Last week was full of surprise performances from running backs since several unheralded players had huge games. Here are a few of the big performances from Week 12:
- Matt Forte (CHI) broke out of a three-game slump after rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown against a solid Miami run defense. He helped the Bears win an ugly game by a score of 16-0
- Mike Goodson (CAR) made the most of his starting opportunity after running for 120 yards against a strong Baltimore team.
- Mike Tolbert (SD) bowled over the Broncos last week for 111 rushing yards and a touchdown during their 35-14 win.
If you’re low on good running back options this week, hopefully you can spot a running back with major sleeper potential in Week 12. And while you’re looking for those sleeper players, here are the running backs you should sit/start this week.
Frank Gore @ Arizona – Last week Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combined for 159 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals. This bodes well for Gore, who was surprisingly shut down last week against the Buccaneers (12 car., 23 yds.). You can guarantee that Gore will bounce back against the Cardinals and their 28th ranked run defense.
Rashard Mendenhall @ Buffalo – The Bills seem to make every running back look like a pro bowler after allowing Cedric Benson to run for 124 yards and a score last week. Week 12 presents an even tougher challenge to the league’s worst run defense (giving up 163.5 YPG) since they face Mendenhall. Expect Mendenhall to break out of the slump he’s been in for the past couple of games by running for 125 yards (or more) and a score.
Steven Jackson @ Denver – Buffalo has been so bad against the run this year that Denver has slipped under the radar with their horrible run defense (allowing 143.5 rushing YPG). It’s a good bet that Steven Jackson will take advantage of Denver’s run defense as the Rams look to take pressure off of quarterback Sam Bradford in Week 12.
Peyton Hillis @ Carolina – Hillis was a much bigger receiving threat than rushing threat last week after gaining 95 yards through the air against 48 yards on the ground. Look for Hillis to get back to running the ball more this week against the Carolina Panthers; they are ranked 24th in run defense (allowing 128.4 rushing YPG).
Mike Tolbert @ Indianapolis – Sure there are better starting options at running back this week, but this one is for those without two studs at RB. Tolbert has thrived without Ryan Mathews in the lineup, and Mathews is expected to miss Week 12 because of an ankle injury. Assuming Mathews can’t go once again, Tolbert is an excellent starting option against the Colts and their 30th ranked run defense (allowing 136.7 rushing YPG).
Cedric Benson @ New York Jets – Benson has been up and down all season; last week he was definitely up against the Bills. Unfortunately, it looks like Benson is headed back down as he faces the New York Jets and their staunch run defense on the road (allowing 90.3 rushing YPG).
Knowshon Moreno vs. St. Louis – If there’s one thing that St. Louis has done a good job of this season, it’s stopping the run (ranked 10th in rushing defense, allowing 101.8 YPG). This being the case, Moreno doesn’t have a good matchup since the Broncos are probably going to try and beat the Rams through the air instead of on the ground.
Fred Jackson @ Pittsburgh – I thought that the Bengals would be able to hold Jackson after he gained 170 total yards and two touchdowns in Week 10; I was wrong since Jackson ripped the Bengals for 116 rushing yards and two scores. Can Jackson continue his tear on the road against the league’s best run defense? Don’t bet on it!
LeGarrette Blount @ Baltimore – With 410 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his past five games, Blount is proving to be a legitimate starting running back. But the rookie figures to come down off of his high at some point since taking over the primary backfield duties for the Buccaneers, and he might be running into a wall against the Ravens’ 9th ranked run defense.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Kansas City – Since being traded to the Seahawks earlier this year, Lynch has been a big disappointment. He’s only gained 253 yards in six games and is averaging just 3.1 YPC. Lynch faces a strong Kansas City run defense this week (12th in the NFL, allowing 104.1 rushing YPG), which means more bad news for him and Seattle.