As the calendar changes from October to November and we bid adieu to Daylight Savings Time, the 2012 fantasy football season has entered the push for the postseason, as some teams jockey for playoff position while others resign themselves to trying to take as many other teams down with them as possible.
Whether you're 7-1 and looking for a first-round bye or 1-7 and trying to prove true the old adage that misery loves company, nothing provides the foundation for a winning week quite like a big game from a bell cow running back. Here's a look at a trio of ball-carriers who should provide just that sort of effort in Week 9.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (vs. BAL)
After years of futility on offense, there have finally been some glimmers of hope for the Cleveland Browns, among them the play of rookie running back Trent Richardson, who has rushed for 470 yards and five touchdowns while topping 100 yards on the ground twice so far this season.
The third overall pick in last April's draft has also chipped in over 200 receiving yards and a score through the air, and the youngster's impressive play so far in his first NFL season drew the praise of the greatest running back who ever lived after Cleveland's win over the San Diego Chargers, according to Jodie Valade of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"He's showing everybody he can run the ball, he can break tackles," Jim Brown said. "And he can break tackles in the National Football League, that's what he did today. That touchdown had about three or four tackles that he broke. Those quick movements, the body strength, the low center of gravity -- it's all there. He demonstrated that today."
Richardson will look to keep his momentum going this week when the Browns face the Baltimore Ravens, and given that Richardson burned Baltimore's 24th-ranked run defense for over 100 total yards in their first meeting, there's an excellent chance that he'll do just that.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (vs. CAR)
As well as Richardson has played, however, he isn't the leader in rushing yards among rookies. That distinction goes to Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins, who has gained 717 yards and scored five touchdowns while averaging a robust 4.7 yards per carry.
The sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic has topped 100 rushing yards in three of eight games so far this season, and Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan recently raved about Morris' ability to hit the hole hard, according to John Keim of The Sporting News.
“[Morris] can put his foot in the ground and accelerate out of it and actually run faster out of the cut than he did going into it,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “For a lot of those fast guys, it’s like playing on ice sometimes because it takes them a while to stop and then re-situate their hips and then get going again. Al is very similar to Terrell Davis in that way.”
Those rather lofty comparisons aside, Morris has an excellent shot at his fourth 100-yard outing of the season Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, who rank 20th in the NFL against the run and have surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this year.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (at JAX)
Some fantasy owners do not have the luxury of inserting a Trent Richardson or Alfred Morris into their starting lineups, and in fact some teams are searching for any back with a pulse that they can insert into their lineups as a desperation option for this week.
Those fantasy owners may wish to consider running back Joique Bell of the Detroit Lions. The second-year pro has seen his role on offense grow of late, due in no small part to Bell's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, according to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' website.
"Joique has really come through for us in two-minute and situations where we're getting good matchups on our running backs. And Mikel can do it too, but Joique's been doing a really nice job for us and his role's increased because of it," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.
Granted, Bell isn't a fantasy play for the faint of heart, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and Bell and the Lions do face a Jacksonville Jaguars defense in Week 9 that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2012.