Ryan Mathews owners should not fret too much about the Chargers’ backfield. Jackie Battle may continue to get goal-line carries in a similar role to Mike Tolbert last year, but that never stopped Mathews from being productive. The Saints’ defense has been brutally bad this season and is last in the league against the run. Mathews should return to being the bellcow this week for San Diego’s offense, but don’t get too upset if Battle comes in near the goal line to vulture touchdowns away.
Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis (ankle) keeps having problems with the injury he suffered in Week Three and hasn’t practiced as of Wednesday. Historically, he has done well against the Ravens with a pair of 100-yard games in the past two seasons, and he’s out of the walking boot now, which is a good sign, but there’s a good chance he’s either limited or unavailable for Sunday.
Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (knee) was a full participant in practice Wednesday and is good to go Sunday against the Steelers. When the Eagles used FB Stanley Havili as a lead blocker in the second half against the Giants, it worked like a charm. McCoy went from two yards at halftime to 123 by game’s end. Look for more of that against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Last week the Dolphins put on a passing clinic, but look for them to try to run the ball a bit more this week with Reggie Bush, and maybe a little of Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller. Bush should be healthier this week, and Miami plays a Bengals team that is 24th against the run. The Bengals also know how to get after the quarterback, and running the football, or getting the backs the ball in the flat in the passing game, can keep the Bengals’ pass rush at bay.
Fred Jackson is a must-start for most fantasy owners, and fellow Bills RB C.J. Spiller should be starting in deep leagues, but this is a tough week for the two backs. If you have better options or matchups, it may be worth considering. The Bills take on a 49ers team that is fifth in the league against the run this season, and Buffalo will be without ORG Kraig Urbik and OLT Cordy Glenn. You may not have better options, and you can always guarantee touches for the Bills’ top rushers, but a lot of points will be hard to come by this week.
Many fantasy owners probably jumped to snatch Patriots RB Brandon Bolden off the waiver wire after his breakout performance in Week Four. A couple points of caution, though: For one thing, the Patriots’ backfield is a “give it to the hot hand” type of situation. That’s not to say Bolden’s performance was a fluke, but this week it could be Danny Woodhead — it depends on the day. Another thing to consider for this week specifically is the opponent — Denver’s run defense is ninth in the league and strong on the D-line. The Patriots may be throwing more in this one. Bolden could turn out to be a great pickup, but we’ll need to see a couple more games before suggesting he be in fantasy lineups.
Bears RB Matt Forté had 14 touches (13 carries and one reception) against the Cowboys in Week Four and we expect him to see a similar workload at Jacksonville on Sunday. Forté is apparently still being bothered by the ankle injury he suffered in Week Two — he would have been limited had the Bears practiced on Wednesday — and the Bears could lean on RBs Michael Bush and Kahlil Bell if they build an early lead vs. the Jaguars, who are ranked 30th vs. the run. Forté should be considered a high-end No. 2 fantasy RB in most formats this week.
It hasn’t taken long for Cedric Benson to become the Packers’ rushing workhorse. Benson is becoming more effective with every game. In the Week Four win over the Saints, his longest run went for nine yards, but he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and gained over 80 yards for the second game in three weeks. Benson is getting increasingly comfortable operating out of the Packers’ spread, pass-first offense, taking more advantage of cutback lanes with every carry. He looks like a solid fantasy starter this Sunday matched up against Indianapolis’ 23rd-ranked run defense.
Even though Arizona’s ground game has averaged a lowly 2.7 yards per carry through four games, it would appear RB Ryan Williams — the team’s undisputed featured back with Beanie Wells on injured reserve — has potential Thursday evening for a decent fantasy outing matched up against the Rams. While St. Louis’ "D" looks greatly improved in the first year of the Jeff Fisher era, the run defense is still pretty vulnerable, judging by the way it fared last Sunday (Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch was 20-118-1). Williams displayed breakout flashes two games ago when he rushed for 62 of his 83 yards in the fourth quarter.
Browns RB Trent Richardson is startable no matter the matchup, considering his skill and production, but he gets a favorable draw in Week Five. The Giants are allowing 118.3 rushing yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry. Richardson has scored at least one TD in each of the last three games.
Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis faces a strong Miami run defense in Week Five. The Dolphins are giving up a mere 2.3 yards per carry. Considering Green-Ellis’ recent struggles to find much rushing room and to hold on to the ball (three fumbles), his fantasy stock has fallen somewhat entering Sunday’s game. Nevertheless, he’s startable, as the bye weeks have begun, and the Bengals have a potent offense.
It appears Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) has a good shot at returning to Pittsburgh’s lineup in Week Five vs. Philadelphia. If he plays, he would figure to get enough carries to be fantasy-relevant, especially in bigger leagues. However, the Eagles are solid vs. the run, and Mendenhall is working his way back from an ACL injury, so it may be wise not to have expectations of great production from him if he does play Sunday.
Texans backup RB Ben Tate has definite fantasy value as 50 percent of arguably the NFL’s most gifted backfield, but he has been used sparingly in the first four games of the season. With starter Arian Foster on pace to surpass 400 carries — and head coach Gary Kubiak indicating he is not concerned about Foster’s intense workload — starting Tate on a weekly basis is a major roll of the dice, even Monday against a Jets club that was gashed by the Niners for 245 rushing yards last week. What’s more, Tate sat out practice Monday with a toe injury.
Was one solid performance from Chris Johnson enough to get him back in your good graces? He certainly looked sharp against a stout Houston “D” in Week Four, piling up 141 yards on 25 carries. Perhaps of greater importance, Tennessee’s offensive line was much improved, creating openings for Johnson against one of the league’s stingier defenses. Johnson and the Titans travel to Minnesota in Week Five, where the Vikes have allowed just one team (the Jaguars) to surpass 100 rushing yards so far this season. Expect the Titans to have a major focus on getting Johnson involved early. If you had him in your lineup the first several weeks of the season, it would be difficult not to throw him out there Sunday, now that he has finally started to show signs.
- Ryan Mathews
- Jackie Battle