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August 25, 2009

Fantasy Football Running Back Start/Sit Rankings (Week 3)


1. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – After watching the Texans defense get ripped on the ground the last 2 weeks, it is hard to not to imagine a similar fate when they face Jones-Drew in week 3. Through two games, Houston has allowed a ridiculous 430 rushing yards and 4 rushing TD’s. They have also been more than generous to RB’s in the passing game which is also one of Jones-Drew’s strong suits. He should be in for a big day, the potential is certainly there, but keep in mind that the Houston defense probably isn’t quite as bad as the stats might indicate and Jones-Drew was not exactly great in 2 games against them last season. Check injury report: knee

2. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – Following back to back cupcake match ups, fantasy football’s top RB will be in for his biggest test to date in week 3 against San Francisco. The 49ers come into this match up having given up just 106 rushing yards (67 to S. Jackson in week 1) and no rushing TD’s through 2 games. On the other side of that coin, Peterson is easily the toughest competition the Niners have faced as well. We would tell you to lower expectations a bit against this defense, but as you already know, Peterson is match up proof and capable of torching any defense. His sore back should be of little consequence. Check injury report: back

3. Michael Turner (ATL) – He isn’t exactly tearing it up so far, but Turner was more than solid in week 2 and you have to love any RB that will get 20 plus carries every week in the age of RB by committee. In week 3, Turner will face a Patriots defense that has yet to allow a rushing TD through their first 2 games. The good news is that the New England run defense is giving up over 100 yards rushing per game and we wouldn’t classify them as a juggernaut against the run. Turner is by far the most talented back they have faced to this point, carries will be plentiful and we expect him to perform well.

4. Clinton Portis (WAS) – We realize that he hasn’t been at his best of late, but what are you going to do, bench him against Detroit? We hope not. This should be the week that he gets things going. He will need a little help from a struggling Redskins passing game to make it happen, but hey, the Lions defense is even worse against the pass. Portis rushed for 126 yards against Detroit last season and if he can’t at least come close to matching that, then it may be time to worry, but we like his chances. Even on a sore ankle; we think he might even find the end zone this week. Check injury report: ankle

5. Ryan Grant (GB) – He needs to do more in the yardage department, but 2 TD’s in two weeks is hard to argue with. Even better, Grant is looking at his best match up to date against a run friendly Rams defense. Seattle RB Julius Jones gashed the St. Louis defense in week 1 for 117 yards and a score and we see no reason why Grant can’t do the same. We also believe QB Aaron Rodgers will finally get it going with the Packers passing attack and that should really open up some lanes for Grant in this match up.

6. Matt Forte (CHI) – Even if you take into consideration the difficult match ups he has faced through the first 2 weeks, Forte has vastly underperformed. That said, we believe week 3 provides a great match up for him to get on track. He will match up against a Seattle defense that is giving up an NFL worst 7.1 yards per carry to opposing RB’s through 2 games and they were absolutely annihilated by San Francisco’s Frank Gore last week. We also like this match up for the simple fact that the Seahawks have been very good against the pass so far this season which means the Bears will almost certainly lean heavily on Forte in the game plan. He should finally earn his keep in week 3.

7. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – You have to love the fact that he has 2 TD’s in two games, but Williams’ timeshare with Jonathan Stewart and a struggling Carolina passing attack have really put a dent in his overall production so far. Even so, Williams is due for a breakout game and a match up against Dallas is not all that unfavorable. The Cowboys defense has been less than impressive so far allowing 136 rushing yards per game and almost 5 yards per carry to opposing running backs. As we stated last week, Williams will need help from the Carolina passing game to really open it up, but they looked much better in that respect in week 2. He should step it up in week 3.

8. Steven Jackson (STL) – While he has yet to find the end zone this season, a 100 + yard performance against a stout Redskins run defense was promising to say the least. We also liked the fact that the Rams were at least trying to get him involved in the passing game in week 2. In spite of his poor supporting cast, we like Jackson’s chances to carry the momentum into week 3 against the Packers. The Green Bay defense was more than impressive in week 1 shutting down Matt Forte, but they were anything but impressive in week 2 giving up 141 rushing yards to Cedric Benson. They will likely buckle down on Jackson, but the Rams now have a blue print on how to run against the Packers 3-4 scheme. If Cedric Benson can embarrass the Packers, it’s logical that a fantasy stud like Jackson should have little trouble following suit.

9. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – It’s hard to believe that we are already into week 3 and Jacobs has yet to score a TD. He barely even has 100 rushing yards for that matter. Not good, but a week 3 meeting with Tampa Bay should be the match up that gets the ball rolling (hopefully into the end zone). The Bucs have struggled mightily through the first 2 weeks allowing 336 rushing yards and a whopping 5.7 yards per carry. Jacobs should run all over these guys.

