The PFW staff likes Rashard Mendenhall and Shonn Greene to have solid weeks, while the Packers' injury fill-ins look much more promising than those of the Cardinals, in this week's fantasy tips for running backs.
Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is listed as probable for Thursday night’s game. Considering his strong Week Five production (101 total yards, one TD) and the Titans’ shaky run defense (144.2 ypg allowed), Mendenhall is a very good starting option in Week Six.
The Jets’ run game has struggled all season long, but the Colts’ defense provides an opportunity to finally get the ground-and-pound on track, which should be good news for frustrated Shonn Greene owners. His rushing average has been low and he has deferred snaps to Bilal Powell, but the Colts have the league’s 25th-ranked run defense and considering the Jets’ problems in the passing game, this is a prime opportunity to focus on running the football.
You were probably going to start Browns RB Trent Richardson anyway, but his 145 total yards and two TDs in the first matchup against Cincinnati should seal the deal as you finalize your Week Six lineups.
Make way for Packers RB Alex Green as a potential fantasy force in place of the injured Cedric Benson. While close team observers believe fellow RBs Brandon Saine, James Starks and FB John Kuhn will also figure in the Packers’ rushing mix without Benson, the consensus seems to be that Green, who broke loose with a nice 41-yard run late in the loss to the Colts last week, will be counted on the most. You might think the Packers will opt for an expanded passing attack with much less focus on the run without Benson, but if the Packers’ offensive linemen have a say in things, the team will continue to run the ball more than just a little.
You can forget about a big fantasy window of opportunity opening in Arizona, where the trio of veteran LaRod Stephens-Howling and young no-names William Powell and Alfonso Smith are expected to share the Cardinals’ RB load for the foreseeable future with both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams down for the count with injuries. While neither of the three is expected to come close to carrying the ball close to 20 carries per game, Stephens-Howling is at least capable of providing some fantasy pop with his proven big-play ability. But the diminutive Stephens-Howling is not built to be a workhorse and also might still be feeling the effects of a hip injury that kept him out of the last two games. Powell is probably more likely to strut his fantasy stuff than Smith after leading the league in rushing this preseason. It’s worth noting, though, that Powell picked up most of those yards against third- and fourth-string scrubs.
The Rams’ fierce pass rush could make things difficult for the Dolphins’ passing game, but it may force Miami to use Reggie Bush more, on the ground and in the screen game. Bush was held to 48 rushing yards last week, but still had 21 touches. With Daniel Thomas expected to be out with a concussion, Lamar Miller should get some opportunities, and he may be worth a flex start or injury fill-in for deep leagues.
With the news coming down on Wednesday that Colts RB Donald Brown will miss 2-3 weeks while recovering from knee surgery, the onus falls on rookie Vick Ballard and second-year player Delone Carter to pick up the slack. The timing of Brown’s injury is tough, as he was playing well, starting to see the field a bit better and bouncing it outside at the right times, but there might not be a huge drop-off with Ballard getting his chance. He has a solid matchup in Week Six, as the Colts travel to MetLife Stadium to face a Jets club that ranks 31st in the league against the run, allowing an eye-popping 172.4 yards on the ground per week. Despite Indianapolis’ blocking troubles, Ballard could be used in a pinch as a flex player this week.
Sparsely used Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount, who had only 13 carries in the first four games, could be in for a greater role in Week Six vs. the Chiefs. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said Blount has looked better in practice in recent weeks and it appears the team wants to get him at least a few more touches. Blount, who still is behind starter Doug Martin in the pecking order, is a sleeper as a flex play in deep formats this week vs. the Chiefs. Kansas City has allowed 104 rushing yards or more in three of its last four games.
Since he led the NFL in rushing through two weeks, Bills RB C.J. Spiller has had 19 carries for 73 yards. Don’t give up on Spiller yet, though. The Bills’ offense sorely needs a spark and their best weapons are Spiller and Fred Jackson. While the two have been splitting snaps with Jackson back at full health, Spiller is the type of electric player who could provide the lift the offense needs, and the Bills may return to focusing on the run game this week to take some pressure off Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Browns are allowing 142.4 rushing yards per game. However, Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has not played especially well of late, gaining just 134 yards on 52 carries in his last three games. It’s a tricky read for fantasy owners, to say the least.
The frustration for fantasy owners of Ben Tate continued in Week Five, as Houston’s talented backup was inactive (toe) Monday night against the Jets. Though a risky play, some fantasy owners likely rolled with Tate, as he practiced the Saturday leading up to the game and head coach Gary Kubiak said he expected him to play. Tate was limited in practice yesterday, but with the Texans hosting the Packers on “Sunday Night Football,” it again would be a very dicey proposition counting on Tate, who, given starter Arian Foster’s heavy workload, is only likely to get 10-12 touches per game — when he’s 100 percent.
The Cowboys spent their last few practices with a focus on eliminating negative runs, of which they have had 14 this season. They also hope to break off a few more long runs, with only 31 attempts so far going for longer than three yards. But with no OL changes planned and a good run defense on the table with the Ravens at Baltimore, it might be best to look for another alternative to DeMarco Murray in 10-team, two-RB leagues.