Through the first five weeks of the season, that trio has combined for 682 yards, a yards per carry average of 3.3, and a single rushing touchdown. Of course, all three have the potential to have a big game in any given week, so it’s too early to write them off completely, but if you have other quality options, it’s best to exercise those options this week and until there’s reason to give them a chance again.
Which other backs should join them on the virtual bench this week, and which backs could be in for a big Week 6? Read on for our advice and analysis.
Reggie Bush, Miami (vs. St. Louis): Since rushing for 172 yards (on 26 carries) and two touchdowns against Oakland in Week 2, Bush has tallied only 176 yards (on 46 carries) and one touchdown in the last three weeks. He does have a bit of an excuse, however, as he’s been dealing with a hip injury that he picked up in Week 3 against the Jets.
But he should have a very productive Sunday as he faces a Rams defense that is 18th in rushing yards allowed per game (117.2), 20th in total rushing yards allowed (586), and tied for 24th in rushing touchdowns allowed (6).
Arian Foster, Houston (vs. Green Bay): In Monday night’s road win against the Jets, Foster racked up his third 100-yard performance of the season, going for 152 yards on 29 carries and finding the end zone yet again.
He won’t be slowing down this week, as he’ll get the ball early and often against the Packers, who are 17th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (114.2) and 19th in total rushing yards allowed (571). Green Bay has given up only two rushing touchdowns thus far, but Foster has scored at least one touchdown in his last nine games (including last season’s playoffs) and in 15 of his last 16, so the odds are in his favor.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (at Tennessee): Mendenhall had an excellent return to action last week against the Eagles, rushing for 68 yards on 13 carries and catching three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
He’ll likely get more touches tonight against the Titans, and expect him to make the most of them. The Titans have been pretty poor defensively this season, which is very un-Titans like. Not only are they near the bottom of the league in rushing (28th in yards allowed and yards allowed per game), they’re also among the worst in the league in pass defense, so there will be opportunities in both areas for Mendenhall to rack up big yards.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland (vs. Cincinnati): As expected, Richardson has established himself as a key part of the Browns’ offense, rushing for 303 yards and four touchdowns and catching 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
His best game thus far came at Cincinnati in Week 2, when he ran for 109 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and caught four passes for 36 yards and another touchdown in the Browns’ 34-27 loss. The Bengals have been solid against the run in the last couple of weeks, but Richardson will get his share of yards on the ground and once again be one of Brandon Weeden’s primary targets through the air, so his stat line will look good at the end of the day, even if the scoreline doesn‘t look so good for Cleveland.
Michael Turner, Atlanta (vs. Oakland): After logging 300+ carries in three of the last four seasons, Turner’s touches have seen a dip this season in Atlanta’s new pass-heavy offense.
But seeing as how the Falcons are 5-0, I doubt he’s complaining too much, especially since he’s put up good numbers since a slow start. After rushing for 74 yards on 28 carries in the Falcons’ first two games, Turner has racked up 250 yards and two scores on 45 carries in the last three weeks. In Atlanta’s last home game, against Carolina in Week 4, Turner ran for 103 yards and a score on 13 carries, and he also had a 60-yard touchdown reception.
Turner will like his chances to have another big day at home come Sunday against the Raiders. Ryan will have another field day against a pass defense that was shredded to bits in each of its last two games, which will make it all the easier for Turner to have a field day of his own. Oakland didn’t give up much on the ground against the Chargers and Steelers, but they haven’t fared so well when facing better rushing teams, giving up 263 yards on the ground against the Dolphins and 165 against the Broncos.
Cedric Benson, Green Bay (at Houston): If he was playing this week, he’d be an auto-sit, due to his lack of production and the fact that the Texans haven’t given up a rushing touchdown yet this season. But as he’s out for several weeks with a foot injury, instead of discussing why he should be benched this week, I’ll use this space to say that he needs to be jettisoned from your team immediately, never to return. Also, resist the temptation to start Alex Green if you have him. He has potential, but the Texans won’t be friendly enough to allow him to showcase it.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at Miami): Jackson actually had his best game of the season last week against Arizona, rushing for 76 yards on 18 carries. Don’t get too excited though. Miami’s been the best team in the league against the run, allowing only 2.7 yards per carry and 61.4 yards per game. It will be a long day for the Rams’ offensive line, and it will be a very long day for Jackson
Chris Johnson, Tennessee (vs. Pittsburgh): If Johnson’s going to notch his fifth straight season with at least 1,000 yards, he’s going to have to pick up soon, real soon. Through five weeks, he’s run for only 210 yards, hasn’t scored a touchdown, and is averaging a measly 2.9 yards per carry. Take away his 141-yard effort against Houston in Week 4, and his numbers go from bad to putrid. He’ll likely get going eventually (right? right?), but it won’t start this week.
Willis McGahee, Denver (at San Diego): McGahee’s off to a solid start this season, rushing for 376 yards and three scores in five games, but it’d be best to sit him this week. Not only are the Chargers solid against the run, they have forced a lot of turnovers this season. Active hands could pose a problem for McGahee, who’s prone to the dropsies, as shown last week at New England.
Alfred Morris, Washington (vs. Minnesota): Coming into the season, few would have penciled in Morris as a candidate to be the league’s best rookie back. But through five weeks, he’s been just that, rushing for 490 yards and four touchdowns, and he comes into Sunday’s visit to Minnesota with back-to-back 100-yard games to his name. It would seem a little strange to sit him while he’s so hot, but with the Vikings excelling against the run so far, it’s best to do so if you have an option that has a better matchup.