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Moving the Chains: Running Crew

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Quick Hits

Ryan Mathews had a golden opportunity to carve up the Jacksonville defense in Week 2, taking five carries for 26 yards (5.2 YPC) and catching two passes for 29 yards prior to departing with an ankle injury. Now, he's expected to yield goal-line carries to Mike Tolbert at least in the short term. During the week, it was revealed that Mathews has a high ankle sprain, an injury that can sideline a running back for approximately four weeks. The Chargers haven't offered a timetable for his return, but his status for Sunday's game against the Seahawks is very much in doubt.

Head coach Gary Kubiak's doghouse has a “STEVE” nameplate nailed to space above the door. Arian Foster had 19 carries and three catches in Week 2, while Steve Slaton had just three carries and wasn't even targeted as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Speaking of the Texans, opposing teams have run the ball just 27 times against them in the first two games as the secondary has yielded 400-plus yards to Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. Tony Romo owners have to be licking their chops heading into Week 3, especially since Jason Garrett has been channeling his inner Andy Reid to this point (more on this below).

The Saints' run defense has looked like a potential Achilles heel through the first two weeks. San Francisco's Frank Gore had 28.8 fantasy points against them in Week 2 after Adrian Peterson was running well against them in Week 1 (Brad Childress called No. 28's number just once in the first quarter of a tight game on the road. Nice work, Chilly...) Michael Turner, who was on track for a big game against Arizona in Week 2 before exiting with a groin injury, should be a very strong play in Week 3.

The Numbers Don't Lie

On a per-touch basis, Jamaal Charles again outscored Thomas Jones in Week 2 (0.63-0.38). However, the touches were distributed 23-12 in favor of Jones. Discuss.

One carry isn't enough to get C.J. Spiller involved. That should change after the NFL trade deadline

Darren McFadden is second in the NFL in rushing. Let that sink in for a moment. What kind of odds would it take for you to wager $100 than he'll finish in the top-10 this season?

Clinton Portis is averaging a mere 3.1 YPC through two games. Getting goal-line carries has been the saving grace here, but this is why Keiland Williams is a trendy (and sneaky pickup). Portis is one big hit away from getting shelved and the investment cost in Williams at this time is going to be very small.

Justin Forsett is averaging 5.8 YPC through two games. For those watching closely, that is better than Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews and Rashard Mendenhall. Small sample size? Absolutely. It still doesn't explain Pete Carroll's motivation in keeping Julius Jones involved in the offensive gameplan on any given week.

Cartar Sauce (rhymes with tartar, not Carter)

Week 2 Leaders in Red Zone Carries + Targets

Adrian Peterson, MIN (10) – At some point, No. 4 has to realize he's better off handing the ball to No. 28 than he is airing it out to the likes of Bernard Berrian and Greg Camarillo.

Clinton Portis, WAS (8) – This is really the only reason why Portis has been of any value to fantasy owners this season.

Jason Snelling, ATL (8) – Continues to prove he's capable of stepping up if Michael Turner is unavailable, but Turner should be OK for Week 3 after fully participating in Thursday's practice.

Knowshon Moreno, DEN (7) – Quietly had a lot of chances in close last year and it really looks like Josh McDaniels trusts him in the red zone. Juicy matchup against Indianapolis (32nd against the run thanks to Arian Foster in Week 1) on tap for Sunday, but Moreno is going to miss this one after suffering an injury in Friday's practice. Correll Buckhalter may get the chances in close, but the potential use of Laurence Maroney makes him intriguing.

Darren McFadden, OAK (7) – How will the eventual return of Michael Bush impact this number? Oakland would be wise to use both of their backs and limit the strain on Bruce Gradkowski and the passing game.

Frank Gore, SF (6) – Anthony Dixon took his only carry of the day into the end zone from the two-yard line, but Gore isn't falling into a timeshare anytime soon.

Pierre Thomas, NO (5) – Reggie Bush had three opportunities in the red zone, but he's out with a broken leg. Keep an eye on where those touches go, it's a nice boost in Thomas' value if he doesn't yield those to Chris Ivory or Ladell Betts.

Brandon Jackson, GB (5) – Jackson only picked up 2.6 YPC against Buffalo, but the lack of depth behind him left a monopoly of the backfield touches when the Packers were in the red zone as fullback John Kuhn had just one carry inside the 20 in Week 2. Will that trend continue?

Chris Johnson, TEN (5) – Did you really have any concerns about Javon Ringer after his Week 1 score? Ringer is an insurance policy right now and nothing more.

Rashard Mendenhall, PIT (5) – Par for the course in Pittsburgh. Isaac Redman isn't going to be the short-yardage or goal-line threat that the Steelers teased fantasy owners with prior to the season opener.

Gong Show (includes Red-Zone Follies and more!)

Justin Forsett (I'm really not hiding the man-crush very well) had a six-yard TD run nullified by a holding penalty. The Seahawks attempted two passes after that play, and the second one was a red-zone interception for Matt Hasselbeck.

Chris Johnson owners who lost by 14 points or less can thank a holding penalty for nullifying an 85-yard TD run. Instead, he was limited to 2.1 YPC by a stout Pittsburgh run defense while delivering just 53 yards from scrimmage on 16 carries and five receptions.

Carolina gave Mike Goodson two carries inside the five-yard line before turning to Jonathan Stewart on 4th-and-1 only to get stuffed by the Bucs' defense. Maybe Stewart or DeAngelo Williams should have touched the ball sooner in that sequence? This is the second straight week where the Panthers had abysmal play-calling in the red zone. John Fox will be coaching elsewhere, if not contributing in a TV booth next season as the Panthers appear to be in a full rebuilding mode with the decision to start Jimmy Clausen at quarterback in Week 3.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has three good running backs on his roster. Despite this, the Dallas offense has thrown the ball in 70 percent of its plays through the first two games of the season. Felix Jones and Marion Barber owners will continue to cringe, Tashard Choice owners may have to wait even longer than the second half of the season for their late-round investment to mature.

Wire It Up

Mike Tolbert, SD – High-ankle sprains don't always heal quickly. Even when Ryan Mathews is healthy, Tolbert may get a share of the goal-line chances. It's not a long-term answer if you've got running back issues, but the Chargers are going to give Seattle matchup trouble and a big game could be on the horizon here.

Jason Snelling, ATL – More talented than Tolbert, but less short-term value because of Michael Turner's improving health.

Laurence Maroney, DEN – Speculative value this week against a weak Colts run defense combined with a lack of confidence in giving too many carries to Correll Buckhalter.

Keiland Williams, WAS – Larry Johnson has been released, Clinton Portis is sputtering. It's really that simple.

Kareem Huggins, TB – The odds of Cadillac Williams staying healthy enough to start all 16 games this season remain low. Huggins hasn't been involved yet, but he's got much more upside than Earnest Graham.

Rashad Jennings, JAC – As insurance to MJD owners, why not? Beyond that, there's just not enough evidence here to suggest that the Jags will trend into a timeshare.