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November 5, 2009

Fantasy Football Running Back Start/Sit Rankings (Week 9)


*Any additional updates that are necessary will be posted no later than Saturday in the final Week 9 (2009) rankings.

1. Maurice Jones–Drew
(JAC) – In his last 2 games, Jones-Drew has accumulated an unbelievable 351 all-purpose yards and 5 TDs. MJD now leads all other NFL RBs with 10 rushing TDs in 7 games and he has multiple TDs in 3 games this season. Nothing against Adrian Peterson, but Jones-Drew is building a strong case to be recognized as the new undisputed king of fantasy football. As for week 9, conditions are certainly favorable for yet another monster fantasy effort against a leaky Chiefs run defense. Kansas City ranks just 26th in the NFL against the run giving up 131 rushing yards per game and there are only 8 teams in the league that have allowed more fantasy points to opposing RBs. It’s safe to say that Jones-Drew is the best RB the Chiefs will face all season and we fully expect his fantasy numbers to reflect that in week 9.

2. Ray Rice (BAL) – He has yet another tough match up in week 9 against a Bengals run defense that currently ranks in the top 5 in the NFL. As you already know, the difficulty of his match up is pretty much a moot point as Rice has racked up yards and TDs all season against some of the best run defenses the NFL has to offer. In fact, he has already torched the Bengals defense once this season tallying 143 all-purpose yards and a TD against them in week 5. We see no reason why he shouldn’t do it again.

3. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – Heading into week 8, Arizona had shut down every RB they had faced all season and were ranked as the NFL’s best run defense. That was before Williams carved them up for 158 yards. It was the second time this season that Williams had exceeded 150 rushing yards in a game and it was even more impressive this time considering the caliber of defense he did it against. In week 9, he will face a beat up and declining New Orleans run defense. The Saints have been torched via the ground in their last 2 games without their top 2 run defenders in DT Sedrick Ellis and LB Scott Fujita. Neither Ellis nor Fujita are expected to return in week 9 which bodes extremely well for Williams in this match up. We like his chances for another big fantasy effort in week 9. In 2 games against the Saints last season, Williams combined for 244 rushing yards and scored 1 TD (receiving).

4. Michael Turner (ATL) – Thanks to the Falcons revamped run blocking scheme, Turner was able to rush for a season high 151 yards against the Saints in week 8. Hopefully, Atlanta’s new approach will continue to work in week 9 against the Redskins. Washington ranks just 22nd in the NFL in run defense giving up 119 rushing yards per game, but don’t let that ranking fool you as Washington ranks 2nd in the NFL in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing RBs (only the Steelers give up less). This is due to their stingy nature near the goal line allowing just 3 rushing scores in 7 games. Regardless, they will meet their match in week 9 against the goal line vulture known as Michael Turner. Turner has scored at least 1 TD in 6 straight games (8 total) and we seriously doubt that his streak will come to an end at home in week 9.

5. Chris Johnson (TEN) – Thanks to a reinvigorated Titans offensive line, some nifty moves, and an extra gear possessed by no one else in the NFL, Johnson was able to carve up a pretty good Jaguar run defense in week 8 in his quest for 2,000 rushing yards this season. If he reaches that lofty goal, Johnson says he will buy his entire O-line a new car at season’s end. We aren’t exactly sure how that will effect Johnson’s fantasy value moving forward, but a top flight RB with a motivated O-line certainly can’t be a bad thing in that respect. As for week 9, Johnson could have his hands full with a San Francisco run defense that ranks 2nd in the NFL giving up just under 85 rushing yards per game. Luckily, rushing yards aren’t everything and the Niners are actually middle of the road in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing RBs. They rank just 17th in that category amongst 32 NFL teams. Regardless, the NFL’s leading rusher is capable of running wild on any defense and he remains a must start every week.

6. Ryan Grant (GB) – As expected, Grant was not exactly stellar in week 8 totaling just 51 yards against a stout Vikings defense. The good news is that we fully expect him to rebound in week 9 against Tampa. The Buccaneers currently rank 30th in the NFL in run defense giving up 162 ground yards per game on average. In addition, there are only 5 teams in the league that have allowed more fantasy points to opposing RBs than Tampa Bay. You can probably expect the Packers to jump out to a big lead, rest a slightly gimpy Aaron Rodgers (after he torches the Bucs secondary in the 1st half of course) and see a heavy dose of Grant in the 2nd half against a very leaky and worn down Bucs run defense. This should translate into one of his better fantasy efforts of the season.

