Running back injuries have crept up at the wrong time for fantasy football owners.
The most serious of those is to Denver’s Willis McGahee, who is out for the rest of the fantasy season because of a torn MCL in his right knee. The former Bill also suffered a fractured leg last week. McGahee’s injury leaves a mess in the Broncos’ backfield.
Ronnie Hillman is likely to take over the starter, but he might share time with Lance Ball. Hillman is the more explosive runner, but at 190 pounds, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to handle the workload of a feature back. Hillman has just one touchdown this season, but he’s got an inviting matchup Sunday against the Chiefs.
In Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion late in Week 11. While he hasn’t officially been ruled out, it’s worth picking up Bryce Brown just in case. Complicating matters somewhat is the Eagles don’t play until Monday night, but Brown’s got flex appeal against the Panthers in what should be a featured role.
Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew also isn’t expected back for Week 12. The Jaguars are expected to make a change at running back, starting Jalen Parmele in place of Rashad Jennings. Parmele got 24 carries for 80 yards in Week 12 against Houston, and has a much easier matchup Sunday against Tennessee.
It’s also questionable whether Oakland’s Darren McFadden can get back in the lineup Sunday because of an ankle injury. That means another start for Marcel Reece, who was a fantasy beast last week with 193 total yards and 19 points. It won’t be as easy for Reece on Sunday at Cincinnati, as the Bengals give up just 81 rushing yards per game at home. Reece, though, still is a solid No. 2 play. If he’s still available in your league, find a spot for him.
Colin Kaepernick’s coming-out party last week for the 49ers against the Bears won’t be just a one-week fantasy wonder. Signs are pointing to Kaepernick starting again Sunday in New Orleans. The Saints are allowing an NFL high 20.9 points per game.
Kaepernick has the added benefit of being a dual threat. He became the first player in Division I history to throw for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 yards during his collegiate career at Nevada.
In Jacksonville, former Bills coach Mike Mularkey will turn to Chad Henne at quarterback after the team placed second-year veteran Blaine Gabbert on injured reserve. Henne had the surprise fantasy performance of Week 11, throwing for 354 yards and four touchdowns - against the Texans, no less. A repeat performance shouldn’t be expected, but the Titans are allowing opposing quarterbacks 17.6 points per game. Henne also should have plenty of motivation - Mularkey said if he plays well over the final six weeks of the season, he’ll go into 2013 as the Jaguars’ starter.
In Chicago, Jay Cutler was limited in practice Thursday as he recovers from a concussion. If he’s ready to play Sunday, he’s a solid start. In his past four games against Minnesota, Cutler’s thrown 12 touchdowns and four interceptions and has a 104.5 quarterback rating. Minnesota is giving up 18.7 points per game to opposing QBs.
Analyzing the Bills
C.J. Spiller owners rejoice! The Bills said this week the Spiller will get the “majority” of carries Sunday against the Colts, firmly establishing him as a No. 1 running back. Fred Jackson owners should also take note. Jackson is nothing more than a flex player in deep leagues now.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has the potential to put up some points in a game that has shootout potential. The Colts have allowed an average of 304 passing yards per game in the past three weeks. That’s also good news for Bills receiver Stevie Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler, both of whom can start Sunday. For deeper leagues, just a hunch: Donald Jones will score Sunday.
As for the Colts, running back Vick Ballard is eighth in the league with 76 rushes over the past five weeks. He’s the starting back. Ballard doesn’t have a touchdown rush this season, but the Bills have given up 16 of those, most in the NFL.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is worthy of starting. He has thrown eight touchdowns and just two interceptions this season at Lucas Oil Stadium. Receiver Reggie Wayne is a must start, while rookie T.Y. Hilton is a sleeper option. He’s got three 100-yard games this season, including last week’s six-catch, 100-yard game that included two touchdowns.