NFL Week 3 Predictions: Top 10 Running Backs Poised to Post Big Points

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2012

NFL Week 3 Predictions: Top 10 Running Backs Poised to Post Big Points

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    With your standard amount of injuries, contract holdouts, overachievers and underachievers alike influencing matters so far this season, Week 3 looks likely to be just another notch on the NFL calendar.

    In a surprise-ridden Week 2, audiences witnessed a number of curveballs thrown their way that will have left more than a few fantasy coaches feeling left out in the cold, not least of which in the running back area.

    With that considered, there are sure to be plenty out there looking for the warmth that only a point-laden Week 3 can bring.

    So fear not, for there are those gaps to be spotted, those choices to be made, and should you feel the need to ponder that last-minute decision about whether to start that rushing talent or not, ponder no more.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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    Versus: Washington Redskins

    While the Washington Redskins front seven wasn’t much to brag about in the first place, the losses of Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker—who are now out for the season—certainly make the team’s defence that much weaker.

    As such, BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be the first star running back to test the depths of the Washington defensive line. The Cincinnati Bengals will ask several questions of the Redskins and see what answers Jim Haslett and Jacob Burney have in terms of replacements.

    “The Law Firm” will be looking to hit a Washington side that will still be reeling from those two injuries and this fixture promises to be an offensive slugfest.

    Renowned for his ability to keep hold of the ball, Green-Ellis certainly has the ability to open some predictable holes in the Redskins’ defence, and a two TD performance isn’t unrealistic.

Trent Richardson

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    Versus: Buffalo Bills

    After failing to live up to expectations in Week 1, Trent Richardson came into his own against what can be a staunch Cincinnati Bengals defence in Week 2.

    The rookie thrashed his way to almost 150 rushing yards, 36 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and is the Cleveland Browns' main offensive asset.

    Pat Shurmur appears to have placed an immense amount of trust in the youngster, despite the fact that Richardson is just 21 years old.

    To put that faith into numbers, Richardson has accumulated 38 rushing attempts so far this season; the rest of his squad has seven.

    The Buffalo Bills have allowed their opposition to run for a total of 134 yards so far this season. Bear in mind that 94 of those yards came from New York Jets’ RB, Shonn Greene, but that still doesn’t say a lot for the D-line.

    Kansas City didn’t have much to say against the Bills last week and while the AFC East representatives have been impressive in offence, they seem to come up without an answer when facing a talented running team.

    With Richardson in their ranks, that’s certainly an area of the play the Browns tend to threaten in.

Michael Bush

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    Versus: St. Louis Rams

    According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Matt Forté is likely to miss Chicago’s encounter with the St. Louis Rams, opening the door for Michael Bush to lead the Bears’ running line.

    Lovie Smith is exceedingly fortunate to have two very capable running backs at his disposal and despite the fact that Bush plays second fiddle on a regular basis, his breakout potential is not to be sniffed at.

    The Rams have allowed the joint-most yards per rushing play this season so far, letting the opposition run for an average of 5.5 yards per run, along with the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Not to mention the Rams are in the bottom third of teams for rushing yards allowed per game, giving Bush an easier opportunity to ease himself back into the fray.

    Last season showed us that Bush can struggle with a hefty workload, but the 28-year-old will undoubtedly have worked on that side of his game since then, and could be a more reliable alternative this time around.

Marshawn Lynch

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    Versus: Green Bay Packers

    After the San Francisco 49ers showed exactly just how easily the Packers defensive line can be cut apart, Mike McCarthy will be all too aware of the threat that Marshawn Lynch poses to his side this Sunday.

    Lynch was a great component and a good example of what worked well in the Seahawks’ 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.

    That said, the hosts will need their back to run as hard as ever, if they’re to take full advantage of their possession and outscore what is one of the best teams in this league.

    Last week, Lynch was struggling through injury but recovered enough to record 122 yards and one TD against the Cowboys.

    This week, the 26-year-old has been on a similar schedule and was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice, but should be ready to make his return for Monday Night Football.

    There are few running backs in this league who are harder to stop than Marshawn Lynch when he gets up to full steam, and the Packers will need to pray that injury takes over one of the Seahawks’ main weapons prior to Monday’s game.

Alfred Morris

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    Versus: Cincinnati Bengals

    Mike Shanahan surprised all when he decided to utilise Alfred Morris as his starting back this season, despite the original choice being between Roy Helu and Evan Royster.

    However, Morris’ two-touchdown debut against the New Orleans Saints seemed to pay back dividends and the youngster was rewarded with another heap of playing time in Week 2.

    Morris inevitably failed to live up to the expectations he put before himself, but may have done enough to earn another crack of the whip in Week 3, averaging 5.6 yards per carry against the St. Louis Rams.

    The 23-year-old goes up against a Bengals side that have looked inspired when going forward with the ball, but just aren’t the same team without the ball.

