Fantasy Football Week 5 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: Running backs

Editor's Note: Welcome to Week 5, where we welcome Melvin Gordon back from his holdout. Austin Ekeler has been an absolute star in Gordon's absence, and you might be worried about what that means for your lineup if Ekeler has been a big part of it. Jamey Eisenberg is wondering about that too, so he leads off his look into the running back position by focusing on Ekeler's value for Week 5. Dive into Jamey's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em running backs here, and then check out Heath Cummings' RB preview for projections, numbers to know, and more. Come back later in the day for the rest of the positions for Start 'Em & Sit 'Em.

START 'EM & SIT 'EM
Running Backs
Start 'Em
Projections powered by Sportsline
LAC L.A. Chargers • #30
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs DEN LAC -6.5 O/U 44.5
OPP VS RB
27th
PROJ PTS
14.4
RB RNK
11th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
220
REC
24
REYDS
270
TD
6
FPTS/G
25.8
You're starting Melvin Gordon this week against the Broncos since he's expected to make his 2019 debut. But you can still play Ekeler with confidence, and I like him better than Gordon in PPR. The Broncos got embarrassed by the Jaguars in Week 4 with their running backs, as Leonard Fournette (245 total yards) and Ryquell Armstead (49 total yards and a touchdown) went nuts. Denver has now allowed a running back to score in four games in a row, and Ekeler should still be in the neighborhood of 15 total touches this week. He's also scored a touchdown in two of his past three meetings with the Broncos over the past two seasons.
KC Kansas City
Age: 31 • Experience: 12 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs IND KC -11 O/U 56.5
OPP VS RB
23rd
PROJ PTS
10.9
RB RNK
17th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
214
REC
9
REYDS
71
TD
3
FPTS/G
13.2
Even with Damien Williams (knee) back at practice, I would still start McCoy as a No. 2 running back in all leagues this week against the Colts. He should still continue to lead this backfield in touches, and he has either 90 total yards or a touchdown in three of four games. In the past two outings against Baltimore and Detroit, with Williams out, he's scored a combined 38 PPR points with at least 80 total yards in each game. Damien Williams will likely push Darrel Williams to the bench, and Damien is worth using as a flex option this week. But I still plan to start McCoy against the Colts, who have allowed a running back to score or gain at least 95 total yards in every game this year.
PIT Pittsburgh • #38
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs BAL BAL -3.5 O/U 44.5
OPP VS RB
26th
PROJ PTS
9.3
RB RNK
28th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
48
REC
10
REYDS
72
TD
1
FPTS/G
6.5
You're starting James Conner this week as long as he's healthy with his injured ankle. But if he's out, then Samuels goes from a borderline No. 2 running back to a star in all leagues. You have to be excited about Samuels after his performance in Week 4 against Cincinnati when he was used as the trigger man for the wildcat. It resulted in an amazing performance with 3-of-3 passing for 31 yards, 10 carries for 26 yards and a touchdown and eight catches for 57 yards on eight targets. Coach Mike Tomlin has said the wildcat won't be a staple of Pittsburgh's offense, but it's now something the Steelers can use if needed, with Samuels leading the way. And if Ravens defensive lineman Brandon Williams (knee) is out again in Week 5, the Steelers should be able to run wild against Baltimore, much as Cleveland did in Week 4 with 26 carries for 192 yards and four touchdowns, along with five catches for 45 yards from Nick Chubb and Dontrell Hilliard.
NE New England • #26
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ WAS NE -15.5 O/U 43
OPP VS RB
19th
PROJ PTS
8.9
RB RNK
30th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
171
REC
0
REYDS
0
TD
2
FPTS/G
6.5
Michel is not playing well now, and it's risky to trust him. And we could see more of Rex Burkhead this week, especially if the foot injury that bothered him in Week 4 at Buffalo isn't an issue, as well as James White in the passing game. But the Patriots still continue to lean on Michel, who has at least 15 carries in three of four games. He's scored in two of them, and I would expect him to get a significant workload this week against Washington in a game where New England is favored by nearly two touchdowns on the road. Two running backs have already had more than 15 carries against Washington this season with Ezekiel Elliott in Week 2 and Wayne Gallman in Week 4, and both had more than 100 total yards and scored. Michel's more of a starting option in non-PPR leagues than PPR, but I would consider Michel a low-end starter in this matchup.
