Fantasy Football Week 17 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterDecember 28, 2018

Fantasy Football Week 17 Workload Watch

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers might get a boost from James Conner.
    The Pittsburgh Steelers might get a boost from James Conner.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The final week of the season has lots of teams battling for playoff spots and seeding while other teams out of contention are trying to evaluate players who haven't seen the field much this year. 

    The Atlanta Falcons may continue evaluating the future of their backfield. Before he landed on the injured reserve, Ito Smith appeared to be getting more opportunities with Tevin Coleman heading into free agency. Brian Hill could receive more chances this weekend with Coleman battling a groin injury.

    James Conner has a chance to return to action on Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers battling for their playoff lives. Jaylen Samuels has been the man in the Steelers backfield for the last three games, but if Conner is healthy enough to play, he could lead the way in Week 17. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs will have decisions to make if Spencer Ware continues trending toward his comeback from a two-week absence. Damien Williams has done a great job in Ware's absence, but the Chiefs lost both of those games and head into the final game of the season with a chance to land anywhere from the top seed to the fifth seed in the AFC.

    To learn more about what’s going on in the backfields of the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills, check out the Week 17 B.S. Meter. The Workload Watch covers eight other running back situations that have the most fantasy implications. 

    Check out Matt Camp on his Fantasy Camp podcast available every Tuesday and Thursday. Click to subscribe or listen wherever you get your podcasts.


Atlanta Falcons

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    The Falcons may not have Tevin Coleman in Week 17.
    The Falcons may not have Tevin Coleman in Week 17.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Tevin Coleman: 64.6% snaps, 10 carries, 51 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

    Brian Hill: 29.2% snaps, 8 carries, 115 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 0 receptions

    No Ito Smith in Week 16 meant Coleman should have been in line for a big workload against the Carolina Panthers. The snaps were there, but the touches were not due to a groin injury that came in the second half.

    That same groin injury has kept Coleman out of practice this week, so he's not a lock to play in what could be his final game with the Falcons. Coleman is due to hit free agency in 2019 and could be a coveted player on the open market, especially since he hasn't been worn down by a lot of touches during his four years with the Falcons. This season has already marked a career high in carries (159) and tied a career high in receptions (31).

    Hill lost a fumble in the fourth quarter of Atlanta's Week 16 win over the Carolina Panthers, but otherwise he had an impressive performance. A big part of his day came on a 60-yard run, although even without that big run, he would have outrushed Coleman. Hill came into the week with just four carries for 12 yards and no targets on the season.

    Even if Coleman is active, the Falcons could take a longer look at Hill in what is otherwise a meaningless game in what's been a disappointing season. Coleman's fantasy stock could rise significantly depending on where he lands in 2019.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Gus Edwards has gotten back on track in the last two weeks.
    Gus Edwards has gotten back on track in the last two weeks.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Gus Edwards: 37.1% snaps, 14 carries, 92 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards, 0 TD

    Kenneth Dixon: 46.8% snaps, 8 carries, 28 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TD

    Ty Montgomery: 11.7% snaps, 0 carries, 1 target, 0 receptions

    It looked like Edwards was starting to get a significant push from Dixon for carries, but in Dixon's four games back from injury, Edwards has stayed on top of the carry share.

    Dixon has overtaken Edwards in snaps each of the last two games, although that hasn't meant much to the workload. Edwards didn't have a big day for fantasy, yet he did manage to hit the 80-yard mark on the ground for the fifth time in six games. Since taking over for Alex Collins in Week 11, Edwards has at least 14 carries in each game. He's averaging 12.4 fantasy points per game during that span and is RB18 since Week 11.

    Meanwhile, Dixon has done a fine job as a complementary back. That hasn't translated to fantasy production, as Dixon sits at RB38 with just 7.8 FPG over the last month. He's made Montgomery a complete afterthought in the offense, so while Dixon has established himself as the clear No. 2 back for the Ravens, he doesn't have fantasy value.

    In reality, this is a good pairing, especially since the team has another running threat in Lamar Jackson. From a fantasy perspective, Edwards is the only player to consider with the hope he gets volume and has a chance to score.

Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears could feature Jordan Howard against the Vikings.
    The Chicago Bears could feature Jordan Howard against the Vikings.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Tarik Cohen: 51.6% snaps, 6 carries, 12 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards, 0 TD

    Jordan Howard: 62.5% snaps, 13 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards, 0 TD

    Streaky has been the best way to describe the fantasy output of the Chicago Bears backfield and the team's offense as a whole. The current streak has favored Howard with Cohen taking more of a backseat.

