As we head into Week 15 of the NFL season, and the first week of the fantasy football playoffs, the running back position remains one of the most volatile in fantasy football. The wear and tear that comes from playing in a long NFL season, the effects from injuries, and a three headed monster will make setting fantasy football lineups a real challenge for some managers in Week 15. Week 16 might not be any better as we may have to figure out if the whispers about Jonathan Taylor possibly being active next week are true, and if they are, will he be on a snap count? Well, to get to Week 16 we’re going to need to win in Week 15 so let’s take a closer look at a few backfields that deserve your attention as you march towards a fantasy football championship in this week’s RB Handcuff Report.

Handcuffing Your Running Backs

When you handcuff your RBs in many instances you’re:

  • Protecting your early round investment
  • Buying into and trusting that your RB’s team will continue to make running the football a priority 
  • Figuratively taking out insurance against an injury prone RB or one who has a good chance of losing his job if he doesn’t perform well

Chicago Bears

Could there have been a worst-case scenario for fantasy football managers looking to roster a Bears running back based on the way offensive snaps were distributed in the Bears backfield this past weekend? Khalil Herbert, who started the season as the Bears’ primary back, was ignored again in Week 14. Herbert who played a season high 78% of the teams’ offensive snaps in week 4, played just 17% of the Bears’ offensive snaps in Week 14. That was his fourth straight game in which his snaps played percentage has decreased. Roschon Johnson who looked as if he was ready to lay claim to the Bears’ lead back role in Week 12 (season high 74% offensive snaps played) had just one carry and saw his offensive snaps played percentage decrease to 28% in Week 14. D’Onta Foreman was the big winner in Week 14, leading Bears running backs with 55% of the teams’ offensive snaps played. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into a ton of fantasy production since he only had 11 carries for 50 yards and two catches for 22 yards. It’s not looking much better for Bears running backs in Week 15 as they are going to have a hard time against the Browns who have given up the 10 fewest PPR fantasy points per game to the running back position.

Los Angeles Chargers

Fantasy football managers rostering Austin Ekeler were in a panic at the start of his matchup against the Broncos in Week 14 when the Chargers announced that he’d be splitting carries with Joshua Kelley and Isiah Spiller. With Ekeler averaging just 3.7 yards per carry on the season, you can’t blame the Chargers for wanting to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle with either Spiller or Kelley.  All three backs saw action in the first quarter but as the game wore on it was clear that Ekeler is still considered the Chargers’ lead back. He was the only Chargers running back to play an offensive snap in the fourth quarter. Overall Ekeler played a total of 49 snaps, followed by 12 for Spiller and seven for Kelley.

Cincinnati Bengals

Chase Brown had just two carries through the first 12 weeks of the season, but he has 17 carries over the last two weeks of the season and his 18 snaps played in Week 14 (30% of the Bengals’ offensive snaps) was his season high. He had eight carries for 25 yards and Brown also caught three passes for 80 yards, including one catch for a touchdown in Week 14 and he scored the 10th most points among running backs in PPR scoring formats. Joe Mixon is still clearly the Bengals’ lead back but the Bengals have been running the ball more of late (56.4% of their play selection in Week 14 were running plays) and that could lead to more opportunities for Brown, who is undoubtedly Mixon’s handcuff.

Miami Dolphins

Over the past three weeks the Dolphins have run the ball at the third highest rate in football (51.78). De’Von Achane has been active for two of those three weeks but based on his usage in Week 14 Raheem Mostert is either strongly looked upon as the team’s lead back or Achane might not be fully recovered from his knee injury. Achane has been more explosive than Mostert of late, averaging 5 yards per carry over the past two weeks compared to 4.34 for Mostert but Mostert has 32 carries compared to 24 for Achane during the same two game period. Achane’s snaps played percentage fell from 61% in Week 13 to 46% in Week 14 while Mostert’s shot up from 38% to 64% during the same time period.