For most fantasy football leagues, it's semifinals week and if you’re lucky enough to still be alive, this isn’t the time to get cute. You need to start your studs. You need to play the guys that brought you to the dance.
But what about those really tough choices? What about your flex? What about running backs like Chris Carson, Josh Adams and even Sony Michel? Are they worth the risk this week?
Before we get into the Week 15 start/sit advice for running backs, let's see how Week 14 panned out.
Good Calls for Week 14...
Sit Josh Adams (3.6 fantasy points) – Playing in Dallas against a stout defense was not going to go well for Adams, and it didn’t.
Bad Calls for Week 14...
Sit Chris Carson (15 FP) – Even though the Seahawks are employing a running back by committee, Carson still ran for 90 yards and a touchdown
I warned you about Spencer Ware (12.9 FP) and while his counterpart Damien Williams scored two touchdowns, Ware was still heavily involved in both the rushing and passing game.
START THESE RBs...
Doug Martin, OAK (at CIN)
This comes down to a couple of factors. Despite being pretty unproductive, Martin has been getting solid volume in recent weeks. He has a combined 34 carries in the last two weeks and in this week's matchup volume will create productivity. The Bengals are the worst team in the NFL in fantasy points allowed per game to running backs in the last four weeks. Martin has a touchdown in each of the last three games, so expect his productivity to rise in this Week 15 matchup.
Elijah McGuire, NYJ (vs. HOU, Sat.)
McGuire could be the lead running back for the Jets this week if Isaiah Crowell (foot) is unable to play. And McGuire played well against the Bills last week with 17 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown, as well as three catches for 23 yards on four targets. The matchup against the Texans in Week 15 is tough, although Houston has allowed a touchdown to a running back in consecutive games (Nick Chubb in Week 13, Marlon Mack in Week 14). McGuire will be at least a flex this week in all leagues if Crowell is out.
Gus Edwards, BAL (vs. TB)
It wasn't a highly productive game last week for Edwards against Kansas City, but the volume was nice to see. Edwards won't do much in the passing game, so he can't be counted on as a three-down running back or in PPR leagues, but he figures to be an integral piece of the Ravens' offense with a mobile quarterback at the helm. Edwards has 16 or more carries in each of the last four games. He has more than 80 rushing yards in three of those games. Tampa Bay is among the most generous defenses in fantasy points allowed to running backs. The Ravens will run often against Tampa Bay, so expect plenty of volume for Edwards.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Ito Smith, ATL (vs. ARI)
It’s true that neither Smith nor Tevin Coleman have registered a red-zone opportunity in either of Atlanta’s last two contests, but Smith still carries potential. Coleman has totaled just 75 yards in the last three games combined, while Smith put up 74 yards last week alone. In cases where both RBs are streaky, stay with the hot hand against a Cardinals squad that just gave up a 12-54-1 line to Zach Zenner. The run game should also benefit late from the Falcons being favored by more than a touchdown.
SIT THESE RBs...
Adrian Peterson, WAS (at JAC)
Believe it or not, Peterson is still in consideration for a flex spot this week in most expert rankings, which isn’t a good thing. Not only has Peterson’s snap share fallen to 36 and 31 percent in the last two weeks with Chris Thompson (64 percent, 40) back, but he and Washington have to face Jacksonville with a fourth-string quarterback at the helm. Peterson is clearly touchdown-dependent on a team that is somehow seven-point underdogs despite a game total of 36. Vegas paints this as a 21-14 snoozefest and you should bet the under on this one.
Josh Adams, PHI (at LAR)
Adams is going to need a touchdown to save his fantasy value this week. He's gone three games in a row without a catch, and in his past two — with Darren Sproles back on the active roster — he's scored a combined 11 PPR points against Washington and Dallas. Adams has 27 carries for 121 yards (4.5 ypc) over that span, but without a touchdown or a reception, his upside is limited. And the Rams have not allowed a running back to score on the ground in their past three games.
Dion Lewis, TEN (at NYG)
No one’s sitting Derrick Henry against the Giants in a juicy Week 15 matchup, but what about his counterpart? Behind Henry’s monster stats lies a 60-40 snap share that still favored Lewis last week, though he hasn’t totaled more than 68 yards or scored in a game since Week 9. The Giants' run defense hasn't been the same since the trade of Damon Harrison but Lewis standard league appeal remains low.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Marlon Mack, IND (vs. DAL)
The volume is fine, but this matchup just doesn't work. Mack has gotten the touches but his production has fallen off dramatically. That will once again be a problem in Week 15 against a Cowboys team that is among the best in the NFL against the run. Mack has 22 carries for 60 yards in the last two weeks. The Cowboys are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Mack had his moments during part of this season, but in a must-win situation in the fantasy playoffs, you might be better off leaving him on the bench.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
(Top photo courtesy of www.redskins.com)