The NFL season has suddenly reached Week 14, with plenty of significant games on tap for the impending weekend.
In terms of fantasy football studs, the rankings for this slate of games as far as running backs are concerned should contain a typical cast of stars who have performed consistently well throughout 2012.
Check out this trio of premier backs that are certain to shine.
1. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Barring something happening to the breakout rookie spearheading the league's No. 1 rushing attack on Monday night, Morris will be an absolute stud once again in Week 14.
The general consensus amongst all the conversations I have with colleagues and friends about the Baltimore Ravens ends in one question: "When will they realize Ray Rice is better than Joe Flacco?"
I don't know the answer to this question, but it was on display again on Sunday. Thirty-four Flacco passes; 12 Rice carries. Putting it up more might not be a bad strategy just for this matchup against a very suspect Redskins secondary. Then again, this is Joe Flacco we are talking about.
His counterpart in this crucial Week 14 matchup, Robert Griffin III, has complemented Morris extraordinarily well with his elite speed, and that will continue on Sunday. With the game plan likely centering on RGIII in light of his incredible Thanksgiving Day performance against Dallas, plenty of lanes should open up for Morris.
The Ravens don't have the defense they used to, and before facing the Pittsburgh Steelers and their third-string QB in Week 13, they ranked 23rd against the run. That doesn't exactly stack up favorably against Washington.
FedEx Field will be in a frenzy whether the Skins win on Monday night against the New York Giants or not because the team will be fighting for its playoff lives regardless of the outcome.
In that context, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will likely stick to what his offense does best—running the football. That should translate to a big day for Morris.
Projected stats: 30 carries, 185 yards, 2 TDs; 2 receptions, 20 yards
2. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let's not jump to conclusions and say that the first-round pick out of Boise State has hit the rookie wall. That said, Martin's production has slowed down a little bit in recent weeks, but it might be more due to stouter defenses than anything he is doing.
The Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos are two of the league's best teams, and Martin has combined for just 39 carries for 106 yards in the past two weeks.
However, the man playfully dubbed as the Muscle Hamster should have a huge bounce-back performance with the Bucs looking to make a playoff push after two consecutive defeats.
Arguably the most unraveled team in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles continue to reel after their eighth consecutive loss to Dallas. That is just what Martin needs to get back on track in the friendly confines of Raymond James Stadium.
Expect Martin to shoulder a heavier workload. Greg Schiano prefers to pound the rock, and the Bucs have recently gotten away from that. Philly's rush defense is decent, but will be at least slightly hurting with the recent release of Jason Babin.
The Eagles have pretty much thrown in the towel, and Tampa's physical style should overwhelm them and result in yet another dumbfounding loss.
More importantly for fantasy owners, Martin will once again be bankable in a big way.
Projected stats: 30 carries, 150 yards, 2 TDs; 4 receptions, 25 yards
3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans
It will be key for the AFC leaders to bring a balanced attack to Foxboro when they take on the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
The Pats secondary is a definite liability, ranking 30th in the league against the pass. But it will be up to Foster to keep the chains moving by pounding the ball on the ground against an underrated New England front seven.
Justin Forsett has been taking some snaps from Foster lately—including an even split of 14 carries apiece in Week 13's win over Tennessee—but in such a big-time game, expect Foster to be the workhorse.
Combine that with Foster's receiving ability out of the backfield, and he should be even more of a lock than usual in fantasy lineups despite the Patriots having a top-10 rush defense.
It's a win-win: If the Patriots are losing badly, it's likely because the Texans are controlling the clock and keeping Tom Brady off the field. If Houston is losing badly, QB Matt Schaub will likely throw a lot of checkdowns to Foster in the flat, which will boost his numbers especially in PPR leagues.
Keep in mind: Foster has caught at least five passes in three of his last four games.
Since this game will likely be a close one, Foster projects somewhere in the middle of the aforementioned extremes. He should have around 30 touches overall and be fairly productive and should find the end zone for the 11th time in 12 games.
Projected Stats: 25 carries, 115 yards, TD; 5 receptions, 45 yards, TD
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