Figuring out who the best fantasy football running back plays are from week to week is a little easier than doing so for wide receivers, but by no means is it simple—especially in Week 5 with four teams on a bye and a few super-tough matchups on the menu.
That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists for you—to give the reader a gauge of what to expect from his or her players on any given Sunday.
With that, here are the weekend's top 50 running backs, along with some detailed analysis on the 10 best plays for the week.
(BYE: Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Running Backs 11-50
50. Shaun Draughn (vs. Bal)
49. Lamar Miller (@ Cin)
48. Bernard Pierce (@ KC)
47. Evan Royster (vs. Atl)
46. Isaac Redman (vs. Phi)
With 191 yards through four weeks, how many yards will Shonn Greene end up with at season's end?
45. Brandon Jacobs (vs. Buf)
44. Robert Turbin (@ Car)
43. Daryl Richardson (vs. Ari - Thursday Night) – 9 carries - 35 yards - 0 TDs / 0 receptions - 0 yards - 0 TDs
42. Mark Ingram (vs. SD - Sunday Night)
41. Shonn Greene (vs. Hou - Monday Night)
40. Daniel Thomas (@ Cin)
39. Bilal Powell (vs. Hou - Monday Night)
38. Danny Woodhead (vs. Den)
37. Brandon Bolden (vs. Den)
36. Ronnie Hillman (@ NE)
35. Donald Brown (vs. GB)
34. Andre Brown (vs. Cle)
33. Pierre Thomas (vs. SD - Sunday Night)
32. Jacquizz Rodgers (@ Was)
31. DeAngelo Williams (vs. Sea)
30. Rashard Mendenhall (vs. Phi)
29. Kendall Hunter (vs. Buf)
28. Michael Bush (@ Jax)
27. C.J. Spiller (@ SF)
26. Jonathan Stewart (vs. Sea)
25. Fred Jackson (@ SF)
24. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Mia)
23. Chris Johnson (@ Min)
22. Jackie Battle (@ NO - Sunday Night)
21. Cedric Benson (@ Ind)
20. Steven Jackson (vs. Ari - Thursday Night) – 18 carries - 76 yards - 0 TDs / 0 receptions - 0 yards - 0 TDs
19. Michael Turner (@ Was)
18. Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Cle)
17. Darren Sproles (vs. SD - Sunday Night)
16. Alfred Morris (vs. Atl)
15. Willis McGahee (@ NE)
14. Stevan Ridley (vs. Den)
13. Ryan Williams (@ StL - Thursday Night) – 14 carries - 33 yards - 0 TDs / 1 reception - 5 yards - 0 TDs
12. Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. Chi)
11. Frank Gore (vs. Buf)
Top 10 RB1 Plays for Week 5
10. Matt Forte (@ Jax)
Forte has the skills to be one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, but he needs to be healthy so he can get enough touches to do so.
Forte returned from his sprained ankle earlier than expected last Monday night and got 14 touches (13 carries) despite rolling his ankle on the first play of the game. Forte, however, must be just fine if he was able to play the rest of the game, so I’m not too worried about his playing time this Sunday.
Jacksonville has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and the third most rushing yards to RBs so far this season, so look for Forte to have a real nice all-around game and possibly break off a TD run of over 20 yards.
9. LeSean McCoy (@ Pit)
It looks like McCoy is starting to get into the flow of the offense again now after his 140 total-yard (123 rushing) effort last weekend.
The TDs aren’t flowing the way they did last season, but they’ll start to come here soon.
Maybe not this weekend against a Steelers team that should have both LB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu back in the lineup, but with their pass D as good as it is, I expect the Eagles to feed McCoy the ball as much as possible this game.
8. Jamaal Charles (vs. Bal)
Charles had another nice game for the Chiefs last weekend totaling 115 yards (92 rushing) and two touchdowns in their loss to the Chargers.
You can tell he has his confidence back now as he’s hitting holes hard without dancing too much and not shying away from contact. With his blazing speed and overall skill set, the sky’s the limit for "The Ostrich."
Right now he sits eight yards behind Marshawn Lynch for the league lead in rushing yards with 415 and will have every opportunity to add to his total with Peyton Hillis looking to be out again this weekend.
Baltimore is still a hard-nosed defense, but they’ve slowed down a bit as well and are only in the middle of the pack as far as fantasy points allowed are concerned.
If the Chiefs are smart and give him 20 or so touches, Charles can do some real damage in this one.
7. Ryan Mathews (@ NO - Sunday Night)
So I understand the point most people are talking about in that the Chargers were in some way trying to send a message to Mathews concerning his fumbling problem. However, I have two other explanations that can, in part, decipher the reasoning behind starting Jackie Battle and giving him 19 touches to Mathews' 16.
