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Fantasy Football: Week 17 Running Back Matchup Report

Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt have led many fantasy owners to the brink of a championship in 2017. However, they will be both unavailable in Week 17, as they are resting for the NFL playoffs. Needless to say, this will present quite a challenge for fantasy owners who have ridden them to this point. Owners may be forced to bench players or scour the waiver wire for some Week 17 fill-ins. Conversely, Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone has stated that he will not bench his starters, despite their seed already being set in stone. This is good news for owners of Leonard Fournette. On the other side of that game, Titans’ running back Derrick Henry might finally get the opportunity to see a full workload for Tennessee in Week 17 because of DeMarco Murray’s torn MCL. Murray will try to gut it out in a must-win situation, but I do not think he will be able to make it through the game unscathed. I consider Henry a high-end fantasy option in Week 17.

As you can already tell, Week 17 in the NFL is like no other. Though the NFL has removed the Sunday night game and has rescheduled the games to ensure that the games will remain as competitive as possible, the reality is that many teams will not play all of their best players. Several other running backs may join Gurley and Hunt on their teams’ sidelines in Week 17, which could pave the way for an unknown to see an increased workload. Melvin Gordon and Samaje Perine join Murray as starters whose Week 17 status are in doubt because of injury. Here are some of the matchups that may affect running back production in Week 17. Please pay attention to the news regarding your players over the next several days, as these situations and several others remain fluid heading into the weekend.



Fantasy owners who drafted Derrick Henry this season were hoping that he would take over the featured role in the Tennessee Titans’ backfield from veteran DeMarco Murray. That has not happened, as Murray heads into Week 17 as the overall RB19 compared to an RB32 ranking for Henry. Murray also holds a 184-148 edge in carries over Henry. Despite this, Henry leads Tennessee in rushing yards. Murray suffered a torn MCL in Tennessee’s Week 16 loss, but he insists he will try to play. I do not see Murray being able to stay on the field in this game. A running back and instability in the knee is a disastrous combination. Tennessee must give their best players and their most healthy players a chance to shine in this critical game. Should Henry receive a full workload, look out. In the three games in his career in which he has received at least 16 touches, Henry has weekly fantasy finishes of RB7, RB16, and RB5. Henry’s matchup is not ideal against an improved Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive line, but Jacksonville does not need to win this game. Despite head coach Doug Marrone’s comments, I have a hard time buying that Marcell Dareus and company are going to play the entire game. I think Derrick Henry is at worst an RB2 this week, and he has fantasy championship-winning, top-five upside in this matchup.


Before the season, I said that Jamaal Williams would lead the Green Bay Packers in rushing yards. It hasn’t always been pretty, but he got there. Williams is essentially the last man standing in the Packers’ backfield following injuries to Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones. Williams has been a workhorse since taking over backfield duties, averaging just under 20 touches per game since Week 10. With star wide receivers Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson unlikely to play and with seemingly overmatched Brett Hundley at quarterback, Williams should be in line for another massive workload in Week 17. Williams has a juicy matchup this week against a Detroit Lions defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Detroit has also allowed a top-eight weekly fantasy running back in five of their last seven games. I like Williams’ odds of adding to that total in Week 17. I have Jamaal Williams as an RB1 this week.


Peyton Barber earns a place here based solely on the fact that he is not Doug Martin. Several weeks ago, I highlighted how terrible Doug Martin is, and he has done nothing to change my mind. Tampa Bay seems to have caught on, and the writing is on the wall that Martin will not be the primary Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running back going forward. In the meantime, Peyton Barber has been given an extended look in recent weeks, and he has not disappointed. Barber has seen 61 carries in Tampa’s last four games and has averaged a respectable 4.33 yards per carry. As the Buccaneers close their 2017 season, they will face the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans is an average defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs on the season. However, they have permitted six total touchdowns to enemy running backs in their last four games. Only the Baltimore Ravens have given up more. New Orleans has also allowed running backs to catch four touchdown passes in their last six games. Barber does not have a safe floor, so he should not be used if you are behind in your matchup and are looking for a potential RB1. However, if you just need a few points out of your Flex spot, Peyton Barber should fill in nicely.


