Numerous high-profile running backs will be sipping Dom P on their recliners during the Week 8 bye week, which means some of you might be forced to patrol the waiver wire in search of replacements. The following teams will be resting this week: Atlanta (Michael Turner), Chicago (Matt Forte), Green Bay (James Starks/Ryan Grant), NY Jets (Shonn Greene/LaDanian Tomlinson), Oakland (Darren McFadden/Bush), Tampa (LeGarrette Blount).
Many fantasy playoff dreams are on life support following the rash of injuries to starting backs over the past few weeks. Week 7 was no different as Darren McFadden, Marshawn Lynch, Willis McGahee and Earnest Graham all were rendered useless by the injury bug. Graham is out for the year after suffering an ACL injury. Could the Bucs consider reuniting Barber brothers by bringing Tiki out of retirement? Doubtful, as Blount is expected back after the bye.
We profiled DeMarco Murray last week and he delivered in a major way, totaling 253 yards rushing with a touchdown (broke Emmitt Smith’s Cowboy single-game record for yards rushing). Felix Jones will likely miss another two weeks with a high ankle sprain, which means the Oklahoma rookie should remain a solid RB2 against Philly, but temper your expectations against a solid Seattle run defense in Week 9.
Javhid Best’s return from a concussion is undetermined, but Detroit figures to share the rushing workload between Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams, limiting each backs fantasy potential. Joseph Addai made a cameo during the Sunday night white-washing in New Orleans, but returned to street clothes after re-injuring his hamstring—Delone Carter ran with authority and appears to have a slight edge over Donald Brown as the No. 2 running back for the Colts.
This week we profile a few backs that could provide adequate numbers if you are in need of an injury replacement or bye-week fill-in. We are going under the premise that DeMarco Murray (who we profiled last week) is no longer available—if he is, run the waiver wires and add him. Oakland is on bye this week and McFadden’s foot sprain is not expected to keep him out for Week 9. However, with McFadden's injury history Michael Bush should not be on waiver wires.
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Bernard Scott (@SEA, @TEN, PIT, BAL): At long last Bernie Scott will have fantasy relevance (albeit for one week) for all of those that have stashed him for over a month. Cedric Benson had his three-game suspension cut to one game (for good behavior?), so this week Scott steps into the No. 1 role against a Seattle defense that has been solid against the run.
However, in a week with so many high-profile RBs on bye, Scott has the potential to produce lower-end RB2 numbers and sits at the top of the pecking order for RBs potentially sitting on your waiver wire. Scott averaged 19 touches per game as a three-week fill-in for Benson back in 2009. The 27-year-old running back from Abilene Christian has been less than impressive in limited duty this season, totaling 30 carries for 85 yards (2.8 YPC), but he should see at least 15 to 20 touches in a game that figures to be low scoring.
Knowshon Moreno (DET, @OAK, @KC, NYJ): This is more of a 10-team recommendation as owners in larger leagues have likely been holding onto the Denver running back, although they’d like to kick him in the face. The switch to run-oriented head coach John Fox had Moreno labeled as a solid bounce-back candidate heading into 2011 despite the fact that he failed to average more than 60 YPG rushing in his first two NFL seasons.
Through six games, the Georgia alum has yet to top 10 carries in any game and has been surpassed on the depth chart by Willis McGahee. However, in Week 7 the 30-year-old McGahee suffered a fracture to his hand that required surgery and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. With only Lance Ball on the depth chart, Moreno should see 12 to 15 touches per game over the next few weeks, which gives him some Flex appeal, especially considering the numerous matchups over the next month against bottom-tier run defenses.
Roy Helu (@BUF, SF, @MIA, DAL): Despite the presence of weekly Shanahanigans, the season-ending injury to Tim Hightower should clear things up slightly. Ryan Torain is expected to start this week, but Helu is gaining the confidence of the coach staff and should see his role expand as the season progresses. The rookie from Nebraska was selected in the 4th round (105 overall) and began to pay dividends in week two as he totaled 10 carries for 74 yards and added three catches for 38 yards.
Helu has been an afterthought since the emergence of Ryan Torain, but in Week 7 we had another Helu sighting as he led the Redskins backfield with 33 snaps with the Redskins in catchup mode against the Panthers (Torain had two carries for minus-five yards). There’s no telling what Mike Shanahan's eight-ball will tell him to do this week, but Helu seems to be more trusted in pass protection than Ryan Torain, which gives the rookie a distinct edge at playing time when the Redskins are playing from behind.
Leon Washington (CIN, @DAL, BAL, @STL): Marshawn Lynch tripped over a dreadlock in Week 7 pregame warm-ups and suffered a back injury that has him listed as questionable for Week 8. Leon Washington started over Justin Forsett in Week 7 and finished with seven carries for 39 yards and four receptions for 10 yards as the Seattle offense plodded to a 6-3 loss.
Regardless of which anemic quarterback they have under center, Seattle figures to struggle to top double-digit points for the foreseeable future, limiting the upside of all skill position players. If Lynch is forced to miss another week, all indications are that Washington would start over the smaller Justin Forsett, who has struggled in limited duty (2.5 YPC).
In Week 8, Seattle hosts a solid Bengal run defense that allows the fifth-lowest rushing YPG (90 YPG), which limits Washington to lower-end Flex status at best.
Alfonso Smith / La’Rod Stephens-Howling (@BAL, STL, @PHI, @SF): The Cards appear unclear as to when Beanie Wells will return from his knee injury, and reports have surfaced that a meniscus tear has not been ruled out (he reportedly has considerable swelling in the knee). The initial reports listed Wells as missing one or two weeks, but that might be optimistic.
With Wells sidelined, Arizona is likely to turn to a committee approach as Alfonso Smith and La’Rod Stephens-Howling (how much punctuation does one man need?) will split backfield duties against Baltimore. Veteran Chester Taylor could also see a few touches.
Smith is an undrafted rookie from Kentucky who has 25 carries for 89 yards (3.6 YPC) on the season—most of which came in Week 3 with Wells sidelined against Seattle (Smith had 17 carries for 54 yards and three catches for 21 yards). Stephens-Howling is a kick returner that will fill in on passing downs (has only five carries for 16 yards on the season and his one fantasy relevant play to date involved a 73-yard touchdown reception against Pittsburgh in Week 7). He’s a lower-end Flex play in PPR leagues.