1. Frank Gore (SF) – While Gore has yet to really light it up in his first 2 games; he has put together a pair of solid efforts, finding pay dirt in both week 1 and 2. In a week where match ups are bad across the board and RB committees are plentiful, Gore tops our list as week 3’s most promising fantasy back. He will face a porous Detroit run defense that has allowed 441 rushing yards and 4 TD’s in their first 2 games.
2. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – As usual, Westbrook turned in a big week 2 fantasy performance, totaling 103 yards, while scoring 3 TD’s. He will face one of the best run defenses in the NFL in week 3 at home against Pittsburgh, but there is no match up the multi dimensional Westbrook can not overcome. You probably shouldn’t expect a lot of rushing yards, but this guy is a beast in the passing game, and he has a nose for the end zone.
3. Marion Barber (DAL) – He isn’t going to break any yardage records this season, but Barber looks to take up permanent residence in the end zone, as he was able to find pay dirt for the 3rd and 4th time in week 2. Barber has simply been a TD machine. He will face a Green Bay defense in week 3 that shut him down last season and has only allowed 1 rushing TD this season, which came against stud RB Adrian Peterson in week 1. Barber will have his work cut out for him again, but he should be up for the challenge, as he was in week 2 against a great Eagles run defense.
4. Michael Turner (ATL) – After a week 1 that was off the charts, Turner turned in a dud week 2 fantasy outing with 48 total yards and no scores against a stout Tampa run D. In his defense, Turner played much of the game with a bad wheel after rolling his ankle. Turner is not listed on the injury report at this time and should be fine for a great match up against the Chiefs in week 3. Kansas City has given up a whopping 213 yards per game rushing and have also allowed 3 rushing TD’s in their first 2 games. We fully expect Turner to rebound with a strong week 3 fantasy performance.
5. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – Despite sharing carries with Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, Jacobs is still averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. The disappointing news is that Jacobs, who is seemingly built to find the end zone, has yet to score a single TD this season. The odds are strongly in his favor to do just that in week 3 against a soft Bengals run defense that has already allowed 3 TD’s on the ground. The RB by committee scenario has limited Jacobs fantasy value thus far, but he is still a must start.
6. Clinton Portis (WAS) – He put together a huge week 2, rushing for 96 yards and 2 TD’s. He will face an Arizona run defense in week 3 that has been solid in their first 2 games. Portis only managed 57 total yards in a game against the Cardinals in 2007, but he more than made up for a bad rushing day with 2 TD’s in that contest. Portis is a fantasy rock, you can’t always expect him to score 2 TD’s, but he is going to get you solid production almost every week.
7. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – He has been able to salvage solid fantasy numbers with TD’s in back to back weeks in spite of mediocre rushing efforts of 76 and 59 yards respectively. In his defense, he faced 2 of the NFL’s better run defenses in those games (Jacksonville and Seattle). A week 3 match up at home against Oakland should be a much lighter burden for the speedy Lynch. The Raiders have been decent against the run, but they have allowed 3 rushing TD’s in their first 2 games. Unfortunately, the Bills have joined the ever growing list of teams that are using multiple RB’s, as fellow Buffalo RB Fred Jackson is being used more and more each week in tandem with Lynch. While he remains the feature back, Lynch has lost a little fantasy value with Jackson stealing carries.
8. Julius Jones (SEA) – He really stepped up to the plate as Seattle’s feature back in week 2, totaling 141 yards and scoring a TD. Jones has the potential to put up even better numbers in week 3 at home against the Rams who have been horrible thus far on defense. The St. Louis defense has given up 308 rushing yards and 3 rushing TD’s in their first 2 contests. Jones could solidify his position as the Seahawks starting RB with another strong effort, even when Maurice Morris returns from injury. Good news for those of you who probably thought you wasted a draft pick on him We didn’t think we would be saying this, but Jones is a great fantasy option for week 3.
