I’m a big fan of the Motor City Kitties. Their 40+ year continuous tank job has set the stage for many a successful Vikings team. Throughout early 2022, the Lions have given fantasy managers so many gifts, and so many headaches. On Sunday, the Detroit Lions blew past the the 7-2 New York Giants, improving to 4-6 on the year and hunting down second place in the NFC North. How’d they do it? The way we all expected: 3 touchdowns from Jamaal Williams and Justin Jackson finishing as the leading rusher. Sigh. At least we’ve got Amon-Ra St. Brown cosplaying as Scrooge with his targets. Tis the season! 

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Running backs ranked 40 thru 80 is money time for the fantasy managers looking to employ the RB Zero, RB Hero, or Wide Net approach to the position. If you can hit on a player or two from this group, they can improve your fantasy fortunes. Knowledge is the key. Not all third-string running backs are created equal. Good fantasy managers will know which backups are high-upside youngsters and which backups are aging veterans in the din of their NFL career. I recommend readers pay less attention to the rank of the players in this group, and more to their story, as the rankings from this group can be capricious. Pick out a dozen or so that you like, and make a point to get some of them.

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After several weeks of boring stinkers on Thursday Night Football, we got our second week in a row with an exciting Thursday Night Football game! Just like last week, it didn’t look that way in the first half. The first half should have had more scoring, but we had a fumble, and interception and 2 turnovers on downs. The Chargers had 2 drives where they had 1st and goal from the KC 5-yard line and could not put points on the board. They still went into the half with a lead, but the score was only 14-10 and we were missing the fireworks we expected from 2 of the best teams in the AFC. The second half delivered though. We saw Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert go toe to toe with big plays and touchdown drives including an exciting back and forth 4th quarter. The Chiefs were able to pull off a huge divisional road win in overtime with a 34-28 final over the Chargers.

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I was working in the lab, late one night. When my eyes beheld an eerie sight. For my monster on his slab began to rise and suddenly to my surprise… He did the Mash. The Monster Mash

Just take these wise words in for a moment. Breathe them in. The monster… he did the mash. And don’t we all do the mash sometimes, much to the chagrin and sometimes excitement to our contemporaries? Yes, even sometimes it will truly be a “graveyard smash”. 

What was this section about? Oh uh Halloween injury report. Right. There was a thread here but I got carried away in the poetry of Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers (Side note: Here’s a great TV performance of Bobby Pickett doing the Monster Mash, a real masterclass in making really weird faces and being a weirdo).

The teams who will have some extra trick-or-treating time on bye this week are the Ravens and the Raiders. See ya next week! 

Let’s get into this week’s horror show!

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Ah, do you smell that in the air? No, it’s not the sweet hoppy smell of the IPAs flowing at Urban Meyer’s Pint House. No, that’s the smell of Football Sunday… and the smell of torn tendons and pulled hammys. That’s gotta hurt! Still probably can’t hurt as bad as I’m sure many of you out there in the ether are with depleted rosters. God bless the poor souls playing Davis Mills this week. You will be in my prayers. 

Anyway, let’s dive into this week’s injury headlines hot off the presses!

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Well, my precious goblins and ghouls, the football season is finally upon us. And naturally, with that, I have the grave responsibility to inform you fine specimens of the injuries that can and will impact your Week 1 fantasy rosters. 

Such is life. 

Let’s jump in and see who might be available on your waiver or can receive a bump in production from the gaps left by these poor, hurt souls. 

Shall we? 

The first injury to look at is… *checks notes* Oh the entire Ravens backfield. That’s not good! In just a few days the Ravens have lost their breakout star J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and the most recently Gus Edwards to terrible season-ending injuries. In response, the team has signed Latavius Murray along with Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to their practice squad presumably to try to keep Lamar from having to rush approximately 10,000,000 yards per game. As of now, it looks like the Ravens are going to start the last running back left standing before the leg injury bloodbath, Ty’Son Williams, who might just have an opportunity against an uncertain Raiders pass rush under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and a reshaped defense. Look for Latavius Murray and Ty’Son Williams as a possible pick-up in leagues you might have had one of the injured fellows in and if you are feeling very adventurous maybe take a look at Le’Veon Bell or Devonta Freeman for a possible bounce-back campaign. I’m still not betting on that though, sorry Blair

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All season long, we’ve been grinding through the top-60 rest of season running backs. There has been a lot of turnover, an excess of movement both in and outside of the top-24, and a heck of a lot of injuries and COVID-19 to navigate around — both in the fantasy realm and the real world. But, alas, we’ve finally made it to Week 14. Hopefully, for many of you, this means the start of a successful playoff run, as Weeks 14-16 is when the vast majority of fantasy playoffs occur. For this very reason, I find myself feeling sentimental as I write this. At times, I led you stray, and at others, I did my job well. Now, as we leave the regular season behind and enter the postseason threshold, I have the opportunity to provide you with one last set of running back rankings as it relates to the 2020 season. In this final installment, I’ll be focusing on the set of matchups each running back faces over the next three weeks, as I’ve replaced the previous “bye” week component in the rankings with a look at each respective player’s “upcoming schedule.” And before you ask, yes — I do have David Montgomery ranked as a top-10 rest of season, fantasy playoff run option for that very reason, among others.

