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NFL RB Index, Week 13: Three running backs who can save their teams' seasons

No team has clinched a playoff berth as we head into December, but it certainly feels like that will happen any day now for the Philadelphia Eagles, who hold the league's best record at 10-1. What about the rest of the field? Well, that is still very fluid with no team technically eliminated -- not even the one-win Carolina Panthers.

A number of teams look comfortable in their playoff positioning, but there are other clubs in both conferences that could make a late push and end up playing on Super Wild Card Weekend.

Today, I am identifying the running backs who can save their teams' seasons. Here are three RBs who could lead their respective squads to a playoff berth down the stretch.

Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons

Rookie Bijan Robinson is one of the most talented players at the running back position. Atlanta is getting more creative in how it utilizes his explosiveness with Arthur Smith dialing up packages that cater to his strengths. Though he lined up primarily in the backfield in Sunday’s win over the rival Saints, Robinson had one of his more productive games with 16 carries for 91 rush yards and three receptions for 32 yards. He also hit pay dirt twice, scoring on the ground for the third time in the last four games and on a deep pass from Desmond Ridder in the fourth quarter. The 26-yard connection between Ridder and Robinson was just the second TD reception by a running back on a deep target (20-plus air yards) this season, per Next Gen Stats. 


The Falcons (5-6) now lead the NFC South heading into December, and while Drake London and Kyle Pitts are great weapons, the rookie is the engine that makes this thing go. Finding ways to get Robinson the ball at least 20 times per game -- he's averaging 21 touches in the last two games -- could be the key in getting Atlanta back to the postseason. 

Devin Singletary
Houston Texans

Devin Singletary has been a good player since entering the league in 2019. In his four years in Buffalo, he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and twice exceeded 800 yards rushing, even with Josh Allen handling a significant rushing workload. His smaller frame (5-foot-7, 203 pounds) might be cause for concern, but he does a great job of not taking hits thanks to his shiftiness in the open field. Singletary has been the starter in the backfield in each of the last four games with Dameon Pierce banged up, and the Texans (6-5) went 3-1 in those games, making a serious playoff push in the process. Singletary has made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 110-plus yards in Weeks 10 and 11. Volume is the key for Singletary, who leads the team in carries (120) and rush yards (489) despite starting three fewer games than Pierce.

Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have re-designed their run game to rush more downhill, which fits what Kyren Williams did at Notre Dame. It’s no surprise the second-year back is finding success behind a much-improved offensive line. Williams, who has great vision, burst and contact balance, is continuing to get better as the season progresses. After missing four games with an ankle injury, Williams had his best performance Sunday with a career-high 204 scrimmage yards in the win. He was phenomenal, making big gains with his legs and as a pass-catcher on screen plays. This is what the Rams need from their RB1. A successful run game will bring more defenders into the box and open the passing game for Matthew Stafford to connect with Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell. The 5-6 Rams, who have inched their way closer to that final NFC wild-card spot with back-to-back wins after a Week 10 bye, must find more consistency within the offense. A healthy Williams is the key.

Top 15 running backs

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2023 season. His rankings are primarily based on this season's efforts. Here is MJD's list in Week 13.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from Week 10's rankings.

Rank
1
Christian McCaffrey
San Francisco 49ers · Year 7

2023 stats: 11 games | 193 att | 939 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 11 rush TD | 48 rec | 389 rec yds | 5 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost


All Christian McCaffrey does is produce. In the three games since we last did these rankings, he’s played an integral part in the 49ers getting back in the win column by averaging 128 scrimmage yards and scoring three times. Brock Purdy might have made his way into the MVP conversation heading into December, but let’s not forget about McCaffrey, who leads the league in rushing and scrimmage TDs. 

Rank
2
2
Raheem Mostert
Miami Dolphins · Year 9

2023 stats: 11 games | 151 att | 785 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 13 rush TD | 20 rec | 158 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


Even without De’Von Achane in the lineup, Mike McDaniel has utilized multiple players in the run game and has given opportunities in the pass game to both Jeff Wilson and Salvon Ahmed. But when he needs to score, Raheem Mostert continues to be the guy. The veteran back scored twice more -- a 13-yard TD in which he squeezed through a sea of defenders on his way to the end zone, and a 34-yard score that looked way too easy -- in the league’s first-ever Black Friday game against the New York Jets.

Rank
3
D'Andre Swift
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 4

2023 stats: 11 games | 161 att | 770 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 4 rush TD | 34 rec | 201 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


While Jalen Hurts has received a majority of the goal-line work in the run game, D’Andre Swift has been the most efficient rusher on the Eagles of players with at least 15 carries this season. Averaging nearly 5.0 yards per attempt, the explosive running back has logged a run of at least 35 yards in each of the last two games. He has been a huge asset in recent wins over Buffalo and Kansas City. Philly will need more of the same going forward, starting with the 49ers in an NFC title game rematch on Sunday.

