- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Shonn Greene. Shonn Bleepin' Greene.
Coming into Week 6, the New York Jets' starting RB had 217 yards on 76 carries and one TD, for a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. Sure, the Indianapolis Colts represented a nice matchup; heck, by my metrics, coming into Sunday's contest they had been the third-friendliest defense to opposing fantasy backs. But Greene was 34th in fantasy points among RBs. He'd played fewer snaps than Bilal Powell last Monday night. Pro Football Focus reported that Greene had forced exactly one missed tackle all season. I ranked the guy 28th going into this game.
This is why fantasy football can be maddening. Greene, who had 27 fantasy points in five games, scored 34 versus the Colts.
To quote Al Michaels: "He did what?"
Greene mustered 161 yards and three TDs on 32 carries, a workload that must partly have been a result of injuries to both Powell and Joe McKnight, but he did run very well. I suppose it's nice to see he has this in him, but I'm highly skeptical that this kind of performance will repeat. If there's ever been a moment to sell high on a player, this is one. Let's not take anything away from the fantasy owners who benefited from this unexpected performance. They deserve the week's champagne.
Just shake your head, kids. It's fantasy. Let's look at Week 6's other top stories:
• I think Aaron Rodgers is probably going to be OK.
• Things got significantly clearer in the Green Bay Packers' backfield. Alex Green carried the load, and James Starks barely came near it. Green had 23 touches from scrimmage for 73 yards, and no matter what the Packers have said about Starks these past few weeks, his toe must not be healed; he didn't have a single carry Sunday night until late-fourth-quarter garbage time. Can I promise you it will ever be thus? Of course not. Green didn't exactly set the world ablaze while Sunday night's game was competitive, and if Starks gets healthier, he'll probably get cracks, especially because third-stringer Brandon Saine injured a knee Sunday. For next week's game against the St. Louis Rams, though, Green is at least a flex play.
• Let's round up the other backfields in flux. The Arizona Cardinals tried LaRod Stephens-Howling as their feature back for most of the first quarter Sunday, but he gained 7 yards on his first six carries and William Powell took over thereafter. Powell had eight plays from scrimmage that went for 5 yards or more, and wound up with 14 touches for 78 yards. (Alfonso Smith was in a few plays but didn't get a touch from scrimmage.) As I wrote last week, LSH is a dynamic little player in the right role, but he's nobody's idea of a lead back. The Cards have a bad matchup against a good Minnesota Vikings run defense in Week 7, but Powell figures to be the lead dog.
• The Colts were technically true to their word regarding Donald Brown's replacement, as Vick Ballard played a majority of backfield snaps. But Indy got its doors blown off by the Jets and couldn't stick with the run. Ballard got eight carries, but lost a goal-line snap to Delone Carter (though the call was play-action) and produced only 25 rushing yards in what looked like a great matchup. The rookie will lose looks to Carter and Mewelde Moore and he's not a unique NFL talent, but one assumes at least his workload will be larger next week against the Cleveland Browns.
• DeMarco Murray showed signs of life in the first half Sunday, with 13 carries for 90 yards, though he lost what might've been a short TD chance when the Dallas Cowboys challenged a Felix Jones run that proved to be a touchdown. Alas, Murray sprained his left foot late in the half, tried to return after halftime, but got only one carry before he decided the injury was too severe. In his place, Jones ran well and would likely be the starter should Murray miss time, though Phillip Tanner and even Lance Dunbar played Sunday, too. X-rays on Murray's foot were reportedly negative, but he's due to have an MRI on Monday. Fantasy owners familiar with Darren McFadden's "foot sprain" in 2011 (which cost Run DMC nine games) recall how severe this could turn out to be.
• Trent Richardson began the Browns' win with a bang: 10 touches for 40 yards on Cleveland's first two possessions Sunday. T-Rich saw "only" seven touches thereafter, until he took a helmet to the ribcage in the third quarter and had to leave. It's worth noting that for all the noise about Richardson becoming an every-down back, Chris Ogbonnaya played on most third downs even before Richardson's injury, and Montario Hardesty had taken a full series for himself in the first quarter. Hardesty then did his pedestrian best from the third quarter forward, converting a short TD in the process. The Akron Beacon Journal reports that Richardson doesn't believe his rib injury will be severe enough to keep him out in Week 7. We shall see.
• Some of Stevan Ridley's luster faded in Week 6, albeit against a strong Seattle Seahawks run defense. He sputtered on his initial two carries, then dropped an easy screen that might've produced good yardage. After that play, Brandon Bolden saw the field more than Ridley, getting the New England Patriots' next six carries. It harkened back to Ridley's lost fumble at the end of Week 5, as well as his benching throughout last year's playoffs because of ball security. But Ridley's owners caught something of a break, in that Bolden suffered a knee injury on his final second-quarter carry and couldn't return, whereupon Ridley played the rest of the game (spelled, per usual, by Danny Woodhead). We'll never get a straight answer about what might've happened had Bolden stayed upright, though Ridley produced only 34 yards on his 16 carries. Keep an eye on this situation. It's not like the Pats don't have other alternatives they could try, including Shane Vereen. (As of this writing, nobody seems to know how severe Bolden's knee problem is.)
