Week 16 Running Back Sleeper Report

Bell has a banner matchup this week against a hopeless Giants defense

Bell has a banner matchup this week against a hopeless Giants defense

With two weeks left in the NFL regular season, there are few positions that a team could be in. Teams like Denver, Kansas City, Seattle and Indianapolis have clinched playoff berths and are jockeying for position. Teams like Miami, Baltimore, San Diego, and Green Bay (or Detroit or Chicago) are fighting to get a seat at the table. And then you have teams like Houston, Jacksonville, Washington, and Atlanta (along with a host of others) who probably would do best to ride their losing seasons out and get a great draft pick.

The teams in the first two tiers need all of their skill position players to have big games for them; that’s good for fantasy owners. The teams in the last tier have already begun to shut down their best players because they know there is nothing left to play for.

Take Houston for example. Ben Tate has officially been put on IR. He could probably go, but the Texans know there is no use in risking his health on a 2-12 team. And this comes after Arian Foster already being out for the year some weeks earlier.

So as you make decisions in your fantasy playoffs, be sure you are paying attention to your key skill positions and how their teams are faring. If they are still in line for a top draft pick, don’t expect someone to have a breakout game just because. The teams may say they are still playing for something, but what they really want is one of the top players eligible for next year’s draft.

With that in mind, here are a couple backs that could have an impact this week.

Joique Bell (DET)

Bell is second fiddle to Reggie Bush when it comes to touches in the Detroit offense. However, he’s managed 7 TD’s on the ground this year, and has been a reliable threat out of the backfield for a team that puts up huge numbers on offense.

He had a weak game against Baltimore last week, but the Lions are facing the New York Giants this Sunday. The Giants season is over. And while Tom Coughlin may be fighting for his job, his team looked pathetic last week against Seattle.

Detroit needs this game badly, and they will need all hands on deck to finish strong. Look for Bell to be a viable target for Matthew Stafford out of the backfield. He is bound to be an important piece for them as they strive to make the playoffs.

Rashard Mendenhall (AZ)

Mendenhall has average a paltry 3.1 yards per carry this season, but he is still Arizona’s number one option at running back. You may be tempted to sit him because it’s entirely possible he throws up a dud.

But, Arizona needs to win their next two games if they have a chance at making the playoffs. And Bruce Arians will keep feeding Mendenhall the rock regardless of his production.

Seattle has a stout defense, but Arizona will try to establish their ground game early and often. They will mix in Andre Ellington here and there, but the Cardinals have proven that they will ride Mendenhall into the dance or into the offseason. He consistently gets over 15 touches every game, and the Seahawks have little to play for. Look for the Arizona offense to come out hungry.

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