Another Sunday down, another week of backfields to break down. Week three brought us some unforeseen situations in some key backfields. For fantasy owners, the picture of teams backfields is beginning to become more and more clear. For some teams, the questions continue to mount.
In this installment of “The Rushing Report”, we’re going to switch it up a bit. We’re going to dive into one specific backfield that continues to leave owners wondering. In particular, we’ll take a look at the stats, usage, game script, and slight predictions of two teams this week. New England left owners with more questions than answers after week three. With so much confusion around the Patriots rushing attack, they became perfect candidates to profile. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Fantasy Football Rushing Report For Week Three
New England Patriots
In recent years we’ve seen the Patriots bolster some pretty high powered Running Back By Committee’s (RBBC). Operating on blind faith is something that owners may be used to by now when it comes to the Patriots. This year has been no different. We all gasped with pleasure as we saw New England draft stud running back Sony Michel with the 31st pick in this years NFL draft. For a brief moment, we thought there would be a new bell cow in New England. How dare we think we know ANYTHING about the Patriots. With Rex Burkhead and James White still very much in the mix from last season, owners were reminded just how little we know when it comes to this backfield. However, week three brought us some surprises that may make some owners invest MORE into a specific Patriots back.
Week three brought what looked to be a juicy matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Lions had given up 359 rushing yards in the first two weeks of the season and ranked in the bottom five vs the run coming into week three. Unfortunately for Patriots running back owners, the Lions didn’t care about those stats and they came to play. Detroit’s defense came out firing on all cylinders and limited New Englands rushing attack from the jump. To make matters worse, Matt Stafford and the Detroit offense put New England against the ropes early in the game.
Game script was a huge factor in this matchup. Detroit held the ball nearly double the time that New England did (39:15 to 20:45). That clearly hindered the New England offense down the stretch. Time of Possession coupled with multiple scoring drives by the Detroit offense limited New England’s rushing attack. The Patriots only ran the ball 19 times throughout the entire game.
James White was the recipient of the highest market share of the offense as he totaled 52% of the Patriots snaps. Which was heavily due to game script. White logged four attempts for 37 yards on the ground. He also had three receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown through the air. Michel was next up in the pecking order with a 47% share of offensive snaps. He logged 14 attempts for 50 yards on the ground and had one reception for negative yards. Burkhead, who was limited to just 15 snaps, saw two receptions for 26 yards through the air. He also left the game with a neck injury in the fourth quarter of the game.
*Note*- As this was written, Rex Burkhead has been placed on Injured Reserve. Due to him missing the next eight games, he won’t be profiled in the ‘Going Forward’ portion of this article.
Snap count is never a true predictive measure of how a player may pan out in the future. Especially not from a one-game sample size. What it does do is help us see a players usage in certain game scripts. The above portion shows that James White was preferred in passing downs and Sony Michel’s tells us he was preferred in actual rushing situations. With the history of New England running backs being a committee, it’s very likely that both Michel and White will be used according to game script going forward. Situational football has always been of importance to Bill Belichick. That’s unlikely to change throughout the season.
Week four is a home tilt against the Miami Dolphins. A team that ranks seventh against the run so far in 2018. Miami did however just give up 109 rushing yards to Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard of the Oakland Raiders. Despite a tough matchup on paper, owners have a little more clarity to New England’s backfield with the absence of Rex Burkhead. Both Michel and White will carry the load but as stated many times, are susceptible to game script week in and week out. Tom Brady loves pass-catching backs so its wise to lean towards James white being a safer play. White will be capped by Michel in rushing attempts but his production in the air provides him with a higher ceiling. Going forward, White is a fringe RB2-RB3 play in Points Per Reception (PPR) formats. Michel is a solid RB3/FLEX play going forward.