2. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – He is slowly but surely returning to form and now has 4 TD’s in his last two games. Tomlinson should continue his resurgence in week 5 against an overachieving Miami run defense that has yet to face a RB of Tomlinson’s talents. The toe injury that has hampered him is on the mend and he should only continue to get better barring any setbacks.
3. Marion Barber (DAL) – We knew Barber was risky for week 4 based on his history against Washington, but the coaches really sealed his fate by only giving him 8 carries. We are pretty sure they realized the mistake, and you will see Barber early and often in week 5 against the Bengals. The Cincinnati run defense is allowing 164 rushing yards per game, so Barber should have a field day. He is a must start and expectations are high.
4. Joseph Addai (IND) – He certainly hasn’t done much in the yardage category this season and when you look at his match ups through the first 3 weeks it is easy to see why, but he has been able to get things going near the goal line. Addai should get going in all facets of the game in week 5 against Houston. In 3 games, the Texans defense has allowed a league tying worst 7 rushing TD’s and they are allowing a hefty 160 rushing yards per game. In addition, Addai ran for 3 TD’s in 2 games against them last season. He should have his best all around game to date coming into a great match up fresh off of a bye week.
5. Matt Forte (CHI) – Forte only had 43 rushing yards in week 4, but what did you expect against the Eagles? The good news is that he continued to be productive in the Bears passing game which bodes well for his versatility. The great news is that he will face Detroit this week who lays claim to the NFL’s worst run defense. The average game so far for the Lions run defense: 208 yards rushing and 2 TD’s allowed per game. While not likely, Forte is capable of keeping the Lions on their average heading into week 6. He makes for a great start as a RB1 for week 5.
6. Frank Gore (SF) – Gore is coming off of his worst game of the season, and it still wasn’t half bad considering he only had 16 carries. He should be more active in week 5 against a New England run defense that was torched by Ronnie Brown in their last game. While we don’t expect Gore to dominate the Patriots defense in the same manner that Brown did, he should have great numbers against them. Gore is a must start as usual.
7. Steve Slaton (HOU) – After a great showing on the ground in week 3, Slaton proved that he can get it done through the air as well with 8 catches for 83 yards and a TD in week 4. You will probably see him go back to the ground in a week 5 match up against the Colts. Indianapolis has been smoked all season on the ground and ranks second to last in the NFL in run defense. Most of his production should come in the running game this week, but it is nice to know that Slaton can be effective as a receiver out of the backfield. The multi dimensional threat is a pretty good bet for week 5.
8. Brian Westbrook (PHI) - It appears as though he will play against Washington on Sunday after all. Westbrook had full participation in practice on Friday and supposedly looked fine. He is still a bit risky with a vulnerable ankle, but considering he totaled 183 yards and 3 TD's in his last game against the Redskins, it's probably worth the risk to have him in your starting week 5 fantasy line up. You should monitor his status closely up until game time just to be on the safe side. Check injury report: ankle
9. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – He is a little scary considering that he couldn’t get his first 100 yard game of the season against the ridiculously bad Rams defense in week 4. To add insult to injury, he also failed to reach the end zone for the first time this season in that game. Fortunately, Lynch has proven in the past that he is not really a match up RB. He can torch great defenses and play mediocre against poor defenses. That said, Lynch should be in your fantasy line up for most, if not all match ups. He will face a middle of the road Arizona run defense in week 5. The Cards do a decent job at slowing down opposing running games, but Lynch should have a good shot at getting back to the end zone in week 5.
10. Earnest Graham (TB) – He will likely give you an ulcer, but when Graham is given enough carries, he will eventually produce. Unfortunately, you can never be completely sure if he will get the sufficient number of touches to be productive. Graham will face Denver’s shaky 24th ranked run defense in week 5. The Broncos run D was embarrassed last week by Larry Johnson who is similar in style to Graham. If they get him the ball early and often, he should have another nice game, but there is a chance that the pass heavy Bucs could overlook him as they did in week’s 1 and 3.
