1. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – While he certainly isn’t on pace to break any rushing yardage records so far this season, Lynch has been taking care of business in the red zone. After last week’s 2 TD performance, he has now scored at least 1TD in each of his first 3 games, totaling 4 all together. He will match up against a terrible St. Louis run defense in week 4. The average game for the Rams defense so far this season, 184 rushing yards allowed, 2 rushing TD’s allowed, and 2 runs of 20 yards or more per game. Lynch should finally eclipse the 100 yard rushing mark and back to back multiple TD games look to be a strong possibility.
2. Frank Gore (SF) – He is a little behind where we thought he might be at this point in the season, but he has scored a TD in every game so far, not to mention averaging 137 total yards per game, so it’s hard to complain. Gore should continue to produce on a high level against a shaky Saints run defense in week 4. Only 3 teams in the NFL are giving up more yards per carry than New Orleans’ 5.3 ypc average. The Saints have also allowed 3 rushing TD’s. As usual, Gore is a no brainer for your starting fantasy line up.
3. Marion Barber (DAL) – If you were to look at Barber’s history against the Redskins and go on that alone, there is probably no chance you would have him in your starting line up this week. In his last 4 games against Washington he is only averaging 47 total yards per game, and only has 1 TD in all 4 games combined. It doesn’t look all that promising, but the fact of the matter is that you can not bench arguably the best fantasy RB so far this season just because of the past. He had horrible track records against Green Bay and Philadelphia too, and he came out smelling like roses against them this year. Is the week 4 match up a little scary? Sure it is, but this guy is on fire, and you would have to be certified crazy to sit him, no matter how gloomy the past might look.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – While it was comforting to finally see L.T. plowing his way back into the end zone on Monday night, it was quite obvious that his toe injury is still an issue. He should progress a little each week, but it could still be a while before he completely returns to form. A match up at Oakland should bolster Tomlinson’s progress in week 4. He has historically dominated the Raiders defense. In his last 4 games against them, he has accumulated 8 TD’s. Bad toe or not, we like Tomlinson’s chances for another strong game in week 4. Check injury report: toe (full practice on Friday)
5. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) – As we expected Jones-Drew finally broke out of his slump with a big game in week 3. You can probably expect more of the same from him in week 4 at home against Houston. The Texans run defense has been horrid in their first 2 games giving up 5 TD’s and 337 yards on the ground. In addition, Jones-Drew has scored at least 1 TD against the Texans in each and every one of his 3 career games against them, including a 184 total yard, 2 TD performance against them last season. Check injury report: ankle (full practice on Friday)
6. Reggie Bush (NO) – He continues to put up star receiving numbers every week, and he even managed to find pay dirt on the ground in week 3. Bush has a pretty solid week 4 match up against the 49ers at home. You can probably expect him to keep rolling in the Saints passing game this week, maybe even more so with TE Jeremy Shockey now sidelined with injury. Bush remains a must start.
7. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – While his week 4 match up at Tennessee against a very stingy run defense looks to be a tough one, the bigger concern remains his hamstring. Peterson played through the hamstring injury in week 3, but the results were not all that impressive. Monitor his status throughout the week and if the hamstring appears to be a non issue, start him with confidence. If he continues to be limited in practice, you might want to lower your expectations, but he should still be in your starting line up for week 4. Check injury report: hamstring (limited in practice on Friday)
8. Chris Perry (CIN) – A week 4 match up against Cleveland should be a welcome site for Perry and fantasy owners a like. No running back has had 3 tougher match ups than Chris Perry so far, and all things considered, he was pretty good in 2 of those. He should have a break out game this week against a Browns defense that has allowed 145 rushing yards per game and 2 rushing TD’s per game so far this season. This is the match up you have been waiting for, so start Perry with confidence.
9. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – He has been a huge bust, but in all fairness, the match ups have been awful for Lewis to this point. That is until week 4 against the Bengals. So far this season the Cincinnati defense is allowing a staggering 174 rushing yards per game and the have also allowed 4 rushing TD’s. In addition, Lewis had 350 total yards against them in 2 games last season, including a 216 yard, 1 TD rushing effort against them in their first meeting of ’07. The good news is that the Bengals run D may actually be worse than last season, so Lewis should make for a nice week 4 start.
10. Steven Jackson (STL) – It is unfortunate that a guy as talented as Jackson has to suffer at the hands of a horrible supporting cast. Jackson has had little or no opportunity in the running game, and actually has almost as many receiving yards as he does rushing yards. He has also yet to hit pay dirt, but it is only a matter of time, and the odds are in his favor for it to be sooner than later. He will face a solid Buffalo run defense in week 4, but Jackson should have plenty of opportunities to do some damage. It isn’t the most promising match up, but he is due to break out. Check injury report: groin (limited practice on Friday)
11. Larry Johnson (KC) – Historically, Johnson has been a beast against the Denver defense, but that really isn’t relevant considering the last time he faced them was 2006. What is relevant is that he finally had a break out game in week 3 which is promising, but it is going to take a little more than a nice game against the Falcons to convince us that he can still get it done. If Kansas City doesn’t get blown out early and have to abandon the running game, Johnson should have a pretty good game. The Denver run defense has been decent to this point, but they are not great by any means, and Johnson is talented enough to exploit their weaknesses.