7. Cedric Benson (CIN) – He is averaging 103 rushing yards per game and he has scored a TD in 5 of 7 games including his last 3 contests. Benson has been one of fantasy football’s most consistent performers in the first half of the season and we expect nothing less in the 2nd half. As for week 9, Benson will face a familiar foe in the form of division rival Baltimore. The Ravens currently rank 4th in the NFL in run defense and they appeared to be reinvigorated in week 8 against Denver following their bye week. The good news is that Benson has already torched the Ravens once this season in week 5 totaling 136 yards and a score. Baltimore will certainly look to clamp down on him this time around and Benson will have his work cut out for him. That said, Benson has excelled in tough match ups all season and he already has a precedence of success against the Ravens, so you have to like his chances again this time around at home.

8. Frank Gore (SF) – As talented as Frank Gore may be, he truly is a wild card with regard to fantasy value most weeks. Gore has been fairly productive overall, but the vast majority of Gore’s total yards and TDs to this point have come on just a handful of plays. Otherwise, he has struggled badly and you certainly can’t count on Gore busting 70 yard runs every week to be productive. That being said, a week 9 match up against Tennessee is not unfavorable for just such a play. The Titans have actually been the poster children for giving up long runs in their last 2 games. Tennessee was gashed for several long runs in week 6 against the Pats including a 45 yarder by Laurence Maroney and Maurice Jones-Drew ran all over them last week, averaging 22 yards per carry with runs of 80 and 79 yards respectively. So as you can see, this match up actually bodes well for Gore. We also believe that a much improved Niners passing game with Michael Crabtree and Alex Smith will go a long way in helping this team move the ball more consistently on the ground, but the offensive line must improve their run blocking.

9. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – He has had a rather pedestrian first half of the season, but Jacobs has made some significant strides in the last 2 weeks and a week 9 match up against San Diego holds plenty of promise. The Chargers have been terrible against the run all season ranking 27th in the NFL. In addition, there are only 4 teams in the NFL that give up more fantasy points to opposing RBs than San Diego. Jacobs is averaging close to 5 yards per carry in his last 2 games against 2 of the better run defenses in the NFL (PHI, ARI), so you have to like his chances against a porous Chargers run D. Jacobs should be solid in week 9.

10. Pierre Thomas (NO) – Thomas’ role in a 3 man RB committee with Reggie Bush and Mike Bell does not do his fantasy value any favors as he is averaging just 12 carries per game over the last 3 weeks. That being said, if the match up is right, it really doesn’t matter. This is something we learned last week as Thomas had 100 all-purpose yards and 2 TDs (1 receiving) against a shaky Falcons run defense. Fortunately, he has yet another favorable match up in week 9 against Carolina. The Panthers give up the 8th most fantasy points to opposing RBs and they have been torched via the ground on more than one occasion already this season. Thomas’ role in the Saints offense still isn’t crystal clear, but his potential is. He should be great again in week 9.

11. Joseph Addai (IND) – He may not be one of the better RBs in the NFL, but as a fantasy option, there are few guys that can match his consistency. Addai has double digit fantasy efforts in 6 of 7 weeks, including 5 consecutive weeks with double digit production. He should continue that streak in week 9 against Houston. The Texans have improved their run defense significantly over the last few weeks, but as usual, the potent Colts passing attack should put Addai in prime position to find the end zone. We also love the fact that Addai has an excellent track record against Houston. Addai has 6 TDs in his last 4 games against them, scoring at least 1 TD in all 4 games. In fact, he has failed to reach the end zone against the Texans just 1 time in his career and that came in his rookie season (2006) and he still rushed for 100 yards in that game. Addai is a solid starting option against a Texans defense that he has owned throughout his career. As a side note, Donald Brown is expected to return in week 9, but Addai will be the featured back.

12. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – While Brown enjoyed the best game of his career last season at New England, we are less optimistic about his chances for a repeat in 2009. In that 2008 meeting, Brown and the Dolphins were able to catch the Pats completely off guard with the debut of their overwhelmingly successful wildcat package. Unfortunately, Brown and the wildcat alike were not nearly as successful in the rematch played later in the 2008 season as Brown totaled just 47 yards and had 0 TDs in that match up. In addition, the 2009 Patriots rank among the NFL’s best when it comes to stopping the run. New England has allowed just 1 rushing TD all season. All of that being said, Brown does have the potential for success in week 9 and his production so far this season merits starting him in fantasy, especially in a week where quality starting options at RB are thin at best.