9. Chris Johnson (TEN) – Week 3 will probably be a boom or bust week for Johnson, but based on the match up and his success to this point, the odds are in his favor for a big game. Johnson will face the Houston Texans at home in week 3. The Texans were torched in their only game of the season giving up a whopping 183 rushing yards and 3 TD’s on the ground. Pittsburgh RB Willie Parker, who is similar in style, but not as fast as Johnson, did most of that damage, which bodes well for Johnson. We think he has yet to even scratch the surface on what he is capable of, and this week looks as good as any for him to showcase that talent. He is still a tad risky, but we like his chances to be at or near the top of fantasy leader boards in week 3.
10. Reggie Bush (NO) - Depending on how the scoring in your league is set up, Bush is either a great fantasy option or a really poor one. Since the majority of leagues do account for at least one or all of the following statistical categories: receptions, reception yardage, and/or kickoff/punt returns, Bush has to be considered a starting fantasy RB most weeks. He almost never accounts for strong rushing numbers (79 yards and 0 TD’s through 2 games), but he is a monster in the passing and return games (15 receptions for 175 yards and 1 TD, + 1 punt return for a TD in 2 games). He should be in for another big receiving game in week 3 against Denver, who has allowed 5 passing TD’s in their first 2 games. This game will probably turn into an air show between Cutler and Brees, and Bush should benefit greatly. If you get little or no credit for receiving stats with regard to RB’s, Bush is not your guy this week or any week.
11. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) – He managed to salvage an otherwise horrible week 2 by scoring a TD. As we stated last week, Jones-Drew has had slow starts in each of his first 2 seasons, so it is nothing to be overly concerned about. He has also had to face two of the stronger run defenses in the NFL (Titans & Bills), and he has been working behind a struggling offensive line comprised mostly of back ups. In addition, Jones-Drew twisted his ankle in week 2 which did not help. Now to the good news, Jones-Drew’s ankle should be fine with a little rest and based on statements made by Head Coach Jack Del Rio, Jones-Drew should be a big part of the Jaguars week 3 game plan. Jacksonville will face the Colts in week 3. The Indianapolis defense has been pretty bad against the run so far this season, and they will be without run stuffing safety Bob Sanders for a few weeks which only handicaps them further. Jones-Drew has scored at least one TD in each of his 4 career games against Indianapolis. If there are no setbacks with his ankle, Jones-Drew should finally showcase his fantasy value in week 3. Check injury report: ankle (full practice on Friday)
12. Earnest Graham (TB) – He had a huge week 2 in which he rushed for 116 yards and a TD on only 15 carries. He also had another TD called back on what was a ridiculous holding penalty in our opinion. Graham is going to have to get more carries to remain a quality fantasy RB, but he has already posted impressive numbers with a limited workload, averaging a hefty 8.3 yards per carry through 2 games. He will have his biggest test of the season going to Chicago to face the Bears in week 3. While the Bears have been fairly solid against the run through 2 games, they did show some weaknesses in week 2, and they have allowed at least 1 rushing TD in each of their first 2 games (3 total). Graham will need to increase his workload to have a significant fantasy impact this week, but we think that is a strong possibility.
13. Steven Jackson (STL) – You would have to assume that Jackson’s biggest adversary any given week would be the respective defense in which he lines up against, but to this point, his biggest nemesis has actually been his own team’s defense. In the first 2 weeks, the St. Louis offense has had to completely abandon their best weapon (Jackson) in favor of a sputtering passing attack, in failed attempts to make up the huge deficits created by the poor play of the Rams defense. Thus, Jackson only has 27 carries through 2 games, and the results have not been good. Jackson is still an elite caliber RB, and this week’s match up against Seattle is his best to date as he has scored a TD in each of his last 3 games against them, but until the Rams defense can stabilize itself; it could be tough sledding for Jackson and fantasy owners alike.
14. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – Peterson was able to run all over Indianapolis in week 2, rushing for 160 yards, unfortunately, he was held out of the end zone, preventing what would have been a monster week 2 for him. He has been nursing a sore hamstring, but he did have limited participation in practice on Wednesday, and so long as there are no setbacks; he should put in another fantastic fantasy performance against Carolina’s middle of the road run defense in week 3. Check injury report: hamstring (limited practice on Friday) UPDATE: Peterson will be a game time decision on Sunday. Even if he plays, it is likely to be on a limited basis.
15. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – He has had mixed results in his first 2 games, but Jones has displayed the potential to rebound from a dismal 2007 campaign. You probably aren’t going to be able to lean heavily on him any week, but at the very least, he looks like he is going to be much more consistent than last year. He will be in for a big Monday night showdown in week 3 against the Chargers. While the Chargers run defense has been one of the most feared units in the NFL over the last couple of seasons, they have struggled so far this season without Shawne Merriman. You shouldn’t expect a monster game from Jones, but he should have a solid week 3, so long as Favre can get going with the passing game.
16. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – Tomlinson is a tough call for week 3. After totaling only 152 yards and 0 TD’s in his first 2 games, L.T.’s injured toe is clearly a bigger issue than he is letting on. The good news is that the Chargers week 3 match up against the Jets is on Monday night, which will give him an extra day to heal. The bad news is that if you lock him into your starting line up, and he doesn’t play or play enough to be helpful, you will be hung out to dry. Tomlinson claims he will be close to 100% for Monday night, but he said the same thing last week and look at the results. Continue to monitor his status throughout the week. It is almost impossible to leave your best player on the bench with so much of your fantasy success riding on him, but Tomlinson remains a risky start in week 3. Check injury report: toe (limited practice on Friday) UPDATE: Tomlinson will likely play on Monday night, but it will almost assuredly be on a limited or very limited basis. He is still bothered by his bad toe.
17. Ryan Grant (GB) – He had the perfect match up in week 2 and completely blew it rushing for only 20 yards on 15 carries. We suspect his nagging hamstring injury to be the culprit, but it is hard to say with any degree of certainty. Grant is an odd read, he seems to play very well in difficult match ups, and he tends to struggle against weaker opponents. If that holds true, Grant may actually have a decent shot against a tough Dallas run defense in week 3, if his hamstring holds up. Last year, Grant rushed for 94 yards and 2 TD’s against the Cowboys in Dallas. If we were sure that he was 100% healthy, we would consider him a must start, but after last week, he probably can’t be trusted. You might want to take a wait and see approach with Grant this week, but he should rebound soon. Check injury report: hamstring (full practice on Friday) UPDATE: Grant supposedly looked very good in practice and will start against the Cowboys in week 3. He is still a bit risky, but things look to be on the up and up for Grant.
18. Larry Johnson (KC) – After his first 2 games, it is very difficult to recommend Johnson for your fantasy line up, especially after a highly disappointing week 2 effort against a Raider defense that he usually dominates. The fact of the matter is that week 3 is just not a good match up week for RB’s, and Johnson is one of the few RB’s with a good match up. He will face a Falcons run defense that has allowed 226 yards and 3 TD’s on the ground through 2 games. Johnson will have a great opportunity to prove he still has fantasy value in week 3, but if he fails to get the job done this week, you are probably in trouble. Considering that you likely invested a first or second round pick in him, you have little choice but to keep the faith in Johnson. After all, the season is still young and guys break out of slumps every year, but in all honesty, from the looks of things; Johnson is a risky start, even with the nice match up.
19. Matt Forte (CHI) – Forte has now rushed for 215 yards and a TD in his first 2 games. More importantly, he ranks 3rd in the NFL with 46 carries. He will have the tall task of taking on a formidable Tampa Bay run defense in week 3. The Bucs defense ranks in the NFL’s upper echelon, only allowing 3.7 yards per carry, and they have yet to allow a rushing TD in their first 2 contests. While the match up is not ideal for Forte, he should be able to provide fantasy owners with decent production in week 3, so long as he continues his hefty workload.
20. Kevin Smith (DET) – In the first 2 games of his rookie campaign, Smith has only been able to muster up 88 rushing yards and 1 TD. In fairness, Smith has had very little opportunity to showcase his abilities with only 26 carries to his credit, largely in part to his team abandoning the running game early in both games to help overcome large deficits. Smith has been adequate in the Lions passing game catching 8 passes for 53 yards, but that does not account for much in most fantasy leagues. While there are no guarantees, Smith should see more carries this week against San Francisco. The 49ers defense has allowed 248 rushing yards and 3 rushing TD’s so far this season. We sort of like his chances, but Smith is still a long shot for week 3. As a side note, the Lions brought in Shaun Alexander and Cedric Benson for workouts this week, a move that does not bode well for Kevin Smith.