12. Michael Turner (ATL) – He now has 2 monster games to his credit following week 3’s effort, but he also has a pretty bad one sandwiched in between. It is still kind of difficult to get a read on him as the 2 huge games came against very weak run defenses, while the 1 stinker came against a solid Tampa Bay team. In week 4, he will face a Carolina defense that falls more in line with that of Tampa Bay’s. We expect that he will exceed his numbers from the Tampa game against Carolina, but you shouldn’t expect to see the Turner from week’s 1 and 3. This game should say a lot about Turner’s fantasy potential for the rest of the season. He is plenty capable and worth starting, but lower your expectations a bit against a fairly stout Panthers run defense.
13. Clinton Portis (WAS) – While he has yet to hit the magic 100 yard mark this season, Portis did manage to find the end zone last Sunday for the 3rd time in 3 games. He will face a very tough Dallas run defense in week 4. In 2 games against the Cowboys last season Portis had very mixed results, but he did rush for 104 yards and 2 TD’s in his last game against them. There is no question that it will be a tall order to duplicate those numbers against this Cowboys defense, so keep your expectations realistic, but he is always a threat to get into the end zone.
14. Fred Taylor (JAX) – He finally broke out of his funk with 126 yards rushing in week 3. Taylor should prove even more effective in week 4 against the Texans. The Houston run defense has been horrible through 2 games allowing 169 yards rushing per game and giving up 5 TD’s on the ground. We would be surprised if Taylor did not back up last week’s effort with another strong outing in week 4. There is some risk here, but Taylor should be great if he gets plenty of touches. Check injury report: hand (full practice on Friday)
15. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – He only has 31 carries on the season, but 3 of those went for TD’s. Stewart will have his best match up of the season so far in week 4 against the Falcons. While DeAngelo Williams will probably end up with more carries again this week, Stewart should see an increase in his workload as well, and Stewart is the more effective RB. The Atlanta defense should be a pushover compared to what he has faced to this point, and we like Stewart’s chances for a nice fantasy effort in week 4. Check injury report: foot (full practice on Friday)
16. Matt Forte (CHI) – He has been a work horse in the Bears offense so far this season averaging over 24 carries per game. Forte was also used early and often in week 3 in the passing game where he was very effective, even scoring a TD. If he is going to have success in week 4, it will probably have to be through the air because he will be facing a monster Eagles run defense. Through 3 games this season, the Philadelphia D is only allowing a ridiculous 45 yards per game on the ground and they have only given up 1 rushing TD. This is all the more impressive when you consider that those 3 games came against the likes of Steven Jackson, Marion Barber, and Willie Parker. Forte should get plenty of touches, but his only real shots will come on goal line carries and as a receiver.
17. Steve Slaton (HOU) – He is starting to look like a very appealing fantasy option after a very impressive week 3 performance. The fact that Slaton rushed for over 100 yards and a TD last week didn’t come as much of a shocker, but the fact that he did it against the Titans was a huge surprise. In week 4, he will have another tough match up against Jacksonville, but the Jags should be an easier test, and Slaton has already proven that match up problems probably won’t be an issue for him. It is too early to vault him into fantasy stardom and he could just be a one week wonder, but so far so good, and he has earned a week 4 start as a RB2 or flex.
18. Earnest Graham (TB) – We had high hopes for Graham this season, and in spite of coach’s promises that he will see more carries each week, it isn’t happening. Unfortunately, Graham is the kind of back that needs those 20 carry or more games to really be effective. We would love to tell you that he will get the rock a bunch against the Packers in week 4, but logic will not allow it. He is always a TD threat, but until he becomes more involved in the Tampa offense, Graham’s fantasy value appears limited.
19. Ryan Grant (GB) – While it is promising to see a Packers injury report without Grant’s name on it, he still has to prove he is healthy on the field. Grant looked better in week 3, but he was limited to only 13 carries, which also happens to be his average number of carries so far this season (with mediocre results). It is going to take much more than that for him to be effective. With his hamstring finally on the mend, we should see more of him in week 4 against Tampa Bay, but that was the expectation last week as well. The Buccaneers defense has been fairly solid against the run and have yet to allow a rushing TD all season, so Grant will have his work cut out for him even if he is back to form. He is a risky start, but for what it’s worth; Grant should be healthier than he has been all season.
