Figuring out who the best fantasy football running backs will be from week to week is a little easier than predicting which wide receivers will shine, but it is by no means simple—especially in Week 8 with four teams on a bye and injuries galore throughout the league.
That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists for you—to give you an idea of what to expect from your 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: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans)
50. Chris Rainey (vs. Was)
49. Peyton Hillis (vs. Oak)
48. Mike Goodson (at KC)
47. LeGarrette Blount (at Min - Thursday Night)
46. DeAngelo Williams (at Chi)
45. Joique Bell (vs. Sea)
44. James Starks (vs. Jax)
43. Jacquizz Rodgers (at Phi)
42. Ronnie Brown (at Cle)
41. Shane Vereen (at StL)
40. Kendall Hunter (at Ari - Monday Night)
39. Daniel Thomas (at NYJ)
38. Phillip Tanner (vs. NYG)
37. Vick Ballard (at Ten)
36. Jamie Harper (vs. Ind)
35. Ronnie Hillman (vs. NO - Sunday Night)
34. Danny Woodhead (at StL)
33. Daryl Richardson (vs. NE)
32. Pierre Thomas (at Den - Sunday Night)
31. Andre Brown (at Dal)
30. LaRod Stephens-Howling (vs. SF - Monday Night)
29. Montario Hardesty (vs. SD)
28. Donald Brown (at Ten)
27. Alex Green (vs. Jax)
26. Shonn Greene (vs. Mia)
25. Michael Bush (vs. Car)
24. Jonathan Stewart (at Chi)
23. Steven Jackson (vs. NE)
22. Mikel Leshoure (vs. Sea)
21. Doug Martin (at Min - Thursday Night)
20. Felix Jones (vs. NYG)
19. Rashad Jennings (at GB)
18. Michael Turner (at Phi)
17. Jonathan Dwyer (vs. Was)
16. Trent Richardson (vs. SD)
15. Stevan Ridley (at StL)
14. Darren Sproles (at Den - Sunday Night)
13. Ahmad Bradshaw (at Dal)
12. Frank Gore (at Ari - Monday Night)
11. Darren McFadden (at KC)
Top 10 RB Plays for Week 8
10. Reggie Bush (@ NYJ)
WOW did Reggie Bush need that bye week Miami just had.
After injuring both his knee and hip a few weeks ago, Bush had severe problems getting himself rolling the last few weeks and disappointed his fantasy owners because of it.
His potential was shown in Week 2 against the Raiders when he exploded for 197 total yards (172 rushing yards) and two TDs, but the same fire hasn’t been seen since.
This week he’ll take on a Jets team that he had 10 carries for 61 yards against before they messed up his knee back in Week 3.
If there’s another sport where players focus on payback more than in football, please let me know. Otherwise, look for a healthy Bush to take care of business this Sunday.
9. Alfred Morris (@ Pit)
Alfred Morris has the third-most rushing attempts in the NFL… and he’s in a Shanahan offense!!! Has the world gone crazy?!?!
Actually, if you’ve seen this kid in action you understand what's going on.
Besides the fact that he can supposedly squat almost 650 pounds, his motor is non-stop as he continues to run through the whistle better than anyone I’ve seen since Purple Jesus broke into the league back in 2007.
Whatever the case, defenses are focused in on Robert Griffin now, so Morris will always have a chance to put up nice fantasy numbers. He’s actually fourth in the league in fantasy points per game and is running the ball at 4.8 yards per clip.
Pittsburgh’s run defense isn’t what it used to be, either, so I’m expecting another RB1 day from the rookie monster this weekend.
8. Marshawn Lynch (@ Det)
I’m going to keep this brief, seeing that Marshawn isn’t as much for words as he is for showing his beastliness on the field.
The touchdowns haven’t been there for him yet, but they will be. Defenses weren’t respecting Russell Wilson through the first handful of games and were playing to stop Lynch as much as possible, but it looks like Wilson is starting to demand a little respect.
To my surprise, because of the contract he signed in the offseason, Lynch is still running as hard as he did last year which is harder than any other RB in the league.
Pete Carroll is the type of coach that rewards this kind of hard-nosed work and will no doubt get Lynch his TDs at some point this season.
The Lions may have an ass-kicking rush D, but NOBODY scares a man like Skittles.
Look for around 85 yards and a touchdown this Sunday.
7. Chris Johnson (vs. Ind)
Chris Johnson’s monster 195-yard output against the worst rush defense in the league last week has him leading the NFL in rushing from Week 4 through Week 7.
However, it cannot be overlooked that he STILL ranks 24th in the league in fantasy points per game.
That’s how BAD he was in four of his seven games this year and though he’s been awesome three of the last four weeks, I still have my reservations.
This week, however, I can’t help but put him in the top 10 as he’s facing an Indianapolis Colts defense that allows 4.95 yards per carry and the fifth-most fantasy points per game to RBs.
I know it’s scary to press “submit” when you see CJ2K in your lineup, but this is one of those weeks you kind of have to get him in there.
