy, especially when the matchup is a daunting one. This week’s matchup is certainly that. New England is allowing just 86 rushing yards/game and a mere 3.3 per carry (good for third best overall). Though Jackson and Richardson are capable receivers and could perform well against a poor Pats pass defense, I’m loath to guess which will produce at Wembley Stadium this Sunday. Save these guys for a better matchup or until their roles are more clearly defined.

Trent Richardson or Montario Hardesty v. SD: There’s no running back controversy in Cleveland and if it weren’t for the star rookie’s ailing ribs, there wouldn’t be much of a platoon to worry about either. Unfortunately, Richardson is no sure thing to suit up on Sunday and may end up being a game-time call that morning. Even if he does get the nod, there’s no guarantee he gets a full load of work in. Ribs are a difficult part of the body to protect when you’re getting routinely thumped by opposing tacklers. Even if Richardson gets the nod AND all or most of the work, he still has to worry about the particular tacklers he’ll be facing, San Diego’s above-average run-stoppers (71.2 yards/game). In case you weren’t counting, that’s a whole lot of ifs to worry about in this particular case. I’d pass on Richardson if you have reliable alternatives and on Hardesty if you have anyone else with a pulse.

LaRod Stephens-Howling or William Powell v. SF: Coach Ken Whisenhunt used a term this past weekend to characterize his running back situation which should smother any potential enthusiasm for Stephens-Howling after his stunningly successful Week 7 performance against the Vikings: “hot hand.” As in, Stephens-Howling had the “hot hand” against Minnesota so Whisenhunt et al. continued to give him the rock. And what happens when said hand goes stone cold, as it’s likely to do against a dominant San Francisco defense on Monday night? I don’t pretend to know what the Cardinals’ brain trust thinks about any of their options at running back but here’s what I think of them, in spite of last Sunday’s outburst: not much. You’re either really brave or really desperate if you’re thinking of starting either man in the Week 8 showdown against the Niners.

Wide Receivers