20. Selvin Young (DEN) – It is absurd to think that a starting RB in the NFL only has 26 total carries in 3 games, especially one that is averaging close to 7 yards every time he touches the ball, but that is exactly the case with Selvin Young. Young has seen a week to week increase in his touches, topping out at a whopping 11 in week 3 (sarcasm), which is somewhat promising. The better news is that he may not need more than 11 carries to put up big numbers on week 4 opponent Kansas City. The Chiefs run defense has been atrocious through their first 3 games allowing 204 rushing yards per game along with 6 TD’s on the ground. Young should be a decent week 4 fantasy start in spite of his limited use in the Broncos game plan to this point.
21. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – After his team fell far behind heading into half time of Monday night’s game against San Diego, Jones might as well have left the stadium, as he could only be seen in sideline camera shots in the second half. As long as the Jets can stay in games, Jones should be effective, but if they continue to be forced into abandoning the running game, Jones fantasy value will continue to plummet. That said, he should have a chance to stay on the field in week 4 against Arizona. The Arizona offense can strike fast and often, but the Jets should be able to hang with them. The Cardinals feature a middle of the road run defense, so Jones should have decent production if he gets ample opportunity.
22. LenDale White (TEN) – He is only averaging 3 yards per carry this season, but that is pretty much irrelevant when you consider his goal line value. White has now scored at least 1 rushing TD in all 3 of his games so far this season, totaling 4TD’s. A week 4 match up against a monster Minnesota run defense should provide strong opposition for White as far as yardage once again, but the Vikings have allowed a rushing TD in each of their first 3 games. If the Titans get near the goal line, and they should, White is almost a lock for TD #5, but don’t expect much more from him. Check injury report: shoulder (full practice Friday)
23. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – He has done little to nothing to merit a week 4 start to this point, but a match up against Atlanta should prove to be his best performance to date. The Falcons run defense has allowed 410 yards rushing and 4 TD’s in 3 games so far this season. Williams is not a safe bet, but week 4 is not exactly chalked full of great RB match ups either. He is a RB2 or flex option at best.
24. Chris Johnson (TEN) – He can explode to the end zone against any opponent in any week. That said, the odds of that happening in week 4 against a tough Minnesota run defense are fairly slim. Johnson will be hard pressed to break loose in this match up, but he should be widely utilized in the Titans passing game, where he could be very effective. Johnson is not a safe bet for your week 4 line up, but you can never count this guy out.
25. Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) – He will get his first NFL start on Monday night in place of the injured Willie Parker. Unfortunately, it will come against a Baltimore run defense that is only giving up 71 rushing yards per game, and has yet to allow a single rushing TD through 2 games. Mendenhall is a talented RB, and the future looks bright for him, but week 4 does not hold a great deal of promise for him. You shouldn’t expect much from the rookie in this match up, but Mendenhall should see a hefty work load and he is capable of finding the end zone.
26. Edgerrin James (ARI) – He continues to put up respectable ground numbers, but with Tim Hightower getting the ball when it truly counts on the goal line, James’ fantasy value continues to be limited. He will face a Jets run defense in week 4 that is only allowing 87 yards rushing per game, so even ground yards will be tough to come by on Sunday. James should be good for a few fantasy points as usual, anything more would be an unexpected surprise.
27. Correll Buckhalter (PHI) – There is a decent chance that he could be the Eagles starting RB on Sunday night. If Brian Westbrook can not overcome an ankle injury, Buckhalter will get the call. Even if Westbrook plays, we still expect Buckhalter to see more carries than usual. We will monitor the situation, and if looks as though he will be the guy for sure, his fantasy value will increase for week 4. That said, he is still not a great fantasy option against a tough Bears run defense. UPDATE: As it stands now, Buckhalter seems likely to start in week 4, but monitor closely if you intend on starting him because there is still a chance that Westbrook will play.
28. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – After spraining his ankle in week 3, Westbrook may or may not play in week 4. He is no stranger to playing injured, and playing well at that, so it would not surprise us if he makes a go of it. That said, it would be risky for you to have him in your starting line up at this point. He will face a very tough Bears run defense in week 4. While bad match ups have never been much of an issue for the multi dimensional RB, the ankle will probably limit him to some extent if he plays. We will monitor the situation and update it accordingly. Westbrook’s chances look to be about 50-50 right now. If he can’t play, back up Correll Buckhalter should get the bulk of the carries for the Eagles in week 4. UPDATE: Considering Westbrook did not even attempt to practice this week, his chances of playing in week 4 look slim. Even if he plays, he will likely be limited.Check injury report: ankle (did not practice all week)
29. Darren McFadden (OAK) – As we expected, McFadden was fairly limited in week 3 with a turf toe injury. He didn’t look bad last week, but he was clearly affected by the toe. Unfortunately, turf toe doesn’t typically go away quickly. Chances are the bum toe will continue to trouble him in week 4, but we do expect his workload to increase, and he should show improvement. The Chargers pose a fairly difficult match up for him, but they do have weaknesses against the run, and the talented rookie will probably have his shining moments. McFadden is a risky week 4 start with the lingering injury, but he should muster up decent numbers. UPDATE: According to coach Lane Kiffen, McFadden's toe took a turn for the worse this week. He will likley be limited if he plays at all in week 4. Check injury report: toe (limited practice on Friday, game time decision)
30. Michael Bush (OAK) – We expected more from Bush in week 3, but he only had 14 carries and put up a respectable 55 yard rushing total. With Darren McFadden now on the mend, Bush’s role will not increase. He is probably good for 10 to 15 carries in week 4. Bush will face a San Diego run defense that has some flaws, but they are no slouch. UPDATE: With McFadden's toe injury continuing to linger. Bush should see plenty of action in week 4. There is a very slight chance that he may even start.