But before we get to the rest of that top 10, let’s take one final, albeit emotional trip around the league together. Feel free to bring a pack of Kleenex or, if you wish, simply deploy your own makeshift snot sleeve. Personally, I haven’t cried this hard since I said goodbye to my foreign exchange student in 10th grade. It was emotional. We played a lot of ping pong together. To fully appreciate this last ROS top-60 segment, I highly recommend playing the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Blast it from the speakers as you digest the fickle words to follow.

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In a casual conversation with my future mother-in-law this past week, she adamantly described Derrick Henry as “sexy.” Now, I’m no expert on the perceived attractiveness of 6-foot-3, 250-pound behemoth running backs, but I do know one thing: there’s only one. There’s only one Derrick Henry, and as he approaches a fantasy playoff schedule as easy as hiding a piece of Thanksgiving stuffing in Matt Patricia’s beard at the end of No-Shave November, we’re likely to see history repeat itself yet again. Remember, Henry averaged 24.2 half-PPR points in his final five games of 2019, which was only slightly better than the 23.1 points he averaged across the final five games of 2018. Historically, Henry is stretch-run hero — a fantasy playoff superman in a class all his own. Even if Henry hadn’t erupted for 37.5 half-PPR points in Week 12, he would likely enter the Week 13 rankings as the RB1 overall, as an upcoming matchup with the Browns is the only thing that stands between him and a remaining schedule against the Jaguars, Lions, Packers and Texans. No matter how your league is structured, those matchups scream league-winning upside, and there’s no doubt in my mind Henry will again have a high ownership percentage on championship rosters. But, since Henry did pop off in Week 12, let’s unpack it: 27 carries, 178 yards, three rushing touchdowns; two receptions (four targets), seven yards. All three of Henry’s rushing touchdowns came in first half, as he legitimately provided three healthy weeks of fantasy value in a single half. Now I understand the “sexy” part. 

While Henry is up to RB1 this week, there’s a lot of other movement on the top-60 list and, as always, an overwhelming amount of injury updates to digest. So, before we get to the rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

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Frank Reich is a fine man. A good man, even. Sometimes, I sit around daydreaming, wondering what it would be like if he were my father. He would no-doubt instill many wholesome values in me, his son, and be a great fishing partner. He simply has that look about him — the one that comes with a Geppetto-eque twinkle in one’s eye — that exudes wisdom and level-headedness. Personally, I believe he’s a tremendous football coach, perhaps one of the most underrated in the entire league. The Indianapolis Colts are incredibly fortunate that Josh McDaniels spurned their head coaching offer back in the February of 2018 to remain with New England, leading to Reich landing the job as a sort of second choice candidate at the time. Since then, he’s done wonders with the team and carries many strengths as the man in charge, but he’s largely been a fantasy enemy to this point — especially as it relates to the running back position. That’s because he treats his backfield like a true father figure would: he believes in all of his backs, especially the young Jonathan Taylor, and is always willing to give dish out a second chance. The issue is… it’s hard to predict when those second chances are going to come. Heading into the week, Nyheim Hines was one of the highest risers up most rest-of-season rankings after receiving 12 carries in Week 10, rushing for 70 yards and one touchdown in addition to his typical receiving workload: five receptions for 45 yards and another touchdown. Jonathan Taylor saw just seven carries in that game, to which he translated to a mere 12 yards, which came on the heels of a Week 9 game in which Reich gave Taylor a measly six carries. Fast-forward to Week 11: Taylor rushed 22 times for 90 yards, also catching four passes (on four targets) for 24 yards. Those 22 carries equated to 68.8% of running back carries (22/32), as his 26 total touches were by far the highest amongst the Indy trio. Jordan Wilkins (four carries, 21 yards; one reception on one target, 15 yards) touched the ball just five times, while Hines (six carries, two yards; three receptions on four targets, 31 yards) registered nine touches. It’s certainly encouraging to see Taylor so involved in a crucial, competitive game that the Colts ultimately won in exciting fashion — but what can we expect from him moving into the home stretch of the 2020 fantasy football season?

After sinking to RB30 overall in my rankings last week, Taylor is back up into RB2 territory thanks in large part to an incredibly easy schedule from here on out. The only truly difficult matchup remaining for Taylor will come in Week 16 against the Steelers, which isn’t ideal as it’s when most fantasy championships will occur, but until then he’ll go up against the Titans, Texans, Raiders and Texans, again. There are certainly RB2 options with safer floors, but Taylor is once again trending up and represents a much more attractive Flex play than he did one week ago.

