Week 6 is shaping up to be a tough one for fantasy football managers as they attempt to carefully maneuver through a running back minefield that saw three backs succumb to multi-week injuries. Luckily only two teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, have a bye this week, but without those teams in the mix there will still be two less starting running backs available to be used in fantasy starting lineups in Week 6.

Speaking of the Packers, Aaron Jones being a late scratch for his Monday night matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders after they had listed him as questionable on their last injury report should be an eye opener for fantasy football managers. They need to expect the unexpected and construct rosters with lots of depth, especially when it comes to the running back position. 

There’s been a flurry of waiver wire activity with regards to running backs this week as fantasy football managers who either neglected to roster their primary back’s handcuff or just don’t have enough running back depth on their rosters scramble to find the one thing they can’t find on Amazon Prime Day. That is, an indestructible running back who can fill the void created when their RB1 is expected to be out for a few weeks. In this week’s Running Back Handcuff Report, we’ll examine some of those NFL backfields who have lost their primary backs due to injury and provide our take on how those teams might utilize their running backs in Week 6.

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

Arizona Cardinals

We’re all going to have to watch the Cardinals’ injury report as kickoff approaches in Week 6. The one thing that’s certain is that James Conner, who was placed on the IR due to a knee injury, will miss at least the next four games. Entering the season Keaontay Ingram was expected to be Conner’s handcuff, but he’s been inactive the last two weeks due to a neck injury. If he’s out again this week, that leaves Emari Demercado as the team’s presumptive lead back. The Cardinals have elevated Corey Clement from their practice squad the past two weeks, and he may be active again in Week 6. They also claimed Tony Jones Jr., who already has one two TD game under his belt this season, off waivers but his Week 6 playing time will largely be determined by how much of the Cardinals’ playbook he can learn by the time kickoff rolls around. If by chance Ingram is active in Week 6 look for him to be used in early down situations with Demercado playing in passing down situations.

Chicago Bears

There’s also some uncertainty heading into Week 6 with regards to who’ll be the lead back for the Bears with Khail Herbert sidelined for multiple weeks due to a high ankle sprain. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time as Herbert. He was averaging 6.39 YPC over his last two games and seemed to be coming into his own of late. Rookie Roschon Johnson would likely fill in for Herbert but as this article is being written he’s in the NFL’s concussion protocol. D’Onta Foreman, whom the Bears signed as a free agent this offseason, has been a healthy scratch for the last four games and would be called upon to be the Bears’ lead back if Johnson cannot be cleared in time for Week 6’s kickoff. With Bears RB Travis Homer suffering a hamstring injury last Thursday, the Bears opted to sign Darrynton Evans, (who played for them last season), off the Dolphins’ practice squad. If Johnson is unavailable this week Foreman could see a huge workload. When given the opportunity over the last two seasons Foreman has produced. In the eight games in which Foreman had at least 12 carries last season he averaged 5.47 YPC and scored five rushing TDs. However, fantasy managers should note that if he’s healthy, Johnson is probably the better long-term option when it comes to fantasy production while Herbert is out. 

Miami Dolphins

De’Von Achane is yet another star running back who is expected to miss multiple games. The explosive rookie suffered a knee injury that could force the Dolphins to have to place him on the IR. Raheem Mostert will continue to take on a substantial workload during Achane’s absence. He’s made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 314 yards (5.4 YPC). Mostert is tied with Achane for the most rushing TDs in the NFL (7). He has a receiving TD as well. There have been reports that Jeff Wilson Jr. will be activated off the IR and have his 21-day practice window opened this week. He along with Salvon Ahmed, who was inactive in Week 5, would likely play a valuable change of pace role with Achane sidelined. With Wilson Jr. and Ahmed easing Mostert’s load, the Dolphins could avoid overusing their oft-injured veteran running back. With the Dolphins’ dynamic offense having enough firepower to support two fantasy relevant running backs last week, there’s a chance that Wilson could have some value as a flex play in the near future.

Carolina Panthers

Maybe it’s due to Miles Sanders lingering groin injury, but Chuba Hubbard has played a higher percentage of offensive snaps than Sanders for two straight weeks. In Week 4 Hubbard played 54% of the Panthers’ offensive snaps compared to Sanders’ 43%, and in Week 5 Sanders played 48% of the team’s offensive snaps compared to 46% for Sanders. Even though Hubbard has averaged 4.40 YPC compared to Sanders’ 3.11, neither running back has been fantasy viable this season. As per Fantasy Football today, in PPR scoring formats Sanders is RB 26 on the season and Hubbard is RB 28. With Sanders expected to be the team’s primary back to start the season, the Panthers’ running back utilization is a bit surprising.