Now that Week 2 is in the books, we Fantasy Football players have a slightly clearer picture of where things stand for many key players, and perhaps a few questions about some others. C.J. Anderson looked awful yet again, so it’s time to panic. Jeremy Hill was benched after his second fumble, and Giovani Bernard responded to his coaches’ call by turning in a 20 carry, 123 yard performance. And LeGarrette Blount came back with many expecting him to play like a man possessed after his personal bye week in Week 1. However, he only garnered two late carries on a day that saw Dion Lewis running the show for a victorious Patriots squad that hung 40 on the Bills. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more notable (or frustrating, if you wish) backfield timeshares across the league, and see what there is to know heading into Week 3. Here’s this week’s RBBC Report.
New England Patriots
Trending Up: Dion Lewis (7 carries, 40 yards 1 TD; 6 rec., 98 yards)
Hold: LeGarrette Blount (2 carries, 4 yards)
In what many figured would be a ball-control game pitting two AFC East rivals against one another, and even though the Patriots’ offense is electric, I don’t think anyone thought that 72 points would be scored in this one. Tom Brady threw the ball 59 times (!!!) and finished the day with 466 yards and three scores. The Bills run defense was stout, which the Patriots recognized and adjusted the game plan by running just 15 times (seven rushes in the second half). Perhaps too soon to appoint him the new “Neon” Dion, Dion Lewis has proven to be a more than capable Shane Vereen fill-in for this team, and will continue to get his playing time even if Blount eventually claims a 15-20 carry per game workload – Lewis played 73 of the 86 offensive snaps for the Pats. The bottom line is that this offense is too good, so both backs are worth rostering in all formats. I still believe in Blount, and think he’ll get his 12-plus touches per game starting this week when they host the Jaguars, a much more run-friendly defense than the Bills.
Trending Up: Isaiah Crowell (15 carries 72 yards, 1 TD)
Hold: Duke Johnson (12 carries, 43 yards)
The Browns hosted the Titans on Sunday in Johnny Manziel’s first start of 2015, and were able to earn a hard-fought victory by keeping it on the ground for much of the afternoon. Manziel threw the ball just 15 times, completing eight passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Crowell was the more effective rusher on the day finishing with a healthy 4.8 YPC. With their next game against the Oakland Raiders, Crowell is a very nice play based on both usage and matchup against the 20th ranked run defense in the league (118 YPG through two weeks). Writer’s Plug: Of course, for what it’s worth, the Browns are ranked dead last in rush defense, surrendering 160 YPG through two games, so Latavius Murray is also a very nice borderline RB1 this week. I’ve been on it for two years, but perhaps this is the season he finally breaks out. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, right?
Hold: Ronnie Hillman (9 carries, 34 yards)
Trending Down: C.J. Anderson (12 carries, 27 yards; 1 rec., 2 yards)
It’s time to panic if you’re the owner of C.J. Anderson; it’s been pretty grim if you took Anderson in the second expecting a repeat of 2014’s success. Fortunately for those of us who count on him to some degree, Ronnie Hillman hasn’t exactly set the world ablaze thus far. Reports have stated that Anderson will get another start against the Lions on Sunday night, but the leash is short, and if he doesn’t produce, that could be the final straw for Gary Kubiak, whose team is a surprising 2-0 after two competitive games with the Ravens and Chiefs. Anderson will be starting for me this weekend, but like Coach Koob, this is probably the last week he’s a must-start until he actually produces.
