Week 9 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: Running backs

Welcome to Week 9. Even if you've been relatively stable at running back this season, this week could be a test. Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, and Latavius Murray are on bye. David Johnson and Chase Edmonds probably aren't playing; neither is Kerryon Johnson; the 49ers have three running backs on the injury report for Thursday night. 

Chances are, you're going to have to make a tough call this week at the position. That's what we're here to help with. Jamey Eisenberg has his start and sit calls ready for Week 9, plus one surprise bust pick who might have carried you to victory. Plus, Heath Cummings' running back preview gives you everything else you might need for the position in Week 9. Check back in for the rest of the Start 'Em & Sit 'Em calls throughout the day:

Running backs

Start 'Em
14.1 projected points
Melvin Gordon Los Angeles Chargers RB
Gordon has not been good since coming back from his holdout in Week 5. Even though he's scored in each of the past two games against Tennessee and Chicago, he's still failed to top 12 PPR points in any game, while averaging 8.5 PPR points per game. But I'm confident in him this week against the Packers. Hopefully, the move to fire offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and have coach Anthony Lynn be more involved in the play calling is to help get Gordon going — Lynn said part if the reasoning was a lack of rush attempts since Gordon's return. It also helps that Gordon is facing a Packers defense that has allowed a running back to score or gain at least 100 total yards in seven games in a row. In PPR, Austin Ekeler is also worth starting, but Ekeler is just a flex in non-PPR leagues.
8.1 projected points
Jordan Howard Philadelphia Eagles RB
The revenge game narrative works well here for Howard, along with several other factors aligning at the right time. The former Bears running back gets to face a Chicago defense that has allowed a running back to score a touchdown in four games in a row, including two big outings against Josh Jacobs and Latavius Murray over that span. Howard is coming off a season-best 23 carries against Buffalo in Week 8, where he had 96 yards and a touchdown, as well as one catch for 15 yards. He now has four games this season with at least 13 carries, and he's scored at least 12 PPR points in three of them. Miles Sanders (shoulder) is also banged up, although he's expected to play, but Howard could see an uptick in touches. I expect him to be highly motivated facing the team that traded him this offseason, and I would start Howard with confidence this week.
10.9 projected points
Mark Ingram Baltimore Ravens RB
It might be the way to attack this Patriots defense is to run at them, and we saw that highlighted by Nick Chubb last week when he had 20 carries for 131 yards. Unfortunately, Chubb fumbled twice, but Le'Veon Bell also had 15 carries for 70 yards against New England in Week 7, as well as Frank Gore gaining 109 yards on 17 carries against the Patriots in Week 4. You know the Ravens are going to try to run in this game, and Ingram has scored at least 12 PPR points in three of his past five games. He should have fresh legs coming off a bye, and I expect him to be the first running back to score against the Patriots this year. He's worth using as a No. 2 running back in all leagues this week.
8.3 projected points
Jamaal Williams Green Bay Packers RB
I would prefer to use Williams more as a flex option since he's been at 10 total touches or less in each of the past two games, but it's hard to ignore his production, especially in a good matchup this week at the Chargers. He's scored at least 12 PPR points in three games in a row against Detroit, and he's been involved in the passing game with 11 catches on 13 targets over that span. Aaron Jones is clearly the star of this backfield, but Williams should have the chance to do well against a Chargers defense that has allowed five touchdowns to running backs in the past four games. Also, six running backs have at least 65 total yards against the Chargers over that span.
10.0 projected points
Mark Walton Miami Dolphins RB
Walton has the chance to be a quality No. 2 running back this week in all leagues with this matchup against the Jets at home. In the first game without Kenyan Drake in Week 8 at Pittsburgh, Walton had 14 total touches, including six targets and three receptions. He's yet to score a touchdown in his two-year career, so expecting him to score could be a problem, along with Kalen Ballage likely working at the goal line. Still, we've seen this Jets run defense allow a running back to score or gain at least 98 total yards in every game this year, and they just traded Leonard Williams to the Giants. Walton has the chance for a career game this week.

