Jamaal Charles could be in for a huge day against the Oakland Raiders.
Week 8 in the NFL presents some unique challenges in fantasy football, especially at the running back position. If you built your team around Ray Rice or Arian Foster in your draft, you've run into some bad luck this week: Both guys are on a bye week.
So if you're facing a team that would normally have either Rice or Foster, rejoice! You get a week off from two of the best in the league.
This also provides a chance for lesser-known backs around the league to step up and prove their fantasy relevance. And there are burning questions. Will Chris Johnson put up another dominant stat sheet? Can Matt Forte finally bring back some results?
Here are the top five running backs in the NFL in Week 8. Plan accordingly.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a solid defense, but Alfred Morris will still have a good day in the backfield for the Washington Redskins.
There's no question that the Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the NFL's better rush defenses. But when it comes to the running game of the Washington Redskins, it doesn't really matter who's trying to stop them.
The Redskins have run the ball as well as any team in the last several decades through seven weeks. Washington is first in the NFL in yards on the ground per game, averaging a shade under 180. Morris, the sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University, has had a huge part in the rebirth of the Redskins' smash-mouth culture and is second in the NFL behind Arian Foster in yards.
The physical Morris is becoming a fantasy must-start because of the triple-option offense that the Redskins run. The running ability of quarterback Robert Griffin III helps open up holes for Morris, who has run for at least 113 yards in three of his last four games.
Morris could go for 90 yards and two touchdowns, if not more. He's quickly becoming one of the best downhill runners in the NFL.
If he gets enough carries, LeSean McCoy could have a big day.
LeSean McCoy has disappointed fantasy owners for two weeks now, rushing for a grand total of 75 yards and zero touchdowns. But the fact remains that McCoy may be the most talented running back in the NFL. When he gets his carries, he produces in a big way.
McCoy's three best games in 2012 were the only games during which he carried the ball at least 20 times. The Eagles' play-calling has been under fire for several seasons now, and it just seems counterproductive to limit the use of one of the league's most dangerous backfield threats.
The Eagles square off this week against the Atlanta Falcons, who couldn't stop the run if the entire offensive line fell down. If McCoy gets his carries, he could have a very big week.
Of course, that's a big "if." The Eagles seem to like having Michael Vick throw the ball a lot, so play McCoy at your own risk. He'll either have a huge game or just fall out of the picture.
Provided he gets carries, he could go for 120 yards and a few scores. Those are big numbers in any week, so it's a wonder why the Eagles refuse to utilize him in their game plan.
He's been a fantasy disappointment this year, but Matt Forte could break out in a game against the Panthers.
Despite being a general disappointment so far in 2012, no running back is due for a breakout more than Matt Forte. After running for a total of 163 yards in his first three games, he's run for 203 in his last two and is facing a Carolina Panthers defense that he has flat-out owned over the years.
The Panthers' run defense is suspect and Forte has Carolina's number. In his past two matchups with the Panthers, the fifth-year running back has 371 yards on eight yards per carry with three touchdowns.
Forte has 44 carries in his last two games, so getting carries shouldn't be a problem. It's entirely possible that the Bears could enjoy a big lead in the second half, meaning Forte will get plenty of carries to run down the clock.
Expect 100 yards and two scores, as well as three or four receptions for 40 yards. He could score on a screen pass because the Bears run the halfback screen as well as anyone in the league.
Jamaal Charles hopes to leave Raiders defenders in the dust when he faces Oakland this week.
If not for an injury that derailed his 2011 season, we could be talking about Jamaal Charles as one of the best fantasy running backs in recent memory. When he gets his carries, he's dominant. When he doesn't get his carries, he still finds a way to put numbers up.
Charles has had problems finding the end zone this year, but he's still on pace for 1,576 yards and adds a receiving component to his game that few backs can match. Charles is also on pace for 42 receptions and could come close to 1,900 yards of total offense by the end of the year.
So why would you not want Jamaal Charles on your team? The Oakland Raiders defense is less than impressive and Charles figures to get at least 25 carries if Brady Quinn struggles. Expect 130 yards and a touchdown, and don't be surprised if he catches a lot of passes as a check-down option.
Chris Johnson may be rediscovering his dominant fantasy form from just a few years ago.
"Hello? Are you there Chris Johnson? It's fantasy owners everywhere."
Nobody knows what to make of Johnson, one of the biggest enigmas in fantasy football history. Following his frustrating start to the season (45 yards in three games), he has shredded defenses to the tune of 451 yards since Week 4.
Of course, one of those games was a 24-yard stinker, but that's what you get with Johnson. He's either going to win you your matchup, or he'll cause you to lose.
This week, you can depend on CJ2K to win your game. He's facing a Colts defense that's a wreck against the run and could run wild through the secondary if he can get the proper blocking. Of course, Johnson usually blames his blockers following a bad game, but here's hoping they can come through for him this week.
Johnson could approach 150 yards this week with a few touchdowns. No running back in the league is as much of a threat to hit 200 this week.
Of course, no one is as much of a threat to go for 25 yards either. But you can expect Johnson to continue his dominance and regain the trust of scorned fantasy owners everywhere.