Elijah McGuire is the New York Jets starting running back, but surprisingly, he is only about 50% owned in fantasy football leagues. Perhaps it is because many people still don’t know he is the starter. After all, he didn’t make his first appearance in a game until week nine. Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell looked like a solid one-two punch in the Jets backfield as well. Unfortunately, both of them are done for the season. Now it is McGuire’s backfield, making him a solid start for this weekend’s games.
Good Matchup This Week
In two games that McGuire has taken on a full workload, McGuire has rushed 35 times for 102 yards. That is good for only 2.9 yards-per-carry (YPC). This might scare fantasy teams away from picking him up or starting him, but it shouldn’t. McGuire went against two top-ten rush defenses in that span. The Houston Texans are number four and the Buffalo Bills are number ten in rushing yards allowed this season.
However, that may not even tell the whole story. Houston may be even better than advertised, as they allow a league-low 3.6 YPC against the run. Buffalo is number seven, giving up just 4.0 YPC for opposing runners.
Now, that still might not sell his doubters, since McGuire still averaged less than that. But this week, the Jets face the Green Bay Packers, who are bottom of the league against the run. They allow 4.5 YPC and over 124 rushing yards per game. This should give McGuire plenty of opportunities to have an above average game.
As demonstrated by his last two matchups against top run defenses, McGuire has a high floor. Even against the Texans stifling defensive line, McGuire managed 71 total yards and a touchdown. Against Buffalo, he had 83 scrimmage yards and a score as well. The thing about McGuire is he has no one else to compete with snaps for since he is the last man standing in that backfield. The past two weeks he has been in on 75% of all snaps.
Many teams prefer to operate with the committee running back approach. Early in the year, Crowell and Powell operated almost half-and-half on snaps. They don’t have that luxury anymore though, which is a plus for McGuire owners. He now operates as their every-down back, staying in on passing downs and goal-line situations. This gives him ample opportunity to rush, catch, and score.
Many Running Backs Questionable
There have already been a few big names that have missed the past few weeks, including Melvin Gordon and James Conner. Both are expected to be back this week, but teams that made it to the finals without them are sure to be nervous starting them. They both have horrible matchups, and both could have limited workloads. In fact, coming back to rushing defenses, the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the top-ranked New Orleans Saints, and the Los Angeles Chargers face the number three rushing defense in the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.
Aside from that, there are plenty of other quality running backs with question marks heading into championship weekend. Lamar Miller went out early in the Texans win against the Jets last week. Fantasy MVP Todd Gurley also missed time Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. With all of the above-mentioned teams basically having playoff spots locked up, they might err on the side of caution, and let their starters rest up for the postseason.
Last Word on Elijah McGuire for Championship Weekend
McGuire started the season on the PUP list and looked like he was going to be an afterthought with the combo of Powell and Crowell looking relatively effective. When Powell went down, McGuire was activated and began getting limited work. Then, he was thrust into the starting role after Crowell went down a few weeks ago. McGuire hasn’t topped more than 60 rushing yards in a game yet but has gone up against stiff competition. He should find better running lanes this weekend though. He shouldn’t be expected to put up spectacular numbers, but opportunities will be there, and he has a high enough floor to do just enough to help teams win their championship match.
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