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.
Several big name running backs – if not big time producers of late – are on BYE. Darren McFadden won’t be frustrating owners this week because he will be watching and not playing. Demarco Murray will be watching interceptions on TV instead of live. David Martin and LaGarrette Blount are off as are the under achieving rushers of the Lions.
Other are nursing injuries so be sure to check out our Injury Report that will be released on Friday afternoon and updated up until the 1pm Sunday kickoffs. It appears, however, that there are more rushers getting healthy this week than getting hurt. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are health but may not have healthy stats based on their matchup against the Niners. Matt Forte (Jaguars) has practices and will be one week healthier. Heck, even Rashard Mendenhall (Eagles) is expected to take the field.
As always, injuries will surely play a role in your lineup decisions and our interactive injury chart/fantasy advice feature will keep you up to date.
Running Back Upgrades
Matt Forte (@ Jaguars) Last week Forte was ineffective, not as ineffective as Michael Bush, but ineffective. This week he should be a little healthier and the Jaguars run defense can make him look a lot healthier. They have been very hospitable to opposing rushers letting them run all over them to the tune of 26 fantasy points per game. The caveat to this upgrade will be if Forte suffers a set back in practice. One of the two Bears rushers is going to have a good week and our money is on Forte.
Jackie Battle (@ Saints) 28. That is how many fantasy points the Saints are allowing per game to running backs. We are on the record as saying that Ryan Mathews will regain the starting RB role but it may not matter this week – there should be enough points to go around against the truly pathetic run defense of the Saints. Battle is averaging over 5 ypc and has 4 TDs so far. How many more weeks you will be able to use Battle as a starting RB or even a flex is unknown so take advantage of it while you can. Battle should continue the solid play for at least one more week.
Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Browns) Fantasy owners were justifiably tentative entering last week when it came to the Giants backfield. It was very unclear how Ahmad Bradshaw and Andrea Brown would be used. It quickly became clear that Bradshaw is the lead back and Brown will play second fiddle. The Giants run game was stymied by a tough Eagles defense last week but we are betting that with another week of healing and a weaker opponent will make a difference for Bradshaw. Last week’s division of the work load (16 touches for Bradshaw vs. just 6 for Brown) should hold. The Browns are allowing opponents to run for 117 yards per game and while they have only allowed 1 rushing TD that may be more coincidence than positive performance. Don’t ignore Bradshaw because of the neck injury or potential time-share.
Running Back Downgrades
C.J. Spiller (@ 49ers) – As we all know the Niners are one heck of a defense. Equally as important a reason to shy away from Spiller is the fact that with Fred Jackson back the weeks of stellar numbers will be limited for Spiller. This is now a timeshare/hot hand/who’s healthy situation and that equals headaches for owners. We advised that you sell high on Spiller weeks ago and that time may have passed. He’ll post quality most weeks nonetheless but this week is too risky a proposition if you have any talent on the bench. Over the past 2 seasons the Niners have allowed just one running back to accumulate greater than 100 rushing yards against them in a game. Spiller and Jackson will likely struggle.
Stevan Ridley (vs. Broncos) – The Broncos will present stiffer competition than the Buffalo Bills. You can’t count on both Brandon Bolden and Ridley tallying 100+ rushing yards on the 9th ranked run defense of the Broncos. Opponents have averaged just 87.5 yards on the ground against them this year. Ridley is a still a solid play but with Bolden on the scene he is not longer money in the bank like he was earlier in the season. Ridley is a strong flex play and still a passable RB2. Interesting how the Patriots change and adapt. They could now be called a running team in this modern age of pass-happy offenses. They are an offense that can sustain 2 fantasy relevant RBs but perhaps not one consistent stud performer.
DeAngelo Williams (vs. Seahawks) Drafting Williams feel like a mistake? This downgrade may feel redundant or unnecessary, you probably have downgraded him to “dead to me” status. In case you have not and in case you were thinking he is gaining momentum…think again. He’s gotten 11 carries over the past two weeks but that was either without Jonathan Stewart or with him being brought back slowly. This week not only do the Panthers face a 2nd ranked run defense but Stewart is healthier and will factor more heavily into the game plan. There is very little upside for a player who is unlikely to match his 11 carry average of the previous couple weeks and who is facing a unit that is only giving up 62 yards per game on the ground.
Running Back Sleepers
Pierre Thomas (vs Chargers) - Mark Ingram has been highly ineffective and Thomas has been strong. Darren Sproles is a PPR stud, that goes without saying, but Thomas has been sort of flying under radars as a solid flex play. Thomas has a 5.42 ypc average (28/152) and he’s added 11 catches for 99 yards. The Chargers run defense has gotten beaten up the last two weeks. First the Falcons managed 119 yards and a score and then the Chiefs mirrored those numbers last week. Thomas is the most well-rounded back on the roster. He’s a solid rusher and very good coming out of the backfield for receptions. We may see some of Ingram’s hand offs (32 rushes/90 yards) going to Thomas. It’s time to look at Thomas a viable option at the flex position if you haven’t already.
Donald Brown (vs. Packers) the Pack’s bend-but-don’t-break defense may be keeping running backs out of the endzone but they are not stopping them from racking up yardage. They are surrendering 119 yards per game and 16 fantasy points per game to opposing rushers. Respectable but not exactly stout. The Colts will be well rested and informed on the Packers coming off of a BYE week with 2 weeks to game plan. Brown has proven he’s no superstar (putting it mildly) but if you invested a draft pick on him this appears to be a week where you can get some return on that investment and insert him in your lineup. He has 20+ touch potential this week.
Bilal Powell (vs. Texans) Okay, we did stipulate that this is the SLEEPER section. Powell would be more appropriate in the SUPER SLEEPER section if we had one, but alas, we do not. It’s our contention, as we are not alone any longer, that Powell will ultimately rest control of this backfield away from Shonn Greene and this could be the week. The Texans defense will frustrate the passing game of the Jets and Greene will frustrate the coaches of the Jets.