BEARS RB: While Matt Forte is still entrenched as the starter in Chicago, rookie Kahlil Bell made a fantastic first impression on Sunday, running for 72 yards on his first NFL carry. Bell seems to have gained an upper hand on the backup tailback spot over Adrian Peterson, who did not receive a carry Sunday night against the Eagles. With Forte struggling (only 34 yards on 14 carries Sunday night), Bell could even be brought in as a change-of-pace back this week against the tough Vikings defense.
BENGALS RB: Bernard Scott took full advantage of Cedric Benson (hip) missing Sunday’s game against Oakland, gaining 119 yards on 21 carries. Surprisingly, the second-leading carrier for the Bengals this week was not the newly-acquired Larry Johnson, but rather Brian Leonard, who toted the ball 13 times. If Benson is healthy enough to play this weekend (something which is expected to be touch-and-go all week), then he’ll retain the bulk of the carries, but if he can’t play, expect Scott and Leonard to split carries again.
BILLS QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick was handed the starter’s job over incumbent Trent Edwards, and responded with 297 yards passing against Jacksonville on Sunday, the most yards a Bills QB has thrown for in nearly three years. While interim coach Perry Fewell has stated that the starter’s job is still up for grabs, we expect to see Fitzpatrick get the nod for at least the next few weeks.
BILLS RB: Marshawn Lynch suffered a left shoulder injury in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Jags, and is considered questionable for this week against Miami. Fred Jackson has filled in ably for Lynch throughout the season, and should continue to do so if Lynch is forced to sit out this Sunday.
BRONCOS QB: Chris Simms started at quarterback in place of Kyle Orton (ankle), but barely lasted more than a quarter before the coaches decided that even an injured Orton was better than Simms. Orton not surprisingly struggled on his gimpy ankle, but his insertion into Sunday’s loss to the Chargers probably spells the end of any playing time Simms could have seen from here on out.
CARDINALS RB: Both Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells had 14 carries Sunday against the Rams. While Hightower gained the most yards (110 to 74), Wells scored the team’s only rushing touchdown, a one-yard run. The Cards seem dead set on splitting Wells and Hightower’s carries evenly, so they should still continue to carry equal value as long as Hightower makes his additional contributions as a receiver.
CHIEFS WR: Dwayne Bowe’s four-game suspension left a sizable hole in Kansas City’s already-struggling passing attack, but the newly acquired Chris Chambers took full advantage of that opportunity on Sunday. Chambers had four catches for 119 yards against Pittsburgh, and immediately cemented himself as the Chiefs’ top receiving option in Bowe’s absence.
COLTS TE: Dallas Clark had just one catch for three yards on Sunday against the Ravens, though it should be noted that catch was for a touchdown. Still, opposing defenses are starting to key in on Clark, opening the door for the Colts’ other receiving threats, including backup tight end Tom Santi, who had six catches for 80 yards Sunday against the Ravens. Clark is still the Colts’ top tight end option, but Santi had eight targets on Sunday, and could continue to see heavy use in multiple tight-end sets.
COWBOYS RB: Marion Barber is still the team’s starter, and had a strong day on Sunday with 99 yards on 20 carries. His backup situation seems to have changed a bit, however. Felix Jones saw a career-high 10 carries on Sunday, while Tashard Choice only had one. With owner Jerry Jones’ demands to get Jones the ball more often, he may see an even greater role in the offense as the year goes on.
DOLPHINS RB: Ronnie Brown has been ruled out for the season, but those considering Ricky Williams to be a top-five back the rest of the way may want to temper their expectations. Williams suffered an undisclosed injury in Thursday’s loss to Carolina, one that kept him out of the game’s waning moments. If Williams’ injury is worse than the Fins are letting on, expect Lex Hilliard to see more touches.
FALCONS RB: With Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood unable to play Sunday against the Giants, Jason Snelling had a full opportunity to carry the load and took advantage. The part-time fullback had 76 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns, as well as three catches out of the backfield. If Turner is healthy this week, then he’ll retain the bulk of the carries, but Snelling certainly impressed enough this week to make the coaches feel confident in his abilities if Turner cannot return.
LIONS QB: After playing a career-best game, starter Matthew Stafford suffered a separation of the AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder on Sunday, and is expected to miss the Thanksgiving game against Green Bay this week. Daunte Culpepper will start in his place, adversely affecting the potential for Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith against the Packers' defense. However, the good news is that Stafford’s shoulder injury shouldn’t keep him out much longer than this week.
REDSKINS RB: The Redskins are now down to their third starting running back in three weeks. This week’s starter, Ladell Betts, suffered a season-ending knee injury early in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, opening the door for Rock Cartwright to gain 67 yards on 13 carries, as well as catch seven balls for 73 yards. Cartwright has the clear edge now over Quinton Ganther, and should at least for the next few weeks, as season-opening starter Clinton Portis has been ruled out until Week 13 at the earliest.
SEAHAWKS RB: Justin Forsett had only nine yards on nine carries in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, but should retain the starting spot as long as Julius Jones is out. No other Seahawk tailback had a touch on Sunday, and Forsett found the end zone and caught eight balls for 80 yards to make up for his poor rushing totals. He is the clear-cut starter for now, and has a great matchup this week against the Rams.
SAINTS RB: New Orleans’ weekly running back roulette game landed on Mike Bell this week, who picked up two touchdowns and 75 yards on 13 carries. Pierre Thomas (92 yards on 11 carries) gained more yardage, but Bell earned the goal-line touches. However, the Saints’ situation may become more muddled for Monday’s showdown against the Patriots, as Reggie Bush (knee) is expected to return. Bush may absorb a few carries from both Bell and Thomas, and will definitely see some passes out of the backfield as well.
STEELERS QB: Ben Roethlisberger suffered a concussion and was knocked out of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. He will undergo neurological testing this week to determine whether he can play Sunday against the Ravens, though it should be noted that he has a history of concussion problems. Making matters worse, backup Charlie Batch injured his wrist subbing in for Roethlisberger, and will be out for at least the next six weeks following surgery. All of this means that second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon (with one NFL pass under his belt) could be handed the reins against the feared Ravens defense this Sunday, pending the last-minute acquisition of a veteran free agent like Jeff Garcia.
Article first appeared 11/24/09