Coach Bruce Arians has been known in his time with the Cardinals to tell fibs and stretch the truth about his desired roles for his running backs. But last week, ahead of the Cardinals’ road date with the Rams, Arians said he wanted to get David Johnson 25 touches in his first start as the No. 1 running back. That proved to be a truth, as Johnson piled up 120 total yards and one touchdown on 22 carries and two catches out of the backfield.
Now that we know we can trust Arians regarding Johnson, fantasy owners can move forward with Johnson as a locked-in RB1. Again on Tuesday evening, Arians said, in his weekly guest appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio, that he wants Johnson to again get 25 touches Thursday night against the Vikings. The Vikings have played above-average defense all year under coach Mike Zimmer, but this matchup isn’t even as tough as the somewhat-easy one against St. Louis four days ago.
The Vikings are expected to be without starters on all three levels of their defense. Likely to be ruled out are NT Linval Joseph (foot), SLB Anthony Barr (groin), and FS Harrison Smith (hamstring). Through 13 weeks, Joseph already has a Player of the Week award on his record and has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3-ranked interior lineman against the run, behind only Ravens NT Brandon Williams and Rams DT Aaron Donald. Barr is PFF’s No. 1 overall 4-3 outside linebacker and No. 4 against the run. Smith comes in as the No. 3 overall safety and fifth against the run. This is a very favorable matchup for Johnson in the league’s No. 1 offense against an injury-riddled defense. Johnson, alone, is reason enough to play DFS on Thursday night. He has overall RB1 upside.
In Other News…
After Johnny Manziel was caught being a 22-year-old and partying in a club during the Browns’ bye week two weeks ago, coach Mike Pettine benched the second-year pro and said he violated the team’s trust. Now that Josh McCown (collarbone) has been knocked out for the season and Austin Davis fell flat on his face in last week’s spot start, the Browns are going back to Manziel for Week 14. At home against the 49ers’ bottom-barrel pass defense, Manziel is on the streaming radar.
Martellus Bennett practiced in full all last week and played through his ribs injury to catch three passes for 14 yards. That being said, the Bears sent Bennett to season-ending I.R. on Tuesday. There have been reports of Bennett clashing with the organization’s higher-ups and coaching staff this season. And with his production falling off lately, Bennett may have been making more noise behind the scenes. His season is over, and Bennett may have played his final down with the Bears. He has one year left on his contract at $5.085 million and turns 29 in the offseason. Chicago will move forward with Zach Miller as the starting tight end. Rob Housler was signed as depth.
Speaking Tuesday, coach Mike McCarthy said Eddie Lacy is “rejuvenated” and expects the running back to have a “productive Sunday.” We’ve heard it all before from McCarthy, and he’s become near-impossible to trust when it comes to the Packers’ running back situation. But the Packers did dump RB Alonzo Harris after the Week 13 game, and it’s been reported that the team thought Harris was having a bad influence on Lacy. Look for Lacy to get another crack at bellcow duties Sunday against the Cowboys, where he’ll be a highly-volatile, upside RB2 for the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
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Quarterback & Running Back Slants
Raiders signed FB/RB Jamize Olawale to a three-year extension through 2018. … Broncos waived QB Christian Ponder. … Chris Thompson underwent an MRI after spraining his shoulder in Monday night’s loss. It’s unclear if it’s an aggravation of his previously-sprained AC joint. … Coach Jay Gruden said Alfred Morris’ benching for the final three quarters of Monday night’s loss to the Cowboys was game-flow related. It makes no sense, as the game was a low-paced, low-scoring grudge match, the type of contest Morris usually plays. … Ryan Mathews (concussion) is expected to return Week 14 against the Bills. … Coach John Harbaugh said Matt Schaub will remain the starter. … Coach Pete Carroll admitted Marshawn Lynch’s recovery from abdominal surgery may be longer than initially thought. … Coach Gary Kubiak said C.J. Anderson’s ankle was “very sore” on Monday. … Peyton Manning (foot) may resume throwing Wednesday. … Coach Ron Rivera said he’ll continue to play Cam Newton and his starters even if/when the Panthers clinch home-field advantage. … There is reportedly mutual interest between the Bucs and contract-year RB Doug Martin. … Andrew Luck (kidney) isn’t expected to return to practice this week. … DeMarco Murray met with owner Jeffrey Lurie to air his grievances.
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Wide Receiver & Tight End Slants
Rueben Randle admitted he’s “frustrated” with his offensive role. He’s started every game, but has seen more than seven targets just once and is on pace for a mediocre 56-710-5 line. … Kendall Wright suffered a ribs injury in the Week 13 win over the Jaguars. … Free agent WR Danario Alexander is attempting a comeback and worked out for the Bears on Tuesday. He hasn’t played since 2012 due to myriad injuries. … Giants placed Larry Donnell (neck) on season-ending I.R. … Ty Montgomery (ankle) resumed practicing Tuesday. … Michael Floyd (hamstring) has been limited in practice all week. So has Larry Fitzgerald (ankle), but both will be fine for Thursday night against Minnesota. … Jermaine Gresham (knee) did not practice Tuesday. … Dolphins re-signed TE Brandon Williams. … Chargers signed WR Vincent Brown. Free agent WR Austin Pettis also worked out for the Bolts. … 49ers placed TE Garrett Celek on I.R. with a high-ankle sprain. … Bills promoted TE Nick O’Leary from their practice squad and waived TE Matthew Mulligan. … Crockett Gillmore left Week 13 against the Dolphins with a back injury. The Ravens have signed TE Richard Gordon. … Coach John Fox said rookie WR Kevin White (leg, PUP) will play this season if he’s cleared in time. The Bears have another week to activate him. … Rishard Matthews (ribs) isn’t expected to play Week 14 against the Giants.