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. DeMarco Murray - Running - Large

The following Defenses are allowing 15 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing rushers (over the past 5 weeks): San Francisco, Houston,  Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Denver. AP (@ Houston) and Marsahwn (vs San Fran) are obviously matchup proof.  Those that own Reggie Bush (vs Buffalo), Trent Richardson (vs Denver) and John Dwyer (vs Cincy) should consider their alternatives as the difficult matchups will likely limit those 3 RBs to lower end RB2 status. T-Rich is not 100% and Denver is coming off a week 15 performance where they limited Ray Rice to four fantasy points.

On the flip side, these defenses (Arizona, Green Bay, NY Giants, Seattle and St Louis) have been shredded by ground games and are allowing 21 or more fantasy points per game to opposing RBs (over the past 5 weeks). Matt Forte (@Arizona), CJ2K (@ Green Bay), Ray Rice (vs NY Giants) , Frank Gore (vs Seattle) and Doug Martin (vs St Louis) should all flirt with RB1 status in week 16.

On the injury front, Ahmad Bradshaw is very questionable for the matchup in Baltimore which could open the door for rookie David Wilson to bounceback from his week 15 dud. Carolina’s John Stewart (ankle) could miss his 4th straight game against Oakland  which should keep Deangelo Williams on the fantasy radar for another week.  

As always, injuries will surely play a role in your lineup decisions and our interactive INJURY CHART with fantasy advice . The Injury Report will be updated up until the 1pm Sunday kickoffs.

Running Back Upgrades:

DeMarco Murray (vs. New Orleans):  Since coming back in Week 13 from a foot injury, Murray has rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns, scoring in each of the three games. It’s obvious that Dallas is a different team with him in the game, and this week the Cowboys host the second worst run defense in the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have allowed 13 touchdowns on the ground for the season, and give up on average 146 yards a game (21.5 FPG). Last week the Saints shutout the Buccaneers and held them to less than 60 yards rushing as a team. But prior to that, New Orleans gave up almost 400 yards and three touchdowns in losses to the 49ers, Falcons and Giants. The Saints pass defense also ranks second to last and that gives opportunities for Murray in the passing game as well. The second year back also has 12 receptions for 72 yards in those same three games. The Cowboys know that with a three way tie with Washington and the Giants, their playoffs really start now and Murray will be a big factor as they inch closer to the playoffs.

Michael Turner (@ Detroit, Saturday):  Turner the Burner, which is not the best nickname anymore, will take on a Lions team that has been dreadful as of late. Michael Turner

In just the last three contests against the Cardinals, Packers and Colts, Detroit has allowed 326 yards and six rushing touchdowns, including three to Arizona’s Beanie Wells just last week. The Lions defense is ranked 15th against the run, allowing 120 yards per game, but they have been better allowing just under 100 yards per game for about the last month. Turner won’t see all of the touches as he is splitting time with Jacquizz Rodgers, but it’s obvious the Falcons still trust him at the goal line. Turner hasn’t hit 100 yards rushing since Week 9, but you can’t deny the fact that he has scored in five straight games. The last time Turner faced the Lions was just last season when he rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries. The Falcons are also looking to wrap up the number one seed with a victory so Atlanta is still playing for something even after winning the division a couple of weeks ago.

Matt Forte (@ Arizona):  The Chicago Bears need a win and they need it badly. The Bears will travel to Arizona to take on a Cardinals team that finally ended their losing streak at nine, but who could very well start a new one. Forte will be facing the worst run defense for the past five weeks, as Arizona has allowed six rushing touchdowns and 151 yards a game (24 FPG). Even though Forte hasn’t scored since Week 9, the fifth-year back has tallied double digit fantasy points in the last three weeks with his increased role in the passing game. In those three contests, Forte has been targeted 18 times, catching 14 passes for 128 yards and touchdown. Despite last week’s win against the Lions, Arizona still allowed 84 yards and a score on the ground. Forte’s primary backup Michael Bush was placed on IR (ribs) and is out for the rest of the season leaving more opportunities for Forte especially at the goal line.

