Andre Ellington burst onto the fantasy scene after a dazzling performance in Week 8 when he put up 154 yards and a score on 15 carries. During that game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cardinals offense was as balanced as it had been all season.
Even quarterback Carson Palmer was a beneficiary, completing 13 of 18 passing attempts for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 116.0—by far his highest of the season.
After a bye week in Week 9, Ellington was back at it again against the 19th-ranked Houston Texans run defense. Unfortunately for Ellington’s fantasy owners, his production was limited due to the return of Rashard Mendenhall.
Bruce Arians said RB Rashard Mendenhall will resume his role as the starter Sunday.
— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) November 8, 2013
Head coach Bruce Arians continued his unexplained fascination with Mendenhall—who was averaging just 3.1 yards per carry entering Sunday’s contest—and gave the embattled running back 13 carries to Ellington’s 11.
Despite Arians stating that Ellington would receive 20 touches this week, via the Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website, Mendenhall still carried most of the load. After their individual performances, however, things will change going forward.
The lackluster running ability of Mendenhall and the elusiveness of Ellington were both well on display Sunday.
Ellington rushed 11 times for 55 yards—an average of 5.0 yards per carry—and caught two passes for 18 yards. Mendenhall only averaged 3.1 yards per carry with a total of 42 yards on 13 rushes and one crucial fumble.
Attention Andre Ellington owners: Rashard Mendenhall just lost a fumble at his own 5-yard line.
— FFToolbox.com (@fftoolbox) November 11, 2013
Clearly, at this point, Arians and Co. have seen the difference in production when Ellington finds his way into the backfield.
Palmer was able to benefit from Ellington’s presence yet again Sunday, as the quarterback completed 20 of his 32 passing attempts for 241 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 93.4.
Palmer’s solid performance was no fluke. He has only been able to surpass a passer rating of 90.0 three times this season. Ellington had double-digit carries in two of those three performances.
The Cardinals offense simply becomes better with Ellington in the backfield. His production has led the team to two straight wins and a 5-4 record. Arizona now finds itself in contention for a playoff berth late in the season.
Allowing Ellington to receive the bulk of the carries going forward will give the Cardinals the best possible chance to come away victorious.
When looking at the Cardinals’ remaining schedule, it becomes obvious why Ellington could see some fantastic production over the remaining weeks of the regular season:
There is not a single top-10 run defense remaining on the Cardinals’ 2013 schedule.
Now that Ellington has shown that he can carry the load and continue to thrive in the Cardinals’ offensive scheme, Arians will be forced to make the decision to give the running back a larger workload going forward.
Once that change in the backfield comes to fruition, Ellington will become a must-start for fantasy owners for the duration of the 2013 season.