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Factoid

Tampa running backs

Jones/Fournette face tough matchup

Ronald Jones sat out last week's Tampa Bay game at Washington, much to the dismay of those who started him (he was held out after aggravating a quad injury in pregame warmups). Jones has now started off this week with a missed practice, so he's iffy for the game at New Orleans.

If Jones sits, it will be Leonard Fournette as the lead back. Fournette rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown at Washington last week, so maybe he's a viable fill-in. But this week's matchup is much tougher.

The Bucs know this, since they went nowhere in the Week 9 meeting. Jones carried 3 times for 9 yards, and Tampa Bay fell so hopelessly behind they quit trying to run the ball. New Orleans finished the year with the league's 4th-ranked run defense.

In the 10 games since that Tampa Bay game (including last week's playoff win over the Bears), here's how opposing No. 1 running backs have fared against the Saints.

NO. 1 RUNNING BACKS VS. N.O., LAST 10
PlayerAttYdsTD
Jones, T.B.390
McKinnon, S.F.18330
Gurley, Atl.8260
Gordon, Den.12310
Smith/Gurley, Atl.16520
Sanders, Phil.141152
Edwards-Helaire, K.C.14790
Cook, Minn.15731
R.Smith, Car.10401
Montgomery, Chi.12310

The good news, for those considering Jones or Fournette (should it be clear by Sunday which one will start), is that there have been some good recent performances. Miles Sanders definitely, and also Dalvin Cook (in that wild Christmas Day shootout) and even Clyde Edwards-Helaire. But the other opponents, including David Montgomery last week, flopped hard.

So does Tampa Bay's starter more closely resemble Cook (or perhaps Sanders), or Montgomery, or perhaps the Atlanta backs that struggled in this matchup?

On behalf of Fournette (if Jones is inactive), he should be pretty much a full-time guy, involved as both a runner and receiver. And note that three of those most recent five starters scored.

But if you hope to use a Tampa Bay running back this week, expectations should be modest. Might be better if Jones is out, so at least you have Fournette playing a majority of the snaps. If both are available, that workload becomes less certain.

--Andy Richardson

Fantasy Index