Welcome to championship week! Congrats to those of you who made your league’s championship. Decisions this week will likely be the toughest you’ve made all season but remember, don’t get cute and play your studs.
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). I’ve added “rankings” to help make your decisions easier. Good luck this week!
San Diego @ Cleveland
Kenneth Farrow, SD
Farrow got the start for Melvin Gordon and disappointed last week rushing 15 time for just 39 yards and fumbling twice. You’d have to think he will be better this week against a Cleveland defense that ranks 32nd in DVOA and 31st in points allowed. They’ve also given up over 150 yards on the ground. Farrow should make a solid RB2 start this week.
Isaiah Crowell, SD
The Chargers are actually good at stopping the run, they are just terrible at stopping running backs from scoring. They rank 15th in DVOA but 26th in points allowed. They allow just 3.8 YPC but have given up 17 rushing touchdowns. The biggest hurdle for Crowell is the offense which has been ineffective no matter who is at quarterback. With Robert Griffin III set to make another start Crowell makes for a risky RB3.
Tennessee @ Jacksonville
DeMarco Murray, TEN
The Jaguars rank 16th in DVOA and 16th in points allowed. Despite the fact that Derrik Henry vultured Murray twice last week, Murray still saw 23 touches for 141 yards. Murray should be in line for another high volume day and you have to think he’ll have chances to find the end zone this week. He’s a locked in weekly RB1.
T.J. Yeldon, JAC
The Titans rank 13th in DVOA and 5th in points allowed. Since Chris Ivory’s injury 3 weeks ago Yeldon has been the primary back and has seen 17, 24 and 13 touches. With his ability in the passing game he is somewhat game script independent. The big question mark going into this week is how will interim coach Doug Merrone call plays? If Ivory is out again Yeldon should make for a low end RB2.
New York Jets @ New England
Bilal Powell, NYJ
Matt Forte was active and apparently healthy last week, but played a distant second fiddle to Powell. Now Forte is looking unlikely to play in week 16 which means Powell should be a workhorse. This week he draws a tough matchup against a Patriots defense that ranks 2nd in DVOA and 9th in points allowed. Still Powell is involved in the passing game and has been running angry. With no Forte Powell should make for a low end RB1.
LeGarrette Blount, NE
The Jets had a better showing last week against Jay Ajayi but have struggled recently against running backs. They still rank 6th in DVOA but have given up the 15th most points against. Blount is always a threat to score but this backfield is beginning to become a guessing game. With the uncertainty of this backfield and the matchup Blount is a low end RB2.
Dion Lewis/James White, NE
Lewis led the team in carries last week with 18 (one more than Blount) as Belichick decided his ellusiveness was better suited against Denver. White got just 6 touches. Historically the Patriots have chosen to throw the ball more against this front 7 as Blount saw just 11 touches when they played in week 12 while White and Lewis combined for 14. Between the two Lewis seems like the safer play this week. Lewis is a high end RB3 while White is outside the RB3 range.
Minnesota @ Green Bay
Jerrik McKinnon/Matt Asiata, MIN
Though the Packers rank 9th in DVOA and 13th in points against, they are living off some early season success. Over the last 8 games they are allowing 4.8 YPC. Peterson returned from injury sooner than anyone expected and did not look good. To make matters worse he injured his groin and is now likely done for the season. McKinnon and Asiata have not been great this year and that’s unlikely to change this week.. This is a backfield I want no part of in such an important week.
Ty Montgomerey/Christine Michael, GB
It took Mike McCarthy 15 weeks to realize Ty Montgomerey was his best running back. Montgomerey turned 16 carries into 162 yards and 2 touchdowns last week against Chicago. Minnesota’s defense has not been as good of late and now ranks 15th in DVOA and 11th in points allowed. Montgomerey looks like a must start this week and would make for a great WR3 in leagues were he has dual positional eligibility. As a RB he should be a high end RB2. Michael is outside the RB3 range.
Atlanta @ Carolina
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman, ATL
Carolina ranks 8th in DVOA and 7th in points allowed but has not looked quite as good with Luke Kuechly sidelined. The Panthers seem to be more concerned about his long term health and are not rushing him back. Freeman has been on a touchdown tear of late piling up 7 in the last 4 games. He was a top regression candidate coming out of the bye and that has held true in a big way. He is a locked in play as a low end RB1. Coleman is more boom/bust as you never know what kind of workload he’ll get but should still be a playable RB2 in this matchup.
Jonathan Stewart, CAR
The Falcons rank 28th in DVOA and 24th in points allowed. Stewart continues to be a workhorse for the Panthers and continues to see goal line carries. He should be a high end RB2 this week.
Miami @ Buffalo
Jay Ajayi, MIA
The Bills rank 29th in DVOA and 24th in points allowed. While Ajayi has struggled behind a beat up offensive line the volume is there as he’s seen at least 18 touches in every game since week 6. Unfortunately he hasn’t broken 100 total yards since week 9. He should still make for a low end RB1 in a plus matchup.
LeSean McCoy, BUF
The Dolphins rank 22nd in DVOA and 14th in points allowed. McCoy has been on a tear lately, and really all season, and is a locked in must-start RB1.
Washington @ Chicago
Robert Kelley, WAS
The Bears are ranked 20th in DVOA and 5th in points allowed. Missing key players on the defensive side of the ball has hurt as they were just gashed by the Packers for 207 yards on the ground. The return of ILB Jerrell Freeman will help strengthen the defense. Still Kelley has been a solid runner for Washington since taking over for Matt Jones and makes a solid RB2.
