1. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) - He is not producing his typical stud numbers on a weekly basis, but he has still produced on a very respectable level on a consistent basis this season. Tomlinson will face division rival Kansas City this week. In a week 4 match up with the Chiefs, he ran for 132 yards and a TD. He also had 5 catches for 22 yards. Tomlinson, as always, is a must start.
2. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – He is coming off of a very solid week considering he played the Patriots. Westbrook is still one of the best fantasy backs around, and remains a must start against any opponent. If he is not successful on the ground, he will more than make up for it in the passing game, and vice versa. He is a no brainer against Seattle in week 13. (Check injury report: knee)
3. Willie Parker (PIT) – Considering the conditions he was playing in Parker was not half bad last week. This week he faces the Bengals 25th ranked run defense. In a week 8 meeting with the Bengals, Parker ran all over them, and even scored 1 of only 2 rushing TD’s he has on the season. While Parker is not known for his ability to get into the end zone frequently, he always manages to do so against Cincy. In his last 3 games against them, he has 5 TD’s total with at least 1 in each game. The Bengals have improved against the run in recent weeks, but they are far from being great. Parker is a must start.
4. Steven Jackson (STL) – Since returning from injury, Jackson has looked very strong, scoring TD’s in 3 of his last 4 contests. In week 13, he will face an Atlanta run defense that ranks a pathetic 26th, and they are down to mostly second stringers on the defensive line. Jackson should be able to run wild on the Falcons and is a top flight pick for your starting roster.
5. Frank Gore (SF) – The 49ers brought in an offensive specialist last week to help with the play calling. Apparently, it had a very positive effect, especially on Gore, who went off on the Cardinals. It was by far his best performance of the season. Gore will once again have a favorable match up against Carolina this week. If the Niners don’t get behind early and have to turn to the passing game, as they have had to do most of the season, then Gore should get plenty of touches. He is not a lock, but this week looks very promising for Gore. (Check injury report: ankle)
6. Joseph Addai (IND) – While he is considered an elite fantasy RB, keep in mind that he has never been dominant against Jacksonville. In 3 career games against them, he has never scored a TD, although he did average 5.3 yards per carry and rushed for 85 yards against them earlier this season. Addai is capable of running wild on any opponent, but do not expect it against the underrated Jaguar run defense.
7. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – Lewis has been on an impressive roll as of late finding the end zone in each of his last 2 games. He is also averaging 113 yards per game rushing in that span. In addition, He has 6 TD’s in his last 4 contests. This week, Lewis matches up against the Cardinals 15th ranked run defense. On another positive note, Arizona has been horrible in recent games against the run, and was absolutely torched last week by Frank Gore. Lewis should continue his string of solid production in week 13.
8. Clinton Portis (WAS) – Portis has cooled down considerably in recent weeks, but he has faced some pretty tough match ups. This week should get much easier, as he will face the Bills 23rd ranked run defense. He has failed to reach the end zone in 3 straight games now, which is his longest such stretch of the season. Portis will have a good opportunity to get back to pay dirt in week 13. (Check injury report: back)
9. Justin Fargas (OAK) – he played exceptionally well last week against the Chiefs with 139 rushing yards and a TD. This week he will face arch rival Denver. While the Broncos have shown vast improvement in their run D recently, they still rank 29th and they are still pretty bad. Fargas has the tools to run all over them in week 13.
10. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – In 3 career games against Indianapolis spanning back to last season, Jones-Drew has scored 5 TD’s, including 1 in a meeting earlier this season. He has never failed to find pay dirt at least once against them. The Colts rank a very average 16th against the run, and Jones-Drew is capable of finding yardage and the end zone in a multitude of ways. He is a solid start for week 13.
11. Travis Henry (DEN) – It appears that he is healthy and ready to return to action this week, and he could not have picked a better week to return. Henry will face a horrible Raiders run defense that ranks last in the NFL. In an earlier meeting, he rushed for 128 yards against them. Selvin Young may steal some carries, but Henry should get the majority. The match up is too good to leave him on the bench. (Check injury report: knee)
12. Earnest Graham (TB) – He has been a workhorse for the Bucs offense in recent weeks and has a TD in each of his last 3 starts. Graham should once again fill that workhorse role against New Orleans. With starting QB Jeff Garcia likely out this week, Tampa will likely look to Graham early and often. On the downside of that, the Saints, who rank 10th against the run, know that as well. They will likely devote most of their defensive game plan to stopping Graham. He has yet to let fantasy owners down to this point, but it will not be an easy match up under the circumstances.
