Keith Jordan
Fantasy 411 - Week 12

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Astute fantasy owners had Bobby Rainey on their radar after the Cleveland Browns traded Trent Richardson away, but Tampa Bay swooped in and acquired Rainey after an injury sidelined Doug Martin. Rainey was still a long shot to have a fantasy impact until Mike James suffered a broken leg last week, opening the door for Rainey to get more carries. With only 21 carries on the season entering Week 11, and a looming timeshare with Brian Leonard, there was little to get excited for Rainey and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that all changed …or did it?

Rainey carved up the hapless Atlanta defense with 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Throw in a couple of receptions, one of which went for a touchdown, and Rainey now figures to be the primary waiver wire target this week. Leonard only got four carries, and did little with them, only gaining 16 yards. Rainey should continue to get the bulk of the work in Tampa Bay, but don’t be too quick to forget Martin’s early-season troubles. Tampa Bay has several tough running matchups down the stretch and owners will need to have reasonable expectations going forward.

If there was going to be a week for Ray Rice to break out of his slump, it figured to be this week against Chicago. There was some concern that Bernard Pierce would get enough carries to cloud Rice’s productivity. With Pierce only able to gain 18 yards on 10 carries, Rice was able to turn in his best outing of the season. Rice has been too inconsistent on the season to allow fantasy owners to count on him for anything other than a matchup flex play the rest of the season. With many leagues facing their trade deadline, the outing comes at a perfect time to dangle a player with Rice’s name recognition to finalize a deal to a desperate owner.

Maurice Jones-Drew finds himself in the same boat as Rice. Both have been major disappointments, but have performed good enough lately to, hopefully, facilitate a trade this week. Jones-Drew found the end zone for the second straight week and should garner at least a little attention from owners who are thin at running back. I don’t buy the resurgence, as evidenced by the scant 41 and 23 rushing yards in those two weeks and would encourage you to entertain any offers for him.

Reggie Bush has managed to do enough as both a runner and receiver to be a very valuable fantasy back this season. He seems to find a way to contribute in one aspect of the game if the other isn’t working for him. On Sunday, the Detroit Lions found a way to keep Bush from putting up stats. They benched Bush after a costly first half fumble. Bush’s 12 carries weren't that far off from his normal workload in the running game, but his absence on the field kept him from contributing in the passing game. He took the benching in stride and showed a veteran’s maturity in acknowledging his failure to take care of the ball. Joique Bell continues to be hobbled by nagging injuries, and he lacks the durability to be a workhorse, every down back. The Lions have a stretch of favorable matchups for their running back tandem and Bush figures to be out of the dog house and in the backfield as long as he secures the ball.

Rashad Jennings has been pleasantly effective for the Oakland Raiders since claiming the starting role during Darren McFadden’s most recent injury. With each solid outing, Jennings is staking his claim to a greater role in the offense even when McFadden does manage to return. The Raiders know what they have in McFadden; a habitually injured and broken down moderately effective running back. Based on his performance, McFadden’s history and the Raiders’ desire to prepare for the future, Jennings will likely get an extended look down the stretch and is worth weekly flex play consideration if he continues to get touches.

I can’t get a good pulse on the Indianapolis Colts and their running back situation. One moment I think that they are making a playoff push and will want to get Trent Richardson on track, then the next I wonder if they will look to ride the hotter Donald Brown to the playoffs. The bottom line is that no one really knows, but if I am playing it by the numbers then Brown is the back that should get more carries going forward. Thursday night was a nice coming out party where Brown trounced the Tennessee Titans for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

It is worth noting that in the last couple of years Brown has performed much better against the Titans than he has the rest of the league, so his performance may have been matchup driven. I am leery of both of these backs until one emerges as a starter, but if you are desperate, Brown is the safer play because of his ability to make plays in the passing game.

We are down to the last several weeks of the regular season. Keep checking back in with www.fantasysharks.com for all your fantasy advice. Good luck!