There are several marquee running backs facing very generous matchups in Week 5's NFL slate. Some are attempting to establish themselves as officially "back" from injury, while others are looking to build on the momentum of hot starts to 2012.
In this version of start 'em, sit 'em, here are running backs sure to shine for your fantasy squad.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers vs. Buffalo Bills
Jim Harbaugh's bunch continues to ground and pound their way to victory, and Gore is the workhorse. Mario Williams has been a bit of a disappointment so far for Buffalo. Even with a strong effort against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, the Bills' unit still ranks in the bottom five in most major categories.
Gore does share carries with second-year running back Kendall Hunter, but he still averages close to five yards a pop, averages over 80 yards per game and has found the end zone in all three Niner victories.
San Francisco is sure to be heavily favored against the Bills at home and will likely be able to do whatever they want offensively.
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is also very prone to turnovers, throwing four interceptions against the New England Patriots last week. The ball-hawking 49er defense should force at least half of that total, resulting in short fields and some red-zone touches for Gore.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints
Although he has split time with Jackie Battle the past two weeks, Mathews has been the more productive runner save for a 52-yard burst by Battle against Atlanta.
Clearly, Mathews is the starter in San Diego, and the team has steadily increasing his workload as he continues to come back from yet another injury. This test against the Saints won't provide much resistance, though.
New Orleans QB Drew Brees will have to summon all the strength that his offense usually musters against the balanced Bolts attack, which should include a heavy dose of Mathews. The Saints rank dead last in the league against the run, yielding nearly 187 yards per game on the ground.
That number is likely to drop as the season wears on, but that's a staggering number through the first quarter of the schedule. The threat of Mathews as a receiver should continue to take snaps away from Battle, and this is the perfect matchup for Mathews to get officially back on track.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans
The absence of Colin McCarthy in the heart of the Titans' defense certainly hasn't helped matters, as Tennessee sports the league's 27th-ranked rush defense. McCarthy is a rising second-year linebacker, and the youthful front seven hasn't been able to contain opposing ground games all season.
Enter Peterson, who is apparently ready to go on a Viking conquering quest of domination, according to a report by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio:
Peterson said he had roughly five plays that he could have busted for big gains, and that he’s entering every game now believing that he can rush for 200 to 250 yards.
Also mentioned is the battle between him and Chris Johnson, who were at one point considered the top two backs in the league. While Peterson has looked the part thus far, Johnson is off to another slow start, similar to 2011. Peterson says he knows who the best running back in the league is.
In case you missed that, he's implying himself in that assertion.
Confidence has never been a problem for All Day, but he seems to be getting stronger every week. Combine that with a generous Titans defense, and Peterson should have his best game since returning from injury on Sunday.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
Beast Mode leads the league in rushing with 423 yards, despite extremely conservative game plans around rookie QB Russell Wilson and defenses cramming the box to stuff the run. The NFC West division has been much better than just about anyone could have imagined, and it's a testament to the strength of its defenses across the board.
The more Wilson gets comfortable under center, though, the better the Seahawks team will be.
A steady progression should take place week to week, and a road test against a leaky defense will give the offense a confidence boost.
Wilson will still likely be tied down but should find completions easier to come by against a horrific Carolina secondary. That will open up things for Lynch to pound the rock against a defense allowing about 135 yards rushing per game.
Adding Luke Kuechly and returning Jonathan Beason to the linebacker corps apparently hasn't helped the Panther defense very much.
Lynch should have a field day, proving the 2012 Seahawks can go on the road and get the job done.