DeMarco Murray hasn't played running back for the Dallas Cowboys since Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. With your fantasy football team potentially hanging in the balance with a Week 13 matchup looming, don't trust Murray to be an attractive play.
For starters, it's a sticky situation in Dallas right now with regards to Murray's health. Multiple reports have him slated to return to the lineup and potentially start against the rival Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, but those claims are just that—reports.
ESPN's Calvin Watkins saw Murray getting ready to talk to the NBC crew before kickoff, yet that's not a sure-fire indication that he's going to be in action (via Twitter).
In another sign DeMarco Murray is going to play, he's talking to the NBC crew about the Eagles game.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) November 30, 2012
That line of thinking is consistent with ESPN's Adam Schefter, who is reporting (via Twitter) that team owner Jerry Jones is hinting of a Murray sighting as his team desperately tries to stay in playoff contention.
Jerry Jones: DeMarco Murray appears ready to return Sunday.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 30, 2012
All those are good signs for the Cowboys. However, if you've held on to Murray during this six-week absence, don't get your hopes up for a great game against an inferior opponent. The playoffs are either already underway or on the line in fantasy football this week, and you can afford to trust this guy.
For starters, Philadelphia doesn't have a horrid run defense. It's given up some big games on the ground, but allowed just two touchdowns all season. Notably, the Eagles have held running backs from Washington and Carolina under 80 yards rushing the past two weeks.
To make matters worse, Murray isn't exactly a scoring machine, and hasn't been since he burst on the scene last year with his 253-yard game against the St. Louis Rams. Since his 91-yard touchdown run against the Rams last year, Murray has just two touchdowns in nearly a year's worth of games.
He's a quality running back, and one that deserves consideration in an offense that so desperately needs a good running game. As Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! Sports reports, he's a flex play at best this week.
I'll sign off on a Murray play so long as you have a reasonable late-game caddy (someone in the Sunday night or Monday night game) that you can shift to in a pinch. If you can preemptively slot Murray in a flex spot, all the better - you're expanding your options. There is nothing guaranteed here.
Pianowski makes a great point. Since Murray is in the Sunday night game, you're running on limited options if he doesn't play. If you have Felix Jones, great, but if not, you could end up starting a guy that never touches the field.
And the biggest kicker of all as to why Murray should be played with caution this week is simple: Dallas can't run the ball.
Was Murray rated too high coming into the season, or have injuries just derailed his potential?
The team has only one 100-yard rusher this year, and that was Murray against the New York Giants in Week 1. Jason Garrett has been content to let Tony Romo sling it around in a do-or-die manner, completely abandoning the run game at times.
Even when Murray was healthy up until Week 7, the run game wasn't a priority.
That being said, don't make Murray a priority in your lineup this week, unless other injuries and poor play at the position have crippled you enough to take a chance on Dallas' opening night starter. No doubt Murray has talent, but he's still not an elite RB in fantasy football.
Don't make the mistake of thinking so as he returns to the lineup.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.