The bye weeks are upon us—with the Cowboys, Chiefs, Vikings, and Buccaneers off in Week 4.
There are a number of backfields in flux and the options at running back this week feature a number of players that weren’t expected to have major roles entering the season, such as Peyton Hillis, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Ryan Torain.
Just so you know, I’d be fine starting Hillis or Green-Elis this week, although they didn’t hit the Start ‘Em list.
We’re not going to state the obvious here; rather the focus is on the mid-tier options as well as players who are normally starters but might be worth a sit in a given week.
Arian Foster, Texans at Raiders
Despite the Texans playing from behind in two of three games this season, Foster is off to a huge start in 2010—leading the league in rushing with 406 yards.
Not all of the fantasy world has come around to the conclusion that Foster is must start every week, but they will after this week’s game against Oakland.
The Raiders, as usual, are struggling to stop the run, giving up 133 yards and a touchdown per game. Look for the Texans to jump out to an early lead in this one and then milk Foster in the second half.
Must Read: Fantasy Football Week 4 Point Machines
Let’s go ahead and recommend both Jets runners this week.
Tomlinson has been rejuvenated in a Jets uniform and has looked like his spry old self during the first three games of 2010, racking up 208 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards and one touchdown. He also sports a nifty 5.6 yards per carry average after averaging just 3.8 and 3.3 during his last two years in San Diego.
Greene has had a disappointing start to his sophomore season after many fantasy pundits had him pegged as a top 10 running back.
Look for both players to put up big numbers against a Bills run defense that is struggling once again in 2010. They give up an average of 141 rushing yards per game and have given up five rushing touchdowns, tied for worst in the league.
Ronnie Brown, Dolphins vs. Patriots
While I’m going with both Jets as Start ‘Ems this week, the same doesn’t hold true for the Miami backfield.
There’s a strong argument that it’s time for the Dolphins to begin reducing the role of Ricky Williams. Williams had a magical season in 2009 but has struggled in 2010, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and failing to find the end zone.
On the other hand, Brown has run well, gaining 197 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
The Patriots defense is struggling to stop the pass and will need to pay extra attention to wide receiver Brandon Marshall. That should open things up on the ground for Brown on Monday night.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers vs. Cardinals
I’m rolling with the rookie this week. Apparently he’s healthy and ready to go against a Cardinals run defense that ranks 31st in the league.
While there were reports that Mathews had suffered a dreaded high ankle sprain, they appear to be erroneous since running backs never come back from that type of injury after missing just one game.
Mathews is a bit of a risk, with backup Mike Tolbert expected to pilfer some short yardage carries. Nonetheless, Mathews still looks solid and should have his first big game of 2010, especially if the Chargers get out to a big lead early, which seems likely.
Justin Forsett, Seahawks at Rams
Forsett started getting the majority of the touches out of the Seahawks backfield last week and that bodes well for his fantasy prospects going forward, provided head coach Pete Carroll has seen the light.
Here’s the case for Forsett—he’s getting the touches, the Rams rank 25th in run defense and last year, he racked up 130 yards and two touchdowns in a game in St. Louis.
Unfortunately, the Rams defense has played well in the red zone, allowing just one rushing touchdown in 2010.
Ray Rice, Ravens at Steelers
Bench a consensus top four running back heading into the season, one coming off a season in which he accumulated over 2,000 total yards and eight touchdowns? You betcha.
Rice has a banged up knee but backup Willis McGahee has already opined that Rice will suit up this week. He might want to sit this one out.
Why can’t they shut down a banged up Rice in a home game in Pittsburgh? They can. And they will.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants vs. Bears
The good news is that Bradshaw has received a healthy majority of the touches out of the Giants backfield in each of the last two weeks.
The bad news is that this week he gets all those touches against the Bears. Good luck with that, Ahmad.
The Bears are the stingiest team in the league in run defense, allowing just 39.7 yards per game in addition to allowing just 2.1 yards per carry.
They have given up three touchdowns so Bradshaw may find the end zone on his way to a respectable fantasy points total, but that’s never something you want to bank on.
I’m not quite ready to say “stick a fork in Portis, he’s done” but we’re awfully close to being at that point.
Basically, who cares if he’s facing an Eagles squad that allows 129 yards and a touchdown per game on the ground?
Does that matter when Portis couldn’t get it going last week against the Rams and was used sparingly in the second half in favour of Ryan Torain?
Portis can’t be relied upon and his owners should be looking for alternatives, including grabbing Torain off the waiver wire.
Full disclosure: I own Michael Bush in two leagues and that’s not by happenstance.
While others view McFadden as a breakout player (and he has been thus far in 2010), it’s also worth noting that Bush won the job out of training camp, has been the Raiders best rusher over the last two seasons, and McFadden has a history of injuries and low production.
Look for Bush to get more carries this week and for both players to struggle against a Texans run defense that ranks a surprising 2nd in the league.
RB Brandon Jackson, Packers vs. Lions
I guess I would start Jackson if my other options weren’t great, since he does get the face the worst rushing defense in the league. If that sounded like a lukewarm endorsement, you’re reading the tea leaves correctly.
In his first game as a starter against the Bills and their pathetic run defense, he chalked up a measly 29 yards on 11 carries but a touchdown gave him a respectable fantasy score.
Last week, the Packers reduced his workload to seven carries (for 12 yards), essentially splitting the workload with fullback John Kuhn.
End result is that Jackson has averaged 2.3 yards per carry as a starter.
Frankly speaking, I like Kuhn more this week because I expect him to get the goal line work.