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USATSI

It's championship week in those Fantasy leagues that go the distance, so misses hurt even more in Week 18. We have options for teams that need them.

Jamey Eisenberg has his Start and Sit calls for RB below. His Waiver Wire column also can direct you to the best options who may be available in your leagues. And don't forget to check out Heath Cummings' running back preview for more help with matchup notes, Week 18 numbers to know and more.

START 'EM & SIT 'EM
Running Backs
Start 'Em
Projections powered by Sportsline
CAR Carolina • #28
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ ARI ARI -6.5 O/U 48
OPP VS RB
5th
PROJ PTS
13.6
RB RNK
13th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
559
REC
6
REYDS
48
TD
5
FPTS/G
10.7
Penny is on fire right now heading into Week 18 against the Cardinals. He scored 32 PPR points against Detroit in Week 17, and he's now scored at least 19 PPR points in three of his past four outings. Arizona's run defense was great against Dallas in Week 17, but prior to that, the Cardinals allowed a running back to have more than 100 total yards in three of four games. With the way Penny has looked over the past month, he should be locked into your lineup in Week 18.
CLE Cleveland • #21
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ HOU TEN -10.5 O/U 43
OPP VS RB
28th
PROJ PTS
10.4
RB RNK
15th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
497
REC
8
REYDS
108
TD
3
FPTS/G
10.6
Derrick Henry (foot) is expected to return for the playoffs, so this is likely the last chance Foreman has as the starter for the Titans. He's done an admirable job filling in for Henry, scoring at least 13 PPR points in three of his past four games, with 19 PPR points against Miami in Week 17. This is a revenge game since he started his career with the Texans, so hopefully Foreman can finish strong before taking a backseat to Henry in the playoffs.
NO New Orleans • #24
Age: 29 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ DEN KC -10 O/U 44.5
OPP VS RB
9th
PROJ PTS
14
RB RNK
10th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
541
REC
44
REYDS
422
TD
8
FPTS/G
11.8
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) is likely out again in Week 18 at Denver, so Williams should again lead Kansas City's backfield. He's now had six games this season with Edwards-Helaire out, and Williams scored at least 16 PPR points in four of those outings. He had 11 PPR points against Denver in Week 13 when Edwards-Helaire was active, and the Broncos have allowed a running back to gain over 100 total yards and score in each of their past two games against the Raiders and Chargers.
ARI Arizona • #6
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs SEA ARI -5.5 O/U 48
OPP VS RB
31st
PROJ PTS
8.9
RB RNK
13th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
700
REC
31
REYDS
334
TD
16
FPTS/G
16.5
Conner is expected to start against Seattle with Chase Edmonds (ribs/toe) ruled out, and Conner has been great when Edmonds missed time earlier this year Edmonds missed Weeks 10, 11, 13 and 14, and Conner scored at least 15 PPR points in all four of those outings. He scored a touchdown in each game, had three outings with at least 22 total touches and two games with at least five catches. One of those games was at Seattle in Week 11, and Conner had 26 total touches (five catches) for 99 total yards and a touchdown. He could be great in the passing game since the Seahawks are No. 1 in receptions (116) and receiving yards (1,038) to running backs, and 12 running backs have at least five catches in a game against Seattle this year. It also helps Conner that Seattle standout linebacker Bobby Wagner (knee) is out for this game.
Sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
NE New England • #21
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs CAR TB -8 O/U 41.5
OPP VS RB
6th
PROJ PTS
9.6
RB RNK
21st
YTD Stats
RUYDS
151
REC
2
REYDS
14
TD
1
FPTS/G
2.2
Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Ronald Jones (ankle) are out in Week 18, so the Buccaneers will lean on Vaughn and Le'Veon Bell against the Panthers. Bruce Arians said there's a chance Giovani Bernard (hip) could return this week from his stint on injured reserve, but as of Friday, Bernard remained out. I like Vaughn ahead of Bell, but both should be considered flex options. Vaughn had a good game in tandem with Jones against the Panthers in Week 16 with seven carries for 70 yards and a touchdown, and he had eight carries for 31 yards, along with two catches for 14 yards on three targets before hurting his ribs in Week 17 at the Jets. Bell had three carries for 5 yards and three catches for 30 yards on three targets in Week 17 at the Jets. It could be good for both Buccaneers running backs since the Panthers have allowed a running back to score in five games in a row, with seven touchdowns scored over that span.