GB Green Bay • #33
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ DAL DAL -3.5 O/U 47
OPP VS RB
9th
PROJ PTS
14.9
RB RNK
17th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
195
REC
12
REYDS
75
TD
4
FPTS/G
14.8
With Jamaal Williams (concussion) likely out in Week 5 at Dallas, we should see plenty of Jones once again. I consider him a volume-based No. 2 running back, and he's worth starting in all leagues despite some disappointing performances this season. Aside from Week 2 against Minnesota when he had 23 carries for 116 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and a touchdown, along with four catches for 34 yards, Jones has been at 3.0 yards per carry or less in each of this three other games. He did have six catches for 37 yards on seven targets in Week 4 against the Eagles in the game where Williams got hurt, but touchdowns have saved his Fantasy production since he has three touchdowns in his past two games. I'm not sure what to make of Dallas' run defense with strong outings against Washington and Miami. Saquon Barkley beat up the Cowboys for 139 total yards on just 15 touches in Week 1, but Dallas did a nice job on Alvin Kamara last week in holding him to 89 total yards. If Williams is out, the outlook for Jones improves greatly, so keep him active in all leagues.
Sleepers
Projections powered by Sportsline
SF San Francisco • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs CLE SF -3.5 O/U 46.5
OPP VS RB
10th
PROJ PTS
8.1
RB RNK
29th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
226
REC
3
REYDS
31
TD
0
FPTS/G
9
We'll see what happens with the 49ers backfield this week if Tevin Coleman (ankle) is able to return. But I would still use Breida as at least a flex, and he should have a consistent workload regardless. He's had at least 13 total touches in all three games for the 49ers, and he's averaging 12 PPR points in each of his past two games against the Bengals and Steelers.
HOU Houston • #23
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs ATL HOU -5 O/U 48.5
OPP VS RB
12th
PROJ PTS
7.6
RB RNK
38th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
250
REC
5
REYDS
8
TD
1
FPTS/G
8.5
Hyde is worth using more in non-PPR leagues than PPR, although he did have four catches in Week 4 against Carolina on five targets – but only 6 receiving yards. Still, he does have 85 total yards or a touchdown in three of four games this year, and the Falcons have allowed a running back to score or gain at least 100 total yards in three games.
IND Indianapolis • #20
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ KC KC -10.5 O/U 56.5
OPP VS RB
22nd
PROJ PTS
6.7
RB RNK
42nd
YTD Stats
RUYDS
97
REC
2
REYDS
15
TD
0
FPTS/G
3
This is contingent on Marlon Mack (ankle) and his health, but I would lean on Wilkins more than Nyheim Hines if Mack is out. You can run on the Chiefs, with Josh Jacobs, Mark Ingram and Kerryon Johnson each gaining at least 99 rushing yards in the past three games. I would expect the Colts to try to slow the game down with their rushing attack, and Wilkins would slide into Mack's role as the lead rusher for Indianapolis. Wilkins is a flex option in all leagues if Mack is out for Week 5.
MIA Miami
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs NYJ PHI -13.5 O/U 44
OPP VS RB
6th
PROJ PTS
10
RB RNK
26th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
186
REC
6
REYDS
47
TD
4
FPTS/G
12.3
Howard is worth using as a starter in non-PPR leagues and a flex in PPR, and he's better than a sleeper. I just needed a place to write about him, so he falls into this category. He was awesome in Week 4 at Green Bay with 31 PPR points, and he's scored four touchdowns in his past three games. He also had three catches for 28 yards on four targets against the Packers, which was a pleasant surprise. Miles Sanders can also be considered a sleeper with this matchup against the Jets, who could again be without linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin).
SEA Seattle • #20
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs LAR SEA -1.5 O/U 49
OPP VS RB
24th
PROJ PTS
6
RB RNK
41st
YTD Stats
RUYDS
80
REC
1
REYDS
3
TD
1
FPTS/G
7
Penny is expected to return from his two-game absence with a hamstring injury, and his fresh legs against a tired Rams defense could be useful. Chris Carson is still the best running back for the Seahawks and a must-start option, but Penny can be a flex in all formats. He had a quality game in Week 2 at Pittsburgh with 13 PPR points before getting hurt, and hopefully he keeps getting work in tandem with Carson to help your Fantasy roster if needed.
Sit 'Em
Projections powered by Sportsline
BUF Buffalo • #20
Age: 36 • Experience: 16 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ TEN TEN -3 O/U 38.5
OPP VS RB
18th
PROJ PTS
7.3
RB RNK
34th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
273
REC
4
REYDS
28
TD
2
FPTS/G
10.8
It's amazing what Gore has been able to accomplish in his career and this season, and he just became the fourth player in NFL history to eclipse 15,000 career rushing yards in Week 4 against New England, joining Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. He had 17 carries for 109 yards against the Patriots, becoming the second oldest player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards behind only MacArthur Lane (both were 36 but Lane was 60 days older). But accolades aside, this should be a tough game for Gore against the Titans, especially if Josh Allen (concussion) is out. Devin Singletary (hamstring) is expected to return, which should impact Gore's touches, and he will likely need a touchdown to save his production. Gore only has four catches for 28 yards on the season.
