Week Sixteen Analysis:
If you see Ray Rice in a championship game this weekend, take a picture and send it in to the Discovery Channel, because that's a rare find. It's been a disastrous season for the first rounder, but on the bright side, he's shown in recent weeks that he can still help your team in the right matchups. He posted 148 combo yards and a score against Chicago, and 109 combo yards against Minnesota. New England's 28th-ranked run defense isn't far off from that tier. The Patriots have allowed five touchdowns to the position in their last four games, and that stretch includes Knowshon Moreno's 230-yard explosion. You could do worse than Rice this week.
Week Fourteen Analysis:
Early polling has Ray Rice leading the race for Fantasy Bust of the Year. He's averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season, and he's only scored once in his last seven games. He's also topped 45 rushing yards just once in those seven games, and as we saw against Chicago two weeks ago, he's only viable in the most extremely favorable matchups. Lucky for you, Minnesota qualifies. The Vikings rank dead last against opposing backs in the receiving game, and over the last three weeks, opposing backs have scored four times and averaged 164 combo yards. It's entirely possible that the Vikings fantasy run defense is more dependably bad than Ray Rice.
Week Thirteen Analysis:
In Ray Rice's last three games, he's run for 30 yards, 131 yards, and 30 yards. That's right—he followed up an increase of over 100 yards with a decrease of over 100 yards… even Chris Johnson is impressed! Clearly, the 131 was the outlier, as it came against Chicago's phantom run defense. In nine non-Bears games, Rice has averaged 35 yards on 2.4 yards per carry. Pittsburgh's 22nd-ranked run defense has allowed a charitable 13 touchdowns to the position, but Rice has scored just once in his last six games. He only managed 72 scoreless combo yards in the first meeting, so don't get your hopes up.
Week Eleven Analysis:
When you combine a lingering hip injury, a timeshare, a defunct offensive line and a bulging odometer, you're left with one of the biggest fantasy busts of the year. Ray Rice has topped 50 rushing yards just once this season, and he fallen shy of 3.5 yards per carry in 10 straight games. He's also failed to reach even 30 receiving yards in seven straight, and he hasn't scored in over a month. If he doesn't produce this week, he never will. In their last six games, Chicago has given up 10 touchdowns to the position, along with 167 combo yards per contest.
Week Nine Analysis:
Twenty-six-year-old Ray Rice has looked about a decade past his prime this season. He's averaged a miserable 2.8 yards per carry, he's topped 45 rushing yards just once, and he's been an underwhelming pass-catcher. The hope is that he'll emerge fresh and healthy from his bye; after all, in his last four post-bye week games, Rice has averaged a ridiculous 28 touches for 138 combo yards. Cleveland is giving up over a touchdown per game to opposing backs, and three straight starters have eclipsed 100 combo yards. Unfortunately, Rice managed just 45 scoreless combo yards on 16 touches in the first meeting, so there are no guarantees.
Week Seven Analysis:
Ray Rice's 33-touch, 102-yard, two-touchdown effort in Miami two weeks ago was an outlier on every single level. It was his only game in which he's topped even 36 rushing yards, and he's scored just once in his other four outings. Moreover, he's now averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and 17 receiving yards per game. Despite only being 26 years old, he entered the season with over 1,750 career touches— which is a huge number—and it shows. Rice has scored in four of his last five meetings with Pittsburgh, and the Steelers' ordinary run defense has given up seven running back scores through five games. Sadly, great matchups like this no longer guarantee success for Rice.
Week Six Analysis:
Fantasy owners were certainly pleased with Ray Rice last week, but beware of fool's gold. His two short touchdowns, combined with an abnormally high 33-touch workload, masked a pretty lousy game in which he barely cracked 100 combo yards, despite that workload. Rice's usage over the last two seasons has been inexplicably sporadic, so expect something closer to 20 touches this week in a neutral matchup against Green Bay. Two weeks ago Giovanni Bernard, who's often been compared to Rice, totaled 99 combo yards and a score against the Pack, and Rice should probably be in line for something similar.
Week Five Analysis:
The always-dependable Ray Rice has suddenly become a headache. His bid for a fifth straight 16-game campaign ended in Week 3, and a combination of Bernard Pierce, shoddy play calling and a pesky hip injury have resulted in averages of 10 carries for 30 yards. Brutal. He also has just nine receiving yards in his last two games, and he hasn't scored since the opener. Miami is a middling run defense, but they've allowed three touchdowns to the position in their last two games. Two of those scores came through the air, where the Dolphins rank 29th in receptions and 31st in receiving yards, so this is clearly Rice's best angle. The acquisition of left tackle Eugene Monroe will pay dividends down the road, but not likely this soon.
Week Four Analysis:
Ray Rice said he expects to play this week, so here's hoping his hips don't lie. Even if he goes, he'll split carries with Bernard Pierce and handle all the pass-catching work. He didn't get much going in two very tough matchups prior to the hip injury, but he did average 18 touches, and that would be more than enough against Buffalo. The Bills are surrendering a league-worst 147 rushing yards per game, and they've faced the below-average slate of Shane Vereen, DeAngelo Williams and Billal Powell. A lot of matchups will hinge on Rice's health, and I'm ranking as if he's active and able to play near his usual high level.
Week Three Analysis:
Ray Rice is shaping up as a game-time decision after suffering a strained hip flexor last week. I'm ranking him here as if he'll play, but with only a 40-60 rushing split with Bernard Pierce. Rice's pass-catching chops certainly help his cause, as demonstrated by his eight-catch opener. However, Houston's stout run defense also ranked top-six in receptions and receiving yards to opposing backs last year, and they rank top-10 in both categories again early this season. Rice's upside is severely limited this week if he plays, and there remains a very good chance that he doesn't even suit up.
Week Two Analysis:
It became clear this summer that Ray Rice was going to be more involved in the passing game, and less involved in the running game. While Rice did score a rushing touchdown against Denver in the opener, he only out-carried Bernard Pierce 12-to-9, and neither of them could get anything going on the ground. Through the air, however, Rice snagged an impressive eight catches, and he's going to need his hands again this week. Cleveland's underrated run defense held Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to 17 yards on 18 carries in the opener. Rice scored once and averaged exactly 100 combo yards in the two meetings last year, and this is a better Browns defense.
WHAT WE SAID ABOUT RICE:
Ray Rice is coming off his fourth consecutive season of at least 315 touches, 1,600 combo yards and 10 touchdowns. That's absolutely unheard of in this day and age. Bernard Pierce will continue to eat into his rushing production, but Rice has averaged 70 catches over the last four seasons, and all indications are that his pass-catching role will grow. Denver is a talented defense that ranked near the top of the league against opposing backs across the board last season. However, it's worth noting that Rice delivered his best rushing performance of the year against the Broncos in Baltimore's Divisional Playoff win, going for 131 yards and a score. Start him with confidence.
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Nonsensical play calling and the emergence of rookie Bernard Pierce both contributed to Ray Rice taking a step back last season. Four years of heavy workloads also began to show their effects, as Rice fell shy of 4.0 yards per carry in nine of his final 17 games, including postseason. Negativity aside, Rice still scored 10 touchdowns, and for the fourth consecutive season, he eclipsed 315 touches, 1,600 combo yards and played a full 16-game slate. With Pierce's role expected to grow this year, Rice's arrow is beginning to point downward, but his consistency, receiving ability, and dependability remain valuable fantasy commodities.