1. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – While the match up against New England is far from ideal, it is a very tough week for fantasy RB’s and he is the pick of the litter. Westbrook has played great throughout the season, and is coming off of a career high 148 yards rushing last week. He will have a tough road to hoe against the Patriots, but he should be utilized early and often in the Eagles running and passing attacks as the focal point of their offense. Do not expect a monster game, but Westbrook is talented and versatile enough to do some damage. (Check injury report: knee)
2. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – Despite failing to reach the 100 yard rushing mark in his last 4 games, Tomlinson has remained productive, scoring a TD in each of his last 3 contests. He has also supplemented his lack of rushing yards with strong performances as a receiver out of the backfield in recent weeks. Tomlinson does not have a very good match up against Baltimore’s 2nd ranked run defense, but as usual, he should find a way to generate production, and remains a must start.
3. Willie Parker (PIT) – In what should have been one of his better outings last week, Parker was shut down by a lousy Jets run D. This week, his match up looks even better against Miami who lay claim to the league’s worst run D. While Parker is capable of putting up big numbers in this game, it will likely take a long breakaway run for him to find the end zone. Parker’s lack of scoring ability limits his fantasy value in what is otherwise a dream match up for him.
4. Clinton Portis (WAS) - After a pair of great fantasy outings in weeks 9 and 10, Portis was held to a mere 36 yards rushing last week against a very tough Cowboys run defense. He should get back on track against Tampa Bay’s 18th ranked run defense in week 12. Portis has yet to go more than 2 games without at least 1 TD all season, which is where he stands now, so he is a strong candidate to find the end zone. He should be in your starting line up.
5. Steven Jackson (STL) – Since returning from injury, Jackson has not posted consistent top flight numbers, but he has been really good. He faces familiar foe Seattle in week 12. Historically, Jackson has always played very well against the Seahawks, scoring a TD in 4 of 5 career starts. He should be able to continue his success against them at home on Sunday.
6. Willis McGahee (BAL) – He has been on a roll in recent weeks, scoring a TD in 5 straight games. McGahee will be shooting for a 6th consecutive score this week when the Ravens head to San Diego. The Charger defense is kind of a mystery. On the one hand they have shut down many top RB’s this season, but on the other hand, they rank 23 rd against the run. That ranking is a bit misleading, because the Adrian Peterson debacle accounts for about 33% of that yardage. Much of McGahee’s success will depend on which Charger defense decides to show up, but the way he has been playing, we like his chances either way.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – In his last 7 games, he has 6 TD’s, including a score in each of his last 2 games. He takes on the Bills 22nd ranked run defense this week, which bodes well. Last season, Jones-Drew averaged close to 10 yards per carry against them and also scored a TD. He also caught 5 passes for 48 yards. This match up holds a lot of promise for him and he should come through with a very solid fantasy outing.
8. Reggie Bush (NO) – Bush has a promising week 12 match up against Carolina and their 20th ranked run defense. In a week 5 game against the Panthers, he only rushed for 67 yards, but he did catch 9 passes for 52 yards. Expect similar numbers again this time around, with a bonus TD not out of the question. Bush is a solid start. (Check injury report: shin)
9. Chester Taylor (MIN) – The Vikings did not miss Adrian Peterson one bit, as veteran Chester Taylor filled in with amazing results. Taylor had a mind blowing 202 total yards and 3 TD’s. This week should prove to be a much tougher match up for Taylor as he faces the Giants 7th ranked run defense. While you can not expect anywhere close to a repeat of last week, he should produce decent numbers, and after last week; how do you not start him?
10. Edgerrin James (ARI) – While James has not been a great producer of yards in the running game this season, he does find the end zone on a fairly regular basis. He faces San Francisco’s 24th ranked run defense this week. In his last 4 starts against them, James has accumulated 375 yards rushing and 3 TD’s against them, including a 92 yard, 1 TD performance earlier this season. Given his history against the Niners, and the current state of their run D, he should have another strong effort against them in week 12.
11. LenDale White (TEN) – After a string of 100 yard rushing performances, and several strong fantasy outings, White has been almost non-existent in his last 2 starts. In part because the Titans have gotten behind early in those games, and had to turn to their passing game and the other reason is that he has just sucked. We expect him to bounce back this week against Cincinnati. The Bengals defense ranks 27th against the run, and have yet to really stop any RB all season.
