Fantasy Football Week 3: Start Em Sit Em for Boom-or-Bust Running Backs

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IISeptember 17, 2013

Sep 16, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re leaving your fantasy football lineup untouched every week, you’re doing it all wrong. A big part of succeeding in fantasy is understanding matchups and tweaking your lineup accordingly.

In Week 3, we now have a bigger sample size to judge our successes and failures to this point. Did you sit Giovani Bernard last week because of a tough matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers? I did, but I didn’t sit Lamar Miller after a poor showing in Week 1.

It’s all about weighing your options and giving yourself your best chance to win. You won’t always make the right choicesno one ever doesbut it’s better to do some research and make the best decisions possible.

Here’s some analysis that might help you on your Week 3 journey.


Start ‘Em: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers

Timeshare backs are always difficult plays week in and week out. Bernard, though, is the type of player who can hurt defenses with just one touch. Against the Green Bay Packers, the Cincinnati Bengals are going to need to utilize Bernard as they did against the Steelers to neutralize their effective pass rush.

Bernard scored his first two touchdowns against the Steelers—one on the ground and one on a 27-yard reception. It was a big day for the rookie and could be a sign of things to come.

Although running mate BenJarvus Green-Ellis was on the field for 50 snaps to Bernard’s 29 on Monday night, the rookie continued to get work in the red zone and cashed in from seven yards out. His touches should continue to increase, which means his fantasy value should steadily rise as well.


Sit ‘Em: Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders

Another back in a timeshare, Knowshon Moreno recovered from a poor Week 1 showing with a big day against the New York Giants in Week 2. He solidified his hold on the Denver Broncos’ top job, playing 46 of the team’s 76 offensive snaps. He rewarded fantasy owners who took a chance on him last week, but this week you should avoid the desire to start him.

Both of his scores came on plays of 20 yards or longer. He’s not going to do that every week; not many rushers do. Plus, the matchup is an unfavorable one against a surprisingly tough Oakland Raiders rush defense.

To this point, Oakland has the top fantasy defense against running backs, holding opposing rushers out of the end zone and giving up just 3.4 yards per carry—albeit against Jacksonville and Indianapolis’ rushing games.

Denver is the "Peyton Manning Show" first and foremost, and the team's passing game will steal the headlines again while Moreno is held without a score.


Start ‘Em: Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals

There’s not much to like about the New Orleans Saints rushing game right now. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram haven’t been able to get much going through the tackles, and Darren Sproles’ main value remains his ability to make plays in space in the passing game.

But that value will be crucial for the Saints against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. To this point, the Cards have been stout against the rush. However, they have given up nearly as many yards to backs in the passing game as they have on the ground—13 receptions for 118 yards.

Drew Brees is going to be throwing; that’s always a given. Against Arizona, he’ll likely look for Sproles frequently, who should be on the field a healthy amount of snaps after receiving 35 to the 42 Ingram and Thomas saw combined last week.

While Sproles hasn’t exploded yet for a big game, it’s only a matter of time before all of the looks he’s getting turn into something big. This week seems like as good of a time as ever for the speedy back.


Sit ‘Em: Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins vs. Atlanta Falcons

Last week was a breath of fresh air for those who spent considerably high picks on Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller. After nearly putting up a doughnut in Week 1, Miller was effective on the ground and even got into the end zone on an eight-yard carry late in the game.

Daniel Thomas was actually on the field more than Miller in Week 2 but only received eight carries to Miller’s 14 and was far less effective.

Still, this is one running-back-by-committee situation you should avoid heading into Week 3. The Dolphins have a tough matchup for their running backs with the Atlanta Falcons on the docket. Through two games, the Falcons are holding opposing rushers to just 2.8 yards per carry and haven’t given up a score.

Their biggest weakness against opposing backs appears to be in the passing game, and neither Thomas nor Miller stands out in that regard. Atlanta could potentially go up big, making the Dolphins one dimensional for much of the afternoon.


All stats used in this report are courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) unless otherwise noted.