Rex Burkhead and Austin Ekeler were the only two running backs knocked out of this week’s games by Week 15 injuries. PPR leagues were especially affected by their loss.
But there are other questions and changing roles that might complicate things this week. Instead of a traditional start ‘em, sit ‘em, let’s look at the teams adjusting their backfields, so we make the best choices for our championship game roster.
New England: Does Mike Gillislee return?
Rex Burkhead’s absence for most of the Patriots’ game affected none of the other running backs. Dion Lewis had his usual 13 carries and two pass targets. James White saw three targets again and did not run the ball.
As usual, the Patriots are playing it close to the vest when it comes to sharing their next gameplan. It seems a fair bet that Mike Gillislee will be active for the first time in several weeks against his former team, but he could see anywhere from zero to 30 touches. Stick with the safe bet and continue to start Lewis. Championship Week is not a good time to guess about Gillislee.
Miami Dolphins: Playing for jobs in 2018
Damien Williams will not be rushed back into action after dislocating his shoulder. Kenyan Drake should be a safe start on your championship roster. While Miami announced several competitions for 2018 roster spots, they know enough about Williams and Drake to know they will remain on the roster.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin is the man
Prior to Austin Ekeler’s emergence in the second quarter of the season, Melvin Gordon was good for a bunch of receiving yards to go with his rushing workload. Now that Ekeler is injured, Gordon will again be the man for your Championship Week. Gordon can go over 1000 yards rushing this week and wants to clear 500 yards receiving by next week. Branden Oliver should not push him out of many touches as long as the Chargers playoff hopes are alive.
Denver Broncos: Where did those other guys go?
CJ Anderson has emerged as the lead runner in Denver again, fending off rumors and challenges just as he did last season. Sunday, Anderson carried the ball 30 times for 158 yards compared to 11 carries and 39 yards for Devontae Booker. Jamaal Charles sightings have become scarce. Against Washington, Anderson could provide a surprise boost if you need to replace Burkhead.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Is he hurt or not?
Throwing in a quad injury with his chronic foot issues, Leonard Fournette is no sure thing to take the field any week. You can hardly blame the Jaguars for being cautious as their playoff ticket is stamped. In real-life, a healthier Fournette in the post-season is better than a 70% Fournette in Week 16.
The problem is that no one is grabbing the lead replacement role. Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon have each shown flashes during the year. But when they are in the game, we see a repeat of last season’s dismal three-yards-per-carry running attack. Corey Grant is the most exciting runner after Fournette, but he only gets garbage time action and trick plays. It’s best to have a non-Jaguar backup plan if Fournette sits again this week.
Philadelphia Eagles: Another committee
Speculation was that Jay Ajayi would see the bulk of the running action in a run-first attack versus when Nick Foles’ made his first start of 2017. Sure enough, Ajayi led the team in touches and yards, but that only amounted to an underwhelming 12 totes for 49 yards. LeGarrette Blount had seven carries while Kenjon Barner and Corey Clement split six carries between them.
There is no reason to think Foles won’t be allowed to continue to throw the ball as much as he did last week as the Eagles prime him up for their Super Bowl run. Ajayi and Blount need touchdowns to be worth starting. That is kind of risky for Championship Week.
Dallas Cowboys: It’s the Dak and Zeke show!
Ezekiel Elliott should be active this week and is reportedly raring to go. He already announced he will go over 200 yards in his first post-suspension game versus Seattle. Sit everybody else. There is no reason to think Elliott won’t be the whole show come Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks: No more surprises
Mike Davis had his first bad NFL fantasy score last week, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be the starter again in Dallas. JD McKissic will continue to see action in the passing game and third downs. Last week’s devastation in Los Angeles wrote Davis out of the game script early. There is a risk of that happening again in Ezekiel Elliott’s grand return, but you still have to start Davis.
Arizona Cardinals: Replacements for the replacements
Kerwynn Williams could be a late-week decision with a quad injury suffered against the Redskins. Elijhaa Penny replaced him and averaged 4.5 yards per carry over 10 touches. Whichever player suits up this week, they have an opportunity to be the sleeper hit of Championship Week against the porous New York Giants’ defense.
Detroit Lions: New kid in town
When Lions coach Jim Caldwell announced Ameer Abdullah was no longer the starting running back for Detroit, most assumed the role belonged to Theo Riddick. But Tion Green had more carries than Riddick. Of course, this is still the Detroit Lions running game we are talking about. Avoid the hype and look elsewhere for a running back.
Green Bay Packers: It’s a twosome
Green Bay plans to mix more of Aaron Jones’ electric speed in with the workhorse running of Jamaal Williams over the final two games of 2017. Losing Aaron Rodgers makes it difficult to bet on either breaking through a potential stacked front eight in Minnesota this week. Jones is a better bet, but far from a sure thing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chaos
Doug Martin was suspended for last week’s game for a violation of team rules. Peyton Barber saw all the running back carries and three passing targets. It only added up to 68 total yards in the Buccaneers pass-first attack. Martin has been disappointing fantasy owners all season and there is speculation Barber will be the starter. But again, too much uncertainty to risk in a championship game.
The bottom line is to go with what you know. Take the sure points unless you see you are a serious underdog. That is the only reason to take any risks this week.
If situations change, you’ll read about it here at RealSport. Check back in, every day!
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