21. Michael Bush (OAK) – This is mostly speculation on our part, but we have a sneaky suspicion that Bush will be Oakland’s starting RB in week 3. Justin Fargas is out with a groin injury and Darren McFadden has turf toe, and missed practice on Wednesday. McFadden was also wearing a protective boot on his foot, which is typically an indication that a guy will see little or no playing time. You should monitor the situation closely as Sunday approaches, but starting Bush could pay off if you are in need of a RB2 or flex this week. Bush looked strong in week 2 rushing for 90 yards and a score on 16 carries. Even if McFadden plays, we expect Bush to see plenty of touches. Bush will not hold much fantasy value once Fargas and McFadden are back to 100%. UPDATE: While Darren McFadden will in fact play on Sunday, it is likely to be on a very limited basis. Bush will almost certainly get the bulk of the carries in the run heavy Raiders offense.
22. LenDale White (TEN) – While White has seen a diminished role in the Titans offense with the emergence of Chris Johnson, he continues to put up respectable numbers. He hasn’t put up a lot of yards, but he has managed to get into the end zone in each of Tennessee’s first 2 games. White is a risky fantasy option, playing second fiddle to Johnson, but we like his chances against a shaky Texans run defense. White totaled 193 yards and scored a TD in each of the 2 games in which he faced the Texans last season. As porous as Houston’s run defense looked in week1, it is possible that Johnson and White could both have big games.
23. Willie Parker (PIT) – While it is hard to argue with the numbers Parker has put up to this point (243 rushing yards and 3 TD’s), we can’t foresee him going over the 100 yard mark for the third straight week, nor do we see much potential for a TD in week 3. He will be facing the Eagles on the road in week 3. In their first 2 games, the Philadelphia run defense has only allowed 104 rushing yards (best in the NFL) and 1 TD. Considering those 2 games came against the likes of Steven Jackson and Marion Barber, that feat is made all the more impressive. Barber was effective against the Eagles in the passing game, but seeing as how Parker has yet to catch a pass this season, there is not much hope there. Parker is capable of decent numbers, but his only real chance for a TD will be if he can break a long run, which is always possible with his home run speed, but don’t count on it. We just don’t see him running all over the Eagles in the same fashion he did against Houston and Cleveland.
24. Joseph Addai (IND) – With the exception of a week 2 goal line TD, he has been a major bust through his first 2 games. We all know how much potential Addai and the Colts offense possesses, but both have failed to meet expectations to this point. Unfortunately, week 3 does not look much better for Addai as he will face a Jacksonville run defense that has gotten the best of him historically. In 4 career games against the Jaguars, Addai has never rushed for more than 85 yards, and he has never scored a single TD against them. You probably have too much invested in him to put him on the bench in week 3, but we wouldn’t blame you if you did. Addai is capable of breaking his slump, although the odds are not in his favor.
25. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – He has yet to get things rolling in the first 2 weeks facing difficult match ups. Week 3 against the Ravens will not offer much relief. While Lewis managed to score a TD in each of the 2 games in which he faced his former team last season, those games came at a time when Lewis and the Cleveland offense were at the top of their game. That is not the case this time around. Lewis usually gets fired up for this match up, so you can’t count him out. Keep your expectations for yardage totals on the lower end of the spectrum, but a TD is not out of the question. Check injury report: ankle (limited practice on Friday, listed as probable)
26. Fred Taylor (JAX) – He doesn’t have a whole lot going for him heading into a week 3 match up against the Colts. Taylor has only managed to rush for 67 yards so far this season and has 0 TD’s. In addition he has a beat up offensive line and is nursing a bad toe. The good news is that the Colts run defense has been horrible in the first 2 weeks as well, and they will likely be just as bad in week 3, especially if run stuffing safety Bob Sanders does not play. Taylor rushed for 104 yards in his last game against the Colts, but the Jags offense was in much better shape for that game. He is by no means a safe week 3 fantasy starter, but you could probably do worse. Check injury report: toe (full practice on Thurs. & Fri.)
