Figuring out who the best fantasy football running backs will be from week to week is a little easier than predicting which wide receivers will shine, but it is by no means simple—especially in Week 12 with all the byes completed and injuries galore throughout the league.
That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists for you—to give you an idea of what to expect from your players on any given Sunday.
With that, here are the weekend's top 50 running backs, along with some detailed analysis on the 10 best plays for the week.
50. Isaac Redman (at Cle)
49. Cedric Peerman (vs. Oak)
48. Pierre Thomas (vs. SF)
47. Danny Woodhead (at NYJ, Thanksgiving night) – Final Statistics: 2 rushes - 8 yards - 0 TDs // 1 catch - 11 yards - 0 TDs
46. Ronnie Brown (vs. Bal)
45. Kendall Hunter (at NO)
44. DeAngelo Williams (at Phi, Monday night)
43. Daryl Richardson (at Ari)
42. Jacquizz Rodgers (at TB)
41. Lance Ball (at KC)
40. Bilal Powell (vs. NE, Thanksgiving night) – Final Statistics: 12 rushes - 40 yards - 1 TD // 2 catches - 13 yards - 0 TDs
39. Daniel Thomas (vs. Sea)
38. James Starks (at NYG, Sunday night)
37. Reggie Bush (vs. Sea)
36. Shane Vereen (at NYJ, Thanksgiving night) – Final Statistics: 10 rushes - 42 yards - 0 TDs // 2 catches - 91 yards - 1 TD
35. Jonathan Dwyer (at Cle)
34. LaRod Stephens-Howling (vs. StL)
33. Donald Brown (vs. Buf)
32. Michael Turner (at TB)
31. Darren Sproles (vs. SF)
30. Felix Jones (vs. Was, Thanksgiving afternoon) – Final Statistics: 6 rushes - 14 yards - 0 TDs // 3 catches - 47 yards - 1 TD
29. Shonn Greene (vs. NE, Thanksgiving night) – Final Statistics: 14 rushes - 71 yards - 0 TDs // 1 catch -9 yards - 0 TDs
28. Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. GB, Sunday night)
27. Jonathan Stewart (at Phi, Monday night)
26. Mikel Leshoure (vs. Hou, Thanksgiving day) – Final Statistics: 12 rushes - 32 yards - 1 TD // 2 catches - 27 yards - 0 TDs
25. Andre Brown (vs. GB, Sunday night)
24. Rashard Mendenhall (at Cle)
23. Beanie Wells (vs. StL)
22. Ronnie Hillman (at KC)
21. Fred Jackson (at Ind)
20. Bryce Brown (vs. Car, Monday night)
19. Matt Forte (vs. Min)
18. Ryan Mathews (vs. Bal)
17. Steven Jackson (at Ari)
16. Vick Ballard (vs. Buf)
15. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Oak)
14. Alfred Morris (at Dal, Thanksgiving afternoon) – Final Statistics: 24 rushes - 113 yards - 1 TD // 0 catches - 0 yards - 0 TDs
13. Jamaal Charles (vs. Den)
12. Jalen Parmele (vs. Ten)
11. Trent Richardson (vs. Pit)
Top 10 RB Plays for Week 12
10. Marcel Reece (at Cin)
Marcel Reece has been kind of a beast the last three weeks, putting up the third-most fantasy points in non-PPR and second most in PPR leagues.
Though he did have a 100-yard game against the Saints last week, he’s not normally much of a runner, as his area of expertise lies more in the passing game than on the ground.
However, I don’t think it will matter much this week, as the Bengals have allowed the third-most receptions to running backs this season and the ninth-most fantasy points per game.
Reece will be heavily involved in the offensive game plan once again this weekend and should be able to turn out some pretty nifty fantasy numbers with the work.
9. Stevan Ridley (at NYJ, Thanksgiving night)
Ridley has rushed for a touchdown in three straight games now and is tied for second in the league with seven on the year.
His rushing yards, attempts and fantasy points per game are all up there in the top-10 as well, though his fantasy output each week has been a bit scattered throughout the season.
Back when he faced the Jets in Week 7, Ridley had just 65 yards on 17 carries and no touchdowns, numbers which would add up to his third-lowest fantasy score in 2012. However, there are a couple of bright spots for Ridley owners to look at here.
First off, the Jets have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season.
Second, the Jets defense has allowed seven different running backs to put up double-digit fantasy points against them, but most importantly, five of those came with the Jets playing at home.
Lastly, three of Stevan’s four 100-yard games and four of his seven rushing TDs have come on the road.
I expect him to be right on the edge of RB1 status by the end of the weekend.
Final Statistics: 21 rushes - 97 yards - 1 TD // 0 catches - 0 yards - 0 TDs
8. C.J. Spiller (at Ind)
Even though his fellow backfield mate, Fred Jackson, will be returning to action this week, coach Chan Gailey has already stated that Spiller will not only start, but also receive the majority of the snaps throughout the game.
Maybe Gailey finally took a look at the fantasy stats for the year and realized that C.J. is not only averaging the sixth-most fantasy points per game, but also the most yards per carry in the entire league.
Either way, Spiller is finally getting his due—and not a moment too soon with the Bills taking on a Colts defense that has allowed the second-most touchdowns to running backs and the eighth-most fantasy points per game.
If Spill can somehow get 20 or more touches in this one, then this ranking will end up far too low.
7. Ray Rice (at SD)
Though he still ranks fourth in fantasy points per game, Ray Rice hasn’t quite had the type of fantasy season owners were hoping for this year.
