By: Christopher J. Kelly, FFSpin.com and FantasyFootballCrystalBall.com Writer

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 15 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing rushers:  Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh,  Miami, NY Giants, and Denver.  

On the flip side, these defenses (Buffalo,  Tennessee, Jacksonville, NY Jets, Carolina and Oakland) have been shredded by ground games and are allowing 22 or more fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. Jamaal Charles produce borderline RB1 numbers against Carolina and Beanie Wells (coming off a 2-TD week 12) could surprise again this week against the Jets. The disappointing Rashad Jennings (vs Buffalo) could surprise in a favorable matchups but remains just a desperation play.

Fantasy owners could welcome back two early round picks as Demarco Murray and RUN DMC have returned to practice and appear in line to suit up for week 13. Both RBs could be eased back into action so Felix Jones and Marcel Reece should maintain fantasy relevance in the short term.

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:

Beanie Wells (@ NY Jets) – In his first game back from the “injured reserved yet you can still come back and play list”, Beanie Wells made fantasy owners happy, that is if you used him. We expected a bit of rust from Wells having last played in Week 3, but he was still able to find the end zone twice. He carried 12 times for only 48 yards, but part of the pedestrian production was due to the fact that Arizona was trailing for most of the game. Wells now faces a Jets team that does not have the defense it once had. The Jets are in the bottom five defensively allowing over 140 yards a game on the ground. Since coming off their bye in Week 9, New York has given up 433 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Wells has tremendous upside this week against the Jets.

Bryce Brown (@ Dallas) –  Brown was on the waiver radar just a week ago after Eagles starter LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion. Brown stepped in and all he did was run 19 times for 178 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

Sure he did fumble twice, (which I am sure is being worked on as you read this), but he has proven he can carry the load. Not to mention if you take out his 65 yard touchdown run, Brown still averaged over six yards a carry against Carolina. McCoy will miss at least one more week, giving Brown another opportunity. This week Brown takes on a Dallas Cowboys team that ranks 13th against the run (15 FPG), but has given up over 100 yards rushing in each of the past two games, including 142 yards and a touchdown to the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day.

Ahmad Bradshaw (@ Washington)  Bradshaw is coming off one of his better fantasy performances against the Packers having totaled 119 yards rushing and receiving with a touchdown. What makes this week and the weeks to come different? Andre Brown is out with a broken leg. Brown has vultured touchdowns from Bradshaw, scoring from two yards or less for five straight weeks. With Brown out, Bradshaw will see the increase work at the goal line, since rookie running back David Wilson hasn’t lived up to his draft status all year. The coaching staff sees the talent in Brown, but they don’t trust him just yet. This week, Bradshaw has a tougher matchup as the Giants take on a Redskins defense that is ranked 3rd against the run (13 FPG), allowing only 89 yards a contest. The difference here is that Washington ranks 31st against the pass and with Eli Manning throwing the ball, it will set up Bradshaw for multiple opportunities.

Running Back Downgrades:

Steven Jackson (v. San Francisco) – In Week 12 against Arizona, Jackson posted his best game of the season rushing 24 times for 139 yards.

The fact that Jackson didn’t score a touchdown is frustrating and he has only achieved double digit fantasy points three times all season. Now granted his last touchdown came against these same 49ers back in Week 10, but really these are not the same 49ers. San Francisco has outscored their last two opponents 63-28, so the running game has been abandoned quickly. Not to mention the fact that San Francisco is allowing just 10 fantasy points per game to backs and has only allowed three 100-yard rushers all season. Even though Jackson was one of those backs to eclipse the 100 yard mark against San Francisco, it took an extra period since that game ended in a 24-24 tie.

Steelers RBs (@ Baltimore) – Talk about momentum. Fourth-and-29 is still being talked about as the Ravens will play the Steelers for the second time in three weeks. In the last three games the Steelers backs have rushed for 219 yards and have fumbled five times. The major problem with that stat line, other than the fumbles, is that it includes Redman, Mendenhall, Dwyer, and Rainey. Baltimore also hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown to a running back during their four game winning streak. As a matter of fact the only rushing touchdown given up in that time span was a surprising run by Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich in their first meeting a couple of weeks ago. The Ravens might be ranked 25th against the run, but with Dwyer named the starter, Mendenhall demoted to third on the depth chart, and a questionable Ben Roethlisberger, this could be tough going in Baltimore.

Running Back Sleepers:

Bilal Powell (v. Arizona) –  In the last two games Jets RB Bilal Powell has been more involved in this offense.  

Although not an even split with teammate Shonn Greene, Powell has seen double digit touches in his last two games. More importantly, those carries included goal line opportunities which Powell turned into three touchdowns. Green might still be the starter, and perhaps might have better yardage totals in the end, but you can’t ignore the goal line chances New York is giving to Powell. This week Powell will face a Cardinals team that just allowed 173 rushing yards to St. Louis a week ago. Although Arizona has only allowed five rushing touchdowns, they are ranked 22nd against the run allowing 124 yards per contest. Powell could very well continue his scoring streak this week at home.

Deangelo Williams (@ Kansas City) – Starting running back Jonathan Stewart suffered a high ankle sprain and is likely to miss at least a couple of games. DeAngelo Williams is back as the starter and although he was limited to 12 carries for 21 yards last week against the Eagles, he will face the 24th ranked run defense of the Kansas City Chiefs in week 13. Kansas City has allowed 126 yards per game and has given up seven rushing touchdowns on the season to running backs. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will definitely take some of those touches from Williams, but after the Chiefs allowed close to 300 yards and two touchdowns over the past two weeks to Denver and Cincinnati, Williams has the chance to finish the season strong starting  this week in Kansas City.

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