Last week, I went through the fantasy football playoff schedule (weeks 14 to 16) and laid out quarterback rankings and who to target for favorable matchups. Today, we turn to the running backs.
Ranking running backs is a little different. With QBs, it’s all or nothing, and they rarely lose their jobs (at least the ones good enough to worry about starting). With running backs, usage can fluctuate from week-to-week, and injuries can play a much bigger factor. Some backs will play with injury but be limited, others will get greater opportunity. I’m not listing specific rankings each week, but rather just the overall ranking across all 3 weeks.
These were derived from looking at team RB production, opponent RB production allowed, and trends/guesses about usage. Some teams are easy to predict. I feel comfortable saying David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott will get most of the touches for their teams. Others are far less certain.
I also tried to account for the possibility of injuries. I’m not sure Derrick Henry would be at #35 if we just went by weekly rankings, knowing that DeMarco Murray was 100%. But because Tennessee’s rushing game is one of the best in the league, and they play a good schedule, a Murray injury would make Henry a huge play. Similarly, the Cincinnati duo of Bernard and Hill are probably a little higher than the average weekly production. But, if one was limited, the other would be a top 10 start (and they get Cleveland in week 14, included in these rankings).
Here are some specific teams with great or poor matchups over the fantasy football weeks:
CINCINNATI: at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and at Houston are all defenses that have allowed an above average number of fantasy points to backs all year. The Week 14 matchup against Cleveland likely makes Hill and Bernard quality starts that week.
CAROLINA: San Diego, Washington, and Atlanta are all also top tier matchups, and that’s why Jonathan Stewart is ranked higher than he would be in a list that did not consider matchups. If you can get him for relatively cheap, he can provide higher end RB2 production.
LA RAMS: I know Gurley has been struggling, but you might want to buy low or at least see if he can start to turn it around. The Rams have to great rushing matchups (Atlanta, San Francisco) sandwiched around Seattle.
GREEN BAY: The GB backfield situation is in flux (Christine Michael was just claimed off waivers, we don’t know how much any of the backs will get). You can add the worst set of matchups as well, making this a situation I wouldn’t actively seek out. The Packers play Seattle, the Bears, and Vikings.
SEATTLE: C.J. Prosise had a great game. Thomas Rawls should be back. We don’t know how they will be used. But one reason both are bumped down the list a bit is because they get 3 below average rushing matchups (Packers, Rams, Cardinals).
WASHINGTON: Rob Kelley has taken over and should continue over the unimpressive Matt Jones. He’ll be doing so against a tough rushing schedule (Eagles, Panthers, Bears), though that didn’t stop him last week against the Vikings. I’ve got Kelley at 20 on my list; he would be higher with favorable matchups.