Ryan Torain returned to the field in a big way last week after missing more than a month of action for the Washington Redskins. His presence was felt early on against Tampa Bay as he ran for more than 100 yards in the first half alone and finished with a career-high 172 yards on 24 carries. Torain has had great success when he’s in the lineup, but he just seems to always be fighting injuries. When healthy this season he has been a near lock to run for 100 yards and has a knack for finding the end zone. His yards-per-carry average on the season is just less than five, and he is the starting running back for Washington moving forward. The only downside to Torain is that he doesn’t catch a lot of balls, but if he’s consistently running for 100 yards every game then that’s not a problem.
Miami running backs have been a huge bust in fantasy this season as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams haven’t been able to get a steady workload out of the backfield. Brown is averaging fewer than 50 yards a game and has just three touchdowns on the year, while Williams gets less than 45 yards a game with three total touchdowns as well. Both running backs have terrible yards-per-carry totals and neither gets more than 10-12 carries per game. The Dolphins do get the Buffalo Bills in Week 15, and I have a feeling that at least one of these backs will have a nice performance. My money goes with Brown because he is the lead back and is used frequently in the passing game. It’s tough to start either one, especially in the playoff rounds, but if you have to, then take a shot with Brown. It might be his only good game of the season.
LeSean McCoy has had a very nice year for fantasy owners and should crack the 1,000-yard mark this weekend against the New York Giants. He has nine total touchdowns and has an amazing 70 receptions for the Eagles, but with the emergence of quarterback Michael Vick, McCoy is getting less and less carries every week. He’s only averaging about 12 carries a game over the last month and has been making up for it in the receiving department, but I don’t like his matchup this weekend against a hot New York team (and no I’m not talking about the Jets). I know people will think I’m crazy, but I would consider benching McCoy this weekend if you have a lot of running back options. The Giants smothered Adrian Peterson last week and kept McCoy in check in Week 11 until the fourth quarter when he busted off that lucky 50-yard touchdown run. I know you never bench your studs in fantasy, but don’t be surprised if he has a less than spectacular day.
Mike Williams, WR, Seattle
Williams has missed the last three games with a foot injury, but has been practicing this week and should play, if not start, on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. He is the sleeper of all sleepers in Week 15 because he’s had a quiet, but solid season. Even though he’s only scored one touchdown, Williams has had three games with double-digit receptions and three games with at least 100 yards receiving. And he’s only played in 10 games so those are pretty impressive stats. Williams had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games before he injured his foot so look for him to pick up where he left off. He’ll be the No. 1 option the last three weeks for Seattle and could put up some nice numbers in that time. If you need receiving help then take a look at the former USC standout.
Owen Daniels, TE, Houston
Daniels says he is fully healed from his ACL injury that he suffered early last season and it showed on Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. He had five grabs for 91 yards which are solid numbers out of your tight end, but he would have had a monster night if it wasn’t for three dropped balls. Daniels mishandled an easy catch down the middle that would have gone for at least 30 yards and a few other shorter passes that would have given him close to 150 yards on the night. You could say he’s still a little rusty and give him a break because the important news here is that he’s healthy and getting plenty of targets in a pass-happy Houston offense. Daniels could be a nice surprise for someone needing a tight end and should be started in all formats over the last three games of 2010.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego
Mathews got back in the Chargers’ lineup in Week 14 and had a very productive day. He got 16 carries against a good Kansas City run defense and posted 65 yards and a touchdown. This was his first score since Week 8 and even though injuries are the main reason for that, it’s still a good sign for owners who have stuck with Mathews all season. He was an early pick in fantasy drafts this season and was expected to have a huge year, but he just couldn’t stay healthy. Mathews is now in a time share with Mike Tolbert, with Tolbert getting most of the work, but after last week’s outing he should see close to double digit carries the last three games. The Chargers get San Francisco, Cincinnati and Denver to end the season, all of which are favorable matchups for running backs.
Lock of the Week
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina
I’ve never been surer of my lock of the week than I am with Stewart in Week 15. He has been on an absolute tear over the last three games and now has a firm grasp on the starting running back position. Stewart is completely healthy and is getting plenty of work in the dismal Carolina offense. He’s rushed for 323 yards on 51 carries with a touchdown during this span and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Last week Stewart ran for 133 yards alone against a solid Falcons’ defense. He broke off impressive runs of 48 and 42 yards. His matchup for this Sunday couldn’t be any easier either as he gets to run all over the Arizona Cardinals at home so expect a huge boost in your lineup this week as Stewart could certainly be the main reason you advance in the playoffs. Keep in mind Mike Goodson will still steal some carries from Stewart, but there will be plenty to go around against the Cardinals. Stewart will still see close to 20 carries and should crack the century mark in rushing yards.