We’ll know more after Week 3 is over, but these rankings should be helpful.
This week, I ranked them by team running game, not player. But I went into at least a little detail in each case.
Just consider this another weapon to help you make the best lineup decisions.
Without further delay, the running back matchup rankings for all 32 teams, ranked from best to worst:
Baltimore vs. Cleveland
Ray Rice, Willis McGahee – even LeRon McClain as a flex if you’re in a pinch – start them all.
Jacksonville vs. Houston
Maurice Jones-Drew is salivating. You think the Texans defense might pay attention to the star running back on the other side this week?
Philadelphia vs. Kansas City
Brian Westbrook’s injury has kept him out of practice but he will play Sunday. That means you put him in your lineup and hope he plays through the first half. If he does, you’ll get plenty of fantasy points. If you’re hurting, LeSean McCoy could get enough points to be starting flex player this week.
Washington at Detroit
It’s no stretch to say that Clinton Portis vs. the Detroit “rushing defense” is the best matchup of the week. However, Portis’ ankles are sore. He’s a game-time decision. He’ll play, but for how long? If the Redskins are up 14-0 early, Ladell Betts could benefit against the Lions D.
Denver at Oakland
Opinions vary on whether Knowshon Moreno should be feature back or in a RBBC with Correll Buckhalter. Both backs will have good games this week.
Kansas City at Philadelphia
Larry Johnson was mediocre against the Raiders last week. He’ll be mediocre again this week. The sad thing is, getting mediocre out of Larry Johnson in 2009 is actually pretty good.
Green Bay at St. Louis
Ryan Grant faced two decent run defenses in the first two weeks. He’ll find a few more lanes this week against the Rams. If he doesn’t take advantage of those lanes, then we’ll know we were wrong drafting him so high this preseason.
Arizona vs. Indianapolis (Sunday night)
Tim Hightower has a firm grasp on his job because Beanie Wells can’t keep a firm grasp on the football. The rookie has looked explosive, but until he fixes the fumbles it’s all Hightower’s show. Hightower has done well in the first two weeks and will play a much bigger role than a lot of people expected once Wells becomes the starter.
Minnesota vs. San Francisco
Adrian had a great matchup last week and disappointed. This matchup isn’t nearly as good. The only thing I can say for sure is unless he’s hurt you start Adrian Peterson every week.
Carolina at Dallas (Monday night)
The Panthers ran well against the Eagles in Week 1 until Jake Delhomme took over the game with his turnovers. Dallas’ defense is really squishy this year. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could both be good starts this week.
Miami at San Diego
Top 10 against running backs last year, the Chargers have been in the bottom third against RBs in 2009. More Ronnie Brown wildcat.
Dallas vs. Carolina (Monday night)
This is a decent matchup for Dallas’ running backs, but the problem is Marion Barber’s injury. Felix Jones is the safest play in Dallas this week. Barber won’t play, Jones will start and Tashard Choice will be fantasy relevant as a flex player this week. If Barber plays, Choice has almost no value, but Jones will still be a good play.
San Diego vs. Miami
Darren Sproles will do that receiving thing against Miami, but I’m guessing Michael Bennett gets some action as a runner this week. This is a decent matchup, so pick up Bennett but only play him if you’re desperate. Sproles is a must play in PPR leagues.
Atlanta at New England
Michael Turner’s not as good as he was last year, but he will take advantage of this good matchup.
New England vs. Atlanta
I don’t even know why I write about the New England running backs. What a mess. So Kevin Faulk might be relevant for PPR people. Laurence Maroney might get 35 yards and Fred Taylor might get 35 yards. I really wish one of these guys would get hurt, then we might find some value here.
Houston vs. Jacksonville
Not a great matchup for Steve Slaton, but not bad one either. He’s no guarantee to bounce back this week. And in either case, Chris Brown is going to steal carries. Slaton’s turning into one of the most overvalued players in 2009.
NY Giants at Tampa Bay
So, the story in New York is Eli Manning to Mario Manningham and Steve Smith, not handoff to Brandon Jacobs. Interesting, and it continues this week.
Oakland vs. Denver
This ranking might be a little low, but after what the Raiders and Darren McFadden did last week against the Chiefs, I don’t feel bad about it.
Chicago at Seattle
Not a good matchup for Matt Forte. The Seahawks shut down Steven Jackson in Week 1 and I attribute the bad Week 2 to those home runs by Frank Gore. Like I said in yesterday’s QB matchup rankings, we’ll know more about fantasy defenses after Week 3.
New Orleans at Buffalo
Buffalo is a middle of the road fantasy defense against running backs, but Drew Brees is going to find it much easier to pass against the Bills than it was against the Eagles. Reggie Bush is the safest play out of NO’s backs, but Pierre Thomas will make his first appearance of 2009 and he could score a TD.
Tampa Bay vs. New York Giants
Like Cedric Benson in Cincinnati, Cadillac Williams is seeing a renaissance in Tampa Bay. He’s a must-play right now regardless of matchup. The Giants shut down Clinton Portis in week 1, but then gave up lots of points to Marion Barber and Felix Jones last week. Not sure how to read the D right now, but they’ll struggle a little more without safety Kenny Phillips.
St. Louis vs. Green Bay
Green Bay was 7th and 11th against running backs in the first two weeks. That’s not great news for Steven Jackson. He’ll still get fantasy points, I just don’t expect him to have a big game.
Detroit vs. Washington
Kevin Smith will get fantasy points against every fantasy defense this year. I say start him, just make sure you have some safe plays elsewhere in your lineup in case Smith produces on the low end.
Seattle vs. Chicago
Julius Jones, Justin Forsett, Edgerrin James, ugly. At this point, Justin Forsett is the RB with upside, but as long as they are without Matt Hasselbeck, the Seahawks running backs will be a relative fantasy wasteland.
Indianapolis at Arizona (Sunday night)
Joseph Addai’s going to find it hard to get carries with Donald Brown emerging. Watching Brown in the preseason I was impressed how he just seemed quicker than all the other players on the field. Brown’s a better play, but don’t expect him to get much against a greatly improved Cardinals defense.
Buffalo vs. New Orleans
As good as Fred Jackson’s been, you’re going to play him regardless of matchup. You will be rewarded.
San Francsico at Minnesota
You are starting Frank Gore, you just shouldn’t expect him to do to the Vikings what he did to Seattle.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Willie Parker wants to get going. He won’t. I wouldn’t start Parker until he has a good game. Rashard Mendenhall needs to get a shot.
Cleveland at Baltimore
No. Bad idea.
Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh
The Steelers D isn’t as dominant as it has been in the past, but it’s still really good. It might shut down Cedric Benson in the run game, but it was made clear last week that Benson will get looks in the passing game if the running game gets stuffed. Play Benson, but don’t expect much.
Tennessee at New York Jets
After last week, you can’t bench Chris Johnson. However, after last week, I’m sure Rex Ryan came up with a plan to shut down the speedy running back. Temper expectations.
New York Jets at Tennessee
Against Tennesee and with the sharing carries situation, avoid Jets backs this week unless you have no other viable options.