Ravens RBs: Split Possible in McGahee's Absence

by Tim Heaney on December 24, 2007 @ 04:04:55 PDT


Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee (ribs) left his Week 16 game in the first quarter with two broken ribs and did not return, finishing with just five carries for 10 rushing yards. McGahee suffered the injury on a one-yard gain, and after he left he had his chest wrapped before walking back to the locker room. McGahee will miss team's season finale.

Running backs Mike Anderson (hamstring) and Musa Smith combined to fill in for McGahee this past weekend. Anderson had eight carries for 44 yards and one reception for 10 yards, while Smith finished with seven carries for 25 yards with two receptions for 12 yards. Anderson was also stalled by a hamstring injury in the second half.

McGahee has been the main offensive weapon for the Ravens this season, rushing for 1,207 yards on 294 carries with seven rushing touchdowns while also catching 43 passes for 231 yards and a score.

Smith has been somewhat useful in spelling McGahee with 53 carries for 181 yards and one touchdown this season while also posting 24 catches for 184 yards. Smith had 30 utilizations in the five games prior to Week 16. Before coming in for McGahee, Anderson had just seven carries for 18 yards and three catches for 16 yards on the season.

Anderson boasts a style more geared towards power running, and Smith has been the third-down and change-of-pace back all season. Anderson, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, would be in line to get the start, but his status is also unknown for this week. If you miss out on Anderson, Smith could help in point-per-reception leagues because of his receiving ability. Also, keep in mind that offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden strained his left hamstring in the first quarter. He remained in the game but could be limited or even out of the lineup completely in Week 17.

Both Baltimore backs could get their share; whether quarterback Kyle Boller (concussion) or, as expected, quarterback Troy Smith takes control under center, the passing game has been far from stable this year. The Ravens have just three passing touchdowns over the last three weeks.

Baltimore matches up with the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season finale. The 4-11 Ravens are out of the playoff picture, so don't expect McGahee to be forced back into action for a meaningless game. The Steelers had presented a poor matchup for opposing running backs this year, but a season-ending injury to defensive end Aaron Smith (biceps) has struck a blow in their run defense. In the two games since Smith went down for the year, the Steelers have given up 153.0 yards and 0.50 touchdowns per game to the running back position.

McGahee is out for Week 17, so his owners should be prepared to go in a different direction. At best, both Anderson and Smith would rank as low-end No. 3 options or injury replacements. However, even if you own one of the other backs that were injured in Week 16, including Steelers running back Willie Parker (leg) and Detroit Lions running back Kevin Jones (knee), you should at least consider taking a chance on either one of the remaining Ravens.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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