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The running back position has been a veritable nightmare for most fantasy football managers. Top players like Jonathan Taylor, Dalvin Cook and Najee Harris should have a guaranteed spot in your starting lineup regardless of matchup, but looking at the injury report where players like Aaron Jones, James Robinson and Antonio Gibson — players who should be automatic — are flagged with questionable tags, you are now in need of a serious contingency plan for Week 12.
Unfortunately, the position has been picked cleaner than your Thanksgiving Day turkey, so you are forced into some deep, dark corners of your waiver wire and now have to rely on those you never even thought to roster this season.
As crazy as it sounds, the matchup between the Jets and the Texans is exactly where you should look first. Both teams sit at 2-8 and one of the primary reasons for that is that neither can stop the run. The Jets rank 31st in DVOA against the run, they give up the fourth-most rushing yards per game and have allowed a league-high 20 rushing touchdowns this season. They also allow the most fantasy points per game to the running back position.
The Texans rank 23rd in DVOA against the run, have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns this season, allow the third-most rushing yards per game and give up the eighth-most fantasy points per game to running backs.
The Jets had rookie running back Michael Carter emerge as the leader of the backfield, but an ankle injury has forced him out for this week, which means Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson will likely share the role. If you play in a traditional, non-PPR league, Coleman might have more appeal as the early-down back. But in a PPR format, Ty Johnson offers more upside as the primary pass-catcher. When Carter left last week’s game, that was the workload distribution, so it becomes more of a “pick your poison” based on scoring format.
On the Houston side, you will find yourself choosing between David Johnson and Rex Burkhead. The two should see more of a 50/50 split on carries, but Johnson clearly sees the pass-catching work out of this backfield. He has had nine targets over the past two games, and the fact that the Jets rank 28th in DVOA against running back pass-plays should make him as enticing an option as many of you will find this week.
Others to consider would be Wayne Gallman and Brandon Bolden, but neither has an appealing matchup or a strong carry-total ahead of him. Using the Jets and Texans may not be appealing, but given the matchups and injuries this week, they just might be your best contingency plan. This is not the time to be proud or take a loss.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.