Rhamondre Stevenson finally started to cook, but it looks like his 2023 fantasy season will come to an end after suffering a dreaded high-ankle sprain in Week 13 against the Chargers. This injury opens up the door for Ezekiel Elliott to become the Patriots’ workhorse running back for the remainder of the season.
With that being said, should fantasy managers start Zeke in Week 14 in what should be an absolutely disgusting Thursday Night Football matchup against the Steelers?
Let’s take a look.
WHAT HAPPENED IN WEEK 13?
As noted, Stevenson went down against the Chargers with a nasty ankle injury that opened up a workhorse opportunity for Elliott.
In the RB1 role, Zeke saw a season-high 44 snaps. With those snaps, he scored 13.2 fantasy points on 17 carries and five targets– a total of 22 touches. Outside of Elliott, Ty Montgomery only played three snaps at running back with Stevenson sidelined.
“I think, definitely, the more I’m in there, the better I’ll be,” Elliott said about his increased workload. “I think the more touches I get, the better I get with the game going on. If the opportunity presents itself, and if it continues to present itself, I definitely would love to keep playing more.”
Elliott said he and Stevenson have a similar skill set, which makes it easy for him to take over the role and produce a similar output to the young running back.
“I think we’re two backs that can kind of do the same stuff, so we definitely complement each other. It definitely puts some pressure on a defense — when one guy goes out, you still got another coming in and replace him. It’s been a good experience,” he added.
THE MATCHUP VS STEELERS
The Steelers run defense is more susceptible to running backs than most would initially believe.
Through 13 games, the Steelers have allowed opposing backfields to score 18-plus fantasy points in seven games. They have also allowed 13-plus fantasy points to backfields in all but two contests.
Christian McCaffrey, Jerome Ford, and James Conner have individually rushed for over 100 yards, while eight running back tandems have eclipsed 90 yards on the ground against the Steelers. Just last week, Conner went for 105 and two touchdowns on 25 carries — good for 22 fantasy points.
On top of the rushing output, Pittsburgh has allowed 41 receptions to running backs on 66 targets for 320 yards and two scores.
Given Elliott’s expected rushing and receiving load, mixed with what the Steelers have allowed this year to running backs, he should score quality RB2/Flex fantasy points on Thursday night.
START EZEKIEL ELLIOTT IN WEEK 14?
Make no mistake about it. Zeke is not what he once was as one of the top running backs in the league. However, he is better than he was during his final season in Dallas and he’s expected to be the focal point for this anemic offense.
His 3.8 yards per carry will not turn heads or fool fantasy owners. But it’s safe to say Elliott will get over 20 touches with a handful of receptions to boost his fantasy output. If his dreadful offense can somehow make it inside the 10-yard line, Zeke could be in for a throwback 15 to 20-point fantasy night if he can find pay dirt.
With the likes of Montgomery and JaMycal Hasty serving as his backups, fire up Zeke in the Flex if needed and in the RB2 spot if you’re desperate at that position. Like Zach Charbonnet the week before, Zeke is a volume-based starting fantasy running back in Week 14.
“It’ll be exciting to go out there and get some more touches and show what I can do,” Elliott said this week.
The Wolf is surprisingly a little low on Elliott, slotting him at RB29 (-4 vs ECR) on his Week 14 Fantasy Rankings.
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