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.

The following Defenses are allowing 14 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing rushers:  Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Miami. The Saints 4-horseman face the 49ers and rookie Trent Richardson will find tough sledding against the Steel Curtain. 

On the flip side, these defenses (Buffalo,  Tennessee, New Orleans, Jacksonville and Oakland) have been shredded by ground games and are allowing 23 or more fantasy points per game to opposing RBs.  CJ2K should keep rolling against the Jags and some lower tier RBs on the Colts (vs Buffalo) and Jags (vs Titans) could surprise in favorable matchups.

Ahmad Bradshaw used the off week to get his neck tested (as his annual injuries work their way up). Make sure to keep Andre Brown and David Wilson rostered as the oft injured Bradshaw could be a question mark for week 12.

Father time could be catching up with Willis Mcgahee as he’s scheduled to miss most if not all of the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury (Ronnie Hillman is the Bronco back to own this week for a favorable matchup against KC). The Eagles dreadful season took another hit when LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion in week 11. In a lost season, the Birds have no reason to rush Shady back giving rookie Bryce Brown flex appeal against Carolina on Monday night.

RUN DMC suffered his annual injury in week 9 as a high ankle sprain is expected to keep him and backup Mike Goodson in street clothes for the 3rd straight week elevating Marcel Reece to borderline RB2 status.  The Cowboys’ Demarco Murray is likely to miss his 6th straight game with a foot injury, which should keep Felix Jones fantasy relevant for the week 12 Turkey day matchup with Washington (provided his own knee injuries allow – keep an eye on Lance Dunbar). MJD will also remain sidelined and backup Rashad Jennings has been replaced by Jalen Parmelee – no Jags RB should be in lineups despite the favorable week 12 matchup.  Darren Sproles practiced last week but was unable to suit up against Oakland. The matchup this week against San Fran is one to avoid.

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. The Injury Report will be released on Friday afternoon and updated up until the 1pm Sunday kickoffs.

Running Back Upgrades:

Steven Ridley (@ NY Jets) – The Pats backfield is beginning to shift to more of a time share with Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead getting a bigger piece of the pie. The 2nd year RB from LSU disappointed in week 11 as Ridley rushed 13 times for 28 yards and a TD in Week 11 blowout win over the Colts.

He’s averaging an impressive 85 YPG with 7 TDs and should bounce back to solid RB2 status this week against a struggling Jets run defense. The Jets run defense is ranked 30th in the league allowing 142 YPG and they have yielded the 6th most fantasy PPG to opposing RBs. In the week 7 matchup with Gang Green , Ridley finished with 17 carries for 65 yards and was held out of the end zone. We expect bigger numbers this week as Ridley remains the goal line back for the high-flying Pats offense.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis (vs Oakland) –  He’s averaging a pedestrian 3.5 YPC this season but remains a threat in the red zone and should produce top 20 numbers this week against a struggling Raider defense. The Lawfirm topped double-digit TDs in each of the past two seasons with the Pats but has reached pay dirt just 4 times this season and is averaging 64 YPG. Oakland ranks 23rd against the run (122 YPG) and they are yielding the 5th most fantasy PPG to opposing RBs (23 FPG). BJGE rushed 25 times for 101 yards with a TD in the Week 11 win over the Chiefs – a stat line he could match in a yet another favorable matchup this week.

Ryan Mathews (@ Baltimore) – The 3rd year RB from Fresno Stae was in the discussion as a 1st round pick until a preseason collarbone injury caused his value to plummet to 2nd/3rd round level.  He’s averaging a solid 90 total YPG over 8 games but has reached the end zone just once all season.  Mathews has seen an uptick in goal line carries in recent weeks and the week 12 matchup with Baltimore’s 27th ranked run defense (132 YPG) could be just the remedy to cure his TD woes.

Running Back Downgrades:

Ahmad Bradshaw (vs Green Bay) – Bradshaw suffered a neck injury in week 10 but  used the bye week to heal up.

He practiced on Monday but missed Wednesday’s practice. Bradshaw appears likely to start the week 12 Sunday Night matchup with Green Bay but his owners should handcuff with Andre Brown. In the 4 games before the week 11 bye, Bradshaw averaged just 15 carries for 57 YPG and scored one touchdown. With Andre Brown vulturing goal line TDs and at less than 100%, Bradshaw’s fantasy stock takes hit and the matchup this week is somewhat difficult against a Packer defense that ranks 11th against the run (100 YPG).

Reggie Bush (vs. Seattle) –  Amid fumbleitus and injuries, the former Heisman trophy winner (oh wait he returned that) has fallen off the fantasy map in recent weeks. He’s topped 50 yards rushing just once since week 5 and with Daniel Thomas emerging - Bush is nothing more than a Flex play this week against a stout Seattle run defense. The Seahawks are allowing the 6th fewest fantasy PPG to running backs (just 4 TDs on the season).

Mikel Leshoure (vs Houston) – The 2nd year RB from Illinois followed up his 3-TD performance in Jacksonville with a week 10 dud in Minnesota (13 carries for 43 yards and no TDs). He bounced back against GB in week 11 finishing with 84 yards and a TD but faces a very stiff test on Turkey day. Over 8 games, Leshoure is averaging 65 YPG and has five TDs.  In week 12, the Lions host a Texan defense that ranks 2nd against the run (86 YPG) and have yet to yield a TD on the ground. Houston is allowing the fewest fantasy PPG to opposing ground games. Temper your expectations as we aren’t too sure that Leshoure will crack the top 20 RBs this week in a very difficult matchup.

Running Back Sleepers:

Ronnie Hillman (@ Kansas City) –  The 3rd round rookie from San Diego State will likely step into the lead role for Denver following Willis Mcgahee’s week 11 knee injury (expected to keep him out 6-8 weeks). 

Kansas City’s run defense ranks 25th (129 YPG) and they allow the 7th most fantasy PPG to RBs (21 FPG). With so many injuries at the RB position, Hillman’s explosiveness and skills in the passing game could result in RB2 numbers in a favorable week 12 matchup.

Colts RBs (vs. Buffalo) – Vick Ballard and Donald Brown could both be worth considering this week against the Bills 31st ranked run defense (153 YPG - 5.2 YPC). Buffalo has allowed a league high 14 rushing TDs. Of the two Colts RBs - Ballard continues to be the lead back (Ballard played on 46 snaps in Week 11 while Donald Brown saw just 19). Ballard is averaging just under 50 YPG and has just 1 TD on the season (OT clincher against Tennessee in week 8) but in a dream matchup he should crack the top 25 fantasy RBs in week 12. The 25-year-old Brown has battled injuries yet again this season (missed 3 games) but his 14 carry, 80 yard performance in week 8 against the Titans is a sign of what he can do when the matchup is favorable.

Bryce Brown (vs Carolina) –  LeSean McCoy’s week 11 concussion should open the door for Bryce Brown to gain fantasy relevance on Monday night football.  The 7th round pick from Kansas State bounced around multiple colleges but has the pedigree to succeed at the NFL level (was the No. 1 high school player in the country in 2008, ahead of Trent Richardson). He is averaging an impressive 4.4 YPC on 32 carries this season and will face a Carolina defense that ranks 20th against the run (118 YPG).  Despite playing behind one of the weaker O-lines in the game, the rookie has the ability to bounce carries outside and solid size (6’0, 223) to succeed at the goal line.

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