We're only three weeks into the 2012 NFL season, and already one of my favorite fantasy football mantras is proving truer than ever—you can never have too many running backs.
Injuries and sluggish starts have wreaked havoc on fantasy squads and in the NFL at the running back position, with the Buffalo Bills already watching one back go down, a star ascend in his place and then that star fall from grace with an injury of his own.
Whether you're trying to cobble together a lineup or you have depth at the running back position and are trying to decide on this week's starters, here's a look at a trio of fantasy running backs that could be set for big things in Week 4.
Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers come into their matchup Sunday with the New Orleans Saints sputtering offensively and fresh off having the rug yanked out from under them by the officials at the end of Monday night's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. If the team is going to get back on track, it may want to do something that seemingly runs against the grain of its offensive mindset.
The Saints defense has been positively horrendous against the run this season, ranking dead last in the NFL. However, even after being gashed by running back Jamaal Charles for 233 yards last week, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnualo told Dan Parr of Pro Football Weekly that New Orleans has no plans to change what they're doing (or not doing) against the run.
We had no problem with the way the game was being played up to that (long run), Spagnuolo said. “When I say up to that point, I just think we were doing the right things. We were getting them in third down, there were some tackles for losses. Did he have a couple of chunk, seven or eight? Good players are going to do that. On the back end of that, you could put nine guys down there and take away the run. It puts a lot of pressure on your corners. We didn’t give up that over-the-top.
If the Saints take that same defensive philosophy into Lambeau Field, then it's going to mean plenty of room to rumble for Benson, making him a rock-solid fantasy RB2 start this week with RB1 upside.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
Speaking of rumbling, bowling-ball back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be looking to rebound this week after the fifth-year pro had one of the worst games of his NFL career in last week's win over the Washington Redskins.
Not only did the 27-year-old manage only 38 yards on 17 carries, but Green-Ellis also lost a fumble for the first time in his professional career, although he did find the end zone for the second time this season.
This week's opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, would seem an ideal candidate for "Law Firm" to rebound against, given that the Jaguars have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs so far this year.
Throw in that the Bengals could easily find themselves out in front and looking to control the clock in the second half and the table is set for Green-Ellis to post strong statistical production Sunday afternoon.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
It's been something of a rocky start to the 2012 season for Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner. Not only has the ninth-year veteran averaged less than four yards a carry and and was arrested earlier this month for DUI, but as Pat Yasinkas of ESPN points out Turner is watching his role in the Falcons offense decrease as the season progresses.
In the Week 3 victory against San Diego, Jacquizz Rodgers got slightly more playing time than Turner. Rodgers was on the field for 34 of Atlanta’s 72 plays, while Turner participated in 32.
None of this is welcome news for Turner's fantasy owners, but coming off his best game of the year so far, the 30-year-old plodder should still be in fantasy lineups when the Falcons host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
As New York Giants reserve running back Andre Brown showed quite clearly last week, the Panthers' run defense is abysmal, and with Carolina giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, this year Turner could still have lower-end RB2 or "flex" value even in a time share.