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Fantasy Football: Running backs to start and sit in Week 9

Need to make some decisions about your fantasy lineup? The “Fantasy Jewelers” are here to help.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 in the NFL is here and many teams are on a bye, like the Bengals, while many players are injured. Who should you start in your fantasy league at running back for Week 9? Let’s evaluate the options.

Think of fantasy player matchups as precious metals, and us as jewelers. Like good salesmen, we’ll give you a tour of our shop, starting with the most alluring matchups and work our way down, presenting our case for each.


Platinum: can’t-miss investment, must-start

Gold: very good investment

Silver: solid investment

Potential gold mine: could be great, but, could also turn out to be nothing

Copper: least desirable of the precious metals, not a good start

Plastic: not even real gold, put on your bench

Fool’s Gold: shiny and enticing, but not a wise investment

Start ‘em

Platinum - Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (at Cleveland Browns) - He narrowly missed his fifth straight 100 yard rushing game last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. This week, he goes up against the Browns, who gave up 25.20 points to Jeremy Hill two weeks ago (by far his best game of the season) and 21.80 points to Matt Forte last week. In other words, starting Elliott is as wise of an investment as possible.

Gold - Jay Ajayi, MIA (vs New York Jets)- This has less to do with the Jets than it does with Ajayi. If you are not starting him at this point, you should be. Yes, he’s had two good games his entire career, but they happen to be his last two games, and they weren’t just good— the man had over 60 fantasy points combined against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills. So he is matchup proof, a must start every week until further notice.

Silver - Devonta Freeman, ATL (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers) - Last week against the vaunted Green Bay Packers rush defense, Freeman had only 35 yards rushing (though he totaled 17.80 fantasy points overall) However, you shouldn’t let that deter you from starting him this week. With Tevin Coleman out again, Freeman will get ample opportunities as the lead back of one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. The Bucs are nowhere near as stout as the Packers, as the former have allowed over 100 yards rushing to each of their last 6 opponents (the Los Angeles Rams, the Carolina Panthers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders). Furthermore, the good thing about Falcons’ running backs is that they are fully capable of producing big games receiving as well. And with the absence of Coleman, Freeman could see a lot of targets.

Bench ‘em

Copper - LeSean McCoy, BUF (at Seattle Seahawks) - At the midway mark of the season, McCoy is on pace to rush for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s been an absolute must-start all year, especially with the Bills passing offense being inconsistent (at best). But this week might not be a great time to start him. It’s not that we’re concerned with him coming off a hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s game against the New England Patriots so much as his matchup— going up against the stingy Seahawks defense in Seattle is about as tough as it gets.

Plastic - Todd Gurley, LA (vs Carolina Panthers) - This is just painful to write. Gurley is undoubtedly one of the most talented backs in the league, but there’s nothing he can do going up against stacked boxes week in and week out. Two weeks ago he eclipsed over four yards a carry for the first time all season, and he hasn’t sniffed 80 yards on the ground since Week 3. As long as defenses keep forcing quarterback Case Keenum to beat them through the air, they will refuse to let Gurley go by against a light box.

Fool’s Gold - Mark Ingram, NO (at San Francisco 49ers) - While he’s going up against the team that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year, Ingram is somewhat of a risky start. This is because he had a horrific game against the Seattle Seahawks last week, when he gained only 5 yards rushing and was benched after fumbling. After that, Tim Hightower was highly effective running the ball (102 yards on 26 carries), and Ingram didn’t get another carry. Now it appears the two running backs will be splitting carries. One of the two may have a great day, but it’s probably wise to give the Saints a week or two to figure out who (if anyone) will be their lead back before starting either Ingram or Hightower.