Willis McGahee: Rib Injury Makes Broncos RB a Must-Sit vs. Raiders

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2012

September 9 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee (23) before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

For fantasy owners of Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee, the 2012 season has been ripe with frustrating inconsistencies.

After a middling performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers to start the season, the 30-year-old broke out against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, rushing for 113 yards and two touchdowns. That performance gave owners hope that the aging back was primed for another great season and Week 1 was just a blip on the radar.

Unfortunately, a rib injury limited McGahee's effectiveness against the Houston Texans' top-notch run defense last week and owners were once again vexed.

The injury leaves the Broncos back listed as questionable (via ESPN) for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. For fantasy owners, the word "questionable" foretells a stressful waiting game up until final in-actives are released before kickoff. 

Well, stress no more. Regardless of status on Sunday, you should sit McGahee in Week 4, and here are a few reasons why. 


The Peyton Manning Effect

While many prognosticators were quick to make spell doom for McGahee's fantasy prospects the minute Tim Tebow left town, their doom-and-gloom predictions held only superficial merit in the preseason.

Granted, it was apparent how much running an option-read attack helped the Broncos running back by forcing defenses to hesitate and thus opening rushing lanes. Nevertheless, it seemed possible that fact would be mitigated by the way defenses' respect Manning's accuracy and ability to throw the ball down the field. 

Well, through three weeks, it looks like the Tebow supporters had a point. Understandably, neither Manning's accuracy nor his deep passing skills have returned yet. Many say that all the Denver signal-caller needs is time to rebuild, but that is not helping in the interim.

What's more, the fact remains that there hasn't been a 1,000-yard runner on a Manning-led team since Joseph Addai in 2007.

We're focusing on this week, but that stat may have some significance for McGahee owners going forward. 


Oakland's Run Defense is Underrated

Though most would point to Reggie Bush's annihilation of the Raiders in Week 2 as proof of the team's weakness against the run, that would be faulty logic.

In Weeks 1 and 3 against the Chargers and Steelers, the Oakland front seven seemingly won every snap and suffocated the opposition's ground game. 

There is also the fact that McGahee and Bush are polar opposites in terms of running style. While Bush relies on speed and shiftiness to get the job done, McGahee is more of a hard-nosed, grind-it-out style of runner.

Considering McGahee's similarities the running backs in San Diego and Pittsburgh, it seems far more likely that he'll struggle like Ronnie Brown and Isaac Redman rather than excel like Bush.

With injury questions and a tough defense on tap, it seems likely that you can find better options elsewhere.


Trusting a Hurt Running Back: Never a Good Idea

If you need any proof to this point, simply ask any Steven Jackson owner whether they feel great about their decision to go with the Rams back last weekend. 

All it takes is one wrong hit to the injured area to send McGahee to the sidelines for the rest of the game. And considering he's battling a rib injury, the possibility of getting re-injured is markedly higher.

Fantasy sports is all about mitigating risks and hoping for the best possible outcome. Considering his inconsistencies and injury, the chance you're taking in starting McGahee is nowhere near the possible reward. 

While it's possible that your team's running back depth is so anemic that McGahee is a must-start if active, keeping him out of the lineup could save you a critical victory.