27. Chester Taylor (MIN) – With Adrian Peterson still troubled by his hamstring, he is now listed as a game time decision. This means that Chester Taylor probably has about a 40% chance of starting on Sunday. At the very least, he should see a hefty workload against the Panthers. If you have him on your roster, and you see that Peterson will not play, get Taylor in your starting line up immediately.
28. Darren Sproles (SD) – If LaDainian Tomlinson continues to battle his toe injury, Sproles will continue to benefit. Sproles relieved Tomlinson in week 2 en route to a big fantasy day, totaling 135 yards and a TD. Pay close attention and attempt to monitor L.T.’s progress throughout the week, if Tomlinson does not practice at all throughout the week, chances are Sproles could see significant action once again. He could make for a nice sneaky week 3 start against the Jets. At the very least, we expect Sproles to get more touches than usual and he is very dangerous.
29. Darren McFadden (OAK) – After suffering a turf toe injury in the midst of a monster week 2 fantasy effort against Kansas City, McFadden’s availability for week 3 is highly questionable. He missed Wednesday’s practice and could be seen walking around in a protective boot, both bad indications for a guy who was just starting to live up to his lofty potential. If McFadden does play, he will likely be limited both in carries and ability, as turf toe (depending on the severity) can make it very difficult to cut and run at optimal speed. It is possible that the talented rookie’s condition could be upgraded as the week progresses, but don’t count on it. Unless there is a drastic change, we do not suggest starting McFadden in week 3. UPDATE: McFadden practiced on a limited basis again on Friday. This probably means that he will play on Sunday. McFadden could go out and play the game of his life or he could go out, play one snap, and call it a day. We just don't know how severe the injury is, but turf toe can be tricky. I have started RB's many times with turf toe injuries, and more times than not, it yields poor results. We will leave this one up to you, but it seems risky, and we still think Michael Bush will get the majority of carries. Check injury report: turf toe (limited practice on Friday)
30. Selvin Young (DEN) – While Young is technically the Broncos starting RB; he has only seen 15 carries total in the first 2 games. Considering that he has rushed for 114 yards, a TD, and is boasting a 7.6 yards per carry average, it doesn’t really make sense that he is not being used more, but that is Mike Shanahan for you. As long as the Broncos continue to win games, the fantasy RB destroying coach will probably stick with the RB by committee system. Young has a great match up against New Orleans and it would be a shame to see it wasted, but that seems more likely than not based on the first two weeks.
31. Edgerrin James (ARI) – Without goal line touches, James’ fantasy value continues to plummet. He is capable of putting up solid yardage numbers any week, but even that is no longer guaranteed. James is probably a safe bet for a few fantasy points in week 3 against the Redskins, but don’t expect anything more than that.
32. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – After a decent week 1 against San Diego, the talented rookie upped the ante in week 2 carrying the ball 14 times for 77 yards and 2 TD’s. Stewart keeps getting hotter, but a week 3 match up against a stout Vikings run defense will probably cool him off for a week, not to mention that he is still backing up DeAngelo Williams. Stewart is going to have a hard time doing any real damage against Minnesota, and is not highly recommended for your starting line up.
33. Sammy Morris (NE) – Surprisingly, Morris has been the Patriots most productive fantasy RB through the first 2 weeks of the season. He has scored a TD in both games so far, and had 87 total yards in week 1. That said, Morris is part of a RB committee which now consists of 4 players (himself, Maroney, K. Faulk, and L. Jordan), and touches will be very hard to come by. Morris should remain the Patriots goal line back, so there is some value there, but the way New England has utilized its RB’s so far this season, who knows if Morris will even get in the game? UPDATE: Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan appear doubtful to play this week, which means Morris could actually see a big workload. He might be a decent week 3 start, but it is hard to say with the way the Patriots are using thrir RB's.
