And your San Diego Chargers starting running back is... Jackie Battle?
There was a ton of speculation on the Chargers' backfield situation following Sunday's game against the Chiefs, in which Mathews received only five touches through the first three quarters. When head coach Norv Turner was asked about the situation, he acted as if nothing was wrong, saying that he still has "great trust" in Mathews and that he wouldn't have been giving Mathews the ball when the offense was in clock-killing mode if there was any sort of issue with the running back. However, the Chargers had an enormous lead on the Chiefs for the entire fourth quarter, a time during which a backup running back is usually used, not your featured runner.
Turner later said that he believed Jackie Battle, who received the bulk of the backfield work through the first three quarters, gave the team a better chance to win. Those speculating had a number of theories - that Mathews was being sent a message for his costly red-zone fumble the previous week, or perhaps that he was being punished for something he had done in practice, such as show up late to a meeting. What no one considered, however, was that Turner was serious in saying that Battle gave the team the better chance to win.
Battle is as bland of a runner as there is in the league. He essentially takes handoffs and runs into the biggest opening he sees and churns his legs - nothing more, nothing less. Mathews, on the other hand, possesses a combination of speed, strength, quickness, and pass catching ability that makes him the quintessential, every-down feature back.
Mathews averaged 4.4 yards per carry on Sunday, compared to Battle's 2.6. Mathews also averages .6 more yards per attempt on his career, and has 61 more career catches, despite Battle having played three more years than Mathews. Norv Turner can't possibly think that Jackie Battle is actually the better option for the Chargers' offense.
Mathews has had some ball control issues in his career, with 11 fumbles in 28 career games, but his 16 fumble-less touches on Sunday combined with his vastly superior running ability should be enough to earn the starting gig, even if Battle takes away some red-zone carries. If benching Mathews for the second straight week is further punishment for his Week 3 fumble, Turner must be taking disciplinary advice from Roger Goodell.
With Mathews in a dream matchup against the Saints' league-worst run defense this week, fantasy owners were likely licking their chops at the thought of the numbers he'd put up. Unfortunately, Mathews owners will now be in panic mode right up until game time.
If the Chargers want to counter the Saints' offensive attack and get a victory, they're going to need to go at the Achilles' heel of the Saints defense and put together an exceptional rushing attack. With Jackie Battle possessing no big play ability, Ryan Mathews is the way to get it done.