WEEK 8 PICKS: Ellington Back On Top

The NFL has been known as a “passing league” for several years now, with records for passing and receiving falling often. Lately, we’ve seen more balance from the NFL.

Last week, 12 teams had a 100-yard rusher. Two more players were within three yards of the 100-yard mark. Along the way, we’ve seen several breakouts at running back like Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman, Miami’s Lamar Miller (who led everyone with 175 yards rushing last week) and rookies Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon. Even the perennial underachieving Darren McFadden seemed to take control of the backfield in Dallas.

What might that mean for Week 8? We could have some backs providing value again:

Todd Gurley (RB) will have at least 25 carries

Yeldon’s first 100-yard game should be a sign of his future in Jacksonville, but Gurley is the rookie back that has everyone talking. Fully recovered from knee surgery, the first-round draft pick has become the offensive centerpiece for the St. Louis Rams and coach Jeff Fisher isn’t shy about using Gurley.

Gurley has topped 125 yards rushing in his last three games with at least 19 carries in each of those contests. Last week against Cleveland’s league-worst run defense, Gurley had 19 carries for 128 yards and wasn’t leaned on because of St. Louis’ blowout victor. San Francisco is a bit more respectable against the run but not much more. The 49ers are 20th in the league against the run, allowing 113.3 yards per game.

Suggestion: 25 Points x 3.08 Offer = 77.00 Return

Matt Forte (RB) will have at most 65 rushing yards

On the flipside is Forte, who is still regarded as one of the best backs in the league. Forte is still a quality contributor and one of the few every-down backs in the league. But this matchup doesn’t bode well for Forte. Chicago is coming off the bye and could lean on Forte, but Minnesota’s run defense has really tightened since the opener. The Vikings have held four of its past five opponents to less than 90 yards rushing.

In the past five games, Minnesota has allowed an average of 81.2 rushing yards per game. Take out a 72-yard run by Ronnie Hillman and the average drops to 66.8 yards per game. Forte will still be involved and will get his touches but expecting him to have a big day on the ground is unwise. He hasn’t topped 91 rushing yards since the opener and when these two teams faced last year, Forte averaged 84 rushing yards per game.

Suggestion: 15 Points x 2.99 Offer = 44.85 Return

Charcandrick West (RB) will have more carries than Eddie Lacy

Call this a little bit of recency bias, or low-hanging fruit, depending on your viewpoint. West is one of the little-known backs to break out last week with 110 yards rushing. West is now the main man in Kansas City because of Jamaal Charles’ season-ending injury. What many might not realize, though, is West had more carries last week than Charles did in any game this season.

West had 22 carries in a win against Pittsburgh and very well could top the number this week against Detroit in this week’s London game. Lacy is coming back off the bye and is reportedly feeling healthier again. Lacy took a backseat to James Starks before the bye week, but Starks is reportedly dealing with his own injury now. While Lacy could see the bulk of the carries, he will be facing Denver’s fourth-ranked running game and Green Bay might just decide to put the game in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ hands.

Suggestion: 15 Points x 2.30 Offer = 34.50 Return

Philip Rivers (QB) will have at least 50 pass attempts

The running game hasn’t been working in San Diego and Rivers is the beneficiary. Rivers is on pace to set NFL records in passing yardage and completions in a season. The Chargers haven’t received the same impact from their rookie running back (Melvin Gordon) as St. Louis and Jacksonville. So the offense has been on Rivers’ shoulders and he’s responded by throwing the ball 123 times the past two weeks.

Fifty pass attempts is a big number, but Rivers has surpassed the total each of the past two weeks and was just two away the previous week. Meanwhile, Gordon is still an unknown and is dealing with an injury and Danny Woodhead is more of a pass catcher than straight-ahead runner. San Diego faces Baltimore this week, where the Chargers can use their strength in the passing game against the Ravens’ weakness against the pass. Baltimore has the league’s fourth-worst pass defense, allowing 283 yards per game.

Suggestion: 15 Points x 2.20 Offer = 33.00 Return

Dorial Green-Beckham (WR) will have at least 4 receptions

Fantasy players were duped a bit last week when it came to Green-Beckham and Dallas’ Christine Michael. Coaches talked up the two players and said they would be more involved, only to see both players offer very little. We saw McFadden take over with Michael on the bench and Tennessee relied on usual targets Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker in the passing game.

But Green-Beckham was more involved, even if he didn’t catch a single pass and was only targeted once. The ultra-talented rookie played 36 snaps, a season-high 67 percent. In fact, Green-Beckham’s percentage of snaps has gone up each of the past three games coinciding with the team’s Week 4 bye. Here’s to believing the expected breakout will come this week against Houston.

Suggestion: 15 Points x 5.00 Offer = 75.00 Return

BOLD PREDICTION OF THE WEEK

Andre Ellington (RB) will have more rushing yards than Chris Johnson

One of the running backs who has received a lot of attention this week has been Johnson, especially after his not-quite-down 62-yard run on Monday night against Baltimore. Johnson’s comeback season is remarkable and he’s coming off a 122-yard game. Arizona also faces Cleveland, and we’ve mentioned before how the Browns can be exploited by the run.

Johnson will surely get first crack at Cleveland, and very well could have success. But in the second-half of Monday’s game, Andre Ellington started to see the field more and more. While Johnson had the big numbers, Ellington also finished with five carries for 21 yards. Also, Ellington had all five of his carries in the second half, when Johnson only had eight. This wasn’t the case of resting the top runner in a blowout. Arizona won and it was never more than a two-possession game. In fact, Ellington and rookie David Johnson (three carries) combined for as many as Johnson in the second half. Perhaps we saw a bit of shift for the Cardinals in how they perceive the three backs, and maybe Ellington will be the one to finish off games.

Suggestion: 10 Points x 5.56 Offer = 55.60 Return

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Written by Brian Hall
Hall has spent the past 13 years as a reporter in the Twin Cities, covering every professional team along with the University of Minnesota. For the past four years, he was a regular beat reporter covering the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Wild for FoxSportsNorth.com. He's been an avid fantasy sports player for years and has caught the daily fantasy sports bug like so many others.