Fantasy Football Week 15 reactions and Week 16 early waiver wire: Every running back goes under the microscope
Week 15 Sunday was filled with heroics and heartbreak, especially from running backs. Dave Richard assesses every team's run game with a focus toward Week 16, along with his waiver wire priorities.
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But you're still alive, that's the point. You wouldn't be reading this if you weren't. You'd be drowning yourself in a trough of ice cream and tears.
To survive this week meant overcoming some silly results. For instance, if your lineup looked like this:
- Andrew Luck
- Saquon Barkley
- Phillip Lindsay
- Leonard Fournette
- Tyreek Hill
- Amari Cooper
- Adam Thielen
- Eric Ebron
- Texans DST
You wound up looking like this: 😥
But it's that unpredictability that makes Fantasy so fun. It's supposed to, anyway. And I am not sure if there's been a position that's been more unpredictable lately than running back.
This is the time of year when running backs tend to get more attention. Teams have it in their heads that December football means running the ball more. And it makes sense — defenses are generally worn down, but players on non-playoff teams aren't about to risk their bodies the same way they do in September. It's a good time to have strong running backs on teams that'll use them, especially against defenses that lack ambition.
Here's the latest on every running back situation heading into Week 16:
- Arizona: It's all David Johnson, who scored and just crossed the 100-total-yard mark in what should have otherwise been an amazing game at Atlanta. He'll be far riskier versus the Rams in Week 16, especially since the Rams need to win to keep their hopes alive for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
- Atlanta: Tevin Coleman seemingly took control of the Falcons' run game again with his dominating 145-yard, one-score performance against lowly Arizona. It's his first game with 10-plus Fantasy points (non-PPR) since Week 9. He will further own this backfield with Ito Smith getting hurt late in the game against the Cards. Brian Hill is the Falcons' only other running back.
- Baltimore: Kenneth Dixon's time isn't quite here — Gus Edwards still led the Ravens in carries and rushing yards Sunday. Dixon was actually third in those categories behind Edwards and Lamar Jackson. He only had one catch because the Ravens didn't need to throw a whole lot (do they ever?). Edwards is still the best bet for Fantasy moving into next week's game at the Chargers.
- Buffalo: Who's healthy?! LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were inactive, Marcus Murphy dislocated his elbow and Keith Ford got roughed up late. The Bills play at the Patriots in Week 16, so don't expect any Buffalo running back to help you out.
- Carolina: Christian McCaffrey is awesome.
- Chicago: We'll never feel too secure about starting Tarik Cohen or Jordan Howard, but expect Da Bears to keep both involved in the neighborhood of 10-to-15 touches each.
- Cincinnati: Joe Mixon is all that's left in the Bengals' offense. The Browns are going to stack boxes against him next week, but it doesn't mean you're benching him.
- Cleveland: Nick Chubb should go off against Cincy in Week 16.
- Dallas: Ezekiel Elliott will never be benched.
- Denver: If Phillip Lindsay didn't cost you a win this week, he'll probably reward your faith next week at Oakland. He's still the Broncos' best bet.
- Detroit: Zach Zenner led the Lions with 10 carries and a score, but Theo Riddick just barely got more rush yards (47 to 45). Know who didn't show much? LeGarrette Blount. Know who usually doesn't do much as a rusher? Riddick. Know which run defense is pretty good? The Vikings. Zenner might be ascending but it's hard to trust him against the Vikings, especially since he won't see every single carry.
- Green Bay: Aaron Jones has a sprained MCL. Jamaal Williams stepped in and stepped up, scoring and totaling 97 total yards against the Bears. He should get a large workload at the Jets next week and immediately pop into lineups as a modest No. 2 rusher.
- Houston: If Lamar Miller is healthy then he'll pick up at the Eagles. It's actually not an easy spot for him as the Texans will be on the road for the second week in a row, plus his ankle injury might further justify Alfred Blue's role. The workload split between these two could become even more frustrating for Fantasy owners to cope with.
- Indianapolis: I thought Week 16 would be the time to ride Marlon Mack. Still is. Only difference is we'll be supremely confident in him after he tore through the Cowboys defense (and took Fantasy numbers away from Andrew Luck in the process). He's at home against the Giants, who have been rocked by runners all year.
- Jacksonville: Leonard Fournette is still the main guy, but he's not quite putting up big numbers with Cody Kessler under center. A great matchup at Miami awaits Fournette, but if the Dolphins do what other defenses have done, Fournette won't have room to roam.
- Kansas City: With or without Spencer Ware, bank on the Chiefs sticking with Damien Williams as their main back moving forward. He's proven to have very good pass-catching skills and really gave the offense a spark on Thursday on the ground. It's a tricky spot for Williams at the Seahawks on Saturday night, but he should still see upwards of 15 touches.
- L.A. Chargers: NFL Network reported that Melvin Gordon "should be back" for Week 16 after missing two games with a knee injury. That's bad news for Justin Jackson, who held down the fort last week in place of Gordon and Austin Ekeler. It's also not the best news for Gordon — he'll run against a tough Ravens defense. Not that you'll bench him.
