It’s Week 15 and most fantasy leagues are entering their semifinals. Fittingly, the key to this week may be hitting on the backup and third string running backs that are going to see an increase in opportunity due to a starter’s injury.
With that in mind, let’s recap Wednesday’s news with an eye towards the slate of games on the week.
Fantasy football’s Loch Ness Monster is back. Christine Michael – after being traded to Dallas, then cut, then signed to Washington’s practice squad only to be cut again – is back in Seattle. C-Mike just keeps sticking around to tease fantasy owners. The thing is, DuJuan Harris – who saw 27 snaps and 18 carries after Thomas Rawls’ season-ending ankle injury – was cut on Tuesday. Seattle just re-signed Bryce Brown for the third time this year and they are content using Fred Jackson in a 3rd down, passing-back role. That leaves Brown and Michael competing for “starter” touches, but this is a mess of a situation. It’s completely conceivable to think Seattle doesn’t even know who they will be starting at running back in Week 15 at home against Cleveland. I would love to use a Seattle back against this Cleveland defense that ranks 29th in Football Outsiders Rush Defense DVOA, but we have absolutely zero clarity here.
News came out mid-Wednesday that T.J. Yeldon suffered a sprained MCL in Week 14 against the Colts. Sprained MCLs typically linger for skill-positional players, so it’s conceivable to think Denard Robinson will be the next man up for Week 15 and possibly Week 16. Yeldon did not practice on Wednesday. This is an amazing spot for Robinson to get his first start of 2015 against an Atlanta team that has completely crumbled over the past two months. The Falcons have averaged 0.7 offensive touchdowns per-game over the past three games while their “run defense” has been torched for 134.3 rushing yards per game (3rd most), 4.71 yards per carry (5th most), and 0.99 fantasy points per touch (4th highest) in the last month. I agree with Ray Summerlin that Robinson should be the No. 1 waiver claim this week, if your league’s waivers have not run yet.
Keeping the running back carousel of Week 15 spinning, Jonathan Stewart (sprained foot) missed practice on Wednesday. In all likelihood, the Panthers will hold out Stewart in Week 15 on the road against the Giants with the playoffs right around the corner. Like Seattle, the Carolina backfield will likely be a complete mess to figure out unless we’re provided with some clarity later in the week. Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera said Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert will likely start, but rookie Cameron Artis-Payne will “get his share of opportunities.” Artis-Payne hasn’t played since Week 7, 243-pound running/full back Mike Tolbert has just 45 carries on the season (14 of which came in the red zone), while Fozzy Whittaker played 44.6% of snaps in Week 14 after Stewart’s injury. Keep checking back for more information on this muddy backfield.
Spencer Ware (ribs) did not practice and was reportedly “bruised, swollen, and in pain” earlier in the week. Charcandrick West would resume his workhorse role in Week 15 against the Ravens if Ware is unable to suit up. Remember, West saw 9 carries (two targets), 22 carries (five targets), 20 carries (six targets), and 24 carries (five targets) in his four starts before getting injured in Week 11 (hamstring). He finished as the RB50, RB7, RB3, and RB3 in PPR-scoring formats through Week 6-10 following Jamaal Charles’ (ACL) injury. The Ravens have allowed just 3.52 yards per carry (ranked 24th) in their last five contests, but West would be in line for at least 15 touches (if Ware is out) in a game that the Chiefs should have no issue maintaining offensive leverage, even on the road.
Finally, the last bit of Wednesday’s news surrounding the running back apocalypse of Week 15: the Patriots placed LeGarrette Blount (hip) on season-ending injured reserve. Brandon Bolden is in line to be the Pats’ early down back with James White mixing in on passing downs, 3rd downs, and in the Patriots hurry-up offense. Bolden converted his 16 carries into 51 yards rushing after Blount went down with an injury against the Texans in Week 14. White has just 16 carries on the season but does have 3, 5, 13, and 6 targets in his last four contests. The Pats’ brought veteran Steven Jackson in for a workout on Wednesday but ultimately did not sign him. Bolden will be on the RB2/3 borderline in Week 15 at home against the Titans while James White has the PPR-appeal.
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Andrew Luck (kidney) practiced on Wednesday but is not expected to start in Week 15. Matt Hasselbeck (rib, arm) did not practice. … Peyton Manning (foot) is out for Week 15. … Julian Edelman (foot) practiced again on Wednesday while Tyler Eifert (concussion) did not. … Alshon Jeffery (calf) was limited in practice on Wednesday but should be able to suit up against Minnesota provided he doesn’t suffer any setbacks. … Karlos Williams (shoulder) returned to practice on Wednesday. DB Stephon Gilmore (torn labrum) was placed on season-ending injured reserve. … Crockett Gillmore (back) “probably” won’t play again in 2015. … Something to monitor: DeSean Jackson (knee) didn’t practice on Wednesday. … Andre Ellington (turf toe) didn’t practice on Wednesday. … The Patriots claimed Leonard Hankerson off of waivers on Wednesday. … Finally, Dontrelle Inman (neck) returned to practice on Wednesday while Stevie Johnson (groin) did not.