Michael Sarmento
Audibles - Week 16

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Before you get too excited about the prospect of running backs that have emerged as starters due to injury, you should take a look at the matchups and other circumstances that may work against you. While I never recommend starting unproven folks this time of year, I understand that circumstances beyond your control may exist.

So you rostered
Arian Foster earlier this year and he went down. Perhaps you turned to Ben Tate afterwards and now with his season ending injury, you now need another running back.

Now that's quite a few "what ifs," but if I have learned one thing participating in leagues for the last twenty years, it's that someone is out there who potentially had it happen. So this is for you "every guy on my team is broken" guy.

Now playing

Dennis Johnson RB Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos

Now that Johnson has been vaulted into the starting role, he will get additional touches in the ground game. This makes him a decent play right? Not so fast.

If Denver can move the ball at will like they have been able to do against almost every team, you may see a come-from-behind passing mode from starter
Matt Schaub. This looks mostly like a ton of passes to Andre Johnson and an ocassional dump-off pass. I think that the Texans will have to run the ball and take the ball out of the Broncos hands much like what San Diego was able to do.

If they are committed to that and can sustain drives, then you might have some success with Johnson. I have a hard time believing that the Texans have the personnel to execute like the Chargers did. Playing from behind seems to be what has been happening to date. If you are going to use Johnson, then be prepared to see some action in the first quarter, and hope that the Denver linebackers forget to cover Johnson. I just can't even imagine that scenario panning out.

I will set the projection at 55 yards rushing, and 3 catches for 20 yards.

Edwin Baker RB Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets

You may remember Baker sharing carries with
Le'Veon Bell at Michigan State University. He was a solid contributor, but Bell was the more dominant runner. I'm not trying to take anything away from Baker, who has a Pro back skill set. He simply didn't shine as bright as Bell.

He does have a very quick to the hole explosion and is clocked in the 4.47 range. He is strong for his size 5'8", 200 lbs, and has good leg drive. That drive got him into the end zone on a 2-yard run last week. This week will be a much tougher challenge versus a Jets defense that has been stout against opposing runners. This would be a tough challenge for any seasoned back this week. Pair that with
Willis McGahee being available along with Fozzy Whittaker and you have to do some serious hoping that he gets enough volume to be relevant.

I think Baker is an interesting player going forward but his value next season is largely dependent on what the Browns do in the offseason. There has been a buzz that Cleveland's ideal back is none other than
Ben Tate. Tate will be a pricey free agent after this season as his contract is set to expire. I do expect that there will be a few teams that could use his services.

Overall, I think that
Dennis Johnson's volume of work will be larger than Edwin Baker's . The explosive style of Baker is much more fan friendly. I enjoy watching backs who can get to the second level quickly. Both backs have the talent to produce. The slight edge goes to Dennis Johnson because teams have run on the Broncos. I will monitor both this week but strongly suggest that you don't start either.

If you find yourself in the unique situation that you need one, I'd favor Johnson for workload and Baker to cross the stripe (even though the numbers don't support that play.)

Good Luck this week. I will be glued to the Bears@Eagles game watching my players lead me back into the championship ranks that I covet.

Forget Christmas shopping altogether and get a full day of NFL football in. You will thank me later.

Michael Sarmento is a proud member of the talented writing staff at Fantasy Sharks and a member of The Fantasy Sports Writers Association.