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Fantasy Football: Week 13 Running Back Matchup Report

New Orleans Saints’ rookie running back Alvin Kamara finished as the weekly RB1 once again in Week 12, despite touching the ball just 11 times. We are running out of superlatives to try to describe the dynamic young phenom. Kamara has carried fantasy teams down the stretch much in the same manner that Kareem Hunt did early in the season. Unfortunately for Hunt owners, his tremendous start feels like it was years ago. Hunt’s fantasy stock has dropped precipitously as the season has gone on, and he bottomed out in a prime matchup last week at home against the Buffalo Bills. Hunt finished the week tied for 59th among fantasy running backs. Fantasy owners will be hard-pressed to bench Hunt in the last week of the fantasy regular season, but they should strongly consider it.

We’re heading into Week 13, which means that this is the final week to make that playoff push in most fantasy leagues. Draft equity has long since gone by the wayside, as has year-to-date performance. At this point, it’s all about which players will produce when it matters most. With so many fantasy seasons hanging in the balance this week, picking the right players to start may make the difference. Let’s look at some of the running backs whose matchups will alter their Week 13 value.



Alex Collins continues to impress for the Baltimore Ravens. He was the overall RB14 for the week, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown run in a very difficult matchup against the Houston Texans. Collins had been an RB1 in two of his three games prior to last week, so his most recent performance is certainly not an anomaly. Collins and the Baltimore Ravens will play host to the Detroit Lions in Week 13. The Lions have been gashed repeatedly against the run in recent weeks. Over their last four games, the Lions have surrendered 626 total yards to opposing running backs. Detroit has also allowed opposing runners an average of 4.96 yards per carry during that stretch. Collins averages 4.88 yards per carry himself, ranking second in the NFL among ball carriers with at least 100 carries. Collins should continue to produce at a high level I this matchup. Collins did miss practice on Wednesday with what the team is calling a calf injury, so please confirm his status before inserting him into lineups. If Alex Collins plays this week, I expect him to put up top-15 fantasy numbers once again.


Following a weekly RB2 finish in Week 8, Rex Burkhead fans and fantasy owners were pleased to see his workload increase in Week 10 and his production follow suit. He finished 13th in fantasy scoring that week as Mike Gillislee was phased out of New England’s offense. Burkhead was supposed to be in for a productive day in Week 11, but an early fumble spelled doom as Burkhead finished outside of the top-40 for the week. Heading into last week, many observers believed that Burkhead’s playing time would suffer because of that lost fumble. But rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Burkhead posted season-highs in carries (13), rushing yards (50), and found his way into the end zone twice on his way to an overall RB5 weekly finish. Burkhead and the New England Patriots get another favorable matchup this week when they face the Buffalo Bills. Despite stymying Kareem Hunt and Kansas City last week, Buffalo has still allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs over the last four weeks. Burkhead’s place in New England’s offense appears safe, and his production is likely to reflect that in this game. I view Rex Burkhead as a high-end RB2 in this matchup.


Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams have split the workload in the Miami Dolphins’ backfield since the trade of Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia. Drake has touched the ball 44 times for 257 yards, producing as the overall RB19 over the last four weeks. Williams has 46 touches for 254 yards and has been the overall RB22 during the same period. However, Williams suffered a shoulder injury in Week 12 and is doubtful to play this week. Third-string running back Senorise Perry is also unlikely to play due to a concussion he suffered last week. Drake will likely see all the touches he can handle in a matchup against the Denver Broncos. Denver has really fallen off defensively in recent weeks. They have allowed running backs to score nine total touchdowns in the last four games. This is not the imposing matchup it was early in the year. Kenyan Drake should be locked into Week 13 lineups as an RB2 with RB1 upside.



Kareem Hunt started the year on fire with three straight top-four weekly performances, averaging a ridiculous 29.27 fantasy points per game. Keeping up that pace was impossible, and fantasy owners took that in stride and settled in as Hunt averaged 11.6 fantasy points over his next four games, with weekly finishes of RB17, RB12, RB19, and RB10. Since then, Hunt had posted weekly finishes of RB28, RB29, and RB30 before Week 12’s RB59 debacle. This week, Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs face the New York Jets. Both teams have struggled mightily recently, but the Jets have still managed to play pretty stout run defense. New York has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 1 and has not allowed an opposing running back to finish as an RB1 since Week 4. Hunt owners will likely keep trotting him out there as memories of September dance in their heads, but it’s December now and the landscape has changed. Kareem Hunt can still be started as a potential Flex play, but do not expect an RB1 performance in Week 13.


Prior to Devonta Freeman’s concussion, Tevin Coleman had been the overall RB17 this season. In the two weeks Freeman missed, Coleman has been the overall RB4. Freeman is practicing in full in anticipation of returning to action in Week 13. We’re certainly glad Freeman is healthy, but it does put a damper on Coleman’s recent success. Most would assume Coleman drops back into the mid-RB2 conversation, but I’m afraid the drop may be even steeper. Atlanta faces the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13. Minnesota has stifled opposing running backs all season long. Minnesota has allowed four touchdowns to opposing running backs in 2017, the fewest in the NFL. They are also tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. With Freeman back to handle the bulk of the work, and with both Falcons’ backs facing a difficult matchup, it’s hard to trust Coleman as a focal point of fantasy lineups this week. I would only use Tevin Coleman as a potential Flex play in this matchup.


Orleans Darkwa has been a bright spot in what has otherwise been a nightmare of a season for the New York Giants. Darkwa has been an RB2 or better in five of his last seven games. However, since taking over the starting running back position, he has shown himself to be extremely reliant on game script when it comes to his fantasy production. Since Week 5, Darkwa has averaged 13.73 fantasy points in games which New York has either won, or lost by single-digits. In games New York has lost by 10 points or more, Darkwa has averaged just 6.35 fantasy points per contest. In Week 13, the Giants will travel cross-country to face the Oakland Raiders. They’ll also do so with Geno Smith under center, following the much-maligned benching of Eli Manning. It is possible that Darkwa’s fantasy prospects may be salvaged by increased volume early, but he will be an afterthought if and when New York falls behind. I do not anticipate Orleans Darkwa providing starter-worthy fantasy production in Week 13.



Duke Johnson continues to be one of the best values in fantasy. He also continues to be underrated as we approach the homestretch of the 2017 season. Johnson is 18th among all running backs in fantasy scoring this year. He has only 52 carries on the year and has scored only four total touchdowns, but he continues to produce at a high level due to his versatility. He should get a chance to flash his all-around game as the Cleveland Browns travel to face the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13. The big story in this game centers around the return to action of wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon’s presence should only open up more space for Johnson to work underneath and perhaps in the slot. No team has allowed opposing running backs to catch more balls out of the backfield than the Chargers. They have also allowed 4.88 yards per carry on the year. Duke Johnson is the type of player who can make fantasy lineups in this week’s finale. He’s a likely Flex play who can easily finish the week as a top-15 back in Week 13.

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