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Fantasy Football: Running back handcuff index, matchup notes and Week 13 rankings

Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) rushes with the football during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

  • Bills RB Devin Singletary continues to play a featured role despite the team's decision to acquire Nyheim Hines at the trade deadline.
  • Browns RB Nick Chubb and Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker look poised to boom more than normal with best-case matchups on the horizon for both.
  • To say Packers RB Aaron Jones has owned the Bears in recent matchups would be a rather massive understatement.
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes

Week 13 is here! It’s truly a great day to be great.

What follows is a fantasy football-themed breakdown of each and every backfield. The following five categories will be analyzed for all 30 teams playing in Week 13:

  • Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: Where the running back falls in my fantasy ranks. Updated ranks can be found throughout the week on PFF.com as well as the new PFF app.
  • Week 12 Usage: Every team’s top-three running backs in snap rate, carries and targets from the previous week.
  • Week 13 Matchup: Opponent’s rank in PPR points allowed to opposing running backs as well as yards before carry allowed per rush. Higher numbers are better for running backs; “32” illustrates the worst defense in a given category, and “1” is the best.
  • Handcuff Index: Consists of four tiers:
      1. Tier 1: Workhorse handcuff who would immediately be in the RB1 conversation if the starter goes down
      2. Tier 2: Plenty solid handcuff who would get a nice usage bump and be a staple in the RB2 conversation if the starter goes down
      3. Tier 3: Usage bump won’t prevent the team from continuing to use a committee of sorts; not a guarantee these handcuffs will crack the position’s top-24 should the starter go down
      4. Tier 4: Muddled mess that would likely devolve into an annoying committee without a clear fantasy-friendly back to prioritize should the starter go down
  • Key question: One key question for every team that is on my mind.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ATL | BLT | BUF | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB26), Tyler Allgeier (RB36), Caleb Huntley (RB68)
  • Week 12 Usage: Cordarrelle Patterson (58% snaps, 11 carries, 5 targets), Tyler Allgeier (38%, 11, 0), Avery Williams (13%, 0, 0)
  • Week 13 Matchup: PIT: 15 in PPR per game to RB, 12 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: Allgeier is the lead back when C-Patt is sidelined, but not in a workhorse manner. Three backs will seemingly stay involved no matter what.

Key question: Can fantasy managers go back to trusting our one true king Cordarrelle Patterson?

To an extent. Good news: The Falcons have mostly just used two running backs over the past two weeks after flirting with three- and even four-man rotations throughout the season. Bad news: C-Patt hasn’t exactly worked as the clear leader in four games since being activated from the injured reserve:

  • Snaps: Patterson (104), Tyler Allgeier (101), Caleb Huntley (27), Avery Williams (19)
  • Carries: Patterson (39), Allgeier (37), Huntley (14), Williams (4)
  • Targets: Patterson (9), Allgeier (5), Huntley (2), Williams (1)

Overall, Patterson has received just 14, six, 12 and 14 touches since returning from injury. Maybe his pass-game role will continue to rise after seeing five targets and running his most routes since Week 1 (16), but expecting any sort of receiving consistency inside of the NFL’s most run-heavy offense is probably wishful thinking. 

Throw in the always flimsy nature of life as a running back in an offense with a high-volume rushing quarterback, and Patterson remains a rock-solid RB3, albeit not a must-start RB2 option. This is especially true against a Steelers defense that has been far better against the run than the pass this season.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: Gus Edwards (RB30), Justice Hill (RB48), Kenyan Drake (RB49)
  • Week 12 Usage: Gus Edwards (51% snaps, 16 carries, 1 target), Kenyan Drake (24%, 2, 1), Justice Hill (21%, 1, 0)
  • Week 13 Matchup: DEN: 14 in PPR per game to RB, 13 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: This backfield continues to keep three members involved even with Kenyan Drake emerging as the leader when both Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins are out. Veteran additions continue to be plenty possible.

Key question: What should we expect from J.K. Dobbins (knee, IR) once he’s back?

It remains to be seen if Dobbins will suit up in Week 13, but the Ravens at least designed him to return from injured reserve. Head coach John Harbaugh noted that Dobbins would practice “to some degree.” The third-year back underwent arthroscopic knee surgery while off the field.