    Over the last three games, Howard has at least 100 rushing yards or a touchdown. He had one of his lighter workloads in Week 16 but had his first multi-catch game since Week 3. That allowed him to finish the week as RB17 with 15 fantasy points. He's also RB17 for the last three games with 13.6 fantasy points per game. 

    During that same stretch, Cohen isn't even inside the top 25 with just 10.1 fantasy points as the No. 28 RB. In the last three weeks, Cohen has 10 receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets and 20 carries for 105 yards. For the season, Cohen is RB13 at 14.8 FPG, while Howard is RB26 at 10.4 FPG.

    This weekend's matchup with the Minnesota Vikings could favor Chicago's backfield since the Vikings are the third-easiest matchup for running backs over the last four weeks. The only concern is playing time, as the Bears could pull starters if the Los Angeles Rams have a significant lead over the San Francisco 49ers with the Bears and Rams playing at the same time and battling over the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Chicago can only get that spot if it wins and the Rams lose.

Houston Texans

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    D'Onta Foreman's return to action wasn't productive on the ground.
    D'Onta Foreman's return to action wasn't productive on the ground.Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Alfred Blue: 52.3% snaps, 4 carries, 14 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 26 yards, 0 TD

    D'Onta Foreman: 47.7% snaps, 7 carries, -1 yard, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD

    Lamar Miller: inactive

    DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in football, but Miller is almost as important to the success and identity of the Houston Texans offense. His absence was felt in last week's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

    With the Texans in the driver's seat for one of the top two seeds in the AFC, they couldn't get anything going on the ground between Blue and Foreman with Miller inactive due to an ankle injury. Miller and Blue combined for just 14 yards on 12 carries in Week 15, which means the team has 27 rushing yards from their running backs in the last two games. 

    Deshaun Watson helped pick up the slack with 49 yards and two scores on eight carries in addition to 339 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-40 passing. One of those scores went to Foreman, which means he now has eight receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown in his career as a receiver. 

    Luckily, Miller went from limited practice on Wednesday to full practice on Thursday, so he's on track to return on Sunday when the Texans host the Jacksonville Jaguars. Back in Week 7, Miller got the Jaguars for 100 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He should be considered a strong RB2 if active this weekend.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Marlon Mack was a disappointment in Week 16.
    Marlon Mack was a disappointment in Week 16.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Marlon Mack: 64.2% snaps, 12 carries, 34 yards, 1 TD, 3 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards, 0 TD

    Nyheim Hines: 34.3% snaps, 2 carries, 2 yards, 1 TD, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 41 yards, 0 TD

    Jordan Wilkins: 0 offensive snaps

    Logic doesn't always prevail in fantasy football, and Mack has been the perfect example of that in the last two weeks.

    For the season, the Dallas Cowboys have allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards at 91.3. In Week 15, Mack got them for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in what was arguably the best performance of his young career. He was coming off back-to-back games with fewer than 35 rushing yards against the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, so the big game came out of nowhere. 

    With Mack posting one his best games of the season in a brutal matchup, expectations were high for his Week 16 matchup with the New York Giants. The Giants came in allowing the 10th-most rushing yards per game at 123.1, so Mack was looking like a top-10 option in one of the most important weeks of the season. Instead, he needed a touchdown to salvage his fantasy outing. For the third time in four games and fifth time this season, Mack failed to rush for 35 yards. 

    Hines has had spurts of fantasy value on a team starving for help in the receiving corps. He now has 60 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns on 76 targets. T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron are the only Colts with more targets and receptions.

    Mack is averaging 14.5 fantasy points per game and is RB23 in total points, which is significant since he missed four games. He'll have a rough matchup with the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night. No team has given up fewer fantasy points to running backs over the last month.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Chiefs should stick with Damien Williams even if Spencer Ware is healthy enough to play.
    The Chiefs should stick with Damien Williams even if Spencer Ware is healthy enough to play.Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Damien Williams: 63.9% snaps, 13 carries, 103 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 7 receptions, 37 yards, 1 TD

    Charcandrick West: 31.1% snaps, 1 carry, 1 yard, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 37 yards, 1 TD

    Darrel Williams: 4.9% snaps, 0 carries, 0 targets

    Spencer Ware: inactive

    The Kansas City Chiefs need to figure out what to do with this backfield for Week 17 now that Ware is expected to return from a two-week absence stemming from a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 14. He's been practicing in full this week.

