Coming into the season, there was much agitation surrounding the Bengals’ backfield in basically all fantasy football circles. There were Giovani Bernard “truthers,” there were Jeremy Hill “truthers.” Unfortunately, so far this season for those who invested in the Cincy backfield, neither set of truthers has been right.[embedit snippet=”jeff-ads”]
Jeremy Hill was destined for RB2 territory due to the nature of his game: he isn’t all that elusive, and mostly moves straight forward, and usually moves straight forward into the end zone from short distances. He loses out on passing downs and third downs to Giovani Bernard, and as a two-down back, he has been relatively ineffective. After his massive rookie campaign, Hill is averaging just 3.6 yards per attempt, and even though he loses only a few rushes a game to Bernard, the rushes he has aren’t all that effective unless they are within the five-yard line. Bernard has been wildly inconsistent so far this season, as through five games, it has taken a fifty-yard run against the Broncos to get Hill to approach 50 rushing yards per game. Hill’s overall running back rank this season is only due to him getting three touchdowns already and him not missing any games yet. Hill did, however, miss a great portion of last week’s game with an injury, but he has been a full participant in practice since Wednesday, and that should not be an issue.
Hill has moved to a touchdown-dependent flex play or RB3 play, and this isn’t the weekend that you slot that kind of player into your lineup. The Bengals travel to New England to take on a Patriots team that has been one of the best in the league against running backs. The Patriots have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs so far this season, and have done it with allowing three scores to running backs in five games, so it isn’t because of a fluky string of not allowing scores to the position. So far this year, only David Johnson has gone over 80 rushing yards against them, and only Johnson, Lamar Miller, and LeSean McCoy have mustered over 50 rushing yards. The running backs that have done damage against them yardage-wise have been mixed-use rushing-receiving backs. A split backfield means Hill will not get the opportunities for extra production. The Patriots are going to bottle the Bengals running game like they have every other running game they’ve played this season.
The split backfield in Cincinnati makes any marginal matchup an iffy proposition if you carry either Giovani Bernard or Jeremy Hill. This weekend, they take on the Patriots at home (in Tom Brady’s first game from suspension). It’s a recipe for a beat down, and that means that you would be better served to leave Jeremy Hill on your bench.