Running Back Rundown

We have a sporadic internet connection here at 4th & Home headquarters today, so this week’s article is bit short, but there’s still enough info to get you through the first bye week.

Backfields to Watch

New England Patriots: Stevan Ridley carried the load for the Patriots again in week 4, with 10 carries for 107 yards and a TD. Benjarvus Green-Ellis also had a productive day with 16 rushes for 75 yards and a TD.  Ridley is by far the superior rusher in this backfield, but you can still expect BJE to at least get an equal number of carries for the time being.  Ridley has made Danny Woodhead essentially worthless from a fantasy perspective.  BJE is a risky RB2 against the Jets this week, and Ridley is a flex play.  Woodhead will likely be out with an ankle
injury, but isn’t worth starting anyway.

Cincinnati Bengals:  Cedric Benson likely won’t start his suspension until week 6.  He’s a RB2 this week against the Jaguars.  Hang on to Bernard Scott for next week.

San Diego Chargers: Mike Tolbert who? Ryan Mathews saw 16 carries for 81 yards, and had 68 receiving yards, against Miami in week 4.  Tolbert was limited to 3rd down and red zone duty, but one of his 6 carries was good for a TD.  Mathews is RB1 against Denver this week and Tolbert is a flex option.

New Orleans Saints: Darren Sproles continues to be the most valuable back in the Saints backfield.  Last week, against the Jaguars, he had 75  yards on 7 carries and 56 receiving yards.  The Saints even used Sproles on some rushing downs as in addition to his usual passing down duties. That’s’ bad news for Mark Ingram (17 carries for 55 yards) and Pierre Thomas (6 carries for 36 yards).  Sproles is an RB1 against Carolina this week.  With a great matchup, Ingram and Thomas are both worthy of a flex spot this week.  Ingram has more value as he’s getting more carries and seeing some red zone duty.

Denver Broncos: Knowshon Moreno was active and healthy last week but only saw 2 carries.  Meanwhile, Willis McGahee rushed for 103 yards
on 15 carries.  The Broncos are going to ride the hot hand, so Moreno is going to have to work his way out of the doghouse before he has any fantasy relevance again. McGahee is a borderline RB2/flex play this week, against the Chargers.  The Broncos will likely find themselves playing from behind and throwing the ball a lot.  Moreno belongs on your bench.

Washington Redskins: “Damn you Mike Shanahan!” I’m sure that phrase was yelled by every Tim Hightower owner last Sunday.  If you recall, Ryan Torain was the de facto starting running back after the lockout ended.  After a training camp injury, and strong play by Hightower and Roy Helu, Torain found himself third on the depth chart.  In week 4 Torain carried the load, with 19 carries for 135 yards and a TD.  Hightower &
Helu had 8 carries each, for 25 and 34 yards respectively.  Torain’s emergence could be explained by a shoulder injury that Hightower was dealing with last week, or it could just be Shanahan messing with fantasy owners.  Either way, Torain is likely to see the bulk of carries for the time being.  The Skins have a bye this week, but they return next week against division rivals, the Eagles.

Injuries to Watch

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Gore was healthy enough to play last week, although he did not start. Gore had his best fantasy performance of the season with 15 carries for 127 yards and a TD. “Starter” Kendall Hunter had 9 rushes for 38 yards and 62 receiving yards.  Gore has been limited in practice this week, but it looks like he will play on Sunday.  If Gore is still nursing his ankle injury, it’s possible that Hunter could get another 10 carries or so.  The Niner’s back’s had inflated numbers against the Eagles porous run defense last week, so expect those numbers to come back down to earth this week against Tampa Bay.  I need to see another performance like last week’s before I consider Gore to be an RB1 again. He’s an RB2 this week, and Hunter is only worth a flex play if one of your regulars is on a bye.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers: After another mediocre performance, Rashard Mendenhall injured his hamstring and left during the 3rd quarter in week 4.  He had 9 carries for a whopping 25 yards and a TD.  Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore picked up the slack after Mendenhall’s departure.  Redman had 6 carries for 40 yards, and Moore had 4 carries for 34 yards.  Mendenhall has not practiced yet this week and could miss this week’s game against the Titans.  Isaac Redman has been a hot pickup this week, as he would draw the start, but he’ll still be sharing carries with Moore.  Whether Mendenhall or Redman get the start, they are only flex backs given the Steelers O-line woes and the tough matchup.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins: After dropping the ball on Beanie Wells in week three, I did it again with Thomas last week. I didn’t hear any injury reports until after I posted the column on Friday. I apologize to my loyal reader(s).  Thomas sat last Sunday and Reggie Bush had 13
carries for 50 yards while drawing the start.  The Dolphins have a bye this week, and Thomas is hoping to be ready to go for week 6.  The injury is a flare up of the hamstring injury that kept him out in week 1.  Thomas was just starting to have some real fantasy value, so hopefully this doesn’t linger.

Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers: Ryan Grant sat out last week with a bruised kidney, but is fully expected to play this week. In his absence James Starks rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries against the Broncos. Starks will likely see the bulk of the carries against Atlanta this week, making him an RB2. Grant is a flex play.

Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants: Brandon Jacobs has yet to practice this week and his status is still up in the air for this week’s game against Seattle.  Jacobs was the second fiddle to Ahmad Bradshaw again last week. Jacobs had 9 carries for 18 yards and Bradshaw had 12 carries
for 39 yards and a TD.  If Jacobs sits, Bradshaw should be in line for a huge game against the Seahawks, making him an RB1. If Jacobs does play, he’ll be a strong flex option.

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