11. Larry Johnson (KC) – The sleeping giant finally came alive in week 3 and played like a man possessed by the ghost of 2005 - 06 Larry Johnson in week 4. After a horrible start, Johnson has run for 319 yards and 3 TD’s in his last 2 games. We can’t be completely sure if the Johnson of old will decide to hang around for the rest of the season, but the last 2 weeks were very promising. He will probably see more of a challenge in week 5 against Carolina. While the Panthers are susceptible to giving up higher than average yardage totals, they have been very stingy near the goal line, allowing only 1 rushing TD all season. Johnson will have his work cut out for him, but he is on fire and should remain on your starting fantasy roster in week 5.
12. Michael Turner (ATL) – While Turner leads the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing TD’s, the majority of his cumulative totals primarily came in just 2 of his 4 games and against very weak run defenses. In the other 2 games, Turner produced mediocre fantasy point totals against solid run defenses. It appears that Turner is going to be a match up back whose success relies mostly on the strength of his opponent. In week 5 that opponent will be Green Bay. The Packers rank 26th in run defense and have allowed 4 rushing TD’s in 4 games which bodes well, but they have underachieved to this point and are better than the numbers indicate. Turner is capable of a great game, but we think the Packers will give him all he can handle.
13. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – He remains a solid #2 fantasy back, but the continuous loss of touches to Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw are keeping him from reaching his full fantasy potential. You can expect more of the same in week 5 when Jacobs faces Seattle. He might get a little more use this week with Plaxico Burress on suspension, being that he is the Giants biggest remaining playmaker, but that is not a certainty. The Seattle run defense ranks 9th in the NFL, so yards probably won’t come easy, but Jacobs is a bruiser that can be effective against any defense. If he gets at least 15 to 20 carries, he should have a solid game.
14. Reggie Bush (NO) – Surprisingly, Bush was all but useless in week 4, only touching the ball 15 times the entire game. That should change in week 5 against Minnesota’s monster run defense. Bush will be fairly worthless on the ground against this defense, but he should bounce back with plenty of looks in the passing game. Bush is worth starting in week 5, but only in PPR leagues.
15. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – He is kind of a tough call for week 5. While it is impossible to ignore his monster week 3 performance, you also have to consider how he did it, and take it with a grain of salt. The Dolphins utilized Brown in what is called a “wildcat” type offense. I won’t get into the details, but it is a gimmicky type offense in which the RB takes direct snaps like a QB. It is primarily used at the high school and college level. The Wildcat can be extremely effective if run properly and the opposing team is not accustomed to defending against it. Needless to say, the Dolphins executed it flawlessly and the Patriots defense appeared dumbfounded trying to figure it out, and thus proceeded to get scorched. I know this offense well, because I played on a team that used it for a couple of years, and while you can put up huge numbers with it against some teams, a well prepared and speedy defense can shut it down completely. We aren’t saying that it can’t be effective again, but we guarantee you that week 5 opponent San Diego will be prepared for it if the Dolphins break it out against them, and these aren’t high schoolers. Long story longer, momentum is huge in football, so in that respect we like Brown’s chances this week, especially coming in fresh from a bye, but don’t expect another week 3 by any stretch.
16. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – In spite of limited carries, Stewart found the end zone for the 4th time in week 4 and has now scored at least 1 TD in his last 3 games. There is a decent chance that his TD streak will continue into week 6 as Stewart will face a poor Kansas City run defense in week 5. The Chiefs are ranked 30th in the NFL against the run and have allowed 6 TD’s on the ground so far this season. He should have a strong game despite sharing carries, and he also holds additional fantasy value in leagues that account for return yards. Stewart should start to see an increased role in the Panthers running game if he continues to outshine DeAngelo Williams, and he is worth starting as a RB2 or flex in week 5.
