Best and Worst running backs for the fantasy playoffs

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

We continue our look around the league for those guys on Sunday (or Thursday, sometimes Saturday now?) that will help you finally earn some respect among your friends.

Tis the season to be jolly. Unless you've made a huge mistake and completely sucked it up in fantasy this year, like me! If you haven't "sucked it up" and are well on your way to the fantasy playoffs (FPOs), then welcome! You might need a little assistance along the way.

There's nothing wrong with asking for help. Don't be too proud. Pride is a sin, you know? Other sins include: Wrath, Vanity, Goth, Aerobics, and Fast Actin' Tenactin. It would also be a sin to not start (or too start. You'll see) some of the below dudes, as I've outlined the best and worst matchups for running backs during Weeks 14-16.

And here they are! (Wouldn't it have been weird if I actually did not do what I just said I was going to do?)

Top Five

1. Doug Martin

Eagles, @ Saints, Rams

One of the Bucs biggest problems in 2011 was the lack of a real running game. LeGarrette Blount is one-dimensional in the same sense that the Simpsons are two-dimensional (save for one very special House of Horrors) in every sense of the phrase, RE: How many dimensions you have. When they lost Earnest Graham, a much more significant loss than it might seem, they lost too much versatility on the ground and forced Josh Freeman to throw it more than he probably should have. Hence, Doug Martin.

Martin wasn't just what the Buccaneers wanted, he was exactly what they needed and the difference is staggering. The Bucs regain versatility in the backfield and are now firmly back on track to being a playoff team. He's the best back they've had since rookie Cadillac Williams, though they hope this story turns out differently than that one. His end-of-season schedule suggests that Martin could break some franchise records. (James Wilder's single-season record of 1,544 was set in 1984. Williams had 1,178 as a rookie in 2005.)

Philadelphia has given up over 100 yards rushing in seven straight games, all losses, and allowing over 30 points per game in their last five. Philly is an absolute mess right now with 10 turnovers in their last four and turnovers lead to easy scores. Martin could get a heavy workload in this one. That leads into a Week 15 matchup against the Saints, the team that has given up the most rushing yards this year with 1,722 of them and 10 touchdowns. Finally in championship week, the Rams are allowing only 4.1 yards per carry but they've given up 14 touchdowns on the ground. That's 11 more rushing touchdowns than they've scored on offense.

You thought Doug Martin has been great already? It is possible that as they say, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

2. Jamaal Charles

@ Browns, @ Raiders, Colts

You are the Kansas City Chiefs. You have thrown one touchdown pass in your last seven games. You're fighting to keep the number one pick (?) so you can draft (player X) and then turn around the franchise for profit. The Chiefs picked the worst possible year to be the worst. If they had been the worst last year, Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III is now the face of your franchise. Brady Quinn is kind of like Tom Brady because they share a name. I like to think of him as Quinn Brady, who is sort of like Cooper Manning aka, not an NFL-quality quarterback. What to do? Run it like Chris Brown.

Speaking of Brown's, Cleveland isn't great at stopping the run and that should be 100 for Jamaal Charles. Speaking of JaLOL, the Raiders are giving up over 40 ppg in their last four and have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns. Speaking of touchdowns, the Colts have allowed 11 on the ground and almost 5 yards per carry.

The Chiefs are not good but Charles is good, even if he's only scored four total touchdowns on the year, he should tack on a few extra to end the year and then probably ask if he can be in the room when Scott Pioli is fired.

3. Ahmad Bradshaw

Saints, @ Falcons, @ Ravens

Without any injury issues lingering, Bradshaw might rank as the top back for the fantasy playoffs overall. Facing the Saints is going to be great, and the loss of Andre Brown will increase Bradshaw's goal-line touches. The Falcons might be 10-1, but they're 22nd against the run, 27th in rushing TDs allowed, and 30th in yards per carry allowed. Also known as, they're awful against the run. However, Atlanta allowed over 100 yards on the ground in each of their first six games and only two of their last five. They did get run over by the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago though, so that says they're still vulnerable.

The Ravens are 26th against the run and have allowed 10 rushing touchdowns. Even if they had Ray Lewis back, there's no guarantee that would change anything.

