Ryan Mathews Injury: Fantasy Owners Must Avoid Chargers RBs This Week

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IINovember 17, 2012

Nov 1, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) during warm-ups before a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Injury struggles are nothing new for San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, and due to recent problems with his neck, he is questionable to play this week. Regardless of Mathews’ status, fantasy football owners would be wise to completely avoid any of the Chargers’ backs when they take on the Denver Broncos this week. 

Scott Blair of The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the following on the third-year pro’s prospects for playing on Sunday.

Chargers running back Ryan Mathews practiced in a limited role Friday…  

The third-year pro hasn't played when he didn't practice during the week, so his participation in individual and team drills offers a glimmer of hope that he could be active Sunday against Denver.

If Mathews’ fantasy owners are insistent on playing him, they should still be extremely cautious and would be wise to monitor his status right up until San Diego’s 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff time.

Friday’s action was Mathews’ only participation in practice this week, according to Blair. Even if he is available to play Sunday, the Chargers may not give him a full workload.

Mathews’ fantasy prospects this week are bleak, and the rest of the San Diego running game does not offer much hope either.

Jackie Battle is the likely replacement if Mathews is sidelined for the game. He had some success at the beginning of the season when Mathews was still recovering from a broken collarbone, but he is not a reliable fantasy option.

His most successful game came in the Chargers’ Week 2 rout of the Tennessee Titans when he split time with Curtis Brinkley, but was clearly the better back, finishing with 69 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. 

Mathews returned the next week, and Battle was relegated to a peripheral role again. He carried the ball just three times, but broke one of those runs off for 52 yards. That, in combination with concerns about Mathews’ fumbling problems, bought Battle another shot.

Playing against the Kansas City Chiefs—his former team—Battle managed to gain just 39 yards on 15 carries, but did get into the end zone. This still was not enough for him to stay a part of a two-back system, and Mathews has received nearly all of the carries since this Week 4 matchup.

Fantasy owners would certainly be taking a major risk playing Battle when he hasn’t seen significant playing time in nearly two months. In addition, Norv Turner would likely still give Brinkley several carries as he did previously when Mathews was unavailable. 

To make matters worse, the Chargers are facing a difficult matchup playing at Denver. The Broncos rank 10th in the NFL is rushing yardage allowed and are allowing opposing teams to gain just 3.6 yards per attempt, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. 

Put simply, there are no attractive fantasy options in the San Diego backfield this week, and owners must avoid playing any Charger running back.