Welcome to the Week 14 edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees - it's fantasy playoff time! In this space, we'll look at recent performances and attempt to read the backfield tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions. We'll post this article each Tuesday, and offer updates in our fantasy coverage throughout the week, including in the Friday morning edition of the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog!
As usual, this series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, but there are a few non-committee and injury notes as well. If you have any questions, the FOXSports.com fantasy staff is always happy to help. The best ways to reach me are via Facebook or Twitter .
Thursday game: Broncos at Raiders
Michael Turner ran all over the Saints early in last Thursday's game, notching 67 yards and a score in the first quarter. For the night, Turner had 13 touches to Jacquizz Rodgers' 10, and more than doubled Rodgers' yards from scrimmage (90-43).
This is where I'm supposed to note the qualifier that the Saints have the NFL's worst rushing defense (153.8 ypg) by a significant margin, and that they're exactly the kind of team that Turner should have been able to run on, even if he's obviously slowed down this season. You know what? So is this week's opponent, a Panthers' squad that has allowed 167 (Bucs), 204 (Eagles) and 158 (Chiefs) in its last three games. Those teams all have better lead runners than the Falcons, but both members of the Turner/Rodgers tandem should be able to post decent fantasy numbers. I'd rather start Turner than Rodgers, but not by a lot.
If you're a C.J. Spiller owner, you were probably terrified upon seeing the Week 13 boxscore that had Fred Jackson carrying 25 times for 109 yards against the Jaguars. Just make sure to note that Jackson had 16 of his 25 carries after the Bills took a 24-10 lead in the third quarter. He's a bigger back than Spiller, and was used to run the clock. Jackson won't be a forgotten man in close games - he's a decent RB3/flex option in many formats - but Spiller is still the much better fantasy play on this team. Expect a 60-40 carry split in favor of Spiller, and that's enough for him to do serious damage against anyone.
We'll need to stay tuned for news on Jonathan Stewart's ankle injury. If he plays, the Panthers' backfield returns to its muddled, miserable fantasy mess of a state. If he's out again, DeAngelo Williams (12 carries, 67 yards vs. Kansas City) will again be a worthwhile fantasy starter. The Falcons are really good, but their run defense (4.8 ypc) isn't, and Williams will have value even with Cam Newton vulturing his TD opportunities.
Matt Forte's ankle injury recovered in time for Week 13, and he carried 21 times to Michael Bush's seven. When Forte plays, Bush is likely to produce fantasy value only on goal-line opportunities, and you never know when he'll get them. That means he should stay on your bench.
DeMarco Murray returned with 23 carries for 83 yards and a score against the Eagles on Sunday night. Felix Jones also returned - to Handcuff City.
Mikel Leshoure is still the man here, and even though Joique Bell busted a big gain (67 yards) for the second consecutive week, he doesn't get the ball enough to warrant your fantasy consideration as anything other than a handcuff or deep PPR play.
Green Bay Packers
After a one-week aberration that made us wonder if Alex Green had been buried on the Pack's depth chart, he's gotten 26 carries to James Starks' 25 over the past two games. The Packers should be able to run some on the Lions' below-average rushing defense, but with their backs sharing work and having combined for ONE touchdown all season, you can't count on them for much.
Arian Foster and Justin Forsett split carries against the Titans because the Texans had a commanding lead by halftime. Don't expect a similar situation in Foxboro on Monday, Forsett owners.
Twelve touches for Vick Ballard and eight for Donald Brown in Sunday's thrilling victory over the Lions. That sounds about like what we expected, and Brown's injured ankle will need to be watched this week. Ballard looks like a solid start against the Titans' 27th-ranked run defense.
It looks like Maurice Jones-Drew will miss another game due to his foot injury, and Rashad Jennings' status is unclear due to a concussion suffered against the Bills. Is it Montell Owens time? Maybe, but I can't imagine how desperate you'd have to be to start him.
Remember when it looked like Daniel Thomas had worked himself into a timeshare with Reggie Bush? Bush has 30 touches to Thomas' 17 over the last two games, and has emerged from his midseason slump with 151 yards in that span. You can start Bush this week, even with a tough road matchup against the 49ers.
New Orleans Saints
Pierre Thomas was the Week 13 winner of "Saints Running Back Roulette," carrying 14 times for 84 yards while the Mark Ingram/Chris Ivory duo combined for just 17 yards on nine carries (Ingram scored a TD). As we've noted multiple times, you can't trust any of these guys - ever .
One more thing: Because of the aforementioned trio, Darren Sproles has had 12 receptions but ZERO carries in two games since returning from his hand injury. Sproles can be started in PPR leagues, but not in standard formats unless something changes.
New York Jets
The timeshare here is hard to predict, since Bilal Powell gets much of his work on third down and in the red zone. The Jets' awful quarterback play made them want to run a lot against the Cardinals, and Shonn Greene had 24 carries for 104 yards compared to Powell's 12-58 line. Greene figures to maintain a slight carry edge moving forward, but will have a hard time producing as much fantasy value since he gets yanked near the goal line.
Darren McFadden is expected to return Thursday night after a four-game absence. Recent fantasy hero Marcel Reece shared the workload with Jeremy Stewart against the Browns, and against the Broncos' seventh-ranked run defense, you'll want to proceed with caution if you own a Raider back. I'd probably roll the dice with McFadden unless my alternatives were pretty good, and consider Reece in a PPR league.
LeSean McCoy still has some hurdles to clear in his recovery from a Week 11 concussion. Fortunately for the Eagles and many lucky fantasy owners, Bryce Brown looks like the second coming of Jim Brown. Whenever McCoy returns, this situation could get confusing, but Brown's fumble-itis will probably help make him the second banana. Until that happens, ride Brown into your fantasy playoffs.
Sixteen carries for Jonathan Dwyer, nine for Isaac Redman and purgatory for Rashard Mendenhall in Week 13. The Chargers have a solid rushing defense, so Dwyer is the only Steeler back you'll want to consider this week.
If you have questions on any RBBC situations or think other teams should be added to the mix next week, contact me via Facebook or Twitter . Thanks!