31. Michael Pittman (DEN) – He only has 19 carries on the season, but 4 of those carries have gone for TD’s. Pittman has scored at least 1 TD in each of his first 3 contests this season. A week 4 match up against Kansas City bodes well for him to add at least 1 more score to his total. The Chiefs run defense has already allowed 6 rushing TD’s this season which ties them for the most in the NFL. Pittman is not going to get you more than a few rushing yards, so he is quite risky. If he doesn’t score a TD, you will likely be stuck with a goose egg on your fantasy stat sheet. That said, the odds look pretty good for at least 1 TD for him in week 4, but beware of the consequences if he does not.
32. Willis McGahee (BAL) – He was only expected to see a few carries in week 3 based on coach’s statements. Instead, McGahee received 15 carries and made the most of them with 67 ground yards and a TD. He will likely continue to give up some carries to Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice, but McGahee should get the majority of touches from here out. The bad news is that he will have to face a very stingy Steelers run defense on Monday Night. He did run for a TD against Pittsburgh last year in his only start against them, but only managed to gain 50 yards rushing in that game. You can probably expect similar numbers this time around, only the TD will be hard to come by. He is not a good week 4 fantasy option. Check injury report: cut near eye (full practice on Friday)
33. Felix Jones (DAL) – He continues to be used sparingly in the Cowboys offense, but he seems to make a big splash every time he touches the football. He now has a TD in each of his first 3 games and is averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Jones is not a safe fantasy play for week 4 based on his limited touches, but he can be explosive.
34. Pierre Thomas (NO) – Thomas found the end zone for the 3rd time in the last 2 weeks against Denver, and should continue his role in week 4 as the Saints goal line back. The 49ers have allowed 3 rushing TD’s this season, so Thomas’ services may be called upon again in week 4. In spite of his TD potential, he is not going to put many yards on the board. He should be considered a bye week fill in at best.
35. Tim Hightower (ARI) – he was held out of the end zone for the first time this season in week 3, but Hightower’s 61 total yards was his best to date. He should continue to see a slight increase in his offensive role in week 4 against the Jets, especially in the passing game. That said, he is still rarely used outside of the goal line and TD’s are hard to come by.
36. Jerious Norwood (ATL) – He continues to see a decent number of touches each week, and he has been somewhat productive. He is not a goal line back, but Norwood can break a long TD run against anyone. He has a so so match up against the Panthers in week 4, but he still doesn’t get enough touches to guarantee big fantasy numbers.
37. Darren Sproles (SD) – He has looked pretty amazing at times in relief of a banged up LaDainian Tomlinson, but with Tomlinson on the mend, you can probably expect to see less of Sproles. He is plenty capable, but opportunities will probably be limited in week 4.
38. Fred Jackson (BUF) – He continues to be used on a limited basis, but with a great week 4 match up against a horrible St. Louis defense, it may not take much for him to have a nice fantasy day. Jackson is a pretty desperate starting option, but he does have sleeper value if he gets the ball enough.
39. Le’Ron McClain (BAL) – He continues to impress and now has 152 yards rushing and 2 TD’s in 2 games this season. If he is healthy, McClain should continue to play a fairly significant role in the Ravens offense in week 4, but the match up against Pittsburgh is not at all promising. Check injury report: ankle/back (full practice on Friday)
40. Chester Taylor (MIN) – With Adrian Peterson likely continuing to nurse a bad hamstring, Taylor should see increased reps again in week 4. Taylor is plenty capable, but the match up against Tennessee might prove too difficult for a guy who is nursing a foot injury himself, and probably won’t exceed 15 carries. Check injury report: foot (limited practice on Friday)
*Additional week 4 fantasy RB options include:
Warrick Dunn (TB)
Leon Washington (NYJ)
Brandon Jackson (GB)
Andre Hall (DEN)
Ray Rice (BAL)
Lorenzo Booker (PHI)