Fantasy Football Week 9 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterNovember 2, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 9 Workload Watch

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    Bet on the talent of Jerick McKinnon.
    Bet on the talent of Jerick McKinnon.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    When in doubt, talent should win out, but sometimes you can't trust teams to use their most talented players. 

    We know this to be true in Cincinnati with Joe Mixon and Denver with C.J. Anderson. Even though both players have flashed when given chances this season, they play for underachieving teams with coaching staffs that have made lots of mistakes. That would explain why those teams are a combined 6-8 through the first eight weeks. 

    The Minnesota Vikings are 6-2 heading into their bye despite losing Dalvin Cook for the season in addition to uncertainty at the quarterback position and a multi-game absence for Stefon Diggs. They've persevered by featuring their best players, like Jerick McKinnon and Adam Thielen, on a regular basis. That seems obvious, but not every team applies logic.

    As we move to the halfway point of the NFL regular season, you should have a pretty good idea of what teams you can trust with well-defined roles. Talent should lead, but if opportunities aren't there, it makes your lineup decisions a little tougher.

    To learn more about what’s going on in the backfields for the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders, check out the Week 9 B.S. Meter. This Workload Watch covers eight other running back situations that have the most significant fantasy implications.

Carolina Panthers

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    Don't let one touchdown change your opinion of Jonathan Stewart.
    Don't let one touchdown change your opinion of Jonathan Stewart.Associated Press

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Christian McCaffrey: 58.5% snaps, 4 carries, 3 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 5 receptions, 49 yards, 0 TD
    • Jonathan Stewart: 43.1% snaps, 11 carries, 34 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets
    • Cameron Artis-Payne: 15.4% snaps, 4 carries, 8 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards, 0 TD

    This week's B.S. Meter addressed Cam Newton's struggles and how they are limiting the potential of the team's wide receivers. His issues are a problem for the entire offense because they're keeping the Panthers from more scoring opportunities. 

    In Week 8, Stewart scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, which was also his first score since a TD reception in Week 1. Other than the score, it was the typical output we've seen from Stewart all season, so his value shouldn't change much. He's a risky play at best because he doesn't get many scoring chances, he's not efficient at 3.0 yards per carry, and he has no role in the passing game (six receptions on the season).

    McCaffrey hasn't lived up to initially high expectations because he's been useless as a runner with 117 yards on 49 carries (2.4 yards per carry). At this point, you should be hoping he gets at least 10 fantasy points per game in PPR formats. With Kelvin Benjamin now in Buffalo, McCaffrey is the active leader in targets (66) receptions (49) and yards (378) in Carolina's passing attack. McCaffrey is the No. 12 RB in PPR formats and is tied with Tarik Cohen at No. 19 in non-PPR formats.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Joe Mixon is clearly the best back in Cincinnati.
    Joe Mixon is clearly the best back in Cincinnati.Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Joe Mixon: 62.5% snaps, 11 carries, 18 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 91 yards, 0 TD
    • Giovani Bernard: 25.0% snaps, 2 carries, 5 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 0 receptions
    • Jeremy Hill: 12.5% snaps, 4 carries, 11 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    The streak lives!

    For the seventh straight game, Hill started and received the first touch in the Cincinnati Bengals backfield. In fact, three of his four carries came on the opening drive. His only other carry came in the third quarter. Do the Bengals feel like he'll actually do something on one of these opening drives so they can stick with him? Are they that stubborn about his veteran status over Mixon? Should any of this be surprising from a 3-4 team that squeaked by the visiting Indianapolis Colts? 

    After the Bengals failed to keep Mixon featured in the offense following a great first half in Week 8, he wasn't much busier in Week 9. He also wasn't very good when he did touch the ball other than a 67-yard catch-and-run that saw him get chased down from behind. Still, Mixon has 17 receptions on 17 targets for 189 yards, so he's done nothing to let the team down in that respect. 

    The Bengals remain an underachieving squad with an average-at-best QB in Andy Dalton, who somehow fails to get A.J. Green the ball enough even though he's one of the best wide receivers in the league. Trusting the direction of a team can go a long way in making the right fantasy decisions. While you should never bench Green, any hope for Mixon to truly break out is hard to hang on to for this season. He's been good enough to be the No. 29 PPR RB this season, but with an average of less than 10 fantasy points per game, he's a disappointment.

