Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings for Divisional Round Games: Running Backs

Kevin HansonAnalyst IIIJanuary 12, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs for a touchdown during the NFL game against  the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Of the 15 NFL running backs that rushed for 1,000-plus yards this season, only four of them will be playing this weekend.

Three of them play in the AFC: Baltimore's Ray Rice, Houston's Arian Foster and Denver's Willis McGahee. The other is San Francisco's Frank Gore.

Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), they all play for the four teams that have the worst passing offenses of the remaining eight teams.

In other words, the quarterbacks of the teams with the 1,000-yard rushers are Joe Flacco, T.J. Yates, Tim Tebow and Alex Smith. The other four quarterbacks are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning.

Here are our running back rankings for the divisional round:

1. Ray Rice, Ravens (vs HOU): Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage this season (2,068). In his first matchup against the Texans, Rice had 23 carries for 101 yards plus five receptions for 60 yards.

2. Arian Foster, Texans (at BAL): No running back has more yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons than Foster (4,061). Although Foster was inactive in Week 17, he has three consecutive games with 100-plus rushing yards and a touchdown. During that three-game span, Foster has 63 carries for 420 yards and four touchdowns plus 11 receptions for 103 yards. That said, Foster had only 49 rushing yards in his first matchup against the Ravens.

[Related: Take our poll on which RB will have more yards from scrimmage this weekend: Foster or Rice?]

3. Frank Gore, 49ers (vs NO): Gore stayed healthy enough to play in 16 games for only the second time in his career. He finished with 282 carries for 1,211 and eight touchdowns, all of which are the second-highest totals of his career. But he also finished with a career-low 114 receiving yards.

4. Darren Sproles, Saints (at SF): In the regular season, Sproles had one less reception (86) than he had carries (87). It's unlikely that Sproles gets even one rushing touchdown against the 49ers after having two of them last week against the Lions, but he had a receiving touchdown in each of the final three regular-season games of the year.

5. Willis McGahee, Broncos (at NE): McGahee had his third-highest yardage total (1,199 rushing yards) of his career, but he actually set a career low in rushing touchdowns (four) this season.

6. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (at GB): Bradshaw had a decent game last week (85 yards from scrimmage but no touchdowns). In the final three regular-season games of the year, Bradshaw scored a total of five touchdowns -- four rushing and one receiving.

7. Brandon Jacobs, Giants (at GB): It's anyone's guess what you'll get from Jacobs in any given week. After three straight games with 42 yards or less, Jacobs ran with power and racked up 92 rushing yards on 14 carries and another eight yards on two receptions last week.

8. Pierre Thomas, Saints (at SF): Last week, Thomas had eight carries for 66 yards and a touchdown plus six receptions for 55 yards. Thomas has yet to have more than 10 carries in any game this season, but he has had at least three receptions in 11 games.

9. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (vs DEN): The good news: Green-Ellis has scored six touchdowns in his past six games. The bad news: The Law Firm has less than 25 rushing yards in five consecutive games.

10. James Starks, Packers (vs NYG): Starks has only played in one game since his first matchup against the Giants on Dec. 4th, but he has practiced fully this week and is expected to play Sunday.

11. Ben Tate, Texans (at BAL): Tate averaged 62.8 rushing yards per game and finished with 942 yards this season in 15 games. Had he played all 16 games and rushed for his average in the game he missed, the Texans would have had two 1,000-yard rushers.

12. Ryan Grant, Packers (vs NYG): Grant has over 400 yards from scrimmage (243 rushing and 162 receiving) in his past four games. It's hard to imagine Grant being anywhere near as productive with Starks expected back this week.

13. Christopher Ivory, Saints (at SF): While Ivory will likely lead the Saints in carries, the 49ers have allowed a league-low 77.3 rushing yards per game and three rushing touchdowns all season. (That said, they did not allow a rushing touchdown until Week 16.)

14. Kendall Hunter, 49ers (vs NO): In his past two games, Hunter has 28 carries for 149 yards and three receptions for 22 yards. That said, there's little chance (barring injuries) that Hunter gets more work than Gore this week. I expect Hunter to get around 8-10 carries for 40-50 yards.

Other positions: QBs | WRs | TEs

Playoff Predictions: 49ers vs. Saints | Patriots vs. Broncos | Ravens vs. Texans | Packers vs. Giants

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