13. Marion Barber (DAL) - @ PHI – He still isn’t playing at a high level in terms of yard production and we aren’t exactly blown away by his week 9 match up against a stout Philadelphia run defense, but that doesn’t mean Barber won’t be productive. Sure, yards will be tough to come by, but you have to believe that a high powered Cowboy passing attack, hitting on all cylinders of late, will get him in scoring range at least once. While it would be foolish to expect Barber to run wild on the Eagles, it is not unreasonable to believe that he will have a quality week 9 performance. Check injury report: thumb (probable)

14. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – He may not be playing at the high level we are accustomed to seeing, but he has not exactly been given much opportunity to do so. In 5 games played, Westbrook has just 41 carries and only has double digit carries in 2 games all season. All things considered, Westbrook’s numbers are not that bad and if given the chance, he is still fully capable of a monster performance any week. You probably won’t see that in week 9 against the Cowboys; just because Westbrook’s touches will almost certainly be limited again as he is coming off of a concussion. That being said, Westbrook is capable of doing a lot with a little and he has a history of lighting up Dallas, especially in the passing game. Westbrook is a bit risky for obvious reasons, but he has solid potential with this match up. Check injury report: concussion (officially listed as questionable, but he is expected to play)

15. Julius Jones (SEA) – Typically, having Julius Jones penciled into your starting fantasy roster means that you are in serious trouble, but there are those rare weeks when Jones can really pay off. Lucky for you, week 9 is one of those weeks. Jones will face a Detroit Lions run defense that can be very kind to opposing RBs. In fact, there are only 6 teams in the NFL that give up more fantasy points to RBs than the Lions. When the match up is right, Jones usually performs well. This is the week to pull him off the bench, dust him off and start him with a reasonable amount of confidence. Jones is not the easiest guy to trust, but he should not let you down in week 9.

16. Clinton Portis (WAS) – Sure, Portis is playing behind a second rate offensive line in a third rate offense, but he does have a few things going for him in week 9. The most important being that he is the healthiest that he has been all season. For the first time all year, he is not listed on the Redskins injury report and he should be fairly rejuvenated following a bye week. Portis also has a reasonably favorable match up against Atlanta. The Falcons rank just 23rd in the NFL against the run and they were very generous to the Saints RBs in week 8. While you probably can’t expect Portis to run all over the Falcons, considering he has virtually no supporting cast; you also shouldn’t count him out completely. He is capable of putting up solid numbers against anyone when healthy, which we assume is the case.

17. LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) – He finally made his way back into the end zone in week 8, and even better, he did it twice. Of course, it wasn’t a big shock against the Raiders and his yardage total left plenty to be desired considering the opponent. In week 9, L.T. will head to the Big Apple to take on a struggling Giants team. On paper, this match up is very favorable as the Giants rank a mediocre 19th in the NFL against the run and they have allowed 12 rushing TDs already this season (2nd most in the NFL). While Tomlinson has the potential to do some damage in this game, we aren’t completely sold on him and we also don’t believe that the Giants run defense is as bad as they look on paper. The old saying that the numbers do not lie does carry some weight in this instance, but the numbers do not tell the entire story either. Tomlinson should be adequate as a RB2 this week, but don’t get your hopes up for a monster game. He doesn’t have the offensive line or the extra gear anymore for that to happen.

18. Matt Forte (CHI) – On the one hand, Forte is coming off of his best fantasy effort of the season and the Arizona run defense is coming off of their worst game of the season which bodes well for Forte. On the other hand, Forte still needed 26 carries to rush for 90 yards against a terrible Browns run D and despite Arizona’s meltdown against Carolina’s talented RBs in week 8; they are still one of the better run defenses in the NFL which does not bode well for Forte. It truly is a tough match up to gauge. That said, if we had to lay our money down on the table, it would probably be on the Arizona run defense. Forte has underachieved all season and when you match the overall track records of the two, the Cardinals run defense clearly comes out on top. We aren’t saying that Forte will make for a bad fantasy option in week 9; it’s just that the odds are simply not in his favor for a big game.

19. Jamaal Charles (KC) – He could actually be a sneaky play in week 9 with Larry Johnson on suspension. Charles doesn’t exactly play in a first rate offense, but then again, he isn’t exactly facing a first rate Jacksonville defense in week 9 either. The Jags were toasted on the ground last week by Chris Johnson and while Charles is no Chris Johnson; he does have deceptive speed and the ability to make big plays against this defense. Charles is also a great receiver out of the backfield which makes him especially appealing in PPR fantasy formats. On the other side of the coin, Charles is known for having a bit of a fumbling problem and he often tries to do more than he is capable of which can result in busted plays and negative yardage. He isn’t the safest fantasy option because his offensive line is not exactly top shelf and the Chiefs often struggle to keep games close into the 4th quarter, which is what Charles will need to happen for him to be truly effective. That being said, we sort of like his chances for a productive week 9.

20. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – While we really like Stewart and his week 9 match up against a beat up Saints run defense, he is always a bit of a gamble with his uncertain role in the Panthers running game. He might get 20 carries and he might get 5 carries. You just never know. If you are willing to role the dice, Stewart is probably worth the risk for week 9. After all, he does have 4 TDs in his last 4 games, including 2 last week and the Saints have been steam rolled by opposing RBs in their last 2 games. Check injury report: achilles’ (listed as questionable, but he will play)

21. Tim Hightower (ARI) – He’s not going to win any rushing titles averaging 29 ground yards per game, but Hightower continues to find ways to put up solid fantasy numbers. In fact, he has put up double digit fantasy totals in 5 of his 7 games this season and has rushed for a TD in 4 straight games. Hightower has also played a substantial role as a receiver out of the backfield this season. He leads all NFL running backs with 39 receptions and ranks 3rd among all NFL backs with 296 receiving yards, making him ideal for PPR fantasy formats. He is a bit risky because of his light workload, but odd are he will find a way to produce again in week 9 against a middle of the road Bears defense.

22. Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) – He could have a tough row to hoe in week 9 as he heads to the Mile High City to take on Denver’s 3rd ranked run defense. The Broncos have been one of the stingier run defenses in the NFL this season in terms of fantasy production for RBs and they have been especially good in that regard when playing at home. The silver lining is that Mendenhall is always capable of punching one into the end zone and Ray Rice had a fair amount of success against the Broncos defense just last week. You probably shouldn’t expect an overwhelmingly productive game from Mendenhall, but he is capable of serviceable fantasy numbers as a RB2 with this match up. He does need to stop fumbling the football if he wants to hang on to the starting job.

23. Kevin Smith (DET) – He will be able to play this week in spite of a shoulder injury, but you probably shouldn’t expect a significant contribution from him. While Smith doesn’t have the worst of match ups in week 9, it could certainly be better as he will face a middle of the road Seahawks run defense on the road. It will help if the Lions star wide out Calvin Johnson is able to return from injury as a healthier passing game will go a long way in opening up holes for Smith. Smith should also have opportunities in the Lions passing game which is likely where most of his fantasy value lies in this match up. He qualifies as a RB2 or flex play for week 9 with decent upside in PPR formats. Check injury report: shoulder (probable)

24. Ryan Moats (HOU) – Texans coach Gary Kubiak has stated all week that all three Houston RBs will play in week 9. Unfortunately, no one other than Kubiak knows how much each back will play. Our best guess is that Moats will get the start. At the very least, last week’s performance should have earned him significant playing time. It just seems logical. He far exceeded anything Slaton had done in a single game all season and more importantly, Moats did not fumble. To be clear, this is speculation on our part and in spite of our best guess, Moats is a risky fantasy play. He has a decent match up against a Colts run defense that can be very shaky at times, but it’s still difficult to gauge his fantasy value under the circumstances. He should prove worthy of the risk as a low end RB2 or flex option, especially if you are in a tight spot and need a bye week replacement.

25. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – While he has become slightly more risky as a fantasy option since discovering a broken bone in his foot, Bradshaw will continue to play and without much limitation barring any further set backs. As usual, he will not receive a significant workload either, but that may not be necessary to do some significant damage against San Diego in week 9. There are only 4 teams in the NFL that give up more fantasy points to opposing RBs than the Chargers and San Diego ranks just 27th in the league in run defense. In addition, Bradshaw’s running style matches up very well against this defense. It would not be the least bit surprising if he busted a long run against them this week. That said, he is still a gamble with regard to fantasy. Check injury report: foot (probable)

26. Mike Bell (NO) – vs. CAR
27. Ricky Williams (MIA) - @ NE
28. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – vs. PIT
29. Laurence Maroney (NE) – vs. MIA
30. Steve Slaton (HOU) - @ IND
31. Donald Brown (IND) – vs. HOU - Check injury report: shoulder (questionable)
32. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (TB) – vs. GB
33. Reggie Bush (NO) – vs. CAR
34. LeSean McCoy (PHI) – vs. DAL
35. Chris “Beanie” Wells (ARI) - @ CHI
36. Darren Sproles (SD) - @ NYG
37. Felix Jones (DAL) - @ PHI
38. Correll Buckhalter (DEN) – vs. PIT
39. Justin Forsett (SEA) – vs. DET
40. Maurice Morris (DET) – vs. SEA
41. LenDale White (TEN) - @ SF
42. Kevin Faulk (NE) – vs. MIA
43. Willie Parker (PIT) - @ DEN
44. Derrick Ward (TB) – vs. GB
45. Chris Brown (HOU) - @ IND
46. Willis McGahee (BAL) - @ CIN
47. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE) – vs. MIA
48. Rashad Jennings (JAC) – vs. KC
49. Kolby Smith (KC) - @ JAC - Check injury report: knee (questionable)
50. Tashard Choice (DAL) - @ PHI

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