2010 Fantasy Football: Week 5 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: The Running Backs

Dave StringerCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 03:  Ryan Torain #46 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 3, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 17-12.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The bye weeks are upon us with the Patriots, Dolphins, Steelers and Seahawks off in Week 5.

Plenty of intrigue at the running back position this week with news that the Redskins Clinton Portis would miss extensive time as well as a number of solid options at the position having injury issues heading into this week’s games.

Among the running backs that may either sit out this week’s action or see a reduced role are Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants, Darren McFadden of the Raiders, LeSean McCoy of the Eagles, and Pierre Thomas of the Saints.

We’re not going to state the obvious here. Rather the focus is on the mid-tier options as well as players who are normally starters but might be worth a sit in a given week.

Start ‘Em

Peyton Hillis, Browns vs. Falcons

Okay, I’m officially on the Peyton Hillis bandwagon and here’s why.

Last week, with Jerome Harrison in the line-up, Hillis had 29 touches (27 runs, two receptions). Harrison didn’t touch the ball; the previous week with Harrison out, Hillis also had 29 touches (22 runs, seven receptions).

Despite facing two respectable run defenses (Ravens & Bengals), he churned out 290 total yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Browns won one of those games and narrowly lost the other. At this point, it’s safe to assume that the Browns continue to feed Hillis and it appears that his downhill style is working for a Browns offense that has little else to turn to.

Must Read: Waiver Wire Gems for Week 5

Ryan Mathews, Chargers at Raiders

I told you to start him last week and he didn’t disappoint, with 68 total yards and a touchdown.

Nice enough numbers but clearly his owners are dying for a bust out game for him to relegate Mike Tolbert to a more marginal role. Here’s betting that the Raiders are just the tonic for that to happen and it’s worth noting that head coach Norv Turner reiterated this week that Mathews is his lead back.

Oakland ranks 31st in run defense, yielding 162 yards per game on the ground and they have given up five rushing touchdowns on the year. Look for Mathews to break a couple big runs this week.

Ryan Torain, Redskins vs. Packers

Clinton Portis let the cat out of the bag early this week that he wasn’t going to play this week and then it was revealed yesterday that he has a third-degree groin injury, which apparently means the muscle is detached from the bone.

Looks like Torain will get an extended look at the Redskins lead back.Unless Mike Shanahan does the usual and goes with Chad Simpson or Keiland Williams, who will likely be promoted to the active roster from the practice squad.

Nonetheless, Torain is the man this week and the Redskins face a Packers defense that is struggling to stop the run, giving up 118 yards per game.

Michael Bush, Raiders vs. Chargers

Going out on a bit of a limb with this one.

If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, it appears that Darren McFadden will sit this one out with a hamstring injury. He has yet to practice this week and the Raiders will likely be conservative with rushing him back, given his productivity early this season and his lengthy injury history.

With Michael Bennett also likely out with a hamstring injury, Bush is expected to get almost the entire workload this week with Rock Cartwright subbing in occasionally. Look for Bush to run hard in his first extensive action this season as he attempts to make a case for additional playing time in the Raiders backfield or even to win his job back.

The Chargers have a stout run defense but thus far in 2010, they have twice played down to the level of their opponent in losses to the Chiefs and Seahawks and that could happen again this week. Here’s betting that it does.

Sit ‘Em

Chris Wells, Cardinals vs. Saints

Here’s the good news: the Cardinals get the Saints 26th ranked run defense this week, a unit that is giving up 126 yards and a touchdown on the ground per game this season.

Here’s the bad news: it doesn’t mean much if your coach doesn’t give you the rock.

Wells had just six touches last week against the Chargers with Tim Hightower getting slightly more use with eight. His lack of use is perhaps the second most confounding development at running back aside from the Chiefs decision to start Thomas Jones ahead of Jamaal Charles.

Wells went off to the media about his lack of use and it says here that head coach Ken Whisenhunt isn’t the type of coach who is going to increase the role of a player who spouts off to the media. If you don’t believe me, check and see where Matt Leinart is playing now. It sure isn’t Arizona.

Even if Wells does get the carries, the Cardinals are going to be starting undrafted, rookie free agent Max Hall at quarterback this week and I fully expect that Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will blitz Hall into oblivion.

Cadillac Williams, Bucs at Bengals

Despite getting a healthy dose of touches over the first three weeks of the season (63 in total), Williams failed to produce with just 203 total yards and no touchdowns.

The Bucs were on their bye last week and that gave the coaching staff the opportunity to come up with a plan to get rookie LeGarrette Blount and second-year player Kareem Huggins more involved in the offense; not to mention that the always reliable Earnest Graham is averaging seven touches a game.

Look for Huggins and Graham to split the work on third down with Blount likely spelling Williams on a number of series. If you can’t score fantasy points getting lots of touches, you sure can’t score them when your role gets reduced.

C.J. Spiller, Bills vs. Jaguars

If Spiller’s owners are thinking that the Bills decision to trade Marshawn Lynch will open up a much larger role for him, they should think again.

Over the first part of the season, the coaching staff gave the majority of the touches to Lynch who was in the starting line-up. That continued the trend of head coach Chan Gailey using one dominant player at running back which dates back to his time with the Cowboys.

This week, the Bills announced that Fred Jackson would take over as the team’s starter and we can safely assume that means Spiller will be relegated to spelling Jackson when he needs a breather and playing on passing downs.

Joseph Addai, Colts vs. Chiefs

You know what, it’s hard to sit Addai because he could go out and get 30 yards but still score two touchdowns. But it’s also hard to start him because he might get 30 yards and Peyton Manning might pass for four touchdowns.

If you have better options, you might want to think about them this week since the Chiefs rank fifth in run defense having allowed 75 yards per game on average and just one touchdown on the season.

And that isn’t a fluke since they have faced reasonably solid rushing offenses in San Diego, Cleveland and San Francisco.

RB Brandon Jackson, Packers at Redskins

I’m going to put him here every week until Packers general manager Ted Thompson does the right thing and gets a real starting running back.

Jackson can’t even beat out John Kuhn and don’t go thinking that Kuhn is some facsimile of Peyton Hillis because he isn’t, pure and simple. As I said last week, if I had to start one of the two, I’d go with Kuhn because he’s more likely to get a touchdown.  

For more detailed projections, go to FFToday's 2010 Week 5 running back projection and rankings. 

Dave Stringer is a staff writer at FFToday.com, home of the popular Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy custom cheatsheet and draft tracking software.


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