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Miles Sanders Start/Sit Week 12: The Eagles’ ground game is undeniable

With a strong run game in Philly, should fantasy managers start Miles Sanders confidently in Week 12 with the ankle injury behind him?

Once upon a time, people thought of Miles Sanders as a breakout RB1 candidate because of his big-play ability. After about half of the season, Sanders was a disappointment for fantasy football, in large part because Philadelphia was simply not running the ball. After missing three weeks with an injury, Sanders returned to a changed offensive philosophy, built around a run-heavy offense. Should fantasy managers start or sit Sanders in Week 12?

Philadelphia’s play-calling has gone through a complete overhaul

Through the first seven games of the season, Philadelphia handed the ball off to their running backs at a staggeringly low clip. Sanders averaged only 9 carries and 42.9 rushing yards per game over that stretch and didn’t score a touchdown. Quite frankly, he wasn’t startable for fantasy. He was the overall RB35.

In their Week 7 matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders, Sanders had 6 carries for 30 yards early in the first quarter. It looked like the Eagles were finally going to feature him in the offense. Then, Sanders got hurt. The frustrations of fantasy managers everywhere were encapsulated by an echoing ring of groans and swear words.

Losing Sanders didn’t change this new approach for head coach Nick Sirianni, who has been playing a smashmouth style of football for the last three weeks. The Baltimore Ravens currently lead the league with 31.6 rush attempts per game. Over the last three weeks, the Eagles have run the ball a staggering 42.7 times per game.

The Eagles have rushed for 175+ yards in four straight games. They suddenly possess a dominant ground game.

Jordan Howard took over when Miles Sanders was out

Most fantasy managers and analysts thought it would be a combination of Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell when Sanders went down. I didn’t expect the veteran running back that had spent months on the practice squad to get called up to be the lead back, but that’s exactly what happened with Jordan Howard.

Between Weeks 8-10, Howard was the RB14 in half-PPR scoring, averaging 70.1 rushing yards per game and scoring 3 TDs over that stretch. He was a locked-in RB2.

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As Sanders made his way back from injury in Week 11, the Eagles lost Howard to a knee injury. In his first game back, Sanders had 16 carries for 94 yards against the New Orleans Saints.

It was a promising workload and performance against a tough defense. Howard is out for Week 12, putting Sanders squarely back in his RB1 role.

Should you start or sit Miles Sanders in Week 12?

The Eagles seem intent on basing their offense on the rushing attack of their RBs and their top-tier mobile quarterback (which they should have been doing all along, but I digress). They attack on the ground, then hit defenses with the play-action connection between Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith.

Sanders looks poised for a terrific stretch run through the end of the fantasy football season and playoffs, starting with a division matchup with the New York Giants this weekend. The Giants are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (21.7).

With the newfound philosophy of this offense, Sanders looks like a high-end RB2 going forward. Furthermore, he has the potential to post RB1 numbers on any given week. Sanders has yet to find the end zone this season, but he has a good chance to end that streak this week in New York.

Jon Helmkamp is a fantasy football and NFL contributor for Pro Football Network. You can find him on Twitter: @JonHelmkamp and find more of his work here. Don’t forget to listen to the PFN Fantasy Football podcast and check out our free fantasy newsletter.

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