On Monday Night Football (the second one, not the first one), Todd Gurley finally broke out for fantasy owners (kind of). By “broke out,” I mean that he found the end zone not once, but twice — despite averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. That’s as hot as a lukewarm cup of coffee — as sexy as assless chaps with patches sewn in. It was the kind of performance that you had to be pleased with if you had him in your lineup, but at the same time, you were probably also clapping slowly while shooting those around you sneaky glares out the corner of your eyes to see if they were equally excited. On the plus side, Gurley out-touched Brian Hill 17-to-six, one week after Hill appeared to be the much more explosive back even as Gurley rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown. On the down side, Gurley caught just one pass for the second consecutive week (Ito Smith and Hill combined for five grabs), bringing his season total to a measly four receptions. Gurley clearly isn’t the back he once was, however, he did show some elusiveness inside the green zone on his first rushing touchdown, even shaking a second would-be tackler for the score. This is the point we’re at with running backs in 2020, as both Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb went down in Week 4 with significant injuries. I am actually, tentatively, kind-of excited about Gurley. This is not good.

On the opposing sideline, Aaron Jones enjoyed yet another strong week, rushing 15 times for 71 yards (4.7 YPC) and hauling in five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. The Packers look like the cream of the crop in the NFC (right alongside Seattle), as the Super Bowl could (I said could) potentially pit two State Farm figureheads against one another in Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Can you imagine the marketing potential for State Farm!? Let’s all buy stock now! *does quick Google search* It’s already up 4.2% since Sept. 23 — people must really be catching on. Unfortunately, my popularity stock over on Reddit — and in life — is doing the exact opposite. My parents visited last week, and somehow, my father locked himself in the stairwell three different times. Again, this is 2020. This is real. And this is not good.

Before I lose everyone’s attention, let’s get into the Week 5 rest of season top 60 running back rankings. But first — a quick trip around the league.

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There’s a very important place that I want to start today’s fantasy football conversation. Imagine getting fined $100K at work, just like Pete Carroll, Vic Fangio, Jon Gruden, Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan did this past week. Not by Feds. Not by the IRS. Not by your local county judge. Think about that — just for one second. Fined 100-grand, at work. For me, this would bring up a concerning follow-up meeting: “So, uhh… are you asking me to quit? No? Ok… so the next three years are just pro-bono? Got it. Okay. I’ll be over here pummeling my head into this wall. Forever.” Although I don’t have a vendetta against any of those five head coaches, it’s an absolutely insane concept to even consider. In Green Bay, head coach Matt LaFleur actually has an assistant whose job it is to make sure he’s wearing a mask at all times. That’s literally his job! I don’t know if this is better or worse than Sean McVay’s “Get Back” assistant. I guess better, because this at least helps promote safety. Meanwhile, we’ve got reigning Super Bowl Champion Andy Reid looking one step away from being the next Power Ranger with the face shield he’s donning out there. Can you imagine being the intern that was tasked with finding a face covering that would please Andy Reid? Bet you it took weeks. I’d rather work as Philip Rivers’ governess. It’s just like I always say, if Julie Andrews can do it, so can I!

Shame on me for using the NFL’s current sideline mask fiasco for a lede two weeks in a row, but everything starts to get hazy on these late Monday nights. There’s a lot of movement in the rankings this week and even more question marks with certain running backs going down with injuries for undetermined periods of time, but it’s a job that has to be done nonetheless. Am I a hero in plain man’s cloth? No, I am but a man. Before we get into the rankings, let’s take our weekly trip around the league.

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Two days, football fans! Two days! That means the 2020 NFL Season will be upon us in a smaller span of time than your average game of cricket. Quicker than your seven round NFL Draft. And much faster than it takes Kirk Cousins to get rid of the ball on a typical pass play. Just two days and we’ll have NFL football. Two days until you get to turn months of research and late-night draft parties into something that actually matters as all the projection slowly turns into production. Today, we’ll begin with the former as I reveal my top 60 running backs heading into week one of the 2020 season. As a general baseline, I’ll be using half-PPR scoring for these rankings. Moving forward, I will continuously update these 60 backs on a weekly basis to provide an up-to-date snapshot at the top options at the position moving forward. Before we get into the actual rankings, here are some highlights from the opening list.

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Welcome to Stat-o-Matic where we look at some advanced stats around the NFL. As a disclaimer, I am using this space to play around with some numbers and present some interesting findings. But, by no means is this validated or predictive data. I hope that it will lead to meaningful discoveries or it could inspire you to go down your own rabbit hole. We’re going to explore together, crunch some numbers and see what pops out.

