The dude contorted his body and scored the most incomprehensible touchdown of the year. He showed a lot on that run, including a little wiggle and surprising acceleration for such a stout running back.
This Sunday, a week after seizing control of the Indianapolis backfield, Ballard gets his best shot at a good, old-fashioned breakout game against a woeful Buffalo Bills’ run defense that has, unfortunately for droves of fantasy owners, displayed some backbone in the past couple weeks.
Ballard posted fine and dandy numbers against the Patriots in Week 11, totalling 79 yards on 17 touches in New England’s slaughtering of Indy. The best news though was Sunday’s snap count: Ballard played 46 snaps to Donald Brown’s 19, racking up eight carries in the Colts’ first two drives. It’s safe to say Ballard would’ve seen a bunch more totes if the Patriots weren’t scoring defensive and special teams touchdowns every 47 seconds.
Brown’s troublesome knee has flared up of late, so Ballard could continue to see the bulk of Indy’s carries against a Bills’ defense giving up an average 130 yards off 26 carries a game this season. They’ve been gouged for nearly five yard per carry and an average of 1.2 touchdowns scored by running backs in every contest. Before you lock in Ballard for 150 and a score, remember that the Bills held the Dolphins to just 53 yards rushing last week, and haven’t truly been dismantled on the ground since Week 7. They’ve improved from one of the worst ever to just this year’s worst.
Perhaps the biggest drawback for Ballard is that the Colts are, for some reason, reluctant to give him the ball at the goal line. Delone Carter got the short yardage and goal line work last week, and Andrew Luck has sapped the value of Colts’ runners with his running acumen, especially within a few yards of the end zone.
Let’s not overlook the Colts’ vastly improved run blocking scheme, led by Anthony Castonzo and Samson Satele, who have anchored the left side of the offensive line and acquitted themselves just fine in recent weeks. The Colts think quite a lot of Castonzo and Satele, evidenced by 19 of the team’s 24 runs going left of center against New England, according to Pro Football Focus.
I have Ballard ranked No. 19 among running backs this week, ahead of guys like Reggie Bush, Fred Jackson, Mikel Leshoure, and Jonathan Stewart. He’s gotten double digit carries in five straight games, averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry in two of those contests. Ballard, very quietly, has been a top-15 fantasy running back since the middle of October.
Ballard doesn’t have what we’d call difference-making ability – he’s not going to create for himself, in other words – but he’s going to get what’s blocked, and against a Buffalo front seven that has allowed more than 200 yards rushing not once, not twice, but thrice, this season, I think he’ll have a nice day for your pretend football roster.