Welcome to week 14 which for a lot of you is the start of the fantasy playoffs. Now is not the time to get cute, play the guys who brought you this far. Good luck and let’s go win some championships!
This is not intended to be a start/sit or a rankings sheet. Use it when you have a tough decision regarding 2 running backs at similar levels. I’m just presenting the data here to help you make more informed decisions so you can win more often. From best to worst the matchups will be listed as (Great, Good, Average, Bad, Terrible). Good luck!
Denver @ Tennessee
DeVontae Booker/Justin Forsett, DEN
Tennessee ranks 14th in DVOA and has allowed just the 8th fewest fantasy points to running backs on the year. Booker has not been impressive since taking over for C.J. Anderson averaging just 2.8 YPC. The Broncos signed Forsett this week but I would still expect Booker be the lead back. Reports out of Denver are this will be Booker/Bibbs type splits but don’t be surprised if Forsett gets a little more work if Booker struggles early. Of course Forsett hasn’t impressed himself this year but he does have a history with Kubiak.
DeMarco Murray/Derrik Henry, TEN
Denver ranks 26th in DVOA, has given up the 10th most fantasy points to running backs. They also give up almost 50 yards through the air to running backs which has been a big part of Murray’s success this year. Coming off the bye Murray should be healthier and Henry should still remain an elite handcuff who has flex value in very deep leagues.
San Diego @ Carolina
Melvin Gordon, SD
Carolina got blasted by Thomas Rawls last week but held the Raiders to just 2.6 YPC the week before with Luke Kuechly out the lineup. They rank 6th in DVOA and have given up just the 7th fewest points to running backs this season. One area running back can attack this defense is through the air and Gordon now ranks 8th in targets for running backs. He is a RB1 even in a tough matchup.
Jonathan Stewart, CAR
San Diego ranks 15th in DVOA and has given up the 7th most points to running backs. Most of those points have come via touchdowns as they have given up 19 to the position. Stewart has seen 4 goal line carries over the last 2 weeks (2nd) so he could certainly find the end zone in week 14. He makes for a solid RB2 with upside this week.
Houston @ Indianapolis
Lamar Miller, HOU
Indianapolis ranks 31st in DVOA and has given up the 9th most points to running backs. The last time these teams played Miller had his best game of the season going for a 24-149-1 line on the ground and adding 3-29-1 through the air. Unfortunately his health is in question as he is dealing with a long list of minor injuries. Even with a great matchup it’s hard to trust him as more than a RB2 in week 14.
Frank Gore, IND
Houston ranks 17th in DVOA and has given up the 13th most points to running backs. Gore is averaging just 3.14 YPC since the bye and you have to wonder if the grind of a long career in his age 33 season is taking a toll on his legs. Still he’s seen at least 15 carries in the last 3 games and should continue to dominate the work. He makes a solid play in week 14.
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Jeremy Hill, CIN
Since Gio Bernard went down with injury Hill has only seen 16, 12 and 23 carries and has done very little with them averaging just 2.27 YPC. However that should change this week as Cleveland ranks 29th in DVOA and have given up the second most points to running backs. Backs are also averaging 4.57 YPC against them. As an added bonus they’ve given up 13 touchdowns on the ground. Hill is setup for a big week 14.
Rex Burkhead, CIN
Rex Burkhead is a thing. Last week against Philadelphia he saw 8 carries and turned 5 targets into 4 catches for 28 yards. He seems to be filling the Gio role in this offense. Against a horrid Cleveland defense he makes for a flex play in deeper leagues and a guy to keep your eye on going forward.
Isaiah Crowell, CLE
Cincinnati ranks 20th in DVOA and has given up the 12th most points to running backs. Crowell has been awful down the stretch and will be hard to trust as anything more than a flex this week. With the return of RG3 to the starters role it’s hard to envision this offense improving at all.
Duke Johnson, CLE
Cincinnati is susceptible to pass catching backs as they’ve given up over 43 yards per game through the air to the position. Johnson just doesn’t see the workload to make him playable in most leagues.
