Week Seventeen Analysis: Finally, Ray Rice has been liberated! Rice touched the ball a season-high 30 times against the Giants, amassing 158 total yards and a touchdown, and he's now scored in three of his last four outings. Cincinnati's surging run defense has held opposing backs to just two touchdowns and 3.8 yards per carry over their last eight games, but the Bengals do rank 26th against opposing backs in the receiving game. Rice has now scored two touchdowns in EACH of his last three meetings with Cincinnati, along with an average of 146 total yards, so he should be very productive.
Week Sixteen Analysis: Ray Rice's neglect was supposed to have come to an end with the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Instead, Rice carried just 12 times against Denver, and failed to score or reach 50 total yards for the first time in his last 46 games. Nice firing. He'd scored twice and averaged 108 yards in his previous three outings, and he'll look to get back on track against a middling Giants run defense that's allowed three touchdowns to the position in the last two weeks. As usual, the performance of Joe Flacco and the Baltimore coaching staff will have more to do with Rice's production than the actual matchup.
Week Fifteen Analysis: Ray Rice owners certainly won't shed any tears over the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, as Rice has reached 20 carries in just five-of-13 games this season. How the ball will be distributed under Jim Caldwell remains to be seen, Caldwell must have heard the outcry over Rice's usage which torpedoed his predecessor. Rice does have some momentum going into a tough matchup with Denver. He's now scored and topped 6.0 yards per carry in each of his last two games, and he's coming off a season-high 121 rushing yards. The Broncos' top-10 run defense allows just 3.6 yards per carry, and they haven't given up a rushing score in their last five games, so the tough matchup adds some concern to his ranking.
Week Fourteen Analysis: There's no point in trying to guess Ray Rice's workload anymore. In his last six games, he's notched at least 20 carries three times, and 13-or-fewer carries three times. While he's fallen short of 100 rushing yards in seven straight games, his saving grace has been his five touchdowns, and the fact that he ranks top-three in both receptions and receiving yards at the position. Against opposing backs, the Redskins rank fourth in rushing yards, 14th in receiving yards and 15th in touchdowns, so while he's a must-start at this time of the year, there's not a particularly strong angle for Rice in this matchup.
Week Thirteen Analysis: Ray Rice has averaged just 62 rushing yards and has only scored twice in his last five games. Fortunately, he ranks first among backs in both targets and receptions, and trails only Marcel Reece in receiving yards. This week he draws his second meeting with the always-tough Pittsburgh defense that held him to 93 scoreless combo yards in their first tilt. Against opposing backs, the Steelers rank No. 7 in rushing and No. 1 in receiving, so while Rice remains an every-week play, is upside is definitely capped this week.
Week Twelve Analysis: Coming into the season, Ray Rice had touched the ball a gaudy 1,070 times in his previous three years, and you have to wonder if the heavy use is taking its toll. He leads all backs in targets and receptions, and trails only Marcel Reece in receiving yards. But, perhaps because of that usage, he's s averaging just 56 rushing yards on 3.3 yards per carry over his last five games, and frankly, he just hasn't looked right. San Diego is a middle-of-the-pack run defense, but they rank bottom-five against opposing backs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, so Rice remains a strong play despite his rushing struggles.
Week Eleven Analysis: While his usage has been spotty all season, Ray Rice has still managed to score seven times and average 105 combo yards through nine games. Rice's top-tier production has largely come through his 35 receptions, which rank second only to Darren Sproles among backs. Unfortunately, the Steelers have given up just 16 catches for 89 yards to opposing backs all season—both numbers are easily league-bests. The good news is that Pittsburgh has allowed a rushing score in four consecutive games. Rice has also scored at least once in three straight matchups with the Steelers, so the touchdown trends are encouraging.
Week Ten Analysis:
Ray Rice averaged just 15 carries in his first seven games, but the Ravens coaching staff used the bye week to inject a little common sense into their game plan. Rice carried a season-high 25 times against Cleveland, and he scored and eclipsed 100 combo yards. If Rice gets 25 carries against Oakland, he just might double that production. Last week the Raiders run defense went from bad do downright embarrassing, as Doug Martin—a guy regularly, and correctly, compared to Ray Rice—dropped 272 combo yards and four touchdowns on Oakland. Only injury or a Cam Cameron brain fart could prevent Rice from a monster day.
