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The Cutback: Running Back Start/Sit Week 13

Week 13 is here, and @GBridgfordnfl is back to provide you with your weekly starts and sits, and we’re here to talk running backs.

Welcome Back! Week 13 is here, and the DynastyNerds writers are back once again to provide you with your weekly starts and sits. We will be making our recommendations based on weekly consensus PPR rankings from FantasyPros. Here are the cast and the position groups they will be covering to help you win your week. Follow their socials, and be sure to check out their picks for this week as well.

A Quick Note: These are recommendations based on matchups, previous performance and other contributing factors. These are not law. Any questions? The DMs are always open.
A Second Note: This article was written prior to the 12/2/2020 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Any stats or information regarding these two teams does not have any Week 12 stats factored in.

Week 12 Hit/Miss Recap

*Hits and misses will be defined as whether or not a player finishes inside the top 24.*

Starts

J.D. McKissic: Miss – RB48

Duke Johnson Jr.: Hit – RB14 

Frank Gore: Hit – RB20

Sits

Melvin Gordon III: Hit – RB52

Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Hit – RB46

It wasn’t quite the flawless week that we had in Week 11, but it was pretty damn good if you ask me. If the Dallas Cowboys hadn’t repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, there’s a chance we would have been perfect. J.D. McKissic just didn’t get the receiving work again because his team had a commanding lead, which has been rare for them this year. Duke got into the end zone to carry his day, but teammate David Johnson should return soon, which will take away a lot of his value. Gore rounded out our hits with a low-end RB2 performance, which is exactly where our expectations were set.

Well, the Gordon call crushed better than I ever could have expected. After the quarterback Covid-19 debacle, he was just running against loaded boxes all day. It wasn’t a recipe for success. My spiciest call of the week paid off exactly as expected. The Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t move the ball on the ground, but they were gaining chunks of yards through the air, which marginalized the role of Edwards-Helaire.

Starts

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

It may be recency bias, but I don’t care. Montgomery should absolutely be a start this week. The Bears need a win badly, and they should get one against a floundering Detroit Lions’ team that just fired their head coach. Montgomery ran well in the team’s Week 12 loss to the Green Bay Packers, and there is still no consistent threat to his touches in the windy city.

Among Chicago ball carriers, no other player has seen more than 43 carries this year. Tarik Cohen, who played in just three games this season before tearing his ACL, is still tied for third on the team with 14 carries. Volume reigns supreme forever, and, while inefficient, Montgomery is getting all of the volume. If the team can build a lead in the game or at least stay close, he’ll be able to really have a chance at a strong fantasy day.

The Lions allow the most fantasy points to the running back position this season, as they’re giving up 28.2 per outing. With their receiving corps still on the mend against a good Bears’ defense, Chicago has a great chance to end their losing streak this week. It doesn’t start with Montgomery, but he can end it with a strong outing this week.


J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

As the last few weeks of the season have worn on, it has become clear that the Ravens intend to feature Dobbins as the team’s lead back. He has led the team in snaps in each of the last four games, and he’s played at least 44 percent of the snaps in each game and cleared 50 percent in three out of the four. In fantasy, you can’t score points if you’re on the sideline, and we’re seeing that with Dobbins.

Dobbins brings a good bit of explosiveness to the position, and he gives the team the best combination of skills compared to teammates Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. As this team is scrapping for a playoff spot here at the end of the year, they’re going to continue to lean on Dobbins over the two incumbents.

The juiciest part of the Dobbins call for the week is the matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. While the Ravens haven’t been running as efficiently as they did in 2019, the Cowboys aren’t going to be able to do anything to stop them. They just allowed over 100 yards and three scores to Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson in Week 12, and they’re allowing the fifth-most points to the running back position at 21.6 per game. This is the matchup you can finally start him.

Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

After dealing with an injury that sent him to the Injured Reserve list, Gaskin is back, and it’s a great time to come back. With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa dealing with a thumb injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick will need all of his weapons to push this team towards the playoffs. In seven games this season, Gaskin is averaging 14.1 PPR points per game, which puts him 17th overall among running backs. 

Gaskin hasn’t been overly efficient with his touches this season, as he’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, but the main factor to his fantasy value lies in the receiving game, where he has caught 30 of his 35 targets for 198 yards. Like the Montgomery argument, it’s a matter of volume belonging solely to him over the production of the other guys on the roster. The team is also dealing with a diminished group of pass-catchers.

The Cincinnati Bengals are about to trot out a backup quarterback against one of the league’s best passing defenses. The possibility of a blowout due to the suffocating defense is a realistic outcome. If the Dolphins get an early lead, they could elect to sit on that with Gaskin, and he could see a great fantasy outing as a result.

Sits

Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

This one is tough because Drake has been the team’s primary running back since returning from injury. Despite that, he’s not a good play this week. In Week 12, he held some value thanks to a pair of rushing touchdowns, but he’s been extremely inconsistent. You should never rely on touchdowns for fantasy production because they aren’t a traditionally sticky stat.

These splits are the reason that you can’t count on Drake with a ton of confidence this week. His average jumps by about 14.6 points per game compared to the 15 games where he failed to score since joining Arizona. In addition to his reliance on scoring, teammate Chase Edmonds is still getting touches every game. He hasn’t always been efficient, but he’s gotten at least five touches in every single game this season.

On top of the touchdown reliance, his matchup isn’t exactly a great one. The Los Angeles Rams have allowed just seven total touchdowns to the position this year. With quarterback Kyler Murray in tow, the Cardinals can run the ball in ways other than just with the running backs. It’s unlikely that Drake will be as efficient with touchdowns this week, so I’d be fading him if I have the ability.

Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons

Why are we fading Todd Gurley after being higher on him than the consensus all season? We have two main reasons, and neither of them is his teammates. The first is his injury. He missed the team’s Week 12 stomping of the Las Vegas Raiders, and he was still limited at practice on Wednesday. In addition to that, his matchup this week with the New Orleans Saints is one of the worst on the slate.

If you thought the Drake splits were bad, the Gurley ones are even worse since joining Atlanta this year. In the seven games where he’s scored a touchdown, he’s averaging a shade over 17 fantasy points per game. In the other three games, his average is below seven. For a guy that’s not completely dominating his team’s backfield touches, touchdowns can’t be counted on right now.

On top of that, they’re going up against the Saints, who have been the best defense against running backs for fantasy this season. They’re allowing just 12.3 fantasy points per game to running backs, and they’re just shutting teams down right now. In the previous meeting between these two squads, they held Gurley to just eight carries for 26 yards, and the team as a whole had 14 carries for 52 yards.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

If you had told me back in September that I would be recommending that you sit Ezekiel Elliott at any point this season, I would have been called you a liar on the spot, but that’s the point that we’ve reached after several bad weeks in a row for Zeke. Since the Dak Prescott injury back in Week 5, he has just not been anywhere close to the first-round pick you drafted.

Just look at these splits. In the five games with Dak, he averaged over 23 fantasy points per game. During the six games since then, it’s been barely over ten points. In fact, he’s only cleared double digits twice in that time span. Zeke is still taking the vast majority of the carries in this backfield, but he’s just not doing all that much with it.

“Hey Zeke, we know you’ve been struggling recently, so we’re going to match you up with one of the ten best run defenses in football if that’s ok with you?” That’s what Zeke gets this week. He has a road matchup with the Ravens in a game that Baltimore absolutely can not afford to lose. They’re allowing just over 16 fantasy points per game to running backs, but it’s doubtful Zeke will clear that mark or even come close.

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