The Ravens featured the following running back usage from Week 8 to the AFC Divisional Round in 2020 upon phasing Mark ingram out of the offense (excluding Week 12 which Dobbins missed due to Covid):

  • Dobbins: 53% snaps, 128 rush attempts, 16 targets
  • Edwards: 33% snaps, 105 rush attempts, 10 targets

Dobbins was clearly the lead back, but he ultimately finished with just 29 additional carries and targets in an 11-game sample.

Ultimately, the return of Dobbins would result in both being low-end RB3 types who I wouldn’t recommend immediately starting due to the likelihood that struggle to consistently see even 15 touches per game. This is partially due to life as a running back in an offense with a high-volume rushing quarterback: Ravens running backs collectively rank just 28th in carries and 32nd in targets this season.

Gus can be fired up as a solid RB3 if Dobbins remains sidelined; just realize even then he’s awfully dependent on touchdowns and not exactly set up with a cake matchup against the Broncos’ third-ranked scoring defense.

BUFFALO BILLS

  • Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: Devin Singletary (RB22), James Cook (RB38), Nyheim Hines (RB65)
  • Week 12 Usage: Devin Singletary (78% snaps, 14 carries, 1 target), James Cook (18%, 2, 5), Nyheim Hines (5%, 1, 0)
  • Week 13 Matchup: NE: 1 in PPR per game to RB, 25 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: An injury to Devin Singletary would likely lead to a fairly evenly split committee between James Cook and Nyheim Hines; there hasn't been a large enough sample size with Hines on the team to feel good about who might lead the way. Hell, Duke Johnson could mix in on early downs. Fun fact: Duke is The U's all-time leading rusher.

Key question: How has Devin Singletary historically performed against Bill Belichick’s evil empire?

His last two meetings certainly went well, as the Bills’ lead back went for 94 total yards and a pair of touchdowns in last season’s AFC Wild Card win over the Patriots after posting 12-39-1 rushing and 5-39-0 receiving lines against them in Week 16.

More importantly, the decision to trade for Nyheim Hines has done nothing to dissuade the Bills from featuring Singletary. Overall, he’s posted a snap rate north of 70% in six consecutive games, leading to touch counts of 21, 15, 12, 14, 20 and 15 inside of the league’s second-ranked scoring offense.

Singletary is a recommended start this week as low-end RB2; I’d start him ahead of more one-dimensional early-down backs like Isiah Pacheco, Jamaal Williams, Miles Sanders and Cordarrelle Patterson.

CHICAGO BEARS

  • Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: David Montgomery (RB17), Darrynton Evans (RB47)
  • Week 12 Usage: David Montgomery (68% snaps, 14 carries, 4 targets), Darrynton Evans (32%, 9, 1), Trestan Ebner (2%, 0, 0)
  • Week 13 Matchup: GB: 26 in PPR per game to RB, 30 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: Trestan Ebner and Darrynton Evans would probably split reps if Montgomery joins Khalil Herbert (hip, IR) on the sideline, although it's far from a guarantee.

Key question: Is David Montgomery any good?

Yes, but folks tend to just focus on backup RB Khalil Herbert (hip, IR) seemingly being a bit better. While Montgomery might not possess the sort of burners needed to turn a short gain into a monster touchdown, he’s excelled at breaking tackles throughout his football career. Overall, Montgomery’s average of 0.24 missed tackles forced per carry is tied with Herbert for the eighth-highest mark among 50 running backs with at least 50 carries this season.

 

The potential of Justin Fields (left shoulder) remaining sidelined certainly won’t help the scoring upside of this offense; just realize Montgomery is similar to James Conner in that he’s tough to sit on the fantasy bench as long as something around 20 opportunities continues to be on the table each and every week. Fire up Montgomery as a volume-based RB2 in a winnable matchup against the Packers’ bottom-seven defense in both PPR points per game and yards before contact per carry allowed to opposing running backs this season.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

  • Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: Joe Mixon (RB8), Samaje Perine (RB39)
  • Week 12 Usage: Samaje Perine (80% snaps, 17 carries, 6 targets), Trayveon Williams (21%, 2, 1), Chris Evans (5%, 0, 0)
  • Week 13 Matchup: KC: 21 in PPR per game to RB, 9 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 1: Perine would be in the weekly top-15 conversation should Mixon miss any action. 

Key question: Has there really been much of a difference between Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine this season?

Mixon (concussion) is reportedly expected to return this week, immediately slotting him back into the weekly upside RB1 conversation regardless of the matchup.

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