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Adrian Peterson still tops ATL's running back rankings

So far, we have ranked the top running backs, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, tight ends, defensive tackles and wide receivers, defensive ends and kick returners in the league.

Click here for our midseason report on the top five players from each position over the season's first half.

As the second half of the season kicks off, we turn our attention back to running backs for Week 10.

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Thursday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET
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Instead of straight rankings, this format will feature tiers, so as not to be as arbitrary.

This is not a fantasy football cheat sheet, nor is it an attempt to predict which players will finish with the best statistics this season. The premise is which running back I would want for the 2013 season. Although statistics, scouting reports and other factors such as durability were considered, the criteria is based primarily on game film from the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Top shelf: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch

Peterson runs with a violence and explosive slashing ability that other backs simply can't match. His effort is on another level. It's an upset when one tackler brings him down. Don't be surprised if he breaks the 200-yard barrier against the Redskins on Thursday night. ... Charles has been the most valuable non-quarterback in the league this season, leading the Chiefs in rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions as a lights-out fourth-quarter closer.

Rivaling Peterson as the most fun back to watch, McCoy is the NFL's leading rusher through nine weeks. ... Lynch is carrying the Seahawks' offense while Russell Wilson works to overcome an outbreak of injuries on the offensive line.

Next level: Matt Forte, Arian Foster, C.J. Spiller, Alfred Morris, Reggie Bush

Since 2010, Forte has averaged 108 yards from scrimmage to Chris Johnson's 94 while receiving a fraction of the credit. He's been one of the NFL's most complete backs for half a decade. ... Foster still plays at a high level when healthy, but the injuries are increasing in frequency.

As evidenced by last week's scintillating performance against the Chiefs' shut-down defense, a semi-healthy Spiller still ranks with Peterson as one of the game's most explosive running backs. ... Morris is third in rushing yards per game after finishing second only to Peterson last season. ... Bush is making more plays than he has since his Heisman Trophy days at USC.

Pro Bowl potential: Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy

Bernard plays like a young Ray Rice, giving the Bengals one of the most promising multidimensional threats in the league. ... Lacy is leading the NFL with 545 rushing yards over the past five weeks, averaging a workhorse-like 26 touches per game. The "Gouda Buddha" will be the focal point of the Packers' offense over the next month with Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup. ... Stacy has succeeded where all other Rams backs have failed, showing great balance, the ability to make defenders miss in tight spaces and better than advertised receiving ability. He and Ryan Mathews are the only players with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games this season.

Answering the bell: Frank Gore, Ryan Mathews, Stevan Ridley, Knowshon Moreno

Gore no longer is a factor in the passing game, but he's still one of the game's most reliable grinders. ... Mathews has been a hammer between the tackles this season. The Chargers would have two more victories this season if they had put the ball in his hands at the goal line. ... Ridley is head and shoulders above LeGarrette Blount as a runner. ... Moreno benefits from playing with Peyton Manning, but he also deserves credit for resurrecting his career as a reliable pass protector with receiving prowess and the ability to get what's blocked.

First-half disappointments: Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Bernard Pierce, Mark Ingram

Rice insists he's fully healthy and hasn't lost a step this season. The game film argues to the contrary. ... Johnson finally showed vintage CJ2K form last week. Was that a one-game aberration or a sign of what's to come? ... Despite lofty expectations, a hesitant Richardson has been abject disaster in Indy. We would like to see a wider variety of run calls, but he's simply not hitting the hole with authority.

Martin isn't giving up hope of playing through a torn labrum. He wasn't showing rookie-season form even before the injury. ... McFadden simply can't stay healthy. As a pending free agent, his days in Oakland likely are numbered. ... Jackson hasn't been an upgrade on Michael Turner. ... Coming off Lisfranc surgery, Jones-Drew's explosiveness has yet to return. ... Pierce's struggles -- along with Rice's -- speak to the offensive line issues in Baltimore. ... Ingram remains miscast in the Saints' pass-heavy offense.

