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October 1, 2009

Fantasy Football Running Back Start/Sit Rankings (Week 6)

*Updated RB rankings WITH COMMENTS will be posted on Friday. Any additional updates that are necessary will be posted no later than Saturday in the final week 6 rankings.

1. Cedric Benson (CIN) – If you were not a believer before, you should be now. Benson not only rushed for an impressive 120 yards and a TD in week 5 against the NFL’s stingiest run defense, but in doing so, he also snapped the Ravens’ 39 game streak of not allowing an opposing RB to rush for over 100 yards. This was a streak that dated all the way back to 2006. Even more impressive, Benson’s lofty numbers in week 5 moved him past Adrian Peterson as the NFL’s overall leading rusher. You are most definitely going to want Benson in your week 6 fantasy line up against a leaky Houston run defense that ranks just 26th in the NFL and has allowed 9 rushing TD’s in just 5 games (most in the NFL).

2. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – He has had a rough go of it the last couple of weeks, but there is nothing quite like a match up against the lowly Rams to get you back on track. The St. Louis defense is giving up an average of 126 ground yards per game and they have allowed 6 rushing TD’s in 5 games. MJD should be able to capitalize in a big way with his versatility in this match up offering exceptional fantasy value in the passing game as well. He is a must start for week 6.

3. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – The good news, Peterson is coming off of a 2 TD performance in week 5 and heading into a match up against a Baltimore defense that gave up 120 rushing yards to Cedric Benson last Sunday. Baltimore had previously not allowed an opposing back to rush for over 100 yards in almost 3 years. The bad news, Peterson will face an angry Baltimore defense that had its 39 game streak of not allowing an opposing back to go over 100 yards. The Ravens will most certainly stack the box against Peterson as all defenses that face him do, but the Vikings will still get him into scoring position and Peterson is capable of beating up on any defense under any circumstances. We aren’t saying yards won’t be difficult to come by this week because they will, but if Cedric Benson can embarrass the Ravens, Peterson is certainly capable of doing so as well.

4. Ryan Grant (GB) – He hasn’t set the world on fire so far this season, but Grant has managed to total 100 yards or score a TD in each of his 4 games this season, so he has been very solid in terms of consistency. That said, he has a good shot at putting up his best numbers of the season in week 6. Grant will face a sub par Lions defense that ranks just 21st in the NFL against the run. Detroit has also allowed 5 rushing TD’s in 5 games which bodes well. Grant totaled 129 yards against the Lions the last time he faced them and we like his chances for similar numbers this time around at home, coming in fresh off of a bye week.

5. Matt Forte (CHI) – He is coming off of his best performance of the season totaling 140 yards and a TD in week 4. Granted, that game was against Detroit, but it served as a much needed confidence booster none the less. Forte heads into week 6 well rested off of a bye week ready to face the Falcons. Atlanta ranks a meager 24th in the NFL against the run giving up an average of 127 ground yards per game. Forte also has a positive history against the Falcons as he totaled 110 yards and a TD against them a season ago. He’s healthy and well rested, he has momentum on his side and he has a good match up. At the very least, the odds are in Forte’s favor for week 6; start him.

6. Michael Turner (ATL) – While we all probably figured it would happen sooner or later, we doubt anyone expected Turner to explode for 3 TD’s in week 5 against a 49er run defense that had not previously allowed a rushing TD all season. With that performance, Turner has now found the end zone in each of his last 3 games (totaling 5). He still needs to improve on his yardage totals, but as long as he continues to score TD’s; you can’t really complain. Turner could have his hands full in week 6 against the Bears 9th ranked run defense, but the odds were stacked even higher against him in week 5 and you already know the results from that match up. In addition, Chicago has given up 4 rushing TD’s in 4 games, so the chances of Turner finding pay dirt again in week 6 are pretty good. It’s a tough match up, but not one he can not easily overcome. Besides, would you really consider benching a guy coming off of a 3 TD game?

7. Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) – Just a few short days ago, Mendenhall was in for the match up of his life and easily ranked as a top 3 fantasy back for week 6. Unfortunately, recent developments have brought about a high degree of uncertainty with regard to his lofty fantasy potential for this extremely favorable match up. Mendenhall has apparently come down with the flu. Meanwhile, a much healthier Willie Parker has returned to a full practice with the Steelers first team offense. The Steelers are not expected to announce the name of the lucky starter until just prior to game time, that is, if they even bother to announce it at all. Our best guess is that Mendenhall will get the nod if he can recover in time, but that is not a sure bet by any stretch and Parker could see significant action even if Mendenhall is healthy. As of right now, Mendenhall still qualifies for fantasy rosters as a RB2 as there should be plenty to go around for both backs against a terrible Browns run defense. There is, however, an obvious risk here with so much uncertainty. We will keep you posted if any new developments arise. At the very least, we will do our best to have an update before the game on Sunday. UPDATE: Mendenhall was able to practice in full on Friday and is expected to resume his starting role on Sunday in spite of Willie Parker's return. Parker may steal a few touches, but Mendenhall should get the bulk.

8. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – Unfortunately, it looks like Correll Buckhalter will play on Monday night, but there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about keeping Moreno in your week 6 fantasy line up. For one, Buckhalter’s workload was dropping off bit by bit anyway and he still won’t be 100% healthy by Monday. Buckhalter will steal a few touches, but we doubt it will be significant under the circumstances. Even better, Moreno will face a Chargers run defense that ranks just 27th in the NFL. San Diego has been steam rolled by opposing backs all season and they have already allowed 6 rushing TD’s in 4 games. Moreno is an excellent starting option for week 6 in spite of Buckhalter’s return.

9. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – He has struggled in the yardage department in the last 4 weeks against some pretty stout opposition, but Jones continues to rack up TD’s which is the key to his fantasy success anyway. In week 6, Jones should do well form a yardage standpoint and the chances of him continuing his TD streak are promising against a lousy Buffalo run defense. The Bills currently rank 29th in the NFL against the run giving up an average of 155 ground yards per game. In addition, they have allowed 7 rushing TD’s in just 5 games. Jones is limited to some degree having to share carries with Leon Washington, but there should be plenty to go around for both backs in week 6.

10. Clinton Portis (WAS) – He finally found pay dirt not once, but twice in week 5 against the Panthers and Portis has an equally promising match up on the horizon for week 6 against the Chiefs. Kansas City currently ranks as one of the worst defenses in the NFL against the run giving up 133 ground yards per game and having allowed 6 rushing TD’s in just 5 games. Portis should have plenty of opportunity to do some damage in this match up. Check injury report: calf (probable)

11. Steven Jackson (STL) – If anyone is due to find the end zone, it’s this guy. He continues to put up solid yardage totals in spite of a terrible supporting cast, but the TD’s are not coming. That said, we like his chances in week 6. The key will be getting the passing game going this week, which isn’t as unlikely as you may think even for the Rams. The Jacksonville pass defense has been terrible so far this season and while the St. Louis passing attack is really bad in their own right; they should be able to do just enough to finally open up some running lanes for Jackson against a mediocre Jaguar run defense. Jackson qualifies as a solid starting option for your fantasy roster in week 6.

12. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – As much as we love the week 6 match up against Oakland, it is difficult to get too excited about Westbrook considering he has yet to rush for more than 64 yards and has yet to receive more than 13 carries in a game all season. That said, he does continue to find the end zone on a regular basis and a break out game is not at all out of the realm of possibilities against a terrible Raiders run defense. The Raiders rank just 31st in the NFL against the run giving up just over 160 rushing yards per game. In addition, they have allowed 7 rushing TD’s in just 5 games. Westbrook should be considered a low end RB1 for week 6 because of the breezy match up. He will continue to rotate with rookie LeSean McCoy.

13. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – In spite of his recent struggles, a week 6 match up against Tampa Bay is far too favorable to avoid. The last time Williams faced the Bucs in 2008, he totaled 192 yards while scoring 2 TD’s and that Tampa defense was far superior to the dumpster fire they have put on the field so far this season. That said, Williams hasn’t exactly been in top flight form himself in ’09, but we still like his chances. Tampa ranks just 28th in the NFL against the run giving up an average of 156 rushing yards per game. Williams running style matches up very well against this defense and he should get it going this week. If not, hit the panic button.

