The New England Patriots‘ backfield is turning into something of a mystery right now and unfortunately for fantasy owners, it couldn’t come at a worse time. The playoffs are staring us in the face, looming large and the last thing we need is an already-sketchy situation becoming even shadier. Lineup decisions are of the utmost importance and the Pats certainly aren’t doing anything to make them any easier, so it’s up to us to figure this mess out. Let’s take a look at the facts and see if there’s any conclusion to be drawn here:
One thing we can pretty comfortably say is that Stevan Ridley isn’t going to get the majority of touches this Sunday. Ridley was benched during the Pats’ win over the Denver Broncos last week after fumbling for the third game in a row, so he’s squarely in Bill Belichick‘s doghouse. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels declined to shed any significant light on the situation when discussing it earlier this week, just saying that he has confidence in Ridley, but that the problem also needs to be addressed. That obviously doesn’t give us anything concrete to go on, but I think it’s at least fair to assume Ridley won’t be leading the charge against the Houston Texans. Although he could still wind up getting a few carries, he’s not at all trustworthy this week and I highly recommend you keep him riding the pine for now.
If you were really banking on Ridley this week, you’d be better served by picking up teammate Brandon Bolden and plugging him in instead. Bolden is one of the most inconsistent backs in the game, partially due to his penchant for injuries, but more because he’s near the bottom of the pecking order in the Pats’ offense. With the way things are looking right now, however, it appears he might be in for a larger-than-normal workload against the Texans. He’s supposedly the favorite for early-down work this week, but truthfully, we still don’t really know what that will end up meaning. He might start the game, but there’s no telling how much he’ll actually be involved. If you have better options, don’t even think about gambling on Bolden because the risk just isn’t worth the reward. I would only suggest playing him if you’re really in a tough spot or if it’s instead of Ridley.
The only Patriots’ running back who can be confidently started in fantasy leagues this week is Shane Vereen. He has been heavily involved in New England’s offense since returning from a wrist injury a couple weeks ago and with Ridley primed to stand in the corner this Sunday and think about what he’s done, there should be plenty of touches for the taking. Although we know Bolden will be in the mix, Vereen is a far more talented player and the Pats love him. He should get a healthy number of carries and remain extremely active in the passing game as well. He’s an incredibly strong candidate to lead New England’s backfield in touches against Houston and possibly by a large margin.
The only back who doesn’t really need much beyond a small mention is LeGarrette Blount, because he’s mainly useless and he also fumbled last week. Any involvement he has in this game will almost certainly be completely insignificant and utterly forgettable.
Going with the odds here, it looks like Vereen is a solid play this week and the only member of the Pats’ backfield who fantasy owners can safely rely on. If you’re in a true bind and you have absolutely no choice but to play one of the others, however, go with Bolden and pray he finds the end zone.