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December 4, 2008

Fantasy Football Week 15 Running Back Rankings

1. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – Following back to back monster efforts, it’s fairly safe to say that Westbrook has officially reclaimed his elite fantasy status. We fully expect him to chew up and spit out a soft Cleveland run defense in week 15. The Browns rank 28th in the NFL against the run giving up close to 150 rushing yards per game. Anything short of a huge fantasy effort would be a disappointment with this match up. Check injury report: ankle, knee

2. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – He now has now scored at least 1 TD in his last 7 games with 12 total during that span. Williams is currently the hottest and most consistently productive player in all of fantasy football. He should continue the trend in week 15 with a very promising match up against Denver at home. The Broncos rank just 26th in the NFL against the run allowing almost 140 rushing yards per game. In addition, they have allowed 17 TD’s on the ground through 13 games. We see no reason why Williams can not run all over this defense.

3. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – After a mildly disappointing week 14 performance against Detroit, Peterson will take the show on the road to Arizona this week. Surprisingly, the Cardinals are actually very solid against the run. They give up less than 100 rushing yards per game on average and have allowed only 10 rushing TD’s through 13 games. We aren’t completely knocked out by this match up, but the Vikings are fighting for a playoff spot, so we expect Peterson will rise to the occasion. As always, he is a must start.

4. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – He only managed 56 rushing yards against the Niners last week, but he was able to sustain his TD streak which now sits at 7 consecutive games with at least 1 score. The fact that he only had 56 rushing yards last week isn’t really much cause for concern. The bigger issue is that he only had 10 carries, so all in all, 56 yards is very solid (5.6 YPC). If the Jets are going to be successful, they should know by now that they have to get Jones the football. We believe that will happen in week 15 against a decent, but not great, Buffalo run defense. Jones should fare extremely well in this match up at home. He totaled 107 yards and a TD the last time he faced the Bills in week 9.

5. Chris Johnson (TEN) – In his last 2 contests, Johnson has rushed for 261 yards and 3 TD’s. Granted, the competition wasn’t very stiff against the likes of Detroit and Cleveland, but impressive none the less. Luckily, Johnson will get his third favorable match up in a row in week 15 against Houston’s 24th ranked run defense. The Texans have given up 17 rushing TD’s in 13 games and allow close to 130 rushing yards per game. If the playoff clinching Titans do not decide to shut Johnson down prematurely, he should be in for yet another great game.

6. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – While he has obviously lost a step, Tomlinson is still capable of putting up great numbers with the right match up. Fortunately, week 15 against Kansas City’s 31st ranked run defense provides just that. The Chiefs have been terrible against the run all season giving up 162 yards per game and allowing 21 TD’s via the ground through 13 games. We realize his numbers weren’t spectacular the last time he faced this defense, but we can’t imagine him struggling against the Chiefs twice in one season under any circumstance.

7. Clinton Portis (WAS) – After suffering multiple injuries and facing very poor match ups the last 2 weeks, Portis’ fantasy value has dropped significantly. The good news is that he appears to be on the mend to some extent and week 15 provides a very promising match up against the Bengals. Cincinnati currently ranks 23rd in the NFL against the run and has allowed 15 rushing TD’s through 13 games. If Portis is anywhere in the ballpark of being healthy, he should run all over this defense. We really like his chances to get back on track this week, but you should continue to monitor his health leading up to Sunday to be on the safe side. Portis is not currently listed on the Redskins injury report.

8. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) – Now that Fred Taylor is out for the season with a thumb injury, we will finally get to see what Jones-Drew can do as a feature back, and the timing couldn’t be better. Week 15 provides an extremely favorable match up against Green Bay’s 27th ranked run defense at home. The Packers have been pretty bad against the run all season, but they have been especially terrible of late giving up 8 rushing TD’s in their last 3 contests. While Green Bay will surely focus in on stopping Jones-Drew with the Jags providing little else on offense, but we still don’t think they will stop him.