10. Willis McGahee (BAL) – For a guy relegated to a “so called” back up role, McGahee sure is putting up feature back numbers. Through 2 games, McGahee has totaled 164 yards and 4 TD’s. Look for the trend to continue and ride the hot hand into a very favorable match up against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed an astonishing 411 yards and 5 TD’s on the ground in 2 games. McGahee will continue to share carries with Ray Rice, but he has the better upside as the goal line back and actually had more carries than Rice in week 2.

11. Frank Gore (SF) – There is something about this week 3 match up against Minnesota that concerns us. It could be the fact that the Vikings are very good against the run or maybe it’s that Gore seems ripe for a let down after two huge fantasy efforts in a row. This one is a little scary for sure, but it would be even scarier not to have Gore in your line up for week 3. After all, you can’t possibly sit a feature back that has 4 TD’s in the last 2 weeks coming off of a 200 yard plus rushing day. Ride the hot hand and hope for the best. Gore is plenty capable of keeping this thing rolling. Check injury report: ankle

12. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – Just when you start to give up on him, he goes out and has a monster game. Unfortunately, that seems to work both ways with Brown as he typically builds just enough confidence to set up a let down. Hopefully, that will not be the case in week 3 and we feel fairly confident that he will back up last week’s performance with another strong showing against San Diego. The Chargers defense has been fairly generous against the run so far this season and Brown rushed for 125 yards and a score in last season’s meeting with them. The Wildcat should be in full force.

13. Steve Slaton (HOU) – So far, Slaton has done little to instill confidence in fantasy owners, but in all fairness, he has gone up against two of the best run defenses the NFL has to offer. Fortunately, a middle of the road Jacksonville run defense should lighten the burden considerably for Slaton in week 3. Slaton was dominate in 2 games against the Jags last season totaling 298 yards and 3 TD’s. He had over 100 total yards and at least 1 TD in each of those games. We like his chances to get on track with this match up.

14. Felix Jones (DAL) – First of all, we want to make it very clear that this ranking is based on the assumption that Marion Barber is not going to play on Monday night. Even if Barber does start, we are somewhat confident that Jones will see the bigger workload which is good news heading into a favorable match up against a shaky Carolina run defense. He will share carries with Tashard Choice even if Barber is absent, but Jones should get the vast majority of touches. He is averaging 9.1 yards per carry this season and averaged 8.9 yards per carry last season in limited action. Continue to monitor the Barber injury, but regardless of what happens, we still feel like Jones is a solid fantasy play.

15. Fred Jackson (BUF) – There is no question that Jackson has made a strong case for himself through the first 2 weeks and a match up against New Orleans is favorable for another strong showing. That said, this match up also presents an element of risk. The Saints have opened up substantial leads on their first two opponents forcing them to abandon their running games in order to try and play catch up. This scenario is also likely to happen against the Bills which could limit Jackson to some degree on the ground. The good news is that Jackson is also a very capable receiver out of the backfield and he should maintain solid value in the passing attack if this scenario plays out.

16. Darren Sproles (SD) – A week 3 match up against a solid Miami run defense is not all that promising in terms of ground yards, but so far, running the ball has not been Sproles strong suit anyway. It is his versatility as a pass catcher and return specialist that make him a serviceable RB2 or flex fantasy option for week 3. He has been able to deliver strong fantasy performances in the first 2 weeks, so there is little reason to believe that he can’t continue the trend in week 3 as well, but keep in mind, there is always risk with pass catching RB’s. LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to miss his second straight game, so Sproles should get the majority of the workload.

17. Kevin Smith (DET) – A week 3 match up against a solid Washington run defense is not ideal in terms of rushing yards, but Smith fared decently on the ground against a stout Vikings D in week 2 and he is certainly capable of putting up numbers against the Skins. Smith’s real value this week probably lies within the passing game. He is definitely being used more often in that capacity this season and he had 7 catches for 50 yards against the Skins last season. He is a better fit for PPR leagues, but makes for a low end RB2 in any format.

18. Chris Johnson (TEN) – Needless to say, it is quite difficult to get excited about a week 3 match up against the Jets. The Jets more or less put the brakes on Johnson in 2008 and a much improved 2009 Jets defense has virtually shut down opposing running attacks to this point in the season. Fortunately, hope is not lost. Johnson is coming off of the best game of his career and he is one of the few backs capable of embarrassing a top flight defense. Sure, yards will be tough to come by and the Jets will likely place special emphasis on stopping Johnson, but all it takes is one small slip up and Johnson is off to the house. We think his best bet for a solid fantasy performance will come in the short passing game which the Titans will almost certainly have to lean heavily upon to have success against the blitz happy Jets. Johnson is far from a lock this week, but can you really afford to sit him?