PHI Philadelphia • #14
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs DAL DAL -7 O/U 42.5
OPP VS RB
3rd
PROJ PTS
10.6
RB RNK
22nd
YTD Stats
RUYDS
213
REC
29
REYDS
244
TD
5
FPTS/G
7
Gainwell might be the Eagles only healthy running back in Week 18 against the Cowboys with Miles Sanders (hand) out and Boston Scott and Jordan Howard on the reserve/COVID-19 list. But we also have to see if Philadelphia will rest its starters for the playoffs, which would likely put Gainwell on the field with other backups. In either scenario, Gainwell has flex appeal if he starts, but his outlook would be better if Jalen Hurts and the Eagles regular offensive linemen are on the field as well. Dallas has allowed a running back to score at least 11 PPR points in three games in a row.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #32
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ NYG WAS -7 O/U 38
OPP VS RB
26th
PROJ PTS
6.9
RB RNK
40th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
245
REC
8
REYDS
59
TD
2
FPTS/G
3.2
Antonio Gibson is off the reserve/COVID-19 list and ready to go at the Giants, but Washington could opt to limit his playing time because of the toe and hip injuries he's been dealing with of late. If that happens then Patterson could be great, and I would play him as a flex in Week 18 with the chance he gets increased touches. With Gibson out in Week 17 against Philadelphia, Patterson had 12 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, along with five catches for 41 yards on five targets. It's a great matchup for Gibson and Patterson against the Giants, who have allowed a running back to score at least 16 PPR points in three of his past four games.
Sit 'Em
Projections powered by Sportsline
PIT Pittsburgh • #84
Age: 33 • Experience: 12 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs NO NO -4.5 O/U 40
OPP VS RB
2nd
PROJ PTS
11.5
RB RNK
27th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
607
REC
51
REYDS
547
TD
11
FPTS/G
15.5
Patterson has been a bust for the past three weeks, and it could be that the workload of a career-high 149 carries and 51 receptions is catching up to him. He combined for 17 PPR points in his past three games against San Francisco, Detroit and Buffalo, and he's disappeared in the passing game with only five catches on six targets over that span. He did fare well against New Orleans in Week 9 with six catches for 126 yards on six targets, along with nine carries for 10 yards. But it's hard to expect a repeat performance given his recent struggles heading into Week 18.
BAL Baltimore • #33
Age: 31 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs KC KC -10 O/U 44.5
OPP VS RB
21st
PROJ PTS
10.3
RB RNK
29th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
808
REC
27
REYDS
207
TD
9
FPTS/G
11.9
Gordon has been struggling for most of the second half of the season, and it's hard to trust him in Week 18 against the Chiefs. He has one game with more than nine PPR points since Week 9, and he combined for just 16 PPR points in his past three games against the Bengals, Raiders and Chargers. He missed the first meeting at Kansas City in Week 13 with a hip injury, and Javonte Williams went off in that game for 178 total yards and a touchdown. Williams should be considered a low-end starter in Week 18, but Gordon is just a flex at best.
HOU Houston • #28
Age: 33 • Experience: 11 year
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs TEN TEN -10.5 O/U 43
OPP VS RB
1st
PROJ PTS
9.9
RB RNK
30th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
403
REC
22
REYDS
144
TD
3
FPTS/G
6.3
Burkhead has done a nice job for Fantasy managers in the past two games with at least 13 PPR points in each outing against the Chargers and 49ers. And he has at least 16 total touches in three games in a row, so it's clear he's the No. 1 option in Houston's backfield. But I would only consider him a flex option in deeper leagues this week. The Titans are No. 2 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs, and Burkhead was limited to 18 carries for 40 yards and no catches at Tennessee in Week 11 in a game the Texans won. He will likely struggle again, especially if he doesn't score, and he only has two games where he's found the end zone this year.
Bust Alert
Projections powered by Sportsline
MIN Minnesota • #33
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ DET GB -2.5 O/U 42.5
OPP VS RB
29th
PROJ PTS
10.7
RB RNK
26th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
799
REC
52
REYDS
391
TD
10
FPTS/G
15.3
If we find out Jones is playing the majority of the game against the Lions, I'll remove him from this spot. But I doubt we see much of Jones, if at all, with the Packers locked into the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The same likely goes for A.J. Dillon, which is why you should consider Patrick Taylor a sleeper in Week 18.

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