So, Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, Adrian Peterson, and Aaron Jones are unavailable this week. Seriously… how many of you had them all on one roster? Don’t you need just one guy to step up as the Week 8 running back stud? Relax! Here are three sleeper running backs I’m considering for my roster.
Best Bet: Ameer Abdullah, DET vs PIT
It makes no sense, right? Here is one of the biggest duds of the season going against a quality defense on a pass-first team. Why would I think he is the sleeper of the week? Because the Lions are coming off a bye to face a tough and physical passing defense with a banged-up quarterback and receiving corps who needs help. They had an extra week to create something different in the running game that could validate the preseason predictions of a 1,000-yard runner in their midst.
Plus, the Steelers don’t actually defend the run that well. They rank 24th in fantasy points allowed to running backs.
Detroit has to run the ball this week. Matthew Stafford had a week to heal, but they would like to keep him relatively healthy. In the game before the bye, Stafford had to be assisted getting up and down from the bench. On top of that, Golden Tate will either play hurt or not play at all and Marvin Jones has disappeared after a good Week 1 effort. This could be a whole new offense this week, with heavy running and short passes to tight ends and backs.
Ameer Abdullah will do something no Lions back has done in years. He will rush for over 100 yards and a touchdown in Week 8. Count on it.
Good Bet: Joe Mixon, CIN vs IND
For this sleeper to work, I have to trust that Marvin Lewis is not such a spiteful guy that he would hurt his team to make a point. Joe Mixon called out the coaches for abandoning the run last week saying that if he got as many carries, he could be like Le’Veon Bell. Lewis told him to grow up and stop getting coaxed into stupid discussions by reporters.
Mixon has been the most exciting runner in the Bengals’ arsenal, although his touches have been limited. No doubt his place in the pecking order behind veterans Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard frustrates him. He has gotten more touches since Bill Lazor took over the play-calling, but not enough to compete for rookie-of-the-year honors with Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt.
Last week’s frustrating second-half play selection was because the Bengals were playing from behind. No running back saw touches as the Bengals went all pass. This week, that scenario is not likely with the Indianapolis Colts coming to town. Playing from in front should provide plenty of opportunities for Mixon to show off his Le’Veon Bell moves and rack up fantasy points… assuming his coach doesn’t bury him on the bench for a week.
Kind of a good bet: Austin Ekeler, LAC at NE
Rookie Austin Ekeler has pushed his way into the change-of-pace role in Los Angeles with some explosive runs and good pass-catching ability. Melvin Gordon should see the bulk of the touches, but there will be enough opportunity to spell the starter for Ekeler to post fantasy-worthy numbers. He scored his second touchdown of the year last week on a short pass and ran the ball 7 times for 38 yards. Nothing about the Chargers’ offense looks different when Ekeler was on the field.
Melvin Gordon is nursing an injured foot, so there is the chance Ekeler will see more than the usual 10-12 touches given to the second running back in LA. Throw in a beatable defense in New England and the ceiling on Ekeler keeps getting higher.
There you go. Three sleeper running backs for you to choose from. Look really smart by playing any of them. If you don’t like these guys, I bet Marlon Mack gets a few extra chances to spark the Colts’ offense against Cincinnati this week.
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