34. Willis McGahee (BAL) – In all honesty, we have no idea exactly how much McGahee will play this week. What we do know is that he will almost certainly play, and based on last year’s performances against Cleveland; he should play well. McGahee rushed for over 100 yards in each of his 2 games against the Browns last season and also added a TD. There is no question that he would be a risky start, but in a week where good match ups for good running backs are hard to come by, McGahee might be worth the gamble in week 3. UPDATE: According to statements made by Head Coach John Harbaugh, McGahee will not start against the Browns on Sunday, and will probably be used sparingly. He is not a safe week 3 start.
35. Chris Perry (CIN) – Considering Perry was playing the Titans in week 2; his 64 rushing yards and a TD are kind of impressive. He actually displayed some nice moves and seemed to create running lanes where there were none to be found. We aren’t saying this guy is the next Barry Sanders, but we do think he is definitely better than his first 2 games might indicate. Even Barry Sanders would have his rough patches against the likes of Baltimore and Tennessee’s defenses. Perry’s match up woes will not get any easier in week 3 against the Giants. Once again, the odds will not be in his favor, especially with the passing game sputtering, and we do not suggest using Perry unless you are in a jam, but he still has upside, and should be solid when the right match ups finally come along.
36. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – About the only thing going for him this week is that he will start at RB against Minnesota. William’s was very ineffective in week 2 against the Bears, and it is only a matter of time before Jonathan Stewart takes over as the feature back in Carolina. The fact that Williams is still the starter does give him some fantasy value this week, but against the Vikings run defense, it isn’t much.
37. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – Despite rushing for only 25 yards in week 2, Brown did pick up a garbage time TD against the Cardinals. We think there might still be a little football left in him yet, but to this point, Brown hasn’t shown much. Don’t expect him to show much in week 3 against the Patriots either. Even when Brown was healthy and rolling over opposing defenses in 2006 and part of ‘07, he was never very effective against New England. Hopefully, he will get going soon, but until then, keep him on the pine.
38. Michael Pittman (DEN) – He scored his third TD of the ’08 season in week 2. As long as he continues to receive goal line carries, Pittman will continue to be a TD threat. The odds are in his favor to find the end zone again in week 3 against New Orleans, who gave up 2 rushing TD’s last week. Pittman is only averaging 7 carries and 21 yards per contest, so if he doesn’t get into the end zone, you are up the creek.
39. Tim Hightower (ARI) – As the Cardinals goal line back, Hightower has found pay dirt in each of Arizona’s first 2 games. He has also seen an increase in carries outside of the goal line, but has not been very effective with those touches. Hightower will have a harder time finding the end zone for the third straight week against the Redskins, but Warner and company will probably get him the opportunity.
40. Felix Jones (DAL) – Jones has now officially played in 2 NFL football games, and he has scored a TD in both games. He has not gotten many touches in his first 2 games as a Cowboy, but he hasn’t needed many to do damage. We expect his role to increase this week in the Dallas offense, but he is still a very risky start and a third straight TD seems unlikely.
*Additional week 3 fantasy RB options include:
Steve Slaton (HOU) – horrible match up against the Titans, but he will probably start
Jerious Norwood (ATL) – could see a fair amount of action against a weak Kansas City defense
Fred Jackson (BUF) - he had 7 catches for 83 yards against Jacksonville in week 2
Pierre Thomas (NO) – he scored a TD in week 2
Ray Rice (BAL) – could see plenty of action against a soft Cleveland run defense
Brandon Jackson (GB) – he rushed for 61 yards and a TD last week, if Ryan Grant’s hamstring acts up, Jackson could see plenty of action against the Cowboys
Derrick Ward (NYG) – he can be dangerous even with a few carries
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, unfortunately that hasn’t been often
Ricky Williams (MIA) – he’s been a bust so far, but the potential is still there
Warrick Dunn (TB) – found pay dirt in week 2
Le’Ron McClain (BAL) – he outshined Ray Rice in week 1
Andre Hall (DEN) – you can never know what to expect from Mike Shanahan, Hall might get 20 carries and he might get 0
Laurence Maroney (NE) - it doesn't seem likely he will play much if at all