Denver Broncos

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    You can't blame C.J. Anderson for Denver's offensive woes.
    You can't blame C.J. Anderson for Denver's offensive woes.Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • C.J. Anderson: 47.9% snaps, 15 carries, 78 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards, 0 TD
    • Devontae Booker: 34.2% snaps, 6 carries, 40 yards, 1 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 14 yards, 0 TD
    • Jamaal Charles: 17.8% snaps, 8 carries, 39 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards, 0 TD

    Maybe the Broncos paid attention to last week's Workload Watch, which detailed the misuse of Anderson and how it was clearly hurting the team in the win-loss column. Coming into Week 8, the Broncos were 3-0 in games when Anderson had at least 20 carries and 0-3 when he had no more than 10 carries. 

    They increased his workload and even stuck with the run after trailing the Kansas City Chiefs 14-0 in the first quarter, but it wasn't enough to overcome an awful performance by Trevor Siemian, who threw for just 198 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown. The Broncos scored just 19 points, which means they've now gone five straight games without scoring at least 20 points. 

    The ineptitude of the offense was enough for the team to bench Siemian in favor of Brock Osweiler for Week 9, which is about as desperate of a move as you can make since Osweiler was horrible with Houston last season and couldn't stick with Cleveland coming out of the preseason. Because Paxton Lynch is still working his way back from a shoulder injury, Osweiler is the only real option outside of Siemian, which shows you how bad the QB situation is in Denver. That trickle-down effect is hurting Anderson's value. He has just one red-zone touch in the last three games.

    Anderson is a good player in a bad situation with little hope of things improving considering the options at QB. He's still the No. 20 PPR RB for the season but is trending down with just 6.1 fantasy points per game in the last four weeks.

Detroit Lions

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    Do the Lions have any fantasy options in their backfield?
    Do the Lions have any fantasy options in their backfield?Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Ameer Abdullah: 45.1% snaps, 11 carries, 27 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 11 yards, 0 TD
    • Theo Riddick: 42.3% snaps, 4 carries, 21 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards, 0 TD
    • Dwayne Washington: 19.7% snaps, 6 carries, 12 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0 TD

    In 2016, the Lions survived without Abdullah for much of the season, but that made things pretty simple for fantasy owners since Riddick led the way without much competition for touches. When a situation is so well-defined with a productive player, you don't have to think about it very much, which is why Riddick was a weekly starter.

    Detroit has been unable to successfully juggle the workloads of Abdullah and Riddick, which has made both players tough to handicap on a weekly basis. Abdullah has double-digit carries in every game but just two outings with at least 60 rushing yards. He also has just one rushing TD.

    Even though he's a capable receiver, Riddick's presence has limited Abdullah to just 13 receptions for 79 yards on 17 targets. He's the No. 31 PPR RB for the season and is averaging just 9.1 fantasy points per game, which makes him a low-end RB3/flex option at best.

    Riddick still isn't going anywhere as a runner, with just 60 yards on 22 carries, but he's been unable to make up for that as a receiver, which wasn't the case last season. In seven games, he has 25 receptions for 204 yards and a TD on 35 targets. He hasn't topped more than 45 receiving yards in any game and has at least five receptions on only two occasions. That explains why he's the No. 38 PPR RB with just 8.2 fantasy points per game. 

    The Lions aren't a bad team, but they've been inconsistent. Matchups haven't mattered much to Abdullah or Riddick since both players have been disappointing more often than not. If you're waiting for a breakout to happen, there have been no signs of it. Barring an injury, this doesn't look like a backfield you can trust in the second half of the year.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Frank Gore's best game of the season came in Week 8.
    Frank Gore's best game of the season came in Week 8.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Frank Gore: 48.6% snaps, 16 carries, 82 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 19 yards, 0 TD
    • Marlon Mack: 52.7% snaps, 11 carries, 27 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 3 receptions, 36 yards, 1 TD

    Even though Andrew Luck's absence has cast a dark cloud over the Colts, they might be figuring out their backfield in what's looking like a lost season. 

    Mack outsnapped Gore for the second straight week, yet both players had productive outings in a competitive loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Gore's 82 rushing yards marked his best output of the season, and for only the third time in 2017, he averaged more than four yards per carry. The lack of scoring remains a problem, with his TD drought reaching five games.

    Mack had his highest carry total of the season, but he didn't go very far. However, he had another active week as a receiver and caught his first score through the air. Over the last two weeks, Mack has seven receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. He had just three receptions for 34 yards on five targets before Week 7. 

    Gore is the No. 21 RB in PPR formats, mostly because he's played eight games. As the top fantasy back for the Colts, he's not a great option at just 9.8 points per outing. Mack isn't far behind Gore at 9.6 fantasy points per game, although he missed two contests. The balance between the two is the best way for the Colts to approach this backfield, yet neither player should be considered more than a RB3/flex option going forward.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Jerick McKinnon was back on top in Week 8.
    Jerick McKinnon was back on top in Week 8.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Jerick McKinnon: 63.5% snaps, 14 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD, 10 targets, 6 receptions, 72 yards, 0 TD
    • Latavius Murray: 36.5% snaps, 19 carries, 39 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards, 0 TD

    Minnesota hasn't missed a beat since losing Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL, thanks to both McKinnon and Murray picking up the slack over the last four games. Credit the Vikings for continuing to pound the rock with both players to take some pressure off Case Keenum, who's done an admirable job stepping into the starting spot. Sam Bradford remains hindered by his knee injury and Teddy Bridgewater still not ready to take the field.

