Back when it was hot and sweltering around The Shop this summer, all the rage was about the death of the running back and how wide receivers and playmaking tight ends were going to take over fantasy football.
The death of the running back was a long time in coming. RBs were so dominant in the early years of fantasy football, that PPR was invented to make receivers more important. It was done simply to try to prevent running backs from dominating.
But, somewhere along the way, the fantasy industry forgot to tell coaches and players that, while yardage and reception bonuses have helped level the playing field, touchdowns are still the life blood of fantasy football and running backs still own that portion of the game on a week-to-week basis.
Through 13 weeks, there are seven backs and receivers who have scored 12 or more touchdowns. Six of them are running backs and only one is a wide receiver – David Johnson (15), LaGarrette Blount (14), Ezekiel Elliott (13), Melvin Gordon (12), Latavius Murray (12), DeMarco Murray (12) and Jordy Nelson (12).
In addition to those players, there have been 15 more than have scored eight or more touchdowns. Nine of them are running backs – LeSean McCoy (11), Devonta Freeman (9), Tevin Coleman (9), Carlos Hyde (8), Ryan Mathews (8), Matt Forte (8), Jonathan Stewart (8), Frank Gore (8), Jeremy Hill (8) – and six of them are wide receivers – Antonio Brown (11), Mike Evans (10), Davante Adams (9), Odell Beckham (9), Tyreek Hill (9), Jamison Crowder (8).
Add them up and thus far this season, a total of 22 players have scored eight or more touchdowns and 15 of them have been running backs.
The funeral for running backs has been predicted and projected for years, but, if you’re going to have a strong fantasy season, you’re going to need running backs because, despite their relegation as second-class fantasy citizens, if you don’t have a good one, you’re screwed and, if you have more than one, you’ve likely dominated.
Around The Shop, we like things old school and it would appear that the NFL fantasy gods are seeing things our way this year and they enjoy a strong running game more than the numbers-crunchers who drool over wide receivers as the next big thing.
- You don’t have to like Detroit’s postseason chances because they’ve been behind in the fourth quarter of 12 of 13 games this season, but, as things stand right now, they’re not only making the playoffs, they’re in line for a first-round bye.
- Le’Veon Bell is a full-grown man.
- Remember a couple of weeks ago when we were warning that weather could play a major role in a lot of fantasy playoff games. Those owners who had both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown probably had a great season, but said goodbye from the playoffs unless they had earned a bye – and a sigh of relief.
- Jarvis Landry owners always complain about the number of receptions and the lack of touchdowns. Only Landry could have a stat line that doesn’t include a touchdown, but does include a 71-yard reception.
- Memo to Cam Newton: Madea wants her outfit back and she’s not happy.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Wild About Harry – Harry Douglas is a veteran player who has seen more than his share of NFL games. He gets it by now. But, when we went after Denver cornerback Chris Harris’ knees Sunday when Douglas’ Tennessee Titans were hosting the Broncos, it drew the ire of veteran Aqib Talib. After the game, Talib made clear that he knows where Douglas will be (they have the same agent) and, in the offseason, he might make a point to meet up and exact a little revenge. Something tells me, he’s serious about backing that up…and rightly so.
9. The Autumn Wind Is a Raider – Oakland entered play as the top seed in the AFC with a chance to put a lock down on the division title with a win at Kansas City. Instead, not only did the Raiders get schooled by the defense and special teams of the Chiefs, Derek Carr had one of his worst games as a pro, completing just 17 of 41 passes for 117 yards and a passer rating of 49.1. Not only did the Raiders lose the game, they lost the No. 1 seed, lost the division lead and lose any tie-breakers with Kansas City if they finish with the same record. Their 10 wins are impressive, but it was Thursday’s loss that will stick with a lot of players because it likely took playoff games out of the Black Hole.
8. How ‘Bout Them Cowboys – It’s hard to put the 11-2 Dallas Cowboys on this list, but over the last two weeks, Minnesota and the Giants have showed how to limit Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense and take away Dez Bryant. The Cowboys offense can still run the ball, but when forced to ask the offense to beat teams throwing the ball, it would seem the defenses that the Vikings and Giants have thrown the way of the Cowboys may be a blueprint for others to follow to force the Cowboys to beat you through the air.
