We’ve got a special two-for-one match-up breakdown this time! With Week 8 on the horizon and Week 7 in the books, everyone is struggling with bye weeks and injuries to some degree. While the two biggest bye hits are likely to come in Weeks 9 and 10, the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have several fantasy-relevant players who might need replacing for struggling teams this week.
Minnesota Vikings RBs and Detroit Lions RBs
Yes, that’s right. Two teams, one position, and juicy match-ups you’ll want to get on your side.
Let’s start with the Minnesota Vikings, who have two fantasy relevant running backs going against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jerick McKinnon is the guy you want, if you have the luxury of choosing. In the last four weeks, as McKinnon has secured the starter role, he is averaging over 5 yards per carry. Last week, he toted the ball 19 times for 102 yards and caught two passes in the backfield. He did this against Buffalo in a difficult match-up for fantasy RBs.
This week, McKinnon will be up against the Tampa Bay run defense. The Bucs currently rank as the fourth-easiest defense for fantasy running backs to face. McKinnon has the opportunity and he has the talent. There is no better recipe for fantasy success.
If you’re in a deeper league and hurting due to injuries, Matt Asiata is a high-upside desperation pick this week. Although dethroned from the starting position, Asiata saw his workload increase to 7 touches last week (up from just 2 the week before) after coach Mike Zimmer commented he wanted to get Asiata more involved in the game. McKinnon will be the featured back, but look for Asiata to get goal-line carries and perhaps some grinding fourth-quarter work if the Vikings are in a position to put away the game late.
On the other side of the pond, we have the early game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions. If you keep up with your fantasy news, you already know that Joique Bell is a hot start this week with Reggie Bush’s doubtful status and Atlanta’s porous run defense.
The Falcons currently rank as the easiest match-up in the league for fantasy running backs and it’s not even that close. The Dirty Birds are giving up 27 ppg, a whole 3 points more than the next-worst Oakland Raiders. The average team gives up around 16 ppg. Remember McKinnon? When the Vikings played the Falcons, he carried the ball 18 times for a whopping 135 yards. Asiata carried the ball 20 times for 78 yards as well. That’s 38 rushing attempts between two backs on the same team against the league’s worst run defense.
Teams know how to beat the Falcons on the ground with high volume and you can bet the Detroit Lions have a pretty simple game plan this week: Run the ball. Bell, Theo Riddick and possibly Bush will all see the field more than usual this weekend.
It’s unlikely that we see three running backs from the same team produce fantasy-viable days, so we need to break it down. Bell is a must-start regardless of the situation with Bush. He’s a bruiser, a pass catcher and he gets goal-line work. There’s not much else to say here: if you have Bell, he’s a top-10 running back play this week. Start him.
Theo Riddick and Reggie Bush are a different story, yet one of them is going to put up points. Although it’s dangerous to play a hobbled player and expect results, Bush has done it before and the Falcons are the team most likely to allow it to happen.
Remember! This is game is being played in London and starts at 9:30 a.m. EST. To be safe, set your alarm clock for 9 a.m. EST and watch Bush’s status before kickoff and if he’s cleared to play, it’s a risk you have to take unless you have clear-cut better options. The potential for a huge day is simply too great.
Riddick stands to see around 10 touches if Bush is out and he’s already had one great game against the Vikings with Bush on the sideline. As the Lions focus their efforts into the running game, Bell will need to be spelled. Riddick only carried the ball 3 times in the Minnesota contest, but he did have 5 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Assuming Bush is out, that workload should increase with a run-heavy game plan this week.