Welcome to The Jump Cut, my new Monday column where I offer immediate running back reactions following Sunday's NFL action.
I'll continue to publish my RB Market Share Report on Tuesdays and my Ultimate Zero RB Watchlist AFC | NFC on Wednesdays. Each of those columns offers rich data analysis and team-by-team backfield breakdowns to help guide your season-long RB strategy.
The Jump Cut will provide similar analysis without all the frills, in order to deliver you timely insight for your impending waiver wire claims. Consider this your Monday mid-day Reader's Digest-style RB Report from the week that was in fantasy football.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (Thurs.)
PHI 34 -- GNB 27
Entering Thursday night's matchup, the RB storyline for both teams was each squad's insistence on a backfield committee -- to the eternal torment of fantasy owners. This week offered some answers but not the ones for which many fantasy players had hoped.
Packers RB Jamaal Williams re-injured his neck on a disturbing helmet-to-helmet hit early in the contest. Williams had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, but initial medical evaluations report he has full mobility in each of his four limbs. This was one of those injuries that is far more important than actual or fantasy football. No matter your allegiance, everyone is wishing Williams a full and speedy recovery -- the RotoViz team included.
With Williams sidelined, Aaron Jones finally inherited a dominant share of the team's backfield work. But "dominant" is relative I suppose, because he still only earned 13 rush attempts for 21 yards and a TD. With or without Williams, Jones has now averaged 11.5 rush attempts for 20 yards over his last two games -- which is disappointing to say the least.
However, he did add six receptions for 37 yards on seven targets, single-handedly doubling his receiving output through the first three weeks. Jones remains the ultimate fantasy wild card: He's capable of a week-winning explosion at any time, but his usage is not sufficient to sustain any semblance of a high floor.
Presuming that Williams is doubtful at best entering Week 5, rookie Dexter Williams would be the obvious inheritor of his previous workload. Green Bay could elect to have Jones run the show against the Cowboys, but Matt LaFleur's track-record suggests that a 60-40 split is more likely. D. Williams is not a home-run Flex candidate by any stretch, but if ever there was a week to stream him, this is it.
Jamaal Williams' injury rightly overshadowed Philadelphia's win, but Jordan Howard did his best to earn the fantasy spotlight. Howard amassed 115 total yards and three TDs en route to a 32.5-point fantasy performance. Rookie Miles Sanders -- the preseason favorite to win lead-back duties -- rushed 11 times for 72 yards and failed to score.
Through four weeks, it has become clear that Howard and Sanders are indeed operating in a 50-50 workload split. Howard reports 46 touches for 223 total yards versus Sanders' 51 touches and 262 total yards. However, Howard has scored all four of Philadelphia's RB TDs this season while Sanders and Darren Sproles have yet to find the end zone.
Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons
TEN 24 -- ATL 10
Titans RB Derrick Henry rushed 27 times for 100 yards against the Falcons but failed to score or log meaningful receiving stats. As is typically the case for early-down rushers, Henry benefited from an early-game lead, enabling him to rack up enough inefficient carries to provide a viable fantasy output.
After a red-hot start to the season, Henry's fantasy production has come back down to earth, as he has averaged 11.7 PPR points per game over the last two weeks. Of greater concern, he has only averaged 3.3 yards per carry over that span and is underperforming his fantasy expectation.
If you're a Henry owner, this should not alarm you: This is what you signed up for. RBs with limited receiving acumen are subject to this kind of fantasy volatility. Be patient, wait for his next explosion performance, and then evaluate whether or not selling high on Henry is a viable option. Until then, you have to take the good with the bad in situations like this.
Henry may be fading slightly over his past two games, but Falcons RB Devonta Freeman continues to trend upward. After an abysmal start to the season, he has now averaged 97.5 total yards and 15.3 PPR points per game over the last two weeks. In Week 4, Freeman put his receiving chops on display by hauling in eight of his nine targets for 72 yards. Ito Smith returned from a concussion to resume backup duties, earning four targets of his own and vulturing the team's lone TD.
Despite preexisting injuries for Smith and Kenjon Barner, reserves Qadree Ollison and Brian Hill still did not play in Week 4 -- and indeed have not recorded a single offensive statistic all season. Barring an injury to Freeman, none of Atlanta's reserves offer meaningful fantasy value even as contingency options.