Fantasy football Risers, Sliders: Running back situations shaking out
Running backs are a hot commodity in fantasy football. It seems there just aren't enough reliable backs to go around for the two (or three) starting spots in fantasy leagues. But a quarter of the way through the regular season, running situations are beginning to shake out -- running backs claiming starting jobs or coaches slipping two backs into a dreaded timeshare. Let's see where things stand after Week 4.
• Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers -- After a down week, Rivers bounced back with a 401-yard, three touchdown performance against the Cowboys. He has 11 scores to just two interceptions on the year. The Chargers' passing offense is humming along nicely after four weeks.
• Matt Schaub, Houston Texans -- Any time a fan burns a quarterback's jersey outside the stadium, you know he's had a bad day (The quarterback and the fan). Schaub was decent fantasy-wise -- 329 yards passing, two touchdowns, two interceptions -- but his continued struggles in Houston have to make owners at least mildly worried.
• Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles -- The Broncos' pass defense is good, and Vick didn't turn it over. But a week after a two-interception game, Vick went just 14/27 for 248 yards and zero touchdowns. The Eagles got it into the end zone just once with Vick leading the offense.
• Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills -- Jackson rushed for 16 carries for 87 yards in the Bills' win over the Ravens on Sunday, while C.J. Spiller had 23 carries for 77 yards before leaving with an injury. Jackson sprained his knee, but expects to play in Thursday night's game against Cleveland.
• Arian Foster, Houston Texans -- Foster had 27 carries to Ben Tate's seven, rushing for 102 yards. Tate had the better day per-carry -- with a 6.3 average to Foster's 3.8 -- but it appears that Foster is going to keep getting a majority of the carries in Houston.
• Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions -- Well, perhaps fantasy players can forget about Joique Bell. Bush returned to the Detroit lineup and had 173 yards of offense in a 40-32 win over the Bears. Bush's 139 yards rushing came on just 18 carries, and he was targeted six times.
• Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers -- In the rookie's first career NFL game, he carried 16 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Only a 3.6 average, but it looks like he'll be the starter as long as he's healthy.
• C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills -- Spiller was getting the bulk of the carries before his injury, but his status in the short week is unclear. The Bills are going to run the ball, but Spiller has just 2.6 yards a carry his last two games.
• Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens -- The Ravens went more than a quarter without a running play Sunday. Rice had just five carries for 17 yards; Bernard Pierce had four for seven yards. Rice has played in three games this year and has rushed for just 89 yards. He's averaging 2.9 yards a carry. He ran for just 17 yards against a below-average rush defense. The Ravens offense is struggling.
• Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots -- Ridley got just 11 of the Patriots 31 carries, rushing for 53 yards. However, LeGarrette Blount had a better game than Ridley, though most of his 65 rushing yards came on one 47-yard touchdown. Ridley, who rushed for 1,263 yards last year, just hasn't been producing this season.
• Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings -- Simpson now has 32 targets on the year after Matt Cassel threw his way 11 times on Sunday. Though Greg Jennings scored twice, Simpson had seven more targets. He caught seven passes for 124 yards; he was targeted 13 times but caught just five passes the last two weeks. Minnesota's off next week, but Simpson should be a fantasy starter off the bye.
• Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears -- Jeffery improved for the second straight week, leading the Bears in targets with 11. He caught seven passes for 105 yards and one touchdown. Chicago threw a lot after going down 30-10 in the second quarter, but Jeffrey has established himself as the solid No. 2 there.
• Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots -- A week after catching two scores against the Buccaneers, Thompkins caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night. He led the team in targets (11 to Julian Edelman's nine) and has been targeted 39 times this season.
• Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills -- One catch, minus-one yard. He was targeted six times, second on the team, but the Bills rush-heavy offense depletes his fantasy value. Buffalo ran 55 times (to only 22 passes plus two sacks) on Sunday against the Ravens despite gaining only 3.3 yards a carry. On the season, the Bills rush as often as they pass. Buffalo built a big lead, but this is a run-first team. Johnson has been hit-or-miss this year so far.
• Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants -- Nicks finally got some targets (nine) on Sunday against the Chiefs, but caught just three of those for 33 yards. The Giants are 0-4, Eli Manning is completing just 56 percent of his passes and Nicks has only seven catches in his last three games.
• Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers -- The 33-year-old is averaging over nine targets in his last three games and caught all 10 passes thrown his way for 136 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He has touchdowns in back-to-back games. Gates fell down draft boards in the preseason but he's having a bounce-back year in the Chargers' surprisingly strong offense.
• Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys -- Eh, another so-so fantasy game from Witten, who caught five passes for 40 yards on 10 targets. He's still getting passes thrown his way -- he has 33 targets on the year -- so it's likely this is a minor blip. However, with only 70 passing yards in his best game so far this season, and Dez Bryant monopolizing the red zone targets, Witten's fantasy value is falling. The Chargers had been allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends coming in.
• David Akers, Detroit Lions -- Akers missed two field goals in Detroit's Week 2 loss, but he's now hit six straight, including four in the Lions' 40-point outburst against the Bears on Sunday.
• Alex Henery, Philadelphia Eagles -- Henery missed a field goal for the third straight week. If your league deducts big points for misses, Henery may no longer be worthy of a start.
• Cleveland Browns -- The Browns defense is for real. It held the Bengals to just six points. Joe Haden shut down another No. 1 wideout (A.J. Green caught seven passes but for just 51 yards, and he was targeted 15 times). The Browns' defensive value increases with the offense a little more respectable with Brian Hoyer at quarterback.
• Chicago Bears -- Jay Cutler's three interceptions didn't help them, but only one of the Lions' touchdowns was defensive. Giving up 34 points hurts, especially in leagues that penalize heavily for allowing scores. Things will get even harder against the Saints next week.
MORE WEEK 5 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Week 5 player stat projections -- Rodgers won't let the Packers lose
GONOS: Start 'em, sit 'em -- With so many injuries, who are the best starters?
SI STAFF: Composite player rankings -- Reggie Bush realizing his potential
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Does anyone trust Eli Manning anymore?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Rashad Jennings given the opportunity of his career
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Philip Rivers bounces back with a strong game vs. the Cowboys
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Peyton Manning on pace to shatter NFL records