Ray Rice had his best game of the season by far yesterday against the Chicago Bears, and fantasy owners who have stuck by their first-round draft pick reaped the benefits of Rice’s 131-yard, one touchdown performance.
Rice and the Baltimore Ravens‘ run game looked the best that it has all season, but I don’t think Sunday’s performance is indicative of what we should expect in the future. To me, all Rice proved was that he wasn’t completely washed up. The Bears are 31st in the NFL in run defense, giving up just over 131 yards per game. The last five starting running backs to go against them — Rice included — have all had at least 4.8 yards per carry against them.
Combine the porous Bears’ defense with the weather conditions from yesterday’s game — the wind made passing extremely difficult and the slickness of the field created problems for defenders in pursuit — and you have all the ingredients needed for a struggling running back to get on track.
Rice did indeed look much better yesterday than he had in previous games, but not to the point where he looked like the Rice of yesteryear. He had one long run in the first quarter that went for 47 yards, but any NFL running back should be able to make that run — it was a stretch play that went to the left side, the Bears were a little too aggressive in their pursuit and the Ravens did a nice job holding their blocks. A huge hole opened up for Rice and he hit it.
He showed good patience, vision and acceleration, but he didn’t need to make anybody miss on the run, and that is where he’s had issues this season. On the day, Rice only made one person miss a tackle, and Bears defenders had little trouble bringing him down once they were able to catch him.
Considering the circumstances surrounding him, it would have been an indictment as to how far he’s fallen if Rice hadn’t bounced back this past weekend. I don’t necessarily think Rice’s career is over; he has been dealing with a hip injury all season and it’s easy to imagine how difficult it must be to be an NFL running back with a bad hip. Given a full offseason to recover, it would not surprise me at all if a 27-year-old Rice bounces back in 2014.
I do however think that this is the highest his value is going to be all season, and it conveniently happens to be a few days before the trade deadline in many fantasy leagues. My sales pitch to prospective owners would be that Rice looked the best he has all year against the Bears in Week 11 and outside of Week 12 against the New York Jets, he has a pretty easy schedule coming up.