There’s a lot more to dive into this week, so before getting to the rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

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THUMP. That was Week 10 crushing us in the face. It was unpredictable, I know, but let’s begin the conversation about the running back position this past week with a look at some of the names that finished inside RB1 territory, with their overall rank listed: RB3 Nyheim Hines, RB4 Ronald Jones, RB5, D’Andre Swift, RB6 Devontae Booker, RB7 Rex Burkhead, RB8 Antonio Gibson, RB10 Wayne Gallman, RB11 Malcolm Brown and RB12 Salvon Ahmed. That’s three-fourths of the past week’s RB1 finishers going to running backs that were likely all drafted outside of the first five rounds in your fantasy draft and at least three, maybe four players who may not have even been rostered in your league as of Sunday night. Next, let’s move over to RB2 territory: RB14 J.D. McKissic, RB15 Boston Scott, RB17 Kalen Ballage and RB23 Alex Collins. Overall, that’s 12, or half, of Week 10’s RB1-2 crop going to names that likely required very little draft capital to make your roster. Some of those names are less surprising, like Swift and Gibson, but for the sake of argument, both running backs finished outside the top-28 running backs drafted in 2020. It’s already been a miraculous year at the position — for some, perhaps heart-breaking is a more fitting adjective — and the madness ensued in Week 10, to put it lightly. Fortunately, we can at least say we did not see the same absurd number of running back injuries as we’ve grown accustomed to.

Even so, it was a truly unpredictable week. Before you begin beating your forehead against the keyboard and your boss yells at you (or partner/child/parents/etc. for those still stuck at home) for disrupting the workplace over fantasy football for the umpteenth time since the onset of September, remember this: we’re all in it together. We’re all playing the same game, with the same weekly uncertainty factored in and with the same information at our fingertips. That’s reason for composure. That’s reason to keep fighting the good fight because, as you may have heard me say many times before, the grinders beat the whiners. I’ve actually never said that before, but you get the point.

It’s time to get to the rankings, but before we do, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

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What in the Anthony Lynn is going on in San Diego!? I mean, Los Angeles!? Justin Jackson (zero carries; zero targets) seemed like a safe RB2 play with upside heading into the weekend, but suffered a first quarter knee injury and exited the contest prior to receiving a touch. In his stead, it was Kalen Ballage (15 carries, 69 yards, one rushing TD; two receptions on three targets, 15 yards) who burst onto the scene and answered the call. With the opportunity, Ballage finished as Week 9’s RB4, posting 15.4 half-PPR points. That was good for RB4 overall, you might say? Yes, indeed. Times are tough. The RB landscape has a bleaker outlook than the FBI Director’s job security. Joshua Kelley (nine carries, 28 yards; five receptions on five targets, 31 yards) did very little with his 14 touches, managing just 3.1 YPC and finishing outside RB2 range as the week’s RB25 with 8.4 points. Ballage, on the other hand, cruised his way to 4.6 YPC and was targeted three times by Justin Herbert in his debut. If you didn’t even know Ballage was on the Chargers until this past Sunday night, don’t fret! You’re not alone! With Troymaine Pope out with a concussion, Los Angeles elected to activate Ballage off their practice squad just over one month after the New York Jets cut him on Oct. 5 — making this entire situation all the more hilarious.

As we attempt to forecast the weeks ahead, there is still no official word as to when fantasy managers might expect Austin Ekeler to return outside of details provided on his Instagram account. For some of you, that may be the definition of a scholarly source. Ekeler showed that he started running last week and is ever-so-slowly increasing his activity, making a Week 12 return seem like a possibility, albeit an optimistic one. I speculated last week that his chances of returning at all seemed to be dwindling, but we may in fact see him on the field again in 2020. In the interim, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Ballage is the Chargers running back to own. *hears a crack, stops to think, then plummets to the ground* It was an incredibly precarious limb.

There’s a lot more to discuss and break down this week, so before getting into the Week 10 rest of season running back rankings, let’s take a quick trip around the league.

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This is a really, really bad week for Covid in the NFL. It’s been overshadowed as we await election results, over one third of teams have reported positive cases this week. All we can hope for is false positives and to keep things moving as we have reached the halfway point of the season. Part of the reason this is coming out on Friday instead of Thursday is because I didn’t think there was a chance San Francisco and Green Bay would play on Thursday Night. It’s probably for the best, because JaMycal Hasty would have been a start and I haven’t seen him touch the ball yet.

With the NFL sort of doing everything on the fly this season, I don’t understand why this game couldn’t have been pushed back to Sunday after Kendrick Bourne’s false positive. I would have thrown a fit if I were San Francisco. But instead of ranting and raving in here, let’s dig into the starts and sits for week 9.

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