First off, there is a widespread thought throughout the sporting world that when a player goes up against a former team of his (as the Chiefs are for Battle), the player will somehow rise above his normal level in an effort to show his former team what they’re missing. In that sense, Jackie did pretty well scoring two touchdowns in the contest.
Second, through the first two seasons of his career, Mathews did extremely well as part of a tandem. Considering his recent return from a broken collarbone, Norv Turner must have figured it was a good idea to go back to that and see how it worked out. In that sense, it also worked out with Mathews putting up 82 total yards on his 16 touches.
With all that said, the Chargers have to realize that if they want to make some serious noise in the playoffs this season, the better/more talented/more explosive back (Mathews) will have to be more involved in their offense.
Besides all of this, whenever a fantasy RB needs a little pick-me-up, the best thing for him is to go up against a Swiss cheese defense to get him going again. The Saints did it for Jamaal Charles two weeks ago and should do it again for Mathews this weekend.
6. Trent Richardson (@ NYG)
Richardson hasn’t put up the rushing yardage his fantasy owners were all hoping for yet, but if you ever watched him play back at Alabama, you’ll recall what a monstrous touchdown machine he was.
Luckily for his owners, that part of his game DID transfer over to the NFL as he’s currently tied for second in the league with four total TDs (Arian Foster, five).
On paper, the Giants don’t look so bad defending the run until you look a little closer and see that they’ve allowed two 100-yard rushers thus far and rookie Doug Martin’s lone touchdown of the season.
Trent’s going to be used plenty this Sunday, both in and out of the backfield, and after putting up over 100 total yards and a TD against Baltimore last week, you know he has a ton of confidence to ride upon.
5. Reggie Bush (@ Cin)
Bush played through a lot of pain last weekend at Arizona so you have to give him credit for sucking it up and getting out on the field when he was needed.
This week he’ll have a lot easier of a time running the ball against an inferior Bengals rush-D than he did last week and is set up for some really nice stats.
The Bengals have allowed more than five yards per carry to running backs thus far while Reggie dons a 5.6 YPC so far himself (5.1 YPC in 2011). The Bengals have ALSO allowed the second-most yards receiving to RBs this season which is obviously another big strength to Bush’s game.
Add it all up and it looks like the Dolphins RB should end up with top-5 fantasy stats this week.
4. Ray Rice (@ KC)
Now that Rice has finally gotten some rest after playing in four games over the first 18 days of the season, I expect he’ll return to his normal form.
Kansas City has allowed some good yardage to running backs this season, both on the ground and through the air, especially to the shiftier ones like Rice.
The Ravens' new up-tempo offense may not get the ball in Ray’s hands as much as it was last year, but they’d do well to do so in this one.
I’d be very surprised if Rice didn’t touch the ball 25 times this Sunday after the Ravens get out to a nice early lead and with action like that, he should be good for a 20-point fantasy day.
3. Adrian Peterson (vs. Ten)
Peterson has proven that he can take on a full load each week racking up an average of over 22 touches a game through the first quarter of the season.
I highly doubt anyone actually predicted this level of usage before the season began, but fantasy owners sure are happy they took the chance on him in their drafts.
This week "Purple Jesus" takes on a Tennessee defense that is one of the worst in the league in all aspects of the game. It may take about 20 or so carries to break through against them, but being at home, I expect the Vikings to feed AP all day so he should hit that number.
Over his career playing at home, Peterson has AVERAGED over 100 rushing yards per game and exactly one TD, so to expect any less would be uncivilized.
2. Marshawn Lynch (@ Car)
Marshawn Lynch is still right behind Arian Foster in touches this season, averaging a smidge under 25 a game.
He also leads the league in rushing right now with 423 yards and though the TDs haven’t quite stayed at the level they were last season, that should change this week against Carolina.
I said it last week and I’ll say it again—the Panthers defense simply cannot tackle, except for maybe rookie LB Luke Kuechly.
Seattle at Carolina normally won't stand out as a game to put on the tube over the weekend, but watching what Beast Mode does to this Panthers defense on Sunday might be worth a gander.
1. Arian Foster (@ NYJ - Monday Night)
It doesn’t matter who Foster plays at this point as scoring a touchdown has almost become a foregone conclusion for him each week.
He’s failed to take the ball into the end zone just once in his last 15 games (including playoffs), racking up 19 total TDs during the streak.
This Monday night he’ll take on a Jets team that has allowed the most rushing TDs by running backs this season, as well as the fifth-most fantasy points.
With New York being in complete disarray right now, Houston should be able to jump out to a nice lead early and seal the deal with Foster over the last couple of quarters.
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