14. Chris Johnson (TEN) – With the exception of a monster week 2 performance, it’s safe to say that Johnson is in the midst of a sophomore slump. That said, Johnson is still plenty capable and another breakout game is well overdue. Unfortunately, yards and TD’s will be tough to come by against a stingy Patriots run defense in week 6. New England is giving up less than 100 ground yards per game and they have allowed just 1 rushing TD on the season. It will be tough sledding for Johnson against this defense, but Knowshon Moreno fared pretty well against them last week and Johnson is far too talented and valuable to give up on. He will need a better effort from his supporting cast.

15. Pierre Thomas (NO) – He is a must start fantasy option virtually every week regardless of match up when healthy. Unfortunately, that might not be the case heading into week 6 as Thomas is apparently suffering from a lingering hamstring injury. He did practice on a limited basis on Thursday (which is a good sign), but Mike Bell is now back from his injury and he practiced without limitations on Thursday (bad sign). The situation for Sunday appears very uncertain, but you may want to pick up Mike Bell for insurance if he is available. The match up is not all that unfavorable as the Giants rank just 15th in the NFL against the run and have surprisingly allowed 5 rushing TD’s in 5 games. We will have more updates as the situation develops, but for the time being, keep Thomas penciled in as a RB2. UPDATE: Thomas was able to practice on Friday and appears to be on track to start on Sunday against the Giants. He will give up a few carries to both Mike Bell and Reggie Bush, but Thomas should get the bulk of the touches including goal line carries. Check injury report: hamstring (probable)

16. Steve Slaton (HOU) – Sadly, mediocre performances are quickly becoming commonplace for Slaton. In his defense, Slaton has faced three of the NFL’s better run defenses in his first five games, but he has yet to rush for more than 76 yards in a game all season and that is inexcusable for a guy with such lofty expectations. While he did score twice against the lowly Raiders, big plays continue to be the exception and not the rule as expected. He will face a solid Bengals run defense in week 6. This is not a match up that he can not overcome, but at the same time, momentum is not on his side. There should be some opportunities in the passing game at the very least and Slaton should muster up enough production as a feature back to qualify as a serviceable RB2 this week. However, you should not get your hopes up for that breakout fantasy performance against this defense.

17. Ray Rice (BAL) – He is quickly turning into Mr. Versatility. What he lacks in the ground game, Rice easily makes up for in the passing attack and vice versa. He has also been one of fantasy football’s more consistent performers to date. That said, he will be facing his most difficult match up to date in week 6 against a stout Vikings run defense. Minnesota is giving up just 96 rushing yards per game on average and they are the only team in the NFL to not allow a single rushing TD all season. This is a tough match up, but as usual, Rice should be able to make up for any deficiencies in the ground attack with a solid effort in the passing game. He is a suitable RB2 for week 6, but we like him more in PPR fantasy formats under the circumstances.

18. Kevin Smith (DET) – We might like him more if Calvin Johnson were going to play, but that doesn’t seem likely which will negatively effect the passing game, which in turn could effect the running game. Anyway, you get the idea. Regardless, this is still a decent match up for Smith. The Packers rank a mediocre 20th against the run and Smith could actually see more targets in the passing game with Johnson out. He should make the cut as a RB2 for week 6. As a side note, Smith totaled 99 yards and scored a TD in his last game in Green Bay.

19. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – He continues to play in the shadow of his back up Ahmad Bradshaw who seems to out-produce him on a weekly basis. The silver lining is that Jacobs style of play should give him the edge over Bradshaw against the Saints style of defense in week 6. Unfortunately, neither back makes for a great fantasy option as the Saints are stout against the run in general ranking 7th in the NFL. Jacobs will of course receive any goal line carries which gives him value, but he should be lowered to RB2 status for this match up and a somewhat risky one at that given his recent lack of success.

20. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – We realize he is still in the process of knocking the rust off, but we were still pretty under whelmed with his 69 yard rushing performance against the lowly Browns. He was however very successful in the passing game for the second straight week which bodes well. In week 6, Lynch will face a declining Jets run defense on the road. Despite dropping all the way down to a ranking of 19 in run defense, the Jets are still formidable and they are not going to be in a good mood this week after getting embarrassed in week 5. On paper we like this match up a lot, but in realty, not so much. Lynch should continue to do well catching passes out of the backfield, but ground yards may be tough to come by. He is a RB2 at best and he should prove more valuable in PPR formats.

21. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (TB) – He has been terrible two out of the last three weeks, but considering that those games came against the Giants and Eagles, he probably deserves a little slack. Caddy should have a much easier go of it in week 6 against a Carolina run defense that ranks just 30th in the NFL. The Panthers have allowed 4 rushing TD’s in 4 games while allowing 156 ground yards per game on average. Williams is still risky given his recent lack of success and the fact that he has a poor supporting cast, but he has already surprised us a couple of times this season and this match up is favorable for a rebound.

22. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – He was not expected to have much success against Pittsburgh in his week 4 return from injury, but L.T. managed to do us one better by playing one of the worst games of his career. That said, we haven’t completely given up all hope and you have to cut him some slack under the circumstances. While we aren’t completely optimistic about his chances against a tough Broncos run defense in week 6, Tomlinson does have a couple of things in his favor. He will be completely healthy and well rested after the bye week and he did score 3 TD’s against the Broncos the last time he faced them (although that doesn’t count for much considering Denver is much improved in the run defense department). Don’t expect the L.T. of old, but a solid effort is not out of the realm of possibilities.

23. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – He continues to rip it up as he outshines Giants starter Brandon Jacobs on a weekly basis. That said, we actually like Jacobs a little more this week against a very stingy Saints run defense. Much of Bradshaw’s fantasy success stems from his ability to break long runs and the fact of the matter is that the Saints have not allowed a single run over 20 yards this season. That doesn’t mean Bradshaw won’t be the first to do it, it just makes it unlikely. That said, he is on a hot streak and could qualify as a RB2 or flex play this week, but don’t get your hopes up for a repeat of last week. Check injury report: foot

24. Tim Hightower (ARI) – He certainly isn’t on pace to win a rushing title this season, but Hightower has been solid near the goal line and especially good as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Due to those attributes, Hightower should be serviceable as a RB2 or flex option against the Seahawks in week 6, but you should keep in mind that receiving yards and TD’s are a risky endeavor to bet on for a fantasy RB.

25. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – He is not the safest of fantasy options playing second fiddle to DeAngelo Williams, but Stewart does get a fair share of carries and he did score the Panthers only rushing TD in week 5. He also has a promising match up on the horizon in week 6 against a leaky Tampa Bay run defense. The Bucs rank just 28th in the NFL against the run giving up an average of 156 rushing yards per game. Stewart could make for a decent bye week fill in or flex option considering the friendly match up. Check injury report: achilles’ (probable)

26. LeSean McCoy (PHI)
27. Leon Washington (NYJ)
28. Willis McGahee (BAL)
29. Sammy Morris (NE)
30. Fred Jackson (BUF)
31. Reggie Bush (NO)
32. Larry Johnson (KC)
33. Derrick Ward (TB)
34. Julius Jones (SEA)
35. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – Check injury report: hamstring (full practice Thurs.)
36. Correll Buckhalter (DEN) – Check injury report: ankle (probable)
37. Willie Parker (PIT) – UPDATE: Rashard Mendenhall was able to return to a full practice on Friday and is expected to start over Parker on Sunday. Parker should still see some action, but he is no longer a very safe fantasy option. Check injury report: toe (probable)
38. Mike Bell (NO) – Check injury report: knee (probable)
39. Michael Bush (OAK)
40. Darren Sproles (SD)
41. LenDale White (TEN)
42. Chris “Beanie” Wells (ARI)
43. Kevin Faulk (NE)
44. Jamaal Charles (KC)
45. Justin Fargas (OAK)
46. Jerome Harrison (CLE)
47. Chester Taylor (MIN)
48. Chris Brown (HOU)
49. Jerious Norwood (ATL)
50. Laurence Maroney (NE)

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