Fantasy Football Week 3 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: Running backs

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Editor's note: Welcome to Week 3! We're handling Jamey Eisenberg's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column a bit differently this season. You're still getting the same in-depth analysis as always, we're just presenting a bit differently, in an effort to get it out to you earlier in the day. This column takes a long time to write, and in the past, we've usually gotten it out to you in the evening. This year, we're going to publish it position-by-position, to get it into your hands quicker. Here's Jamey's take on running backs for this week. 

Don't worry: If you want the classic Start 'Em & Sit 'Em, we'll still be publishing that at the end of the day with every position included. For now, here's running back. 

Running backs

Note: Projections are provided by  

Start 'Em
15.6 projected points
Tevin Coleman Atlanta Falcons RB
Coleman played great in Week 2 against Carolina with Devonta Freeman (knee) out, and this is now six times since 2015 where Freeman has been out or left a game. Coleman has either scored a touchdown or gained 100 total yards all six times, and we hope that track record continues against the Saints. New Orleans has only allowed 152 total yards and one touchdown to running backs against Tampa Bay and Cleveland in the first two games. But Coleman has scored four total touchdowns in his past two games at New Orleans, and he's worth trusting this week as long as Freeman remains out.
11.7 projected points
Giovani Bernard Cincinnati Bengals RB
Bernard will start for the injured Joe Mixon (knee), and he has a good track record every time he gets an increased workload. He has 29 games in his career with at least 15 touches, and he's scored at least 10 PPR points in 23 of those outings. In 2017, he had five games with at least 15 touches, and he averaged 16.4 PPR points over that span. The Panthers have struggled with Ezekiel Elliott and Coleman in the first two games, and missing linebacker Thomas Davis (suspension) has been a problem. Given his expected workload, Bernard should be considered a must-start Fantasy running back this week.
10.3 projected points
Matt Breida San Francisco 49ers RB
Breida was great in Week 2 against Detroit with 11 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 21 yards, and he looked like what I expected Jerick McKinnon (ACL) to do if he was healthy. Now, you can't expect Breida to rip off many 66-yard touchdown runs like he did against the Lions, but hopefully he'll get more than 14 touches this week against the Chiefs, especially in the passing game. And Kansas City has already allowed three running backs (Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler and James Conner) to score at least nine PPR points with just their receiving totals. In a game where plenty of points are expected, I like Breida to get enough chances to warrant starting him in all leagues, especially PPR. And he's a better bet than Alfred Morris this week, who is just a flex at best in most formats.
14.0 projected points
Chris Thompson Washington Redskins RB
Thompson didn't expect to be up to speed coming off last year's broken leg until around November, but he's been exceptional through two games. He had five carries for 65 yards, along with six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 at Arizona, and he followed that up with 13 catches for 92 yards in Week 2 against the Colts. Washington was chasing points against Indianapolis and should be again this week against Green Bay, which is a great situation for Thompson. He's a must-start option in PPR against the Packers, who have already allowed two running backs (Jordan Howard in Week 1 and Dalvin Cook in Week 2) to score at least seven PPR points with just their receiving totals alone.
10.8 projected points
Phillip Lindsay Denver Broncos RB
Through two games, Lindsay has led Denver's backfield in touches with at least 15 in each outing against Seattle and Oakland. He's gone over 100 total yards in each game, and he's outplaying fellow rookie Royce Freeman, who clearly had more hype. We'll see how long that continues, but Lindsay should be considered no worse than a flex option in this matchup with the Ravens. Baltimore's run defense has been good through two games against Buffalo and Cincinnati, but not having linebacker C.J. Mosley (knee) could be tough to overcome.