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Antonio Brown lit up his former team the Oakland Raiders this week, going off for 5 catches for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns as he fully delivered on his 2nd round fantasy-draft-price-tag. And just when his owners needed him most. He also chipped in 1 carry for 13 yards and he didn’t even fart in anyone’s face in the locker room after the win. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like the AB I know. *checks notes* Ahhhh this was A.J. Brown, not Antonio Brown! My bad, honest mistake. The Titans 2nd round rookie out of Mississippi, A.J. Brown, now has 6 touchdowns and three 100+ yard games on the season. Can I just draft the entire 2019 rookie receiver class on all of my teams next year? Anyway, here’s what else I saw during yesterday afternoons’ games for fantasy football: 

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A quick google search tells me there’s only three predators capable of killing a Jaguar. The first is the anaconda—that big ass snake from the Jon Voight movie. The second is the caiman—these little gator looking guys in Mexico and South America. And the third, of course, is Derrick Henry—which makes sense because he looks a lot like a Predator. In week 13 last year, Henry took 17 carries for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns. I remember that game well because I was required to attend a 2.5 hour holiday lights trolley tour on that Thursday night which, to my surprise, turned out to be much more pleasant than watching Derrick Henry destroy my fantasy hopes and dreams before the week even started. Fast forward around 12 months, if you were playing against The Predator this week then I hope you also had a long Sunday afternoon holiday light trolley tour to attend. Henry rumbled for 159 yards on 19 carries plus another 16 yards on 1 reception and 2 touchdowns—he has 10 touchdowns on the season and is now under protest by PETA for his crimes against Jaguars.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw during yesterday’s late games in fantasy football:

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I know the climb has been brutal for you, as it has for us all. This past Sunday my eyes froze over as I watched many of my teams drop under .500 for the first time. As I write this, I am enduring Jason Witten hand me a loss one excruciating 3 yard catch after another. This section of the season is the darkest grind when the post-draft excitement has long worn off but the playoffs are still far away. Injuries and bye massacres come for us all, but it’s how we respond that defines us.

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James Conner and Benny Snell were ruled out for week 10, paving the way for Jaylen Samuels to lead this backfield. Surprisingly, it was un-drafted RB Trey Edmunds that led the Steelers on the ground- recording the most carries (12), rushing yards (73), and yards per carry (6.1). At the end of the day, Jaylen Samuels ended up with the better fantasy outing (19.3 PPR points to Edmunds 7.3) and recorded more snaps, 40 for Jaylen to Edmunds 17 snaps (63.5% to 27%). Samuels managed an uninspiring 1.2 yards per carry, but salvaged his outing through the air. Jaylen finished with 13 catches on 13 targets for 73 receiving yards. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, James Conner is recovering from an AC joint injury and is expected to miss at least 2 weeks. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that 2019 4th-round rookie, Benny Snell is expected to miss at least 2-3 weeks after undergoing a minor surgery on his meniscus. Trey Edmunds is name to consider adding from waivers this week for fantasy owners desperate for running back depth. Pittsburgh’s next matchups, 4 out of 5, are against the Cleveland Browns (2x), Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bengals. All are plus matchups for the Steelers running game.

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As a much younger donkey I tried out for the highschool basketball team. I was galloping all over the court at tryouts, nobody could defend me. Really thought I had a spot locked up on the team but when the dreaded cut day came around, they gave me the axe. I guess donkey kicking defenders is “frowned upon.” Pssssh. 

Fast forward to present day. RazzBowl cuts are only days away and I’m having flashbacks to basketball tryouts. Half our impressive field of 180 industry competitors, with a handful of fans mixed in, will be eliminated come Monday evening. The night terrors are unbearable!

One person who doesn’t have to worry about the first RazzBowl cut is Pat Fitzmaurice of The Football Girl. Fitzmaurice has now held the lead for three consecutive weeks and has been top 3 in the overall standings for the entire season except for one week when he fell down to 6th place. Pat’s performance to this point has been so dominant that the RazzBowl Committee is considering rebranding the contest as the FitzBowl next year. But the RazzBowl Committee is very corrupt so the CloroxBleachBowl is the front runner.

What makes the RazzBowl especially unique compared to other best ball formats and industry leagues is our addition of a $10 FAAB budget for the entire way season with a minimum of $1 bids. This allows teams to cycle out dead roster spots (e.g. Andrew Luck, Lamar Miller, etc) but it also means each team will only be allowed a maximum of ten moves for the entire season. Every dollar of each competitor’s free agent budget is just as precious as a Bill Belichick smile.

When teams choose to pony up their FAAB, it’s worthwhile to take a look and see why. There could be a goldmine of speculative adds buried in the RazzBowl transactions this season.

Here were the top FAAB buys in the final week of RazzBowl FAAB bidding:

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As I’ve gone through the process of completing the rest of season rankings, I’ve noticed a trend. The number of players that I have a strong confidence in for the rest of the season is dwindling… Fast! Whether this is from the regular attrition of the NFL season or the changing landscape of the way coaches deploy their personnel, it is happening.

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