    Even though both players have been busy since Cook went down, Murray didn't have much fantasy value until he tallied 113 yards and a TD in Week 7. That shouldn't have scared you off from McKinnon since he still had 17 total touches, and if it didn't, you were rewarded in Week 8. Once again, McKinnon was the top fantasy option, as he's been in three of the four games since Cook went down. McKinnon is the No. 16 PPR RB for the season and is No. 2 over the last month.

    Murray is a fine back, but McKinnon has the most upside for fantasy because of his active role in the passing game. His Week 8 receiving output is his best of the season, and his 28 receptions rank third on the team. Murray has just six receptions for 38 yards on six targets. McKinnon is no worse than a great RB2 with RB1 upside, while Murray is more of a RB3/flex on a weekly basis.

New England Patriots

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    Good luck figuring out the Patriots backfield.
    Good luck figuring out the Patriots backfield.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Dion Lewis: 34.9% snaps, 15 carries, 44 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards, 0 TD
    • Rex Burkhead: 31.4% snaps, 4 carries, 15 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 7 receptions, 68 yards, 0 TD
    • James White: 23.3% snaps, 1 carry, 2 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 5 receptions, 85 yards, 0 TD
    • Mike Gillislee: 15.1% snaps, 11 carries, 34 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    Just looking at that workload distribution shows you how little the Patriots care about making life easy for fantasy owners, although considering their success rate, you can't argue with the approach.

    Even though Lewis remained ahead of Gillislee in all major categories, they both had carries inside the red zone. Lewis had two, one of which came inside the 10, while Gillislee had three, although none of them came inside the 10. Gillislee had enough of a role as a runner to lower Lewis' ceiling. If this continues, and who knows if it will, you'll have a tough time playing either one with much confidence.

    White's been the easiest player to put a value on because he's kept an active role in the passing game. He has at least five targets in all but one game and at least four receptions in six games. He's the top Patriots RB, sitting at No. 17 for the season in PPR formats. Hopefully, Burkhead doesn't cut into that role too much after what we saw in Week 8.

    Before last week, Burkhead had just five receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown on eight targets in three games. His versatility is what made him such an interesting fantasy option before the season started, but after two somewhat quiet games, he dropped off the radar thanks to the rib injury that sidelined him for a month. Week 8 was a great example of what he brings to the table, which is why he is back on the fantasy radar heading into the second half of the season.

    This is arguably the most diverse backfield New England has had in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, which is good for them but difficult to judge for fantasy. White is still probably the best one to own with such an active role in the passing game, although the presence of Burkhead is most intriguing after what we saw last week.

New York Jets

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    The Jets are hanging in there, and so is Matt Forte.
    The Jets are hanging in there, and so is Matt Forte.Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Week 8 Workload Distribution

    • Matt Forte: 47.5% snaps, 4 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 6 receptions, 45 yards, 0 TD
    • Bilal Powell: 47.5% snaps, 14 carries, 33 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 28 yards, 0 TD
    • Elijah McGuire: 4.9% snaps, 1 carry, 2 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    Before the season, the Jets offense looked like one to avoid other than Powell, but not everything goes according to plan, as we've learned from watching this team over the last eight weeks.

    At 3-5, the Jets have definitely overachieved, and even though they're currently on a three-game losing streak following a three-game winning streak, they've lost the last three by a total of just 15 points, with the biggest margin being a 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots. They may not be going anywhere this season, but you wouldn't know it by the way they've played. That's given us a reliable streamer in Josh McCown and legitimate fantasy options in Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse.

    That brings us to the backfield. After injuries took out Forte and Powell at various times this season, the entire RB group has been healthy enough to play in the last two games, which has cleared things up for fantasy. McGuire has taken a backseat, with just four carries for nine yards and no targets. Powell's been the busiest on the ground, with 23 carries for 76 yards, while Forte has 11 carries for 48 yards. Forte has been the better receiver, with 11 receptions for 86 yards on 12 targets to Powell's five receptions for 68 yards on five targets. 

    After Forte played 12 percent more of the snaps than Powell last week, they were even this week, and based on the touches, the split should continue until further notice. If the team falls out of contention, they could choose to work McGuire back into the mix, but for now, both Forte and Powell are in the RB3/flex category.