No TD vulture (unless David Wilson does something?), great schedule, means that if he stays healthy then Bradshaw could approach 400 yard during the FPOs.

4. Chris Johnson

@ Colts, Jets, @ Packers

I suppose upon hearing the news that the Titans could just cut him after the year if he didn't shape up, Chris Johnson stopped being polite and started being real. Chris Johnson 2011-early 2012, Never Forget.

Johnson ran for 45 yards total in his first three games, but finally started turning it on with 91+ yards in five of his last six games, even if he's still not the 2000-yard version of his former self, he's pretty good. He could be even better during the FPOs, starting with the Colts defense. Indy is 20th in total run defense, 26th in touchdowns allowed, 29th in yards per carry allowed. They even gave up 252 yards to the Jets! Transition! Johnson gets the Jets in Week 15, and they're 30th in total run defense, 27th in touchdowns, and 22nd in yards per carry. New York has allowed some massive gains this year and I'm sure they have a few more breakdowns left in them. Finally it's the Packers in championship week, not a terrible run defense but allowing 104 yards and nearly a score per game on the ground.

CJ2K could party like its CJ2K9 (Chris Johnson, year 2009. Glad I explained that) during your playoffs.

5. Steven Jackson

@ Bills, Vikings, @ Buccaneers

I had difficulty deciding on a number five, but opted to go with Jackson since he has a hot foot right now and his Week 14 opponent is not much of an obstocle. In fact, the Bills are more like a warm, welcoming blanket of points and butterfly kisses, ranking dead last in rushing touchdowns allowed and 30th in points allowed. That should get you to round 2 with S-Jax. The Vikings might provide a bit of a test, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, but they are not Fort Knox and have had difficulty against good running teams. The Rams don't look like a "good running team" but Jackson has been on a roll over his last three games.

Finally the Bucs are 1st against the run and 1st in yards per carry, but have given up nine rushing touchdowns. This is championship week, so you have to pick your poison carefully, but overall it's a nice slate for Steven Jackson as he possibly has a successful season for the last time. (Dirty 30 next year.)

Sleeper

Knowshon Moreno

@ Raiders, @ Ravens, Browns

I was a fan of Moreno's early in his career, after he had back-to-back 1,100+ total yard seasons with 17 touchdowns to start, but he's been a downward slope of injuries and ineffectiveness ever since. He actually averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2011, but only had 37 carries. After Willis McGahee went down it looked like rookie Ronnie Hillman was set to take over (and I'm a fan of his too) but it was Moreno carrying it 20 times for 85 yards in his start against Kansas City.

Moreno will get the Raiders, Ravens, and Browns during the FPOs, and we already talked about how vulnerable they are. Give me s'Moreno as a sneaky play for Weeks 14-16.


Possible Problems

Adrian Peterson

Bears, @ Rams, @ Texans

The Adrian Peterson gravy train of amazingness faces a tough test in the first and third week of the FPOs: The Bears and Texans have combined to allow five touchdowns on the year. The Rams are a soft-middle, but that could get tricky while you're trying to beat Janice in HR for the title.

Ray Rice

@ Redskins, Broncos, Giants

Washington is the least run-on, most passed-on team in the NFL. Ray Rice always a dual-threat, but looking for his first receiving touchdown of the year still. Denver is 2nd in the NFL in YPC allowed. The Giants are a somewhat schizophrenic run defense, but still just six rushing scores allowed.

Beanie Wells

@ Seahawks, Lions, Bears

As if the Cards running game wasn't bad enough, there's not likely to be many points here anyway against some good run defenses. Sorry if you got your Beanie hopes up.

Stevan Ridley

Texans, 49ers, @ Jaguars

Fantastic championship Week 16 matchup but will you make it there if you're starting Ridley against two of the best defenses in the NFL and he shares the ball with like seven other dudes?

Frank Gore

Dolphins, @ Patriots, @ Seahawks

Dolphins and Seahawks are hit and miss, though sometimes they are hit. The Pats could be a good Week 15 matchup. Gore hasn't quite hit 100 yards since Week 7 and has scored only once on the ground since Week 5.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Cowboys, @ Eagles, @ Steelers

Back-to-back 100-yard games for Law Firm but a championship game against the Steelers on the road. If you start him you might be holding yourself in contempt.

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