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October 29, 2009

Fantasy Football Running Back Start/Sit Rankings (Week 8)

1. Steven Jackson (STL) – While he has yet to score a TD to this point, Jackson has been one of the most consistently productive fantasy backs in the NFL so far this season. With a 134 yard rushing effort in week 7, Jackson has 3 consecutive games with 100 or more total yards and now ranks 3rd in the NFL in rushing. Even better, he will be in for his most promising match up to date against a generous Detroit Lions defense in week 8. The Lions rank in the bottom half of the NFL in almost every statistical category on defense and Jackson should easily carve them up on the ground and through the air. We are also very optimistic that this will be the week that he finds the end zone. There is not a more solid fantasy option at the RB position for week 8.

2. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – The Packers were able to hold Peterson in check in terms of ground yards in week 4, but he was still able to find the end zone extending his TD streak against them to 3 consecutive games. While Green Bay will likely throw everything they have at him again this time around, it should be all but impossible to shut him down. So in spite of the difficult match up against a solid Packer run defense, Peterson is a must start fantasy option. As you already know, he is the best RB in the NFL and he gives you a shot at solid production against anyone in any week.

3. Steve Slaton (HOU) – He continues to struggle to gain yards on the ground, but Slaton has more than made up for it in recent weeks via the passing game and his ability to find the end zone. He now has 5 TDs in his last 4 games to go along with 207 receiving yards. Even better, Slaton is looking at his softest match up of the season to this point against a porous Buffalo run defense in week 8. The Bills rank dead last in the NFL in run defense giving up 172 rushing yards per game. In addition, they have allowed 9 rushing TD’s through 7 games. One way or another, Slaton should be productive this week, but this is probably his best shot at a 100 yard rushing performance and we like his chances. Start him!

4. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – While the Titans defense can easily be regarded as one of the worst in the NFL so far this season, they are still formidable in stopping the run (at least when it’s not snowing). A fact that MJD found out the hard way when he faced Tennessee in week 4. In that game, the Titans held Jones-Drew to 14 yards rushing on 6 carries. Fortunately, Jones-Drew was able to salvage the day to some degree by finding the end zone and adding 26 receiving yards. He is capable of running wild on any defense which he has already proven on a few occasions this season. Jones-Drew always has a good shot at finding pay dirt, sometimes multiple times and he’s always productive in the passing game. For those reasons, you have to like his chances and MJD should find a way to put up nice numbers in week 8. However, you also need to keep in mind that Tennessee is not a creampuff when it comes to stopping the run.

5. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – Not only has Jones scored at least 1 TD in his last 4 games, he has also been racking up the yards in the last couple of weeks. In week 8, he will face a potent Miami run defense that ranks 4th in the NFL. This will be the second time Jones has faced the Dolphins in less than a month and while they were able to hold his yardage total in check the first time around, Jones was able to supplement his lack of ground yards by scoring 2 TDs against them in that game. Jones may have difficulty gaining yards on the ground this time around as well, but finding the end zone has become second nature for him and his chances of doing so are very good, if not great. In addition, he only had 13 carries against Miami in the first game. He should see a significant increase in his workload in the rematch with Leon Washington out which should help his overall production. Jones is one of the hottest fantasy backs in the league right now and despite the tough match up, we expect him to come out on top once again.

6. Ray Rice (BAL) – He seems to top himself each week regardless of the opponent and Rice now leads the NFL in all purpose yards with 766. In week 8, he will face a stout Denver run defense that ranks 3rd in the NFL. The Broncos have been very stingy with regard to giving up fantasy points to opposing RBs so far this season. That being said, Rice is not your run of the mill fantasy back. He is dangerous on the ground, but his strong suit lies in his versatility in the passing game. As we stated earlier, Rice has had little regard for the strength of his opposition so far this season having already faced some pretty good defenses with great success. While the Denver defense presents a stiff challenge, Rice should find a way to produce as usual.

7. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – He didn’t have a monster game in week 7 as that honor went to fellow back mate Ricky Williams, but Brown did manage to extend his TD streak to 3 games and he now has 7 rushing scores on the season. In week 8, he will face a once proud Jets run defense for the second time in less than a month. In their first meeting, Brown put up 88 all purpose yards and scored 2 TD’s. Since that time, the Jets have grown significantly weaker against the run due to some key injuries which makes the rematch all the more favorable. Brown is more than capable of putting up huge numbers, but as we saw last week, he can be limited by the success of the equally capable Ricky Williams. Fortunately, there should be enough to go around for both backs to have a great day.

