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RB fantasy tips: Jackson could run over Jets

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By PFW staff

Shonn Greene and Ryan Mathews will get the carries to put up quality production, Steven Jackson should continue his hot streak, and the Saints' complicated and crowded backfield gets broken down in our late-week fantasy RB tips.

In Week Six, the Chargers wanted to get Ryan Mathews very involved in the offense, and he had 15 carries and one reception in the first half against Denver. He had only seven carries in the second half, as the Chargers blew a 24-point lead. Expect San Diego to go back to Mathews often in Sunday’s must-win rematch against Denver to help keep the Broncos’ pass rushers from pinning their ears back and pressuring Philip Rivers.

Rams RB Steven Jackson, who certainly looked like he still had a lot of gas left in his tank last week against San Francisco’s normally staunch run defense (29-101-1), is a good fantasy bet to pick up where he left off this Sunday at home against a Jets run defense that is still trying to clear up the cobwebs after facing Seahawks battering ram Marshawn Lynch (27-124-1) last week.

The Rams rush the passer well, but aren’t necessarily that stout against the run. Jets RB Shonn Greene could have a huge day, especially with his backups Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell both injured. The Rams have allowed 10 rushing scores this season and rank 18th vs. the run. With all the drama surrounding the Jets this week, their best plan of attack is focus on the ground-and-pound and feed Greene often, which is a plus for fantasy owners.

The Saints’ backfield situation is always a challenging one for fantasy owners to negotiate, and another wrinkle will be thrown into the mix when Darren Sproles (hand), who was limited in practice Wednesday, returns. The team’s best rusher over the past two games has been Chris Ivory (17-120-2 over that span) and we expect New Orleans to stick with the hot hand vs. the Raiders’ 21st-ranked run defense. Ivory fits well as a No. 2 RB in most formats and Sproles is worth considering as a flex option in deeper formats, especially PPR formats, if he plays. Mark Ingram certainly has the potential to produce starter-caliber numbers and is worthy of consideration for a start in very deep leagues. Pierre Thomas (14 touches in the past two games) is not getting enough opportunities for us to recommend him for a start.

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) practiced fully on Wednesday. If he plays on Sunday, don’t be surprised if he’s the featured back. He remains listed as the starter, and he got most of the work in his lone full game of the season (Week Five vs. Philadelphia). The question is, how much upside will he have in his first game back against a Ravens defense that’s better against the run than the pass? It’s something fantasy owners have to weigh. Also, backups Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have played fairly well in Mendenhall’s absence. Finally, Mendenhall has finished only one game this season.
 
Ravens RB Ray Rice remains a strong starting option in Week 11, even with Baltimore playing a tough Pittsburgh defense. Since becoming Baltimore’s starter in 2009, Rice has exceeded 100 combined yards in 3-of-6 regular-season games against the Steelers. Also, he had a combined 86 yards and a TD in Baltimore’s 2011 win at Pittsburgh. Rice has given the Steelers problems both as a rusher and as a pass catcher.

San Diego has one of the league’s best run defenses, which is not a good situation for Broncos RBs Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman. Peyton Manning attacked the Chargers through the air with ease in their Week Six comeback win, and might have to do that again. McGahee gained 3.3 yards per carry (17-56-0) in that contest. He is the type of player that fantasy owners can’t afford to remove from lineups, and as long as Denver moves the ball, he’ll have a chance at some touchdowns, but don’t expect a huge day on the ground.

We might sound like a broken record, if you know what those are, but Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray probably remains out. His foot just hasn’t responded as well as had hoped, and it appears the Cowboys’ coaches will roll another week with Felix Jones, who had a strong outing in the win over the Eagles.

Bills RB C.J. Spiller is an obvious must-start in all fantasy formats, as he can expect at least 20 touches in Thursday night’s game with Fred Jackson (concussion) out. In deeper leagues, RB Tashard Choice is not a bad waiver-wire option, either. Choice had eight carries in Week Two as Spiller’s backup and rushed 20-91 the next week after Spiller got hurt.

Both Dolphins RBs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas have a good matchup this week against a horrid Bills run defense. Bush is already in all your starting lineups, and Thomas continues to make his case. He played in 29 snaps last week against Tennessee, taking over after Bush was benched. After Ryan Tannehill threw three picks vs. the Titans, the Dolphins will likely want to go back to pounding the rock, giving both Bush and Thomas plenty of opportunities.

Texans backup RB Ben Tate (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. Head coach Gary Kubiak was noncommittal on Tate’s status against the Jaguars, however, stating that he needs to get to Friday before making that decision. With Kubiak also praising third-stringer Justin Forsett, who gained 6.8 yards per carry against the Bears (4-27-0 rushing), it wouldn’t be shocking if Tate gets at least one more week to heal.
 
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) has not played or practiced since the first quarter of Week Seven in Oakland, and we hear it will be at least another week before his owners can entertain the possibility of him returning. In Jones-Drew’s absence, Rashad Jennings has disappointed, averaging 13.3 carries and 43.7 rushing yards in three starts. It won’t get easier for Jennings this week, as the Jags visit the Texans’ third-ranked rushing defense.

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