Two of the biggest names in fantasy football will not make an appearance in week 1. Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon will not be on the field in week 1 and may not be seen for several weeks.

That doesn't bode well for fantasy football owners who wasted an early draft pick on Elliott and picked up Gordon on a flier. For now, you'll have to settle for uncertainty with their backup running backs. Here's the fantasy football week 1 start 'em, sit 'em guide for running backs.


Sony Michel vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, Pittsburgh is one of the best against the run. And New England is generally a team that you can't depend on with running backs.

But Michel is different.

He was solid last season for the Patriots and put up decent fantasy numbers. And all reports out of camp highlight a desire for New England to run often. And that means Michel will reap the benefits.

Don't worry about Pittsburgh's stout defense. Michel will get enough touches to be considered an RB1 in week 1.

Tony Pollard vs. New York Giants

For those who drafted Elliott or were savvy enough later in fantasy football drafts to pick up Pollard, then you might as well give him a shot in week 1.

There are plenty of questions surrounding Pollard's usage in week 1. But you have to believe he'll get the bulk of the carries, and with the offensive line employed by the Cowboys, that should mean that Pollard would be a top-24 running back in fantasy football.

He's looked good in the preseason, so he's a legitimate candidate for at least Flex work, if not RB2 stats. It doesn't hurt that the Giants were in the bottom half of the league against the run last year.

Marlon Mack vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Losing Andrew Luck will hut the Colts. But it won't be as bad as some are believing.

The Colts have one of the better offenses in the NFL. And Mack was a top-tier fantasy runner in the latter portion of 2018. Mack will be asked to do more for this offense, so that will mean he'll get enough touches to be considered an RB1.

The Chargers gave up the 12th-most fantasy points per game to running backs in 2018. That should be enough to give Mack an opportunity in week 1.


Tevin Coleman vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kyle Shanahan will put a good offense on the field in 2019.

But the way Coleman has looked in camp and the preseason, I don't trust him to be a viable fantasy running back in week 1. The 49ers running game is something to keep an eye on in the early going. Whoever shoulders the work in this offense will be a solid option for fantasy owners.

However, we don't know if that person will be Coleman or someone else.

Keep an eye on this situation, but take a wait-and-see approach.

Aaron Jones vs. Chicago Bears

I'm not loving this matchup for anybody. I don't really anticipate much out of the Bears offense. And I fear the same prognosis is set for the Packers.

The Bears were dominant against the run last season, giving up just 3.8 yards per rush and giving up the fewest rushing yards per game to the opposition. And with the Packers ushering in a new era with a new head coach, I'm not sure what to expect from this running game.

The Packers are a good team to keep an eye on in the early going as well, especially if the team is more committed to the run than in the past.

Latavius Murray vs. Houston Texans

Here's another situation that I don't entirely trust.

Murray could be one of the biggest steals of the 2019 fantasy football draft if he gets the workload that Mark Ingram had in previous years. However, we don't know what the plan is for Murray and if he'll get enough workload to be considered at least an RB2.

The Saints offense is potent, but it may rely more on Alvin Kamara than Murray, who isn't the workhorse running back that Ingram was in the past few years.

Murray is more of a speed running back, which doesn't differentiate him enough from Kamara. Take a wait-and-see approach with Murray as well.

Scott Levine blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him three consecutive Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more sports betting coverage at Against The Chalk.

Scott Levine can be reached at or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH