Week 15 Fantasy Rankings: Running Back Upgrades, Downgrades, Sleepers

Fantasy Football SpinCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2011

Beanie should do very Well against Brown 31st ranked run defense.
Beanie should do very Well against Brown 31st ranked run defense.Dilip Vishwanat/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 and another one bit the dust in week 14 with rookie DeMarco Murray’s broken ankle. Felix Jones was likely already on most fantasy rosters, but if not, sprint to the waiver wire and add Felix the Cat. 

Chicago’s Matt Forte’s knee injury could keep him out for the rest of the season (especially with an unsettled contract). Marion ‘the Goat’ Barber should get another start but his week 14 mental lapses could elevate Khalil Bell into a more prominent role. Adrian Peterson (high ankle sprain) has missed three games but all signs point to him returning to the lineup this week against a mediocre New Orleans run defense. Darren McFadden (foot) has yet to resume practicing and rumors are circulating that he could miss the rest of the season. Michael Bush remains a lower end RB1 for a week 14 battle against Detroit.

If you are in a search of an injury replacement be sure to check out our Week 15 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, 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+ fantasy PPG): Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indianapolis, Oakland, Buffalo, St Louis, Philadelphia, NY Giants and Kansas City.

Tampa won't be able to catch Felix the Cat on Saturday Night
Tampa won't be able to catch Felix the Cat on Saturday NightRonald Martinez/Getty Images

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

Looking for injury updates? Check out our Injury Status Chart with Fantasy Advice updated throughout the weekend and then every 10 minutes starting at 11:30 Sunday morning up until the 1:00 pm kickoffs.

Also be sure to check out the FFspin Sunday Morning Chat from 11 am to 12 pm, where we will tackle your last-minute fantasy football questions, including starts/sits, injury updates, keeper questions, etc. Set a reminder and reserve your spot at the link.


UPGRADE: Beanie Wells (vs. Cleveland)

The Browns’ run defense has been abysmal, ranking 31st (allowing 151 YPG) with 10 rushing scores allowed to date. Beanie Wells has been a pleasant surprise in his third NFL season despite battling multiple injuries (most notably a pesky knee). On the season, Wells is averaging 79 YPG on the ground with nine TDs through 12 games. The Cleveland run defense has allowed the eighth most fantasy points to opposing RBs which makes Beanie a solid top 10 option for week 15.

Plus Matchups:

Roy Helu (@ NY Giants): The rookie from Nebraska is coming off three straight 100+ yard games. The Giants own the league's 22nd ranked run defense, allowing 128 YPG and 13 rushing TDs.

Hell Yeah for Helu in week 15
Hell Yeah for Helu in week 15Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Cedric Benson (@ St Louis): Faces the Rams' league-worst run defense, allowing 157 YPG.

Chris Johnson (@ Indianapolis): Solid matchup vs. Colts' 30th ranked run defense but struggled in first meeting (14 carries for 34 yards in week 8 matchup against Indy).


DOWNGRADE: Rashard Mendenhall (vs. San Francisco)

The fourth year RB from Illinois has regressed this season, averaging just 59 YPG (averaged 80 YPG in 2010). On the plus side the Steelers lead back has eight TDs but his limited receiving skills (just 13 catches) leaves him as an RB2. This week Pittsburgh could be led by backup Charlie Batch for a nightmare matchup against a 49ers defense allowing the fewest points in the league (14 PPG). The vaunted 49ers 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 Mendenhall as he’s a borderline RB2 this week in the worst matchup possible for a RB.

Stubbed Toe potential:

DeAngelo/J-Stew (vs. Houston): Texans' fourth ranked run defense (allowing 92 YPG). 

Legarrette Blount (vs. Dallas): Faces Cowboys' eighth ranked run defense (101 YPG). 

CJ Spiller (vs. Miami): Miami’s third ranked run defense (90 YPG) has only allowed five rushing TDs.

Mendy is not Trendy for week 15 matchup with 49ers #1 run defense.
Mendy is not Trendy for week 15 matchup with 49ers #1 run defense.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ryan Mathews/ Tolbert (vs. Baltimore): Faces the Ravens' second ranked run defense, allowing just 86 YPG. Ray Lewis is expected to return for the Sunday night game.


SLEEPER: Felix Jones (@ Tampa Bay)

Rookie DeMarco Murray carried most fantasy teams into the playoffs but has disappeared from the fantasy landscape at the most inopportune time as a week 14 broken ankle will sideline him well into the offseason. Felix the Cat will regain the starting job by default and couldn’t ask for a much better matchup against a struggling Bucs run defense (28th) that has allowed the most rushing TDs in the league (19).  Jones dual-threat ability was on full display in week 14 against the Giants as he carried the ball 16 times for 106 yards and added six catches for 31 yards. Jones missed four games in the middle of the season with an ankle injury but looks to be 100 percent recovered and should feast on the Tampa Bay defense on Saturday night.

Sleeper Potential:

Ryan Grant (@ Kansas City)—Grant delivered as our main sleeper pick last week reaching the end zone twice. This week he faces another struggling AFC West run defense in Kansas City (26th ranked run defense allowing 133 YPG). James Starks is very questionable with an ankle injury (limited practice Friday).

Kevin Smith (@ Oakland)—Smith is expected to start despite an ankle injury and faces the Raiders 29th ranked run defense ,allowing 141 YPG and 14 TDs on the ground.