Not surprisingly, questions about the backfields in Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle have been coming into our inboxes, our social media channels, our phones, even someone knocked on my door on Halloween and asked me what I thought would happen.
So let's put this all in one place -- here's the low-down on each big backfield situation heading into Week 9.
Jerry Jones & Co. have consistently been honest about their run game personnel. They installed Alfred Morris as the primary backup after the preseason while making Darren McFadden inactive all season.
Heading into this week, Morris was the first name off the lips of Jones and coach Jason Garrett and got practice time with the first-team offense.
If that doesn't sell you on Morris being the lead guy in place of Elliott, this will: Morris' best runs this year came on plays that involve power blocking by the offensive line. This is typically stuff where one of the big guys jumps off the snap and gets into position to block downfield for his back.
It's the strength of this offensive line and it fits Morris just as well as it fits McFadden. That's a big change because Morris was previously known for his success running in a zone-blocking scheme. He still can do that too, and that versatility, combined with an improved receiving skill-set, makes him a no-brainer over McFadden. To boot, unheralded running back Rod Smith has worked ahead of McFadden with the second-team offense, so McFadden might not see much playing time soon.
Morris should tee off against a Chiefs defense allowing over 5.0 yards per carry in their last four games with a rush score to a running back in each of their last three. Start him as a No. 2 Fantasy running back.
Ajayi's departure will open the door for Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to head Miami's ground game. Coach Adam Gase has said he plans to "maximize what they do well" -- Drake is a speedy receiver while Williams plays with more strength and leverage, and both can catch the ball. One might assume Drake will be on the field on first- and second-downs while Williams takes on passing downs and the goal-line role.
The real key for Miami is its offensive line. None of the five starters have a positive grade from Pro Football Focus on the season and the group is partially to blame for Ajayi's poor start. If they can coordinate themselves better, the running backs will benefit. If not, then at least Drake and Williams can make plays on the edges as pass catchers and negate the line's ineffectiveness altogether.
Week 9 brings a good litmus test for the Dolphins because the Raiders have been slow to stop any running back lately. Over the last four weeks, backs have averaged 4.3 yards per carry with three rushing scores against the Silver & Black. Drake and Williams are good bye-week fill-ins in all formats.
Philadelphia's coaching staff wouldn't come out and say that Ajayi would become the team's lead back, but LeGarrette Blount sounded like a man resigned to his fate when he spoke with the media this week, aptly admitting that "I can only control what I can control."
Blount is a physical runner without a lot of burst. Ajayi can explode better in a zone-blocking system like the one the Eagles run. He's also a more talented pass catcher. The writing's on the wall, and the Eagles didn't give up a fourth-round pick to give Ajayi a handful of carries every week.
But we can't expect Ajayi to slide right into a big workload in Week 9, and even if he did he'd see a tough Broncos run defense. Figure this is Blount's last chance at getting over a dozen carries in a game -- right into the teeth of one of the league's toughest run defenses. The Eagles run game is unappealing in Week 9.
After the Denver game, the Eagles have a bye, so in Week 11 we should see much more of Ajayi for Philadelphia. Playing behind a better offensive line and in a very good offense, we should expect Ajayi to be more efficient.
Seattle's acquisition of Duane Brown to play left tackle will help, but there are still major concerns over whether this squad can run the ball effectively. Part of the problem is who the Seahawks have at running back -- Thomas Rawls hasn't looked good in years, nor has Eddie Lacy. No one else on the roster is considered strong enough to handle early downs.
Pete Carroll decided to give Lacy a chance, saying we are "going to see a lot of Eddie this week." Somehow, he's getting the shot despite averaging 2.6 yards per carry on the season with no more than 52 yards in a game. Carroll believes giving Lacy a chance to get into a rhythm will help him.
Perhaps most damning of all is that the Seahawks' leading rusher is still Chris Carson. The rookie hasn't played since Week 4 and still has more rush yards (and carries) than any other running back on the team. That's just as much on the coaching staff as it is their players. Until this changes, no Seattle running back is worth trusting, not even Lacy against the Redskins this week.