Heading into the Conference Championships this weekend, Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy, and Daniel Herron project to be used as bellcow RBs. The backfield situation in New England is far murkier. Given the limited options at each position with only 2 games, the RB minimum has dropped to $2,000, offering a bit more lineup flexibility. Let’s take a look at the ground attacks of each remaining playoff team.
Highest Priced RB: Marshawn Lynch, GB @ SEA, $7,600
With as much attention as the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” demands as the source of Seattle’s swagger, Marshawn Lynch transforming into Beastmode is the catalyzing factor that drives this team. He finished the season with 17 TDs, with a Week 16 scamper against the Cardinals that is a surefire play of the year candidate. When the Seahawks hosted the Packers in Week 1, Lynch ran for 110 yards and scored twice. Despite Green Bay’s effectiveness against the pass, they are a vulnerable team against the run, finishing 23rd in the NFL with 120 rush yards allowed per game. Lynch emerges this week as the clear-cut top option, priced $1,300 higher than his closest peer. Of Seattle’s other 2 bargain bin RBs, Christine Michael ($2,000) and Robert Turbin ($2,000), Turbin’s workload has been the highest, averaging nearly 10 carries the past 3 games.
Green Bay Packers
Highest Priced RB: Eddie Lacy, GB @ SEA, $6,300
With Aaron Rodgers visibly lumbering through a left calf injury, he took every snap against the Cowboys from the shotgun last week. Statistically, this is good news for Lacy as he averaged over 5 yards per carry out of the shotgun, compared to almost a yard less in other formations. One red flag for him however, is missing time in the 2nd quarter last week from an asthma attack in the cold weather. Regardless, he has performed exceptionally with a heavy workload as of late, with just 1 game under 97 rushing yards in his last 7 contests. With about half of Lynch’s touchdown output, Lacy enters Seattle priced at his biggest discount since Week 8. James Starks ($2,000) would make an intriguing flier this week given that he will be in the game to spell Lacy, at the very least. It is worth noting that when facing Seattle Week 1, he outrushed Lacy on just 7 carries. Despite the Seahawks stout run defense, he could turn out to be the best RB minimum play of the week.
Highest Priced RB: Daniel Herron, IND @ NE, $5,900
There will be a booming presence in each game this weekend, with Daniel Herron establishing himself as the feature back in Indianapolis. He has truly thrived in the playoffs, posting his 2 highest scoring performances of the year, with 24 and 29 points. His previous single-game high was just 16 points. The major difference is his presence in the passing game as the check-down option for Andrew Luck, and the two have already connected 18 times in the postseason. Herron has also added 2 playoff touchdowns and shouldered his heaviest load last week with 23 carries. With Trent Richardson ($2,000) a healthy scratch in their upset of the Broncos, the only other Colts option is Zurlon Tipton ($2,100). Despite Herron’s increased carries, he did appear to suffer an arm injury when plunging into the endzone last week, and Tipton would likely be the beneficiary if he misses any time. With Justin Forsett gashing the Patriots for 129 yards last week, Herron should have another successful outing if he is not limited from all the extra hits he took last week.
New England Patriots
Highest Priced RB: LeGarrette Blount, IND @ NE, $4,500
Last time the Patriots faced the Colts, undrafted rookie Jonas Gray ($2,800) pummeled Indianapolis to the tune of 201 yards on 37 carries. Last week, Gray was a healthy scratch and the Patriots rushed the ball just 7 times. Given that they were essentially trailing the entire game, this is not a huge surprise, but it is anyone’s guess who Bill Belichick will send into action each week. Newly re-signed special teams standout Brandon Bolden ($2,300), opened the game in the backfield, yet only finished with 4 touches. Shane Vereen ($4,300) saw the most work of any Patriots back with only a carry and 4 catches, but might have the most upside of the group with PPR scoring. If New England gets out to an early lead, LeGarrette Blount could play a major role as the biggest and most physical RB on the roster. Obviously keep an eye on the inactives list Sunday if you pick one of these guys, as you still have the flexibility to swap one out for another. All are risky options, but picking the right one could pay big dividends.