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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running backs for Week 1

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 Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson will not be featured. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Start of the week

Arian Foster vs. Washington Redskins: I'm on the record as being scared of Foster for the duration of this season, but that doesn't change the fact that this week's matchup against the Redskins is quite favorable. In fact, their defense allowed the fourth-most fantasy points (21.79 PPG) to opposing running backs in 2013. Foster, who missed the preseason with a bum hamstring, also said he feels "wonderful" physically for Week 1.

Start 'em

Zac Stacy vs. Minnesota Vikings: I'm a bit concerned about Stacy and his potential production in 2014, but he does open the season with a nice home matchup against the Vikings. Last season, Minnesota was one of eight defenses to surrender an average of more than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. And with Shaun Hill under center, the Rams will no doubt look to their young runner to handle a heavy workload.

C.J. Spiller vs. Chicago Bears: So ... which Spiller will we see this season? The one who was a stud two years ago, or last season's less valuable version? I'd settle for something in between, and Spiller's opening matchup against the Bears makes him a viable flex option. In 2013, Chicago's defense surrendered an average of over 24 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. That was the second-most in the entire NFL.

Frank Gore vs. Dallas Cowboys: Notice a trend? Gore might be a bit long in the tooth at age 31, but he just continues to produce in the stat sheets. In fact, he's rushed for over 1,100 yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. Couple that with a matchup against the Cowboys, who had an awful run defense in 2013, and it's not too hard to explain why Gore is a solid fantasy option this weekend.

Sleeper alert - Mark Ingram vs. Atlanta Falcons: Ingram looked tremendous in the preseason and appears to have earned the top spot on the New Orleans depth chart. While he's still going to share some of the workload with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, the Alabama product is all of a sudden on the radar as a flex starter. The Falcons also allowed the ninth-most fantasy points (19.91 PPG) to backs in 2013, so the matchup is favorable too.

Sit of the week

Maurice Jones-Drew vs. New York Jets: Here's an odd statistic about Jones-Drew: In his last seven September games, he's rushed for 60 or fewer yards six times and has rushed for just two touchdowns. MJD is also going to lose some work to Darren McFadden, and this week's road matchup against the New York Jets isn't favorable. The Men in Green surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points (13.37 PPG) to opposing running backs last season.

Sit 'em

Bishop Sankey vs. Kansas City Chiefs: I like Sankey in the long run, but it's tough to start the rookie this weekend in Kansas City. That's due in large part to the fact that he failed to pass veteran runner Shonn Greene on the team's depth chart entering Week 1. I expect a rotation against the Chiefs, with Greene, Sankey and Dexter McCluster all seeing time out of the backfield. Don't drop him, but keep Sankey on the pine for now.

Steven Jackson vs. New Orleans Saints: Jackson (hamstring) will start for the Falcons in Week 1, but he shouldn't be on your fantasy football roster. He's a slow starter in the stat sheets, and his September numbers prove it. In his last nine games in that month, Jackson has failed to rush for more than 77 yards. He's also scored just three total touchdowns in his last 14 September contests, making him a major risk for fantasy owners.

Trent Richardson vs. Denver Broncos: Richardson was a massive disappointment last season, and his preseason numbers did nothing to build confidence in the minds of fantasy leaguers. In fact, he rushed for fewer than three yards per carry in his final two contests. The Colts have issues on their offensive line as well, making Richardson even more of a risk in Week 1. Keep him on the fantasy sidelines for your season-opening contest.

Owners beware - Ryan Mathews vs. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals were the toughest team in the league for fantasy running backs to score on last season, especially on their home field. In eight games, a mere two teams rushed for 100 or more combined yards. Furthermore, Arizona allowed just two rushing touchdowns in those contests. That makes Mathews, who was drafted as a RB2/3 in most fantasy leagues, a real risk in this clash of Western teams.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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