Pittsburgh @ Buffalo
LeVeon Bell, PIT
Buffalo ranks 24th in DVOA and has given up the 15th most points to the position. Bell is an obvious must start every week and this matchup should not scare his owners at all. With 78 targets on the year despite missing 3 games, Bell is a weapon all over the field.
LeSean McCoy/Mike Gilislee, BUF
Although the Steelers rank 10th in DVOA they have given up the 6th most points to running backs. Like Bell, McCoy is an obvious weekly start who picks up yards in chunks both on the ground and through the air. With Bills OC Anthony Lynn saying Gillislee will continue to be the goal line back he makes for a high upside flex play and could definitely find the end zone against a Steelers defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Arizona @ Miami
David Johnson, ARI
Miami ranks 22nd in DVOA and has given up just the 13th fewest points to running backs. However it’s been reported that Kiko Alonso and Jelani Jenkins will be out for the Dolphins which is a big blow to this run game. David Johnson is already matchup proof and this only makes the matchup better.
Jay Ajayi, MIA
Arizona ranks 11th in DVOA and has given up the 2nd fewest points to running backs. They hold opposing backs to just 3.8 YPC. Ajayi looked good against the leagues best run defense but game flow held him to just 12 carries. Game flow could certainly work against him again in week 14 but he remains a must start running back.
Chicago @ Detroit
Jordan Howard, CHI
Detroit’s rush defense has really been coming on of late. Still ranked just 25th in DVOA they have given up the 5th fewest points to the position. The injury to DeAndre Levy will hurt but this is still a solid unit. Howard has looked great since taking over the lead role and even in a tough matchup is a must play.
Theo Riddick, DET
Chicago is ranked 21st in DVOA but is tied with Detroit for the 5th fewest points allowed to running backs. The Bears are also good at defending pass catching backs giving up just 25 yards to the position per game. Riddick has seen his workload take a hit lately seeing 12, 14 and 9 touches since Detroit’s bye. He’s a low end RB2 in standard leagues but makes a good play in PPR.
Minnesota @ Jacksonville
Jerick McKinnon/Matt Asiata, MIN
Jacksonville ranks 18th in DVOA and ranks 17th in points allowed to running backs. Both McKinnon and Asiata are tough starts but Asiata at least has touchdown upside. Jacksonville has given up 14 touchdowns on the ground so Asiata could be a desperation play for owners who need a home run.
TJ Yeldon, JAX
The Vikings rank 13th in DVOA and have given up the 11th fewest points to running backs. They held the leagues leading rusher to 86 yards on 20 carries. It’s hard to see a positive result for Yeldon running behind a worse offensive line then Elliott. On the plus side it looks unlikely that he will have any competition for carries so he should get plenty of work.
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay
Mark Ingram/Tim Hightower, NO
Tampa Bay has been playing better defense lately but are still ranked 23rd in DVOA and have allowed the 13th most points to the position. Since his benching Ingram has been running incredibly well but is now dealing with a toe injury that seemed to be bothering him in week 13. Reports are that the toe is feeling better and he’s ready to play. Ingram has re-asserted himself as the lead back but Hightower still has some flex value in deeper leagues.
Doug Martin, TB
The Saints are another team that has been playing better defense lately. Now up to 16th in DVOA they are allowing running backs just 3.9 YPC. They have given up the 5th most points to the position but most of that was done in the first half of the season. To make matters worse the Tampa Bay backfield is getting muddier as Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims are set to return. Martin looks like a RB2 in week 14.
Washington @ Philadelphia
Robert Kelley, WAS
Philadelphia ranks 9th in DVOA and has given up the 9th fewest points to running backs. Kelley has struggled since Washington’s bye and has had some tough matchups. That is unlikely to change this week and Kelley looks like a low end RB2.
Ryan Mathews/Wendall Smallwood, PHI
The Redskins rank 30th in DVOA and have given up the 8th most points to running backs. Washington is tied with San Francisco at 17 touchdowns given up on the ground which is a big boost for Mathews. Smallwood and Mathews may split carries in this but Mathews should get the goal line touches.
Darren Sproles, PHI
Washington allows 36 yards through the air to running backs and has allowed just 2 touchdowns through the air to backs. With Mathews set to return Sproles will likely see even less carries making him a play in PPR formats only.