17. Clinton Portis (WAS) – He rushed for 121 yards last week and is off to a solid start this season. While Portis is capable of playing well against any defense, a week 5 meeting with the Philadelphia defense is not favorable. Portis was solid in 2 games against the Eagles in 2007, but the 2008 edition of the Philly D is much improved. Through 4 games against some of the best RB’s the NFL has to offer, they are only allowing 54 yards rushing per game and have given up just 1 rushing TD. Portis could be in for a long day, but he is always a TD threat and should be effective in the passing game. So in spite of the poor match up, you can’t leave his caliber of talent on the bench unless you have better options this week.
18. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) – After a strong week 3 performance, we expected big things from him in a promising week 4 match up against Houston. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver, but in all fairness, he really didn’t have much opportunity to do so with only 7 carries and a couple of targets in the passing game. Jones-Drew is probably worth starting most weeks, but he is definitely setting a precedent for inconsistency. While a week 5 match up against a tough Pittsburgh run defense is not favorable for any running back, Jones-Drew was fairly successful against them in 2 games last season, including a 2 TD performance against them in the playoffs. If you have better options, you might want to use them until Jones-Drew can prove reliable, but he is always capable against any opponent.
19. Julius Jones (SEA) – We aren’t all that high on Jones as a fantasy RB, but when a guy puts together back to back 100+ yard TD games, you have no choice but to take notice. Jones has been impressive and now that Seattle’s passing game should improve with the return of Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, he may benefit further. Unfortunately, a week 5 meeting with the Giants will probably slow him down a bit. The Giants are ranked 7th in the NFL in run defense, and it will be a tall order for Jones to see a 3rd straight 100 yard rushing effort against them. Regardless, he has probably earned a spot on your fantasy roster as a RB2 or flex for week 5.
20. Chris Johnson (TEN) – In spite of his worst match up to date in week 4 against the Vikings, Johnson produced his best fantasy effort of the season. This kid is the real deal and he is proving to be match up proof, but a week 5 game against the Ravens may turn the tables on the speedy rookie. The Baltimore run defense ranks 2nd in the NFL behind Philadelphia and has yet to give up a single rushing TD through 3 games. Johnson has proven that he is capable against great run defenses, but it will be difficult for him to get it done 2 weeks in a row against another potent defense. He is a risky start for week 5, but worthy as a RB2 or flex if your options are limited.
21. Ryan Grant (GB) – Frankly, it is getting old coming up with excuses for him. He looked good in week 1 despite only 12 carries. Then we gave him a pass on his poor play because of a slight hamstring issue in week’s 2 and 3, but there is no excuse for Grant’s week 4 performance. He has a great match up in week 5 against a very shaky Falcons run defense, but with the pace he is on, he is a risky start at best. Last season, he would have easily been labeled a must start and ranked in the top 5 with this match up. This season he is lucky to get a ranking of 21 and gets the dreaded risky start billing. We know Grant is talented and we are still holding on to the hope that he can breakout soon, but come on, we are already a quarter of the way through the season, and Grant and fantasy owners alike have next to nothing to show for his efforts. Hope he breaks out, but don’t count on it in spite of a great match up.
22. Mewelde Moore (PIT) – He may be the little known 3rd string RB for the Steelers, but Moore has been successful in the past when given the opportunity. In week 5 he will have that opportunity against Jacksonville. The Jags run defense will probably challenge him, but they have their weaknesses, and rank middle of the pack in the NFL against the run. You shouldn’t expect a monster game from him, but Moore should offer decent bye week relief.
23. Edgerrin James (ARI) – He shocked the fantasy football world by scoring not 1, but 2 TD’s in a week 4 match up with the Jets. While it was somewhat promising for his future fantasy value, it doesn’t amount to much, and should be considered more as exception than the rule. James will face Buffalo in week 5. The Bills have been mediocre against the run so far this season, but James is probably the least threatening RB they have faced to date. He should put up decent yardage totals, but we would be surprised if he found the end zone in back to back weeks.
