by Jon Helmkamp (@JCWHelmkamp)
Running Back Rankings – The Good
Sony Michel vs New York Giants
Tonight’s Thursday Night Football contest between the New England Patriots and New York Giants will be gross. Watching the league’s top-ranked defense take on Daniel Jones and a grotesque offensive line without Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Evan Engram, or Sterling Sheperd is unbearable. This might end up being the worst offensive performance of the season (yes, I’m including the Dolphins in this statement). The Patriots will be in a positive game script for Sony Michel from the first snap, and I expect him to see plenty of work coming off his 16/97/1 performance last weekend. As far as running back rankings are concerned, Michel is a solid RB2 in this one.
Leonard Fournette vs New Orleans Saints
I’ve been a big detractor of Fournette for a long time, but it’s time to acknowledge that he’s putting together a good season, at least statistically. He’s averaging a strong 5.4 yards per carry (YPC), seeing a workhorse-like usage rate. The New Orleans Saints have been around the middle of the pack against the run, giving up 108.4 yards per game. Fournette was quiet for the first three weeks, but with back-to-back elite performances against the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, he can be trusted. Scoring 20+ fantasy points can’t be counted on every week, but Fournette should provide good value in a game against the Saints this weekend. He, like Sony Michel, is a solid RB2.
Chris Carson at Cleveland Browns
The San Francisco 49ers ran all over the Cleveland Browns last Monday. Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman combined for 211 rushing yards in the game, and the Seattle Seahawks are averaging a solid 122.6 YPG this season. The Browns seem to be in total disarray, and I expect the Seahawks to smell blood and capitalize. With their run-first attack, Carson produced on 27 carries for 118 yards against the Rams last week. He will see plenty of opportunities to feast on the Browns’ poor run defense. Carson is an RB1 this weekend.
Matt Breida at Los Angeles Rams
Speaking of Matt Breida and the Los Angeles Rams, the two square off this weekend. Breida is clearly the workhorse of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense. It’s worth noting that the 49ers will be without both starting tackles, as well as their full back this week, but Kyle Shanahan seems committed to the run and will scheme to make it the priority. I don’t think you should bank on the numbers he put up last week, but Breida is a strong RB2 play with potential RB1 upside against a team allowing 106.8 YPG.
Running Back Rankings – The Bad
Nick Chubb vs Seattle Seahawks
Last week, I recommended that fantasy owners fade Nick Chubb after his monster performance in Week 4. He put up 87 rushing yards in a negative game script, but that is RB2 production. This could be his floor, though. The Seattle Seahawks allow the fourth fewest rushing yards per game (80.0 YPG), so temper your expectations. Do not expect a 20-fantasy-point performance out of Chubb this week. If he is held in check again, this might be the only opportunity fantasy owners have to buy him low. After the New England Patriots next week, Chubb gets the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. He has earned the right to be matchup-proof in your starting season-long lineups, but limit your expectations for Week 6, as our running back rankings suggest Chubb is a high-end RB2 or FLEX against the Seahawks.
Ezekiel Elliott at New York Jets
The New York Jets have been particularly strong against the rush this year. They’re currently seventh best with 87.5 YPG. Ezekiel Elliott was held in check last week against the mediocre Packers’ rush defense, and he doesn’t look like the same world-beater, top-tier RB1 that everyone expected him to be. Like Nick Chubb, he should still be started in all season-long leagues, but don’t expect RB1 production in Week 6.
Dalvin Cook vs Philadelphia Eagles
Dalvin Cook is matchup proof, but, like Nick Chubb, temper your expectations against the best rush defense in the league, the Philadelphia Eagles. It may seem like a bold prediction, but I have Ezekiel Elliott, Chubb, and Cook all finishing outside the top-10 this week in running back fantasy scores. The Eagles have been as elite as it gets against the run, and with the ongoing drama surrounding the Minnesota Vikings top two WRs, I expect the Vikings to have a more balanced attack this week. If the Eagles get up early, Kirk Cousins may be forced to air it out. Cook is a high-end RB2 this week.
Damien Williams vs Houston Texans
I don’t trust Damien Williams in the Kansas City Chiefs’ backfield. He was drafted as an RB1, but has wildly underperformed due to a combination of injuries and the addition of LeSean McCoy. Williams might take over as the clear-cut lead back again, but I think it’s more likely that he and McCoy split carries. With diminished opportunities, him coming off an injury, and a matchup against a strong rush defense in the Houston Texans, Williams is in for a long weekend. After holding Devonta Freeman to 2.7 YPC last week, Williams is nothing more than a FLEX option for Week 6.