NY Jets @ San Francisco
Matt Forte, NYJ
I feel like a broken record but San Francisco ranks last in just about every meaningful category. 32nd in DVOA, have given up the most points, allowed 17 touchdowns, and give up 5 YPC. The only question mark in this matchup is how much work will Forte get? In wins he has been great in losses not so great. With Bryce Petty getting the start the Jets are 2.5 point underdogs on the road. Still, the matchup is too good to pass up and Forte is hard to bench.
Bilal Powell, NYJ
Powell typically has better games when the Jets are trailing and need to throw. With San Francisco being just 2.5 point favorites it doesn’t seem like the Jets will be in comeback mode. Still, in a plus matchup Powell gets enough touches to give him value in deeper leagues.
Carlos Hyde, SF
The Jets are ranked 2nd in DVOA but are ranked just 13th in points allowed to running backs. Hyde is involved in the run and passing game so even in a tough matchup the volume will be there. He makes a solid RB2 this week.
Seattle @ Green Bay
Thomas Rawls, SEA
Although still ranked 7th in DVOA, Green Bay is ranked 16th in points allowed and have not looked as tough at stopping the run as they did earlier in the year. Last week against Carolina, Rawls looked like the running back from 2015 making incredible cuts and torching the Panthers vaunted run defense for a 15-106-2 line. Rawls is a fringe RB1 in week 14.
James Starks/Christine Michael/Ty Montgomerey, GB
Seattle ranks 3rd in DVOA and has allowed the 4th fewest points to running backs. On top of that this backfield is a fantasy mess. Starks was invisible in the second half last week. Michael should be used a bit more and Montgomerey continues to look like their best running back. If you can stay away from this backfield do it.
Atlanta @ LA Rams
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman, ATL
The Rams rank 12th in DVOA and 21st in points allowed to running backs. Freeman has looked fantastic the last couple of weeks seeing 7 goal line carries and scoring 5 touchdowns. Over the last 2 weeks Freeman has out carried Coleman 31-20 and out targeted him 8-4. Freeman has also seen 7 goal line carries to Coleman’s 1. With Julio Jones looking unlikely to play, both Freeman and Coleman should see a boost to their workload.
Tood Gurley, LA
Atlanta ranks 27th in DVOA and has given up the 3rd most points to running backs. While the matchup is great Gurley has not been. He has posted double digit points just 3 times this year and saw a season low 11 carries in week 13. Benny Cunningham is out for the Rams which certainly increases Gurley’s value. Gurley makes for a high end RB2 with upside in week 14.
Dallas @ NY Giants
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
The Giants rank 5th in DVOA and have allowed the 12th fewest points to running backs. The loss of Jason Pierre-Paul should hurt this defense and going against the best offensive line in the league won’t help. Elliott is a weekly must start regardless of matchup even against a tough defense in a divisional game.
Rashad Jennings, NYG
Dallas ranks 8th in DVOA and ranks 3rd in points allowed. Jennings only saw 6 carries in week 13 in a negative game script game against Pittsburgh. Not only is the matchup bad, but Jennings workload is inconsistent and Shane Vereen is set to return. He is a risky play in week 14.
Baltimore @ New England
Terrence West/Kenneth Dixon, BAL
New England ranks 4th in DVOA and has allowed the 9th fewest points to running backs. On top of that this backfield is a mess. West scored 2 touchdowns in week 13 but had just 13 touches. Meanwhile Dixon had just 10 touches. Against a tough New England run defense both are tough to trust in week 14.
LeGarrette Blount, NE
Baltimore ranks 1st in DVOA and 1st in points allowed. He ripped off a 50 yard touchdown run in week 13 that saved his day, otherwise rushing 17 times for 38 yards. Now he gets a Baltimore defense that is shutting down every run game. In a game that could feature Lewis and White more in the passing game Blount likely will need to score again to make his owners happy.
Dion Lewis/James White, NE
For as good as the Ravens are at stopping the run they struggle against pass catching backs. They’ve given up over 44 yards to backs through the air. Still, until White or Lewis emerges and takes over this role both are hard to start outside of deeper leagues.
Anyone I forgot about? Disagree with the analysis? Let me know in the comments below.