24. Le’Ron McClain (BAL) – In spite of Willis McGahee’s return to the Ravens, McClain continues to receive a solid number of carries. In addition, he has done well with those carries and now has 3 TD’s in his last 2 games. A week 5 match up against the Titans will be difficult and he is not certain to continue his significant role. That said, he should continue to see goal line carries and he is playing well enough to garner a bye week fill in spot on your fantasy roster if needed.
25. Willis McGahee (BAL) – He has looked fairly solid since returning from knee surgery, but McGahee suffered a rib injury in week 4 that may set him back for week 5. If he plays, and he probably will, McGahee will face a strong Titans run defense this week. In addition, Le’Ron McClain is getting pretty even playing time with McGahee and is the more likely goal line back. If McGahee’s health is no longer in question at the end of the week, he may be worth a look as a RB2, but given the match up, you should limit your expectations. UPDATE: McGahee is expected to play, but he could be limited to some extent. Check injury report: chest
26. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – For some unknown reason, Williams is still the Panthers starting RB in spite of a 3.7 yards per carry average and 0 TD’s this season. He will have a chance for redemption in week 5 with a cup cake match up against Kansas City, but even the Chiefs porous defense could prove troublesome for the speedy Williams given the pace he is currently on.
27. Fred Taylor (JAX) – With the exception of week 3 against a weak Colts run defense, Taylor has been of little value to fantasy rosters all season. More than likely that trend will continue into week 5 against a stingy Steelers run defense. Taylor did rush for 194 yards and 2 TD’s against the Steelers in 2 games last season, with the majority of that damage coming in their first meeting in 2007. Taylor is a long shot to repeat his success against Pittsburgh this time around.
28. Chris Perry (CIN) – We had high hopes for Perry last week, but a late scratch by Carson Palmer forced Ryan Fitzpatrick into service at QB, and basically destroyed any chance Perry had for a good game. With Fitzpatrick at QB, the Browns stacked the box against Perry and dared the Bengals to throw the ball, and with good reason, given the inept Fitzpatrick’s lack of accuracy. Needless to say the rest is history. If Palmer is back this week, Perry has a chance for a decent game against Dallas, but otherwise expect more of the same. Perry is also nursing a sore hamstring which may limit him to some extent. He is more of a liability than an asset for your week 5 fantasy roster. Check injury report: hamstring
29. Rudi Johnson (DET) – As expected Johnson will take over for Kevin Smith as the Lions starting RB. Johnson was impressive after taking over for Smith in week 3, but that isn’t worth much looking ahead. Johnson will face the Bears 6th ranked run defense in week 5. The match up is not favorable and based on the Lions game plans so far this season; we would be surprised if he received more than 15 carries. Johnson is not a safe start in week 5.
30. Deuce McAllister (NO) – It came as a surprise to see the Saints dust McAllister off and restore him to service in week 4. It was an even bigger shock to see him get 20 carries and a TD. He should continue his service in week 5 after the positive results of last week, but a match up against Minnesota’s run stuffing defense doesn’t hold much promise for him. You might want to put him back on the shelf for this match up, but the future holds potential.
31. Sammy Morris (NE) – For what it’s worth, Morris has been the most productive fantasy back in the crowded New England stable. With Maroney coming back this week it is difficult to gauge Morris’ playing time based on the sketchy game plan’s of Coach Bill Belichick so far this season. The one thing we do know is that the match up against the 49ers is a good one, and Morris will likely get the goal line carries. Morris is a risky hit or miss prospect for your fantasy roster at best.
32. LenDale White (TEN) – If you want big yardage totals from your fantasy RB, then White is not your man, but if you are looking for a week to week TD threat, he is definitely your guy. White has now scored at least 1 TD in every game this season with 5 TD’s total for the season. Unfortunately, that streak will probably end at some point, and a week 5 match up with the Ravens may be the one that ends it. He is not a safe bet for week 5. Check injury report: shoulder
33. Felix Jones (DAL) – He might as well have stayed home in Dallas’ week 4 game against Washington, as he did not receive a single carry. That should change in week 5 with a very favorable match up looming against the Bengals. Jones has been excellent with limited opportunities so far this season, but he usually doesn’t get enough work to make a huge impact on fantasy score sheets. There is a chance he could get back on the board this week given the match up, but the key word is chance.
