With every week that passes during this season, it seems that a new running back emerges from the woodwork to save a team in desperate need.
First it was Andre Brown. Who will it be next?
If you're seeking a boost from an unlikely backfield source this week, here's a look at some of the running backs that could be worth a shot in Week 5.
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots (vs. Denver Broncos)
Talk about a breakout week. Bolden was the star of the Patriots' offense in Week 4 when it badly, badly needed a star. Otherwise, it ran the risk of dropping a divisional matchup to a team it hardly ever loses to. New England's offense was dead in the first half of Sunday's game against the Bills, scoring just seven points against a defense that isn't anything to brag about.
And Bolden was one of the biggest reasons the Patriots were able to embarrass Buffalo 52-28 by game's end. The rookie rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, even after totaling just 15 yards in three games prior.
There's no chance that Bolden becomes the Patriots' No. 1 guy; that job is Stevan Ridley's, and he's not going to lose it any time soon. However, when there are so many injuries on the Patriots' receiving corps, the backfield stars are going to have to step up, and Bolden proved last week that Bill Belichick can rely on him.
Plus, it was only two weeks ago that the Broncos' defense allowed 105 yards to Arian Foster. Maybe Bolden can be that guy that this week.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Buffalo Bills)
Given the way the Bills defense performed in the second half of their most recent game, any team in the NFL would be eager to step onto to the field with them at the moment.
After holding New England to only a touchdown in the first half, this unit completely and utterly crumbled, allowing the Patriots to march down the field and score six second-half touchdowns—and a field goal, for good measure. In the end, Buffalo allowed 580 yards of total offense to New England, and 247 of those yards came on the ground.
All of this means good news for Kendall Hunter and the 49ers this weekend. San Francisco's offense is every bit as formidable as New England's, and if that was the best the Bills could do against the Patriots, they're going to have to make some serious adjustments before setting off for the West Coast.
Last week, in a 34-0 win over the Jets, the 49ers' passing offense was an afterthought—the running game stole the show. Hunter got eight carries and rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on a day when three different Niners running backs accumulated 50 yards or more. Expecting a similar, or better, performance from him against the Bills isn't outlandish.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (at New Orleans Saints)
The Saints are now in the esteemed company of the Browns—and only the Browns—as the teams in the NFL who have yet to win a game. We all figured New Orleans would struggle out of the gate, but few of us believed they'd struggle to this extent.
Who will have the biggest Week 5?
The Chargers, meanwhile, have staked their claim atop the AFC West with a 3-1 record and wins over Oakland, Tennessee and Kansas City. Granted, they obviously haven't faced the toughest opponents this season, but New Orleans falls right into the same category as the three other teams San Diego has managed to beat up on in 2012.
We may be running on a limited sample size when it comes to Mathews, but what he's shown us over his last two games is positive. In last week's win over Kansas City, he finished with 61 yards, and with more carries against the Saints' dead-last-in-the-league rush defense, Mathews is a solid bet to surprise a few fantasy owners this week.
The Chargers are going to take advantage of the Saints' glaring weakness, and they should use Mathews to do so.