The arrival of another fake football Sunday means another classic day of owners agonizing over the most important decision of all—which running backs to start, and which to sit.
As a whole, the position has been unpredictable in every sense of the word. For example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has mostly been a disappointment this season after a stellar rookie campaign.
Outside of the top five or six backs, this year has been harder than most in recent memory to nail down each week.
While ignoring the painfully obvious, here is a batch of start ’em, sit ’em at the most confounding position of them all. Enjoy.
Start ‘Em: Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Yes, we’re advising the oft-injured Ryan Mathews to be in starting lineups this weekend.
While many backs should see the field against Jacksonville, Mathews especially should given his year to date.
Mathews is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season, and while he has yet to score a touchdown and averages below four yards per carry, he’ll find plenty of room against the NFL‘s worst run defense that allows 152.5 yards per game. Expect a second-consecutive 100 yard day.
Sit ‘Em: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans vs. San Francisco 49ers
Look no further than Chris Johnson for the ultimate fantasy dud at the position this year. Through six games, CJ has rushed for just 327 yards with a 3.1 average and has failed to score.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up the situation nicely:
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) October 18, 2013
Now, Johnson has a date with a unit that allows 112.8 rushing yards per game. The problem is, Johnson has seen just 22 carries in his last two games. There’s potential for Johnson to contribute through the air, but this week, he needs to take a seat. He’s simply not worth the risk.
Start ‘Em: Bilal Powell, New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Last time New York running back Bilal Powell met New England in Week 2, he managed 70 total yards and a touchdown.
That’s a solid fantasy line to boot, but things are better for Powell this time around thanks to an unfortunate injury to fellow back Mike Goodson, who will miss the rest of the season, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
Jets RB Mike Goodson tweeted that he tore his ACL and MCL. Rough season over.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 14, 2013
New York employed a three-back rotation before the injury. Powell was clearly the lead back, but he’ll see even more opportunities now with Goodson out of the picture, as the Jets attempt to keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands.
Sit ‘Em: Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
Stevan Ridley went off for 96 yards and two touchdowns last week, but he did so against a rather weak New Orleans defense.
Ridley will have no such opportunity in Week 7 against the New York Jets, as Rex Ryan and Co. have not allowed a back to rush for over 75 yards yet this season.
In Week 2, Ridley found just 40 yards against the Jets. Expect more of the same.
Start ‘Em: Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Detroit Lions
Any time a running back can do this after a simple dump-off pass, he’s worth a fantasy start:
GIF courtesy of B/R
No, but really—Bernard should be in the starting lineup for owners from here on out. He received a career-high 15 carries last week, as he continues to earn the trust of the coaching staff.
Bernard put together 100 total yards and a score last week, but expect even better things against Detroit, as he not only continues to see his workload increase, but also gets a shot at the No. 29 ranked rush defense.
Sit ‘Em: C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
C.J. Spiller is expected to play Sunday, per the team’s official Twitter:
Marrone: Stevie Johnson (back) and C.J. Spiller (ankle) both expected to play Sunday #BUFvsMIA
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 18, 2013
One problem—Spiller played last week on his hobbled ankle as well and looks miserable and lacking in the swift movements that makes him one of the NFL’s most dangerous backs.
The Miami defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher yet, and Spiller will come nowhere close as part of a committee with Fred Jackson. No, Spiller won’t get there through the air, either—he’s caught just three passes in his last four games.
Until healthy, avoid Spiller at all costs.
Follow B/R’s Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling