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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running backs for Week 4

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.

Byes - Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

Start of the week


Ryan Mathews at Kansas City Chiefs: Mathews put up mediocre numbers in his first game, recording 76 scrimmage yards with a lost fumble against the Falcons. His prospects for this week are brighter, though, as the Chiefs have allowed an average of 16 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. Mathews also posted 261 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in 2011.

Start 'em


Frank Gore at New York Jets: When we think of the Jets, we typically think defense (OK maybe Tim Tebow too). But this unit has actually been awful against the run this season, allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs and the second-most rushing yards overall. That's good news for Gore, who should see more than his share of opportunities in this inter-conference battle.

Michael Turner vs. Carolina Panthers: I'm still not in love with Turner this season, but it's hard to discount the fact that he's productive on his home field. The Burner has scored in eight of his last 10 games at the Georgia Dome, and he's been an absolute beast against the Panthers. In his last four home games against them, Turner has a combined 428 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Jacksonville Jaguars: The Law Firm has had a respectable start to the season, averaging better than 11 fantasy points over the first three weeks. He's a viable No. 2 fantasy runner or flex starter against the Jaguars, who have allowed six touchdowns and the third-most fantasy points to opposing backs. The Jags have also given up the fifth-most rushing yards.

Sleeper alert - Cedric Benson vs. New Orleans Saints: Just a few weeks ago, Benson was a free agent waiting for a phone call from an NFL team. Now heading into Week 4, he's a nice flex option in all leagues. He has totaled 180 yards and one score in his last two games, and this week's matchup against the Saints is very favorable. No defense has allowed more fantasy points to runners.

Sit of the week


Chris Johnson at Houston Texans: As someone who has Johnson in two leagues, I'm hoping that putting him in this section of the column causes a positive response from the fantasy gods and he breaks out of his abysmal slide. But here are the facts: Johnson is averaging 1.4 yards per carry, ranks 50th in fantasy points among backs and faces one of the best defenses in the league in Week 4.

Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Does rushing legend Ladainian Tomlinson think Darren McFadden can continue his success in 2012? (Click image for further analysis.)

Sit 'em


Andre Brown at Philadelphia Eagles: Brown has been a fantasy football darling over the last week plus, but he's now expected to move back into a reserve role with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw. As a result, it's tough to advise starting him against an Eagles defense that has allowed an average of just 13 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Clearly, Brown is now a gamble.

DeAngelo Williams at Atlanta Falcons: Williams has been largely unproductive outside of one week. With Jonathan Stewart expected to come back from injury, he is also likely to see a decreased role. Facing a tough Falcons defense on the road makes Williams an even less attractive fantasy starter.

Mark Ingram at Green Bay Packers: Remember all the hype around Ingram when he was drafted? Well, so far the hype has far outweighed his actual production. He's 46th in fantasy points among running backs and losing work to both Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. Furthermore, Ingram faces a Packers defense that has allowed just 24.10 fantasy points to backs in the last two weeks.

Owners beware - Steven Jackson vs. Seattle Seahawks: There are a lot of struggling running backs around the league, and Jackson is right near the top of the list. He's not in the top 30 at his position in fantasy points (Shaun Draughn has more points), and Jackson's matchup against the Seahawks is a tough one. Their defense has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to backs.

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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