Week Nine Analysis: Ray Rice has been outstanding when given the chance, but his high-water mark is a modest 20 carries, and he's coming off a season-low nine attempts. Over the last four years, the Ravens are 7-14 when Rice gets fewer than 15 carries, and 34-6 in their other games. Cam Cameron, you're welcome to borrow my calculator watch any time. While Cleveland's shoddy run defense held Rice to 49 rushing yards last month, Rice added eight catches for 47 yards. In the Browns' last three games, they've given up eight catches for 76 yards to Cedric Peerman, and seven for 85 to Ronnie Brown, so whether it's by air or land, Rice should deliver.
Week Seven Analysis: Ray Rice currently ranks second in both touchdowns and combo yardage amongst running backs, so he's certainly justifying his lofty draft status. The production has been especially impressive considering that he's reached 20 carries just once in six games—Rice hit that threshold in eight of his final nine games last year. The Texans are surrendering under 4.0 yards per carry to opposing backs, and they remain the only team that's yet to give up a rushing score to an opposing back. However, they haven't been truly tested without All-Pro linebacker Brian Cushing. Not that you'd ever consider benching Rice anyways.
Week Six Analysis: The new pass-happy Baltimore Raven offense was designed to open up the running lanes for Ray Rice. So far, so good as he is averaging over 5 yards-per-carry and hauling in four and a half passes per game. Unfortunately, Rice has only found the end zone in two games thus far. Dallas' improved secondary will likely hold Joe Flacco in check, while forcing Baltimore to run the ball more. Dallas has stymied Doug Martin and Matt Forte their last two games but they were scored against by both Marshawn Lynch and Ahmad Bradshaw prior to that. Ray Rice and the Baltimore offense is better than each of those so his numbers should eclipse all of them.
Week Five Analysis: Ray Rice's 49 rushing yards against the lowly Cleveland Browns marked his worst output in his last 13 games, and his eight-game streak of scoring and/or topping 100 combo yards was also snapped. However, Rice's eight catches for 47 yards were especially helpful in PPR leagues, and he'll undoubtedly get back on track in Kansas City after 10 days of rest. The Chiefs rank 24th against opposing backs in rushing yardage, 29th in receiving yardage, and they're surrendering over a touchdown per game to the position. It's just the kind of matchup you want for an elite back who has a chip on his shoulder.
Week Four Analysis: In his last 13 regular season games, Ray Rice has scored 14 times and averaged 131 combo yards. You're obviously starting him regardless of matchup, and after what he did to the Browns last year, even LeBron James thinks Ray Rice owes Cleveland an apology. Rice scored in both matchups and totaled a gaudy 349 combo yards in the two games. The Browns have given up just one touchdown to opposing backs this year, but they're are allowing 142 combo yards per game to the position. Anything short of 100 yards and a touchdown Thursday night should be considered a disappointment.
Week Three Analysis: So far Ray Rice has been every bit as good as expected. He's running at a 6.4-yard per-carry clip, he's top-five in receiving yards among backs, and he's now scored 13 times in his last 12 regular season games. New England's mediocre run defense dominated Chris Johnson and Beanie Wells through two weeks, but that's like beating Stevie Wonder at musical chairs. You're always starting Ray Rice, but know that Bill Belichick is a master of taking away his opponent's best player, as he did when he held Rice to 67 yards on 21 carries in the playoffs last year.
Week Two Analysis:Between the Ravens' new no-huddle offense and an early hook in Monday night's route of the Bengals, Ray Rice managed just 13 touches. Fortunately he made the most of his limited workload. Rice totaled 93 yards and a pair of scores against Cincinnati, so until his raw production takes a hit, there's really no point in worrying about his usage. Philadelphia was a bottom-10 fantasy run defense last season, and while they sold out to stop Trent Richardson in the opener, Joe Flacco will keep them honest. Expect a heavier dose of Rice this week, and typical top-shelf production.
Week One Analysis: With Willis McGahee hovering like a bad stench, Ray Rice managed just 14 touchdowns in his first three seasons. However, McGahee's departure cleared the air, enabling Rice to score 15 times last season. Four of those scores came in his two matchups with Cincinnati, and in Rice's last six meetings with the Bengals, he's hit pay dirt seven times and averaged over 136 combination yards. Rice started hot with 149 yards and two scores in last season's opener against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense, and he could certainly surpass that feat Monday night.
NEXT: #5 TRENT RICHARDSON