Fantasy Football Week 1 Impact Report: Running Backs

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills hands off to C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 40-14. Spiller had his first 100 yard rushing day in the NFL. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Whether good or bad, these are the performances that you should take the most notice of for running backs.


Oh man did I miss it. There were plenty of exciting finishes, a lot of points, and unfortunately a whole slew of new faces on the injury reports.

This season I will be detailing the biggest impacts at each fantasy position for you to take notice of as we go through the 2012 NFL season. Week 1 is always very interesting because speculation starts to turn into actual facts, production, or lack thereof. Some situations in the backfield started to get sorted out this week, no matter what Mike Shanahan has to say about it.

Here are the running back performances that you'll want to read about to be "in the know." (A phrase I just came up with.)

Fred Jackson (BAD) and C.J. Spiller (GREAT) against the Jets

Jackson left with a knee injury, thought to be a potential sprained lateral collateral ligament, and will have an MRI on Monday. Why do you handcuff your top running backs? Because then you just plug in C.J. Spiller next week against the Chiefs. Spiller had a career-high 169 yards, a touchdown, and 25 yards receiving.

He really seemed to get the hang of things as the starter at the end of 2011 and is a good bet as a starter going forward, for however long that may be.

Stevan Ridley against the Titans (GOOD)

With backup Shane Vereen out, this was Ridley's opportunity to shut the door on any possibility that he wouldn't get the lionshare of carries during the season. He slapped around the Titans for 125 yards on 21 carries, a touchdown, and two catches for 27 yards. That performance should keep him around as the featured back, even if the Patriots are still a throw-first team. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was one of the league-leading touchdown scorers for running backs over the last two seasons.

Ridley looks like a must-start and will face the Cardinals in Week 2.

Chris Johnson against the Patriots (BAD)

During his massively disappointing 2011 season, Johnson never had a game as bad as this one. He had three games last year where he rushed for less than two yards per carry, but he never sucked quite this bad: 11 carries for four yards. The Patriots' Aaron Hernandez had more rushing yards than Johnson, who rushed for over 2,000 yards not long ago.

It took a long time for Johnson's owners to give up on him in 2011 and despite a short run where he was good, he was mostly terrible for an entire year and he just put up the worst game of his career. Owners won't wait that long to kick him to the bench and it's possible that the Titans might do the same, or at least reduce his carries considerably. This performance was shameful.

Put him on the bench, don't give him another chance until he proves something consistently. He's been way more bad than good in the last year.

Alfred Morris against the Saints (GOOD)

Morris was given first crack at the starting job for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins and we're told that the team will just go with the hot hand. He's got them oven mitts on after rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns in an upset win over the Saints.

His 3.4 yards per carry and zero catches aren't too encouraging but there's little reason to think that he won't at least be the starter next week against the Rams. He should be worth a flex start.

Trent Richardson against the Eagles (BAD)

Word before the game was that Richardson was active but would be spelled often by Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty. What happened instead was that T-Rich had 19 carries and the other two had none. Good news?

No. Richardson gained just 39 yards on those carries, barely more than wide receiver Travis Benjamin (35 on one carry) and Brandon Weeden (25 on two.) It's early to get a read on how good the Eagles rush defense will be this year, but it ranked 16th last season. Not elite.

Running back is one of the positions in the NFL where a player can perform early, but it's possible that Richardson needs more time. Or that the run blocking is awful. Or that he wasn't 100 percent healthy. Either way, he's a concerning start against the Bengals next week.

Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers against the Chiefs (BAD)

The word going into the year was that the Falcons would pass more and use Turner less, while getting Rodgers more time. The results after one week: 11 carries for Turner and seven for Rodgers. That resulted in just 32 yards for Turner and 22 for Rodgers.

Ignore what he did last season and consider Turner as a guy you keep on the bench, starting next week on Monday night against the Broncos.

David Wilson against the Cowboys (BAD)

Two carries, four yards, one fumble, one doghouse with his name on it. Wilson has work to do to prove himself worthy of time in Tom Coughlin's offense before he'll ever take carries away from Ahmad Bradshaw. Good news for Bradshaw, devastating for Wilson.

Maurice Jones-Drew against the Vikings (ENCOURAGING)

It's just encouraging to see him not pull a Chris Johnson after a holdout. MJD had 77 yards rushing on 4.1 yards per carry and 18 yards receiving. It's not phenomenal or anything, but it kind of is considering that MJD didn't play in the preseason or practice with his teammates until just recently. He's still a running back 1, he will face a tough Texans team next week but is a must-start as usual.

Adrian Peterson against the Jaguars (GOOD)

Similarly on the other side of the field was encouragement that another elite running back was able to play and play well. Peterson had 17 carries, 84 yards and two touchdowns. Most were telling others to not play Peterson in Week 1, the safe play, and he made those that did pay for it.

Get him back in your lineup and look for a potentially huge day against the Colts in Week 2.

Doug Martin (GOOD) and LeGarrette Blount (FINISHED?) against the Panthers

I would have never touched Blount as it is, but after seeing Martin carry it 24 times and Blount take it three times, he's officially on the outs. As of this writing, he's owned in 39 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Could be 39 percent too many unless you need a handcuff to Martin. Truthfully though, Blount already showed that he's not an every down back last season.

Martin had 95 yards rushing and 23 receiving, establishing himself as a running back 2. He gets a Giants defense that was burned up by DeMarco Murray on Wednesday.

The Panthers (WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?) against the Bucs

Jonathan Stewart missed the game, which should have been good news for DeAngelo Williams. Instead, the league's suspected top rushing offense carried it a total of 13 times for 10 yards. Let me say that again ... the PANTHERS (with Cam Newton) ran it for 10 yards on 13 carries. Williams had -1 yard on six carries.

Are the Bucs an elite rush defense? Is the Panthers o-line off it's game?

It was hard to support starting Panthers running backs in fantasy before Week 1. It would be damn crazy until we figure this thing out.

Frank Gore against the Packers (GOOD)

One thing we did learn is that Gore can still be a primary ball carrier, even if that might change a little bit when Brandon Jacobs returns. He got just 16 carries, but made the most of it by going for 112 yards against Green Bay. LaMichael James got no touches, while Kendall Hunter had 9 for 41.

It looks right now like Gore is still a safe start, which makes all the sense in the world now that you think about it. He gets the Lions next week.

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