Despite a two-touchdown performance in his first game back from toe and knee injuries, Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells remains a very risky fantasy start over the final five games of the 2012 season.
An anemic yards-per-carry average mixed with one of the NFL's worst offensive lines and a gauntlet final stretch leaves Wells with surprisingly low fantasy value to finish 2012.
Wells, who recently came off the injured reserve with designation to return list, rushed 17 times for 48 yards and two scores against the St. Louis Rams in Week 11. It was Wells' first game action since Week 3.
While the two scores—one a short run, the other a 12-yard scamper to the outside—helped save his fantasy day overall, the pessimistic onlooker will point to his 2.8 yards per carry as a major concern moving forward. And those onlookers would have a point.
Wells was stopped for two or fewer yards on 11 of his 17 carries Sunday, but this has been a season-long problem. Over four games, Wells has yet to finish one with a per-carry average of more than 3.1 yards.
That figure speaks to both the plodding nature of Wells' running style and the struggles of the Cardinals offensive line.
What's worse, the last of the good matchups for Wells on the ground might just come this week against the New York Jets.
New York is the 26th-ranked fantasy defense against opposing running backs this season, and it hasn't just been one or two bad games that has driven that number down. The Jets have allowed at least 100 yards to opposing backfields in nine of 11 games this season.
While Wells might find some production over 15-18 carries Sunday, the schedule gets considerably more difficult over the final four games.
Here's the Cardinals' last month of the season: at Seattle, vs. Detroit, vs. Chicago and at San Francisco.
The Bears and 49ers are the top two defenses against opposing running backs this season (San Francisco allowed 10.2 fantasy points a game to running backs, Chicago 10.8), while the Seahawks are fifth (12.9) and the Lions 14th (14.5).
No other team faces a tougher mix of fantasy run defenses over the final four games.
Wells is still only owned in 58.7 percent of ESPN leagues, so the decision to start or bench the Cardinals running back won't need to be made in every league.
But after this week's matchup with the Jets, Wells isn't a player that should see the starting lineup in any sized league or format. The bust potential is very high in each of the last four games, and Wells simply hasn't been very good over limited opportunities this season.