9. Steven Jackson (STL) – He hasn’t been dominant since returning from injury, but Jackson has been fairly solid, especially considering his supporting cast has officially returned to non existent status. That said, we really like his chances for a great week 15 against Seattle. The Seahawks numbers against the run are very mediocre and they would probably be worse if opposing teams didn’t favor throwing the ball against their horrific pass defense. The good news is that the Rams do not have much of a passing game, so they have little choice but to go to Jackson early and often. Even better, what passing game the Rams do have left, revolves mostly around Jackson. So the way we see it, Jackson should be productive on the ground and through the air. Start him!

10. Michael Turner (ATL) – The good news regarding his week 15 match up is that he will face a Tampa Bay run defense that was absolutely torched last week by Carolina. The bad news regarding his week 15 match is that he will be facing a very angry Tampa Bay run defense looking for redemption. At this point, Turner is basically unbenchable ranking 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards and tied for 1st in rushing TD’s. He is also every bit as capable of running wild on this defense as the Carolina backs. That said, this match up is not without risk.

11. Dominic Rhodes (IND) – As it stands now, Joseph Addai looks very doubtful to play Sunday against the Lions which will open the door for the ever capable Rhodes to fill in. If Rhodes does in fact get the start, he could be in for a monster fantasy day against the worst run defense in the NFL. In 13 games, Detroit has allowed a whopping 2256 rushing yards and 23 TD’s. It also bodes well that the Colts have a very good passing attack. Even when the Lions face poor passing attacks and stack the box against their RB’s (as they did against the Vikings last week), they still struggle in containment. They will not be able to do that against Indianapolis and Rhodes should have a field day. Continue to monitor Addai’s health closely because Rhodes fantasy value goes down significantly if he is not the starter. UPDATE: Rhodes will start in place of Joseph Addai in week 15.

12. Ryan Grant (GB) – After a pair of sub par efforts, Grant was able to get back on track in week 14 against Houston rushing for 104 yards and a score. He should stay on track with a promising week 15 match up against Jacksonville’s mediocre run defense. In their last 3 games, the Jaguars have allowed 335 rushing yards and 4 rushing TD’s and show no sign of improving. You probably shouldn’t expect monster numbers from Grant this week, but he should be very solid.

13. Steve Slaton (HOU) – In his last 4 games, Slaton has managed to find pay dirt 3 times while averaging 143 total yards per game. While he will have his work cut out for him against a solid 7th ranked Tennessee run defense in week 15, we still like his chances for a productive game at home. Slaton already set a promising precedent for this match up by rushing for 116 yards and a TD the last time he faced the Titans back in week 3.

14. Derrick Ward (NYG) – In all likelihood, Ward will be the Giants starting RB for week 15 with Brandon Jacobs nursing yet another knee injury. If Ward gets the start, he may still have to give up some carries to Ahmad Bradshaw, but we still like his chances for a solid game in Dallas. The Cowboys are fairly solid against the run, but Ward has been excellent in mop up duty this season and proved to be even better as a feature back last year when Jacobs was out. In fact, Ward totaled 89 yards and a TD in limited action against this same Cowboys defense just a few short weeks ago and he totaled 106 yards and a TD in a back up role against them last season. UPDATE: Ward will start in place of the injured Brandon Jacobs on Sunday night.

15. LenDale White (TEN) – In addition to his usual ability to get into the end zone, White has proven to be equally productive in the yardage department the last 2 weeks averaging 103 ground yards per game over that span. White has been a force near the goal line this season and his 14 rushing TD’s currently tie him for most in the NFL with Michael Turner. A week 15 match up against a very generous Houston run defense that has allowed 17 rushing TD’s in 13 games appears very favorable for White to continue the trend. In a week 3 meeting against Houston, he rushed for 49 yards and hit pay dirt, not once, but twice in that match up. In addition, White has at least 1 TD in each of his last 3 games against the Texans. He is nursing a knee injury so be sure to monitor his status closely. Check injury report: knee (active and expected to play in week 15)

16. Sammy Morris (NE) – he hasn’t been lighting it up since returning from a knee injury, but Morris has managed to find the end zone in each of his last 2 games, and a week 15 match up against Oakland is his most promising since his return. The raiders are giving up close to 160 rushing yards per game and have allowed 18 rushing TD’s on the season. This isn’t a slam dunk for Morris, considering he will share carries with Kevin Faulk, but the potential for a big game is certainly there.

17. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – What a difference a week can make. Before torching Tampa Bay on Monday night for 115 rushing yards and 2 TD’s, he had basically been written off by most fantasy owners. Now that he is back on track, Stewart makes for a fairly solid RB2 against Denver in week 15. The Broncos sport one of the worst run defenses in the NFL giving up 140 rushing yards per game and allowing 17 TD’s via the ground through 13 games. If given ample opportunity, and we believe he will after last week, Stewart should produce solid numbers with this match up. However, you should keep in mind that he is still limited to some extent playing behind the red hot DeAngelo Williams.

18. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – After several underwhelming performances of late, it is somewhat difficult to expect Brown to run wild on anyone. That said, it is not out of the realm of possibilities and he is very capable of solid production against anyone. A week 15 match up against San Francisco’s 14th ranked run defense is not extremely favorable, but it isn’t bad either. Brown makes for a decent RB 2 at home against the Niners.

19. Kevin Smith (DET) – It is always difficult to have really high hopes for Smith playing on such a poor team, but we actually like his chances for a solid game this week against the Colts. Indianapolis ranks just 25th in the NFL against the run giving up 130 rushing yards per game. They have also allowed 15 rushing TD’s in 13 games. Smith is never a failsafe fantasy play due to his lack of a supporting cast, but he is very capable in his own right, and the match up bodes well. Check injury report: ankle (listed as active for week 15)

20. Larry Johnson (KC) – After rushing for just 36 yards on 11 carries against a porous Denver run defense last week, it’s hard to get too excited about a week 15 match up against a solid San Diego run D. That said, Johnson has a good track record against the Chargers and he is capable of putting up decent numbers if he gets enough touches.

21. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – He is coming off of his worst fantasy effort of the season rushing for just 31 yards on 13 carries against Miami. Unfortunately, Lynch’s chances for a big rebound in week 15 against the Jets appear bleak to say the least. The Jets currently boast the NFL’s 4th best defense against the run giving up just 84 yards per game and they are also fairly stingy near the goal line allowing just 8 rushing TD’s in 13 games. While Lynch managed a respectable 52 receiving yards on 3 catches against them back in week 9, they completely shut him down on the ground with just 16 rushing yards on 9 carries. Lynch is too talented to put up such terrible numbers in back to back weeks and he should fare better this time around against the Jets, but don’t count on it.

22. Le’Ron McClain (BAL) – He has been extremely solid since taking over a feature role in the Ravens backfield. The bad news is that McClain will face his biggest challenge yet since taking over that feature role when he takes on the top ranked Pittsburgh run defense in week 15. The good news is that he has already proven that he can run against this defense. McClain totaled 89 yards and a TD against the Steelers in Pittsburgh back in week 4. This time he gets them at home, but he will still have a tough row to hoe.

23. Justin Fargas (OAK) – He is pretty much hit or miss these days, but Fargas is pretty much the only legitimate weapon that the Raiders have in their arsenal. A week 15 match up against a middle of the road New England run defense is not extremely favorable, but the Pats are pretty beat up on defense, and Fargas has the potential for a solid game.

24. Warrick Dunn (TB) – He doesn’t have monster potential this week, but you could probably do worse. The good news is that Dunn will likely have extra motivation facing his former team this week and that typically translates into a productive performance. The Falcons rank just 22nd against the run and Dunn totaled 70 yards and a TD the last time he faced them. He does lose some value with Cadillac Williams expected to receive the goal line carries.

