(Other than Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Steven Jackson, Arian Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw, Peyton Hillis, Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, Knowshon Moreno)
LeGarrette Blount vs. Seattle
Blount has emerged as a strong RB2 option since assuming the lead role in the Tampa Bay backfield in Week 7. During this nine-game period, Blount has averaged 16 carries and 83 rushing yards per game with five touchdowns. He’s a lock for a big workload this week for the playoff-hungry Buccaneers against the 21st-ranked Seattle run defense (117.7 yards allowed per game).
Ryan Torain at Jacksonville
Torain was tagged as “questionable” for Week 15 against the Cowboys and paid early dividends for trusting fantasy owners with a touchdown reception from Rex Grossman. He finished the game with 101 total yards on 16 touches. In fact, he’s logged at least 100 total yards in each of the past four games that he’s finished.
He’s front and center for another sizable workload this week against the Jacksonville defense that cedes 115.9 yards and one touchdown per game on the ground, and I suspect that he’ll be active in the passing game once again as Grossman gets comfortable.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Buffalo
Green-Ellis didn’t get to run wild in Week 15, as the Packers gave the Patriots a stronger fight than most anticipated, but he did notch another touchdown run. He’s scored in four of the past five games to bring his season total to 12. Green-Ellis has averaged 73.1 rushing yards per game in his past six starts. I anticipate that he tops his season average and logs another touchdown against the run-deficient Buffalo defense.
Marshawn Lynch at Tampa Bay
Lynch scored his sixth touchdown of the year in the Seahawks’ Week 15 loss to Atlanta. He’s scored four touchdowns in the past three weeks and remains the go-to guy in and around the goal line. Lynch has logged at least nine touches in every game in which he’s appeared for the Seahawks and does occasionally contribute to the passing game (at least one reception in six consecutive games). He’s on the board for a low-end RB2 opportunity this week (the Seahawks’ offense must be considered, of course) against this Tampa Bay defense that has allowed 136.5 rushing yards per game.
Felix Jones at Arizona
The Cowboys have seemingly found the sweet spot for Jones in terms of his touch count. He teams with Tashard Choice to forge a formidable one-two punch while logging 12-16 touches per game. He’s averaged 104.3 total yards per game in the past six weeks (22 receptions). Jones’ versatility will be on full display this week against the Arizona defense (26.4 points allowed per game, 29th in the NFL).
Fred Jackson vs. New England
Jackson was shut down for the second time in the past three weeks in the Week 15 win over Miami. Curiously, he did not record a reception in the narrow victory. Jackson had averaged 136.8 total yards in his other four starts during the Bills’ most recent six games. I anticipate a sizable workload, including a big role in the passing game, for Jackson this week against the Patriots.
Tashard Choice at Arizona
Choice scored for the third time in the past four weeks and logged 84 total yards on 19 touches in the hard-fought divisional win over Washington. It was the second time in the past three weeks that Choice earned 19 touches in a game. He’s on the board for a big total and possible low-end RB2 play, depending on your options, against the 30th-ranked Arizona run defense (145.7 yards allowed per game). Choice is a dual-purpose back that creeps in to steal coveted goal-line work from Felix Jones. He’ll find paydirt this weekend.
Mike Tolbert at Cincinnati
Tolbert logged another big workload in Week 15 against the 49ers. He carried the ball 17 times for 46 yards and scored his 11th touchdown of the season. In the past seven weeks, Tolbert has averaged 83.2 total yards and 17.4 touches. He’ll cede touches to Ryan Mathews, but retains those all-important goal-line opportunities.
Danny Woodhead at Buffalo
Woodhead earned 71 yards on 10 touches during the Week 15 game against the Packers. He’s a difficult play, as his production has fluctuated wildly over the course of the season. Woodhead has topped 70 total yards on five occasions, but has been limited to fewer than 50 total yards in five others. If you anticipate the blowout that didn’t materialize in Week 15, then Woodhead likely sees a high touch count in the second half of this game.
Maurice Morris at Miami
Morris has run well as the top option in the Detroit backfield. He rumbled for 109 yards with a touchdown in the Week 15 upset win over Tampa Bay and has averaged 13.8 touches per game over the past five weeks. The Dolphins do rank sixth against the run (100.6 yards allowed per game), so Morris will also need to contribute to the passing game. He caught 14 passes during this five-game period.
Ryan Mathews at Cincinnati
Mathews scored in his first significant action in Week 14 against the Chiefs. He then put some of the injury concerns further in the rearview mirror in Week 15 with a 17-carry, 56-yard performance against the Jaguars. He continues to cede those all-important goal-line touches to Mike Tolbert, but I anticipate that he’ll serve as the lead back this week against Cincinnati. The Chargers continue their playoff push and will work the ground against the 22nd-ranked Bengals run defense.
Rashad Jennings vs. Washington
Jennings saw his three-game scoring streak end last week against Indianapolis, but still tallied a respectable total of 77 yards as a sleeper last week as David Garrard’s leading receiver (seven receptions for 64 yards). The Redskins rank 27th against the run at 134.4 yards and nearly one touchdown per game. Maurice Jones-Drew will rebound from a tepid Week 15 total and assume the lead role here, but Jennings will still amass 8-10 touches in this spot.
LaDainian Tomlinson at Chicago
Tomlinson’s workload has dwindled in recent weeks for the sputtering New York offense, and he’s been nearly invisible in the passing game. He’s tallied 63 or fewer total yards in the past four weeks. The Bears rank third in run defense at 89.4 yards allowed per game (12 touchdowns) and third in total defense (17.3 points allowed per game). The problems afflicting this New York offense make it difficult to use LT at all, though it’s possible that he fills a flex slot out of necessity.
Cedric Benson vs. San Diego
Benson plowed over the Browns for 150 yards and scored for the seventh time this season (plus one receiving touchdown) in the Bengals’ narrow win in “The Battle for Ohio II.” While his effort in Week 15 may have helped to propel you to the championship round, Benson ranks no better than a low-end RB2 this week. The Chargers rank second against the run, yielding 89.4 yards and less than one touchdown per contest. Start him because of the expected workload, but know that you’re assuming heavy risk.
Matt Forte vs. New York Jets
Forte rushed for at least 90 yards for the third time in the past five weeks in Monday’s win over the Vikings. I’m still reticent to slide him in as anything more than a flex option this weekend against the Jets. First, the Jets surrender only 92.7 rushing yards per game. Second, Chester Taylor continues to sneak in during short-yardage situations. Chicago will need to surmount a solid running game to back pressure off of Jay Cutler, and I expect to see Forte touch the ball 15-17 times. Again, I’m merely skittish about Taylor’s involvement at the painted stripe.