Week 12 lineup calls: Running backs
Here are the top running back starts, sleepers and flops.
Top Running Backs
(Other than Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw, Peyton Hillis, Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy)
Mike Goodson at Cleveland
Fantasy owners ignored Goodson’s first game as a starter, dismissing the 100-yard game against the struggling Tampa Bay run defense as just another in a line of big efforts against them. It’s hard to look past his efforts in Week 11, when Goodson ran with purpose and cut back effectively to log 120 rushing yards against the Ravens. He’s averaged 4.9 yards per carry in these games and has caught three or more passes in four consecutive games. Regardless of the quarterback situation (Jimmy Clausen), Goodson is going to pile up touches against the Browns (116.4 yards allowed per game).
Knowshon Moreno vs. St. Louis
Moreno returned from the bye week with a vengeance. He’s running with purpose and has been effective as a receiver for Kyle Orton. That’s the reason for his early appearance on the list this week. The Rams are tied for ninth place against the run (101.8 yards allowed per game with four touchdowns), so Moreno will need to remain active in the passing game. With another big game, he’ll graduate to the “Automatic start” list.
LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Cincinnati
Tomlinson is mired in a four-game scoring drought, but he has eclipsed 90 total yards in each of those games. Additionally, he’s been a huge part of Mark Sanchez’s success in the passing game (six receptions and 52 receiving yards per game during this period). I expect him to rediscover the painted grass this weekend and continue his all-around strong season on Thursday night. Cincinnati ranks 23rd against the run at 118.3 yards and a touchdown allowed per game.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Detroit
Green-Ellis ranks among the game’s all-time great names, and he’s producing brilliantly in the timeshare for Bill Belichick’s squad. He’s scored in six of the Patriots’ past eight games and has recently assumed a much larger workload. Green-Ellis has rushed for at least 87 yards in three of the past four games and will set the pace in Thursday’s game against the Lions (26th against the run). Green-Ellis finds the end zone again, as the Patriots carve up the Detroit defense.
Sorry, I needed one cheesy Thanksgiving quip.
Mike Tolbert at Indianapolis
Tolbert took advantage of another starting opportunity and barreled over the Broncos. He earned his second 100-yard performance of the season (111) and scored for the sixth time in his past seven games. Tolbert’s goal-line work alone makes him a late-RB2 option, but he’s a proven himself as a capable full-time runner with the Chargers continuing to await Ryan Mathews’ return.
This week, Tolbert faces the 30th-ranked Indianapolis run defense (136.7 yards and 1.1 touchdowns allowed per game). The Colts will need to contend with a red-hot Philip Rivers and his full complement of receivers. Tolbert continues his tremendous run on Sunday night.
Reggie Bush at Dallas
Bush returns to the mix after missing eight games with a broken leg. Sean Payton has been adamant that Bush would not return to the field until absolutely ready to assume his full workload. That happens Thursday in Dallas, where Bush teams with Christopher Ivory in the backfield to produce a Chargers-like second-half push. Bush caught nine passes in the Saints’ first two games and creates matchup problems on the edge against the struggling Dallas pass defense.
Keiland Williams vs. Minnesota
Williams returned to the top spot in Sunday’s win over Tennessee when Clinton Portis aggravated his groin injury, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. He rushed for 68 yards on 23 carries, adding six receptions for 27 yards. Ryan Torain is unlikely to play in Week 12.
The Vikings may rally for Leslie Frazier, but Williams’ abilities as a runner and receiver make him a solid RB2 option.
Fred Jackson vs. Pittsburgh
I’m not delusional. I’m not anticipating a huge ground effort from Jackson this week against the top-ranked Pittsburgh run defense. Rather, I’m anticipating that Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to call his number out of the backfield as a receiver. Jackson has caught three or more passes in four consecutive games, including a touchdown reception in Week 11 against the Lions.
