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Updated 1/2 at 11:45 AM ET. Decided not to add James Conner.
Week 17 Running Backs
RB Notes: With Kareem Hunt (ankle) seemingly on the wrong side of questionable, Nick Chubb will have endless runway vs. the Steelers’ collapsed run defense. The Steelers are, unsurprisingly, permitting the most running back fantasy points over the past month. … Cleared from the COVID-19 list, Austin Ekeler should be ready for his typical role after he seemed close to suiting up in Week 16. Odds are, Ekeler wouldn’t have missed a game had the league’s new “COVID protocols” been in place last week. … Dalvin Cook (COVID-19) is back for a date with a Packers defense that held him to 22/86/1 in Week 11. “Held” being the operative word since Cook still finished as the RB7 by half PPR points. Any time Cook plays, the Vikings give him his normal workload. … David Montgomery is getting all the work he can handle. The Giants, who hand out the eighth most RB fantasy points, are the rare opponent the Bears are poised to dominate. … Ronald Jones’ Week 16 could have been more impressive, but it is difficult to quibble with 22 touches. That workload combined with this week’s 13-point spread against the Jets make Jones a no-brainer RB1.
Sony Michel leads the NFL in rushing over the past month. Yes, it's only because he has played one more game than Jonathan Taylor during that timespan. Yes, it’s impressive nonetheless. Everyone knows the way to beat the Ravens is through the air, but Michel will have no shortage of drives to finish near the goal line in Baltimore. … Alvin Kamara wasn’t looking too high on life in Week 16. Although Taysom Hill is back, boosting the entire offense’s fortunes, Kamara seems out of gas for a team that just needs the season to end. The Panthers are not a plus matchup. … Josh Jacobs received the third most carries of his career in Week 16. He is sixth in totes since Jon Gruden resigned ahead of Week 6. Being a nearly touchdown road ‘dog is a Week 17 red flag. … Ezekiel Elliott is a guy who finishes drives for an elite offense. You hope he keeps up his steady diet of touchdowns. Don’t count on a spiked week. … Held to 36 yards on 21 touches over his past two games, Cordarrelle Patterson is running out of steam at the exact wrong moment. The Bills are more vulnerable on the ground than through the air, but hardly a pushover.
Rhamondre Stevenson (COVID-19) is back for the Pats. That might be frustrating if you are a Damien Harris manager riding high off of last week’s RB3 finish in half PPR leagues, but this backfield should be big enough for the two of them with the Pats operating as awe-inspiring 16-point road favorites. A Jags run D that had been one of a bad team’s sturdier elements just hemorrhaged 273 yards rushing to the New York Jets. Harris is top 18 and Stevenson is top 30. … Elijah Mitchell will slot somewhere into the RB10-18 range if he can get cleared for the first time since Week 13. The Texans allow the fourth most RB fantasy points on the year, and the second most over the past month. Trey Lance’s probable insertion under center only enhances the run game’s outlook. If Mitchell remains sidelined, Jeff Wilson will find himself in the top 18. … Chase Edmonds was the RB6 in half PPR leagues for the fantasy semifinals. James Conner (heel) remains day-to-day/game-time decision. Although the Cardinals’ offense is running cold and the Cowboys are playing as well as any defense in the league, Edmonds will be a set-and-forget RB2 if Conner sits. He will probably still deserve the rankings advantage if Conner gets cleared.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon were two of Week 16’s most brutal no-shows. If you survived their seven-carry performances, they have an immediate bounce-back opportunity in a Chargers defense that confirmed it remains a run funnel with Rex Burkhead’s 149-yard outburst. The key for Williams and Gordon is Drew Lock not sinking the entire offense. Lock avoided mistakes against the Raiders. … Devin Singletary has played at least 68 percent of the Bills’ snaps each of the past three weeks. Week 16 was the low-water mark at 68 after he was over 80 his previous two contests. Even if that number is between 60-70 vs. the Falcons, the nature of the opponent should produce an RB2 day in an offense getting more serious about the run with the postseason on the horizon. … Rashaad Penny bookended his disappointing Week 15 with RB3 and RB9 finishes, respectively. He is operating as one of the league’s top big-play backs right now, something he had been expected to do the first three years of his career. Grinders though they are, the Lions will certainly make it possible for Penny to reel off long runs.
D’Andre Swift (shoulder) is practicing in full and returning for Week 17. Just as the Lions immediately dumped Craig Reynolds upon Jamaal Williams’ return, we would expect immediate re-commitment to Swift against the Seahawks. … Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) is week to week. Whereas in the past this would have meant plug-and-play work for Darrel Williams, we should count on Derrick Gore involvement this time around. With Travis Kelce back, expect a pass-game focus against a Bengals D allowing the fourth fewest RB fantasy points over the past month despite facing run-heavy teams like Denver and San Francisco. … Miles Sanders (hand) is out and Jordan Howard (stinger) is highly questionable. Even if Howard is eventually cleared, Boston Scott looks like the touch favorite vs. the mortally-wounded Football Team. Howard will have touchdown-based RB3 appeal if he goes. Kenneth Gainwell remains best avoided. … Patrick Kerrane made the argument on Wednesday’s podcast that Dare Ogunbowale is a hassle best worth avoiding, and that Ryquell Armstead will probably have a role after being inactive last week. The Jags have no choice but to run, keeping Ogunbowale in the touch-based FLEX mix. Just know his “upside” is nonexistent. … Betting on the Titans and Dolphins’ backfield feels like a losing battle in a game with mammoth playoff implications. Committee, hot hand, etc.