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NFL Fantasy Week 2: Start ‘em, sit ‘em – running backs

NFL Fantasy owners know you can’t always trust the first week’s results when it comes to setting your Week 2 roster, but it sure seems like a good idea to start James Conner again. There’s no sign of Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh and there’s no sign the Steelers are as worried about it as they were last week.

Jay Ajayi needed two touchdowns in his limited role to turn 62 yards into an RB-7 finish. But word from Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson that Ajayi will be his workhorse back from here on out lifts him into the must-start category. Pederson said Ajayi’s recent foot injury caused him to call his number cautiously in Week 1.

So, that’s two more rushers I can’t use in my start ‘em or sit ‘em write-ups. Who else is left? Well… these guys:

Start this guy: Dion Lewis vs. Houston

Tennessee has a tougher contest this week, hosting the Texans in their home opener. They’ll face the Houston defense without Greg Olsen, and while there is reason to consider starting rookie tight end Ian Thomas in his absence, Dion Lewis’ stock rises, too.

Lewis’ heavy share of the workload compared to Derrick Henry in a close game in Miami already had NFL Fantasy owners’ attention. But the reliable power running and pass catching of the newest Titan rusher gives him the nod over Olsen’s replacement or Henry against a strong defensive line. Lewis is immune to a quarterback switch, too. Start him even if Blaine Gabbert bumps Marcus Mariota and his injured elbow out of the game.

Sit this guy: Jamaal Williams at Minnesota

Jamaal Williams nondescript 2018 debut might already have you looking elsewhere for a starting running back. You can shrug it off to a solid Chicago front-seven, but then what can you expect against the formidable Vikings’ defense?

Backup Ty Montgomery didn’t do enough to threaten Williams’ starting slot, but if he wants to get the lions’ share of the work when Aaron Jones gets back, Williams will have to do better than 3.1 yards per carry and failing to catch two targets. It looks unlikely a breakout will come against the Vikings.

Start this guy: Chris Thompson vs Indianapolis

Alex Smith will be just fine in Washington if his running backs keep doing what they did in Arizona. Eyes were fixed on Adrian Peterson and his 166-yard day. But Chris Thompson picked right up where he left off before a season-ending injury last year, too.

Thompson scored a touchdown and picked up 128 total yards. The Redskins did a nice job of mixing the efforts of the pair. Peterson had a surprising 70 receiving yards and Thompson, the third-down/passing back, gained half his yards on the ground.

Arguably, the script against Indianapolis will bring more of the same. If either back is at risk of diminished usage, it is Peterson in the scenario that Andrew Luck puts the Colts in front early. Thompson is a no-brainer in PPR leagues, but as his RB-9 opening effort shows, he has real value in standard play, too.

Sit this guy: Rex Burkhead at Jacksonville

New England was already worried about Burkhead’s balky knee, but the announcement that he is in the concussion protocol puts his status for Week 2 in doubt. Even if he makes it through the protocol and starts, Jacksonville’s defense is likely to limit his production.

Tom Brady might have to pass not because the Jaguars are out front, but because there is no one to run the ball. With Sony Michel still limited with a knee injury, the recently-signed Kenjon Barner might be activated, but James White is the only back worth risking a starting slot on. Burkhead, even if he is allegedly healthy, is too big a risk.

Start this guy: Jordan Howard vs. Seattle

Jordan Howard will soon be in the weekly must-start category, but I’ll milk him one more time while people still question his value. Chicago coach Matt Nagy seems to be keeping his word to use Howard in all scenarios, a three-down workhorse.

Five pass targets were great. Catching all five (for 25 yards) was even better. Taking three-quarters of the running back carries was somewhat expected. Only a touchdown kept Howard from a top-ten NFL Fantasy day.

Even in the worse-case scenario of a Seattle offensive explosion, Howard appears ready to be a fixture on the field. As Mitchell Trubisky gets more comfortable in the passing game, Howard’s stock will continue to rise.

Sit this guy: Chris Carson at Chicago

On the other side of the field, we have Chris Carson. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll told the media Carson is closer to being the main guy in the Seahawks’ backfield. But here’s the thing, he told us that all preseason, too and what we saw in Week 1 was a dead-even time share with Rashaad Penny.

Carson’s superior results and the dire need to establish a running game to keep Khalil Mack and the Bears honest should make Carson an obvious NFL Fantasy option. But after Carroll said, “He’s closer”, I almost expect a third running back to enter the equation Sunday.

Seattle’s offensive line doesn’t make playing Carson any safer. I also don’t see a shift to a run-first mentality regardless of opponent. Seattle rides with Russell Wilson and whatever receivers line up. Sit Carson again.

Extra credit:

Can you sit David Johnson? Not really, but if you have someone with enough of an upside, it’s not a bad thought. Arizona’s offense looked awful against a mid-range Redskins defense. Facing the Rams could make Johnson’s 12 NFL Fantasy points (including a touchdown) look like a goldmine.

Alfred Morris’ two fumbles (one lost) and a potential shootout in San Francisco bode well for Matt Breida. I’d start him, but probably not over Johnson.

Marshawn Lynch is in for another tough week against a reborn Broncos defense. Sit him down in the thin air of Denver.

Full disclosure: Is 8 out of 10 good?

Peyton Barber wasn’t allowed to play with Ryan Fitzpatrick's ball last week. That cost me a perfect sweep of my six featured start ‘em and sit ‘ems. I hit on three of four extra mentions, too. I’ll call that an 80% accuracy rate and pat myself on the back all week.

Next week could be better. I don’t want to ruin my high by thinking of the alternative.

Git a start ‘em or sit ‘em question? Post it below or put it on my Facebook page.