Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 9 running backs

Six of the top-12 NFL fantasy running backs from Week 8 are unavailable for this week’s games. Who steps in as start ‘ems in Week 9?

Ezekiel Elliott is only one of a bunch of premier running backs taking the week off as Melvin Gordon, Jordan Howard, Le’Veon Bell, and Jerick McKinnon join the Patriots’ pack of runners on a bye week. Of course, the likes of Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, and Aaron Jones come back, but who else should start or sit this week? 

Jay Ajayi’s trade to Philadelphia will not affect the Eagles’ rotation this week, but what about Miami’s? Is Kenyan Drake worth a start? We’ll hold off on making that call, but here are a few other running backs to consider.

Start this guy: Alvin Kamara, NO vs TB 

Melvin Ingram fumbled twice last week and got benched for the last drive in favor of Alvin Kamara. To hear the way it is being spoken about or coach Sean Payton’s past response to Ingram fumbles, you would think Ingram had a fumble problem. Ingram never fumbled more than twice in an entire season until last week. Still, given the history, there is a good chance Payton starts Kamara this week. 

More importantly, Drew Brees will throw the ball a lot against Tampa Bay’s pass defense. Kamara is often further downfield than the wide receivers on passing plays. He has as good a chance at going over 100 receiving yards as Ted Ginn or Michael Thomas. Start Kamara. 

Sit this guy: Marshawn Lynch, OAK at MIA 

Since Sunday, I must have read that the Raiders couldn’t run “without Lynch” a dozen times. The Raiders aren’t running much with Lynch, either. That will be especially true this week as Miami’s top-ten NFL fantasy defense against running backs hems him in. Limited carries won’t help as Oakland continues to be a pass-first offense. 

Start this guy: Marlon Mack, IND at HOU 

Houston’s defense will not allow much to happen on the ground. That spells bad news for Frank Gore more than Marlon Mack. Mack’s non-standard runs and his role in the passing game is where his value will come from. The Colts will probably play from behind for the most part, and Mack should be able to take advantage of garbage time dump passes and draws. 

Sit this guy: Devonta Freeman, ATL at CAR

Atlanta begins its attempt to retake the NFC South title this week with its first division game. Over the first eight weeks, Devonta Freeman has put together the quietest top-ten fantasy performance in the league. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but inexplicably saw only 11 carries per game the last three games. Atlanta’s offensive identity has yet to be determined under Steve Sarkisian, but limited carries and the third-stingiest fantasy defense of the Carolina Panthers make Freeman a tough start in Week 9.

Start this guy: Orleans Darkwa, NYG vs LAR 

Los Angeles’ defense has been improving week by week under Wade Phillips and they are coming off a bye week to face a struggling Giants offense. They still rank as the second-worst NFL fantasy defense against the run. Meanwhile, the Giants are averaging close to 5.0 yards per carry since shifting their offensive line to feature their best run blockers instead of pass blockers. Darkwa had a breakout game against Denver but split snaps 50-50 with rookie Wayne Gallman just a week later. That makes him a risky start, but the Giants’ willingness to use either back in the passing game gives Darkwa a good chance to have a good fantasy game against a suspect defense. Gallman is a slightly riskier second option.

Sit this guy: CJ Anderson, DEN at PHI 

Denver might make a quarterback change this week, which could bump Anderson’s value up again. But the Broncos seem to be moving toward a full-blown running back-by-committee with Anderson ceding more touches each week to Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker. That will make achieving a fantasy-relevant day even harder against Philadelphia’s top-five rushing defense. 

Week 9 flash in the pan prediction

Aaron Jones has another solid game against Detroit Monday night, but Ty Montgomery steals the show with seven catches for 100 yards and a touchdown as Green Bay tries to stay relevant in the NFC North.

Check back with us at RealSport every day for the latest news and advice, including how this week’s trades could affect NFL Fantasy. Remember to send any NFL fantasy questions to [email protected] so we can put them in our NFL Fantasy Mailbag!

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Pat Opperman


Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.