• In that same game, Wes Welker defied those who were freaked out about his workload once Aaron Hernandez returned. Welker notched his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game and scored a 46-yard TD. It's definitely true that Hernandez didn't play a full accompaniment of snaps; he seemed to be on the field about half of the time. So maybe things change as Hernandez's ankle returns to full health. But at this point, anyone thinking of benching Welker until we actually see his workload lessened again is crazy.
• The Buffalo Bills produced a strong ground game against what had been a stingy Cardinals defense: 165 yards rushing on 33 carries. The stat sheet tells us that both RBs produced well: Fred Jackson had 21 total touches for 83 yards and a 1-yard TD, while C.J. Spiller had 16 touches for 110 yards and a 10-yard score of his own. But anyone who watched the game knows that Spiller looked quite a bit better than Jackson. He was dangerous and shifty in the extreme, while Jackson is either still hampered by his knee injury or is simply a 31-year-old back. Chan Gailey has shown no inclination toward changing the workload here in favor of Spiller, and if Jackson's limitation is his knee, he could get healthier and play faster going forward. At the moment, though, Spiller looks like higher-upside player. This time-share will continue to frustrate.
• Speaking of frustration, Adrian Peterson's fantasy owners have now gone five weeks without a touchdown, though if you were watching the Minnesota Vikings try to overcome a late deficit Sunday, you could've sworn you saw AP diving for a short TD. Indeed, Peterson did take a 1-yard carry into the end zone with 32 seconds remaining, but Kyle Rudolph false-started. (Insert visual of an All Day owner raising his or her fists to the sky and shouting, "Rudolph!!!") Given that Rudolph had cannibalized a 1-yard score earlier in the fourth quarter, this was a sad state of affairs indeed. But Peterson is still playing well, and as of this writing is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards. The TDs will come.
• Perhaps the day's most impressive work came from Ahmad Bradshaw, who became the second running back in 44 games to exceed 100 yards rushing against the San Francisco 49ers. Coming off a 200-yard effort against the Browns in Week 5, Bradshaw is making all that hand-wringing we did over Andre Brown look rather silly at this point. His foot and ankle health will always be a concern, but it's time to give Bradshaw his due: The guy who looked cooked in 2012's first few games now looks like a 26-year-old at the peak of his powers. He owns the New York Giants' backfield and needs to be in lineups Week 7 against the Washington Redskins.
• Jamaal Charles had produced 560 yards from scrimmage in his past three contests. Sunday, he had 14 touches for 47 yards. In the first half, while the game's result was still in question, Charles had nine touches to seven for Shaun Draughn and five for the immortal Nate Eachus. Do I understand this? I do not. The Kansas City Chiefs are on bye in Week 7. Maybe they can huddle up and figure out a way to smooth out J-Mail's workload. In Weeks 3 and 5, he had 39 and 33 touches, respectively.
• Did we see a shift in backfield strategy for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday? Steven Jackson carried for 5 yards on the Rams' first play from scrimmage, then left the game. Daryl Richardson took the second play from scrimmage 44 yards. From then on, the two backs intermingled freely. Heck, Richardson even got a carry from the Miami Dolphins' 3 early in the fourth quarter. In total, Jackson had 15 touches for 80 yards (and a two-point conversion), while Richardson had 13 touches for 99 yards. Is this an indication of future workload, or were the Rams simply trying to cross Miami up? We don't have an answer yet.
• By the way, in the same game, thanks for playing, Brian Hartline. Zero catches on zero targets. (He did actually have a couple of passes thrown his way, but those plays were nullified by penalties.) Exhibit 2,122 on why we shouldn't get too stoked about pedestrian players having a couple of big weeks.
• Doug Martin is a very talented player, and he may have ceded a garbage-time score to LeGarrette Blount on Sunday, but he also staked his claim to a leading role. Coming out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' bye, the Muscle Hamster's talent shone, as his combination of shiftiness and power was palpable. I was excited about this guy after watching his Week 1 tape and I'm excited about him again now. There continue to be worries about whether he'll be the TD-maker for Tampa, but Martin is still someone I'm targeting in a trade.
• Weeks like this make it harder to argue that Dez Bryant isn't a more valuable fantasy commodity than Miles Austin. Bryant had 15 targets and 13 catches, while Austin had five targets and two catches. Is Austin's hamstring bugging him? Is Bryant just that much more physically gifted? Some perspective: Austin still has more fantasy points than Bryant, 49 to 48. Either guy can explode in a given week. Still, when you watch Bryant dominate a pretty good secondary (albeit on an injured defense, more on that in a moment), it's hard not to be seduced. Just in case you forgot his enigmatic nature, however, Bryant dropped a potential game-tying two-point conversion.
• The Baltimore Ravens D/ST took body blows in the form of a shoddy run defense Sunday, and absorbed severe injuries to superstars. Lardarius Webb is reportedly done for the year with a torn ACL, Ray Lewis has a partially torn triceps that could cost him the rest of the season, Jimmy Smith left the game with a groin injury and couldn't return and Haloti Ngata left with a knee injury, though he did return. Considering reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs is no sure bet to return from his torn Achilles, this is potentially a desperate situation for one of the league's more reliable fantasy defenses.
Christopher Harris breaks down Sunday's Week 6 action, focusing on a big performance by Shonn Greene and digging into the results of the new running backs in Green Bay, Indianapolis and Arizona.