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Better Than Usual
Sony Michel, NE (vs. NYJ)
The New England Patriots ended their two-game losing streak by getting back to a rushing attack that’s been one of the most consistent parts of their offense this season. That meant a heavy dose of Michel against the Buffalo Bills. He responded by rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, which made him the No. 11 running back for Week 16 with 17.6 fantasy points.
The last time Michel had 100 yards or a touchdown came in Week 12, when he rushed for 133 yards and a score on 21 attempts on the road against the New York Jets. On Sunday, the Patriots host the Jets with a chance to earn a first-round playoff bye. Logic says Michel should be in for another busy and productive afternoon, so start him with RB1 expectations.
Christian McCaffrey, CAR (at NO)
McCaffrey comes into Week 17 as the No. 1 fantasy running back with 380.5 fantasy points and 25.4 fantasy points per game. In Week 16, he set the record for most receptions by a running back in a season (106) and became only the third running back ever to have 100 receptions and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. In spite of that, the Carolina Panthers lost their seventh straight game and officially fell out of playoff contention.
The Week 17 B.S. Meter covered concern with McCaffrey’s playing time based on head coach Ron Rivera’s comments relating to evaluating players in an otherwise meaningless game. Nothing is set in stone with McCaffrey’s role, but you should be aware of a possible limited snap count and workload for him.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, NO (vs. CAR)
Since Ingram returned from his four-game suspension in Week 5, Kamara has been the No. 5 fantasy running back while Ingram is RB20. In the last four weeks, Kamara is RB6 and Ingram is RB29. Even though Kamara has clearly been the better option, both players have been useful fantasy options and are important to the New Orleans Saints offense.
That’s why New Orleans may limit how much those two play in Sunday’s game with the Panthers. The Saints have no motivation to risk either back with the No. 1 seed already locked up following last week’s win over the Steelers. Make alternate plans if Kamara and/or Ingram are regulars in your starting lineup.
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (at NYG)
Elliott has been the busiest running back in the NFL this season. He leads the league in both rushing attempts (304) and rushing yards (1,434). He’s also fifth amongst running backs and is tied for 20th overall with 77 receptions for 567 yards. There’s no doubt he’s the most important part of the Dallas Cowboys offense, so he may get some rest this weekend since Dallas is already set as the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Even though Elliott hasn’t missed a game this season, he’s been on the injury report with hip and shoulder issues. Don’t expect him to do much, if anything, on Sunday.
Peyton Barber, TB (vs. ATL)
Barber has easily been the best of a bad backfield in Tampa Bay this season, especially since he’s getting the majority of the volume with rookie Ronald Jones playing no role (zero carries in the last three weeks). In the right matchup, Barber has been a useful fantasy option, and he could be in line for one of those Sunday with the Buccaneers hosting the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons have been an average matchup for running backs in the last four weeks, but on the season, they’ve allowed the sixth-most rushing yards (127.1). Barber had a productive game in the first meeting back in Week 6 with 13 carries for 82 yards and four receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown to give him 20.6 fantasy points and an RB9 finish. He’s a sneaky play for the season finale in this rematch.