19. Tim Hightower (ARI) – After 2 productive weeks, Hightower is returning to favor in fantasy circles. Despite the fact that he will have to share carries with Chris Wells in a pass heavy offense, we really like his chances in a week 3 match up with the Colts. Indy has looked terrible against the run through 2 games while playing especially well against the pass. By that logic, we assume the Cardinals will throw a few more bones to their running backs this week. Hightower is a solid RB2 play.

20. Ray Rice (BAL) – We should have known better than to believe Ravens coach John Harbaugh when he emphatically stated that Rice would be his feature back this season. While Rice’s role has expanded compared to last season, it looks like we are back to the same ole RB by committee scenario in Baltimore and it also appears that Willis McGahee is the bigger beneficiary. That said, there should be plenty to go around this week against a porous Cleveland run defense. Rice should put up solid numbers in the passing game as well. This situation is growing riskier by the week, but Rice should be safe for week 3.

21. Reggie Bush (NO) – With Mike Bell out and Pierre Thomas still on the mend, Bush should see an increase in touches this week. Fourth string RB Lynell Hamilton will likely be in the mix along with a limited Pierre Thomas, but at the moment, Bush is their best option. As usual, you should see better fantasy results from him in PPR leagues, but he is a pretty safe option for all formats under the circumstances against a mediocre Bills defense.

22. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – Not only is he underachieving so far this season, but Westbrook is already facing injury issues. While the Eagles coaches are optimistic that Westbrook will play, his status is looking iffy and his chances for a significant workload are even worse. If he can go, a match up against Kansas City certainly holds promise. The Chiefs have allowed 265 rushing yards and 3 rushing TD’s in 2 games. Monitor his status closely as Sunday approaches and have a back up plan in place. Check injury report: ankle

23. Darren McFadden (OAK) – Thankfully, McFadden was able to find the end zone in an otherwise forgettable week 2 fantasy effort. Until QB JeMarcus Russell can conjure up something that resembles a passing game, the wolves will stay after McFadden. He also has to deal with sharing carries which is never ideal. He has a ton of talent and hopefully it will not go to waste in Oakland. That said, we like his big play ability against an improved, but vulnerable, Broncos run defense in week 3, but expectations should be lowered until McFadden can get some help in the passing game.

24. Derrick Ward (TB) – UPDATE: Ward is now expected to start in place of Cadillac Williams who is apparently experiencing some pain in his surgically repaired knee. Tampa Bay still expects Williams to play, but we have our doubts. At the very least, we expect Ward's role to be expanded and he now qualifies as a decent RB2 option when he faces his former team on Sunday. Surprisingly, the Giants have looked terrible against the run so far this season allowing opposing RB's a lofty 6.7 yards per carry.

25. Correll Buckhalter (DEN) – UPDATE: Knowshon Moreno has now popped up on the injury list with a groin injury. He is listed as questionable and at the very least, that should open the door for an expanded role for Buckhalter this week against a mediocre Oakland run defense. He now qualifies as a serviceable RB2 or flex option for week 3.

26. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – In a week where good match ups are tough to come by for RB’s, you could do much worse than Bradshaw. In fact, he is looking more and more like a decent option for week 3. He is seeing a fair amount of touches, he is the Giants best receiver out of the backfield and the match up against Tampa is extremely favorable. The Bucs head into week 3 ranked 27th in the NFL against the run. If you are having serious doubts about your regulars at RB, Bradshaw might be the solution.

27. LeSean McCoy (PHI) – He may still be a bit of a long shot at this point, but McCoy definitely has sleeper value for week 3. With Brian Westbrook questionable nursing a sprained ankle, McCoy may be given the opportunity to play a significant role this week. In fact, he could end up starting and receiving a full workload. This is not set in stone of course and you need to monitor Westbrook’s status closely, but at the very least, we think you will see quite a bit of McCoy this week regardless of whether or not Westbrook starts. The match up against Kansas City is definitely ripe and McCoy would make for a solid RB2 if Westbrook can’t go. He should be considered a decent flex play even with Westbrook in the line up.

28. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – Not only did Jones suffer a big let down, performance wise in week 2, he also continues to lose carries to Leon Washington. We also aren’t thrilled with a not so favorable match up against a Tennessee run defense that has given up just 99 rushing yards and 0 rushing TD’s through 2 games. The good news is that hope is not completely lost for week 3. Jones did manage to total 117 yards and a TD against the Titans last season, so there is some precedence for success. Still, it looks like the task will be more difficult this time around. Consider Jones a shaky RB2 or flex option for week 3.

