For the second game in a row, Jets RB Shonn Greene got 21 carries. His rushing average (3.4 yards per carry) isn't getting fantasy owners the rushing yards desired, but he is getting the rock and has a two-game average of 78.5 yards and 0.5 TDs. The Jets' focus on making Greene the bell-cow back Rex Ryan said he would be is devaluing LaDainian Tomlinson, who has a two-game average of only seven utilizations for 30.5 offensive yards and zero touchdowns. L.T. did get a season-high seven carries and he is still a weapon as a receiver, but the more carries Greene gets, the more reason you want to stay away from L.T. in fantasy. Against the Chargers, Greene could get up to 25 carries, and L.T. may look for some payback against his old squad. They will each have a role, but this trend means Greene's owners can feel comfortable with him going forward and it's time to let L.T. go. Greene does have it tough as the Chargers are allowing only 83.3 rushing yards and 0.3 TDs to the position over their last three games. Greene makes a No. 2 or flex-play back while L.T. belongs on your bench or, at best, as an injury fill-in.
The Dolphins have a good situation to run the football on Sunday with rookie Daniel Thomas, who should be a must-start now as your No. 2 RB or flex. Miami's run blocking has improved, and the Broncos' run defense is a big weakness. Keep an eye on Thomas, as he was limited in Wednesday and Thursday practices but should be good to go on Sunday. Even if Denver stuffs the box, after the way Matt Moore threw the ball last week, the Dolphins should know their best chance to win is to get Thomas more than 20 touches. The Broncos are a middle-of-the-road defense against opposing running backs, allowing 154.7 offensive yards and zero TDs to the position. He makes a solid No. 1 fantasy back this week.
If Browns RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring) misses Sunday's game vs. Seattle, second-year back Montario Hardesty will start and get most of work. The Seahawks are tough vs. the run, allowing an NFL-best 3.13 yards per attempt. Over their last three games, they are allowing 115.3 offensive yards and 0.7 TDs per game, so there's room to do some damage, making Hardesty a solid flex play this week. He's a high-risk, high-reward player, so be aware of that. Chris Ogbonnaya, signed off the Texans' practice squad this week, is the other back on the roster. Until Hillis practices, he has no value this week.
Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall set season highs in rushing yards (146) and carries (23) in the Week Six win vs. Jacksonville. The Steelers' Week Seven opponent, Arizona, allows 105.7 yards and 1.7 TDs per game over their last three. Backups Isaac Redman (four carries) and Jonathan Dwyer (two carries) saw limited work with Mendenhall back in the lineup, after he didn't play in Week Five with a hamstring injury. The latter two have no value this week whereas Mendenhall makes a No. 1.
Priority No. 1 for the Titans during the bye week was getting the broken running game prepared. RB Chris Johnson has been hesitant and lacking explosion to begin the season, and the Titans' O-line has not had nearly the success of creating holes that it has had keeping QB Matt Hasselbeck clean. Johnson is averaging only 21.4 utilizations for 73.2 offensive yards and only 0.2 TDs per game. The Titans' first chance to show that their running game is again formidable will be against the visiting Texans, who have allowed 141.5 offensive yards and one TD per game to the position over their last four. Houston's Week Six opponent, the Ravens, stuck with RB Ray Rice until he finally broke through in the fourth quarter, ending the afternoon with 161 all-purpose yards. The Titans are also going to be persistent with Johnson, as you should, too; he makes a No. 1 fantasy back.
Colts RB Donald Brown has made the most of his opportunities with starter Joseph Addai (hamstring) on the shelf, amassing 73 yards and a TD on only 13 carries the past two weeks. With Addai likely still sidelined Sunday, Brown faces a favorable matchup against a Saints defense that is middle-of-the-road, allowing 159.5 offensive yards and 0.5 TDs per game over their last four. That's more than five yards per carry. The Colts' only chance of success in New Orleans is to keep Saints QB Drew Brees off the field, which means Brown and rookie RB Delone Carter will be big factors. Brown offers more fantasy value than Carter, although Carter looks impressive at times. Both players make bye-week or injury fill-ins this week.