Thomas Jones at Seattle
Jones left many Jamaal Charles owners salty with his two touchdown plunges in Week 11 against Arizona. It was a nice bounce-back effort following his Week 10 disappearing act as the game got out of hand against Denver. Jones will play a prominent role on the road this week against the middling Seattle run defense to open opportunities for Matt Cassel downfield. Seattle plays well at home, so look for Todd Haley to grind out a few long possessions early. That portends to a big workload from the veteran Jones to set up Charles in the second half.
Ronnie Brown at Oakland
Perhaps the long layoff will convince the Miami coaching staff that they need to give Brown and backfield mate Ricky Williams more than a handful of touches in a game. This might just be the game to get things back on track, and fantasy owners are hoping so, as the Dolphins have a tremendous stretch run on paper. Oakland surrenders 128.4 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game on the ground. The workload split is concerning, but I suspect that Miami passes less against the Raiders.
Danny Woodhead at Detroit
Woodhead has averaged 66 total yards and 9.75 touches per game in the past eight weeks. BenJarvus Green-Ellis obviously remains the lead back, but Woodhead’s weekly workload puts him in consideration for a flex slot in PPR leagues. He’ll most definitely be a factor against this 22nd-ranked Detroit defense. The Lions bring pressure upfront, allowing Woodhead to slip out of the backfield for big gains over the middle.
Maurice Morris vs. New England
Morris led the Lions with 10 carries for 31 yards against the Cowboys in Week 11, adding four receptions for 40 yards. Given his ability as a receiver (five receptions in a game earlier this season), Morris pops onto the radar this week for a spot start.
New England ranks 17th against the run, allowing 108.8 yards and 0.7 rushing touchdowns per game. I believe that his main contribution comes as a receiver for Shaun Hill this week as the offense opens up to keep pace with Brady and the Patriots.
Christopher Ivory at Dallas
Both Bush and Pierre Thomas (limited) returned to practice in the short week, and Bush is likely to get back onto the field this week against Dallas. Thomas’ return isn’t as clear-cut. I still expect to see Ivory in an expanded role this week at Dallas, particularly in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The full integration of the Bush/Thomas combination appears more likely for Week 13.
Tim Hightower vs. San Francisco
Beanie Wells was supposed to be ready for a full workload in Week 11. Instead, Hightower posted a higher touch count and factored more prominently in the passing game (Where was that for nine weeks?). His 86 total yards marked his highest output since Week 2.
Hightower’s inclusion in the passing game puts him on the radar for this divisional showdown against the disappointing San Francisco squad. It’s a middling unit against the run, and I like the growth shown in the passing game in recent weeks. Hightower becomes a flex-worthy option this week.
Cedric Benson at New York Jets
Benson finally had a big game from a fantasy perspective against the Bills, but he offset those gains in “real” terms by fumbling a ball that was returned for a touchdown. Benson faces the fifth-ranked Jets run defense that is surrendering just 95.4 yards per game (3.5 yards per carry). Following a few gut-wrenching, hard-fought wins, I’m expecting a more cohesive effort for the home crowd on Thanksgiving night.
Brandon Jackson at Atlanta
Jackson exited Sunday’s blowout win over Minnesota early, leaving many to speculate about the future of Dmitri Nance. I’m a curious onlooker like all of you, but I’m not anticipating a shift in the workload given Jackson’s previous successes (nearly 100 total yards per game over a five-game stretch). He remains a late-RB2 option because of his contribution to the passing game, but you can’t count on a big ground game against the stingy sixth-ranked Atlanta run defense (95.3 yards per game and just three touchdowns allowed).
LeGarrette Blount at Baltimore
Blount has averaged 84.8 in four games as the primary back for Raheem Morris’ squad. He’s averaged 20 carries per game during this period, and this heavy workload certainly makes him worthy of a late-RB2 slot against Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and this ninth-ranked Baltimore run defense. Owners can take some solace in the big day turned in by Mike Goodson late weekend. Take the 60-70 rushing yards, but don’t anticipate a touchdown.