13. Reggie Bush (NO) – In 3 career games against Tampa Bay, Bush has never rushed for more than 27 yards, but he has caught 21 passes against them. While the Bucs do not boast one of the better run defenses in the league, they do appear to have Bush’s number. Fortunately, Bush is multi-faceted and can acquire fantasy points in many ways. We do not like the match up based on the history there, but Bush has to break out of his funk against them sometime, and he is well overdue for a TD against them. He should be back to 100% after being limited last week with a shin injury. (Check injury report: shin)
14. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – Overall, he has had a pretty disappointing season and is not a guy we typically recommend starting. This week, however, is an exception. Jones will face Miami in week 13. The Dolphins are horrible against the run and rank 30th in the league in that category. In a week 3 meeting with the Fins, Jones rushed for 110 yards. He has a good shot at scoring his 1st TD of the season, so this may be a good week to stick him in your line up.
15. Edgerrin James (ARI) – Despite a TD in week 11, James has been a fairly mediocre RB over the last few weeks. In addition, he no longer receives goal line carries, that duty has been handed over to back up Marcell Shipp. The good news is that he will face the Browns 28th ranked run defense this week. James should be able to get back on track and do some damage on the ground and may not even need a goal line carry to get into the end zone against such a weak opponent, but based on his recent play, don’t get your hopes up too high.
16. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – The good news is that he will likely be back this week. The bad news is that he will likely split carries with Chester Taylor at best. Also, the knee will not be 100%, which could affect his ability to successfully make cuts, which is his bread and butter. On top of that, Peterson only rushed for 66 yards and no TD’s against Detroit in an earlier meeting. While nothing would shock us from Peterson, including a monster game, the odds are not in his favor this week. (Check injury report: knee)
17. Kolby Smith (KC) – He was off the charts last week in his first ever start, granted it was against Oakland’s last place run defense. No matter whom the opponent, 150 yards rushing and 2 TD’s is very impressive. This week he will get a shot at the Chargers 21st ranked run defense. That ranking is a little misleading considering Adrian Peterson’s monster game against them comprises much of that low ranking. San Diego has been feast or famine most of the year against the run, but they have been solid more times than not. While Smith’s only start was very impressive, you shouldn’t get too pumped over 1 game against the league’s worst run D. Week 13 should say much more about what kind of fantasy back Smith is going to be. Depending on your other options, he is probably worth starting, but do not expect anything like last week.
18. Willis McGahee (BAL) – He may not be a yardage machine, but with 6 straight games with a TD, he can be considered a scoring machine at this point. McGahee will look to score in his 7th straight game in week 13, but it will not be easy against the Patriots 5th ranked run defense. Keep expectations on the low end given the match up, and the high probability that Baltimore will be down early and have to turn to the passing game. On a positive note, if the Ravens are going to score, McGahee will likely be the one to do it. (Check injury report: ankle)
19. LenDale White (TEN) – There is no question that White has been flat out awful the last 3 weeks, but much of that is not his fault. In all 3 contests, the Titans were down big early, and had to turn almost exclusively to the passing game. This week the Titans play Houston, and while there is always a chance, Tennessee should not get behind in a big way early on. Also, Houston only ranks 22nd against the run, and looked terrible in that capacity last week against the Browns. In addition, White rushed for 104 yards and a TD against the Texans in an earlier meeting. We expect him to bounce back this week, but it is understandable if you have reservations about starting him given his recent downslide.
20. Derrick Ward (NYG) – Ward will return from injury this week, and likely get the start in place of Brandon Jacobs. He has already proven to be an effective fantasy back, in an earlier stint replacing the injured Jacobs. While Ward has a fairly promising match up against Chicago’s 27th ranked run defense, he may give up some carries to Reuben Droughns, including goal line carries. He definitely has value this week, but how much all depends on his workload. Ward could make for a nice start, but the circumstances make him a bit risky. (Check injury report: ankle and groin)
21. Warrick Dunn (ATL) – He has not done much in the last couple of weeks, but Dunn could get back on track this week with a favorable match up against the Rams 19th ranked run defense. Dunn is not a lock, but he has surprised us before this season, and we like his chances for a decent game.
22. Fred Taylor (JAC) – He is probably not your 1st or even your 2nd choice to have at RB this week, but Taylor has played pretty well over the last 3 weeks, and he is starting to show some value as a fantasy back. He faces a very average Colts run defense this week, and he has had pretty good success against them in the past. Taylor does not come highly recommended this week, but he is capable of doing some damage.
23. DeShaun Foster (CAR) – He has done little to nothing for much of the season, including an embarrassing week 12 in which he had negative yardage on 9 carries. Things should look up this week against the 49ers 24th ranked run defense, but don’t count on it.