12. Maurice Morris (SEA) – He has done an admirable job since taking over the starting job for Seattle. Morris has managed to find the end zone in each of his first 2 starts this season, and will look for a 3rd straight this week against St. Louis. The Rams run D ranks a mediocre 19th, and has allowed 11 TD’s on the ground this season, so extending his TD streak seems likely. He is playing well, so keep him in your starting line up.
13. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – With the exception of week 10 against Pittsburgh, Lewis has been lighting up fantasy scoreboards, scoring 5 TD’s in his last 3 games. Granted, 4 of those came in 1 game, but the other came in a solid performance last week against a very tough Ravens D. This week should be much easier, as Lewis will face the Texans 21st ranked run defense. This match up bodes well for him, and he should produce another solid effort, with at least 1 TD a strong possibility. There is always a risk factor in starting him, but it is pretty low this week.
14. Ron Dayne (HOU) – Dayne has played well in sub duty for Ahman Green. He should get the start again this week, and while he is not typically recommended for fantasy line ups, week 12 is an exception. Reason being that he faces a horrible Browns run defense, and few match ups are better. Also, Dayne has played well enough to earn it, totaling 237 yards and a TD in his last 2 games. He is a nice sleeper for week 12.
15. Selvin Young (DEN) – Once again it is unclear what the RB situation will be for Denver. Henry is probably out with his knee injury and/or potential season ending suspension, and Young has yet to practice with a sprained knee of his own. As for now, we anticipate Young will start, but that is merely an educated guess. He has a solid match up against the Bears 26th ranked run defense. Barring any setbacks with his knee, or the unlikely scenario in which Henry or 3rd string Andre Hall start, expect Young to have a decent output at minimum. (Check injury report: knee)
16. Earnest Graham (TB) – He continues to prove that he has what it takes to be a very productive fantasy back. Graham has surpassed the 100 yard mark and scored a TD in each of his last 2 games. He will be in for a big test this week against the Redskins top 10 run defense, but he should be up for the challenge. (Check injury report: ankle)
17. Cedric Benson (CHI) – After a pretty disappointing season through week 9, Benson is starting to show signs of turning things around. While he is still struggling to gain yards, he has managed to hit pay dirt in each of his last 2 games, and did break a 43 yarder last week against Seattle. Benson has a fairly favorable match up against Denver, at least on paper. The Denver run defense ranks a pathetic 30th, but they have tightened things up in their last 2 games, and will likely play much better than their ranking would indicate. He has a shot at his 3rd straight impressive game, but as you know, Benson is not the most reliable guy to have in your line up.
18. Frank Gore (SF) – He has done little to indicate that he is going to break out of his slump anytime soon, especially with the supporting cast he has in this horrible offense. On a positive note, Gore has a great history against Arizona scoring 5 TD’s in his last 5 games, including a score against them in week 1, but in all fairness, both of these teams are in a different place now. He has the talent to make a decent contribution to your fantasy roster this week, but keep expectations more on the low end once again.
19. Fred Taylor (JAC) – He has managed to increase his fantasy production a bit recently, but it is still far from stellar. Taylor has a nice match up against the Bills this week, a team he rushed for over 100 yards against last season. He is not highly recommended, but he could make for a nice fill in this week. (Check injury report: thigh)
20. Kolby Smith (KC) – We realize that this guy has virtually no NFL experience, and he has done little with the handful of carries he has received, but with Larry Johnson out, and Priest Holmes once again retired, Smith will carry the load for the Chiefs this week. He could not have scripted a better week to do it either. He faces a Raiders run defense that ranks 30th, and has been blistered by almost every RB they have faced. While you run a huge risk starting the unproven Smith this week, he may be a big time sleeper, given the match up. If you are in need of a starting RB this week, he could be worth a shot.
21. Laurence Maroney (NE) – He did manage to rush for his first TD of the season last week, but as usual, he was pretty disappointing otherwise. The fact is that Maroney is a talented RB, but the Patriots really don’t need him. He generally only gets a handful of carries, and last week’s TD was the first goal line carry we have seen him get all season. This week he faces a fairly tough Eagles run defense, so you can probably expect the Patriots to go to the air most of the evening as usual. The potential is always there for him in such a high powered offense, but he is basically useless to fantasy owners if they do not get him the ball.
22. Justin Fargas (OAK) – He has been pretty mediocre in his last 2 games, but he has shown promise at times this season. Fargas has game breaking speed and is always a threat to break loose for a long TD, but that is a long shot even against a very average Chiefs run defense. He is not highly recommended for your starting line up this week.
23. DeShaun Foster (CAR) – For the most part, Foster has had a lack luster season. He is averaging 67 yards per game on the ground and only has 2 rushing scores. He faces an average New Orleans run defense this week, but he only managed 59 total yards against them in a week 5 meeting. You will be better served with him riding the pine. (Check injury report: toe)
24. Derrick Ward (NYG) – He has proven that he has the necessary skills to be a quality fantasy back. If he is healthy enough himself, Ward will likely play the role of fill in for the injured Brandon Jacobs once again. The bad news is that he will probably have to share the workload with Reuben Droughns, and he will be facing Minnesota, who boasts one of the NFL’s best run defenses. Given the numerous obstacles he has to overcome this week, we advise you to leave him on the bench if you can. (Check injury report: ankle, groin)
25. Jesse Chatman (MIA) – He has shown some promise in his brief stint as the starting RB for the fins, but he is a long way from elite status. Chatman has a tall order this week when he faces Pittsburgh’s 3 rd ranked run defense on Monday night. While the Steelers struggled against the run last week, you can not expect them to stumble 2 weeks in a row. Keep Chatman reserved for a better match up.
26. Kenny Watson (CIN) – Watson may serve as the back up RB for the Bengals, but he has proven to be the more effective back. He will likely split carries with starter Rudi Johnson once again this week, which will limit his value. He will also face Tennessee’s 5th ranked run defense. The Titans run defense has struggled in the last couple of games, but if they get DT Albert Haynesworth back this week, they should return to dominance. With the match up and the fact that he will share the load, Watson does not have much fantasy value for week 12.
27. Rudi Johnson (CIN) – The former Pro Bowl RB has been a huge bust for fantasy owners even when healthy. You can blame a lot of his failure on offensive line play, but they can not take on all of the responsibility for such a pathetic season, because Kenny Watson has managed to produce with that same line. Johnson may be done as a productive fantasy back, at least for this season. He has done nothing to prove himself worthy of a week 12 start.
28. Anthony Thomas (BUF) – Thomas was pretty bad last week in his first start of the season, even taking into consideration he was playing against New England. He only had 31 rushing yards and averaged 2.8 yards per carry. He should make his second straight start against Jacksonville this week with Lynch still bothered by an ankle sprain, and while the match up is better, it is far from favorable. He is probably not worth the risk.
29. Reuben Droughns (NYG) – He will likely get a fair share of carries this week, including goal line carries with Brandon Jacobs out. There is also a chance that Ward will be too banged up to play and Droughns would then get the start, raising his fantasy stock dramatically. Unfortunately, that will probably not be the case, and he faces a very tough match up against Minnesota. Keep on the bench unless something changes in the next few days.
30. Chris Brown (TEN) - He will serve as the back up for LenDale White, but Brown is very capable of being a star for the Titans this week. He has a promising match up against the Bengals, who can not stop any rushing attack. The only real question is will he get enough carries to make for a worthy starting fantasy back? He only had 3 carries last week, and while that number will almost certainly increase this week, we can not advise you to start him on hope alone. If you are very desperate, and have nothing to lose, Brown could be your man.
*Other potential RB options for week 12 include (in ranked order):
Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – Check injury report: ankle, not expected to play
Travis Henry (DEN) – Check injury and player reports: knee injury and potential suspension; unlikely to play
Andre Hall (DEN) – Check status for Selvin Young and Travis Henry before considering him
Ahman Green (HOU) – Check injury report: knee; not expected to play
Najeh Davenport (PIT) – Great match up, goal line potential, but not enough carries
Kevin Faulk (NE) – Fantasy value lies in his receiving abilities
Adrian Peterson (CHI) – Scored a TD last week, but not enough carries
DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – Little value if any, unless Foster gets hurt
Michael Pittman (TB) – Not enough carries to hold much weight