For three running backs—and a quarterback who runs—Week 14 isn't looking good for their chances to provide significant help to your fantasy team.
Matchups are the reason, as these four players are facing defenses geared to stopping what they do best. If you have them on your roster, you may need to start them.
Temper your expectations accordingly.
Depending on opponent, Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson can find himself with 20 or more carries per game. However, this week against the Houston Texans, expect his role to be scaled back as he faces a top-five defense that's allowing just 90.7 rushing yards per game.
Benson is not the most explosive runner to begin with, which should hold his yardage totals down this week. Without dynamism and elusiveness, no running back has had much success against the Texans defense this season.
On the year, Benson has rushed 201 times for 792 yards and five touchdowns and has caught 10 passes for 53 more yards. He's had just three 100-plus yard rushing days on the season, which came against the Buffalo Bills' and Cleveland Browns' bottom-of-the-barrel run defenses.
Don't expect much from Benson this week—perhaps no more than 50 yards. Unless he manages to add a score to that total, he won't do much benefit to your fantasy team.
Unless you lack another option, he's extremely risky and should be avoided if possible.
There are a number of factors affecting Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart's fantasy value this week, and the matchup is the biggest one.
The Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday, a team that boasts the No. 2 overall run defense, and that has held opponents to an average of just 90 rushing yards per game and eight touchdowns on the ground this season.
Adding to that is Stewart's up and down production, some weeks notching just 40 overall yards and no scores and in others putting up 100 or more yards and notching a touchdown. With both quarterback Cam Newton and fellow rusher DeAngelo Williams equally as capable of running in a score as Stewart, it's hard to tell what Stewart's week is going to be like.
On the year, Stewart has carried the ball 107 times for 522 yards and three scores and has caught 38 passes for 360 yards. Considering the matchup and the unpredictable nature of the Panthers backfield, I'd only feel safe starting Stewart if I were in a PPR league.
If you are a Matt Forte owner needing a replacement for your injured starter, then Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber was one of your best bets on the waiver wire this week.
However, if you did not own Forte and are looking to capitalize on what the injury means for Barber, I'd recommend not giving him the start this week.
The Denver Broncos defense is becoming increasingly tough against the run, and considering how much the Bears are likely to be relying on Barber this week as quarterback Caleb Hanie is unreliable (to say the least) at passing the ball, Denver should be keyed in on Barber all game long.
This season, Barber has rushed 76 times for 281 yards and five touchdowns. He's useful in goal-to-go and short-yardage situations, but he's little threat as a receiver.
Barber has his usefulness, to be sure, but if you have a better option with a more beneficial matchup, I'd keep Barber benched this week.
The Denver Broncos defense won't be the only one in this game to be keyed in on the run. The Chicago Bears and their top-three run defense will be focused on a single thing: containing Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.
Tebow's had quite a run of fantasy success despite still struggling as a traditional quarterback. In his time under center, Tebow has completed just 47.5 percent of his passes for 1,054 yards, but he's thrown 10 touchdown passes to just one interception and has rushed 82 times for 468 yards and three scores on top of it.
The Bears are in a bad way, losing both quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte to injuries that will likely keep both men sidelined for the remainder of the regular season.
With a playoff berth still very much in the team's grasp, they're going to have to get there with inaccurate passer Caleb Hanie under center and Marion Barber taking over for the league's best back, Forte.
That leaves just the Bears' vaunted defense to carry much of the load. The key to stopping the Broncos is pressure on Tebow—keep him contained in the pocket, sack him while he tries to find an open receiver and never let him break free and run.
The Detroit Lions had a lot of success employing this strategy in Week 8, and though Tebow escaped the day with a decent fantasy bottom line, the Bears are going to be attacking with even more ferocity.
At some point, the bottom will have to drop out of the Tebow experiment, even if for just a week. He's as risky a play as there's been this season. If you start him, beware that the magic might not happen this week.
If you're that worried, then by all means, start another quarterback in his stead.