Fantasy Football: Can Ray Rice Return to Form?

Ryan LesterSenior Writer IOctober 23, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 20:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on October 20, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice enters his Week 7 bye week averaging 59.3 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns. He also missed his first game since 2008. Rice is on pace for 813.7 total yards and seven touchdowns.

That's a far cry from the 1876.5 total yards and 9.8 touchdowns that he averaged over the previous four seasons. Can Rice return to form and finish the season out in style?

Unfortunately I don't see averaging 117.3 total yards and 0.6 touchdowns in his final nine games, which is the pace he set over the previous four seasons. That would be asking him to nearly double his current production.

Rice just hasn't been as explosive this season. He's averaging 2.8 yards per carry. His career mark is 4.4 and he has never finished with fewer than four yards per carry. Even if he improves by a full yard per carry, he'd still be well below his career mark.

Rice's longest run of the season is 14 yards. Last year Rice had longer runs in nine games. He has always been a home run threat with the ability to break a long one.

Rice is also lacking in the passing game. He's averaging just 4.8 yards per reception. His career mark is 8.4 and he never finished below 7.8 yards per catch. His longest reception is also 14 yards.

Again, he had nine games with a reception of at least 15 yards last year. Without the big plays, Rice's average has taken a hit.

It's not just Rice. Baltimore's offense enters Week 8 ranked 21 in total offense at 328.7 yards per game and scoring offense at 21.4 points per game. Last year they ranked 16th in total offense (352.5 YPG) and 10th in scoring offense (24.9 PPG). That's 23.8 yards and 3.5 points per game less.

Last year Baltimore averaged 4.3 yards per carry compared to this year's 2.8 mark. They were sacked 38 times in 16 games (2.4 per game) compared to 20 in seven games (2.9 per game).

Baltimore had 16 turnovers last year. They already have 11 through seven games, including a pair of fumbles by Rice. He has never lost more than two fumbles in a season and only had five in his career prior to this year.

Rice also isn't getting the carries that he's accustomed two. He has only topped 15 carries in one of his six games. He had 10 games with 16 or more carries.

Bernard Pierce is eating into Rice's touches. In the six games that Rice played he's averaging 9.2 carries. Pierce has topped 15 carries in two games this year. 

I don't think Pierce is taking over. In fact, he has just six carries in each of the two games. He will continue to play a key role. That shouldn't prevent Rice from turning things around. He won't put up elite numbers down the stretch, but he should average close to 100 total yards a game.

If you can buy low on Rice, it's a wise move. If you own him, be patient.

Also check out Lester's Legends Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings.