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Running Back Player Rankings – Week 16
Running Backs (Updated: Sunday, Dec. 23 - 11:22AM CT)
1. Arian Foster (vs. Min) – 75 of Arian Foster’s season-high 165 yards last weekend came during the Texans final drive of the game, so it’s obvious they didn’t come easy. However, that’s what Houston does on offense—they wear the opposing defense down with one of the league’s best rushing attacks until inevitably; they finally break. They’ve been using this strategy all year long and will continue to do it for at least one more regular season game as a victory this Sunday means a first-round bye in the playoffs. Though I normally believe in personal motivation as a conduit to fantasy success, in this case, I don’t think that the side-story regarding the NFL’s two best running backs (Foster and Peterson) doing battle on the same field will have much of an effect on this game. The simple fact of the matter here is that the Texans are playing at home and fighting for a first-round bye, so I expect nothing less than the coaching staff to let Arian lead the way as they did last week.
2. Adrian Peterson (at Hou) – What Adrian Peterson is doing this season is beyond comprehension, but what he’s done over the last eight weeks alone is beyond insanity. Every opponent comes into their game with the Vikings knowing full well that their game plan is to get Adrian Peterson the ball—especially after Percy Harvin went down back in Week 9. Obviously, knowing what a team will do and stopping it are two completely different things. Despite the massive target on his back, Purple Jesus has rattled off eight straight 100-yard games with only two of them going for less than 150 yards. He’s also rushed for nine touchdowns during that time while failing to score just once (at Chicago, Week 12) and has been up over five yards per carry in each of those games. Honestly, I can’t even fathom what he’ll do next, but I do have one reason for why he’s not my top-ranked guy this week; time of possession. Houston has had the ball on offense for a league-best average of 33 minutes and 42 seconds per game this season, almost a full minute and a half more than the next team. Minnesota, on the other hand, has the ball just 27 minutes and 55 seconds on offense, the NFL’s fourth lowest average this season. Both Peterson and Foster can dominate a game on any given Sunday, but I like Foster a touch more this weekend simply because he’ll have at least a few minutes more to be able to.
3. DeMarco Murray (vs. NO) – DeMarco has a touchdown in all three games since returning from his foot injury in Week 13 and appears to be gaining both strength and confidence with each passing week. He has the sixth most fantasy points in that span as well and should be given a hefty amount of chances to put up many more this weekend. New Orleans has allowed the second highest yards per carry (5.0), the most rushing yards and the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, but the ultimate reason Murray will do well this Sunday is because the Cowboys will use him extensively in order to control the clock and keep Drew Brees off the field.
4. Knowshon Moreno (vs. Cle) – Since regaining the starting job due to Willis McGahee’s season-ending injury, Knowshon Moreno has been playing like a man possessed. Because he’s been a relative non-factor the last year and a half, some people may have forgotten that Moreno was not only a first-round pick back in 2009, but also the first running back taken in that draft. Basically, the kid has skills, but hasn’t necessarily done well to show them since he entered the league—at least until now. Knowshon has received 20 or more carries and at least 24 touches in each of the Broncos last four games, a trend I can’t see ending this weekend against Cleveland. He also has over 100 yards and a touchdown in each of the last two games, numbers I can also see happening again on Sunday. The Browns defense has been dominant on occasion this season, but their rush D definitely hasn’t been of late as they’ve allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs over the last three weeks. Once Peyton Manning gets his team out to a lead—which should be early—I expect the Knowshon show to take over for the rest of the game.
5. Ray Rice (vs. NYG) – Ray Rice has failed to score a touchdown in just four of his last 17 regular season home games, though one of those games came last weekend in a loss to the Denver Broncos. There were two reasons why this occurred. The first one was because the Ravens fell behind early and had to abandon the run far more quickly than they would have liked. The second was because Baltimore fired their offensive coordinator (Cam Cameron) earlier in the week, so their new one, Jim Caldwell, had little time to come up with an effective game plan involving Rice. Neither should pose a problem in Week 16 so I expect Rice to go back to his normally dominating ways at home against the Giants.
6. Marshawn Lynch (vs. SF, Sunday night) – The best thing “Fugly McSkittles” has going for him in this game against the vaunted 49ers defense is the emergence of his quarterback, Russell Wilson. After some early season rookie growing pains, Wilson has now become a threat to not only pass the ball effectively, but also to run the ball with extreme authority as well. The option-run this Seattle offense has been using is a thing of perfection at this point as defenses have no clue as to whether Lynch will be carrying the ball up the gut or Wilson will be taking it out around the end. Because of this, Marshawn has the second most fantasy points over the last three weeks including two 100-yard games and five touchdowns. Fugly has put up 100 yards in each of his last two meetings with the ‘Niners, so even though San Fran is still one of the toughest teams to run on, I can’t help but think there’s yet another one coming this Sunday night.
