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Fantasy Football: Week 12 Running Back Matchup Report

Among the many stories coming out of Week 11 was the continued emergence of Vikings’ running back Latavius Murray. Murray began the preseason on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with an ankle injury. He quickly fell down the depth chart behind dynamic rookie Dalvin Cook and saw just seven touches in September. Once Cook was lost for the season with a torn ACL, Jerick McKinnon dominated fantasy headlines, but Murray’s role slowly increased as well. Murray’s weekly touches increased in every game from Week 4 through Week 8, and his production slowly began to follow suit. Murray has now averaged 78.75 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown over his last four games, producing three weekly RB1 finishes in the process. Incredibly, a Vikings’ running back has finished as an RB1 in each game since Cook’s injury. McKinnon is still the preferred PPR back, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue against Murray in standard leagues. Murray has a proven track record, which has certainly helped him gain the trust of Minnesota’s coaching staff and finished last season as fantasy’s overall RB13 as a member of the Oakland Raiders. The Vikings’ duo isn’t quite Mark Ingram-Alvin Kamara, but they don’t have to be for each of them to be considered weekly fantasy plays. Murray and McKinnon both get a favorable Week 12 draw in a Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Detroit Lions.

In other news, one of the feel-good fantasy stories of 2017 came to an unfortunate end in Week 11. Chris Thompson, who had led Washington in both rushing and receiving, and was an RB1 on the year, fractured his right fibula and is lost for the season. Thompson’s injury makes Samaje Perine a must-add where available. The rookie out of Oklahoma was a popular sleeper over the summer, with most believing he would overtake Rob Kelley for the Redskins’ starting gig. Perine never got things going and was relegated to scraps behind Kelley and Thompson. Now seemingly the last man standing in Washington’s backfield, Perine made great strides towards turning his season around in Week 11. Perine had 117 rushing yards and a touchdown against New Orleans, producing an RB6 weekly finish. Perine should be considered a weekly starter down the stretch of the fantasy season and into the playoffs. Let’s see which other running backs may make or break fantasy owners as we head into a crucial Week 12.




Tevin Coleman was one of my favorite preseason values at running back. I stated back in July that Coleman would have value on his own, and that he was a Devonta Freeman injury away from being a weekly RB1. Well, here we are. Despite playing second-fiddle to Freeman once again in 2017, Coleman enters Week 12 as the overall RB14 on the year, one spot ahead of Freeman. Coleman took over the lead role when Freeman missed Week 11 with a concussion and is likely to do so once again in Week 12. Freeman has still not been cleared to practice and will likely sit out once again, giving Coleman a huge opportunity. Skeptics will point to Coleman’s 2.15 yards-per-carry figure from last week as proof that he cannot handle a full workload. That is pure folly. Despite the subpar performance, Coleman still finished the week as an RB2. Secondly, there is a big difference between a road tilt against Seattle and a home date with Tampa Bay. Atlanta is a huge favorite in this game, and Coleman should be a lock for at least 20 touches in this game. If he’s given that workload in Week 12, Tevin Coleman will be a top-10 fantasy running back.


I wanted no part of Alfred Morris heading into Week 11, but he had a very nice showing against a very tough Philadelphia Eagles defense. Morris tallied 91 rushing yards and finished as an RB3. He now gets a much softer Week 12 matchup. Dallas will host the Los Angeles Chargers on Thanksgiving Day. Even in a game they won by 30 points, the Chargers still managed to give up the overall RB1 weekly performance to LeSean McCoy. Morris is certainly not McCoy, but he doesn’t have to be to produce this week. The Chargers have allowed the most rushing yards to opposing backs on the year. Morris’ outlook is also enhanced by the likely return of left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith has missed the last two games with a groin injury, and Dallas’ offense has suffered dramatically in his absence. Without Smith, Dallas has scored just one touchdown and quarterback Dak Prescott has turned the ball over six times. Smith practiced on Tuesday and should be able to play on Thursday. In what should be a close game and a high-scoring affair, I think Alfred Morris will be a fantasy RB2 in Week 12.


As mentioned above, a Minnesota running back has put up a weekly RB1 performance in each of their last six games. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the production of one directly impacts the other. Unlike in New Orleans, this is not a situation where both running backs have proven that they can simultaneously produce big numbers. Consider their weekly finishes since Week 5:

McKinnon – RB3, RB6, RB34, RB3, RB43, RB32
Murray – RB38, RB42, RB7, RB39, RB12, RB2

McKinnon is the preferred receiving back out of the backfield, so his weekly floor is slightly higher than Murray’s. McKinnon has averaged 31.67 receiving yards per game since Week 5, whereas Murray has totaled just 31 receiving yards over the same period. In attempting to forecast their Week 12 prospects, however, I prefer Murray for a couple of reasons. First, Murray has clearly been the more productive of the two in recent weeks. Murray was still rounding into form when McKinnon was putting up a lot of his numbers. As Murray’s role began to increase, his production did as well. The matchup against the Detroit Lions also favors Murray. Detroit has given up the second-most rushing touchdowns (10) to opposing running backs, while Murray is tied for seventh in the NFL with seven carries inside an opponent’s five-yard line. Murray has out-carried McKinnon 4-0 in such situations over the last two games, converting two for scores. Murray scored another touchdown from eight yards out in last week’s victory. Murray is on a roll, and I think he gets into the end-zone once again in this game. Jerick McKinnon still makes for a decent Flex play, particularly in PPR leagues, but Latavius Murray is the Vikings’ running back I want in standard leagues. I view him as a high-end RB2 in this matchup.



In two games as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jay Ajayi has put together weekly finishes of RB10 and RB22, averaging 11.9 fantasy points per game. However, once the layers begin to be peeled to determine the likelihood of Ajayi repeating that success, there are a couple of major red flags. As an Eagle, Ajayi has seen a total of just 16 touches and has been on the field for only 30 snaps. It is simply not realistic to expect him to maintain anything close to that level of production with such a limited role. He may earn a few more snaps and a few more touches going forward, but it’s not as if Philadelphia is hurting for running backs. LeGarrette Blount is a fantasy RB2 on the year and emerging rookie Corey Clement is an RB3. Each has out-touched Ajayi during their brief time together. The Eagles take on Chicago in Week 12. Though Philadelphia should win this game handily, there’s no guarantee that Ajayi will benefit any more than Blount or Clement. Chicago has been a slightly above-average defense against running backs, so Ajayi’s matchup doesn’t particularly stand out. Despite Jay Ajayi’s recent success, he should be considered nothing more than a highly volatile RB2/Flex play in this matchup.


Alex Collins has acquitted himself well in his first season as a Baltimore Raven. He started the year behind Terrance West but quickly worked his way up Baltimore’s depth chart. After being inactive in Week 1, he has seen a steady uptick in carries as the season has progressed:

Games 1-3: 8.33
Games 4-6: 12.33
Games 7-9: 17.00

His production has been limited by his inability to find the end zone. Collins has just one touchdown in 2017. This week, Collins and the Ravens will battle the Houston Texans. Houston has not allowed an opposing running back to score a touchdown in their last nine games. Starting a running back who doesn’t score against a defense that doesn’t allow touchdowns is not a recipe for Fantasy success. Collins has two RB1 finishes in his last four games, but it’s hard to imagine him getting anywhere near that level of production in this game. I view Alex Collins as just a mere Flex play in Week 12.


Since logging an incredible 39 touches in Arizona’s Week 9 victory in San Francisco, Adrian Peterson has not been the same player. He has carried the ball 35 times for just 55 yards in back-to-back difficult matchups against Seattle and Houston. Peterson faces another tough task in Week 12 when Arizona faces the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville struggled against the run early in the year, but that has not been the case as of late. A major reason for Jacksonville’s improvement against the run was their recent acquisition of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from the Buffalo Bills. Since the trade, the Jaguars have allowed a total of just 127 yards on 53 carries to opposing running backs. Jacksonville is not likely to be challenged consistently by Arizona third-string quarterback Blaine Gabbert, so they should be able to devote an extra defender to keep Peterson in check and stop the running game. Adrian Peterson should not be considered as anything more than a high-risk Flex play in this matchup.


I picked up Doug Martin several weeks ago in my main league. I considered it a shrewd move at the time given his upcoming schedule. After watching him underachieve for several weeks now, my “hot take” is that Doug Martin is not good. Of the 29 running backs with at least 100 carries in 2017, Martin’s 3.1 yards per carry is better than only Joe Mixon. In 2016, 42 running backs had at least 100 carries. Martin’s 2.9 yards per carry was dead last among that group. Seriously, what was I thinking? Anyway, the good news for Martin owners is that Tampa Bay isn’t exactly rife with replacements at the running back position. Jacquizz Rodgers was out of the league before Tampa Bay signed him last season. Peyton Barber hasn’t shown much in limited chances, and Charles Sims is a passing-down back at best. Martin should still have the opportunity to lead this backfield for at least the next couple of weeks until the Buccaneers fall out of the playoff race. Even if Martin does approach 20 touches, there is not much room for optimism heading into Week 12. He’s averaged 18 touches over his last five games and hasn’t finished as a top-20 running back in any of those weeks. This week, Tampa travels to Atlanta to face the Falcons. Atlanta might finally be finding their form following two big victories against playoff contenders Dallas and Seattle. Over the last four games, Atlanta has ceded just one total touchdown to enemy running backs. Doug Martin should simply not be started in Week 12.



Following their sixth straight defeat, Denver made changes at both the offensive coordinator and quarterback positions this week. It looks like they have gone into rebuilding and evaluation mode. As the Broncos’ season has seemingly circled the drain in recent weeks, second-year running back Devontae Booker has quietly put up Flex-worthy numbers over the last four weeks. In fact, he’s outscored backfield mate C.J. Anderson during this period. We have already seen the shift in their backfield hierarchy, and I expect that to continue going forward. This week Booker faces the Oakland Raiders. Oakland is a bottom-five defense in both rushing yards and receiving yards allowed to opposing running backs. Booker has more yards as a receiver than he does as a rusher in 2017. He’s a dual-threat who is likely to see an uptick in usage in a very favorable matchup. Booker has been an RB2 in two of his last four games, and I expect him to achieve the feat again in Week 12. Fire up Devontae Booker as a sneaky Flex play with RB2 upside in this matchup.

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