6. Ryan Mathews (@ Cle)
More more more more more! That is the word San Diego should be in love with this week when it comes to Ryan Mathews.
Use him more. Run him more. Pass to him out of the backfield on little screens and dump-offs more more more. The guy is simply the most athletic player on the team and needs to have the ball in his hands to make things happen.
With the Chargers getting embarrassed on Monday night right before its bye week, you can bet they went back to the drawing board to see what works for them and I’ll guarantee you this: they saw that Ryan Mathews works.
Against a Browns rush defense that allows 4.84 yards per carry, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that Mathews will be getting the ball. If he doesn’t, their whole coaching staff should be fired within 10 minutes of the final whistle.
5. Jamaal Charles (vs. Oak)
Charles was a bit overused in the three weeks prior to his Week 6 game against the Bucs, which likely contributed to his minor back injury and lack of usage throughout the game.
That being said, the Ostrich is back to full health after a nice week off and is ready to run circles around whoever is in front of him.
Two years ago, Charles had 100 total yards in each of his two games against the Raiders and I expect much more from him in this one.
Yes, the Raiders will likely crowd the line against the run in this game with Brady Quinn being announced as the Chiefs starting QB, but all Jamaal needs is to get through the front line ONCE and it’s off to the races—and there’s nobody in the league who can catch him.
Oakland may look good on paper versus the run, but against dynamic RBs like Reggie Bush and even Willis McGahee, they gave up the fantasy farm.
4. Willis McGahee (vs. NO - Sunday Night)
McGahee has done very well this year as he's putting up solid fantasy RB2 stats while transforming his game into a Peyton Manning-led offensive system.
Some games have been better than others, but I expect this to be one of his best going up against a New Orleans Saints defense that has allowed RBs to run for 4.87 yards per carry and put up the second-most fantasy points per game in the league.
I’d be shocked if 70 points weren’t scored in this game, which means there are five TDs to be had on each side of the ball.
McGahee WILL get at least one of them and maybe even 130 total yards to boot.
3. Adrian Peterson (vs. TB - Thursday Night)
Peterson has had 20 or more touches in five straight games now and just put up his most total yards in a game with 159 last week (153 rushing, 6 receiving). He’s also been running with some serious ferocity lately and seems to be getting better and better by the minute.
Like I said before the season, every time Purple Jesus feels his dominance as a running back is being questioned, he responds by taking the collective feet of the questioners and shoving them straight back into their collective mouths.
As for this week’s game, the Buccaneers have been surprisingly effective against the run this year—much like Arizona was before AP dismantled them last weekend.
With the way Peterson is running right now, fantasy owners shouldn’t be worried about the Bucs game-planning against him.
Look for the Vikings to run Peterson as much as possible until they gain enough of a lead to get him some rest. However, because Tampa’s pass defense is so inept, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Christian Ponder tossing the pill around a bit so AP may not go totally ballistic in this game.
2. LeSean McCoy (vs. Atl)
McCoy certainly hasn’t been the fantasy stud he was drafted to be for most fantasy teams, but before the Eagles recent bye, he was just starting getting back into the flow of the offense again.
The fact is, he’s actually put up double-digit fantasy points in five out of six weeks thus far, but as a first-round draft pick who put up over 18 points a game last year, more should be expected.
This week he’ll be well-rested and ready to explode against an Atlanta Falcons rush defense that’s allowed 4.9 yards per carry to RBs as well as two 100-yard games and touchdowns to guys like Shaun Draughn and DeAngelo Williams.
The Eagles and their coaching staff had a nice week off to right their offensive ship and if they did, I guarantee LeSean McCoy sees at least 25 touches in this game.
Because in the Eagles' three wins McCoy got 25-plus touches and in their three losses he didn’t. Plain and simple.
1. Matt Forte (vs. Car)
I can almost see the question mark hovering over your head as you digest Matt Forte being my top-ranked running back for the week. Please, allow me to explain.
First of all, the Carolina Panthers rush defense has been one of the worst in the league for a few years running now. Since 2009, they’ve allowed no better than the ninth-most fantasy points per game to RBs with that being precisely where they sit right now in 2012.
Second, the Panthers just lost their middle linebacker (Jon Beason) for the season so they’ll likely be in a bit of disarray in Week 8.
Third, and probably the most important factor: Matt Forte OWNS the Carolina Panthers.
Last year in Week 4, Forte rattled off 205 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. In Week 5 of 2010, he put up 166 yards and two TDs on just 22 carries.
Every season is different, I know, but the mind somehow forgets those things come game-time. With the Bears likely to deploy another rushing onslaught this week, I fully expect Forte to come through with some monster numbers.
For rankings at all the positions, check out the: Pyro® Rankings
Brought to you by pyromaniac.com
Listen and subscribe to our Pyro® Weekly Podcasts: http://pyromaniac.buzzsprout.com
Follow Pyro® on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pyroman1ac
Like us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pyromaniac