If you still care about fantasy football entering Week 14—congrats on making the playoffs. Many backfields have been decimated by injuries and Week 13 was no different, as Chicago's Matt Forte suffered a knee injury that will keep him out anywhere from two to six weeks (making him a major question mark for the fantasy playoffs).
We are assuming that Toby Gerhart and CJ Spiller have been snatched up but if not, run to the waiver wire and add them. Adrian Peterson's high ankle sprain is improving but there seems like a better than 50/50 chance that he misses Week 14 at Detroit. Speaking of the Lions, Kevin Smith aggravated his ankle injury in the Sunday night loss to New Orleans and will be a major question mark heading into Week 14 (Mo Morris looks likely to start).
This week we profile a few RBs that could provide adequate numbers if you are in need of an injury replacement or bye-week fill-in.
Next to each player is his team’s remaining schedule through Week 16. In bold are the favorable matchups against the 10 worst defenses that allow the most fantasy points to opposing RBs.
In italics are matchups with the top 10 run defenses allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs.
Marion Barber: (@DEN, SEA, @GB)
Matt Forte's MCL injury opens the door for the Barbarian to regain fantasy relevance over the next few weeks. After six seasons in Dallas, Barber's first year in Chicago has been somewhat productive in a limited capacity. Over nine games, Barber has tallied 76 carries for 281 yards (3.7 YPC) with five touchdowns. He's likely in store for 15 to 18 touches as the Bears look to limit Caleb Hanie's inevitable mistakes.
In Week 14, Chicago travels to Denver to face the Broncos' 20th-ranked run defense (121 YPG). Denver's run defense is better than their ranking as they've only yielded five rushing TDs. Barber's matchups would get a boost if Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Von Miller (missed Week 13 with a finger injury) is held out another week.
Dexter McCluster: (@NYJ, GB, OAK)
The loss of Jamaal Charles all but killed the Chiefs' playoff hopes early on. Jackie Battle has filled in admirably as the Chiefs currently rank ninth in rushing (121 YPG)—however, the KC offense has been abysmal as a whole, averaging the third-fewest points in the league (14 PPG).
Fortunately for the Chefs, they are in a wide open AFC West with an outside chance at the playoffs. Incorporating second-year dual-threat WR/RB Dexter McCluster more into the offense is a must, especially with Tyler Palko under center. In a Week 13 win over Chicago, McCluster set career highs in rushing (nine carries times for 61 yards) and receiving (four catches for 46 yards)—most on a Hail Mary TD grab at the end of the first half. Prior to Week 13 , McCluster had received 10 or more carries just once, and was averaging only two catches over his past six starts.
At only 5’8", 170 pounds, McCluster lacks the frame to handle more than 12 to 15 touches but his receiving skills and breakaway speed (averaged 6.5 YPC in 2010) make him an intriguing option in deeper leagues (especially in PPR).
Donald Brown: (@BAL, TEN, HOU)
Donald Brown is the only Colts RB on the fantasy radar. He has scored in back-to-back weeks has dominated the workload. In Week 12, he rushed 14 times for 80 yards with a touchdown and added one catch for 17 yards in Sunday's loss to Carolina. Over the past four weeks, Brown has 68 carries for 277 yards (4.1 YPC). The oft-injured (missed eight games in 2009/2010) 2009 first-round pick could finally be proving his worth and should be rostered in leagues, as he's likely to lead the Colts backfield for the remainder of the season.
In Week 14, Brown's upside is severely limited as the Colts face a stiff test against the Ravens' second-ranked run defense (89 YPG).
Maurice Morris: (MIN, @OAK, SD)
Javhid Best’s concussion problems have knocked him out for the year and Kevin Smith can't stay healthy (yet again), as he re-injured his ankle in Week 13 and is questionable to face Minnesota. Over the past two weeks, MM has produced serviceable PPR numbers. In Week 13, he had 12 carries for only 28 yards but added five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. In Week 12, Morris filled in for Kevin Smith (injured in the first quarter) and finished with seven carries for 39 yards and added nine catches for 81 yards in a loss to Green Bay.
In Week 14, Detroit faces a solid Minnesota run defense limiting Morris to flex status, but his 15 status is much more attractive against Oakland's 28th-ranked run defense (141 YPG).
Montario Hardesty: (@PIT, ARZ, @BAL)
Hardesty's calf injury has kept him without a carry since Week 8 but he could start on Thursday night in Pittsburgh with Peyton Hillis dealing with a hip injury. The Browns backfield has been a MASH unit all season and they rank 30th in the NFL, averaging just 94 YPG on the ground.
Over eight games this season, the second-year back from Tennessee is averaging just 30 YPG and has yet to find the end zone. With Hillis sidelined with strep throat in Week 3, the second-round pick in 2010 filled in admirably finishing with 86 yards on 17 touches in a win over Miami. Hardesty's only other productive game this season was in Week 7 against Seattle (33 carries for 95 yards—2.9 YPC).
Temper your expectations for the Browns running game this week, as Pittsburgh boasts the seventh-ranked run defense (97 YPG). If Hillis misses multiple weeks, a Week 15 date with Arizona's 19th-ranked run defense could bring Hardesty back to fantasy relevance as a flex option.
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