LV Las Vegas • #28
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs CHI CHI -5 O/U 40.5
OPP VS RB
9th
PROJ PTS
8.7
RB RNK
27th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
307
REC
3
REYDS
57
TD
2
FPTS/G
11.8
Jacobs needs more work in the passing game. He had two catches for 29 yards on two targets in Week 4 at Indianapolis, which was a season high, but his Fantasy production hasn't been stellar since Week 1 when he scored 23 PPR points against Denver. He's averaging just 8.0 PPR points in the past three games, and he hasn't scored a touchdown since facing the Broncos. This week, he has a brutal matchup in London against the Bears, who have allowed just one touchdown to a running back no one to gain more than 54 rushing yards this year. Jacobs is a flex option at best in non-PPR leagues and someone you might want to avoid altogether in PPR.
TB Tampa Bay • #27
Age: 22 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ NO NO -3.5 O/U 47
OPP VS RB
4th
PROJ PTS
7.8
RB RNK
37th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
234
REC
3
REYDS
71
TD
1
FPTS/G
9.3
We told you to add Jones wherever he was available this week on the waiver wire, but we didn't say you had to start him. This is a brutal matchup against the Saints, who have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in their past 26 games. They have allowed two running backs to score this season with Todd Gurley in Week 2 and Ezekiel Elliott in Week 4, but Jones just scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 4 at the Rams. He's the best Tampa Bay running back, and he should be useful moving forward for the rest of the season. But he's a flex at best in most leagues at New Orleans this week.
WAS Washington • #25
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs NE NE -15.5 O/U 43
OPP VS RB
2nd
PROJ PTS
11.2
RB RNK
23rd
YTD Stats
RUYDS
46
REC
20
REYDS
251
TD
0
FPTS/G
11.3
Thompson is still worth using as a flex option in PPR, but it could be hard to trust any of Washington's weapons in this matchup against the Patriots. The quarterback situation in Washington is a mess, and we don't know who's starting out of Case Keenum, Colt McCoy or Dwayne Haskins as of Wednesday morning. Thompson has two games this season with at least 13 PPR points and two games with nine PPR points or less, including last week at the Giants. He has yet to find the end zone, and New England has yet to allow a running back to score a touchdown. I'd try to avoid all of Washington's players this week if you can, even Thompson in PPR.
HOU Houston • #25
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
vs ATL HOU -5 O/U 48.5
OPP VS RB
12th
PROJ PTS
9.2
RB RNK
43rd
YTD Stats
RUYDS
146
REC
8
REYDS
77
TD
0
FPTS/G
7
It's tough to trust Johnson this week against the Falcons based on his production over the past three games. He's combined for just 16 PPR points over that span against Jacksonville, the Chargers and Carolina, and he only has two catches for 44 yards on seven targets in those outings. I'm not sure why Texans coach Bill O'Brien isn't leaning on Johnson more as a short-area target for Deshaun Watson, but maybe that will change if Kenny Stills (hamstring) is out this week. Johnson is a flex option in PPR at best this week – I'd rather start Hyde – and the Falcons have not struggled with pass-catching running backs like in past years. The best performance against Atlanta this season was Nyheim Hines with three catches for 26 yards on four targets in Week 3.
Bust Alert
Projections powered by Sportsline
DEN Denver • #30
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Weekly Breakdown
MATCHUP
@ LAC LAC -6.5 O/U 44.5
OPP VS RB
11th
PROJ PTS
12.3
RB RNK
25th
YTD Stats
RUYDS
213
REC
13
REYDS
109
TD
2
FPTS/G
13.5
Lindsay went from his best game in Week 3 at Green Bay with 28 PPR points to his worst game in Week 4 against Jacksonville with six PPR points. He scored 10 PPR points in each of his first two outings against Oakland in Week 1 and Chicago in Week 2, so that's the production you should likely expect most weeks. He continues to share playing time with Royce Freeman, who played more snaps than Lindsay against the Jaguars and was more involved in the passing game. The Chargers run defense has been stout since getting abused by Marlon Mack in Week 1, and I would only use Lindsay as a flex option in most leagues this week.

So who should you sit and start this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 5 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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