8. Kevin Smith (DET) – There is not another RB in the NFL that has faced a tougher schedule to this point than Kevin Smith and yet, his numbers have not been all that bad. The good news is that he will finally catch a break in week 8 against a soft Rams defense at home. St. Louis ranks just 27th in the NFL in run defense giving up an average of 136 ground yards per game. Even better, they have already allowed 11 rushing TDs in 7 games tying them with the Raiders for most rushing TDs allowed in the NFL. In spite of his poor supporting cast, we will be surprised if Smith isn’t sitting near the top of fantasy leader boards at the end of week 8. He is a must start with his best match up to date.

9. Matt Forte (CHI) – As big of a disappointment as he has been so far this season, Forte would almost have to go out of his way to screw up a match up against the Browns in week 8. This is by far his best match up of the season. It’s even more favorable than his week 4 match up against Detroit which, by the way, produced his one and only quality fantasy performance of the season. Cleveland is giving up a ridiculous 171 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs and they have also allowed 10 rushing TDs in 7 games. The Bears coaching staff must increase Forte’s dwindling workload for him to reap the full benefits of this match up, but that is a strong possibility and Forte should get out of the fantasy dog house, at least for one week anyway.

10. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – While Tomlinson’s numbers continue to be a bit on the pedestrian side, we still like his chances for week 8. Oakland is absolutely terrible against the run and they seem to get worse by the week, if that is even possible at this point. They allow 170 rushing yards per game on average. They have given up 11 rushing TD’s in 7 games tying them for most in the NFL with the Rams and most importantly, only the Bills give up more fantasy points to opposing RBs on a weekly basis. It is also promising that Tomlinson’s only TD of the season came against the silver and black back in week 1.

11. Chris Johnson (TEN) – While the hit or miss home run threat is always capable of putting up big numbers against anyone, Johnson might actually have his work cut out for him in week 8 against the Jaguars. It’s no secret that the Jacksonville defense is terrible against the pass, but they are actually very solid against the run. In fact, only 6 teams have given up fewer fantasy points to opposing RBs than the Jags. Regardless, the Titans will probably do their best to get Johnson the ball as much as possible this week with Vince Young starting at QB, and the more touches he gets, the more dangerous he becomes. The explosive second year back is always one play away from taking one to the house. Big play potential alone should be enough to get Johnson on fantasy rosters as a low end RB1 for week 8, but there are no guarantees. Johnson had 94 all purpose yards against the Jags in week 4.

12. Joseph Addai (IND) – Addai’s yards per carry average leaves plenty to be desired, but a potent Colts passing attack always seems puts him in a position to find the end zone. He has now scored a TD in all but 1 game this season. As for week 8, at first glance a match up against the 49ers 6th ranked run defense does not appear all that promising, but when you consider that the vast majority of Addai’s fantasy production comes from TDs and his use in the passing game; the Niners ability to hold Addai’s rushing yards in check becomes a relatively moot point. In a sense, this match up is right up Addai’s alley because no team in the NFL has given up more production to RBs in the passing game than San Francisco and by a wide margin. Plus, you know Peyton Manning and company are going to get him near the goal line at least once. Addai should also benefit from an increased workload this week with Donald Brown out with a shoulder injury. However, Mike Hart should steal a few carries in place of Brown.

13. Michael Turner (ATL) – He still isn’t getting the type of yardage totals that we expect to see from him, but Turner and fantasy owners alike continue to cash in on his knack for finding pay dirt. Turner has at least 1 TD in each of his last 5 games and now has 7 TDs on the season. In week 8, he will face a New Orleans run defense that ranks 8th in the NFL giving up just over 90 ground yards per game. Fortunately for Turner, the Saints are a little more generous to opposing RBs near the goal line as they have allowed 8 rushing scores in 6 games. Yards may be tough to come by for Turner once again, but conditions will be favorable for him to find the end zone again in week 8. Consider him a high end RB2 with this match up.

14. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – In spite of an overwhelmingly difficult week 7 match up against Arizona’s top ranked run defense, Jacobs was able to put up fairly impressive numbers totaling 87 yards and adding a TD. In week 8, he will square off against division rival Philadelphia. The Eagles have been solid so far this season stopping the run giving up 96 rushing yards per game and allowing just 3 TDs on the ground in 6 games. That said, the last time Jacobs went to Philly to take an equally solid Eagles run defense in 2008, he torched them for 126 yards and 2 scores. He probably won’t find that kind of success this time around and this match up will be a tough test, but he looked more like the Jacobs of old in week 7 and we wouldn’t put it past him to surprise. It is also worth noting that Jacobs could see an increase in carries with news that Ahmad Bradshaw has a cracked bone in his foot. Bradshaw will continue to play through the injury, but we still expect to see more Jacobs and less Bradshaw as the season progresses.

15. Frank Gore (SF) – A week 8 match up against Indianapolis is not completely unfavorable as the Colts have been known to get gashed on occasion, but the fact of the matter is that Gore did not look up to par in week 7. In addition, this game could get out of hand early forcing the 49ers to ignore Gore in the ground game and the Colts are notorious for limiting RBs in the passing game which is usually a strong suit for Gore. Again, we aren’t saying that he is going to be a complete bust this week because the Indy run defense is a long way from being considered a shut down unit. We are simply stating that this match up is not as appealing as it looks on paper. Gore still qualifies as a serviceable RB2. Just don’t get your hopes up for a major rebound.

16. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – While Williams has a very good track record against the Cardinals over the last 2 seasons (3 games against them), the Arizona run defense is very much improved over the past 2 seasons. In fact they boast the best run defense in the NFL allowing just 67 rushing yards per game and they have only given up 3 rushing TDs all season. Williams’ exceptional talent is enough to keep him penciled into fantasy line ups as a RB2 for week 8 and Brandon Jacobs was able to find some success against the Cardinals last week which bodes well for Williams to some degree, but this match up is still quite risky for him.

17. Marion Barber (DAL) – Ever since Barber injured his quad in week 2, his fantasy production has taken a huge hit. He has had no more than 53 rushing yards and has scored just 1 TD since that time. That being said, Barber and the Cowboys trainers claim that the injury is no longer a lingering issue and they expect him to return to form in week 8. While they have pretty much said the same thing the last 3 weeks, there is at least some credence to it this week as his thigh is no longer listed on the injury report and his fractured thumb has pretty much been a non issue from the get go. For what it’s worth, we are also somewhat optimistic that Barber can return to form in week 8. The match up against a Jekyll and Hyde Seahawks run defense at home is decent enough and Barber is definitely overdue to get back into the end zone. Check injury report: thumb (probable)

18. Ricky Williams (MIA) – He is outshined most weeks by fellow Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown, but Williams was easily the big winner in week 7 with a monster 3 TD performance. It’s safe to say that he is quickly climbing his way back in to the good graces of fantasy owners as a viable week to week option. While you certainly can’t expect Williams to match his week 7 production, we like his chances for a solid outing in week 8 against a banged up Jets run defense that is clearly on a steady descent downward. Williams has already proven he can be successful against this defense as he managed to rustle up 138 all purpose yards against them in week 5. He can still be a bit risky with his uncertain workload, but he should be adequate as a RB2 or flex option this week with nice upside. Check injury report: thumb (probable)

19. Ryan Grant (GB) – As expected, Grant easily had his best week of the season against the Browns rushing for 148 yards and a score. A week 8 rematch against the Vikings should prove to be much more difficult. Only 3 teams in the NFL have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing RBs this season and Grant didn’t exactly light Minnesota up in week 4 rushing for just 51 yards and 0 TDs. That said, he did manage to put up 50 receiving yards in that game and the odds are slightly better for him this time around playing at home. Grant should be regarded as a capable but risky RB2 option with this match up.

20. LeSean McCoy (PHI) – McCoy will almost certainly serve as the Eagles featured RB back this week as there appears to be little to no chance that Brian Westbrook can return so soon from a severe concussion that he suffered just a few days ago. McCoy fared pretty well the last time he filled in for Westbrook totaling 93 yards and a score against Kansas City. Unfortunately, McCoy will have a much bigger test in week 8 against the Giants. That said, the Giants have not been as dominate against the run as in year’s past and they have given up an embarrassing 10 rushing TDs already this season (2nd most in the NFL). The Giants do present a challenge, but this match up is just favorable enough to consider McCoy as a decent RB2 or flex option this week.

