METAIRIE, La. -- What a story it would be: Adrian Peterson, one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs, makes an unlikely return from a knee injury in Week 15 -- and leads your team to a fantasy championship.
Unfortunately, that scenario seems a little far-fetched even in a fantasy world. Yes, Peterson declared Friday that he is “ready to roll” and plans to return for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. And ESPN’s Bob Holtzman reported that one of Peterson’s teammates said he “looks like Adrian” in practice.
But expectations have to be low for a guy who has not played since Week 2 and who was averaging only 1.6 yards per carry at the time for a rushing offense that ranks last in the NFL with 73.4 yards per game.
ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling said that if Peterson does in fact play this week, the Vikings will likely work him in slowly. He could play more in Week 16, but that might depend on whether the Vikings are still in playoff contention.
“Peterson says he's playing Sunday, but the Vikings have cautioned this week that he's got some things to get reacquainted with, particularly considering the fact Pat Shurmur wasn't the offensive coordinator the last time Peterson played,” Goessling said. “The Vikings have been in the shotgun two-thirds of the time since Shurmur took over for Norv Turner, and shotgun sets haven't exactly been Peterson's preferred method of getting the ball. Still, the Vikings are likely to use him for the potential of explosive plays.”
If you are in desperate need of a fill-in running back, the good news is that Peterson is not your only choice. Here is the skinny on three other guys who might still be available in your league:
Expectations should be tempered a bit with Farrow, too, because of his inexperience and because the Chargers may lean heavily on Philip Rivers and the passing game. But ESPN Chargers reporter Eric Williams said Farrow should “handle the bulk of the workload” Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Ronnie Hillman might get some third-down and red zone work. But Williams described Farrow as a “bruising, in-between-the-tackles runner” at 5-foot-9, 219 pounds, who should be used on early downs and near the goal line. Farrow had 16 carries for 55 yards last week after Gordon got hurt, and Chargers coach Mike McCoy said a full week of practice reps should help him play even faster this week.
“It was definitely good to get into a rhythm a little bit,” Farrow said. “And just being in there that much for the first time and being able to go back and watch the details on film and seeing what I can correct, that would be the biggest thing.”
Bilal Powell, New York Jets. Powell would be an even better option than Farrow if Jets starter Matt Forte was ruled out with a knee injury. But ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini estimated there is a 50-75 percent chance that Forte will play. Either way, Cimini wrote that Powell will likely get most of the work.
Powell ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns last week after Forte was injured. And Cimini wrote a detailed piece this week about how the Jets have misused their running backs this season by not using Powell more -- especially as the 31-year-old Forte started to wear down.
Cimini wrote that Powell should have been used in more of a 50-50 split all year instead of just a pass-catching third-down role. Perhaps the Jets will agree after what Powell did last week.
"We have two good backs," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "Matt’s a good back as well. It was just Bilal’s turn to shine, and he did. You wait and get opportunities. He shined. There’s no reason he shouldn’t play more. Matt was playing well at the same time. You try to split the time and try to split the reps up."
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers. ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovksy wrote a great piece this week about how injured Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy can’t get past the idea that his primary replacement wears No. 88 -- since Montgomery is a converted wide receiver -- though Lacy appreciates what a good job Montgomery has done.
Montgomery doesn’t have more than nine attempts in any game yet this season. But that could change this week because veteran James Starks is doubtful with a concussion suffered in a car accident. And Montgomery is averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry since Week 7.
When asked if Montgomery could be a guy who carries the ball 20 times a game, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “That’s a question you really grow into. He’s definitely a durable player. You look at just the way he’s built. The fact of the matter is he returns kickoffs, too. I think that tells you what we think about his ability to run up in there. We’ll see how it goes this week, but, yes, I have confidence he can get to that number if he had to.”
Rodgers hasn’t practiced. Green Bay’s quarterback situation probably has more fantasy owners in a bit of a panic. Not only could the cold weather affect Green Bay’s passing game, but QB Aaron Rodgers hasn’t practiced all week because of a calf injury.
You have to consider another option if you’ve got a really good one. But McCarthy said this week that Rodgers told him, "Don't hold anything back" because of the injury. “So we're approaching this game no different than we did last week,” McCarthy said.
ESPN’s fantasy analysts don’t seem too concerned, because they still have Rodgers ranked No. 2 among quarterbacks this week.
The Bears are getting top receiver Alshon Jeffery back from a four-game suspension. ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson said the cold weather also could limit Chicago’s passing attack. Other than that, he would trust Jeffery to make an immediate impact. Jeffery also needs to develop a rapport with backup QB Matt Barkley -- who estimated that he had never thrown a practice pass to Jeffery before this week. But Jeffery predicted this week that, "It won’t take long. We’ll get it together."
The Miami Dolphins also have to get used to life with a new quarterback in the wake of Ryan Tannehill's knee injury. ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker said he thinks almost all of Miami’s skill-position players will be negatively impacted, because the team will likely throw the ball less and because teams will likely stack eight men in the box even more than they already have against RB Jay Ajayi -- “which is saying something." But one player Walker said he could see benefitting is WR Kenny Stills. “He is Miami's deep threat, and the long ball is [new QB Matt] Moore's best throw," Walker said. "I don't see Moore throwing it 40 times, but there will be a few opportunities to hit big plays over the top.”
ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell warned fantasy owners against rushing to put receiver A.J. Green back in their lineups. Green is listed as doubtful after returning to practice this week from his hamstring injury. A source told ESPN’s Holtzman that Green is targeting next week for his return. Terrell said Bengals rookie WR Tyler Boyd would be a better option this week -- though it’s not a great matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.