At this point, everyone knows that the bust rates of running backs are higher than other position due to injuries, committees and rule changes. But this year has been one for the record books. 

Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray, C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill all went in the first two rounds of your draft. And they’ve all either gotten hurt or have grossly underperformed. Only Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy have emerged from this top-two round mess intact. 

All this carnage is coming to a head in the fantasy playoffs, with third and fourth-string running backs suddenly looking like keys to rosters. What to expect:

 

BOLD ON BOLDEN

Sunday’s game against the Titans is the proverbial “big back” game for the Patriots as they’re in Foxboro and are favored by 14 points. Now stepping into the great footsteps of Corey Dillon, Stevan Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney and LeGarrette Blount is Brandon Bolden. A favorite of the coaching staff thanks to his rugged versatility (special teams, pass protection, inside running), Bolden is a great bet for at least 15 carries Sunday. Don’t be afraid to scoop and start him in your playoffs.

 

REGRESSING OFF A HIGH

Tim Hightower’s 28 carries against the Bucs last week were six more than Mark Ingram ever received in a game. It showed this staff has a lot of faith in Hightower, but it also had a lot to do with really unusual game flow. The Saints defense actually stood tall, leading to more than 37 minutes in time of possession and a whopping 78 offensive plays. Hightower is a reasonable play against the Lions this week, but expect something closer to 15 carries. 

 

MR. ROBINSON’S NEIGHBORHOOD

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson continues to improve as a running back. He averaged 3.3 YPC as a rookie, 4.3 last year and is up at 4.6 this year. Now comes a big chance with T.J. Yeldon (knee) in doubt for Sunday’s home game against the Falcons. An explosive runner who projects for 2-4 catches as well, Robinson is a must-add and must-start assuming Yeldon is inactive. Note that “Shoelace” has gotten at least 15 touches six times in his career, averaging 16.6 carries for 81.5 yards with 0.83 TDs in those. 

 

NBA PICKUPS OF THE WEEK

1. Matt Barnes, SF, Grizzlies – Memphis’ starting lineup change should be permanent as Zach Randolph is a liability. That means 32-35 minutes nightly for Barnes.  

2. Allen Crabbe, SG, Blazers – Never shy with his shot, Crabbe has made at least one 3-pointer in 21-of-26 games this year. At 28.3 minutes per game in December.  

3. Luol Deng, SF, Heat – Looking healthy again with at least 34 minutes in three straight games. 

 

NFL Matchups

Fire up these borderline wideouts in Week 15:

1. Golden Tate at NO – Look for Delvin Breaux to stick with Calvin Johnson, leaving Tate to do work on the inside.  

2. John Brown at PHL – There will be opportunities for big plays against an Eagles secondary that is prone to breakdowns.  

3. Allen Hurns vs. ATL – With T.J. Yeldon hurting and a pass-happy scheme, the underrated Hurns will eat once again. 

 

NFL NEWS

In the immediate aftermath of Jamaal Charles’ season-ending injury, Charcandrick West received Charles-esque usage. Between Weeks 7 and 10, he averaged a whopping 25.0 touches per game. Then came a hamstring pull and the emergence of impressive power back Spencer Ware, which led to a RBBC. But now Ware is nursing a rib injury and is in doubt for Sunday’s game against a crumbling Ravens team. If Ware can’t go, West will regain strong RB1 status.