December 01, 2010

Each week I'll attempt to bring some clarity to your questions about the pigskin and the men who throw, catch, run and kick it. To reach me with questions, scroll down to the end of the piece where you can find my e-mail address.

I play in a PPR league that starts two RBs and a flex. My RBs are Chris Johnson, Michael Turner, Jamaal Charles and Fred Jackson. Over the last three weeks Jackson has been by far my best RB, but I've only started him once since I expect more from the other three. But after more than doubling the totals of C.J. and Turner over the last three weeks, I don't see how I can sit him in Week 13, can I?-- Dave, Eagan, Minn.

A good problem to have is too many strong options, and you can make a legitimate option that all four choices are top-20 options. So be happy you have these choices when others are trying to decide between Keiland Williams, Mike Goodson, Anthony Dixon and Maurice Morris.

You mention the last three weeks being an issue for you, so let's look at each option in that time.

Johnson: 45 carries, 252 yards, 5 catches, 15 yards, one total touchdownTurner: 68 carries, 280 yards, 2 catches, zero yards, two total touchdownsCharles: 48 carries, 302 yards, 11 catches, 121 yards, one total touchdownJackson: 58 carries, 308 yards, 14 catches, 154 yards, five total touchdowns

Looking just at the numbers, it's pretty clearly that Jackson has been your best back the past three weeks. As much as history means something, football is a forward thinking game that is matchup based (it's not like baseball where you would play a top-20 hitter even if he was in a slump or if he was facing Roy Halladay). And that brings up a valid question everyone struggles with each week -- when is enough, enough? Consider the following.

Would you ever start Matt Cassel over Tom Brady? I ask because if you look at their totals for the month of November you find that Cassel completed one more pass, for 10 more yards and one more touchdown than Brady. Is that enough of a sample size to favor Cassel over Brady right now?

In the month of November, would you have started Mike Tolbert over Chris Johnson? Of course not, though, in retrospect, you should have since Tolbert outgained CJ from scrimmage (305 yards to 257) and outscored him (two touchdowns to one).

Would you have started Santonio Holmes over Roddy White? Holmes may have caught eight fewer passes in November, but he also produced 41 more yards and two more touchdowns, clearly establishing himself as the more potent weapon in November.

That is the point with football -- it's a game of matchups. I preach all the time, like most solid analysts do, that you never bench your studs, but sometimes there is an internal debate that rages when you look at the matchups. Do you play Ray Rice this week in brutal matchup with the Steelers, or do you go with the perpetually frustrating Brandon Jackson, who has a much "safer" defense to face in the 49ers? Do you take a chance with the perpetually injured and always frustrating Felix Jones against a Colts' defense that has allowed 12 touchdowns to the running back position in the last 10 games or do you go with the beast that is Rashard Mendenhall in a matchup with the Ravens, who are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the running back position this season (for the answers to those questions make sure you given our Weekly Projections Page a read)? It's a constant battle.

The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up for a decision you made if it was the best choice you could make with the information you had at your disposal. There is not a single person on the planet who foresaw that Darren McFadden would carry the ball only 18 times for 16 yards the past two weeks. There is not a single person on the planet who foresaw Chris Johnson rushing the ball seven times for five yards in Week 12 against Houston. There is not a single person on the planet who foresaw LaDainian Tomlinson slowing to the point that he has gone six-straight weeks without a 60-yard rushing game or five-straight games without a touchdown (Wait, scratch that. This analyst told everyone that would listen that LT would slow after starting the year hot, but again, you get the point here -- I hope). The point is that there are so many moving parts in football, be it weather, injury, game situation, matchup etc., that it's impossible to always be right.

So what do you do in Week 13 with your foursome? Here are my thoughts.

Johnson: Sixth in the NFL in rushing yards (973), CJ takes on a Jags defense that he gashed for 111 yards and a score in Week 6. He has faced the Jaguars five times in his career and has averaged 115.8 yards per contest. Further, the Jaguars have allowed 12 scores to the running back position over their last 11 games. Kerry Collins also should return to quarterback the club this week.

Turner: Over the past four weeks he has averaged 96.8 yards and a touchdown per contest. Turner torched the Bucs for 107 yards and two scores in Week 9. Turner has scored six times over the past five games and faces the Bucs 27th ranked rushing defense.

Charles: Up to second in the league with 1,021 rushing yards, Charles is the most dynamic back in football with a 6.3-yard per carry mark this season and a 6.0 mark in his career (418 carries). He rushed for only 41 yards in his first matchup with the Broncos in Week 10, but he was a huge weapon in the passing game with five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Oh, and the Broncos rushing defense has been atrocious allowing 17 touchdowns to running backs the past seven games. Yikes.

Jackson: He seems to have a shot at a second straight season of 1,000 rushing yards and 40 catches (he has 621 and 26 right now). He has been hot of late as well, a fact I noted above, but I have to tell you, his matchup this week doesn't look great. He will face a Vikings defense that is fifth against the run, has allowed the eighth fewest fantasy points to the running back position, and one that has allowed only six rushing scores to the running back position this season.

I know you don't want to hear it, but given the totality of the data, I'd suggest benching Jackson again this week.

Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Owners Edge and His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home of fantasy football: To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at You can also hear Ray's thoughts at the Sirius XM Homepage. (Ray is the co-host of a daily radio show on XM 147 and Sirius 211 satellite radio).

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