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Fantasy Football: Week 6 Running Back Matchup Report

Week 5 was not a banner week for running backs. There were just 15 running backs to have at least 10 fantasy points in Week 5. Perhaps more bizarre is the fact that three of the 15 recorded single-digit rushing yards. Running backs had just 11 rushing touchdowns in Week 5, the lowest total since Week 10 of the 2015 season. Doug Martin’s return was certainly a bright spot. He had 74 rushing yards and a touchdown in his return from a suspension. He looks like he could be a borderline RB1 going forward. There was also some good news away from the field, as the recent trade of Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals is likely to increase the value of several running backs, including Peterson himself. I’d still rather own both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara than Peterson for the remainder of the season, for what it’s worth.

Looking ahead to Week 6, Devonta Freeman and C.J. Anderson are the most prolific running backs to be coming back from bye weeks. Needless to say, they should be immediately inserted back into lineups. Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, and Joe Mixon are the most notable running backs whose teams or on a bye this week. Let’s look at some of the running backs who might be likely to surprise or disappoint based on their matchups in Week 6.


Javorius “Buck” Allen, Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears – I just would like to point out that I have ZERO confidence projecting how John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens’ coaching staff will utilize their running backs. We’re not even a third of the way into the season, and three different running backs have already been featured at various times by Baltimore. Terrance West got the start in Week 1, but quickly lost his seat at the table. Javorius Allen was seemingly given the opportunity to shine in Weeks 1 and 2, touching the ball 40 times. He then suddenly received just 10 carries over his next two games, while Alex Collins received 18. Then, when it appeared that Collins would be given a Week 5 audition, Allen touched the ball 25 times in Baltimore’s victory in Oakland. I can’t promise that Allen is in line for 20-plus touches, but owners should be excited by the matchup at home against the Chicago Bears. Chicago has permitted a rushing touchdown in each game this season. Baltimore ran the ball 39 times in last week’s victory, and I expect a similar formula in Week 6. Buck Allen has already been a top-8 running back twice this season and has the potential to reach that level of production once again in Week 6.

Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers – Last week I featured Latavius Murray in this space due to the Minnesota Vikings having a favorable matchup. I wrongly thought that Murray would be given a couple of games to see if he could regain his 2015-2016 form. It took less than a full game for the Vikings’ coaches to insert Jerick McKinnon into the game, and McKinnon took care of the rest. He totaled 146 yards and a touchdown to finish as the overall RB3 in Week 5. McKinnon did finish as an RB3 in standard leagues last season (RB32 overall) despite starting just seven games. In the last 10 games in which McKinnon has been in on at least 55% of Minnesota’s snaps, he has been a top-24 PPR running back in seven of them. If McKinnon is in fact given an opportunity to be the Vikings’ main man going forward, he will have significant value. In Week 6, he faces the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are a middle-of-the-road rushing defense, allowing just over four yards per carry to opposing running backs. They’ve allowed five touchdowns, including two receiving touchdowns to running backs in 2017. I would start Jerick McKinnon with confidence in Week 6.

Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans – Don’t look now, but Duke Johnson currently sits as the overall RB13 in standard leagues. This is particularly impressive considering he’s had just 77 rushing yards on the year. He leads all running backs in receiving yards and ranks 26th in the entire NFL in that category. He’s basically been what Christian McCaffrey owners thought they were getting at a much cheaper price. As Isaiah Crowell continues to struggle, I believe it’s only a matter of time before Johnson’s touches increase. That may coincide with Cleveland’s recent quarterback change. DeShone Kizer was benched for Kevin Hogan in Cleveland’s Week 5 loss to the New York Jets. Hogan came in and looked more effective, and Johnson was one of the beneficiaries. He caught a screen pass late in the game and took it 41 yards to the house. This week Cleveland takes on the Houston Texans in a game with sneaky shootout appeal. Houston lost both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season with injuries. Houston has also been vulnerable to pass-catching running backs this season, already surrendering three touchdown catches thus far. At the very least, Johnson should be in the Flex conversation and has the upside to post his fourth consecutive top-18 finish in Week 6.


Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings – Aaron Jones burst onto the scene in Green Bay’s Week 5 victory against the Dallas Cowboys. The fifth-round rookie out of UTEP tallied 125 rushing yards on 19 carries in place of the injured Ty Montgomery. He leads the Packers in rushing despite handling 14 fewer carries than Montgomery on the year. Jones and Montgomery are currently being ranked under the assumption that Montgomery misses further time. However, Montgomery has been practicing in full early this week, signifying he is likely to return in Week 6. Either way, the matchup for either Packers’ running back is far from ideal. Green Bay faces a Minnesota Vikings team that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. They’ve surrendering just one rushing touchdown and 3.32 yards per carry. If Montgomery remains sidelined, I’m fine with inserting Jones as an RB2. But I would prefer to have other options available in case Montgomery plays. In such a scenario, Jones should not be played at all in Week 6.

Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots at New York Jets – Expectations for Mike Gillislee were through the roof following a three-touchdown performance on Opening Night. Gillislee has largely disappointed since. He has just one touchdown in his last four games and is averaging fewer than 50 total yards per contest in 2017. In a league where so many running backs complement their production with receiving output (or in some cases, have stand-alone value simply on passing game production), Gillislee provides nothing in that regard whatsoever. There are 98 running backs who have caught a pass this season. Gillislee is not among them. This fact could be overlooked if he were getting a ton of carries, but that is not the case, either. He’s had exactly 12 carries and zero touchdowns in each of his last three games. In last week’s victory against Tampa Bay, Gillislee received only two carries in the fourth quarter in what should have been prime clock-killing time. This week, Gillislee faces a New York Jets defense that has been a bit better against the run as of late. They’ve allowed just 79.7 yards per game and 3.35 yards per carry to opposing running backs over their last three games. Mike Gillislee has the potential to score a touchdown in any given week, but he is not by any means a must-start in Week 6.

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers vs. Philadelphia Eagles – Christian McCaffrey finally scored his first NFL touchdown on a pass from Cam Newton in Carolina’s victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 5. However, he still scored fewer than 10 fantasy points and finished as just an RB2. McCaffrey simply doesn’t run the ball often enough or effectively enough to be considered a must-start in fantasy, particularly in standard leagues. He hasn’t rushed for more than 16 rushing yards since Week 1 and has rushed for fewer than 100 yards this season. He has fewer rushing yards than 54 running backs, nine quarterbacks, and one wide receiver. This week McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers face the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia has done an excellent job limiting running back production this season. They have allowed just 62.8 rushing yards per game, second-best in the NFL. McCaffrey will not be able to get anything going on the ground in this matchup. If you’re playing McCaffrey, you’re essentially hoping for a touchdown catch. It doesn’t seem likely against an Eagles team that has allowed just three touchdown receptions by running backs dating back to 2016. Christian McCaffrey does not need to be in any Week 6 lineups.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans – Wait, we’re not still starting Frank Gore, are we? I thought we all agreed to sell after Week 3’s effort. In fairness to Gore, he’s remained decent since his season-high RB16 Week 3 finish. He’s been a top-30 running back in four straight weeks and currently sits as the overall RB20. But if you haven’t sold yet, you should definitely try to. First, it’s clear that rookie Marlon Mack is the most explosive threat in the Indianapolis backfield. Mack returned from a shoulder injury in Week 4 and promptly tallied 91 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. He should continue to get more work going forward, further limiting Gore’s already low ceiling. Gore also has some very unfavorable matchups on the horizon, including Week 6’s tilt against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans have allowed just 3.46 yards per rushing attempt to enemy running backs and have allowed just eight running backs to rush for a touchdown since 2016. I don’t see Frank Gore getting into the end zone in this one, and I see his streak of top-30 finishes coming to an abrupt halt in Week 6.


Elijah McGuire, New York Jets vs. New England Patriots – With the recent injuries to Bilal Powell and Matt Forte, rookie sixth-round pick Elijah McGuire may be the last man standing in the New York Jet’s backfield. If Powell and Forte do not suit up, McGuire makes for an ideal fantasy fill-in. The New England Patriots have been gashed by opposing running backs this season. They have given up a whopping 5.24 yards per carry, the third-worst mark in the NFL. They’ve been even worse against running backs in the passing game. They’ve allowed an NFL-worst 12 yards per reception to opposing running backs in 2017 and have also allowed three receiving touchdowns, tied for the most in the league. The Jets have very limited offensive weapons and will look to keep this game close using McGuire on the ground. Negative game script may adversely affect McGuire to some degree, but I still think he’s in line for 15-20 touches against a vulnerable defense. Elijah McGuire could be a waiver wire wonder who leads his fantasy owners to victory in Week 6.

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