29. Willie Parker (PIT) – He had a nice run or two against the Bears, but he was pretty ineffective overall and his fantasy value is shaky at best. On the bright side, Parker does have a little better match up in week 3. Unfortunately, it isn’t significantly better as the Bengals appear much improved on defense and Parker wasn’t even that good in his last 2 starts against the old Cincy D. He may be worth a look if you are in a tight spot, but at this point, he is a risky start.

30. Joseph Addai (IND) – It probably isn’t fair to write him off completely. After all, he never really had much of a chance in week 2 and still managed a healthy 5.3 yards per carry against a tough Miami run D. That said, things aren’t exactly on the up and up for Addai either. He’s looking at a tough week 3 match up against a stingy Arizona run defense and Donald Brown is slowly nipping away at his workload. Under the circumstances, Addai is not highly recommended for fantasy use in week 3, but that doesn’t mean we are sending him out to pasture for good.

31. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – He is getting his fair share of touches and making the most of them at that. We also like the match up against a shaky Dallas run defense, but his workload is still on the light side and we aren’t sure if there is enough there to justify a starting role in fantasy just yet. Check injury report: illness

32. Leon Washington (NYJ) – The multi talented back is dangerous without question and his workload is almost equal to that of Thomas Jones these days, but success against a monster Tennessee run defense will be hard to come by.

33. Cedric Benson (CIN) – He is certainly on the right track and Benson shocked the world by running all over the Packers in week 2, but a week 3 match up against Pittsburgh does not bode well, especially with him nursing a bad ankle. As much as we like what he has done to this point, you might consider giving him the week off. Check injury report: ankle

34. Tashard Choice (DAL) – He could be in line for a significant workload if Marion Barber decides to sit or is limited in week 3, and he is talented enough to steal the show, but Barber’s status has yet to be determined and Choice will still have to share with Felix Jones.

35. Larry Johnson (KC) – Johnson put up respectable numbers in week 2, but it is hard to imagine him doing much damage against the Eagles, especially if the Chiefs fall behind early. You might want to sit him.

36. Chris Wells (ARI) – The match up against Indy is a good one, but Wells has limited potential playing behind Tim Hightower in a pass first offense.

37. Pierre Thomas (NO) – He should be more involved in week 3 than last week, but he is still on the mend and a risky fantasy play at this point. Check injury report: knee

38. Julius Jones (SEA) – Jones’ fantasy value certainly took a turn for the worse in week 2 and we don’t see much light at the end of the tunnel for week 3 against the Bears.

39. Donald Brown (IND) – After scoring on Indy’s only significant ground play in week 2, Brown is slowly but surely cutting into Joseph Addai’s workload, but he is still second fiddle for now and we aren’t all that fond of his week 3 match up.

40. Jerome Harrison (CLE) - With Jamal Lewis listed as doubtful, Harrison is now expected to start on Sunday and share carries with rookie James Davis. Harrison is a capable RB, but a match up against Baltimore is not exactly favorable. He is a risky fantasy play at best against a stout Ravens run D.

41. Fred Taylor (NE) – He has looked good in limited action, but there are too many mouths to feed in a crowded Patriots backfield.

42. Ricky Williams (MIA) – He has been decent through 2 weeks, but you can never be sure what he is going to give you. The risk outweighs the potential reward.

43. Michael Bush (OAK) – He has potential, but it is severely limited by a terrible passing game and having to share carries with Darren McFadden.

44. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – UPDATE: Moreno has popped up on the injury list with a groin injury and is now listed as questionable. At this point, there is no word on whether or not he will play on Sunday against Oakland. Our advice is to avoid Moreno this week under the circumstances. Check injury report: groin (questionable)

45. Chris Brown (HOU) – Sooner or later he is going to get a shot at the goal line and a week 3 match up against Jacksonville is his best chance yet.

46. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (TB) – UPDATE: Williams is apparently experiencing pain in his surgically repaired knee. The Bucs are still expecting him to play, but Derrick Ward is now listed as the starter. Williams is now iffy at best and you should probably avoid using him in week 3. Check injury report: knee

47. Kevin Faulk (NE) – He’s always good for a few points for a desperate PPR leaguer.

48. Lynell Hamilton(NO) – Who in the hell is Lynell Hamilton you ask? He is the guy that is going to share carries with Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas this week and there may be some potential here against Buffalo, but we wouldn’t bother if we were you.

49. LenDale White (TEN) – What happened to the TD machine known as LenDale White? 25 yards a week isn’t going to cut it and it may be a struggle to even get that against the Jets in week 3.

50. Justin Forsett (SEA) – He is creeping up the depth chart and he looked pretty good in week 2, but Forsett has a ways to go before he can be considered as a fantasy option. Keep an eye on him though.

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