Quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning score the most fantasy points, and game-breaking receivers like Tavon Austin and Demaryius Thomas provide a lot of excitement, but fantasy enthusiasts still tend to spend their time on the performance of their running backs.
The keystone position dominated the first round of fantasy drafts, but it hasn't had a good year.
In the cases of Arian Foster (back), Doug Martin (shoulder) and David Wilson (neck), the season is over now, too. You cannot be much happier with the likes of Ray Rice, Trent Richardson or Steven Jackson either, especially in Week 10.
We break down the top takeaways from this week's slate and put our focus where everyone's tends to be: with the backs.
Mark Ingram lives?!
Before you go lining up your waiver pickups, leading with the Saints' Ingram, you should keep in mind the Saints had the first-, third- and fifth-highest scoring backs in fantasy this Sunday. This coming from a team that has Drew Brees and tends to run early but not often.
The game circumstances dictated Ingram could grind out the clock in the second half, and he just happened to show a lot more than being a mere grinder. Ingram rushed for a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown—the first time he had gone over 91 yards rushing in a game, much less 100.
Yes, Ingram has the potential to erupt in the second half now that he is healthy, but he equally has the potential to get six carries for 18 yards the next game. Oh, and the Saints just happen to be hosting the 49ers defense coming off a loss.
Mark Ingram is the first Saints RB to top 100 yards since Week 2 of last season, snapping an NFL-high 22-game drought w/o a 100-yard rusher.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) November 11, 2013
Ingram told Katherine Terrell of The Times-Picayune of his long-awaited breakthrough:
The first game, I would have rather it happened, but it's sweet, you know? I got an NBC game ball, and I'm just going to cherish that forever. The fact that we got such a big win, on such a big stage with the whole world watching, me getting my first 100-yard game, it was special.
It was as rare as it was special.
Don't expect this performance out of Ingram again, no matter what you think of his talent. He is still the third man on the totem pole on a team that just doesn't feature the run in most weeks.
Rams' Austin finally breaks through
Tavon Austin had been arguably equally disappointing in his young career, but at least his big breakthrough game happened in the middle of his rookie season.
Austin flashed the breakaway speed Sunday that made him the first skill-position player picked in the draft last April, going for 138 yards receiving on two catches, both touchdowns. He also returned a punt 98 yards for a score.
Austin told ESPN's Nick Wagoner:
It's kind of difficult, but it all boils down to patience. I have been fishing for eight weeks, and hopefully it's my time right now. But if it's not, I have just got to keep working hard in practice and wait for another time.
Things are rarely easy right away for rookie receivers, especially because their performance depends on so many other factors.
They need to learn the routes and plays to gain the confidence of the position coach to even get playing time. They need to earn the confidence of the head coach and offensive coordinator to get their plays called. And, finally, they need to have the confidence of the starting quarterback to actually get the ball delivered to them.
It is a lot of steps, and Austin even had to deal with the starting quarterback, Sam Bradford (knee), going down for the season.
Once he got the ball, his natural ability took over.
"He got the football in his hands and I found myself saying, 'Get away, get away, get away,'" Rams coach Jeff Fisher told ESPN's Wagoner. "And I went from 'Get away, get away, get away' to 'Go, go, go.'"
Yet another rarity we cannot expect to happen again. Despite the huge game, it should be reminded his 138 receiving yards came on just two catches.
The good news is his coaches and quarterback have witnessed the possibilities. Austin is going to get the ball more, hopefully in space.
Giants' Brown is a workhorse
Andre Brown said the Giants had a package of "special plays" planned for him in his return from IR and a broken leg. He apparently was referring to the "entire offense" package.
Brown rushed an NFL Week 10-high 30 times for 115 yards and a touchdown, showing he can be the Giants' bell cow with David Wilson (neck) out for the season and perhaps in danger of being done for his career.
This is actually a performance we can deem repeatable, especially since the Giants went away from Peyton Hillis after a first-half fumble, kept Brandon Jacobs (knee/hamstring) inactive and didn't give Michael Cox a touch in the game.
"I carried it 30 times," Brown told ESPN's Dan Graziano. "It felt like 50."
Tom Coughlin joked with the media after the game by apologizing for misleading them on Brown's workload, Graziano reported. It wasn't the plan, until the game dictated Brown pound the ball at the Raiders. Thankfully, Brown was up to handle the abuse.
Coughlin told Graziano:
Very impressive, and he had four and five guys jumping on his back there for a while. I think the way the rules are set up, allowing him to get those three weeks of practice in before being activated, really helped him build his confidence and his stamina.
The Giants haven't mustered much with Eli Manning and the passing game—Manning threw for just 140 yards—so expect Brown to get a lot of touches down the stretch.
The Packers have a solid run defense looming in Week 11, but all Brown needs is 60 yards and a one-yard touchdown to be a must-start in all leagues every week. The way things are going for the Giants, you should feel good about him getting there.
The emergence of Brown—and to a lesser extent, Ingram—comes at a much-needed time for fantasy owners. Two elite, and one potentially elite, backs have been shut down for the season.
Doctors have told Giants' David Wilson he faces increased risk of neck injury if he plays again. But Wilson wants, expects to play next year— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 10, 2013
We should fully expect Houston's Ben Tate and Tampa Bay's Mike James to be top-25 fantasy running backs down the stretch. Like the Giants with Brown—and unlike the Saints' Ingram—their offenses figure to be run-friendly.
