Week 10 of the NFL season is the start of crunch-time for fantasy football players. No position group is more important than running back for owners trying to hold onto a lead or working up the ranks to make the playoffs.
The weekend offers some valuable matchups and a few pairings that could challenge top runners.
Then there are the options in the middle, such as Matt Forte. He's a weekly must-start, but he will be up against one of the NFL's best defenses. Conventional wisdom says the Houston Texans will shut him down, but he will likely get enough carries to post decent numbers.
Similar things can be said for Arian Foster.
Here are the top fantasy starts and a few players that should remain on the bench this weekend.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
If anyone has an idea on what is going on with the offensive game plan for the Chiefs, please comment below.
At this point it almost seems like Romeo Crennel constructed a worse-case scenario for his offense. Not realizing the intent, OC Brian Daboll is using that plan to run his unit.
There have been communication issues in Kansas City. Perhaps now that Crennel has dropped his defensive coordinator responsibilities they'll be on the same page.
Charles has just 29 carries and 83 yards in his last three games. The three games before that he had 81 runs for 413 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
A Monday night game in Pittsburgh isn't the most likely venue for Charles to get back on track.
Charles needs to be on your bench this weekend. If you don't have a better option, consider picking up Marcel Reece or Taiwan Jones.
Steven Jackson @ San Francisco 49ers
Jackson hasn't been a consistent producer this season and should already be on an owner's bench. On the off chance he's in your lineup, go fix it.
Jackson only has one touchdown on a struggling Ram offense and his yards and attempts are well down this season. He's reached 20 carries just once and has yet to hit 100 combined rushing and receiving yards this season.
He's up against one of the best run-stopping units in the NFL.
For fans that have Daryl Richardson, the above holds for him as well.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller @ New England Patriots
It is difficult to play a running back when he is part of a rotation. Jackson and Spiller are splitting carries fairly evenly, making both of them a gamble.
The New England Patriot defense has been maligned for the number of points they surrender, but very little of that is from opposing rushing attacks.
The Patriots held Marshwn Lynch to his lowest total of the season. His 41 yards were less than half of his second-lowest output. Willis McGahee had his second-worst outing of the season against New England and they held Chris Johnson to just four yards on 11 carries.
Split carries against a tough defense makes for a difficult fantasy start.
These five ball-carriers are must-starts every week. There are very few teams/ball-carriers where matchups don't matter, but these four are on on the top of that list.
Martin is up against one of the best rushing defenses in the league. It will be interesting to see if it can limit his production.
Reggie Bush vs. Tennessee Titans
I normally have Bush on my Sit 'Em list, but I am making a change for this game.
The Dolphins will have more success running the ball against the Titans than they will through the air. Bush should get ample carries and will be a valuable passing target.
If you need a replacement for a normal starter, Bush is a great option.
Michael Turner @ New Orleans Saints
Fantasy owners haven't had a lot of production from Turner, but he's still a top-20 ball-carrier. The biggest problem is he's been inconsistent, scoring over 20 points one week and under five two weeks later.
This weekend Turner will be up against the hard-luck defense of the New Orleans Saints. It has surrendered several huge games this season, including the 233 yards by Charles.
Ray Rice vs. Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have been playing good defense at times this season but are susceptible to a good rushing team. Rice can certainly run the ball.
Fantasy owners have had several good days from Rice this season but no huge outings. I predicted it would come against Kansas City but he had just 118 yards from scrimmage with no touchdowns.
At the risk of jinxing him, I'm predicting the Ravens will try to move the ball on the ground against Oakland and Rice will rush for over 125 yards and find the end zone.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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