  • Corey Clement (vs. IND): Clement looks like a must-start option in all leagues with Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) out, and he's in a good spot against the Colts. Sproles didn't play in Week 2 at Tampa Bay, and Clement had six carries for 30 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 55 yards. He's looking at about 20 total touches with Ajayi also out, and the Colts have allowed a touchdown or at least 90 total yards to a running back in each of the first two weeks with Joe Mixon and Chris Thompson.
  • Isaiah Crowell (at CLE): You know I love a revenge game, and Crowell spent the previous four seasons with the Browns. We'll see if he can do anything against a Cleveland run defense that was gashed by James Conner in Week 1 and gave up 99 total yards to Alvin Kamara in Week 2. Crowell is still splitting touches with Bilal Powell, but I would consider using him as a flex option on Thursday night.
  • Theo Riddick (vs. NE): Despite how well the Lions receivers have played, Riddick is still tied with Golden Tate for the team lead in receptions with 14. He has 19 targets, which is two more than Marvin Jones, and he just scored 13 PPR points in Week 2 at San Francisco. I'd love to see more of Kerryon Johnson this week, but in a game where the Lions are likely chasing points, Riddick should once again be a significant factor in the passing game.
  • Sony Michel (at DET): If the Lions trail in this game as expected, we could see the Patriots lean on Michel to continue increasing his confidence. He made his NFL debut in Week 2 at Jacksonville and got 10 carries for 34 yards and one catch for 7 yards. I'd still rank him third among the Patriots running backs behind James White and Rex Burkhead, but Michel is a Hail Mary play for your roster as a flex.
  • Javorius Allen (vs. DEN): I hope this is the week Alex Collins establishes himself as the No. 1 option in Baltimore's backfield, but Allen will continue to have a prominent role. And he actually leads the Ravens in receptions with 10. He's also scored a touchdown in each of the first two games of the season and is averaging 13.5 PPR points over that span. He's a flex option in PPR this week.
  • Latavius Murray (vs. BUF): Murray is a must-start option with Dalvin Cook (hamstring) out, and this is a dream matchup against the Bills. Through two games, Buffalo has allowed five running backs (Collins, Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler) to score or gain at least 90 total yards, with six total touchdowns allowed to that group. That bodes well for Murray in Week 3.
Sit 'Em
6.0 projected points
Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans RB
Henry just had the first game of his career in six tries with at least 14 carries where he failed to score double digits in Fantasy points in any format. He had 18 carries for 56 yards against Houston and no catches, and it's hard to trust him in the majority of leagues right now, especially against the Jaguars. Last year against the Jaguars, Henry was limited to 28 carries for 51 yards, but he managed one catch for a 66-yard touchdown. Dion Lewis is the preferred Titans running back heading into Week 3.
5.5 projected points
Chris Carson Seattle Seahawks RB
For some reason, the Seahawks are playing Carson on special teams, and coach Pete Carroll said he was "gassed" as a result during Monday's game at Chicago in Week 2. What? If Carson is going to be the lead runner of your backfield, which is what Carroll suggested after Week 1, then let him focus on playing running back and being successful there. But Seattle will continue to rotate Carson with rookie Rashaad Penny, and neither one is worth trusting against Dallas this week. Through two games, Carson has 10 PPR points combined on just 16 total touches, and the Cowboys are tough to run on when linebacker Sean Lee is healthy.
7.7 projected points
LeSean McCoy Buffalo Bills RB
I was worried about McCoy's Fantasy outlook this season, but it's been much worse than I could have imagined through the first two games of the year. He only has 12 PPR points on just 21 total touches, and now he's dealing with injured ribs. He's expected to play in Week 3 at Minnesota, but this game should be a disaster for him. The Buffalo offensive line, as expected, is among the worst in the NFL, and the Vikings have destroyed the San Francisco and Green Bay running games the past two weeks. I'm hesitant to even use McCoy as a flex option in this matchup.
10.0 projected points
Royce Freeman Denver Broncos RB
I'm not giving up on Freeman yet, but you can't start him this week at Baltimore, even with Mosley out. He's been outplayed by Lindsay, and Freeman has yet to catch a pass in two games on just one target. He's touchdown dependent right now, and game flow will matter to him if Denver can play with a lead. Until we start to see Denver lean more toward Freeman and less toward Lindsay, the best Freeman will be in a flex option in non-PPR formats. In PPR, Freeman should be reserved in the majority of leagues.
8.1 projected points
Peyton Barber Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB
It's amazing that the Buccaneers have been so prolific offensively through two games, but the run game has been non-existent. Barber has combined for nine PPR points with just one catch for 7 yards on two targets. You can't start him in PPR, and he's a flex option at best in non-PPR leagues. He will likely need to score a touchdown to help your Fantasy team, and that's not something I want to count on given his lack of production elsewhere. So, while nearly the entire passing attack is in play for Tampa Bay this week, the run game cannot be trusted in most formats.

Bust Alert

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Adrian Peterson WAS • RB • 26
Week 3 projection11.8 Fantasy points

If this game goes as expected, with the Packers likely playing with a lead, even on the road, it will be hard for Washington to lean on Peterson ahead of Thompson, who is clearly better in the passing game. Green Bay also has yet to allow a rushing touchdown, and Peterson will need to find the end zone to have a productive Fantasy outing. I thought Peterson would take advantage of the Colts defense in Week 2, but when Washington got behind, Peterson's outlook got bleak. He still managed eight PPR points, but I would put that as his ceiling for Week 3. He's a flex option at best in most formats.

So who should you sit and start this week? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 3 Fantasy football rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.  

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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