We are now a quarter way through the fantasy football season, with teams running the gamut from 4-0 powerhouses to 0-4 powder-puffs and 2-2 squads hanging on for dear life.
At no position has there been more turmoil and shakeup than at the running back spot, and with injuries and bye weeks taking their toll on fantasy rosters, here's a look at a few ball carriers who should be set for big things in Week 5.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (at NO)
One of the biggest surprises of Week 4 occurred in Kansas City, where it was Jackie Battle, and not Ryan Mathews, who started the game at running back for the San Diego Chargers in their matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the team plans to ease Mathews back into action after the third-year pro missed most of the preseason with a broken clavicle, although head coach Norv Turner insisted that Battle's start was not a result of Mathews' ball security issues the week before against Atlanta.
“He understands the importance of taking care of the ball,” Turner said. “He's not negligent. I don't think there's anyone that works any harder. He had a bad play in the Atlanta game, and I do believe that we're going to get past that.”
Battle's role in the San Diego offense knocks a considerable amount of the shine off Mathews' fantasy value. However, Mathews was clearly the better back last week, gaining 4.4 yards per carry as opposed to 2.6, and assuming that he hangs onto the ball, he should be in for a bigger workload this week against a New Orleans Saints defense that has been absolutely awful this year.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (at JAX)
The Chicago Bears didn't need him in their blowout win over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, but the team was no doubt glad to see running back Matt Forte back on the field after the fifth-year pro missed Week 3 with a sprained ankle.
The 26-year-old gained 52 yards on 13 carries in the game, but even more importantly after appearing to re-injure his ankle in the first quarter, Forte was able to return to the game no worse for wear according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.
“It helped a lot (getting it re-taped) because I had it taped on the bottom and spatted on the top," Forte said. "But I guess I needed a little more tape on there. When I’m running the ball and getting between all those big bodies in there you get rolled up. I kind of got rolled up on the first play but thank God I picked my foot up a little more. So it didn’t keep me out like in the Packers game. It’s football, you get banged up a little bit. I was proud of myself just to be able to stay out there and continue to help the team win."
All indications are that Forte is on course for a more-or-less normal workload in Week 5, which means that he should absolutely be in fantasy lineups against a Jacksonville defense giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals (at STL)
With Beanie Wells sidelined for at least eight games with turf toe, the job of lead running back for the Arizona Cardinals has fallen to second-year pro Ryan Williams, who struggled in that role last week managing only 26 yards on 13 carries.
Even though Williams struggled, the Cardinals were still able to eke out an overtime victory against the Dolphins, and with a short week before they travel to face the St. Louis Rams head coach Ken Whisenhunt is already looking forward according to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic.
“The challenge for us is working on things we need to improve on,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “cleaning up some of our technique errors, cleaning up some of our detail things, as well as making sure we give our plays enough rest."
With that said, Williams should find the sledding quite a bit easier this week against the Rams, who are giving up over 4.5 yards a carry and are the 10th-friendliest fantasy matchup for opposing running backs in 2012.