Heading into Week 6 of the NFL season, we are starting to get more and more of an idea of just how teams are shaping up, both in the standings and for fantasy football purposes. Most significant for most fantasy owners are the matchups that their running backs are going to face.
While some running backs have been consistent since the the first game of the year, others have struggled. This week, we will see some continued success, but also some breakout games for feature backs with quite favorable matchups.
Donald Brown is searching for his first 100+ yard performance of the 2012 season.
Colts running back Donald Brown has not had a big game on the ground yet this season, but he saw his best performance in Week 5 against the Packers.
As the offensive line continues to gel, going up against a Jets defense that is giving up 172.8 yards per game on the ground and 4.9 yards per carry is just the matchup they should be looking forward to.
With CB Darrelle Revis now out for the season, the Jets aren't always able to single up their corners and fill the box to stop the run. Instead, they must leave coverage help over the top, opening up running lanes inside.
Expect the Colts to establish and maintain success on the ground early and often in this matchup. Donald Brown will get the majority of the carries, and could very well finish with his best performance of the 2012 season so far.
Rashard Mendenhall looked explosive in his first game back from a January ACL tear.
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall made an impressive return to the field in Week 5, just nine months removed from a torn ACL.
Mendenhall tallied 84 yards and one touchdown on the ground, as well as two catches for 20 yards, in the Steelers' win over Philadelphia.
This week, Mendenhall and the Steelers go up against a Tennessee opponent who has struggled in all areas so far in 2012—near the top of which is their difficulties defending the run, where they are giving up 144.2 yards per game.
With the Steelers now healthy on defense, expect Tennessee to also have a tough time scoring points.
If the Steelers can take an early lead, that will mean even more carries for Mendenhall as they continue to welcome back one of their best offensive weapons.
Ryan Williams will look to spark the Cardinals running game in week 6 against Buffalo.
With Ryan Williams taking full control of the Cardinals' starting running back position, many have been awaiting his breakout game.
While it did not come in Week 5 against St. Louis, this should be the week, if any, for Williams to have the big game that has been eluding him thus far.
Williams and the Cardinals offense will go up against a Buffalo Bills defense that is giving up 171.8 yards per game on the ground and a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry with nine TDs.
The Cardinals' struggles on the offensive line have been well publicized, and it is definitely something to monitor. However, this is their most favorable matchup thus far, and should result in a productive day.
Like several other running backs, if Williams can indeed have a breakout game this week, it could kick-start his season. However, with how much the Cardinals have struggled up front, another poor game on the ground this week could be indicative of what to expect for the remainder of the season.
Frank Gore is the workhorse in a run heavy 49ers offense.
Frank Gore, currently the NFL's sixth leading rusher with 432 yards, should have another big performance in Week 6.
On Sunday afternoon, the 49ers will play host to the Giants in a much-anticipated NFC Championship rematch.
The Giants struggled defending the run in limited attempts last week against Trent Richardson and the Browns, and they will face a more powerful and dedicated 49ers running game this week.
The 49ers will look to wear down the Giants defensive line from the game's outset in hopes of nullifying their dangerous pass rush. A week after a blowout game in which Gore was not used all that much, look for him to get the majority of the carries in a run-heavy ball-control game plan.
Darren McFadden will look to get the Raiders running game going in week 6.
Darren McFadden was a big-time fantasy football target this year, surely to be the workhorse in Greg Knapp's run-heavy offense.
So far, fantasy owners have been disappointed by his production, but they can expect a breakout performance in Week 6.
Coming off of a bye, the Raiders continue to piece together the new zone-blocking running game. These kinds of transitions do take time, but time is something that fantasy owners and the Raiders do not have.
Against an Atlanta defense that is giving up 142.8 yards per game on the ground, the sixth-worst total in the NFL, this is the week for Oakland to get the running game going. Expect them to run the ball early and often in hopes of not only improved production, but also keeping the ball away from Matt Ryan and the explosive Falcons offense.
McFadden, despite a slow start to the year, is still one of the NFL's premier running backs. If he and the offensive line can get the ground attack on the same page this week, expect it to continue to improve throughout the rest of the season.