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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running backs for Week 3

Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Start of the week


C.J. Spiller at Cleveland Browns: With Fred Jackson out of action, Spiller is now a terrific starter in fantasy land. In his last five games dating back to last season, he's carried the football 70 times for 554 yards (7.9 YPC) and scored five touchdowns on the ground. Spiller has also been effective as a pass catcher with a combined 20 receptions for 215 yards and an additional two end-zone trips.

Start 'em


DeMarco Murray vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Murray was shut out for the most part last week, rushing for a mere 44 yards in a blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Fantasy leaguers shouldn't fret, however, as the talented runner should make up for that lack of production against the Buccaneers. Their defense allowed the most fantasy points to runners in 2011 and 20.00 to New York Giants backs last week.

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Michael Bush vs. St. Louis Rams: Barring an unforseen turn of events with Matt Forte's injured ankle, Bush should see the lion's share of the carries this week against the Rams. Their defense continues to be one of the weakest in the NFL in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, allowing an average of almost 19 points per game. Consider Bush a stellar No. 2 runner or a solid flex starter.

Alfred Morris vs. Cincinnati Bengals: If you need a flex starter for Week 3, Morris is well worth a roll of the dice. While the black cloud of Shanahanigans always looms, the rookie is ninth in fantasy points among running backs and has led the Redskins in carries in each of their first two contests. This week, Morris faces a Bengals defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to backs.

Sleeper alert - Donald Brown vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: There hasn't been a worse run defense in the entire league, at least from a fantasy perspective, than the Jaguars. In their first two games of the year, this unit has surrendered five rushing touchdowns and the most fantasy points to running backs. That bodes well for Brown, who is well worth starting in a flex spot based on this most favorable matchup.

Sit of the week


Michael Turner at San Diego Chargers: If you didn't believe that Turner was a major bust candidate before the season, take a look at his 74 rushing yards and awful 2.5 yards-per-carry average in his first two contests. Sure, he could have some motivation to produce against his former team, the Chargers, but that's not enough for me to trust him as a starter. At best, he's a desperation flex choice.

Sit 'em


Shonn Greene at Miami Dolphins: Greene's poor stat line against the Steelers could be a harbinger of things to come this week against the Dolphins. In six career games against this AFC East opponent, the Iowa product has averaged a meager 39.8 scrimmage yards with just two runs of 10 yards or more. Greene has also failed to score a single touchdown in those contests. He's better left on the bench.

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Is it time for fantasy owners to abandon their hopes for Chris Johnson? (Click image for further analysis.)

Cedric Benson at Seattle Seahawks (Mon.): Benson recorded a respectable stat line against the Bears last week, totaling four catches and 116 scrimmage yards on Thursday Night Football. Regardless, I'd still be wary of starting him against what is a tough Seahawks defense on their home field. This unit held Murray to 44 rushing yards last week and has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to backs.

Ben Tate at Denver Broncos: Tate is coming off a monster stat line against the Jaguars and is a hot name in fantasy land. The question is, can you trust him to produce in consecutive weeks while seeing snaps behind Arian Foster? The Auburn product also has a tough matchup against the Broncos, who have given up the fifth-least fantasy points to backs. He's a risk-reward flex starter at best.

Owners beware - Adrian Peterson vs. San Francisco 49ers: The last time I suggested that Peterson was a risk for fantasy owners, he went on to rush for two touchdowns. However, this week's game against the Niners is anything but favorable. The toughest defense for runners to score on in 2011, this unit has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to backs this year. Like it says, owners beware.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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