We're coming off an unusually messy week in terms of injuries, particularly where running backs are concerned. Several key fantasy assets have been limited in practice, while others are limping around in walking boots, not practicing at all. Today let's sweep the league, looking at replacement options, evaluating match-ups, and feeling sorry for anyone who's tied to this backfield...
Washington Redskins: Tim Hightower suffered an ACL injury in Week 7, so the rushing workload falls to Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. (There's always a chance we'll see Evan Royster elevated from the practice squad, too). Mike Jones of the Washington Post writes that Torain will most likely start, presumably taking the early-down role. But of course we're all trying to read an unreadable coach here. In my position ranks this week, I placed Helu a few spots above Torain, with neither player in the top-20. The rookie saw more snaps in the Carolina game and it wasn't close (31 to four). If the Buffalo match-up goes the way I expect it to, then Washington will need to take to the air. Helu gets most of his work on passing downs.
Arizona Cardinals: Beanie Wells is dealing with yet another knee issue, but he's still threatening to play. He practiced on Friday and will likely be a game-day call. Wells has a brutal match-up this week against Baltimore's defense, a unit that allows just 3.3 yards per carry and 85.8 rushing yards per game. Beanie wouldn't be a recommended play even at full strength. Stay away. If he can't go, LaRod Stephens-Howling and the uninteresting Alfonso Smith will get touches. Again: Stay away.
New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram (heel) has been ruled out this week against the Rams. That's horrible news for Ingram's owners, obviously, as there's no friendlier match-up in the NFL. St. Louis ranks dead-last in the league against the run, giving up an insane 183.8 rushing yards per game (plus another 70 if you're DeMarco Murray). The Saints currently rank as the league's highest-scoring team (34.1 PPG) while the Rams are the only squad averaging less than 10 points per week (9.3), so this match-up figures to be a bloodbath. Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas are both excellent starts, and we could see Christopher Ivory make a cameo appearance as well.
Cleveland Browns: Peyton Hillis (hamstring) will reportedly make the trip to San Francisco this weekend, but he's no safe bet to play. This feels quite a bit like the Beanie situation, where the player in question has such an awful match-up that you might as well eliminate him from your plans. The Niners rank second in the league against the run (74.7 rush YPG, 3.6 YPC), and they've yet to allow a rushing touchdown. Montario Hardesty figures to start, but he can't be relied upon here.
Denver Broncos: Willis McGahee seems likely miss multiple weeks due to his fractured right hand, so Knowshon Moreno has a chance to return to relevance. He'll face a Lions defense that struggles against the run, allowing 5.0 yards per carry and 129.4 rushing yards per game. Lance Ball will have a role as well, but Tim Tebow is probably the team's best option inside the 5.
Indianapolis Colts: If Jim Irsay's Twitter account can be believed — and it's usually full of crazy, so I'm not calling it a reliable source — then Joseph Addai was a full participant in Friday's practice. It's still plenty dangerous to rely on Addai, even if he's active in Week 8. There's a possibility of re-injury here, and Delone Carter has carved out a role. Stay far away from this situation if you can. The Colts rank 29th in the NFL in scoring (15.0 PPG), so there's really no upside here.
Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch has a rough match-up ahead in Week 8 — the Bengals defense allows just 3.3 yards per carry — and he's also dealing with a nagging back injury. Bad news all around. He reportedly expects to play, so I'll be forced to toss him into the RB ranks. If Lynch can't go, Leon Washington seems to be Plan B for Seattle (although he'd split work with Plan C, Justin Forsett). And please remember: Marshawn doesn't care about your fantasy team.
San Diego Chargers: Norv Turner reportedly is "not hopeful" regarding Mike Tolbert's status for Monday night. Tolbert didn't practice on Friday nor did he do any side work. So there's a total lack of good news on that front. Ryan Mathews should get all the work he can handle, including goal line touches. Jacob Hester may get a few scraps, too.
And here's a late update...
Miami Dolphins: Rookie Daniel Thomas (hamstring) has been ruled out for the match-up with the Giants, so the rushing workload falls to Reggie Bush and Lex Hilliard. Take evasive action if you were planning to start Thomas. This team could get shellacked in Week 8, so it's tough to get too excited about anyone involved in the running game.
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