Struggling to decide fantasy football running backs to start Week 13? 5th Down Fantasy has you covered. Let’s dive deeper into five of the more ambiguous running-back-by-committee (RBBC) situations for this upcoming week. Follow Brett on Twitter @brettpsports.
Research based on 0.5 PPR
Baltimore Ravens (@ ATL, Sunday 1:00pm ET)
Since Lamar Jackson’s first start in Week 11, the Ravens have an entirely different offense. Not only has Jackson’s presence opened up the run game, it has opened up possibilities for the Ravens’ run game that we previously didn’t know were an option. Enter, Gus Edwards.
The undrafted rookie out of Rutgers leads Alex Collins, Ty Montgomery and Javorius Allen in the Ravens backfield at the moment. Based on the recent trend of Edwards rushing for over 100 yards in Weeks 11 and 12, it’s tough to justify starting any Ravens’ RB besides him. Currently, Edwards is questionable with an ankle injury, but he logged a limited practice on Thursday and is expected to play on Sunday. Collins is questionable with a foot injury. He is also expected to play.
Collins hasn’t topped 68 rushing yards all season, while Montgomery continues to be mixed in more following the trade from Green Bay, and Allen has seemingly disappeared from the offense since scoring four TDs in the first three weeks of the season. The swiss-cheese Atlanta defense allowed 209 all-purpose yards and two TDs to Nick Chubb in Week 10, 201 all-purpose yards and a TD to Zeke Elliott in Week 11, and 164 all-purpose yards to the Saints RB duo on Thanksgiving. Start Edwards with confidence until he gives you a reason not to.
Detroit Lions (vs LAR, Sunday 1:00pm ET)
Kerryon Johnson sustained a knee injury in Week 11 and hasn’t been active since; he is listed as questionable for Week 13, and his injury status seems to be trending down (Update: Johnson has been ruled OUT for Week 13). There’s no reason for the Lions to rush him back. In the meantime, LeGarrette Blount has been feasting on the goal line and looks to continue to do the same. Theo Riddick will continue to handle passes out of the backfield, although Blount’s fantasy ceiling remains higher with potential goal line TD opportunities.
Depending on game flow, Zach Zenner receiving a handful of carries is an outside possibility as well. In a game that should be a blowout, Lions’ RBs may not get many TD opportunities. Then again, the Lions defeated the Patriots in Week 3, so who am I to count them out? Riddick’s PPR floor is somewhat solid, with at least five receptions and 30 receiving yards in each of his last four games. Blount’s ceiling is much higher, as he scored two TDs (nearly three) against the Bears’ stout run defense on Thanksgiving, and did so in Week 5 against the Packers as well. If you’re in desperate need of a boom candidate at RB this week, Blount could be your guy if he gets opportunities at the goal line.
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs IND, Sunday 1:00pm ET)
With Leonard Fournette sitting out this week to serve his one-game suspension, Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon will handle the majority of the workload. Incumbent fourth-string rookie David Williams poses little risk with just one carry all season.
Hyde had five rushing TDs in his first four games for Cleveland this season, but has struggled since the trade to Jacksonville, averaging 3.44 YPC on 27 carries as a Jaguar thus far. The issue this week is that we haven’t really seen how the Jags split up a backfield consisting of just Hyde and Yeldon, as it’s been the Fournette show ever since he returned from his nagging hammy.
Based on what we’ve seen, Hyde should get most of the carries, and Yeldon should be the primary pass catching RB. Expect to see Hyde receiving goal line opportunities, while Yeldon’s value is limited unless he can score a receiving TD. In Week 10, the Colts allowed one rushing TD and one receiving TD each to Fournette, so the opportunities are there. If Hyde can capitalize on goal line opportunities like Fournette has recently (four rushing TD since Week 10), he could be in for a big week.
Kansas City Chiefs (@ OAK, Sunday 4:05pm ET)
Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in 2017, has been released by the Chiefs. Who could’ve predicted that that would be a headline on December 1st? The decision comes as no surprise following a surveillance video released by TMZ shows Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel last February. The team released a statement revealing that Hunt lied to team officials about his actions; apparently Hunt’s version of the incident differed from what the video revealed. Additionally, he has been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and will go through waivers next week to potentially be claimed by another team.
Suddenly, Spencer Ware is thrust into a starting role as the next man up in the AFC’s most high-octane offense. And his matchup couldn’t get much better — the Raiders have allowed 1665 total rushing yards this season, worst in the NFL. That’s 151.4 rushing yards allowed per game. With a full workload in 2016, Ware did very well. He started 14 games for the Chiefs and finished as RB16 in PPR formats.
Backups Damien Williams and Darrel Williams may each see a few carries, but both will probably be irrelevant. It’s likely that the Chiefs will soon sign a veteran free agent RB to provide some depth. Perhaps a Jamaal Charles reunion? Regardless of who that ends up being, Ware is poised to thrive for the rest of the season with ample scoring opportunities in the league’s highest scoring offense through 12 weeks. He has RB1 upside this week and moving forward.
Los Angeles Chargers (@ PIT, Sunday 8:20pm ET)
Following Melvin Gordon’s knee injury last week, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will step in and handle the workload. Detrez Newsome will be mixed in as well, but he will likely see no more than 3-5 carries.
Ekeler has made the most of his limited touches this season, ranking 24th in 0.5 PPR RB scoring currently, even with Gordon playing in all but one game this year. That’s not to guarantee Ekeler will get most of the workload with Gordon out, though; Jackson had 57 yards on just seven carries last week, with a long run of 20 yards. It’s entirely possible that Jackson receives more carries and Ekeler is limited to more of a pass catching role, but I could be wrong. I’d bet on more of a 60/40 timeshare between the two until Gordon is healthy.
Regardless of a possible timeshare, Ekeler has performed very well as a backup this season and has to be the favorite for TD opportunities with Gordon sidelined. Better yet, the Steelers defense has been burned by the likes of Phillip Lindsay, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey to the tune of 389 total all-purpose yards and five total TDs in the past three weeks. Fire up Ekeler this week and expect at least RB2 numbers, with some upside.
New England Patriots (vs MIN, Sunday 4:25pm ET)
Activated from IR and likely to be active for the first time this season since Week 3, Rex Burkhead looks to make an immediate impact. His impact may be limited, though, considering how well Sony Michel and James White have performed this season.
Based on last week’s game, it’s clear Michel will get the bulk of the carries (if fully healthy), while White and Burkhead may each get a handful; the passing game will be more relevant for the latter two. Cordarrelle Patterson should be a non-factor in the Pats’ run game with the return of Burkhead, but I wouldn’t put it past Bill Belichick to find a way to mix him in.
Don’t write off White just yet. His ceiling may no longer be as high as it was when both Michel and Burkhead were injured, but he still leads the Patriots in targets (94), receptions (67) and receiving TDs (6) by a wide margin. Despite having to compete for looks from Tom Brady on offense, White is a trusted team captain and a very viable pass catcher who is still a FLEX option this week against a strong Vikings run defense. Consider Michel a high-end RB2 this week. Consider Burkhead a wise bench stash for now who should get more touches in the upcoming weeks.