Week 12 offered a leaderboard that didn't feature the usual suspects for fantasy football running backs. Alvin Kamara maintained his hot streak in week 12, finishing first in fantasy points among running backs. But other top-five options like Rex Burkhead, Jamaal Williams and Tevin Coleman aren't normally toward the top.
Of those three, look for Williams to be a decent option going forward. Williams will get plenty of volume going forward for a Packers team that needs to keep a balanced attack without Aaron Rodgers. Here's the week 13 running backs start 'em, sit 'em guide for fantasy football.
Jordan Howard vs. San Francisco 49ers
Running games are consistently good against San Francisco.
The 49ers are allowing the most fantasy points per game to running backs at almost 30 per game. They've also allowed about 130 yards per game on the ground this season, the third-worst in the NFL. So, Howard is a must to start in week 13, despite some inconsistent results this season.
What's hurt the most for fantasy owners, though, in recent weeks is the lack of touches. Even when he still wasn't a go-to option weekly earlier this year, he was getting carries. From weeks three to eight, he never had fewer than 18 carries in a game. Since a bye week in week nine, he hasn't had more than 15 carries, with a season-low seven carries in week 12 against Philadelphia.
So the best remedy to those problems is a date with San Francisco. The Bears need a solid running game to be efficient against the 49ers, so I'm banking on Howard churning out the yards, and burning up clock in week 13. He's safe to start.
Dion Lewis vs. Buffalo Bills
I generally hate New England running backs. You never know which one will emerge as the top option and the Patriots are great at spreading the ball around, minimizing the impact from their running backs, unless touchdowns are scored (see LeGarrette Blount from 2016 and Buckhead from recent weeks).
But Lewis isn't a touchdown-dependent running back for the Patriots. He's the main weapon out of the backfield and scoring major fantasy points with solid volume. He's a versatile option out of the backfield, with the ability to carry the ball several times a game (at least 14 carries or more in three of the past four games) and catch passes.
He's going to see several snaps and that's a good sign against a Buffalo team allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs. The Bills have allowed the most touchdowns to running backs this season, and New England knows how to score touchdowns better than any team in the NFL. Lewis should be off the bubble, so trust him in week 13.
Isaiah Crowell vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Is it finally the time we're seeing Crowell break out? We expected this in the preseason, and finally, it appears he's ready to deliver for fantasy owners just in time for the playoffs.
Crowell has 90 or more rushing yards in two of the past three weeks, with his best effort in week 12 against a stout Cincinnati defense. The holes are bigger for the Browns and they seem committed to the running game, even when trailing for the majority of games.
He has touchdowns in two of the previous four games and now gets a Chargers team allowing 27 fantasy points per game to running backs. The Chargers give up more than 130 yards rushing per game, so don't sleep on Crowell as an RB1 in week 13.
DeMarco Murray vs. Houston Texans
If you're playing for playoff position, how can you trust Murray?
He has four touchdowns in the last four games, so that may be why you're lulled into starting Murray. The problem is that he has just 80 rushing yards combined in the last four games. He's a touchdown-dependent running back on a team with a better option with Derrick Henry.
Henry is getting plenty of carries and cutting into Murray's once-dominant workload. This team is still a run-first team, but it's difficult to trust Murray, who isn't getting the volume he once did. It's also difficult to trust him against Houston, which is allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this season.
If you trust touchdown-dependent running backs, then Murray is your choice. But if you're looking for more consistent volume, look in a different direction.
Tampa Bay RBs vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay's rush defense actually hasn't been that bad in recent weeks. The Packers are giving up 107 rushing yards per game, but in the last three games, they're allowing just 78 yards per game on the ground. And one of those games came against Le'Veon Bell.
So it's becoming unwise to try to run against the Packers, and with Tampa Bay, it's going to come from different angles. Doug Martin is the most likely candidate to get the carries for the Bucs, but he exited the week 12 game with a concussion. That left Jacquizz Rodgers as his replacement, and he should be owned off the waiver wire this week. However, if you're banking on Rodgers, your team is in trouble, because he's not a consistent option, especially since he'll be vultured at the end zone.
If you're in desperate need, then Rodgers could be a fill-in based on volume. But don't expect much production against a better-than-advertised Green Bay rush defense.
Frank Gore vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I'll give Gore credit. He's consistent. He gets about 17 carries and he'll run for about 60 yards per game. Those aren't terrible numbers, but he generally won't garner touchdowns. And with such a bad offensive line, I fear that he won't reach that 60-yard mark against the Jaguars.
That's a major problem because he has such little upside. The Jaguars weren't great against the run last week, but they've been fairly consistent in recent weeks, giving up just 81 rushing yards per game in the last three games.
The Colts will attempt to run the football, but the Jaguars will load up the box to stop the run, forcing Jacoby Brissett to pass. That should lead to even fewer rushing yards for Gore.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games.
Scott Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH