Week 14 Fantasy Rankings: Running Back Upgrades, Downgrades, Sleepers

Fantasy Football SpinCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2011

Beast mode in full effect against St Louis Lambs
Beast mode in full effect against St Louis LambsOtto Greule Jr/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 and week 13 was no different as Matt Forte suffered an MCL injury. The Bears RB will miss 2-4 weeks and Marion Barber is the likely beneficiary (Khalil Bell will also get some touches).  Adrian Peterson (high ankle sprain) has missed two games and could miss a 3rd as the Vikings should err on the side of caution in a lost season. Darren McFadden (foot) has yet to resume practicing although he is out of his protective boot. Michael Bush remains a lower end RB1 for a week 14 to Lambeau.

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

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.

If you are in a search of an injury replacement, be sure to check out our Week 14 RB Waiver Wire Recommendations.

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


SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 27:  Running back Roy Helu #29 of the Washington Redskins rushes for a touchdown in the second half against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 27, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Redskins defeated the Seahawks 23-17.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images


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Looking for Injury Updates? Check out our Injury Status Chart with FantasyAdvice updated throughout the weekend and then every 10 minutes starting at 11:30 Sunday morning up until the 1pm kickoffs.

UPGRADE: Marshawn Lynch (vs. St. Louis)

In the Week 13 win over a Philly defense that was afraid to tackle, the gold-grilled Lynch produced yet another run for the ages as he blasted through multiple tackles for a first-half TD. Since Week 9, Lynch leads the league in yards after contact (season-high 75 yards after contact against the Eagles).

Through 11 games, the 25-year-old Lynch is averaging 93 YPG from scrimmage with nine TDs. The free agent-to-be has made himself truckloads of cash that will likely keep the strip clubs in Seattle in business for the foreseeable future.

In Week 14, Lynch couldn’t ask for a much better matchup as the Seahawks welcome St. Louis to Century Link Field. The Rams' league-worst run defense (158 YPG) is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. In the Week 11 meeting with the Lambs, Lynch tallied 27 carries for 88 yards and a TD; expect more of the same this week as Marshawn should continue his beast mode run through the NFL in a dream matchup.

Not feeling Wells this week against 49ers.
Not feeling Wells this week against 49ers.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Plus Matchups

Roy Helu (vs. New England) - coming off back-to-back 100-yard games. Pats allowing 69 YPG receiving to opposing RBs.  


Ryan Mathews/Mike Tolbert (@ Buffalo) - Bills' 24th-ranked run defense allowing 129 YPG.

Shonn Greene (vs. Kansas City) - Chiefs' 25th-ranked run defense allowing 130 YPG .

Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas (vs. Philadelphia) - Eagles' 17th-ranked run defense is allowing the ninth most fantasy points to opposing RBs.



DOWNGRADE: Beanie Wells (vs. San Francisco)

The oft-injured back from Ohio State has been a pleasant surprise in 2011 as Wells is averaging 83 YPG with nine TDs through 11 games. Wells is battling multiple injuries (knee, hamstring, thumb) but is expected to suit up this week. The Beanie baby has feasted on the weak (only two 100-yard games against St. Louis and NY Giants—each bottom-10 run defenses) and struggled against stout run defense.

Don't take Ryan for Granted this week
Don't take Ryan for Granted this weekJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This week is a matchup to avoid if you have serviceable options. The vaunted 49er run defense ranks No. 1 in yardage (72 YPG) and has yet to allow a rushing TD through 12 games. Don’t be afraid to bench Wells as he’s a borderline RB2 this week in the worst matchup possible for a RB.

Stubbed Toe potential

Cedric Benson (vs. Houston) - Texans' fourth-ranked run defense (allowing 91 YPG). 


Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Dallas) - Cowboys' 10th-ranked run defense (100 YPG).

Steven Jackson (@ Seattle) - Seattle’s 11th-ranked run defense (104 YPG). S-Jax had 15 carries for 42 yards in a Week 11 meeting with the Seahawks.


SLEEPER: Ryan Grant (vs. Oakland)

The free agent-to-be has been a non-factor for the Packers for most of this season. Grant posted back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in 2008 and 2009, but missed most of 2010 and has yet to regain any fantasy relevance this season (averaging eight carries for 29 YPG).

However, James Starks sustained an ankle injury in Week 13 that has kept him out of practice and he has been ruled out for this week's game. Grant seems likely to get the start against Oakland’s 28th-ranked run defense (141 YPG) and is worth flex consideration. Undrafted rookie Brandon Saine (3rd down specialist) and goal line bulldozer John Kuhn will share the workload but we like the upside of Ryan Grant the most in the 3-headed Packer backfield.

Sleeper Potential

CJ Spiller (@ San Diego) - Chargers' 26th-ranked run defense is allowing 132 YPG rushing yards allowed.

Marion Barber (vs Denver) - Should see 15-20 touches and bulk of goal line duty against a Bronco defense that has been gashed Ryan Mathews and Toby Gerhart over the past two weeks.

Felix Jones (vs. NY Giants) - Felix had six carries for 36 yards in Week 13, and despite the limited workload, he remains an explosive option against a struggling NY Giants that ranks 23rd against the run (allowing 4.6 YPC).

Jason Snelling (@ Carolina) - Deep sleeper of the week. Carolina has league's worst run defense and Falcons would be wise to limit Michael Turner's touches as he is struggling with a groin injury.


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