21. Mike Bell (NO) – We still like Pierre Thomas, but Bell appears to have more fantasy value than Thomas at the present time. Bell is not only the goal line back, but he also reaps the benefits of facing worn down defenses in the second half. Even better, a week 8 match up against Atlanta is somewhat favorable. The Falcons rank 23rd in the NFL in run defense and while Atlanta has been stingy near the goal line giving up just 3 rushing TDs on the season; you have to believe that the potent Saints passing game will set up a goal line carry or two for him. We really like Bell in this match up, but due to his timeshare role with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, Bell is going to be limited to some degree and should only be used as a RB2 or flex option this week.

22. Marshawn Lynch (BUF) – While Lynch posted his first TD of the season in week 7 against Carolina, we can’t help but be under whelmed by his overall lack of production since returning from suspension. It would be one thing if he had been playing top flight run defenses, but Lynch even struggled a bit against Cleveland and is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. In week 8 he will face a Houston run defense that struggled mightily against opposing ground games early in the season, but have since found their way. This looks like a creampuff match up for Lynch on paper, but don’t let that fool you. The Texans have been one of the better run defenses in the NFL over the last few weeks and they will not be a pushover.

23. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – It wasn’t long ago that a match up against the Ravens translated into the kiss of death for a fantasy RB and yet, Baltimore has allowed the last 2 RBs they have faced to rush for well over 100 yards against them. A feat once thought to be impossible. This bodes well for Moreno in week 8 as he will be the next back to face them. That being said, Moreno will be limited by sharing carries with Corel Buck halter and he did not look especially sharp in his last game against a typically generous San Diego run defense. This does not bode so well. Moreno should be decent, but expectations should also be limited to some degree under the circumstances. In spite of the Ravens recent struggles against the run, it does not mean that they are some pushover that can be taken advantage of by just any RB all of a sudden.

24. Pierre Thomas (NO) – The last time Thomas faced the Falcons at the end of 2008; he rushed for 102 yards and added 2 TDs. That being said, he was pretty much the only healthy back the Saints had at the time which is quite different from the 3 man timeshare Thomas has to contend with presently. In addition, Thomas’ potential for TDs is pretty much limited to him breaking a long run as Mike Bell now handles goal line duties. Don’t get us wrong, Thomas is plenty capable of inflicting some serious damage against a vulnerable Atlanta run defense, but the circumstances limit the potential of that happening.

25. Chris “Beanie” Wells (ARI) – It is obvious that his role in the Cardinals offense is increasing and he should see even more playing time after a solid performance against the Giants in week 7. Wells has the potential to be even better in week 8 against a Carolina run defense that has been very kind to opposing RBs so far this season. While this match up is favorable and we do expect to see more of Wells moving forward; you must keep in mind that he plays in a pass first offense and his workload is never certain with Tim Hightower still very much in the picture. Wells should be considered a high risk/high reward fantasy option for week 8 with the favorable match up.

26. Justin Fargas (OAK)
27. Darren Sproles (SD)
28. Shonn Greene (NYJ)
29. Tim Hightower (ARI)
30. Felix Jones (DAL)
31. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – Check injury report: foot (probable)
32. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – Check injury report: wrist (probable)
33. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – Check injury report: achilles’ (probable)
34. Reggie Bush (NO)
35. Correll Buckhalter (DEN)
36. Willis McGahee (BAL)
37. Julius Jones (SEA)
38. Mike Hart (IND)
39. Michael Bush (OAK)
40. Jason Snelling (ATL) – Check injury report: hamstring (very questionable)
41. Chris Brown (HOU)
42. Fred Jackson (BUF)
43. Chester Taylor (MIN)
44. Tashard Choice (DAL)
45. Jerome Harrison (CLE)
46. LenDale White (TEN)
47. Justin Forsett (SEA)
48. Leonard Weaver (PHI)
49. Maurice Morris (DET)
50. Rashad Jennings (JAC)

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