The 2013 fantasy playoffs will soon be upon us, and now is the time to assemble the strongest lineup possible for the final four weeks of the season.
The following are the top 10 fantasy running backs for the 2013 fantasy football playoffs. The rankings were determined by skills, matchups, injury risks and the likelihoods of players being rested in the final weeks of the season.
Spoiler: Unlike all other rankings of running backs from this season, “All Day” Adrian Peterson is not No. 1.
The following statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and ESPN.com’s fantasy football statistics.
10. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
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Knowshon Moreno is to the Denver Broncos offense as Hawkeye is to Marvel Comics’ The Avengers: His success is almost directly correlated to the talent of his supporting cast. He is the sixth highest-scoring fantasy running back for the season, yet he has averaged only 3.2 yards per carry since Week 6.
His fantasy value is derived primarily from his receiving production (37.3 receiving yards per game), and touchdowns (one TD per game). Whenever the Broncos offense slows its pace and plays more conservatively, Moreno’s fantasy production becomes trivial.
During the fantasy football championship round (Weeks 16-17), the Broncos will face the depleted and defeated Houston Texans (2-7) and Oakland Raiders (3-6). Expect to see him have less work in these final two weeks. The Peyton Manning-led offense will play conservatively once the team has a big lead, and Montee Ball will inherit the garbage-time carries.
Moreno’s fantasy value is limited during the championship round, so now is a good time to sell high on him for a running back with better fantasy playoff potential.
9. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
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Reggie Bush seems to have finally begun living up to the unfairly high expectations of him that followed his brilliant college career at USC. He has averaged 77.9 rushing yards and 42.9 receiving yards per game this season. He has also averaged 0.5 touchdowns per game and an impressive 4.7 rushing yards per carry.
Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, the Lions’ rare success may impede his fantasy production during the fantasy playoffs. It’s likely Detroit will not have a reason to play its stars during Week 17 at Minnesota, so Bush will likely disappoint his fantasy owners during the crucial championship round.
Lastly, his Week 15 game is against the defense that gives up the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs: the Baltimore Ravens.
Bush’s fantasy playoff value does not appear to be high at the moment.
8. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
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When healthy, DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys has the ability to perform like an elite fantasy running back. He has averaged 92.1 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game this season. Even more impressive is that he has averaged 4.9 yards per carry through Week 10.
Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he is rarely healthy. He has missed 11 games due to injury in his short three-year career. Two of those games took place this season.
On the bright side, he has favorable matchups in Weeks 14-17: Chicago, Green Bay, Washington and Philadelphia. Both Chicago and Washington are in the bottom 10 defenses in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Relying on him for the fantasy playoffs is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Anyone who uses this strategy should have Lance Dunbar rostered as Murray’s handcuff.
7. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
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Marshawn Lynch, also known as “Beast Mode,” has continued to live up to his nickname. His jaw-dropping 108.2 total yards per game and 0.8 touchdowns per game averages have made him the second highest-scoring fantasy running back for the season. His average of 15.5 fantasy points per game is only surpassed by Jamaal Charles’ 17.5 and Adrian Peterson’s 17.0 points per game.
Regrettably for his fantasy owners, Lynch’s outlook for the fantasy championship round is horrendous.
He will face the second-stingiest defense against fantasy running backs—the Arizona Cardinals—in Week 16. In Week 17, he will face the St. Louis Rams defense that held him to 27 total yards and no touchdowns in their last meeting.
Furthermore, the Seahawks will have a stranglehold on home-field advantage for the playoffs by Week 17, so they are expected to rest their star players against the Rams.
6. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
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Being a Chris Johnson fantasy owner is similar to owning BlackBerry stock; the volatility of his production can be maddening. This can be observed from his fantasy points from the past five games: five, 16, 29, five and then 20.
Nevertheless, his fantasy owners should be optimistic about his matchups in Weeks 14-17. Two of the games are against bottom 10 defenses in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs (Denver and Jacksonville), and one is against the Houston Texans, whom he tore up for 96 yards in Week 2.
Overall, Johnson has been trending upward through the season, and he has favorable matchups during the fantasy playoffs.
5. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
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Matt Forte is not only the fifth highest-scoring fantasy running back so far this season, but he is also one of the most consistent. Through Week 10, he has only had one game where he did not score in double-digit fantasy points.
He has averaged 113.7 total yards and 0.78 touchdowns per game. Without a doubt, he is among the elite fantasy running backs once again.
His fantasy owners should also be excited about his fantasy playoff schedule. In Week 14, he will face the defense that gives up the most points to opposing fantasy running backs, the Dallas Cowboys. He will then face three so-so defenses: Cleveland, Philadelphia and Green Bay.
Forte owners should be optimistic about his fantasy playoff potential.
4. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
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Despite this ranking appearing to be blasphemous, it has more to do with the favorable matchups of the following top three running backs.
Anyone who has watched Adrian Peterson carry a football knows that he is a freak among men. If there was ever a fantasy running back who was matchup proof, it would be Peterson. He has steamrolled defenses on a weekly basis for the past seven years, and this season is no exception.
He has averaged 105.4 total yards and 1.1 touchdowns per game. He has also put up the aforementioned 17.0 fantasy points per game.
The only reason he is not ranked higher is due to this Week 14-17 schedule. He is facing two top-four defenses for fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs: Baltimore and Cincinnati.
However, if you own Peterson, you’re starting him confidently throughout the fantasy playoffs. It’s as simple as that.
3. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
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Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers will be the biggest sleeper of the fantasy playoffs. Not only has he averaged 94.7 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game, but also he has been on an upward trend all season.
The largest reason he will be a sleeper in the fantasy playoffs is due to the favorability of his matchups. All four of his opponents are ranked among the lowest in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs: Atlanta (20th), Dallas (32nd), Pittsburgh (24th) and Chicago (25th).
It’s reasonable to expect all Green Bay fantasy players to struggle in the coming weeks as Aaron Rodgers recovers from a fractured clavicle. Therefore, Lacy owners may be inclined to trade him away at a discount, so make all reasonable efforts to get him in your playoff lineup.
2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
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Jamaal Charles is the leading scorer among fantasy running backs for the 2013 season. He is averaging a staggering 123.5 total yards and 0.89 touchdowns per game. Additionally, as mentioned before, he has averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game.
Despite the Kansas City Chiefs‘ perfect 9-0 record, the Denver Broncos (8-1) will force them to play to win for the remainder of the season, so do not expect to see Charles riding the bench much in Week 18.
Overall, he will not only take his fantasy owners to the playoffs but will also likely win it for them.
1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
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LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles is the fourth highest-scoring fantasy running back to date. He has averaged 125.9 total yards and 0.4 touchdowns per game and has shown no signs of slowing down with Nick Foles as his starting quarterback.
Besides Eddie Lacy, McCoy has the most favorable schedule for the fantasy playoffs among the elite running backs. Three of his opponents are ranked among the lowest in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs: Minnesota (27th), Chicago (25th) and Dallas (32nd).
Lastly, because the Eagles and Cowboys are in a dead heat for the NFC East title with 5-5 records, McCoy won’t sit in Week 17. His owners should expect very big numbers from him in the fantasy playoffs.
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