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Fantasy Football: Five Best Running Back Matchups

On Monday, we looked ahead at the fantasy football playoff matchups for quarterbacks and we assessed the best and worst matchups for quarterbacks from weeks fourteen through sixteen. Today we take a look at the best and worst matchups for running backs. Like the quarterbacks articles, the ranking next to the team will represent the average rank of the teams at allowing fantasy points per game, so the higher, the better. You will find below the top five matchups for running backs for the rest of the season.

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Carolina (Jonathan Stewart)
versus San Diego, at Washington, versus Atlanta (average rank 5.33)

Jonathan Stewart would be the main beneficiary of the best schedule down the stretch against running backs, and that is something that will be a boon for him. He chews up good matchups, and struggles against bad ones (except San Francisco, because he left with injury).

He scored against two top-ten matchups in Oakland and New Orleans before laying an egg (predictably) against Seattle next week. Carolina has regressed mightily, and Stewart is no exception. Still, he’s the only player with three top-ten matchups in the fantasy playoffs, so you probably want to roll with him from here on out.

Cincinnati (Jeremy Hill/Rex Burkhead)
at Cleveland, versus Steelers, at Houston (average 6.67)

Jeremy Hill is banged up, and Burkhead looked about as good as a banged-up Jeremy Hill Sunday. Hill is coming off two aful games, managing a robust 54 yards on 35 carries against Philly and Baltimore. However, he gets one of the worst run defenses in football this week. Last time he played them he had 168 rushing yards… on nine carries.

Week fifteen is a rematch of week two, where he had 22 yards. Jeremy Hill can disappear, but the loss of Bernard should find him getting more run. He’s a must-start week fourteen, despite injury.

Buffalo (LeSean McCoy/Mike Gillislee)
versus Pittsburgh, versus Cleveland, versus Miami (average 8.67)

McCoy, like Hill and Stewart, has a great first two games, and then a tough matchup against a surging Dolphins run defense in the finals. You won’t bench Shady (and you shouldn’t). If you’re exceptionally desperate in the semi-finals, Gillislee is starting to steal snaps from McCoy in some situations and has been independently fantasy relevant this year in good matchups (see: 40-yard TD run against San Francisco)

San Diego (Melvin Gordon)
at Carolina, versus Oakland, at Cleveland (average 9.67)

The biggest fantasy football running back surprise this season will continue to roll, taking on the Panthers in the first round (which might find him struggling), but San Diego gets the #4 and #2 running back matchup this season. He’s going to continue to roll up all the way to the finals, and might find you winning yourself some fantasy football hardware.

Los Angeles (Todd Gurley) – TIED
versus Atlanta, at Seattle, versus San Francisco (average 11)

If Melvin Gordon is the most pleasant surprise in fantasy football this season, Todd Gurley is also the biggest surprise… in the opposite direction. He’s been a massive fantasy disappointment. Being saddled to the awful Rams offense certainly isn’t helping matters, but he has two of three amazing matchups down the stretch.

They get two top-three matchups in weeks fourteen (Atlanta) and San Francisco (3). He pulls off a Star Trek IV level slingshot around the sun between those two matchups, getting the #30 Seattle defense in the semifinals. He’s a must-start two of the three playoff matchups and a must-bench the third.

San Francisco (Carlos Hyde) – TIED
versus Jets, at Atlanta, at Los Angeles (average 11)

From here on out, Carlos Hyde, middling running back, gets mostly middling matchups, but a matchup against #3 Atlanta in week fifteen boosts him up. There are no duds in the schedule, as the Jets are #6 and the Rams #14.

At worst, he faces neutral matchups from here on out. The 49ers may win their second game of the season Sunday against the Jets (and with Bryce Petty starting it might be in spectacular fashion), so despite the neutral matchup, the 49ers might find Hyde salting the game away, getting him a ton of carries (and production).

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