Passing-down specialists: Darren Sproles, Joique Bell, Danny Woodhead, Andre Ellington, Roy Helu, Marcel Reece, Jacquizz Rodgers, Donald Brown

Sproles might be the biggest mismatch out of the backfield since Marshall Faulk's glory days. ... Bell is the rare third-down back who also doubles as a short-yardage hammer. ... Woodhead is the rare ex-Patriots player to actually exceed expectations in his next landing spot. He's been toasting linebackers and safeties with quickness and tight route-running this season. ... Ellington has been a big-play machine as a rookie, severely outplaying Rashard Mendenhall.

The Redskins should think about expanding Helu's role. ... Reece is the most versatile and athletic fullback of the past decade. ... Rodgers should be playing more at Jackson's expense. ... The same could be said for Brown and Richardson.

Best of the rest: Chris Ivory, DeAngelo Williams, Ben Tate, Pierre Thomas, Fred Jackson, Mike Tolbert, James Starks, Shonn Greene

Ivory was the hero of last week's upset victory over the Saints, but the poor man's Lynch comparisons won't hold up if he can't stay healthy. ... Williams has been steady if unspectacular in a balanced Panthers offense. ... Tate is one of the NFL's top backups, but he understandably wasn't himself in a featured back role while playing through four cracked ribs last week. ... Thomas can't get his season on track behind a Saints offensive line that is considerably worse than previous editions.

Jackson is the Rasputin of running backs. You can't kill him off. ... Tolbert's footwork is amazing for a player of his carriage. ... Starks has looked quicker the past two weeks than at any time in his four-year career. ... As evidenced by last week's game, a physical Greene is the ideal complement to boom-or-bust runner Chris Johnson.

Small sample size: Lamar Miller, Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Stewart, Christine Michael, Bryce Brown, Johnathan Franklin, Montee Ball, Mike James, Khiry Robinson

Miller has big-play ability to spare. The Dolphins still want to see him master the nuances of the position before entrusting him to a featured-back role. He's been a disappointment in the passing game thus far. ... Bell has shown more playmaking ability than any Steelers back of the past two seasons, but he's still averaging just 3.5 yards per carry behind a subpar offensive line. ... Stewart would have had a strong argument for top tier from 2009-2011, but there's no guarantee that he will return to that level coming off surgeries to both ankles. Although last week's return was promising, the pre-injury explosiveness wasn't evident.

Michael, Brown and Franklin have all put impressive showings on film in limited doses. ... Ball has been a bust to date. I'm not comfortable writing him off just yet. ... James had a promising fill-in performance at Seattle last week, prompting Dan Hanzus to declare that the rookie looked better than Martin has at any point this season. ... Robinson has been the most impressive of the Saints runners going back to preseason action.

Just a guy: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Rashard Mendenhall, Robert Turbin, Toby Gerhart, Michael Bush, Bilal Powell, Daniel Thomas, Rashad Jennings, LeGarrette Blount, Mikel Leshoure, Knile Davis, Willis McGahee, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead

Green-Ellis is the same reliable role player he's always been, but the Bengals offense operates at a higher level when Bernard is on the field. ... The same can be said for Mendenhall and Ellington. ... Turbin, Gerhart, Bush and Powell are reliable backups. ... Thomas is playing better this year than last, but still offers no upside. ... McGahee's legs are shot. The Browns desperately need an upgrade.

Trainer's room: David Wilson, Shane Vereen, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Andre Brown

Wilson's would-be breakout season was sabotaged by Tom Coughlin's capricious dog house and a neck injury that will likely end up season-ending in nature. ... Brown is the favorite to take over as the lead back for the Giants down the stretch, but he's never been able to stay healthy in that role. ... The Steelers defense suffered franchise highs in points and yards at New England last week. The Patriots offense will get another shot in the arm when Vereen returns as a potential "joker" out of the backfield in Week 11.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed "Thursday Night Football" and "stuck a fork" in the Raiders' 2013 chances.

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