7. Doug Martin (vs. StL) – Doug Martin had easily the worst game of his rookie season last weekend against the Saints, but I can’t believe that the poor performance was solely his fault. Not only did New Orleans get up early enough to force the Buccaneers into abandoning the run, but Josh Freeman was so awful that the Saints had no problem with keying in on Martin for most of the game. Will the same thing happen this week? It might, but St. Louis isn’t good enough to force the Bucs away from the running game, so the Muscle Hamster should be used enough to put up RB1 fantasy points this week. Besides, the Rams have allowed the second most touchdowns and sixth most fantasy points to running backs over the last five weeks, so a man of Martin’s talents should be just fine.
8. Alfred Morris (at Phi) – Alfred Morris has been crazy-good lately putting up the fifth most fantasy points in the league during the last five weeks and fourth most in the last three. In last weekend’s game against the Browns, for the first time in a month, Morris failed to rush for 100 yards—but was still able to give his fantasy owners quite a bit of love punching in two touchdowns during the second half of the game. This week he’ll be facing an Eagles squad that has all but mailed it in this season, so look for Morris to tote the ball 20-plus times for the sixth week in a row en route to another top ten fantasy performance.
9. Frank Gore (at Sea, Sunday night) – Frank the Tank Gore keeps chugging along as he compiled his fourth straight week with double-digit fantasy points in the 49ers win against the Patriots last weekend. His touchdown streak was snapped at two games in a row, and it will certainly be tough to get another one going against a hard-core Seattle rush D this Sunday night, but I believe it will happen. The insertion of Colin Kaepernick into this offense has really opened things up for the 49ers as defenses not only have to worry about his running ability, but as he showed against the Patriots, they obviously have to worry about his Grade-A arm as well. Because of this, Gore should see more lanes open this weekend, especially with the Seahawks’ safeties likely having to roll coverage in an effort to help make up for the loss of their starting cornerbacks. Without the Seattle safeties crowding the line, Gore should have a field day out there and at least be able to match his two-year average of 13.9 fantasy points against these guys.
10. Stevan Ridley (at Jax) – Last week against the 49ers was the first time since Week 7 that Stevan Ridley didn’t rush in a touchdown for his team. The reason why I have him listed in the top ten this week is because I fully expect him to start up another streak this Sunday against a Jaguars defense that has allowed the second most rushing touchdowns this season as well as the second most fantasy points to running backs. However, with his fumbling problem still not solved, Ridley may be in Bill Belichick’s doghouse right now so this ranking may be a bit of a chancy call. That being said, Belichick also knows that the Patriots need a strong running game to win the Super Bowl this season, so I believe that after Tom Brady has led New England to an insurmountable lead this weekend, Ridley will be allowed to work out his kinks for the rest of the game. If he sees at least 15-20 carries, which he most definitely should, then a rushing TD and top ten fantasy numbers are almost guaranteed.
Running Backs 11-50
11. Jamaal Charles (vs. Ind)
12. Matt Forte (at Ari)
13. Reggie Bush (vs. Buf)
14. C.J. Spiller (at Mia)
15. Darren McFadden (at Car)
16. Vick Ballard (at KC)
17. Chris Johnson (at GB)
18. Ahmad Bradshaw (at Bal)
19. Trent Richardson (at Den)
20. Darren Sproles (at Dal)
21. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (at Pit)
22. Michael Turner (at Det, Saturday night) – FINAL STATISTICS: 13 rushes – 41 yards - 0 TDs // 4 catches - 16 yards - 0 TDs
23. Mikel Leshoure (vs. Atl, Saturday night) – FINAL STATISTICS: 15 rushes – 46 yards - 1 TD // 3 catches - 20 yards - 0 TDs
24. LeSean McCoy (vs. Was)
25. Steven Jackson (at TB)
26. Shonn Greene (vs. SD)
27. Jonathan Dwyer (vs. Cin)
28. Bilal Powell (vs. SD)
29. Ryan Grant (vs. Ten)
30. DeAngelo Williams (vs. Oak)
31. Beanie Wells (vs. Chi)
32. Joique Bell (vs. Atl, Saturday night) – FINAL STATISTICS: 4 rushes – 10 yards - 0 TDs // 9 catches - 73 yards - 0 TDs
33. Mark Ingram (at Dal)
34. Montell Owens (vs. NE)
35. Jackie Battle (at NYJ)
36. Jacquizz Rodgers (at Det, Saturday night) – FINAL STATISTICS: 6 rushes – 14 yards - 0 TDs // 1 catch - 11 yards - 0 TDs
37. Mike Goodson (at Car)
38. Ben Tate (vs. Min)
39. Danny Woodhead (at Jax)
40. Ronnie Brown (at NYJ)
41. David Wilson (at Bal)
42. Bryce Brown (vs. Was)
43. Pierre Thomas (at Dal)
44. Mike Tolbert (vs. Oak)
45. Isaac Redman (vs. Cin)
46. Lamar Miller (vs. Buf)
47. DuJuan Harris (vs. Ten)
48. LaMichael James (at Sea, Sunday night)
49. Ronnie Hillman (vs. Cle)
50. Marcel Reece (at Car)
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