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Week Four fantasy tips: RBs

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By PFW staff

The PFW staff brings you its late-week fantasy tips for running backs, where LeSean McCoy and Ryan Williams are set to go off, but temper your expectations for Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray and recent-breakout Andre Brown.

Andy Reid has taken heat for not using LeSean McCoy enough early in games. Look for a concerted effort against the Giants. He finished with only 13 carries against the Cardinals, many in garbage time, so McCoy might get his biggest workload of the season to date, perhaps as a way to slow down the Giants’ rushers a little. Reid says he knows he needs better balance offensively.

Cardinals RB Ryan Williams’ fantasy stock must be considered on the rise with the news that fellow RB Beanie Wells has been placed on the “injured reserve/designated for return” list with a severe turf-toe injury. Look for Williams, who gained 83 yards on 13 carries last week, including 62 yards on seven carries in the fourth quarter, to take on an expanded role (15-20 carries a game, we’re hearing) in Wells’ absence.

With Ahmad Bradshaw back from a neck injury and slated to start barring any setbacks, Giants RB Andre Brown might see about 10-12 touches this weekend. Is that worth a starting spot? Likely not, but don’t give up on Brown, who will have a role on this team after his fine breakout (33-184-3 rushing this season). Bradshaw remains the first option but could give up a few carries each week.

Part of the frustration with Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray has been the play of the team’s offensive line. Eight of his 18 carries against the Bucs (he finished with only 38 yards) were for negative yardage. He’s being hit in the backfield before he can get going oftentimes. The Cowboys have focused on OL execution and run blocking, but he’s a tough call against a Bears “D” ranked in the top 10 in several categories.

Titans RB Chris Johnson has likely earned an indefinite spot on your bench following three putrid performances to begin the season, and he should remain there Sunday, when the Titans travel to Houston to battle the Texans’ No. 5 run defense. Johnson showed signs of breaking out of his funk against Detroit, with runs of 11, 11 and 13 yards, but the progress was negated on a number of other carries when he was stopped dead in his tracks behind the line of scrimmage. The Titans have acknowledged their strength is passing — they had a 42:19 pass-to-run ratio last week — so the fantasy outlook for Johnson the rest of the way remains bleak.

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles is coming off a career game (33-233-1 rushing, 6-55-0 receiving) and has had success against his opponent, the Chargers, in his career (46-273-2 rushing in six games). But don’t be shocked if Charles is not a superhero this weekend, given the heavy workload from last Sunday and lingering knee soreness. Start him — but be realistic about his potential.

The Jaguars are allowing 154.3 rushing yards per game, so don’t forget to get Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the lineup this week.

Lions RB Mikel Leshoure was very, very busy in his NFL debut in Week Three, racking up 100 yards on 26 carries and scoring his first career TD. He also caught four passes for 34 yards. Given the Lions’ strong offense, and given his robust workload, he surely merits strong starting consideration in Week Four, even with Minnesota having a solid run defense.

If you’re looking for a running back to stash, grab Bilal Powell, who is clearly the Jets’ No. 2 back behind Shonn Greene, and whose numbers have been better than Greene's at times this season. For this week, though, it’s a good idea to avoid starting either back against the 49ers’ defense.

Even if Rams RB Steven Jackson’s tender groin is healthy enough to allow him to play at home this Sunday against the Seahawks, the prospects of any Rams RB (rookies Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, in addition to Jackson) having a good fantasy outing are greatly reduced by a Seahawks defense that has excelled vs. the run up to now.

Don’t give up on Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman just yet. He was a nonfactor in his first game last week, but the Broncos face a shaky Raiders defense this Sunday and they want to get Hillman involved in the offensive attack.

Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis suffered a sprained ankle against the Chiefs and sat out Wednesday’s practice. He was seen wearing a boot on the foot and might have to sit out Sunday against the Chargers.

Vikings RB Toby Gerhart’s three fumbles in the fourth quarter against the 49ers raised some real concern. Some folks have employed him as a fantasy flex option the first few weeks, but best to suspend that strategy until he produces better results.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (toe/ankle), who has missed two of the first three games, returned to practice Wednesday and Carolina appears optimistic he will play vs. the Falcons Sunday. Stewart was a limited participant in practice, though, and he may not be 100 percent for the game. If he’s active, Stewart is worthy of consideration as a flex player in most formats, but his nagging injury is still cause for concern. 

Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday that he wants to give RB LeGarrette Blount “a little more action” moving forward. Blount has been sparsely used through the first three games, and rookie RB Doug Martin is still the starter. While he may get a few more touches vs. the Redskins on Sunday, we do not recommend pulling Blount off the bench in fantasy leagues.

The Ravens are stronger vs. the run than the pass, but Browns rookie RB Trent Richardson is still a solid starting option in Week Four. Richardson, who has three combined TDs in his last two games, is the Browns’ top goal-line option, and he leads the club in receptions, too (11). Richardson’s run strength has been eye-catching.

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