The Steelers’ Najee Harris looks to keep devouring targets vs. the Packers, Saquon Barkley hopes to keep his comeback ramping up and D’Andre Swift ponders the next RB2 step against the Bears.
Week 4 Running Backs
RB Notes: Derrick Henry has caught at least three passes every week out after reaching that number only once all of last season. It could be one of the most important adjustments made by any offensive coordinator this season. … Alvin Kamara was back to too big to fail in Week 4, reaching 20 carries for just the third time in his career but second time in three 2021 appearances. We don’t have to worry about a “Panthers week” against the Giants. 20 touches is essentially a guarantee. … Dalvin Cook (ankle) should return against a Browns defense that has erased the run thus far. Of course, it has been against the Chiefs, Texans and whatever it is the Bears were doing in Week 3. Still, expect more floor than ceiling from Cook if he goes. … Austin Ekeler has 15 receptions over his past two appearances, while the Chargers have yet to identify an early-down complement. Ekeler is the favorite for every important touch in a game with a 52.5 over/under. … The Bengals are touchdown-plus home favorites on a short week. They don’t make running back game script more friendly. Joe Mixon is averaging 22 weekly totes.
The Packers are running as touchdown home faves vs. the Steelers. Could this be the week they finally get AJ Dillon more involved, at least in garbage time? It’s in the back of my mind with my Aaron Jones rank, whose ceiling always remains but floor ebbs and flows. As usual, the Steelers have been unforgiving on the ground. … Nick Chubb has yet to rush for more than 95 yards or fewer than 83. You have to appreciate the lack of gray area. … Saquon Barkley got his snaps back in Week 2. Then the targets returned in Week 3. With Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both trending toward “out” with hamstring issues, CMC-type usage is the safest Week 4 bet for a running back working his way back toward the top. Hopefully Daniel Jones does not get erased by the Saints’ defense, limiting volume. … 19 Najee Harris targets is a lifestyle choice. With the health of the Steelers’ receiver corps up in the air, Harris will continue to gobble up looks. … The Dolphins’ otherwise stout defense has been bleeding production on the ground. That is music to Jonathan Taylor’s ears as a narrow road ‘dog in an offense severely lacking passing-game personnel.
Ezekiel Elliott appeared much improved in Week 3, but he still ceded 12 touches to Tony Pollard. The duo now encounters a Panthers run D that has been far and away the league’s best, albeit against a soft-ish schedule. “Ish” because the Panthers erased Alvin Kamara in Week 2. Despite Week 3’s improved film, I am treating Zeke like a volume and goal line RB1 as opposed to upside RB1 against this ascendant defense. … D’Andre Swift is making a living in garbage time, but last I checked, that isn’t going anywhere for the Lions … except maybe this week vs. the Bears, where the Lions could actually operate with a lead. The takeaway is that Swift’s touches are finding a way no matter what kind of fight the Lions have on their hands. … Clyde Edwards-Helaire has put the ball on the ground in back-to-back contests. The Chiefs have yet to punish him, but that would probably change with another giveaway this week. Turnovers were this week’s theme after the Chiefs coughed it up four times against the Bolts. Despite Javon Hargrave reaving souls, the Eagles have not been firm on the ground. The lead the Chiefs should be playing with will help.
Chuba Hubbard was not a 1-for-1 Week 3 replacement for Christian McCaffrey, but he put enough distance between himself and Royce Freeman that he can safely be treated as a plug-and-play RB2. The Panthers have stayed balanced no matter the personnel or opponent under coach Matt Rhule. … Chris Carson is operating as a poor man’s Nick Chubb. He has a safe floor and increasingly-distant ceiling. The former is a safe bet vs. a Niners run D that has been thoroughly underwhelming. … The Lions can’t do what the Browns did to the Bears, right? Matt Nagy’s game plan can’t be that bad again, right? These are the questions we ask in David Montgomery RB2 land. … Even if James Robinson’s snap counts haven’t entirely stabilized, his touches have, trending from eight to 14 to 21. Urban Meyer just can’t kill him. Robinson should be a huge part of what figures to be a simple short-week game plan for the awful Jags. … Chase Edmonds has been producing as Austin Ekeler lite, tidying his floor with receptions even as the Cardinals conduct a futile search for someone else in short-yardage situations. A 55 total is Edmonds’ kind of game. … What in the world are we supposed to do with Miles Sanders? This profiles as a high-scoring contest where the Eagles play from behind … just like Week 3. Coaching staffs just don’t like Sanders, a mistake-prone player. Don’t assume this is the bottom.
If Josh Jacobs (ankle) remains sidelined, Peyton Barber will be an undeniable RB2 vs. a Bolts D hemorrhaging run production. … Sony Michel is ready for empty run-game volume even if Darrell Henderson (ribs) returns. Henderson can’t be trusted as an RB2 if he goes. … The good news for Myles Gaskin is that the Dolphins’ three-man backfield is down to two. The bad news is, Malcolm Brown remains way too involved. Expect Gaskin to keep trending upward. He’s not great, but he is the best the Dolphins have. … When it comes to the 49ers’ backfield, hopefully we know by Friday who is healthy, but it could come down to Sunday, which is bad news with a 4:05 PM ET kickoff. Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) practiced on Wednesday, and would be the play over Trey Sermon if both give it a go. … Damien Harris lost Week 3 snaps to Brandon Bolden, but with James White on injured reserve, these usage games will have a short shelf life. Bill Belichick doesn’t have better options unless he is willing to trust rookie Rhamondre Stevenson. … Zack Moss has won a few skirmishes, but the war is never over in the Bills’ backfield. “vs. HOU” certainly profiles as a Moss week. Even the Bills will establish it here. … Giovani Bernard was back from the dead in Week 3. It could have been game-plan specific with the Bucs operating with a huge deficit.