Week 2 of the NFL season features an oddly interesting matchup between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. Fantasy football managers have tough roster decisions to make entering the matchup – with one of them being whether you should start either Texans running backs Rex Burkhead or Dameon Pierce against the Broncos.
Should you start Rex Burkhead vs. Broncos?
It was shocking to see Burkhead effectively receive a starting load of work in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts. Pierce was named the starter after a breakout training camp and preseason, but Burkhead played 71% of snaps when games mattered. Texans head coach Lovie Smith said this wouldn’t happen again and joked Pierce would be fresher for this week.
But it’s hard to take the Texans seriously when it comes to player development, considering they continued to play old backs and receivers throughout a terrible 2021 campaign. Burkhead, 32, should not be on this roster. He’s a bad rusher but a terrific receiving threat on third downs.
The fact is Houston forgot this in Week 1. Burkhead compiled only 40 yards on 14 carries against a great Colts defense. He added 30 receiving yards on five catches.
Entering Week 2 against the Seahawks, Burkhead is ranked at RB44 and No. 152 overall in our expert PPR fantasy football rankings. With that ranking, he is not a strong fantasy option, but one who fits the profile as an emergency starting candidate. This would especially be the case if it were a bigger bye week.
The concern I have with starting Burkhead isn’t necessarily a lack of opportunity but rather an efficiency issue. The Broncos’ defense ranked as one of the best units against rushers in fantasy last week and remains a tough matchup. They stifled a strong Seahawks run game to 76 yards and a 4.0 average.
Houston will have a hard time reaching those numbers based on their performance last week.
Our friends at Underdog Fantasy have projected Burkhead to have 36.5 rushing yards, 18.5 receiving yards, and 9.75 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues. I would lean toward the lower on the rushing total and fantasy point total but higher on the receiving yards. The Broncos should be able to control the pace of the game and therefore force Houston to pass more often.
With modest projections, only start Burkhead if you’re in a real bind due to injuries. He has to have the volume to be relevant since he’s not a touchdown threat. This is not likely the best matchup to play him.
Should you start Dameon Pierce vs. Broncos?
The concerning prospect of playing Pierce is the ineffectiveness of the Texans’ run blocking. I expect Pierce to play more this week, but Houston’s offensive line performed poorly against a solid defense in Week 1. Nothing should change this week.
Our expert rankings have Pierce slightly higher than Burkhead this week, at RB38 and No. 132 overall in PPR leagues. His likelihood of scoring a touchdown is higher, and therefore, he’s a more viable candidate to be an asset on your team. But like Burkhead, he’s more of a flex or RB2 option.
Underdog Fantasy projections have Pierce at 11.5 rushing attempts, 44.5 rushing yards, 56.5 total yards, and 7.5 receiving yards. Those are reasonably attainable numbers if Houston holds true to their word and gives Pierce the majority of snaps. I think they will, but I am not overly optimistic he hits the rushing yards total if Houston falls behind early.
Ideally, you would not play either of these backs. Pierce is the better option but only marginally.