Sleepers

  • Jaylen Samuels (vs. IND): James Conner's status will either make Samuels a sleeper option as a flex or a must-start running back against the Colts. Conner is dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in Week 8 against the Dolphins, and Benny Snell (knee) is also banged up. If Samuels is the starter against the Colts, he could be a top-10 Fantasy running back in all leagues. The Steelers have had a running back score a touchdown in four games in a row, with six total touchdowns scored from the position over that span.
  • Adrian Peterson (at BUF): In three games with Bill Callahan as the interim head coach, Peterson has at least 81 rushing yards in each outing, as well as two games with at least 11 PPR points. He should have fresh legs since he last played Thursday night in Week 8 at Minnesota, and Buffalo has allowed a running back to score in four games in a row, with six total touchdowns scored from the position over that span.
  • Frank Gore (vs. WAS): Gore has been quiet in each of the past three games, but I expect him to be at least a flex option this week against Washington. The Redskins have allowed a running back to score in two of their past three games, and Buffalo should be playing with a lead in this matchup, allowing Gore the chance for additional volume. Devin Singletary is worth using as a flex this week as well, especially in PPR.
  • Tarik Cohen (at PHI): I mentioned this last week when I recommended Singletary as a sleeper that the Eagles struggle with pass-catching running backs, and Singletary had four catches for 30 yards and a touchdown on six targets. Five running backs have already caught at least four passes against the Eagles this season, and I Cohen has been better for Fantasy when the Bears have been chasing points, which I expect to happen here. Cohen has scored at least 10 PPR points in three of Chicago's four losses this season.
Sit 'Em
6.5 projected points
Kenyan Drake Arizona Cardinals RB
The Cardinals are expected to be without David Johnson (ankle) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring) this week, but that doesn't mean Drake is getting a heavy workload in his first game with the team after being traded to Arizona from Miami on Monday. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Drake will get a manageable workload in his debut, and this is a tough matchup against the 49ers. Christian McCaffery in Week 8 is the lone running back to score against San Francisco this year, and I consider Drake a flex option at best this week.
9.0 projected points
LeSean McCoy Kansas City Chiefs RB
It continues to be a struggle for McCoy every time Damien Williams is on the field. In two games without Williams, McCoy averaged 19.0 PPR points per game. But in six games with Williams, McCoy is averaging just 6.7 PPR points per game. He hasn't scored a touchdown in the past four games, and he lost a fumble in Week 8 against Green Bay. I would try to avoid McCoy and Williams this week against the Vikings, and Minnesota hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 2. I hope the Chiefs don't punish McCoy for his fumble against the Packers, but I would only consider him a flex option at best this week.
8.2 projected points
Sony Michel New England Patriots RB
It's going to continue to be touchdown or bust for Michel all season until he proves otherwise, and Week 8 against Cleveland was a good indication of a bust when he had 21 carries for 74 yards and no scores or catches. This is a good run defense for the Ravens when defensive tackle Brandon Williams is healthy – no running back has more than 65 rushing yards in the games he's been on the field – and don't be surprised if James White and even Rex Burkhead have bigger roles this week. For what it's worth, in the five games this season where Burkhead has played, Michel is averaging just 6.6 PPR points per game compared to 18.7 PPR points when Burkhead is out.
8.2 projected points
Carlos Hyde Houston Texans RB
Like Michel, Hyde is proving to be touchdown or bust, and those kinds of running backs are frustrating in PPR. He's scored in three games this season, and in two of them, he has at least 12 PPR points. But in the five games where he's failed to score a touchdown, Hyde is averaging just 7.6 PPR points per game. He's only caught a pass in three games this year, and the Jaguars have only allowed a running back to score in three games this season. Hyde already faced Jacksonville in Week 2 and had 20 carries for 90 yards, but I expect him to be worse this week in London, especially if offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) is hurt. Hyde is a flex option at best, with his value higher in non-PPR leagues.

Bust Alert

View Profile
David Montgomery CHI • RB • 32
YTD Stats
Att98
Yds366
TD3
FL1

I said last week that Montgomery would have the best game of his rookie season, and he did with career highs in carries (27), yards (135) and catches (four). He scored a touchdown and added 12 receiving yards on five targets, but that was a great setup for him against the Chargers, who have struggled against the run. I'm expecting regression for Montgomery this week against the Eagles, who are tough against the run. Ezekiel Elliott in Week 7 is the lone running back with more than 63 rushing yards against Philadelphia, including matchups with Devonta Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Aaron Jones, Le'Veon Bell and Dalvin Cook. Montgomery could find the end zone, but I don't expect this game to be pretty for him. Hopefully, you started him with confidence in Week 8 as suggested, but this is a week you might want to avoid him on the road against the Eagles.

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

Join our Free $1,000,000 Parlay Challenge

Our Latest Stories