Jordan Howard, CHI
Washington ranks 27th in DVOA and 28th in points against. They’ve allowed 4.5 YPC and 17 touchdowns. Howard has had a great rookie campaign and if not for Ezekiel Elliott would likely be rookie of the year. Averaging over 5 yards per carry Howard is an easy RB1 this week.
Indianapolis @ Oakland
Frank Gore, IND
Oakland ranks 26th in DVOA and 27th in points allowed. They’ve also given up 16 touchdowns to running backs. Gore just keeps plugging along posting solid, if not spectacular, fantasy games. Gore offers a solid floor as a RB2 this week.
Latavius Murray, OAK
The Colts rank 30th in DVOA and 22nd in points allowed. While they haven’t given up a lot of touchdowns (9) they have allowed 4.5 YPC. Murray averaged over 6 YPC against the Chargers last week but unfortunately DeAndre Washington was activated and the backfield went back to a three-headed monster. Still Murray should lead the team in carries and makes for a high end RB2.
Arizona @ Seattle
David Johnson, ARI
The Seahawks rank 3rd in DVOA and now rank 1st in points allowed. It doesn’t matter though, Johnson has at least 100 yards from scrimmage in all 14 games this season and could tie Barry Sanders record of 15 straight this week against the Seahawks. He is also just 200 yards away from a 1000 rushing, 1000 receiving season. Plus he put up 113 yards rushing and 58 yards receiving against Seattle in week 7. He is a locked in RB1 every week.
Thomas Rawls, SEA
The Cardinals rank 7th in DVOA and 9th in points allowed. They have given up 16 touchdowns to running backs however so the chance for a touchdown is there. Rawls is a great running back but his offensive line does him no favors. If he was running behind a better line he would be a weekly must start RB1. Behind this Seattle line he must be viewed as a low end RB2.
San Francisco @ Los Angeles
Carlos Hyde, SF
The Rams rank 11th in DVOA and 16th in points allowed. They looked absolutely dominant last week against a terrible Seattle offensive line and now face a San Francisco line that isn’t much better. Still Hyde seems like a safe bet for 15+ touches and should make a solid RB1 play.
Todd Gurley, LA
If you made it this far with Gurley, congrats, he may finally pay off for you. San Francisco ranks 31st in DVOA and dead last in points allowed. Since holding Gurley to 47 yards on 17 carries in week 1 the niners have been thrashed by every running back they’ve faced. Gurley should be able to put up RB1 numbers this week.
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans
Doug Martin, TB
The Saints rank 17th in DVOA and 30th in points allowed but have been much better recently. Doug Martin has been a workhorse but a very inefficient one. Since returning from injury he has averaged 2.1, 2.6, 3.8, 2.7, 2.9 and 2.6 YPC. Still in a decent matchup his volume alone makes him a low end RB2.
Mark Ingram/Tim Hightower, NO
Tampa Bay ranks 21st in DVOA and 20th in points allowed. Unfortunately for Ingram owners, Sean Payton seems to have some weird fascination with Tim Hightower. Despite being the clearly inferior runner, Hightower continues to see his fair share of work. If Ingram was getting a full workload he would be an easy RB1 in this matchup, instead he has to be tought of as a RB2. Hightower is a low end RB3.
Cincinnati @ Houston
Jeremy Hill, CIN
The Texans rank 18th in DVOA and 19th in points allowed. Hill continues to see RB1 workload but his lack of yards keeps him in the high end RB2 range. Always a threat to score he had 4 goal line chances last week converting one.
Lamar Miller, HOU
The Bengals rank 23rd in DVOA and 18th in points allowed. Miller suffered another injury last week when he limped off the field with an ankle injury. He hasn’t practiced at all this week and will be a game time decision. Even if he plays you have to worry about his health. If he plays he will be a low end RB2 due to risk of not finishing the game. If he sits Alfred Blue and Akeem Hunt will likely share carries and neither are likely worth a start.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Terrence West/Kenneth Dixon, BAL
The Steelers rank 10th in DVOA but 29th in points against. The trick here is figuring out which running back will get the volume. Two weeks ago it looked like Dixon had broken out, then last week West got all the work. If you’re trusting either of these guys in your championship game good luck. Neither can be considered more than a RB3.
LeVeon Bell, PIT
Though Ryan Matthews put up a good day against this defense, Baltimore still ranks 1st in DVOA and 3rd in points allowed. Regardless Bell is a weekly must start and a top 2 RB every week.
Denver @ Kansas City
Justin Forsett/DeVontae Booker, DEN
The Chiefs rank 19th in DVOA and 20th in points allowed. Unfortunately this backfield is a complete mess and cannot be trusted at all. Neither running backs make for good starts this week.
Spencer Ware, KC
The Broncos can be run on. They are ranked 25th in DVOA and 22nd in points allowed. They have gotten some key pieces back on defense which has helped the run game but it’s still their weakness. Ware has a solid floor but doesn’t offer a huge ceiling as he’s just not getting the touchdowns. Still he makes for a high end RB2 this week.
Detroit @ Dallas
Dwayne Washington, DET
Dallas ranks 4th in DVOA and 2nd in points allowed. Theo Riddick has not practiced this week and looks likely to miss another game leaving Washington as the lead back. Still he can’t be trusted as anything more than a RB3/flex start against a tough Dallas defense.
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
Detroit ranks 24th in DVOA but 4th in points allowed. Regardless of matchup Elliott ranks as a top tier RB1 and is a weekly must start.
Question about the matchups? A player I missed? Let me know in the comments below.