Trending Up: Chris Ivory (21 carries, 90 yards, two TDs; 1 rec. 9 yards)
Hold: Bilal Powell (12 carries, 62 yards; 2 rec., 16 yards)
The 2-0 Jets. I’ll say again: The undefeated Jets sit atop the AFC East with their bitter rival Patriots after dispatching the now winless Colts on Monday night, much to the delight of these gentlebros. It’s early still, but the Jets have looked very good through two games, and it’s become abundantly clear that Geno Smith needs to stay on the sideline if this team is to have any chance of continuing their hot start. He’s still a few weeks away from practicing, but I’m sure all Jets fans are saying ‘Take your time’ as Ryan Fitzpatrick has played smart football, piloting a balanced attack that features Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Chris Ivory. Thus far, Bilal Powell has been the salt-away guy with Ivory continuing to be the hands-down RB1 for this team. I only include them both here because Ivory is banged up, as he tends to be, so there may be some limiting of his workload each week as the Jets try to grind out games – it would be hard to justify giving Ivory 20-plus carries each week if he’s dealing with lower-body issues that might linger throughout the season. Week 3 will see the Jets hosting the Eagles on Sunday, a team coming off a hard-fought loss to their divisional rivals, the Cowboys. They should be ready for the Jets, but I’m sure the Jets will be ready as well. Ivory is a RB2 in all formats and can be started with confidence most weeks. If you’re an Ivory owner and want to handcuff Powell to him, that’s fine if you have the roster spot. With the history of injuries he’s dealt with, it’s probably a smart move if you play in a league with deeper benches and less talent on the wire. It’s not necessary at this point, but it’s worth monitoring his updates each week to make sure he’s good to go and won’t be on a ‘pitch count.’
Hold: Chris Johnson (20 carries, 72 yards)
Trending Up: David Johnson (5 rec., 42 yards, 1 TD, 108-yard kick return TD)
Taking nothing away from Chris Johnson, who had a very nice game particularly by his recent standards, David Johnson is electric and has earned an increase in his snaps going forward, not to have Coach Arians cut them off. While Chris labors for his yardage and failed to run for any gain longer than eight yards, David runs with an effortless glide and makes his cuts with precision and vision. Carson Palmer will receive the headlines after this one and rightfully so – he was masterful in this one having to throw just 24 times on the afternoon, four of which resulted in touchdowns to his receivers. Larry Fitzgerald was the primary beneficiary, hauling in eight receptions for 112 yards and three touchdowns. The point this raises is that the Cardinals are a balanced team, which benefits their running backs as much as it benefits Palmer and the receiving corps. Once Andre Ellington is healthy and returns from his sprained knee, I would expect David Johnson to continue earning reps. He’s a high-ceiling FLEX candidate while Chris Johnson will fall back to a low-ceiling RB3.
San Diego Chargers
Hold: Melvin Gordon (16 carries, 88 yards; 1 rec., 10 yards)
Trending Up: Danny Woodhead (7 carries, 36 yards; 6 rec., 68 yards)
Two backs on one team who totaled a combined 202 yards is something any coach would be thrilled about. The nice thing about the Chargers’ setup is that these are two complimentary players and there isn’t a goal line vulture among them. Danny Woodhead continues to serve almost as a slot receiver. It’s no secret he’s small, fast, and excels in the short screens that are common in Mike McCoy’s west coast offense. Gordon, the rookie, has exhibited good power and enviable quickness in his first two pro starts. If you drafted Gordon expecting him to be a 25 touches per game bellcow, perhaps you’re a little disappointed thus far. But that person would be a victim of their own outsized expectations. On the flipside, Woodhead owners who drafted him after the 11th round in most leagues are giddy to get RB2-3 production from a weekly FLEX candidate they drafted as an RB5 coming off a season-ending injury. Fear not: Both backs will continue to earn their touches, and there should be plenty to go around thanks to Philip Rivers and a very talented offense in San Diego.
Jeremy Hill (10 carries, 39 yards 2 fumbles; 1 rec. 2 yards)
Giovani Bernard (20 carries, 123 yards; 3 rec. 16)
No need to sound the alarm just yet, but this was definitely one of those games that make people wonder if the coaches aren’t using personnel correctly. You might remember that 2014 was supposed to be Bernard’s coming out party – a more powerful and equally nimble Darren Sproles, he was expected to become the focal point of the Bengals’ offense in addition to A.J. Green. Instead, he dealt with a slow start and some injury issues, opening the door for Jeremy Hill’s ascent to RB1 status and first-round pick this season. Well, after his second fumble early in the second-half, Hill was benched for ball control concerns in a tight one with the Chargers. Enter Gio Bernard who until that point was doing well enough, but really shined during the third and fourth frames. He finished the day with a healthy 139-yards, largely amassed on the ground as the Bengals tried to move the chains and keep Rivers & Co. off the field. After the game, coach Lewis said Hill will still be the starter, but if the doubt starts creeping in and he has another stinker, we could be well on our way to another controversy resulting in a 50-50 work split, or worse for Hill owners, the re-emergence of Giovani Bernard as the lead back on a very good playoff contender.
