In this article we assume that you are starting your RB1s regardless of the matchup. Each week we will analyze the defenses and provide our take on which RBs you should start and which should be benched based on matchups with stout run defenses, stubbed toes, potential weather problems, conduct code violations etc.
Fred Jackson owners will have to do without their early round pick for the next month as a leg injury will open the door for CJ Spiller to take the Bill by the horns. If you are in search of an injury replacement or are looking for an upgrade after your fantasy backfield crapped out in week 1 be sure to check out our matchup analysis as we identify a few RBs that could surprise in week 1.
One injury to keep an eye on involves Carolina’s Jon Stewart who has returned to a full practice and is expected to suit up for the week 2 game with New Orleans. Ryan Mathews doesn’t appear as lucky as he’s yet to be cleared and appears unlikely to return from his broken collarbone leaving the Charger backfield as one to avoid this week.
Running Back Upgrades:
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs Cleveland): The Bengals decision to let Cedric Benson walk seems like a smart one at least after one week as the Law Firm impressed against a stout Baltimore defense on Monday night. BJGE tallied 24 rushing TDs over the past two seasons in New England but many were predicting his demise as he goes to a more conservative offense in Cincy. This week he faces a Browns defense that ranked 30th against opposing ground games allowing 147 YPG – 100 yards and a TD seems like a mortal lock this week as the Bengals should be protecting a lead in the 2nd half. He’s not a game breaker by any means (averaged just 3.7 YPC last season) but with Bernard Scott expected to miss another week – the Law Firm should produce solid RB2 numbers in a very favorable matchup.
Stevan Ridley (vs Arizona): The 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft out of LSU was one of the breakout performers of week 1 as he finished with 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Shane Vereen is battling a foot injury and is listed as questionable meaning that Ridley should dominate touches again this week against an Arizona defense that ranked 21st against the run 2011 (124 YPG).
Peyton Hillis (@Buffalo): The Albino Rhino ran more like a lamb in the week 1 loss to Atlanta as he totaled just 7 carries for 16 yards and three catches for 8 yards. We are expecting much better production this week against a Buffalo defense that floundered against the run (28th) last season allowing 139 YPG and the 2nd most rushing TDs (19). Their week 1 performance against the pedestrian Shonn Greene & crew didn’t show much improvement as they yielded 36 carries for 118 yards and a TD to the Jets ground game. Hillis saw 38% of the touches in week 1 and with a similar workload we expect he produces a stat line this week worthy of flex consideration.
Running Back Downgrades:
It’s hard to imagine this is the same player that rushed for 2000+ yards in 2010. His week 1 rushing performance against New England was laughable (11 carries for 4 yards) but he did tack on 6 catches for 47 yards to make the final stat line respectable. With 3rd down back Javon Ringer expected back this week – CJ will be hard pressed to duplicate those receiving numbers any time soon. This week the Titans face a Charger defense that held RUN DMC to 15 carries for 32 yards in week 1. We doubt you are benching your first round pick in week 2 – but temper your expectations as another dud could be on the horizon in Sunny San Diego.
Marshawn Lynch (vs Dallas): Beast Mode had a mediocre day by his standards but at least the back spasms didn’t keep him out of the week 1 lineup much to the chagrin of those that invested heavily in Robert Turbin on the waiver wires. Lynch finished with 21 carries for 85 yards against a below average Arizona defense but will face a much stiffer test when the Cowboys come to town this week. Dallas ranked 7th in run defense last season (99 YPG) and held Ahmad Bradshaw in check in the week 1 win against the G-men.
Kevin Smith (@ San Fran) - Did you see what the 49ers did to the high-flying Packer offense in Lambeau ? The window for Kevin Smith’s fantasy relevance is quickly closing as Mikel Leshoure is due back from suspension in week 3. We recommend you sell now before he lays an egg against the league’s #1 run defense on Sunday afternoon.
Shonn Greene (@Pittsburgh): The plodding Greene produced what very well could be his best game of the season in week 1 finishing with 27 carries for 94 yards and a TD. SELL NOW !!! Over his first three seasons, the Iowa alum has failed to average more than 65 YPG and his limited receiving skills warrants him as nothing more than a flex play when the matchup is favorable which is not the case this week against the Steel Curtain. Pittsburgh’s run defense ranked 8th last season allowing 100 YPG and just 7 rushing TDs.
Running Back Sleepers:
Jonathan Dwyer (vs NY Jets): Isaac Redman struggled mightily in the week 1 loss to Denver while Dwyer impressed leading head coach Mike Tomlin to proclaim that the Georgia Tech alum would see an increased role.
In week 1, Dwyer carried the ball nine times for 48 yards and added two catches for 11 yards. He paced the Steelers’ backfield with 42 snaps to Redman’s 24 and could be primed to surprise this week against a Jets defense that was torched by CJ Spiller. The Jets run defense ranked 13th last season (111 YPG) but they allowed 17 rushing TDs (tied for 4th most in the NFL). Dwyer returned to practice on Thursday after battling a foot injury early in the week and makes for a solid Flex play for week 2.
Mark Ingram (@ Carolina): The 2010 Heisman trophy winner has yet to emerge as a solid NFL player. Injuries cost him 6 games in his rookie season as he finished with just 122 carries for 474 yards and five TDs. Ingram appears 100% healthy and has been labeled as the Saints goal line back which should give him 10+ TD potential in one of the league’s more potent offenses (averaged 34 PPG in 2011). This week the Saints face a Carolina run defense that ranked 25th last season (131 YPG) and allowed 18 rushing TDs (3rd most in the league). In an October game against the Panthers last season, Ingram posted 8 carries for 32 yards and a TD. Despite limited touches, Ingram could be worth considering as a Flex play in what appears to be a very favorable matchup.