    Shanahan has shown a tendency to rotate his options in the past, but if it is Morris that gets the nod in Week 3, the holes are there to be picked apart in the Bengals defensive line, as fellow rookie, Trent Richardson, showed last week.

    Earlier this week, it was revealed that Morris is still driving the 1991 Mazda that he drove in college, regardless of the fact he can undoubtedly afford something a lot flashier.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with football ability or his chances of success in Week 3, but it’s a lot harder not to like the guy after learning that, isn’t it?

Maurice Jones-Drew

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    Versus: Indianapolis Colts

    Despite the fact that the whole debacle ended less than a month ago, Maurice Jones-Drew’s contract holdout would appear to be a thing of the past as the former UCLA collegiate has gotten firmly back to what he does best.

    A Week 2 demolition at the hands of the Houston Texans didn’t allow MJD to express himself to the fullest, but a Sunday fixture against Indianapolis makes for more promising numbers.

    Chuck Pagano’s side has improved upon last season’s run defence and while it may seem as if it would have been difficult to do anything but, it’s still a minor feat.

    The Colts allowed Matt Forté to run for 80 yards off 16 carries, while Adrian Peterson was limited to just 60 yards from an identical amount.

    However, Jones-Drew is a different test altogether and 2011’s best rushing asset will test this Colts defence to the core.

    Speaking to NFL.com about MJD, Pagano stated that: "He's like a bowling ball of butcher knives. He's got legs like tree trunks. Like two sequoias.”

    That he does, Chuck. That he does.

Arian Foster

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    Versus: Denver Broncos

    Arian Foster faces off with a tough Denver Broncos defence this Sunday, but that may not be enough to stop what is possibly the most sought after fantasy draftee this season.

    Last week, Foster settled for a shared role with fellow running back, Ben Tate, which head coach Gary Kubiak explained was due to the heat in Tampa, according to the Texans’ official site.

    Well, one thing you can bank on is a cooler breeze in Colorado, meaning Ben Tate is likely to be relegated to a secondary role for the visitors, meaning more carries for Foster.

    With three touchdowns in his last two games, Foster is simply one of those talents that has the potential to post big numbers, regardless of the opposition.

    Doubts continue to surround Peyton Manning and his team and if the Texans are to outscore this weekend’s opponents, you can bet that Foster will be at the forefront of it all.

C.J. Spiller

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    Versus: Cleveland Browns

    Last weekend was just the first example of life after Fred Jackson for Buffalo, and C.J. Spiller already appears to be thriving in the absence of the Bills' regular running back.

    After a freakishly high average yardage in Week 1, Spiller almost maintained his god-like form in Week 2, and currently finds himself settling for a disappointing 10.1 yards per carry.

    If you didn’t sense the sarcasm the first time around, that was a joke.

    Spiller’s record so far this season is of course tremendous and would appear set to continue against the Cleveland Browns, who are yet to claim a win this season.

    As the 25-year-old acclimatises to the newfound pressure on his shoulders, Spiller will only improve in his more prominent role and will look to maintain an already freakish yards per carry average.

    In Trent Richardson, the Browns have a powerful running asset, but the Bills have emerged with a second of their own.

    What’s more, Spiller has great receiving potential, making him an even bigger “must” as a starter for fantasy coaches.

Reggie Bush

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    Versus: New York Jets

    Second only to Arian Foster amongst RBs in terms of touches of the ball in Week 2, Reggie Bush showcased the superstar potential that makes some players impossible to bench.

    The former New Orleans Saint ran for 172 yards off 26 carries, scoring two TDs against the Oakland Raiders and was subsequently named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

    The New York Jets aren’t far behind the Raiders in rush defence and have allowed an average of 4.8 yards per carry this season, the sixth worst record in the league.

    As long as he can stave off injury, Bush has the ability to lead the Dolphins in a substantial running game.

    C.J. Spiller ran for huge points against the Jets in Week 1, and while the Steelers didn’t test the New York outfit on the ground, there’s no question that Miami will, with Bush leading the assault.

Darren Sproles

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    Versus: Kansas City Chiefs

    After allowing an average of 72 rushing yards in their opening two games, it goes without saying, that the Kansas City Chiefs are vulnerable to the running game.

    With Drew Brees as his quarterback, Darren Sproles receives the ball higher up the field than perhaps any other running back in the league.

    The 29-year-old is yet to carry one ball out of the backfield this season, but given the Chiefs’ strength in passing defence as opposed to rushing, that could all change in Week 3.

    That being said, Sproles did well to catch 13 of 14 passes in the 35-27 loss to Carolina, and is a versatile asset ready to be utilised in a variety of scenarios.

    With Pierre Thomas seeing less of the ball, Sproles will likely be the man to capitalise, and could do so in a big way against a flailing Kansas City.

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