Just like that, week two of the NFL season is in the books. Just as week one presented some surprises, so did this past week. In my last article, we profiled some questionable backfields and how they may shake out for Week Two. This week will be doing more of the same for Week Three in the second installment of ‘The Rushing Report’.
Week Two presented some enticing backfield matchups. Some matchups left us with more questions than answers. This week, we’ll take a look at the Baltimore, Detroit, and Kansas City backfields. All three seemed to have questions following Week Two’s matchups so we’ll be diving into some stat lines, usage, and week three matchups to help owners navigate the murky backfields of these three teams. Let’s dive in.
Fantasy Football Rushing Report For Week Two
Coming into the season it was expected that Baltimore would boast a three-headed backfield with Alex Collins leading the charge. Behind him, Kenneth Dixon would be next in the pecking order with Buck Allen third in line. Unfortunately for Dixon truthers, he was injured in their Week One matchups against Buffalo. Early reports said that Dixon would miss some time, but ended up being placed on Injured Reserve. Buck Allen owners, rejoice! With Dixon now on the IR, Allen was in line for increased work. Something that some fantasy owners anticipated happening with Dixon’s injury history.
With Dixon now on IR, the efforts turned to Collins and Allen to lead the backfield in Baltimore’s Week Two matchup with Cincinnati. Cincinnati was coming off a week one tilt with Indianapolis. They only allowed 75 rushing yards to the likes of Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Heins. Collins and Allen saw similar production against Cincinnati in week two. Collins had nine attempts for 35 yards and three receptions for 55 yards through the air for a total 12 fantasy points. Allen logged six attempts for eight yards with one rushing TD. Allen also snagged five receptions for 36 yards through the air bringing his total to 15.4 fantasy points on the week.
The statistics suggest that Baltimore was horrible in running the ball. However, that wasn’t entirely the case. Defensive miscues and Cincinnati’s hot offensive start forced Joe Flacco to try to find success through the air with 55 pass attempts. Leaving the run game a bit dry throughout the game. Both backs had an identical share of offensive snaps with 49% but failed to become a part of the game script.
What’s puzzling for owners isn’t the collapse of the Baltimore’s rushing game in week two. It’s how in the world can Buck Allen have an identical share of the backfield as Alex Collins, right? Collins is clearly the better runner through the tackles. He can catch the ball and has the metrics to be a bell cow. Or so we thought. John Harbough clearly can’t stay away from Allen. Harbough proved his trust in Allen when Baltimore found themselves on the one-yard line and Allen got the carry for what was his one TD against Cinncinati. Something that owners could see plenty more of in the coming weeks.
Week three presents a home matchup against the Broncos who held the Raiders to under 100 total rushing yards in week two. Marshawn Lynch was able to rush for 65 yards and bagged a rushing TD against proving that the Denver defense can let up to rushing production. The game script will be critical in this matchup. If Baltimore can keep pace with Denver, we should see a more balanced approach from the offense. Alex Collins will remain a starter candidate as the better runner of the two. In deeper leagues, Buck Allen is a viable option as a Flex/RB3 option. Denver’s front seven is no joke. If Baltimore does find themselves down early, Allen could see some good use on passing downs. Don’t panic, there are far worse options this week than either one of these guys.
I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to profile the Lions, but here we are. Fantasy owners had a feeling this backfield was going to be messy when Detroit drafted Kerryon Johnson in April just after signing LeGarrette Blount in the offseason. All while continuing to roster both Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Needless to say, fantasy owners were right. With all the talent in the backfield coming into the season, it was anyone’s guess as to who would be “the guy” for Detroit. So far through two weeks, were no closer to an answer than we were in the offseason.
In the wake of a disastrous week one performance that saw Blount sustain an injury after posting negative three rushing yards, the Lions were hoping to get better production from their backfield in week two. Owners thought the injury to Blount would leave the door open for Johnson and Riddick to see increased touches. Unfortunately, Blount made his way back into the starting lineup just in time for week two. With what looked to be a favorable matchup against San Francisco, none of the three backs made a lasting impression. Blount logged eight rush attempts for 38 yards and one reception for negative three yards. Johnson logged eight attempts for 43 yards and five receptions for 23 yards through the air. Riddick was used exclusively in the passing game as he saw nine receptions for 47 yards through the air. None of the three were able to find pay dirt.
