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Fantasy RB Tips: Richardson, Green-Ellis are must-starts

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By PFW staff

PFW's late-week tips for fantasy running backs say a few AFC North feature backs should be in your starting lineup, while the Cowboys' backfield looks a little cloudy with injuries.

Browns RB Trent Richardson is a strong play against Oakland in Week 13. The Raiders have surrendered 372 rushing yards in the past two games. Richardson is a viable starter no matter the league and no matter the matchup considering the sheer amount of work he’s getting. In the last four games, he’s had 106 carries.

The Bengals’ running game is hitting its stride. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has racked up more than 100 yards rushing and a TD in each of the last two games, reestablishing him as a fine starting option for fantasy owners as the postseason approaches. In Week 13, the Bengals face the Chargers, who have allowed at least 113 rushing yards in four of the last five games.

Dolphins RB Reggie Bush returned to form against a solid Seahawks defense in Week 12, rushing for 87 yards, his second-best output of the season. He is still deferring snaps and carries to his backup, though, Daniel Thomas, who had 60 yards on nine carries and a score. Thomas appears to be the Dolphins’ go-to ballcarrier near the goal line, which gives him some fantasy value. The pair face a tough Patriots run defense this week. Bush, though, did rush for 113 yards vs. the Pats in Week 16 last year after only 38 yards in Week One, and New England gave up some chunks of rushing yardage to the Jets in Week 12. It’s not the best matchup, and the Dolphins may be throwing more in this game if the Pats jump out in front, but they’d prefer to get Bush and Thomas involved early, and that benefits fantasy owners.

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy is still feeling the aftereffects of his concussion and likely will not travel to Dallas this weekend to face the Cowboys. Stay tuned, as things could change, but it appears to be the Bryce Brown show again.

In an interesting twist, RB DeMarco Murray practiced on a limited basis for the Cowboys and Felix Jones did not. Does this mean Murray will suit up Sunday night? That’s still TBD, but Jason Garrett did say Murray “looked pretty comfortable out there” on Wednesday and that “we haven’t seen that in about a month and a half.” Have other options ready — we’re sure you have them, considering Murray has been out so long — but be ready to make a switch if needed.

Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer will get the start for Pittsburgh in Week 13 at Baltimore. “He’s been consistently the most productive guy,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “I think we’ve got a large enough body of work to be able to identify that at this point. “He’ll start for us and get the bulk of the carries.” Dwyer isn’t a slam-dunk start against an improved Baltimore defense, but he’s the Steelers' back to have in Week 13 and beyond. If he’s available, pick him up. Those with Rashard Mendenhall or Isaac Redman on their rosters are left to decide whether to keep them on the roster or drop them for stretch-run waiver-wire acquisitions. Either could be reasonably dropped for Dwyer.

Matt Forté owners should monitor his status this weekend. He was limited in practice Wednesday after suffering an ankle injury Week 12. He’ll have a makeshift offensive line blocking for him vs. Seattle, and the Bears will continue to turn to Michael Bush in goal-line situations. If he is active, Forté merits a start as a low-end No. 2 RB in most formats.

Head coach Ron Rivera said he is optimistic about RB Jonathan Stewart’s chances of playing Sunday against the Chiefs, but it would be a surprise if he goes after suffering a high ankle sprain on Monday night. This could be a week to start DeAngelo Williams — who has been a fantasy dud all season — as a low-end No. 2 RB or flex play in deeper leagues.

The Raiders are trying to get Darren McFadden ready for their Week 13 game vs. the Browns. He has missed the last three games and was limited in practice Wednesday with the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week Nine. McFadden is worth a start as a low-end No. 2 RB in most leagues if he is active, but owners will need to keep an eye on his progress leading up to Sunday.

Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey sent a message to RB Rashad Jennings two weeks ago, demoting him in favor of journeyman Jalen Parmele. With Parmele going on injured reserve this week with a knee injury, we get a chance to find out if the message was received. Jennings is Jacksonville’s only healthy option in the backfield this week against Buffalo’s porous run defense. Entering a contract year, Jennings is running out of time to prove his worth with Maurice Jones-Drew potentially getting closer to his return. This is a great spot to plug in the talented but underachieving kid out of Liberty.

With Texans backup RB Ben Tate finally set to make his return after missing the previous four games with a hamstring injury, head coach Gary Kubiak indicated he will find ways to put the football in the hands of all three of his backs, with Arian Foster obviously the top dog and Justin Forsett one of Houston’s more unsung heroes over the past month. Even so, it is hard for us to endorse any Houston back not named Foster, and if you’re in a pinch, Forsett is still the next-best option.

While it’s not nearly as intriguing as their current competition at the QB competition involving “hot hand” Colin Kaepernick and the idled Alex Smith, the Niners also have a juicy decision to make between Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James as the replacement for No. 2 back Kendall Hunter, who has been placed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon. Jacobs, formerly a fantasy short-yardage force with the Giants, saw his first action of the season last week. James has yet to see the light of day in an actual game but reportedly has opened eyes big-time in practice, with one player recently comparing him to Minnesota’s Percy Harvin.

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