As the New York Giants’ nightmare season is coming to a close, they have given rookie running back Wayne Gallman more looks in the last several weeks, primarily at the expense of early-down back Orleans Darkwa and veteran pass-catching specialist Shane Vereen. Gallman has led the Giants’ backfield in touches in three consecutive games and has posted decent fantasy totals during that span. Gallman has finished as either an RB2 or RB3 in each one of those weeks and will have the opportunity to do so once again when New York faces the Washington Redskins in Week 17. Washington has allowed the seventh-most yards and seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year. With a depleted wide receiver corps and with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram questionable, Gallman should get plenty of touches in the season finale. If you are scrambling to fill your Flex spot, or if you have a running back who is injured or resting in Week 17, Wayne Gallman is someone who could pay huge dividends in Week 17.



I highlighted Jerick McKinnon as having a favorable matchup last week, and he promptly went out and posted his worst weekly finish since Week 4. What can I say, folks? I have a gift. McKinnon’s dud can be blamed on Minnesota’s positive game script, but that does not mean a bounce-back is likely in Week 17. Minnesota will host the Chicago Bears in their regular season finale, a game which Minnesota should win fairly easily. A run-heavy attack would favor Latavius Murray more so than McKinnon. The matchup is not geared toward McKinnon, either. Though the Bears have not been a very good team this season, they are seventh-best in the NFL in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. Even more worrisome for McKinnon’s Week 17 prospects is the fact that Chicago has allowed just one receiving touchdown in 2017 to a running back. McKinnon has scored the majority of his fantasy points via receiving production since Week 8. There is also still the possibility of Minnesota resting players. Based on all of these factors, I would stay away from Jerick McKinnon as a fantasy option in Week 17.


My last chance to bash Frank Gore in 2017. It’s truly an emotional moment for me. In all seriousness and sincerity, Frank Gore has proved me wrong in 2017. I wanted no part of him this season based on where he was being drafted. But Gore has exceeded season-long expectations. He currently ranks as the overall RB18 on the season and is just 13 carries away from becoming the first player in NFL history with at least five consecutive seasons of at least 250 carries after the age of 30. He is a pro’s pro and is a respected veteran. However, that still does not mean he should be in Week 17 fantasy lineups. I suppose one can make the argument that Gore is an RB2 because his expected volume is one of the few “knowns” given the strange nature of Week 17. However, I would not count on it. Gore has averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry this season. There is simply not much upside here. I consider Gore to be the opposite of Barber on some level. Gore has a safe floor, but a very low ceiling, whereas Barber has a scary floor, but a much bigger ceiling. If you own both, the decision may come down to where you are in your championship matchup heading into Week 17, as well as your personal risk-taking tendencies. Personally, I would rather have Barber’s ceiling than Gore’s floor. I would leave Frank Gore on the bench in Week 17.


Jonathan Stewart had a stretch several weeks ago where he produced at an extremely high level. In four games from Week 10 through Week 14, Stewart scored five touchdowns and averaged 71 rushing yards and a whopping 14.60 fantasy points per game. However, in his other 11 games, Stewart has not eclipsed 68 rushing yards in any of them and has scored only one rushing touchdown. In this day and age of running back committees and versatile running backs, Stewart is essentially an early-down plodder who will only be fantasy-relevant in weeks when he scores a touchdown. I would not bet on Stewart doing so in Week 17 against the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta has given up the seventh-fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs. They’ve also allowed just six rushing touchdowns to backs on the year, tied for third-best in the NFL. In their first meeting this season, Stewart had just 21 rushing yards. I do not expect Stewart to be a major part of Carolina’s offensive attack in this game. I would steer clear of Jonathan Stewart for fantasy purposes in Week 17.




Last week, I suggested to readers that they should start Lamar Miller based on his Week 16 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was half right, I suppose. Miller averaged a robust 5.5 yards per carry. However, he saw only 11 touches, which resulted in just an RB30 weekly finish. Instead, it was Alfred Blue who carried the mail in Houston’s Christmas day loss. Blue parlayed 16 carries into 108 rushing yards, finishing as the RB21 for Week 16. Blue has now out-carried and outproduced Miller in consecutive contests. Blue has averaged 5.82 yards per carry over his last two games. Blue’s Week 17 matchup is a good one against the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis has given up the sixth-most fantasy points and fifth-most rushing yards in 2017. Houston is playing out the string, and I would not be surprised to see Blue get the majority of backfield touches once again in Week 17. Lamar Miller will be back next season as the featured back, but I believe Alfred Blue is the Texans’ running back you want this week. He has top-20 upside in this matchup.

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