His seven rushing touchdowns have been nice, but his yardage has been on the downside for a while now, as he’s failed to reach the 100-yard mark since Week 5 and only has two on the season after posting six in 2011.
This week he goes on the road to take on a pretty darn good rush D in San Diego.
With Rice’s career numbers being far superior at home, he could have a bit of trouble putting up big points in this game, but he should be fine.
He put up double-digit fantasy points last season when he visited the Chargers, and there’s no reason to think he won’t do the same again this year.
6. Adrian Peterson (at Chi)
Even though at this moment he’s played one less game than him, Adrian Peterson still leads Arian Foster by 77 yards for the 2012 rushing title.
With 1,128 yards through 10 games, Peterson is on pace for a career-high 1,805 yards on another career-best 5.8 yards per carry. All this less than a year removed from tearing his ACL, MCL and both meniscuses?!?!
Out of control, folks. Simply out of control.
What’s even crazier was to read the story about how Dr. James Andrews claimed that Peterson’s knee had as much wear and tear as a "newborn baby" when he operated on it last December (h/t Jeff Darlington, NFL.com).
The nickname “Purple Jesus” is getting to be more and more appropriate as time wears on.
This week Peterson will take on a Bears team he’s had a lot of success against in the past, though not necessarily in the last couple of seasons.
That being said, though they’re still ranked near the top of the league, the flaws of the Chicago rush D have definitely been exposed, as they’ve given up a ton of fantasy points on the ground the last few weeks.
Look for Peterson’s epic, storybook season to continue this Sunday.
5. Marshawn Lynch (at Mia)
Marshawn Lynch—or as I like to call him, Fugly McSkittles—has once again proved to be fantasy immune to good run defenses this season, as he now has four straight 100-yard games with three of them coming against rush Ds in the better half of the league.
He’s also started to come on in the TD category, putting together a three-game scoring streak after a slow start to the season.
Coming out of his bye this week, Beast Mode should be well rested and ready to take on yet another top-tier run defense in Miami.
The Dolphins have been falling off a bit of late, though, as they’ve allowed a running back to score at least 9.8 fantasy points in five straight weeks now.
With all these things in mind, I have no doubt Lynch will have another studly workhorse day for fantasy owners this weekend.
4. Chris Johnson (at Jax)
Even though he’s been consistent since Week 4 and averaging one touchdown and 140.3 rushing yards over the last four weeks, I still have my reservations about CJ2K. That’s how much his putrid 2011 season and first few weeks of 2012 have influenced the overall fantasy world.
That being said, I must be getting over it now or else I wouldn’t have him up here in my top five RBs for the week. Jacksonville has one of those strange defenses that are hard to figure out as they’ve shut down the best in the game (Arian Foster in Week 11), but also allowed career fantasy days to players like Ben Tate and Mikel Leshoure this season.
However, one consistency I noticed is that they’ve had a tough time stopping good cut-back runners with a lot of speed, so I have to believe that Johnson at least has a shot at a big game here.
It may be slow for him in patches, but fantasy owners will love the couple of big runs that should come his way during the course of the game.
3. Doug Martin (vs. Atl)
Most people had a pretty good idea that the rookie out of Boise State would be a pretty good running back this season.
However, players tend to struggle a bit in their first NFL season, so I’m sure his projected numbers were tapered back a bit.
Basically, my guess is that nobody predicted the Muscle Hamster to have 1,000 yards rushing in his first 10 games, much less that he would be ranked second in the league in fantasy points per game.
Martin is on a serious tear right now, putting up three 100-yard games and seven total touchdowns in the last five weeks, a streak that should continue this Sunday against Atlanta’s mediocre rush D.
The Falcons have allowed a running back to put up double-digit fantasy points in seven straight games, a streak which includes lesser RBs like DeAngelo Williams, Felix Jones, Chris Ivory and LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Not only will Martin make it eight straight games for Atlanta, but will outperform every single RB included in the streak (LSH - 19.3 fantasy points).
2. Arian Foster (at Det, Thanksgiving day)
Foster has been held without a rushing TD in each of the past two weeks, though he did have a receiving TD in Week 10 against the Bears.
In fact, Foster has had a real tough go of it over the past three games, putting up a mere 3.6 yards per rush average and long run of 21 yards, though he did manage to have two 100-yard rushing games in the process.
This has really been the story pretty much all year for Arian, as he is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry on the season, though he still ranks second in the league in fantasy points per game.
Foster is still an all-around dominant player being both the Texans goal-line back and a viable option in the passing game
I expect Houston to establish their bell-cow early in the game in order to open up their league-best play-action offense, and in doing so; Foster should accumulate a good 25 to 30 touches by the final whistle.
With a national audience watching this early Thanksgiving game, Foster will undoubtedly be looking to bust a long one, something he's had trouble doing pretty much all season.
Final Statistics: 20 rushes - 102 yards - 2 TDs // 5 catches - 15 yards - 0 TDs
1. Frank Gore (at NO)
Living up to his nickname, Frank the Tank has been awesome in his final season before he turns 30 years old.
Normally you would expect him to slow down right about now, but the ‘Niners have kept his playing time in check enough this season so he should have enough left in his legs to finish the year off strong.
This week he’ll be visiting New Orleans to take on a Saints defense that allows the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs.
Though QB Colin Kaepernick showed strong in his first start last weekend, I expect San Fran to try to control this game on the ground in order to keep the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands.
If that happens, then Gore will be looking at 20 to 25 touches and will inflict some serious fantasy damage this Sunday.
For rankings at all the positions, check out the: Pyro® Rankings.
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