24. Adrian Peterson (CHI) – With Cedric Benson out for the rest of the season with injury, Peterson will step into the starting role. While Peterson is not an ideal fantasy back, especially against a tough Giants run defense, he does have some value. Peterson has scored a TD in his last 2 games, and he is a much better receiver out of the backfield than Benson was. He will probably give you a few fantasy points, but do not expect a great deal from him this week.
25. Jesse Chatman (MIA) – He should be good to go this week, but even his coach described him as “a little gimpy”. Chatman has a great match up this week against the Jets 31st ranked run defense. The big questions are how will is ankle react, and will he have to share the load? Chatman will likely be fine, but the underlying circumstances may be enough to keep him on the bench in week 13. If you do plan on starting him, make sure that he will at least start the game. (Check injury report: ankle)
26. Kevin Jones (DET) – There is no question that Jones is a quality RB, but with an offense that tends to lean more towards the passing game, you can never be quite sure what he will get you. Based on this week’s match up against the Vikings top ranked run defense, we do not expect him to get you much.
27. Ron Dayne (HOU) – It appears that he will once again get the start in place of the injured Ahman Green. He will face a Tennessee defense this week that has struggled against the run recently. A big reason they have struggled has been the absence of run stuffing DT Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth should be back this week and that spells trouble for Dayne and a Houston rush attack that has not been all that good in the first place. He is not a great start for week 13, but a TD is not out of the question if he can get into a goal line situation.
28. Chester Taylor (MIN) – Even if Adrian Peterson returns to his starting role, Taylor should still see some carries, at least for 1 more week. He has done a bang up job filling in for Peterson, and is capable of solid production even in a limited role. Pay close attention to the status of Peterson heading into Sunday before committing to Taylor as your starter.
29. Laurence Maroney (NE) – He has found the end zone for 2 consecutive weeks, but Maroney is still very risky as a starting option for your line up. For starters, he is playing against Baltimore’s 3rd ranked run defense. Secondly, he did not even start the last game, and did not see action until the 3rd quarter. And last he simply does not get enough carries to be a valuable fantasy back.
30. Rudi Johnson (CIN) – He finally produced a solid game for the first time since week 2. While Johnson showed some promise last week, it is hard to expect a similar effort against the Steelers in week 13. He should get the bulk of the carries, but he is a desperation start at best.
31. Fred Jackson (BUF) – It is unlikely any of you have ever heard of him, and if you have, it wasn’t before this week, but he will probably get the start this week against Washington. Seeing as how we have never seen him play it is difficult to judge his fantasy value, but he should get the bulk of the carries this week, and that alone gives him some value. You will have to be pretty desperate to have him in your starting line up, but who knows what he is capable of?
32. Shaun Alexander (SEA) – He has been a full participant in practice throughout the week and is expected to start. However, he will be sharing carries with Maurice Morris. To this point, Alexander has been pretty ineffective, and with a tough match up in week 13 against the Eagles 7th ranked run defense, we would be hard pressed to recommend his use. (Check injury report: knee and wrist)
33. Maurice Morris (SEA) – Morris has done a pretty good job in relief of Shaun Alexander scoring TD’s in 2 of his last 3 games. Alexander will return this week, and while Morris has been promised that he will share the workload, his fantasy value drops considerably. He is a very risky start against a very good Eagles run D in week 13. (Check injury report: ankle)
34. Selvin Young (DEN) – He will return from injury this week, but will likely find himself in the more familiar back up role with the return of Travis Henry. It is unclear what the carry situation will be between the 2, but our best guess is that Henry will get a vast majority of the carries. If something changes before Sunday, Young may be worth the start, but as of now, do not expect much from him despite a great match up. (Check injury report: knee)
35. Reuben Droughns (NYG) – He will likely move back into a reserve role this week with the return of Derrick Ward, but Droughns still has some value as the potential goal line back. He may also see a fair share of the workload overall. With the situation uncertain at this time, Droughns should only be used as an emergency fill in.
* Other potential RB options for week 13 include (in ranked order):
Marcell Shipp (ARI), Kevin Faulk (NE), Chris Brown (TEN), Kenny Watson (CIN), Najeh Davenport (PIT), LaMont Jordan (OAK), Jerious Norwood (ATL), Samkon Gado (MIA), DeAngelo Williams (CAR), Dwayne Wright (BUF), Kenton Keith (IND), Garrett Wolfe (CHI), Aaron Stecker (NO), and Michael Pittman (TB)
* RB’s in Thursday night’s Green Bay @ Dallas game are not included in this week’s rankings. Thursday night game participants are listed separately each Wednesday.