Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running backs for Week 8

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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 - Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans

Start of the week


Chris Johnson vs. Indianapolis Colts: Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Johnson! He exploded for 31.80 points last week against the Buffalo Bills, and this week's matchup against the Colts is also favorable. Their defense has allowed eight touchdown runs and the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. That makes CJ2K a virtual must-start in most fantasy leagues.

Start 'em


Ryan Mathews at Cleveland Browns: Mathews is back where he belongs - atop the Chargers depth chart and in a featured role for coach Norv Turner. That makes him a solid option against the Browns, who have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards and an average of 18.84 fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Expect an electric performance from this lightning bolt.

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Reggie Bush vs. New York Jets: The Jets might be tough against the pass, but their run defense does leave a lot to be desired. In fact, this team has given up the third-most rushing yards and the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. That makes Bush, who should be close to 100 percent after Miami's bye week, a solid No. 2 fantasy option in most leagues.

Willis McGahee vs. New Orleans Saints: McGahee has had an up-and-down season based on fantasy points, but he's still the featured back in Denver and a viable starting option. He's even more attractive when the matchup is favorable, and that's the case this week against the Saints. New Orleans has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2012.

Sleeper alert - Rashad Jennings at Green Bay Packers: Jennings is set to take on a featured role in the absence of Maurice Jones-Drew, making him a hot waiver-wire pickup. If you landed him and need a No. 2 runner or flex starter, Jennings worth a look against the Packers. Their defense has allowed an average of 21.85 fantasy points to backs in the last two weeks.

Bill Wippert/Associated Press
CJ2K joins the NFL Fantasy LIVE crew after his explosive Week 7 performance. (Click image for further analysis.)

Sit of the week


Steven Jackson vs. New England Patriots (London): Jackson has averaged better than 10 fantasy points per game in his last two starts, so it's tough to bench him during the bye weeks. Just keep in mind that he continues to lose some looks to Daryl Richardson. Also, the Patriots have allowed just two touchdowns and the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Sit 'em


Mikel Leshoure vs. Seattle Seahawks: Leshoure hasn't posted a solid stat line since putting up 19.40 fantasy points against the Tennessee Titans back in Week 3, and his statistical fortunes aren't likely to be altered against the Seahawks. Their defense has allowed just two touchdowns and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs after seven weeks.

LaRod Stephens-Howling vs. San Francisco 49ers (Mon.): Stephens-Howling was a beast last week, posting more fantasy points than all but four running backs. Still, it's tough to trust him based on one good stat line when his next opponent is the Niners. Their defense has struggled of late, but this unit has still given up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

DeAngelo Williams at Chicago Bears: I'm not sure there's a single member of the Panthers that fantasy owners can start with confidence. That includes Williams, who isn't even the top 40 at his position in points. Couple that with a matchup against the Bears, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to runners, and sitting Williams and Jonathan Stewart is advised.

Owners beware - Shonn Greene vs. Miami Dolphins: Greene has been a nice option over the last two weeks, so it's tough to bench him in most cases. If you have enough backfield depth, though, keep in mind that the Dolphins have allowed just two rushing touchdowns, the third-fewest rushing yards and the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2012.

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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