The first game of the 2013 NFL season is in the books, but here are a few running backs that fantasy owners should bench in Week 1.
There are a few high-profile names on this list. They may have big years, but it would be wise to sit them in the opening week.
Most owners should have another running back or a flex player who can be inserted into the lineup, so be smart when choosing a lineup.
Based on who these players are going up against this week, keep these running backs on the bench:
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (at Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Steelers are trying to rebuild their offense, but they still have one of the best defenses in the league. They had the second-best run defense last season and allowed only 90.6 rushing yards per game. Opposing teams rushed for only nine touchdowns against them, which was the sixth-fewest in the league.
With all that being said, the Titans need Chris Johnson to have a big game if they are going to win. He ran for 1,243 yards and six touchdowns on 276 carries in 2012.
Johnson had five games with more than 100 rushing yards last year, but three of those came in a four-game stretch in the middle of the season.
He had 91 yards on 19 carries against Pittsburgh last year as the Titans pulled off the upset.
Through three games last season, Johnson had 45 yards on 33 carries, and he had 98 rushing yards on 46 carries in the first three games in 2011. He didn’t record a touchdown in any of those six games. He had only 57 yards on 15 carries in the 2009 opener at Heinz Field.
History shows that Johnson is a slow starter. The Steelers are going to focus on shutting him down, and they are going to try to make Jake Locker beat them.
Johnson may be a valuable part of a fantasy team later in the season, but he usually struggles early in the season.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
Detroit signed Reggie Bush to help the offense become more balanced, but the Vikings are a tough first game for the running back.
Minnesota allowed only 105.8 rushing yards per game last year, which ranked 11th in the NFL.
Like Johnson, Bush also gets off to slow starts. He has never topped 70 rushing yards in an opener, and he has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game in the first seven weeks of a season once in his career.
Bush is in a slightly different situation than the other players on this list. He is capable of catching passes out of the backfield. However, the Lions want him to carry the ball.
The Vikings allowed 244 passing yards per game, which ranked 24th in the NFL. Detroit has Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. They are going to try to exploit Minnesota’s weakness and attack them through the air.
Minnesota was tied for fifth with 44 sacks, but Stafford has the poise and experience to find his favorite target.
Bush may be used to bail Stafford out of trouble with short passes, but he will have trouble putting up big numbers.
His versatility will be valuable later in the season, but Bush is going to struggle against the Vikings.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals (at Chicago Bears)
Several factors go into sitting BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
For starters, the Bengals drafted Giovani Bernard to come in and split playing time with Green-Ellis. Bernard is a versatile back who provides speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Green-Ellis averaged 72.9 rushing yards per game and scored six touchdowns in his first season with the Bengals. He had only four 100-yard games last season, which all came in a five-game stretch. Three of the four games came against AFC West teams that didn’t play in Denver.
The veteran ran all over the weaker teams but struggled against stronger defenses. In six games, against teams that ranked in the top half of the league in stopping the run, he never topped 70 yards.
That leads right into the final point. Chicago ranked eighth in the league and opponents ran for only 101.7 rushing yards per game. Opponents rushed for only six touchdowns against the Bears last season. Only two teams were stingier in that category.
Cincinnati is going to have to throw the ball in order to beat the Bears. A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert should have good games. If the passing game succeeds, Green-Ellis may be called upon to run out the clock.
That will be the only way that he will be “effective” all day. The Bears are going to shut him down and force Andy Dalton to throw the football.
*All stats are courtesy of NFL.com