Backfields in motion
LeSean McCoy totaled 122 yards for the Philadelphia Eagles in his return, accomplishing a lot more in the passing game. He surprisingly carried much of the load despite coming off a concussion for team that's totally out of it. After a two-game explosion, Bryce Brown has been silenced over the last three games while looking very green running the ball.
McCoy wasted little time
- Ray Rice matched a season-high 31 utilizations, but the Baltimore Ravens' blowout victory allowed also Bernard Pierce to carry the ball 14 times for 123 yards. The Ravens can move to the third seed with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals should the New England Patriots also lose to the Miami Dolphins. Rice figures to stay very busy unless the score gets out of hand once again. However, the Bengals defense has only allowed one rushing touchdown and 3.2 yards per carry over the last five games.
- After Alex Green was a late scratch due to a concussion, Ryan Grant ran 20 times for 80 yards with a pair of touchdowns in his first start since rejoining the Green Bay Packers. Coach Mike McCarthy says he'll give the ball to the hottest back, giving Green opportunities to continue leading the committee. DuJuan Harris will also get a few looks, primarily as a change of pace. The finale will come against a Minnesota Vikings defense that has shut down opposing running backs over the last three weeks after allowing 132 yards to Packers runners in Week 13.
- Jackie Battle will continue to receive the majority of the carries for the San Diego Chargers, especially if Ronnie Brown's hamstring doesn't allow him to play. That would also leave Curtis Brinkley to take over Brown's snaps on passing downs. The opposing Oakland Raiders had allowed nearly 150 rushing yards per game and a total of nine touchdowns to running backs in a span of six games until showing sudden improvements the last two games.
- The Cleveland Browns were relieved to learn Trent Richardson's ankle is not broken. If T-Rich is able to go, he may bail out if he exceeds the 50 rushing yards needed to break 1,000 in his rookie campaign. Montario Hardesty would take any carries that come due to injury or rest.
- Rashard Mendenhall made a surprise return to action for the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a healthy scratch for two games and serving a single game suspension imposed by the team. In addition to Mendenhall's redemption, Jonathan Dwyer's ineffectiveness also has him losing third-down snaps to Isaac Redman. The Steelers backfield is more confusing as ever, but Mendenhall is playing the best at the moment.
- Matt Forte continues to experience issues with his ankle but is expected to play in a must-win game for the Chicago Bears. Kahlil Bell would be the starter should Forte have to miss the contest, with Armando Allen picking up the scraps. Bell only managed 32 yards on 13 carries last week and figures to be a pretty unspectacular option even if he gets a spot start.
- With Daniel Thomas (knee) done for the year, the Miami Dolphins are giving Lamar Miller a chance to timeshare with Reggie Bush. He outproduced Bush as a runner last week but hasn't done as much as a receiver. The Fins are looking to re-sign Bush for next season, so he'll be doing everything possible to head into the offseason on a high note while keeping Miller at bay.
- Despite a decent all-around Week 16 performance, Montell Owens has failed to cement undisputed status as a starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Richard Murphy continues to cut more and more into his playing time. This lackluster duo will get a typically generous Tennessee Titans defense that limited Rashad Jennings (shoulder, concussion) to 43 yards on 16 carries in Week 12 but couldn't keep him out of the end zone.
- Heath Miller saw his career year come to an early end as the result of torn knee ligaments. The Steelers don't have much else going on at tight end, so Antonio Brown is the most likely beneficiary with more quick throws and inside routes.
- The attention drawn by Vincent Jackson has been extremely helpful in getting Mike Williams back to the impressive form he displayed as a rookie in 2010. Williams has scored in three of the last four games while seeing at least seven targets in those contests. For the finale the Bucs face a divisional opponent in the Falcons, who have kept wide receivers from scoring in six straight games.
- When he gets playing time, the sure-handed Jason Avant can produce for the Eagles. He's registered 70 or more receiving yards in three of the last four games but has not scored this season. Riley Cooper is playing more snaps and is a much better red zone target. Neither offers much big-play ability and may drop a bit with Michael Vick playing for the first time since Week 10 because of Nick Foles' hand injury. Opportunities may increase for both snares if Jeremy Maclin (knee) is limited or inactive, though.
- A second concussion has ended the season for second-year revelation Cecil Shorts. Jordan Shipley will likely get the start for Jax against a bad Titans defense that will be playing more a lot attention to Justin Blackmon. Shipley has some limited PPR value as longshot WR3.
- Doug Baldwin is benefiting from the knee and foot issues slowing down Sidney Rice. He was targeted a team-high six times last week, making four catches, including a pair of touchdowns. Such an efficient effort is hard to duplicate, making any Seattle Seahawks receiver a rough play against an underrated St. Louis Rams defense.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.
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