34. Tim Hightower (ARI) – He has little to offer this week or any week in terms of yardage as long as he is backing up Edgerrin James, but he has a decent chance of finding pay dirt for the 4th time this season. He will face a Buffalo run defense that has allowed 4 TD’s on the ground. Hightower is a bye week patch at best, and without a TD, you are probably going to be up the creek if you start him.
35. Jerious Norwood (ATL) – He is averaging a hefty 7 yards per carry. The problem is he is only averaging around 8 carries per game, but Norwood is dangerous and also adds fantasy value in leagues that account for return yardage. He will face a Green Bay run defense in week 5 that has been susceptible to giving up long runs this season, so it would not be a big surprise if he busted one, but that is a long shot.
36. Laurence Maroney (NE) – Despite high expectations, Maroney has been of little to no value to fantasy owners so far this season. He will likely start in week 5 and has a pretty favorable match up against San Francisco’s 21st ranked run defense, but it’s anyone’s guess if he will even get the ball more than a handful of times. Maroney’s potential will likely go to waste for yet another week, so unless you are desperate, he should stay on your bench.
37. Selvin Young (DEN) – He will continue to get the starting nod in week 5 against Tampa Bay, but Young has less fantasy value than a lot of back up RB’s given his limited number of touches. In addition, he has seen a steady decline in production from week to week. He would be a desperate starting option against a Bucs run defense that has not allowed a single rushing TD all season and doesn’t give up much in the way of yardage either.
38. Ricky Williams (MIA) – He showed promise in week 3 with a solid 98 yard rushing performance that was overshadowed by Ronnie Brown’s big day. Who knows? The roles could be reversed this week and Williams could have the big day, but that is highly unlikely. Williams has a so so match up this week against San Diego and could be worth a look if you are in desperate need of a staring fantasy RB for week 5.
39. Derrick Ward (NYG) – He probably won’t see more than a handful of touches in week 5 against Seattle, but Ward has been impressive in limited duty so far this season. It is only a matter of time before he finds the end zone and he seems to get a little more work every week. That said, he is still not active enough to do much damage. Ward might be a sneaky start in week 5 if you are in a pinch, but his value is limited.
40. Michael Pittman (DEN) – He saw his 3 game TD streak come to an end in week 4, but managed to salvage a few fantasy points with 81 total yards. Pittman may have a tough time getting back into the end zone in week 5 as well. He will be facing a tough Tampa Bay run defense that has yet to allow a rushing TD all season. You can’t expect as many yards from him as he got last week, so unless he finds pay dirt, he is somewhat useless, and his odds aren’t great with this match up.
41. Correll Buckhalter (PHI) – As it stands right now, we expect Buckhalter to get his second straight start this week against the Redskins. There is a chance that Brian Westbrook could return from his ankle injury, so you should monitor the situation closely, because it would completely void using Buckhalter in week 5. Buckhalter has been fairly impressive in Westbrook’s absence over the last 2 weeks and even has a 2 game TD streak going. If he starts, Buckhalter will face a fairly stout Redskins run defense in week 5. Washington is allowing around 90 rushing yards per game and has only given up 2 TD’s on the ground this season. He will have to battle, but Buckhalter has proven himself capable the last 2 weeks against teams that boast better run defenses than the Redskins. UPDATE: Brian Westbrook is expected to play on Sunday, and while there is a chance that Buckhalter will still get some carries, don't expect much from him, if anything.
* Additional week 5 RB options include:
Darren Sproles (SD)
Warrick Dunn (TB)
Fred Jackson (BUF)
Chester Taylor (MIN)
Kevin Smith (DET)
Brandon Jackson (GB)
Cedric Benson (CIN)
Maurice Morris (SEA) – Check injury report: knee
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG)
Kevin Faulk (NE)
Andre Hall (DEN) – Check injury report: wrist