Start Em Sit Em Week 9: Analyzing Sunday's Toughest Decisions at RB

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2012

Oct 28, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

Once unquestionably the most important position in fantasy football, running back has become an increasing source of frustration for owners.

As NFL teams continue to throw the ball all over the field and force their backs into time-shares, finding a productive running back is akin to finding the pot of gold at the end of a bowl of Lucky Charms—or however that saying goes.

Those factors leave owners bereft on a weekly basis, unable to decide between the cabal of similarly skilled backs across the league. Sometimes, you get lucky and the matchups work out in your favor. 

In other instances, you start Mikel Leshoure over Ahmad Bradshaw and wind up sobbing into a bowl of ice cream on Sunday night. 

With that in mind, here is my advice on Week 9's most difficult decisions at running back. 


Start 'Em

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Call me easy to please, but four great performances in five games has me right back on the CJ2K every-week start bandwagon—even against the vaunted Chicago Bears defense.

Coming into Week 9, the Bears rank as the NFL's best run defense, giving up a meager 77.9 yards per game thus far. Even more impressive is Chicago's defensive prowess when looking at advanced metrics, as the unit ranks in the top five against both the run and pass, according to Football Outsiders

Despite that massive mitigating factor, you should never bench a stud running back and Johnson has returned to that category. Remember, it was the top-tier Houston Texans defense against which Johnson's resurgence began.

He's no longer a guy that you can count on to break a massive run on a weekly basis, but as a reliable mid-tier RB1, the reward is too high to sit CJ2K on Sunday.


Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers

While Johnson is someone who should start due to production, Isaac Redman should get the nod mostly due to circumstance. 

Both Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall will sit out Week 9's matchup against the New York Giants, leaving Redman and Chris Rainey as the Steelers' only two viable options.

And as we have seen the past two weeks, the team enjoys using Rainey only sparingly. That should leave a substantial workload for Redman, who came into the season expected to excel in Mendenhall's absence.

Though he's floundered a bit in the lead back role, look for Redman to have a solid game on Sunday. Pittsburgh has mostly solved its run-blocking issues from early in the season, as Dwyer went over the 100-yard mark each of the past two weeks.

Asking that level of production may be a bit much, but 80 yards and a touchdown isn't out of the realm of possibilities against a mediocre Giants run defense.


Sit 'Em

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts

An effective performance in last week's return against the Tennessee Titans has many owners excited, but a wait-and-see approach should be employed with Brown on Sunday.

Though Brown looked solid, carrying the ball 14 times for 80 yards, it came against a Titans defense that ranks 28th in the NFL against the run.

The Colts won't be afforded the same luxury in Week 9 when they face the Miami Dolphins. Led by a strong front seven, Miami gives up a meager 82 yards per game, good for the second-best rate in the league. 

Even more disconcerting for fantasy owners is Vick Ballard's continued involvement in the offense. Despite Brown's return, the rookie back still got 13 touches against Tennessee, including the game-winning touchdown.

It seems likely that Brown will get a heavier workload this week, but until we see that with our own eyes, stash him on the bench if you can.