You don't need to bother with any of the trio's backup running backs, though, especially with the bye weeks winding down in fantasy.
No hope for Ravens' Rice?
Speaking of disappointing first-round running backs, Ray Rice continues to baffle and frustrate fantasy owners. He is getting plenty of carries (18 Sunday), but he has proven incapable of doing anything with them (just 30 yards and a season average of a mere 2.5 per carry). Rice hasn't rushed for more than 45 yards since Week 5.
The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel was less than flattering in his review of one of Rice's runs:
Ray Rice just does not look like himself this year. He looked like a little kid in a snowsuit running in the open field there. #Ravens— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) November 10, 2013
Rice has maintained he is recovered from his early-season hip issue, but his running and numbers suggest otherwise. A lot of the blame is put on the Ravens offensive line, perhaps rightly so, because Bernard Pierce hasn't done much either.
We will get a really good look at where Rice stands next week against a Bears defense that came into Week 10 allowing the fifth-most points to running backs in fantasy. You have to stick with Rice at least one more week, especially in PPR formats.
Titans don't have a clue
Continuing with the frustrating running backs theme, we go back to Chris Johnston and the Titans, who strangely cannot handle a good thing. Johnson was coming off a huge performance and facing a maligned Jaguars defensive front that limited him to just 12 carries. Heck, plodder Shonn Greene even got nine carries (just 22 yards).
The Titans don't deserve a breakaway back like Johnson.
Granted, Johnson did himself no favors by fumbling away the ball on the first play from scrimmage, but the Titans need to get the ball to their No. 1 playmaker a lot more than a mere 12 times on the ground.
He did get five receptions for 43 yards, but the Titans should have planned to pound the ball at the Jags defense with Johnson—at least stuck to that if that was the plan before a 13-0 deficit bouyed by Johnson's early fumble.
The Colts are a lot tougher on running backs—top five coming into the week—but you have to believe the Titans are going to feature Johnson more with Jake Locker (foot) likely out for the season now.
Indications are #Titans QB Jake Locker suffered a season-ending foot injury in today's game vs the Jaguars— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) November 10, 2013
Colts abandon running game
Speaking of the Colts, they are even more clueless when it comes to their running game. We have maintained most of the season that offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants a power running game, but they completely went away from it once the Rams got on top big early.
Trent Richardson got five carries for two yards, and Donald Brown got two carries for minus-one. That is no way to attack a defense that came into the week allowing the most rushing yards to running backs in fantasy.
Sure, you can blame an ankle issue that left Richardson questionable coming into the game, but this was a make-or-break week for T-Rich. He is broke in fantasy terms, especially with a short week looming against the Titans on Thursday night.
The silver lining is at least Richardson is rested going into the game. He is beyond difficult to trust in fantasy, though.
Foles enjoys an encore
OK, by now you are sick of lamenting the year of the broken running back in fantasy football. Let's trumpet something positive: The Eagles' Nick Foles looks like the real deal. That was a good victory at Lambeau Field, even if the Packers were down to their practice-squad quarterback.
Foles followed up his seven-touchdown performance with 228 yards passing, three touchdowns and 38 yards rushing. Michael Vick might not see another snap with the Eagles now.
The most telling stats: Foles has a 16-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Head coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane:
He doesn't really make egregious mistakes out there. If he misses, he's off. He may not be as accurate on a throw, but that's what you're missing. It's not, 'Hey, we had a guy open and he was supposed to look right, but he was looking left.' I think he's got a good grasp and command of what we're doing, and I feel real comfortable with him right now.
Fantasy owners should, too.
Saints' Colston rebounds
So much for pushing the dirt over Marques Colston's fantasy value. The league-worst Dallas pass defense was the perfect elixir for what ailed Drew Brees' former No. 1 target.
Colston proved healthy and should be primed for a strong finish for fantasy owners. He has battled a foot issue the past couple of seasons and a knee injury this year.
"I know he felt good toward the end of the week," Saints coach Sean Payton told Terrell of the Times-Picayune. "It was good to get him back. It's a challenge with all of these receivers, you don't always have enough touches to go around."
The important thing is Brees hasn't lost confidence in his grinding wideout, telling Terrell:
He's such a tough, durable guy, who's always there. He's always battling something. ... That's just a testament to his toughness. ... He's just the anthesis of what most people would think of a No. 1 receiver, as far as the glitz, the glam, always being in front of the camera. ... He just goes to work. ... I wouldn't trade him for anybody. ... We've had so many great years together and I feel like we have at least a few more.
Colston's fantasy owners would take just a few more weeks of production like Sunday's (seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown).
White isn't so ready to help
Fantasy owners, especially those still clinging to quarterback Matt Ryan, were hopeful with Roddy White's (ankle/hamstring) Sunday. Instead, the Seattle Seahawks secondary proved to be too much, even in Atlanta.
It was a slow start and a worse finish, especially for White, who finished with just one catch for 20 yards.
"We pride ourselves on getting out of the box, making plays early and dictating tempo," White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. "We need to get back to doing stuff like that. I felt like we came out and did some good stuff, but not enough."
Next up for the Falcons is a road matchup against Darrelle Revis and the Bucs. You will want to pay very close attention to Monday night's Bucs game against the Dolphins, if you are a hopeful White fantasy owner.
If Revis is in man coverage with the Dolphins' Mike Wallace and shuts him down—Revis started the year off in a lot of zone coming off his knee injury—you likely will want to bench White for Week 11.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.