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CJ2K still a start for Week 3

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Michael Harmon

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I actually used the response “Punt!” when answering an either/or running back question on Friday morning. The options presented were uninspiring, to say the least.

Fantasy owners wanted to punt their televisions while watching Thursday’s debacle for several reasons. First, you want to see a full, competitive game. There’s nothing worse than a blowout when it’s the lone game on the slate. Second, fantasy owners received garbage production from Cam Newton. No, they didn’t get the “garbage time” love. They received a mountain of garbage.

Conversely, owners celebrated the arrival of running back Andre Brown as a spot starter, provided that they had the resolve to start him. I had the option of starting Brown or Adrian Peterson in one league, and I opted to leave “Purple Jesus” on the bench. Even as Brown posted his huge game, I felt strange about it.

I’ll delve into the arrival of Ramses Barden at another time.

Let’s get deeper into the running back matchups.

Heroes

(Exclude: Arian Foster, C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray and Maurice Jones-Drew)

Marshawn Lynch vs. GB: The Bears failed miserably in Week 2 against the Packers, but they still ran the ball fairly well. Through two weeks, the Packers have allowed 5.1 yards per carry and 140 yards per game.

Lynch’s back issues haven’t slowed him between the tackles through two weeks. He rumbled for 84 yards in the opener against the Cardinals before decimating the Cowboys (122 yards with a touchdown).

Doug Martin at DAL: The Cowboys did a fair job against Ahmad Bradshaw in Week 1, but he did amass 78 yards (17 carries) with a touchdown. Dallas then traveled to Seattle and got bowled over by the aforementioned Marshawn Lynch. The absence of Jay Ratliff from the heart of the defensive line has been a huge factor, and the eight-year veteran isn’t getting back on the field this week.

Martin is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry through two weeks, but fantasy owners can hardly dismiss his huge workload to date. Greg Schiano is committed to building a balanced attack, and I suspect we see another big workload in Week 3.

Trent Richardson vs. BUF: Richardson posted a heavy workload in Week 1 against the Eagles with little success. Fantasy owners cringed. In Week 2, Richardson logged the first of many super outings with 145 total yards on 23 touches with a touchdown (5.7 YPC). He’s a rock-solid RB1 this week against the Bills. Buffalo has ceded 134 yards per game and five yards per carry. Even if you anticipate a stacked box from Dave Wannstedt’s unit, Richardson’s workload puts him in prime position for a big day.

Michael Bush vs. STL: Bush was a beast when given a huge workload as a member of the Raiders. He’ll be in line for a high touch count in Week 3 against the Rams. Bush rates a play as a RB1 with Matt Forte sidelined (DNP on Thursday).

St. Louis has ceded 5.5 yards per carry to Kevin Smith and Alfred Morris, two runners without the track history to match Bush’s resume. Lock and load.

Jamaal Charles at NO: Charles’ stat line for Week 2 left many owners concerned, but the score dictated that the Chiefs approach his knee injury with caution. It turns out that Charles only bruised his knee. As a result, he’s back in the mix for a sizable workload in a “get-right” game against the putrid Saints defense.

The Saints rank dead-last against the run to date, surrendering 186 yards (4.4 YPC) per game with five touchdowns. I’ve got him as a back-end RB1 this week with Peyton Hillis as a high-end RB3/Flex play.

Frank Gore at MIN: Gore represents one of the great stories of 2012 to date. The 49ers brought in numerous challengers to his workload, but the veteran tailback continues to plod ahead. Gore has averaged 100 rushing yards (100.5, technically) with two touchdowns.

I look for the 49ers to impose their will once again on the road. I understand that the Vikings have allowed just 3.1 yards per carry to date, but the Jaguars and Colts possessed the ball enough to post 197 rushing yards. As a result, Gore remains firmly entrenched in your lineup.

Reggie Bush vs. NYJ: Bush had a nice moment after Sunday’s game with former USC teammate Matt Leinart. He had many more during the blowout victory over the Raiders, including his 65-yard touchdown sprint. Through two weeks, Bush is averaging six yards per carry and has logged 40 carries plus nine receptions for 71 yards.

The Jets watched C.J. Spiller run wild in a blowout situation in Week 1 before stifling the Pittsburgh multi-back approach. Of course, the Steelers haven’t exactly run the ball well in two weeks (Dwyer had his moments against Denver), so that’s hardly a true barometer. I suspect that Bush logs another 18-22 touches (more activity in the passing game) with 100 total yards and a touchdown.