Matt Jones (19 carries, 123 yards, 2 TDs; 3 rec. 23 yards)
Alfred Morris (18 carries, 59 yards; 2 rec. 18 yards)
A baked potato. A Honda Accord. A down winter coat. These are all things that almost no one dreams about having, but once it’s there in front of you, you’re glad it’s there. Alfred Morris is that thing for Fantasy Football owners and has been for some time. Here is a man who isn’t particularly fast, can’t catch particularly well, but is a smart, savvy runner, a good pass-blocker and by all accounts a great teammate. He’s ol’ reliable and it feels like he’s been an RB2 at worst since blowing up three years ago in his first game as a rookie. Now, parked next to the Honda Accord in Jay Gruden’s garage is a Maserati. Matt Jones has drawn a good deal of fanfare because of a very solid camp this summer, and the obvious skill needed to be a starting running back in the league. In their matchup against the Rams in which they pasted the team that outlasted Seattle last week, Jones was running roughshod over, around, and through a bewildered Rams defense. Look back up at his stat line again, I’ll wait here. See it? 22 touches, 146 yards, two scores. That’s an eye-opening game for anyone, and it’s pretty apparent that we’re quickly approaching a time-share that could flip to a 70/30 in favor of Jones rather quickly. ALF had a typical ALF-ish day, totaling 59 yards on the ground operating behind Kirk Cousins. If he scored one of Jones’ touchdowns from the one-yard line, this wouldn’t be as glaring, but to anyone who watched even the highlights, it was apparent that Jones is the superior athlete and needs more consideration. That will begin against the Giants this Thursday night, and I expect both backs to get 15-plus carries again, particularly if DeSean Jackson is again out recovering from his hamstring injury. In the meantime, hold Morris as a low-upside RB2, and if Jones is out there on the wire, snatch him up as a high-ceiling RB2/borderline RB1 if injuries hampered Morris, or if lightning strikes a few more times, and he racks up a couple more near-150-yard games.
If Arian Foster misses another week, continue to ignore the Houston “running backs” if you want to win. Week 2 saw the team rely on Chris Polk the most, and he rewarded their trust by producing 38 rushing yards on 14 carries – a gaudy 2.7 YPC. Just move along… The Panthers, Houston’s Week 2 opponents, continue to lean on Jonathan Stewart (17 carries for 62 yards) with Mike Tolbert spelling him on passing downs and select red zone packages. Curiously absent thus far has been Cameron Artis-Payne, who I (and others) expect to emerge as the heir apparent to Stewart should he fall victim to his annual injury sooner rather than later… Another head-scratcher for the Lions’ offense last Sunday when they ran the ball just 16 times on the afternoon, and 25 percent of that total was their QB, Matt Stafford, running under relentless Vikings pressure (He was the leading rusher on the day producing 20 yards on those four carries). The Vikings did have a lead as large as 16 late in the fourth quarter, but overall time of possession was close to even, total yardage was close to even too. At this point, Ameer Abdullah (seven touches 18 yards) is a FLEX candidate, and not much else going against Denver on Sunday night. Joique Bell is approaching droppable status, but wait one more week to see what his role will be, and how Joe Lombardi uses his personnel with Stafford banged up… Baltimore may have a timeshare brewing, or more accurately, a division of duties. They welcomed Lorenzo “Zo” Taliaferro back from his knee injury by giving him key red zone and goal line calls, which he converted into a 7-36-1 stat line, adding three receptions for 12 yards. Justin Forsett remains the top gun, garnering 15 carries and producing 68 yards, adding two receptions for 12 yards as well. The Ravens don’t have a lot of offensive talent, particularly with rookie Breshad Perriman still ailing. They need to utilize the talent they do have if they want to get out of this 0-2 hole, which should provide Taliaferro a role going forward, even if Forsett continues to earn his 13-18 carries per game. Pickup Zo if he’s available in your league if you’re looking for a backup with a defined role now, who has a clear path to RB1/2 status if the man