Here are my top 40 running backs for Week 3 (standard-scoring leagues).
To clarify, this countdown doesn't lean on a particular stat; it's merely an educated best guess of which rushers will tally the best combination of total yards and touchdowns for the NFL's third week.
To be honest, there isn't one particular combination of superstar and susceptible run defense that begs for the No. 1 spot.
So, when in doubt, ride the Big Three rushers at the top...along with the hottest back on the planet.
Top 40 Backs For Week 3
1. Ray Rice vs. New England
2. C.J. Spiller @ Cleveland
3. Arian Foster @ Denver
4. LeSean McCoy @ Arizona
5. Frank Gore @ Minnesota
6. Maurice Jones-Drew @ Indianapolis
7. Michael Bush vs. St. Louis
8. DeMarco Murray vs. Tampa Bay
9. Darren McFadden vs. Pittsburgh
10. Reggie Bush vs. N.Y. Jets
11. Marshawn Lynch vs. Green Bay
12. BenJarvus Green-Ellis @ Washington
14. Stevan Ridley @ Baltimore
13. Trent Richardson vs. Buffalo
15. Steven Jackson @ Chicago
16. Chris Johnson vs. Detroit
17. Jonathan Stewart vs. N.Y. Giants
18. Adrian Peterson vs. San Francisco
19. Darren Sproles vs. Kansas City
20. Doug Martin @ Dallas
21. Willis McGahee vs. Houston
22. Alfred Morris vs. Cincinnati
23. Shonn Greene @ Miami
24. Jamaal Charles @ New Orleans
25. Kevin Smith @ Tennessee
26. Ryan Mathews vs. Atlanta
27. Michael Turner @ San Diego
28. Isaac Redman @ Oakland
29. Beanie Wells vs. Philadelphia
30. Andre Brown @ Carolina
31. Ben Tate @ Denver
32. Donald Brown vs. Jacksonville
33. DeAngelo Williams vs. N.Y. Giants
34. Cedric Benson @ Seattle
35. Peyton Hillis @ New Orleans
36. Jackie Battle vs. Atlanta
37. Jonathan Dwyer @ Oakland
38. Mark Ingram vs. Kansas City
39. Mikel Leshoure @ Tennessee
40. Jacquizz Rodgers @ San Diego
1. For a second consecutive season, opportunity knocks for Michael Bush (1,395 total yards, eight TD in 2011) to post monster fantasy numbers as a high-end backup—this time with Chicago. Subbing for the injured Matt Forte (ankle), Bush immediately becomes a healthy bet for 90 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns every Sunday.
2. C.J. Spiller has rummaged through opposing defenses for 364 total yards and three touchdowns in two games. Last Sunday, he collected 170 total yards (123 rushing) and two scores against the Chiefs on just 18 touches. For back-to-back weeks, he warrants the No. 2 ranking.
3. In his last three clashes with the Colts, Maurice Jones-Drew has per-outing averages of 144 total yards and one touchdown. Here's another gem: In his last eight games against Indy (2008-11), MJD notched 100-plus total yards seven times.
4. Multiple Web sites have speculated on the return of San Diego's Ryan Mathews this week against Atlanta. But once again, I will resist the urge to assign a top-20 ranking to players initially coming off substantial injuries. In Mathews' case, he'll need one game to find his proverbial sea legs.
5. On one hand, I didn't want to rank either Arian Foster or LeSean McCoy in the top five, given their tough road matchups with Denver and Arizona, respectively. But there's a reason why both backs are reasonable threats for 1,700 total yards/16 touchdowns for the foreseeable future. They specialize in piling up big numbers, week after week, regardless of opponent.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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