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Fantasy Football: What Week 1 backfield distributions could mean moving forward

September 11, 2017 GMT

With one Week 1 game left that carries significant fantasy backfield intrigue — New Orleans visiting Minnesota — let’s review how some of the more fantasy relevant backfields divvied up touches Sunday.

Although eighth overall pick Christian McCaffrey arrived in the NFL with more fantasy fanfare due to his three-down versatility, it was do-it-all dynamos Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen stealing the Week 1 spotlight. But fret not, McCaffrey owners; the rookie out-snapped veteran Jonathan Stewart 47-to-29 and handled just one less touch than the veteran. Stewart, ironically, found the end zone as a receiver for only the __ time in his _-year career, but McCaffrey led the Panthers in targets (7) and managed 85 scrimmage yards in a solid if unspectacular debut. Despite his long play of the day going for 16 yards and him failing to score, McCaffrey owners should be fairly pleased with his Week 1 outing and especially his active role — garbage-time fumble notwithstanding.

Hunt’s historic debut unfortunately may detract from what Cohen accomplished Sunday — but it shoudn’t. Cohen proved why he’s nicknamed “Chicken Salad” on his 46-yard run, switching course on a stretch play bottled up to his left and slipping and speeding to the play’s backside for an explosive gain, including, yes, a broken tackle by the tiny North Carolina A&T product. Now here’s the part where “Chicken Salad” doesn’t apply: Cohen made something out of his debut alright, but it was hardly out of nothing: his game-high 113 scrimmage yards — he led Chicago in rushing and receiving — came on a game-high 20 total touches. Great news for Cohen, not so much for Jordan Howard, who found the end zone on a nifty wildcat play triggered by Cohen but also dropped a would-be game-winner with less than 10 seconds left. Our advice to Howard owners: be concerned about your guys’ 57-42 percent playtime split, but also be realistic about which of the two backs is built to last for 16 games under these circumstances.

If you were paying close attention to the Bengals Sunday in hopes of finding some clarity on their three’s-a-crowd RB corps, we hope your eyes have recovered. Indeed, Cincinnati’s offense was a tough watch, and Joe Mixon matching Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill hardly materialized: the rookie’s nine total rushing yards on eight carries were fewer than both of the vets’ long run on the day. The good news, if there is any on a woeful afternoon for Andy Dalton and the offense, is Hill earned just 10 (!) touches, compared to Bernard’s 29 and Mixon’s 22, and the rookie secured all three of his targets. If Hill is getting phased out, this situation could get very interesting, though we’ll believe it when we see it — both Marvin Lewis going away from HIll and opposing pass rushers being kept away from Dalton.

Derrick Henry was the Titans’ leading rusher at halftime vs. Oakland, albeit with just 20 yards on five carries. By the time Oakland was celebrating its 26-16 road victory, DeMarco Murray was comfortably ahead in touches (14 to 6) and snaps (47 to 18). That Murray was ineffective against a bad Raiders ‘D’ may be the silver lining (12-44 rushing) for Henry owners, and we’d expect Mike Mularkey to enter this week determined to get his run game humming in Jacksonville on Sunday.

If Eddie Lacy couldn’t command more than three carries and seven snaps in his return to Green Bay with Thomas Rawls on the shelf, it may never happen. Of course, the struggle not to overreact in Week 1 is real — like Lacy’s weight and the Seahawks offensive line issues — but but also Seattle’s belief in seventh-round stud Chris Carson (team-high 6 carries, 25 snaps). This volatile backfield looks like an avoid right now, but there’s too much talent to forget it completely, especially with Wilson’s athleticism back and better matchups ahead.

The Eagles’ win in Washington showcased two potentially explosive offenses that once again may have little interest in building run games. But it’s worth noting the change-ups, Darren Sproles and Chris Thompson, were on the field roughly half the time with their respective offenses. LeGarrette Blount, like Stewart, made a rare foray into the end zone as a receiver, but he played just 23 total snaps despite Philadelphia leading the final 30 minutes. Washington attempted just 17 runs (10 from Rob Kelley) and its best play through the air was a go-ahead 29-yard touchdown to Thompson.

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