Bye Weeks: Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, N.Y. Jets
Grab a Helmet
Spiller is getting healthy and will get
healthy against a suspect PIT-D.
Spiller @ PIT: Starting your running backs against Pittsburgh
is something I could hardly have authorized in years past, except
maybe in an emergency. Since the 2002 season, the Curtain has
finished outside the top 10 in rushing yards allowed just once
(2003) and has finished in the top 3 an astonishing NINE times
(first overall in 2002, 2004, and 2010). This year, however, they’re
ranked just 28th and gave up almost 200 bills in the 55-31 loss
to New England last Sunday. Oh, and those 55 points? Yup, it’s
the most Pittsburgh has allowed in 80 years of professional football.
Spiller still scares the daylights out of me, but he finally looked
healthy against the Chiefs last week (155 total yards) and…well,
these clearly aren’t your father’s Steelers. The breakout we’ve
been waiting (too long) for could happen Sunday, folks, and against
the unlikeliest of opponents.
Ellington v. HOU: The Clemson Tigers have gained a richly
deserved reputation for failing to live up to preseason expectations,
but if Ellington picks up where he left off in Week 8, they’re
going to be known for something entirely different: pumping out
stud NFL running backs. Spiller’s successor at the South Carolina
institution was an instant hit two weeks ago, rushing for 154
yards and an NCAA-esque 10.3 yards/carry in his first career start,
a 27-13 victory over Atlanta. The highlight was an 80-yard house
call wherein the rook patiently waited for a hole to develop and
then darted for daylight. He probably won’t receive more than
15-20 touches in a game (his coach practically guaranteed it),
but he’s an instinctive, cat-quick back who may ultimately produce
better than his measurables would suggest. The list of backs capable
of breaking off an 80-yard run, don’t forget, is pretty brief.
Johnson v. JAX: And this guy’s at the top of it. Regular readers
know I don’t usually have positive things to say about Tennessee’s
feast-or-famine bell cow, but there’s no denying he’s one of the
game’s most explosive performers who, under the right set of circumstances,
can absolutely bring home the fantasy bacon. The “right set of
circumstances” usually translates to “favorable matchup” in Johnson’s
case and the Titans have a whole bunch of them lined up to close
out the season, starting last week with St. Louis. Unsurprisingly,
Johnson took full advantage, rushing for 150 yards and two scores
in the win over the Rams. Week 10 brings another eminently exploitable
defense, Jacksonville’s, and its league-worst run-stopping unit.
The Jags are giving up almost five yards per carry and over 160
yards per game on the ground, figures that should have Johnson
licking his chops this Sunday. Start him.
Grab a Gatorade
Richardson v. STL: If you watched Chris Johnson carve up the
Rams last weekend, you’re probably thinking this a great spot
for Richardson to break out of his season-long slump. You wouldn’t
be wrong about the spot (the Rams definitely stink) but we might
ALL be wrong about the slumper. Like most, I buried the Browns
earlier this season for trading away their franchise rock toter
just a year and change into his professional career. Turns out
they may have known what the rest of us are only now realizing:
Richardson isn’t that good. He’s extremely powerful, yes, and
can absorb an inordinate amount of punishment, but so can Mike
Tolbert. Richardson seems to lack that one quality all great backs
have: an ability to elude tacklers. Making ‘em miss is the name
of the game and he simply doesn’t do it often enough. Keep adjusting
those expectations southward.
Tolbert and Jonathan
Stewart @ SF: Tolbert’s actually come on strong lately
(over 12 points/game this past month), sapping the value of DeAngelo
Williams, who carried sneaky start potential through most of the
first half of the season. Just when we were about to get excited
about this other South Carolina product, though (Coastal Carolina
U.), Jonathan Stewart returned in Week 9 (GO DUCKS!), diluting
the Panthers’ backfield mixture even more. I’m not saying you
couldn’t use one of these guys in a pinch, but now that we’re
through the heavy bye weeks, it’s hard to see why you’d need to
unless you’ve suffered heavy losses at the position. Should that
be the case, here’s how I’d rank the three Carolina backs in order:
1) Tolbert, 2) Stewart, 3) Williams. Yes, I’m basing that ranking
almost exclusively on how likely it is they’d score six-pointers.
Steer clear of this trio unless you’re desperate.
Murray @ NO: Way back in the preseason, FF Today’s staff
writers were asked who they thought would be more valuable in
2013, DeMarco Murray or Stevan Ridley. I chose Ridley for precisely
the reason he’s currently ahead of Murray in the rankings:
He’s way more durable. At some point, a guy simply is what
he is and Murray is basically Darren McFadden, an extremely gifted
runner/receiver who will likely never play more than 80% of a
season. The young Cowboy was back in action last week after recovering
from his latest boo-boo, but you probably didn’t notice.
He only logged the leather four times (for an impressive 31 yards)
and caught six passes (for a less-than-impressive 19). That’s
it? Against the same Minnesota team that gave up almost 200 yards
on the ground to Green Bay the week prior? I’ve lost interest
in Murray and think you should too.