The bye week did wonders for Chargers RB Ryan Mathews, who is not on his team's injury report after being banged up in their Week Five game. Mathews is having a great fantasy season, averaging nearly 135 total yards per game (rushing and receiving), despite sharing time in the backfield with Mike Tolbert. The Jets' defense hasn't lived up to the hype this season, especially against running backs, making Mathews a clear starting option for fantasy owners this weekend. The Jets are allowing 182.8 offensive yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing backs over their last four. Tolbert, with a three-game average of 10.3 utilizations for 53.3 offensive yards and 0.3 yards, could see a great opportunity this week. Mathews makes a No. 1 fantasy back and Tolbert a flex play this week.
At this point, start Raiders RB Darren McFadden and don't even think twice about it. The Raiders' back is leading the NFL in rushing, and his ability to break big runs makes him a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball. The Chiefs, a middle-of-the-road defense against opposing backs, have given up 126.3 offensive yards and one TD per game over their last three. Even if Oakland throws the ball more with Carson Palmer at quarterback, McFadden will remain an elite option.
The hot name in RB circles this week is DeMarco Murray, who is replacing Felix Jones (high ankle sprain) in the Cowboys' starting lineup. Temper your enthusiasm on Murray, as he's averaged three yards per carry (with a long of eight yards) and done little in the passing game. At fewer than six touches per game so far, Murray barely has had a chance to prove himself. Our team sources indicate the Cowboys' coaches feel Murray is best when he sees a higher number of carries. Witness the final preseason game, in which Murray had 14 touches for 96 yards, including a 48-yard reception. So, there is optimism for him this week, given he's facing the Rams and their disappointing run defense. They're allowing 195.7 offensive yards and 0.3 TDs per game over their last three, but expecting 150 yards and two scores in Murray's first start might be overshooting.
Mike Shanahan said he would not play RB Tim Hightower until his shoulder was 100 percent, and the good news for those who have stuck with him is that Hightower practiced fully this week. But does he have the same role he did before Ryan Torain's Week Five breakout? Great question. Our sources say the plan remains to run the ball with the QB change from Rex Grossman to John Beck — and the Panthers, amid defensive changes, are struggling to stop the run. It's not clear how many carries Hightower, Torain (who did little last week) and Roy Helu will receive. Normally, you wait another week, as it's too tricky to predict which back might break out. However, the Panthers are allowing 204.5 rushing yards and two TDs per game over their last four. Torain or Hightower belongs in starting lineups, and in larger leagues, even Helu has value as an injury fill-in. Hightower makes a flex, if the team states he's back in the lineup, and Torain makes a No. 2 because of the potential sharing of touches.
Lions RB Jahvid Best (concussion) has no timetable on his return. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams are the top options to replace him, with Morris getting the start Sunday against Atlanta. A trade for Eagles RB Ronnie Brown fell through when Lions RB Jerome Harrison, who was to be acquired by Philadelphia in the deal, failed a physical. Morris could see work on passing downs, but Williams, who's a bigger back than Morris, could see the short-yardage work. Right now, there's no clear-cut backup to own, but Morris gets an edge on Williams with more experience in the system. The Falcons are allowing 114.5 offensive yards and 0.5 TDs per game over their last four, so Morris has an opportunity to do something. He makes a flex position back this week but is better as a bye-week or injury fill-in.
Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount (knee) did not practice on Thursday, and it appears he's unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Bears. Keep an eye on his status this weekend, but owners who picked up Earnest Graham and started him last week were pleasantly surprised with his 17 carries for 109 yards against the Saints. Graham is a No. 2 RB or flex option against the Bears, who, over the last four games, have allowed 128.3 offensive yards and 0.5 TDs to the position. Graham's a receiving threat, as well, so he could give you a few extra points in PPR leagues.
Rams RB Steven Jackson's strong effort against a good Packers run defense last week (18 carries for 96 yards) is a promising development for his fantasy owners. The acquisition of Brandon Lloyd by trade and the return of Mark Clayton off the PUP list should strengthen St. Louis' WR corps and keep defenses from focusing so much on Jackson, who remains the team's undisputed workhorse. If Jackson can pick up where he left off last week against Dallas' No. 1 run defense this Sunday, his fantasy owners might have reason to be excited. He last faced the Cowboys three seasons ago, in 2008, going 25-160-3, but the Cowboys are allowing only 67 rushing yards and zero TDs to the position over their last three games, making him only a flex back this week.