Detroit found themselves throwing the ball a ton more than they ran it against San Francisco. QB Matt Stafford tossed the rock 53 times on Sunday. Totaling just 18 rushing plays throughout the entire game. Game script aside, this was still yet another terrible outing for the Lions backfield.
If we evaluate the backfield in a week two vacuum, it’s clear that the best RB on the field was Kerryon Johnson. Despite Blount getting the start in the first two weeks, this has been the consensus around the football world for a while now. The back to back posting of negative yards for Blount is also something that Detroit has to be keeping a close eye on. Fantasy owners of any of the three would be wise to do the same. For now, Johnson is second in the pecking order but has more than enough opportunity to get more reps if Blount can’t seem to produce on the ground. Riddick looks like he will retain some passing-down work for now.
Week Three looks to be an unfortunate matchup against New England. It has the potential to quickly get out of hand if Detroit can’t put points up early. LeGarrette Blount is a risky play in any format going forward. If he struggles to produce on the ground he likely gives more work to Kerryon Johnson in the coming weeks. For Johnson owners, that’s music to their ears. Johnson has seen increased snap % from Week One to Week Two and looks to continue the trend down the road. This week may not be the week he breaks out but the signs are becoming more and more clear. Johnson isn’t a start candidate this week but if you do, be wary that the outcome may not be what you want. But don’t give up hope if he doesn’t. His usage in the offense is trending up.
Kansas City Chiefs
I know what you’re thinking. Take a deep breath and relax before we get into why I’m profiling the Chiefs this week. Ok, good? sweet. The past two weeks have been of a head-scratcher for the Kansas City backfield. Plenty of people had Kareem Hunt pegged to be a sure-fire RB1 in fantasy. So far he hasn’t produced to that expectation. People speculated that the return of Spencer Ware would eat into Kareem Hunt’s production. They were wrong. Its actually been the emergence of the young bull Patrick Mahomes that’s staggered Hunts effectiveness in the Kansas City offense.
Week one was a huge coming out party for the Chiefs. But most of the surprise came through the arm of Patrick Mahomes. We saw the Chiefs demolish the Chargers through the air for 256 yards and four TDs. Week two was even crazier. Kansas City made its way to Pittsburg in what was already looking to be a firefight. It didn’t disappoint. Kansas City dropped 21 points on the Pittsburg defense in the first quarter and from there it turned into a shootout as the Steelers clawed their way back into the game late in the second quarter.
Kareem Hunt Saw 18 attempts for 75 yards on the ground and snagged one reception for a five-yard TD through the air. He also averaged 4.1 yards-per-carry against the Steelers defense. Not a bad outing at all. Spencer Ware was an afterthought as he garnered just one attempt for three yards on the day. Hunt had a great day due to his TD reception but there are still some issues with his usage going on.
The problem for Hunt now lies in the new offensive philosophy of Kansas City. Last season, he yielded similar touches (35) in the first two games as he has in the first two games of this season (38). However, his usage in the passing game has dropped. Through his first two games last season he had eight receptions. So far this season, he only has one. What that tells us is he is without a doubt the only RB that matters in Kansas City as seen by his rushing attempts. But he isn’t a preferred receiving target for Patrick Mahomes. Were seeing the Kansas City offense evolve into a pass-heavy team that likes to push the ball down the field. So far, Hunt hasn’t been a part of that attack over the past two games.
Week three is the Chiefs first home game and its a great matchup for them. They will face off against the 49ers who rank 14th against the run and have given up an average of 107 rushing yards per game over the past two weeks. Hunt remains a must-start in all formats due to his market share of the offense but its best to remain cautious. If Patrick Mahomes continues to sling the rock, Hunt may continue to lose his receiving value. something that made him a valuable asset last season. Hopefully, for fantasy owners, he can get his production going on the ground and save us all from some heartbreak.