Cedric Benson, Bengals - In Cincinnati’s first win, Benson rushed for over 100 (24 carries for 104 yards) and scored a touchdown, pacing the offense in a much-needed happy moment for the 1-8 Bengals. A Chicago Bears castoff and No.1 pick bust, Benson has had few bright moments in his rocky professional career, but has been decent in his brief stint with Cincinnati so far. Benson’s matchup’s are rough for the month of November, but he could make a nifty plug-in for fantasy lineups in December, with games @ Indianapolis, @ Cleveland and home against Kansas City in week seventeen.
Ray Rice, Ravens - Memo to Willis McGahee: Don’t take took long mending your various maladies. Last Sunday against the Browns in Cleveland, Rice produced the signature performance of his rookie campaign (21 carries for 154 yards and three catches for 22 yards). Many were waiting for this type of performance awakening in the talented rookie from Rutgers and Rice will continue to receive opportunities, as McGahee’s health woes persist, to improve upon his nearly five yards per carry (4.8) in the weeks to come, starting with a week ten road trip to Houston to visit the fantasy-friendly Texans defense.
Tim Hightower, Cardinals - Hightower, whose shown promise all season as a goal line back, recording six touchdowns in the first seven games, rewarded Ken Whisenhunt’s mid-week promise of a significant increase in carries by sprinting for 109 yards on 22 carries, including a 30-yard scoring run that showed his breakaway speed in the Cardinals 34-13 road win. James, who was suited up for the game, stood on the sideline for the entire game, receiving zero touches. Look for the rookie from Richmond to continue to push veteran Edgerrin James further out of the picture with each, additional carry that he is awarded. The burst difference between Hightower and James can no longer be swept under the rug out of respect for Edgerrin’s noteworthy NFL career.
Chris Johnson, Titans - Johnson, now established as the leader of an impressive class of rookie backs this season, continues to dazzle on a weekly basis, ringing up 161 total yards (89 rushing, 72 receiving - on six receptions) in the still undefeated Titans week nine home overtime 19-16 win over Green Bay. Even more impressive is how the first year back is compiling these stats in tandem with backfield mate Lendale White’s strong 2008 campaign, a rarity in fantasy football where the RBBC effect is not strong enough to curb Johnson’s scoring.
Derrick Ward, Giants - Spend an afternoon watching Ward in action. The four-year veteran runs with a swift urgency every carry and many times, is more effective in power running formations than his 6-4, 265 pound stable mate, Brandon Jacobs. Ward has carved out a productive second-back niche in the Giants offense, ala Lendale White in Tennessee, Jerious Norwood in Atlanta, or Leon Washington with the Jets, highlighted by week eight’s performance against the visiting Cowboys in the Giants 35-14 home win which saw Ward rush for 63 yards and a touchdown (on 12 carries) and two receptions for 26 yards. Ward, who this season has successfully fought off the injury bug which has plagued him for most of his professional career, has become a handy RB filler for fantasy lineups in a pinch due to bye week or injury circumstances.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs - The other half of the LJ substitution group, Kolby Smith, has been declared out for the year after suffering a knee injury in week eight’s 30-27 OT loss to the Buccaneers, and Larry Johnson’s suspension runs through week 10, giving Charles a substantial opportunity to shine in this weekend’s visit to San Diego to play the Chargers, whose soft-serve defense has been great for fantasy opponents all year. And the rookie from Texas can play, as evidenced by his 18 carries for 106 yards against a nasty Tampa defense in the Chiefs 30-27 overtime loss to the Buccaneers.
Marshawn Lynch, Bills - Through eight games, Lynch has yet to record a 100-yard rushing game, though the damage has been somewhat mitigated by his receiving yards. This is a player that was routinely selected in the middle of the first round of most fantasy drafts, and clearly, to this point in the season, he has not dominated the way we all expected him to. The next three weeks; @ New England, Cleveland and @ Kansas City will allow Lynch every opportunity to prove his alpha back status.
Broncos backfield - Last week’s RB stat line in the Broncos 26-17 home loss against the Miami Dolphins: Andre Hall-one carry, seven yards, Michael Pittman- seven carries, four yards (though he did reinjure his neck during the game), Ryan Torain- three carries, one yard. Dreadful. In recent memory, Denver was the place where mediocre backs came to prosper and become 1,000 yard rusher’s (Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, the list goes on). Former offensive line guru Alex Gibbs zone-blocking legacy has become a distant memory in the Rocky Mountains.
Justin Fargas / Michael Bush, Raiders - The Raiders, as a team, were held to negative yards and no first downs and their lowest game total in 47 years. Power back Michael Bush had three carries for two yards. Fargas finished with 23 on six carries, in fact, Fargas’ 13-yard run with a little over nine minutes left in the third quarter provided the Raiders with their initial first down of the ballgame. Its that bad in Oakland. The stank from a JaMarcus Russell-led passing attack has killed any hopes the Raiders had of running the ball efficiently this season, leading us to believe that the health of Darren McFadden’s big toes are not going to matter this season anyway.