    Damien Williams was getting the majority of his fantasy production on the ground from touchdowns. Coming into Week 16, he had 23 carries for 101 yards and three touchdowns in three previous games. He had his busiest and best rushing performance in a favorable matchup with the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16. Even though he didn't score, Williams more than doubled his previous best of 49 rushing yards in Week 15.

    In addition to the rushing touchdowns, Williams has been very busy as a receiver. In four games without Kareem Hunt, Williams has 19 receptions for 134 yards and touchdowns on 20 targets. He's the No. 5 fantasy running back over the last four weeks with 20.2 fantasy points per game. Regardless of what happens with the carries, Williams should keep an active role as a receiver this week against the Oakland Raiders. 

    The first game without Hunt came back in Week 13, which was also against the Raiders. Ware carried 14 times for 47 yards and a touchdown while Williams rushed five times for 38 yards. Williams had just two catches for seven yards on two targets to Ware's one reception for five yards on his lone target. 

    For fantasy purposes, Williams should still be the favored option, although both players should have value with the Raiders surrendering the third-most rushing yards per game (143.3) on the year.

New England Patriots

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    Sony Michel should have another chance to run over the Jets.
    Sony Michel should have another chance to run over the Jets.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Sony Michel: 30.7% snaps, 18 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD, 0 targets

    James White: 38.7% snaps, 8 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets, 2 receptions, 13 yards, 0 TD

    Rex Burkhead: 33.3% snaps, 13 carries, 39 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 4 receptions, 40 yards, 0 TD

    James Develin: 48% snaps, 0 carries, 0 targets

    A multi-headed backfield is the norm in fantasy football, so it's a matter of navigating through splits in snaps, carries and touches. That can be frustrating when the best player's ceiling is limited by the inclusion of lesser players. 

    That was the case for Michel in Week 15. He was clearly running well against the Pittsburgh Steelers yet was limited to just 13 carries totaling 59 yards on around 35 percent of the snaps. Mixing in White is fine since he's been so productive this season, but Burkhead and Develin taking opportunities away from Michel didn't make sense. That's just one of the reasons the Patriots came up short in Pittsburgh. 

    Maybe it was the loss or the suspension of Josh Gordon, but the Patriots seemed to get back on track with Michel leading the way. He didn't have a major snap share, although he did touch the ball on 18 of his 23 snaps. When he was in the game, he was featured, and that plan paid off with Michel logging his first game with 100 yards or a touchdown since Week 12 against the New York Jets.

    Coincidentally enough, Michel gets the Jets in the season finale, so it would make a lot of sense to give him another busy workload on Sunday. White is tougher to trust since he's has two or fewer receptions in three of his last five games. In the last meeting with the Jets, White had a single reception for five yards on five targets and nine carries for 73 yards. Michel is a good RB1, while White is a shaky RB2.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Jaylen Samuels could fade into the background if James Conner is back for Week 17.
    Jaylen Samuels could fade into the background if James Conner is back for Week 17.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Week 16 Workload Distribution

    Jaylen Samuels: 70.7% snaps, 12 carries, 53 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 11 yards, 1 TD

    Stevan Ridley: 6.7% snaps, 3 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    James Conner: inactive

    This season has been a test of the depth in the Pittsburgh Steelers backfield, and for the most part, the production has been strong. They could get a boost for a must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend.

    James Conner has returned to full practice this week after sitting out the last three games with an ankle injury, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Pro Bowler was the No. 5 fantasy running back through the first 13 weeks of the season and was averaging 22.3 fantasy points per game. 

    In Conner's absence, the Steelers have stuck to the same philosophy we've seen in recent years of letting one back handle almost the entire workload and snaps. Samuels has been on the field for at least 62 percent of the snaps in each of the last three games. During that time, he has 42 carries for 223 yards and caught all 12 of his targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. By comparison, Stevan Ridley has 11 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown without playing more than 13.3 percent of the snaps in any game during the same stretch.

    Over the last three weeks, Samuels is RB11 with 16.9 fantasy points per game, so he's remained on the border of the RB1 tier, which has to be considered strong replacement value for Conner. If the Steelers stick with one back, a healthy Conner would be the top fantasy option and have top-15 potential against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17. He got them for 111 rushing yards and two scores and four receptions for 18 yards in Week 6. Samuels would be tough to trust as anything more than a flex.