Chris Johnson vs. DET: I don’t like the finger-pointing. I’m not a fan of the blame game, particularly when a quick look in the mirror would reveal a hesitant running back. Now, that isn’t to say that Johnson has been dealing with a full offense. Kenny Britt is just getting back into game shape, and second receiver Nate Washington has been limited as well. Jake Locker returned from a shoulder injury.

Johnson doesn’t rank higher than a mid-RB2 in the most optimistic of terms. However, if the Detroit passing attack approaches preseason expectations, then this game might just open up. If it does, perhaps Johnson will get back to the line of scrimmage a few times without getting touched. That’s actually a feat here in 2012.

I just stood up for Johnson, I guess. It’s a lukewarm endorsement at best.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis at WAS: Green-Ellis has performed nicely as the lead back in Cincinnati, logging a tough 95 yards in the opener against Haloti Ngata before amassing 105 total yards against the Browns.

I like Green-Ellis a ton this week against the banged-up Washington defense. The Redskins have ceded 4.9 yards per carry, though most of the damage by opponents was done by the passing game. Look for the Bengals to try and take advantage of the losses of Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo by establishing the run early. Take the goal-line plunge with him.

Ryan Mathews vs. ATL: Is a bit of a dice roll? Sure, there’s no guaranty that Mathews will be able to assume a huge workload. However, following the Chargers’ 2-0 start to the season, I don’t suspect that Mathews would play unless he was capable of doing so.

The Broncos went away from the downfield passing game after early failures and established the run with Willis McGahee to great success in Week 2. Jamaal Charles nearly ran for 100 yards in Week 1. Mathews’ aptitude as a receiver makes him a strong RB2 play this week.

Sleepers

Donald Brown vs. JAC: The Jaguars have allowed nearly 170 yards per game through two weeks. They faced ROBO-back Adrian Peterson in Week 1 before getting run over by the Texans in Week 2. I’m certainly not putting Brown in that lofty class, but a sizable workload as a runner and receiver yields RB2 production.

Pierre Thomas vs. KC: Thomas logged 143 total yards on 13 touches in Week 2 against the Panthers. He’s obviously in Flex territory because of the workload split with Darren Sproles and goal-line option Mark Ingram, but Thomas has excelled there in the past himself. This figures to be a high-scoring affair, thereby affording many players an opportunity to get in on the action. The odds makers have put a total of 53 on this game.

Daryl Richardson at CHI: Richardson ran well in relief of the injured Steven Jackson last week, producing 83 yards on 15 carries. He’s hardly a strong starter should Jackson’s groin keep him sidelined, but the expected touch count would put him into Flex level.

Mikel Leshoure at TEN: Leshoure returns from his two-game suspension and will battle for a sizable chunk of the workload immediately. He’s the power complement to Kevin Smith (a low-end RB2 for me this week) and may see work around the goal line. If the Detroit offense performs to preseason expectations, Leshoure may be grinding down clock in the second half.

Flops

Darren McFadden vs. PIT: McFadden ran terribly against the Dolphins following his huge Week 1 workload in a Monday loss to San Diego. He caught two passes (19 yards) and logged 22 rushing yards on 11 carries. McFadden might give you some receiving yards here against Pittsburgh, but I’m anticipating continued rough sledding on the ground. Pittsburgh has allowed 98.5 rushing yards per game against the Broncos and Jets.

Adrian Peterson vs. SF: You may wring your hands quite a bit on Sunday morning as you ponder whether to start Peterson. I ranked him 21st this weekend against the vaunted San Francisco defense. The 49ers have allowed 63.5 rushing yards per game (3.2 yards per carry) and haven’t allowed a touchdown. It’s hard to bet against this ROBO-back given his improbable comeback with a spot on the home turf, but I’ll do it. He’s a back-end RB2 this week.

Cedric Benson at SEA: Benson silenced fantasy doubters, if only for a moment, with a nice effort against the Bears in Week 2. I’m not shifting my stance for Week 3 against the stout Seattle run defense. The Seahawks shut down the vaunted Dallas offense in Week 2 and rank second against the run overall (46 yards per game with one touchdown). As the lead back, he gets into Flex mode, but I’m tempering expectations.

Michael Turner at SD: Turner is averaging a robust 2.6 yards per carry and took multiple tries to get into the end zone against the Broncos. In fact, his day looked much worse before a late 15-yard run. He’s a terrible start this week against the top-ranked San Diego run defense (41.5 YPG) that has slowed Darren McFadden and Chris Johnson. You’re begging for goal-line touches.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints, Giants, 49ers, Seahawks, Redskins, Jaguars, Ravens, Chargers, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Michael Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Pierre Thomas, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith, Jamaal Charles, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Donald Brown, Andre Brown, Ryan Mathews, C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, Mikel Leshoure, Trent Richardson, Daryl Richardson

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