- L.A. Rams: Todd Gurley. Good at football.
- Miami: Frank Gore sprained his foot and was carted from the sideline to the locker room. You'd think that would mean a big workload for Kenyan Drake, right? Nope. Rookie Kalen Ballage basically handled the rushing duties and scored on a 75-yard run, adding another 48 yards over 11 more carries. Will he continue to hog the ball and keep Drake from being a big deal? You might not care — the Dolphins host the Jaguars next Sunday.
- Minnesota: Now THIS was the Dalvin Cook we were hoping to see all year long. He'll sprint against the Lions next week.
- New England: Sony Michel continues to disappoint as the lead running back for the Patriots, notching his third straight game with six Fantasy points or less (non-PPR). Week 16 at home versus the Bills is precisely the kind of game the Patriots might try to get him going in the right direction, but his playing time is no sure thing with Rex Burkhead and James White taking on notable snaps.
- New Orleans: Alvin Kamara is a must-start and Mark Ingram is a low-end No. 2 running back pretty much every single week. They'll get the Steelers coming off a big win in the dome in Week 16. It might not look good statistically, but the Saints tend to feast on everyone in the Big Easy.
- N.Y. Giants: Saquon Barkley had his worst game of the year. He should make it up to Fantasy owners in Week 16.
- N.Y. Jets: Elijah McGuire wasn't pretty but he was effective in his 71-total-yard, one-score outing against the Texans. He easily led the Jets' run game with 21 touches and should do so again in a plus home matchup against the Packers.
- Oakland: How can anyone trust Doug Martin after he went sour against the bottom-ranked Bengals run defense? It's going to be hard to do when the Broncos come to Oaktown in a week.
- Philadelphia: Bank on Josh Adams leading the early downs work and Darren Sproles getting most of the passing downs work along with a split of the red-zone job between the two of them. Wendell Smallwood will add some support. All three figure to be benchable against the Texans.
- Pittsburgh: Jaylen Samuels had a great game to help the Steelers upend the Patriots, but James Conner appears to be on track to be back in Week 16. Samuels may have earned a few touches here and there but probably won't be counted on much once Conner is on the field.
- San Francisco: Guess who got hurt -- again. Matt Breida hurt his ankle in overtime of the Niners' win over the Seahawks, giving Jeff Wilson the chance to put the squad into position to win in OT. Wilson had all of four carries but would see plenty of action if Breida can't play in Week 16. The bad news? They play against the tough Bears defense at home next week. Not the best time to rely on an undrafted rookie making his second NFL start.
- Seattle: Chris Carson cannot be sat on a Fantasy bench. He's running well, the Seahawks offensive line is as effective as ever and the Chiefs' struggling run defense is coming to the Pacific Northwest. Let's hope Rashaad Penny stays sidelined another week.
- Tampa Bay: Peyton Barber surprised with a touchdown and 85 rush yards against the Ravens' tough run defense. That's pretty much the only way he can help Fantasy owners, though not many folks would start him even if he played against his own team and their weak run defense! He's in for a rough ride at Dallas but at least he's a 15-touch candidate.
- Tennessee: Derrick Henry has reached beast status. He plays against the Redskins in Week 16. Expect him to help you win a Fantasy crown (or lose one if you play against him).
- Washington: They're still leaning on Adrian Peterson, but the offense is such a mess. Playing on the road at Tennessee won't help clear things up.
Early waiver pickups for Week 16
- Jamaal Williams (20 percent owned): We're going full circle on Williams if Aaron Jones is out. He played great at Chicago, so it's hard to imagine him being totally useless at the Jets in Week 16. And remember, Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a whole lot in his receiving corps, so the Packers need Williams to help shoulder lots of the offense. He can also work as a check-down guy and pick up receptions.
- Elijah McGuire (51 percent owned): He's got a nice matchup at home against the Packers next week. He's at the very least a flex option thanks to his goal-line potential and decent role in the Jets' passing game.
- Robert Foster (7 percent owned): Good news: Foster has 10-plus Fantasy points in four of his last five games. Better news: The Bills run game might be non-existent. Best news: The Bills are almost certain to pass a bunch next week, which means more targets for Foster. Bad news: They play at New England and a Patriots pass defense that contained Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster (89 receiving yards combined) this week.
- Robby Anderson (26 percent owned): He's scored in each of his last two games, which is great, but both have been kind of fluky. What you can really buy into is that Anderson is doing more than just collecting deep-ball targets. You should also buy into his quarterback, who's been playing better. The Packers pass defense isn't very good, either. Anderson is a non-PPR flex candidate.
- Browns DST (26 percent owned): The Bengals offense is down to Mixon and ... well, not much after Tyler Boyd hurt his knee. The Browns defense should be able to contain Mixon and put a hurting on Jeff Driskel. Stream 'em.
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