There are certain running backs who, unless they are injured, you must start every week. Players like Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Maurice Jones-Drew instantly come to mind.
After that, however, you shouldn't be afraid to play the matchups if you have enough depth at running back to do so. With so many question marks at the position heading into the season, playing the matchups early in the season until you get a clearer look at how the running backs are faring in 2012 is the way to go.
Keeping that in mind, I've identified a few running backs who are likely being utilized as either a RB2 or a flex player but should absolutely be benched this week. Chances are, you'll be able to find a player on your bench with far more upside in Week 1 than the following guys.
Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers
If you were thinking about starting Benson as your flex in Week 1, think again. For one, it remains to be seen how effective he'll be on the pass-happy Packers at all this season.
For another, the Packers face the San Francisco 49ers, a team that easily had the best run defense in the league a year ago. They allowed just 77.2 rushing yards per game and only three rushing touchdowns over the entire season!
To put that in perspective, LeSean McCoy had three rushing touchdowns after the first two weeks last season.
Not surprisingly, the 49ers gave up the fewest fantasy points to running backs a year ago. Don't expect that trend to change. And for heaven's sake, please keep Benson on your bench.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals play the Baltimore Ravens, who had the second-best rush defense to the surprise of absolutely no one last year. They also allowed the six-fewest fantasy points to running backs, so I see no upside in this matchup for the Law Firm.
I'm not completely sold on Green-Ellis as an RB2 at all this year, and I'm not so sure he'll be as consistent a flex as people hope. He just doesn't do it for me, I guess. But against the Ravens, he would be planted firmly on my bench if I did own him.
Conventional football wisdom tells you that a Week 1 matchup against the Houston Texans is a no-win situation for Bush. After all, the Texans had the fourth-best run defense in the NFL last season and also gave up just eight rushing touchdowns.
But it gets worse. Savvy fantasy owners will remind you that the Texans also gave up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011, and only gave up 12 total points to Miami backs when the two teams met in Week 2 a year ago.
In 2011, the Texans held an opponent's running backs—all of them, not just the starter—to less than 15 total fantasy points nine times. Nine times! The moral of this story: Bush simply doesn't have enough upside to start in Week 1. Not even close.
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos
1. The Broncos are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were eighth in run defense a year ago and allowed the fourth-least fantasy points to running backs last season. This is one of those matchups you try to avoid.
2. We really don't know what to expect from McGahee this season. Yes, he seems locked in as the starter right now, but is he the type of back who will thrive alongside of Peyton Manning? Or will Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman or even Knowshon Moreno become the guy?
3. Read No. 1 again. Never underestimate the Pittsburgh defense.
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