Running backs are usually boom or bust players in fantasy football, and you likely need help determining whether to start or sit a number of risky RBs in Week 4.
Guys like DeMarco Murray, Joique Bell and Jason Snelling clearly made fantasy owners that decided to start them look quite smart. Meanwhile, owners that started players like James Starks and Knowshon Moreno were probably kicking themselves.
You don't want to be the guy that kicks yourself, so take a look at these intriguing running backs below for advice on whether to start them or leave them on the bench this week.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
After missing last week's game due to a hip injury, Ray Rice is looking to come back against the Buffalo Bills.
The Baltimore Ravens' official Twitter account reported that Rice should be playing, barring any setbacks. There hasn't been any talk, however, about how much he will be involved in the offense if he does play.
RB Ray Rice said that barring no setbacks there's a chance he'll be able to play Sunday.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 27, 2013
Playing Rice could be a real risk this week. Hip injuries are usually pretty pesky injuries, and there's always a chance that he could re-injure his hip and be forced to miss time. The coaching staff likely understands this, and that means we could possibly see less from Rice this week.
To add to that, the Ravens also have a capable backup in Bernard Pierce that they aren't afraid to give 20-plus carries. That takes even more away from Rice this week, as Pierce will likely get chances of his own to find the end zone.
As dependable as Rice usually is when he plays, I'd wait another week before considering to put him in the lineup, because there's a chance that he only puts up a couple of points this week.
Verdict: Sit 'Em
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
The New York Jets don't have the most powerful offense right now, but Bilal Powell has begun to emerge as a legitimate running back option in fantasy over the past couple of weeks.
Things got on the right track for Powell in Week 2, when he ran for 48 yards and a touchdown. He came right back the next week against the Buffalo Bills and ran for 149 yards on 27 carries.
The odds of Powell getting 25 or more carries again are actually pretty good right now. According to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, Chris Ivory is out this week against the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have had a mediocre run defense so far. They've allowed 305 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, with opponents averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Even if Powell only averages three or four yards per carry, he's still going to be able to put up really nice numbers just due to the volume of carries. With Ivory out, the Jets are going to have to depend on Powell, which means plenty of touches and chances to make plays.
Verdict: Start 'Em
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
We have yet to see Le'Veon Bell play a down of meaningful football in the NFL, but according to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Twitter account, Bell should be seeing his first playing time this Sunday in London against the Minnesota Vikings.
Le'Veon Bell (foot), Cortez Allen (ankle), Heath Miller (knee), Steve McLendon and Brett Keisel (hamstrings) all probable for Sunday.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 27, 2013
The Steelers have struggled mightily to get the running game going, ranking 30th in the NFL by averaging just 51.7 yards on the ground per game. Running backs keep getting hurt and they need someone to step up.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have given up 114 rushing yards per game and at least 30 points in all three weeks.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, we still have no clue what to expect from Bell. He's just a rookie, and we've yet to see what he can do at full speed. We also have no clue how involved the coaching staff plans on making Bell.
He's a rookie with a lot of upside, but it's too big of a risk to start an unproven player that could only get a handful of carries this week.
Verdict: Sit 'Em
Jason Snelling, Atlanta Falcons
What do you do with a backup running back who is still splitting carries when the starting back is out?
In Snelling's case, you should still start him.
Despite getting only two carries in Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams, Snelling was able to grab 19 yards and a touchdown on the ground along with four receptions for 41 yards through the air.
With Steven Jackson out last week, Snelling had an even bigger game. He ran for 53 yards on 11 carries along with 58 yards and a touchdown through the air.
The Falcons seem to trust Snelling in the red zone, and with Jackson not playing again this week, we could see more production from Snelling this week, and that means more fantasy points. If you're in a deeper league, Snelling could be an RB2, but he's certainly worth a flex spot in any league.
Verdict: Start 'Em