Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 8 running backs

It was a huge week for Ezekiel Elliott, and seven other running backs scored 15 or more points in Week 7, too. But should we start ‘em in Week 8?

Ezekiel Elliott’s 219-yard, three-touchdown day put him atop the leaderboard for the first time in 2017 and Todd Gurley passed Kareem Hunt as the lead NFL fantasy running back through Week 7. LeSean McCoy gave us his first top-ten finish since Week 1 and TJ Yeldon made the most of his season debut with a top five effort, just behind the rookie Aaron Jones. 

You have to sit Jones and Yeldon because otherwise, they’d be alone on the field while the rest of their teams take their bye week. The rest of those guys are start ‘ems for Week 8. Who else did I put on the start ‘em or sit ‘em side of the ledger? Take a look: 

Start this guy: Melvin Gordon, LAC vs NE 

Denver reasserted itself as the top rushing defense in the league by holding Melvin Gordon to 44 yards in Week 7. They also opened a door to show everyone Austin Ekeler is the new change of pace runner behind him. Ekeler had some nice-looking rushes but only gained the same 44 overall yards with seven fewer touches. While it looks like Ekeler pushed Branden Oliver out of his role, he is not taking more snaps or changing the plan for Melvin Gordon. 

Gordon gets the hard yards, slamming into the line 15-20 times per game and occasionally breaking one. Then he pops out for a bunch of catches and racks up his fantasy points. The Chargers win when Gordon touches the ball over 20 times. That will not change, especially against the porous interior defense of the New England Patriots. Watch for a big rebound fantasy performance by Gordon in Week 8. Start ‘em with confidence. 

Sit this guy: Frank Gore, IND at CIN

Things are getting uglier in Indianapolis. The Colts lost their center again Sunday to a hamstring injury, and the Jaguars showed no mercy, sacking Jacoby Brissett, a mobile quarterback, ten times. The Bengals have a top-ten NFL fantasy defense against running backs and are almost top-ten against quarterbacks. They will stuff the run and dare Brissett to pass the ball to one of his receivers going against their top-ten wide receiver defense or the tight end who faces the number four tight end fantasy group. It could be a long day for Gore. The best play from Indianapolis could be Marlon Mack this week.

Start this guy: Jay Ajayi, MIA at BAL

Miami is sitting at 4-2 and in the thick of the AFC East title race despite playing some of the worst-looking football in the league. Knowing they bring a solid defensive unit against an offense without enough healthy bodies to do much, they will make things as easy as possible for their backup quarterback Matt Moore. Watch Ajayi get 30 touches this week against a mediocre rushing defense. Ajayi picks his moment and goes for close to 200 yards on national television Thursday night. 

Sit this guy: DeAndre Washington, OAK at BUF

Buffalo’s surprise standing as a contender after much of its fan base feared they were tanking their season is largely because of their solid defense. They own the fourth-best NFL fantasy unit against running backs and are not likely to cede that status against either DeAndre Washington. They could slow Jalen Richard’s pass-catching game, too. 

Play this guy: Wendell Smallwood, PHI vs SF

Will the 49ers bounce back from their trouncing at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys last week and play the Eagles close? I doubt it. The Eagles are on a roll and tasting the NFC East title. Carson Wentz is unstoppable and that won’t change against the lower-tiered defense of San Francisco. By the second half, the Eagles will be a rush-first offense in an effort to end the game without any further injuries. LeGarrette Blount will also benefit, but I see Smallwood gaining more yards. 

Sit this guy: Lamar Miller, HOU at SEA

For all the talk about the Legion of Boom and how difficult it is to pass against the Seahawks, they also yield just 0.1 more fantasy points per game to running backs than the third-ranked Texans. Houston’s defense will have to keep them in this one for Miller to see a lot of touches. I am not sure that happens with the resurgence of Seattle’s receiving corps and Russell Wilson. 

Week 8 flash in the pan prediction

Big things happen when you least expect them. Detroit’s Ameer Abdullah finally breaks the Lions’ multi-year drought of 100-yard rushing games. He rattles off a 60-yarder against the Steelers’ defense on his way to 125 for the game and two scores. 

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