So much focus has been given to the return of Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell that it’s easy to forget the stud back from their Sunday night opponent, Jamaal Charles, is also poised to return this weekend.
The 29-year-old hasn’t played yet in 2016 and ran with the scout team all week in practice, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter and multiple other sources reported Charles will make his season debut Sunday night against the Steelers.
With 9,663 yards from scrimmage and 62 total touchdowns, Charles has averaged 13.383 fantasy points per game, which is just an incredible feat for an entire career. He’s certainly a stud just like Bell, but there are multiple reasons to leave Charles on the bench at least one more week.
The No. 1 reason is the fact Charles is an “older” back returning from an ACL injury. In today’s modern era of medicine, it seems like owners expect every player to rebound from that major knee injury just as Adrian Peterson did a few years ago. Simply put, not everybody, actually nobody else, is Adrian Peterson.
For most players, it takes a couple weeks of game action to get fully back. Take Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson as an example. He did very little in the first two games of the season, then caught two scores last week. Sometimes it just takes other players longer to get back into rhythm.
Now, Nelson’s early struggles don’t mean Charles will follow suit. He’s a different person playing another position. Carolina Panthers wideout Kelvin Benjamin pretty much hit the ground running in Week 1 with the same injury, but with the way Kansas City has handled Charles with kid gloves this season, it’s hard to have much confidence in his ability to return to form immediately.
And with backup running back Spencer Ware running well through the first three weeks, the Chiefs have little incentive to push Charles in his debut. Ware is averaging 67.3 yards per game and 4.9 yards per attempt. Those are healthy enough that coach Andy Reid doesn’t have to rely only upon Charles to give Kansas City some offensive balance.
Fellow backup running back Charcandrick West will be inactive due to injury, so it’s quite possible Charles fills his role. West has 63 yards on just 12 attempts this season.
Another major reason to sit Charles is the transformation of Kansas City’s offense. Even though it’s skewed a bit due to 48 attempts during the furious Week 1 comeback against the Chargers, it’s worth noting that quarterback Alex Smith is averaging over 39 passes per game while the Kansas City backs have just 17 rushes per game.
Now, once Charles returns to form, that very well could change. He’s the team’s best player, so the Chiefs are going to feed him the ball, but it might not happen this Sunday, especially against their Week 4 opponent.
Despite a very poor defensive showing against Philadelphia last week, the Steelers are still fourth in the league in run defense. Furthermore, Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked 31st, so another pass-heavy game plan could very well be in the cards for the Chiefs.
If that’s the case, best case scenario for Charles’ fantasy owners would be to see him get a couple red-zone or goal-line touches. Should he score, he might be worth starting, but otherwise, Charles is too risky to plug into the lineup with confidence in Week 4. Kansas City is going to ease him back onto the field, so if owners have other quality options this week, they should ease him back into the lineup.