For many fantasy leagues Week 14 marks the start of the playoffs. With every game a must-win scenario from here out, deciding which player to start and which to sit could be the difference between a much-coveted championship or engaging in the “what if” game until next year’s draft.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the running back advice I offered last week before shifting our focus to Week 14.
Start DeAngelo Williams (14.5 fantasy points) – Didn’t have as big game as he should have, but still very serviceable.
Start Doug Martin (14 FP) – Martin scored his first rushing touchdown since Week 5 and is looking like an easy RB1 from here on out.
Start Javorius Allen (23 FP) – He is easily the focal point of the Ravens’ offensive attack.
Sit DeMarco Murray (2.4 FP) – Murray was out-touched by Darren Sproles. Should be interesting to see what Murray’s role is moving forward.
Plus, I warned you about starting Todd Gurley (4.1 FP), who has definitely hit the rookie wall.
Sit LeSean McCoy (11.2 FP) – McCoy is back to being a must-start, elite RB1.
Sit Mark Ingram (15.9 FP) – After a few weeks of being fantasy irrelevant, Ingram finally produced. Unfortunately, a shoulder
injury he suffered last week has ended his season prematurely, as he has been placed on injured reserve.
START THESE RBs...
Thomas Rawls, SEA (at BAL)
Ho-hum, just another 100-yard day for the undrafted free agent who is now starting for Seattle. And the good news for Rawls’ owners is that Marshawn Lynch is unlikely to see the field for at least three more weeks. In every game that Rawls’ gets at least 20 touches, he scores a minimum of 10 fantasy points. That is amazing consistency from the running back position. This week is supposed to be a tough matchup for Rawls as the Seahawks travel all the way to Baltimore to play a Ravens defense that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to RBs, but he also was supposed to struggle last week against a very good Vikings rush defense. Rawls’ expected volume only helps is potential output. Start him this week and ride him as far as he will take you through the fantasy playoffs.
Lamar Miller, MIA (vs. NYG, Mon.)
An interesting thing happens when Miller becomes the focal point of the Dolphins’ offense, they win. After seeing a total of 12 carries (and scoring a total of 6.8 fantasy points) in the previous two games, the Dolphins introduced a new offensive coordinator last week in Zac Taylor, who looked like a genius because he finally gave Miller the ball. He ran 20 times for 113 yards. You can bet moving forward that Miller will continue to see the ball at least 20 times a game and he should also see more opportunities in the passing game like he did in the middle of the season. This week the Dolphins welcome the New York Giants to town, who are currently allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs on the year. Look for the Dolphins to use Miller to control the game, and he in turn should respond with another 100-yard game and at least one touchdown.
Doug Martin, TB (vs. NO)
Anyone who drafted Martin this year got quite the steal. Easily drafted as a RB4, Martin has played himself into elite RB1 status each and every week. The best part is that as Jameis Winston has been improving throughout the year, so has Martin, as he now has 1,133 rushing yards and four touchdowns to his credit. This week Martin should once again be a fantasy superstar as his Buccaneers welcome the New Orleans Saints and their horrific defense to town. The Saints are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs on the season. Martin should see at least 25 carries, which means he should once again be good for at least 100 yards and one touchdown, and that’s just what he will do on the ground.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Ronnie Hillman, DEN (vs. OAK)
The Broncos’ backfield sure has been interesting this season. At the beginning of the year everyone thought that C.J. Anderson was going to be the man and Anderson was being drafted accordingly, easily being a late first-round or early second-round pick. Then Anderson struggled, so Hillman got a chance and everyone said that he was best suited for Gary Kubiak’s offense. Then Hillman struggled and Anderson started to come on, leading everyone to believe that Anderson was best suited for the role. Well that might be true, but Anderson is now banged up with an ankle injury and even if he does play, he won’t be effective. This means that Hillman once again has the opportunity to seize the lead back role in the Broncos’ offense and he should produce good numbers this week against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this season and Hillman should see 20-plus touches, which should allow him to gain over 100 all-purpose yards and find his way into the end zone.
SIT THESE RBs...
Chris Ivory, NYJ (vs. TEN)
Remember in Weeks 4 and 6 when Ivory looked like the best running back in fantasy football because he had back-to-back outings of 20-plus fantasy points? That sure seems like a distant memory. Ivory owners who have been plugging him into their lineups every week since are not happy that Iovry has been averaging fewer than 10 fantasy points per game since. Maybe Ivory is injured or just not used to this many carries this late in the season, but he is slowing down, which has allowed Bilal Powell the opportunity to get on the field and take touches away, especially in the passing game. This week sets up as more of a Powell game than it does an Ivory game as the Jets host the Tennessee Titans and their defense that is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. If you’re smart, you’ll bench Ivory this week.
Javorius Allen, BAL (vs. SEA)
Allen has been a breath of fresh air for anyone who was able to snag him off the waiver wire when Justin Forsett went down for the season. Allen probably doesn’t offer a ton of fantasy upside as a rusher, but Matt Schaub's reliance on the checkdown will make the rookie a decent RB2 play in PPR leagues. The real problem with starting Allen this week is that he has to go up against the Seattle Seahawks, who have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Last week the Seahawks completely shut down Adrian Peterson, limiting him to just 18 yards rushing on eight carries. If the Seahawks can do that to Peterson, imagine what they can do to Allen.
DeMarco Murray, PHI (vs. BUF)
What a difference a year makes. This time last year Murray was running away with the rushing title and leading the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs. This year Murray is complaining to the Eagles’ owner about not getting the ball enough. All you need to know is that head coach Chip Kelly says he plans to evaluate his running back rotation on a "week-to-week basis" going forward. In other words, Murray is no longer the locked-in starter. Murray got out-carried by both Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner in last week's upset of the Patriots. Murray just isn't a fit for Kelly's offense, and it's been evident for months. Kelly is waving the white flag while the Eagles still have time to win the NFC East. There will probably still be some weeks where Murray gets 15-20 touches, but considering the way Week 13 went down, he doesn’t even look like a legitimate RB2 for Sunday's game against the Bills.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Todd Gurley, STL (vs. DET)
When Gurley finally got on the field this season, those who drafted Gurley thought that they should just be given their league’s trophy since Gurley was going to take them all the way to fantasy heaven. Well, Gurley's rookie season has hit a wall in large part due to the Rams’ sputtering offense. Gurley has failed to top 50 yards rushing in three of his last four games. The only glimmer of hope for Gurley owners is his matchup this week against the Detroit Lions, who have given up the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs on the season, but have been playing really, really well as of late. With Case Keenum or Nick Foles as his quarterback, Gurley has very little fantasy value at this point.
— 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.