7. The Joy of Rex – When Rex Ryan was 4-2 as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, he was the price of upstate New York, especially when his Bills went into Boston and hung a loss on the Brady-less Patriots. But, after losing five of their last seven, the rumors are that twin giant barrels have been prepared for both of the Ryan boys to take the Niagara Falls route out of town. In Ryan’s defense, the five losses have been to the Dolphins, Patriots, Seahawks, Raiders and Steelers. But, when rumors start getting traction, they tend to take on a life of their own and, while he claims he hasn’t heard any of the rumors, expect Black Monday to include the Ryan brothers.
6. A Cold Brees – Nobody with any football acumen was willing to admit at any point this season that the New Orleans Saints were going to the playoffs. They started 0-3 and have been fighting for their lives ever since…until Sunday. The one thing you could always count on from Drew Brees was at least one touchdown and possibly several more. He set all-time numbers for consecutive games with at least one TD pass. In the last two games, losses to Detroit and Tampa Bay, Brees has no touchdowns and six interceptions. At a time when the Saints needed to build momentum for a division title run, they gassed out against two legitimate playoff contenders and, at 5-8, they’re done.
5. Unlucky 13 – When people were trying to pick the one game that would prevent the Cleveland Browns from going 0-for-2016, the one many pointed to was a home game in December against in-state rival Cincinnati. Not so much. The Bengals rolled out a 20-0 lead at halftime and reminded fans way Jay Gruden knew two years ago – RG3 is correctly pronounced Robert Griffin the Turd. He completed just 12 of 28 passes for 104 yards with a pick and passer rating of 38.4. If a running back had 28 rushing attempts for 104 yards, he was actually having a below-average day. When a quarterback has 28 pass attempts for 104 yards, it’s ugly as home perm. Welcome to 0-16, boys.
4. Enjoy Those Rings, Boys – The Denver Broncos are the defending champs, but, like their Super Bowl opponent Carolina, the Broncos may well be watching the playoffs rather than participating. The Broncos ran 64 plays at Tennessee Sunday – 55 passes and nine runs. Those nine runs gained 18 yards, nine yards on one of them and nine more on the other eight. Denver’s defense is still stellar – Marcus Mariota completed just six of 20 passes for 88 yards and his team won. The Broncos needed this one, but a one-dimensional team just can’t stand. Denver will likely finish third in its division, which never bodes well for a playoff run.
3. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? – It would appear to be a bad time for horse-themed teams. The Broncos aren’t the only equine-based organization taking a hit. The Indianapolis Colts have been given every chance to win the weak AFC South, where hovering around .500 makes you a contender. Every time the Colts have had a chance to get over .500, they’ve taken a backward step. After losing their first two games, it took until Week 11 for them, to get back to .500. In their last two home games, they had a chance to get back into first place, but lost to Pittsburgh and Houston. The home loss to the Texans Sunday put them a game back with no tie-breaker advantages. With just one playoff spot coming from the AFC South, Indy may have just squandered their last best chance to win the weakened South Division.
2. Gone Fishin’ – It came as a surprise to many of us, especially those who were unfortunate enough to follow the St. Louis Rams over the last decade as to what the team saw in head coach Jeff Fisher. His teams were always mediocre, despite investing heavily in defensive line, adding a Pro Bowl running back and using the first pick of the 2016 draft on a quarterback, yet the pieces never fell together. Moving to Los Angeles didn’t help things. Despite a 3-1 start, a pair of four-game losing streaks met the end for Fisher, who was the latest betrayal of Stan Kroenke to someone who believed they would have a long-term relationship. Good luck with football in L.A. Those empty seats were the reason the Rams left in the first place.
1. Where There’s A Wilson, There’s a Way – The Green Bay Packers were waiting for their inevitable knockout punch to their 2016 season and Seattle was primed to deliver the Death Blow, Instead, Russell Wilson threw five picks – not all his fault, but that “5” will ride with him just like his career win-loss record. A former Wisconsin QB “coming home” to chamber the bullet that put Aaron Rodgers down, the Seahawks not only got beat, they got beat down in such a fashion that, as long as you don’t have to face the 12th Man on their turf, you don’t have to worry about the reputation. Facing a gimmick offense that has wide receivers, quarterbacks and fullbacks as essential components of the running game, the Seahawks not only lost a game, they lost a lot of pride and, for the time being, the No. 2 seed to the Detroit Lions. Ouch!