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Fantasy Points Against: Running Backs to Start and Sit Week 9

,Fantasy stats based around 4 points per passing TD and 0.5 points per reception.

There are two main approaches when look at fantasy player scoring trends. The first is to see how that player is performing from an output perspective. The second is to look at how their upcoming opponent has performed.

This article leans heavily on Fantasy Points Against (FPA). This number measures the total fantasy points given up per game to a position group by a defense. Other stats referenced may come from sources including Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Football Outsiders.


David Johnson

Sometimes consistency is easier to appreciate than explosiveness. David Johnson owners haven’t had the “big game” that other starting running backs provide, but Johnson has consistently turned in solid games.

Part of his success has come from sheer snap count. Johnson has been in on 79.4% of his teams offensive snaps this season, a number that is second only to Ezekiel Elliott among running backs.

The Jaguars defense has been bad this year on many fronts but specifically has allowed the 5th most FPA to running backs. When these teams first met, Johnson had his only 100+ scrimmage yard performance. Jacksonville has also allowed three running backs to score two or more touchdowns against them.

David Johnson (Brett Coomer/Getty Images)

The Texans are favored in this divisional game with a good chance of being up late. This could yield even more touches for Johnson who has been the bell cow back for them this season. Start Johnson as a strong RB2.

Justin Jackson

The Los Angeles Chargers face the Las Vegas Raiders in a divisional game that may have wild card implications. It took only a few weeks for the Chargers to have a suitable replacement for Philip Rivers at quarterbacks and it has only taken a few weeks to find a fine replacement for the injured Austin Ekeler at running back.

Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley have been going back and forth seeking a lead back role. In last week’s loss to the Broncos, Jackson led Chargers running backs in touches with 20 followed by Troymaine Pope at 15 and Kelley even further behind.

Las Vegas has allowed the 6th most FPA to running backs and seven Top 24 running back performances. One of these Chargers running backs will have a good game.

Against a defense that has given up eight rushing touchdowns to running backs, Jackson seems to be the favorite to succeed. He is an average RB2 play and strong flex in all formats.


Alexander Mattison

Minnesota faces a Detroit defense that has been weak this season, especially to running backs. The Lions have allowed seven Top 24 running back performances as a part of their 2nd most FPA to running backs.

What makes Mattison a sleeper is game script. The Lions are missing their starting quarterback and wide receiver in Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay. If the Vikings can craft a strong enough lead, they may want to both run the clock out late and rest their starters. Dalvin Cook certainly could use fewer touches after dealing with injury a couple weeks ago.

For teams that have their usual flex starters on a bye or just want to take a chance, Mattison is likely on waivers and can be started as a deep narrative-based flyer this week.


DISCLAIMER: For both Elliott and Taylor, teams who invested high draft or trade capital in them and have few other options likely need to start these players. For those people, read this as a caution to lower expectations if it affects decision-making elsewhere in the lineup. Teams with depth at running back may want to consider benching Elliott or Taylor for a player with a more favorable matchup.

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Cowboys continue to vie for an NFC East title despite playing unimpressively. Unfortunately, that campaign will grow tougher due to a matchup with the last undefeated team.

The Cowboys offense is barren and the Steelers defense has been league-best. Not only do the Steelers allow the 3rd fewest FPA to running backs, they also get to the quarterback quickly. The Cowboys will likely be trailing and under pressure all game long.

Zeke hasn’t had double digit fantasy points in his last three games and is getting over a minor hamstring injury. Assuming Pittsburgh dominates Dallas, the Cowboys may use Elliott conservatively.

Jonathan Taylor

Even though he may be the best running back of the 2020 draft class, Jonathan Taylor can’t settle in as top dog in the Indianapolis backfield. In six of their seven games, The Colts have had at least two running backs play a third of offensive snaps or more. Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins have seen regular play recently which has eaten into Taylor’s production.

Baltimore has allowed the 2nd fewest FPA to running backs and only three touchdowns to running backs this season. Of the six running backs who have scored double digit fantasy points against Baltimore, only one did it on fewer than 17 touches. Taylor has failed to reach that number in each of his last three games. This game is expected to be competitive which would make a headache-inducing running back split more likely.


Featured Image courtesy of Julio Aguilar / Getty Images

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