Week 13 Fantasy Rankings: Running Back Upgrades, Downgrades, Sleepers

Fantasy Football SpinCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2011

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 14:  Running back LeGarrette Blount #27 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by defender Charles Johnson #95 of the Carolina Panthers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

In this article we assume that you are starting your RB1s regardless of the matchup. Each week we will analyze the defenses and provide our take on which RBs you should start and which should be benched based on matchups with stout run defenses, stubbed toes, potential weather problems, conduct code violations etc.

Many backfields have been decimated by injuries over the past few weeks. Adrian Peterson (high ankle sprain) has been ruled out for Week 13 (Toby Gerhart starts against the Denver Tebows).

Darren McFadden (foot) has yet to resume practicing although he is out of his protective boot. Michael Bush remains a lower end RB1 for Week 13 despite the matchup with a solid Miami run defense.

Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) returned for a Friday practice but still will be a game-time decision against Green Bay.

If you are in a search of an injury replacement be sure to check out our Week 13 RB Waiver Wire Recommendations.

The most stout run defenses (allowing less than 16 fantasy PPG to opposing ground games) can be found in San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta,  Baltimore, Houston, Seattle, Dallas and Seattle.

Conversely the following defenses have been carved up by opposing RBs and rank at the bottom of the league (20-plus fantasy PPG): Tampa, Carolina, Indianapolis, Oakland, Buffalo, St Louis, Philadelphia, NY Giants and Kansas City.

Don’t miss the upgrades, downgrades, as well as the sleepers at wide receiver and quarterback after you get smart on the running backs.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05:  C.J. Spiller #21 of the Buffalo Bills rushes against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

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UPGRADE: LeGarrette Blount (vs. Carolina)

A fixture on the downgrade list—the bruising back that resembles Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye couldn't ask for a much easier matchup than the Week 13 contest against Carolina. The Panthers managed to bring the Colts Donald Brown back to fantasy relevance in Week 12 and their pitiful run defense currently ranks 28th (137 YPG).

The second-year back from Oregon has now posted back-to-back 100 yard performances and we'll be shocked if he doesn't make it three in a row. His receiving skills have always limited his fantasy potential but Blount surprised us all with three catches for 56 yards in Week 12.

On the season the 6'0" 247 pound bulldozer is averaging 71 YPG on the ground with four TDs through nine games (missed two games with a knee injury). Carolina has allowed a league worst 15 TDs on the ground which should cement Blount as a rock solid RB1 this week.

Plus Matchups: Chris Johnson (@ Buffalo)—Bills 21st ranked run defense allowing 124 YPG. Benjarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Indianapolis)—Colts 31st ranked run defense allowing 151 YPG and tied for allowing most rushing TDs (15).  Frank Gore (@ St Louis)—Rams' rush D is the worst in the league (159 YPG). Jonathan Stewart / DeAngelo Williams (@Tampa)—Bucs 30th ranked run defense (140 YPG) is allowing second most fantasy points to opposing RBs.

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 26: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled by Takeo Spikes #51 of the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome on December 26, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the 49ers 25-17. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

DOWNGRADE: Steven Jackson (vs. San Francisco)

Much like the 2-9 Rams season—Steven Jackson is spiraling downward as yet another lost year winds to an end. Over the past two games, the dual threat has averaged less than 70 YPG and has not found the end zone since Week 8.

On the year, the Oregon State Beaver alum is averaging an impressive 96 YPG from scrimmage with five TDs through 10 games. We fully expect Jackson's cold streak to continue in Week 13 against the vaunted 49er run defense that ranks No. 1 in yardage (75 YPG) and has yet to allow a rushing TD through 11 games. Don't be afraid to bench Jackson as he's a borderline RB2 this week unless you are in a PPR league.

Stubbed Toe potential: Cedric Benson (vs. Pittsburgh)—Steelers' sixth ranked run defense (allowing 96 YPG)—Bennie had just 15 carries for 57 yards in a Week 10 loss to the Steelers. Beanie Wells (vs. Dallas)—Cowboys 10th ranked run defense (100 YPG).

SLEEPER: CJ Spiller (vs. Tennessee)

With Fred Jackson ruled out for the season with a broken leg—Spiller got the start and dominated the workload against the Jets in Week 12.

Spiller rushed 19 times for 55 yards and caught three passes for 15 yards in the Bills’ Week 12 loss to the Jets. Head coach Chan Gailey praised Spiller’s pass protection and he appears locked in as the workhorse for Buffalo despite the presence of Tashard Choice and Johnny White (each got only one carry in Week 12)

In Week 13, the Bills face a Titans run defense that has been below-average (ranked 22nd in yardage allowed—124 YPG). Spiller’s dual threat ability makes him an intriguing lower end RB2 option (especially in PPR leagues).

Sleeper Potential: Donald Brown (@New England)—Patriots 12th ranked run defense has yielded eight rushing TDs. Not a great matchup but Brown's dual threat skills will be needed early and often with the Colts playing from behind from the opening kickoff. James Starks (@ NY Giants)—NYG 24th ranked run defense (130 YPG) has allowed 13 rushing TDs. Osi Umenyiora will miss game with a sprained ankle.