Running Back Downgrades:

Beanie Wells (vs. Chicago):  Did you start Beanie Wells last week? Yeah I didn’t think so. So after a three touchdown performance his must be used in your championship game….. Yeah I don’t think so. Wells has missed seven games this season and in the other seven he has rushed for 231 yards total. That’s 33 yards per game and even worse that’s less than three yards per carry. Yeah he has five touchdowns, but three came last week and the other two in Week 12 against the Rams. The Cardinals rank dead last in rushing offense and this week’s opponent isn’t the leaky Detroit Lions D-line again. The Bears enter this contest allowing 109 yards per game, but have only surrendered six rushing touchdowns all season. Granted in recent weeks the Bears have allowed around 300 yards and three of those six scores, but this was to backs Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. The Bears are still in the playoff race and will look to bounce back after last week’s loss to the Packers. “The Bears are who we thought they were…”

Trent Richardson (@ Denver):  The Browns rookie running back is coming off back-to-back performances where he scored two touchdowns in each game despite only rushing for a total of 70 yards. Trent Richardson - Flex

Richardson has scored in four straight and is closing in on 1,000 rushing yards in his impressive rookie campaign. This week he goes to Denver to face a Broncos team that ranks in the top 10 defensively in both rushing and passing. As a matter of fact, Denver is second best against the run allowing just 91 yards per game (12.7 FPG). They have only allowed five touchdowns on the ground, the last one coming in Week 9. In the last five weeks, their defense has gotten better giving up just 72 yards per contest. Last week Denver held Ravens running back Ray Rice to just 44 yards on 12 carries. Richardson could be limited in the amount of touches he gets if Cleveland falls behind early, which is possible as Denver looks to win their tenth straight.

Bryce Brown/LeSean McCoy (vs. Washington):  This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. McCoy looks like he will play Sunday against the Redskins, but Eagles head coach Andy Reed has already indicated that Brown has earned playing time and will rotate in. McCoy is coming off of a concussion and has missed the last four games. But let’s be honest. That first round pick wasn’t very productive when he was healthy. The fourth-year back only averaged 75 yards per game and has just three rushing touchdowns on the season. Brown started on fire in his first two games as a starter rushing for almost 350 yards and four scores. In his last two games, Brown ran the ball 28 times for 40 yards and no touchdowns. The Redskins defense has been decent the last few weeks allowing just 85 yards a game and three scores on the ground. Washington did allow two TD’s to Cleveland’s Trent Richardson, but he finished with just 28 yards. Some of us waiting for McCoy to come back, but between the concussion, the split time and the Redskins defense, it might be a tough week to rely on him, or Brown for that matter.

Running Back Sleepers:

Vick Ballard (@ Kansas City):  There is always a team we look for to see if “my guy” is playing them. Well you guessed it, the Chiefs fit that description and this week Vick Ballard could run to fantasy stardom. The Colts rookie notched his first career 100-yard game last week against the Texans, finishing with 105 yards on just 18 carries (5.8 YPC). The week before, he rushed for 94 yards against Tennessee (4.9  YPC) and in Week 13 he scored his first career rushing touchdown. Ballard will also carry much of the workload as Donald Brown is on IR and Delone Carter is still doubtful with an ankle injury. The Chiefs, ranked 25th against the run, have only allowed a surprising nine touchdowns on the season but have allowed 129 yards a game for the last five weeks. They held Raiders running back Darren McFadden out of the end zone last week, but he was able to total 149 yards. A week before that, Kansas City was stout holding Trent Richardson to just 42 yards, however he did score twice. Ballard could be in for a nice day as the Colts try to solidify their playoff chances.

DeAngelo Williams (vs. Oakland):  Sometimes you just can’t ignore the matchup. Deangelo Williams

In last week’s win against the Chargers, Williams finished with 22 carries for 93 yards. It was the first time this season he carried more than 17 times in a game. It was also the second straight week he scored a receiving touchdown and finished with about 50 yards in the air. The Raiders are ranked 21st against the run allowing 122 yards per game (21 FPG) and 17 touchdowns on the ground for the season. Despite holding the Chiefs Jamal Charles to under 20 yards rushing last week, the Raiders have allowed 118 yards per game and four touchdowns in the last five weeks.

David Wilson (@ Baltimore):  Sometimes it’s tough, but forget last week for a moment. Wilson came back down to earth after his 100-yard two touchdown performance against the Saints, finishing with just 55 yards rushing and 11 yards receiving in last week’s 34-0 loss to the Falcons. The rookie out of Virginia Tech will likely share carries with Ahmad Bradshaw, who is returning from a knee injury. Baltimore is not the same defense it once was. The Ravens rank just 26th against the run allowing 132 yards per game (18 FPG). In just their last two contests against Denver and Washington, the Ravens have given up over 200 yards and three touchdowns.

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