25. Marion Barber (DAL) – He is still very questionable for Sunday night with a toe injury, and even if he does play, we can’t foresee Barber getting a full compliment of carries. In addition, the toe injury is very likely to hamper his ability to make cuts and play at a top flight level. On top of that, he will be facing the Giants top 5 run defense, a match up that doesn’t bode extremely well even if Barber was at 100%. Barber only managed 54 rushing yards against them in week 9 when he was at full strength. If he is playing, it is extremely difficult to bench him in fantasy, but it seems to us that the risk far outweighs the potential reward. Check injury report: toe (game time decision)

26. Maurice Morris (SEA) – He could be the sleeper of the week facing off against St. Louis’ 29th ranked run defense. The Rams are horrible against the run giving up 154 rushing yards per game and allowing 22 TD’s via the ground in 13 games. If Morris is given a feature role, he could do some real damage against this defense. The problem is that he may not be the feature back with Julius Jones expected back and goal line touches will likely go to T.J. Duckett.

27. Tatum Bell (DEN) – He looked sharp filling in for the injured Peyton Hillis last week, but then again, what RB doesn’t look sharp against Kansas City. Regardless, Bell has proven to be a quality fantasy back in the past and he could have value once again. He is capable of decent numbers against a middle of the road Carolina run defense.

28. Tim Hightower (ARI) – He will certainly prove useful if the Cardinals can get him into a goal line situation, but he has little fantasy value otherwise against Minnesota’s 2nd ranked run defense.

29. Willie Parker (PIT) – He has been extremely quiet of late and the possibilities of him having a break out game against Baltimore’s 3rd ranked run defense on the road are slim. Parker can be dangerous, but a match up on the road against a Raven’s defense that he has never had much success against looks bleak.

30. Tashard Choice (DAL) – With Marion Barber’s status still up in the air, there is still a chance that Choice could get the start. At the very least, we believe he will see a significant number of touches. Choice was very impressive against Pittsburgh’s top ranked run defense last week, but he will once again have his work cut out for him against a great Giants run defense in week 15. Be sure to monitor Marion Barber’s status if you plan on using Choice.

31. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (TB) – He hasn’t shown much potential in the yardage department yet, but he has not forgotten how to get into the end zone. He should get the goal line touches against an Atlanta run D that has allowed 15 rushing TD’s on the season.

32. DeShaun Foster (SF) – Considering that Frank Gore was on crutches Wednesday, we seriously doubt he will play in week 15. Foster will fill in, but expectations should not be high against a solid Miami run defense. Be sure to monitor Frank Gore’s status if you have plans to use Foster. UPDATE: Foster will startin place of the injured Frank Gore this week. Foster is not highly recommended for fantasy play.

33. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – He should fare better than the 7 yards on 7 carries that he accumulated last week, but you probably can’t expect much against a great Eagles run defense on the road.

34. Kevin Faulk (NE) – The potential for a solid fantasy effort is there against a really bad Oakland run defense, especially in PPR leagues, but Faulk is never a safe bet for more than a few carries.

35. Ricky Williams (MIA) – The match up against San Francisco isn’t terrible, but Williams hasn’t shown much against anyone lately.

36. Darren Sproles (SD) – He could do some real damage against a terrible Chiefs run defense, even in a limited role, but you can never be sure just how limited that role will be.

37. Leon Washington (NYJ) – He has the tools to put up numbers against Buffalo. Unfortunately, he may not get the touches to do it.

38. Chester Taylor (MIN) – He has a rushing TD in each of his last 3 games, but it will be tough to find pay dirt against a Cardinals run defense that has only allowed 10 TD’s on the ground all season.

39. Cedric Benson (CIN) – We don’t see him doing much against the Redskins 10th ranked run defense.

40. Mewelde Moore (PIT) – A week 15 match up against Baltimore’s 3rd ranked run defense holds little promise for Moore in a back up role.

* RB’s that participated in Thursday night’s New Orleans @ Chicago game are not represented in week 15 RB rankings. For info on those players, please check Thursday night advice NO @ CHI in the top right corner of our home page.

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