Rank
4
7
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 5

2023 stats: 12 games | 220 att | 771 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 6 rush TD | 35 rec | 280 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


With rookie Aidan O’Connell in at quarterback, the Raiders have relied heavily on Josh Jacobs and to no one’s surprise, the 2022 rushing champion has delivered. He has had 100-plus rush yards in two of his last three games, including Sunday’s 110-yard outing that was highlighted by a 63-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. To put things into perspective, Jacobs is the first player with at least 110 rush yards vs. Kansas City since Week 9 of last season, when Derrick Henry had 115 yards against Steve Spagnuolo’s unit. 

Rank
5
3
Travis Etienne
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 3

2023 stats: 11 games | 194 att | 726 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 7 rush TD | 36 rec | 312 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost


The Texans did a good job limiting Travis Etienne to less than 3.0 yards per carry on Sunday, and thankfully, Trevor Lawrence stepped up to lift the Jags to a road win. Being held out of the end zone of late, Etienne’s production has dipped after an uber-productive October. Heading into a gauntlet of matchups against AFC North teams, Etienne must return to prime form to help Jacksonville keep its hold on the division. 

Rank
6
1
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 8

2023 stats: 11 games | 176 att | 739 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 6 rush TD | 21 rec | 167 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost


The Titans were able to snap a three-game losing streak on Sunday with a victory over Carolina. Leading the charge on offense was Derrick Henry -- a familiar place for the three-time Pro Bowler -- with 76 rush yards and a pair of touchdowns (his first multi-TD game of the season). It was a step in the right direction, and Henry still sits fifth in rushing yards this season, but he’s going to have to do more -- help from the offensive line would be nice -- if Tennessee is to scratch and claw its way into the postseason.

Rank
7
NR
David Montgomery
Detroit Lions · Year 5

2023 stats: 8 games | 133 att | 648 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 9 rush TD | 8 rec | 88 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


David Montgomery has been exceptional for the Lions since their Week 9 bye. In his last three games, the veteran has averaged 13 carries and 87 rush yards per game – that’s 6.7 yards per attempt(!) – with three rush touchdowns. With Jared Goff working through major turnover issues, Montgomery (along with rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs) has been a constant and helped the Lions average over 30 points per game in that stretch.

Rank
8
1
Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Year 4

2023 stats: 7 games | 100 att | 414 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 4 rush TD | 16 rec | 137 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost


Jonathan Taylor was huge in the Colts’ third straight victory, rushing for 91 yards (6.1 per carry) and a pair of touchdowns -- a 4-yard run in the first quarter and a 1-yard score to put Indy up by two scores midway through the fourth. This is the Taylor we know and love, and he did it against the Bucs’ top-10 run defense. Unfortunately, Taylor will miss multiple weeks after sustaining a thumb injury that will require surgery. Tough for a guy who was on the verge of hitting his stride.

Rank
9
3
Gus Edwards
Baltimore Ravens · Year 6

2023 stats: 12 games | 141 att | 590 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 10 rush TD | 10 rec | 130 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost


The Ravens’ top-ranked rushing attack has relied on a host of running backs and despite Keaton Mitchell having the hot hand of late, Gus Edwards is still the guy in the red zone. The veteran is one of three running backs with double-digit TD runs this season, with nine of them in the last six games. 

Rank
10
4
Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · Year 6

2023 stats: 9 games | 165 att | 697 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 1 rush TD | 28 rec | 168 rec yds | 4 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


The Giants are facing a weekly uphill battle with undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito starting at quarterback. Saquon Barkley has done his part and then some, leading the league in rushing yards (490) and ranking second in carries (112) since Week 7. It’s not always pretty, but the Giants have won two in a row thanks, in part, to Barkley and a stout defense.

Rank
11
2
Isiah Pacheco
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 2

2023 stats: 11 games | 158 att | 669 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 5 rush TD | 30 rec | 196 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost


While the Chiefs navigate who will step up at the wide receiver position, Isiah Pacheco has been solid out of the backfield. In their latest win, a victory over Las Vegas after a slow start, the second-year back had his first career game with two rushing touchdowns (a pair of 1-yard runs) and made big plays in the pass game, including a 14-yard catch-and-run to set up his second score, which gave the Chiefs their first lead of the game.

Rank
12
NR
James Cook
Buffalo Bills · Year 2

2023 stats: 12 games | 153 att | 731 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 1 rush TD | 33 rec | 308 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


Though James Cook has just two 100-yard rushing games this season, he is still averaging nearly 5.0 yards per carry and is making most of his plays in the pass game. In the overtime loss to the Eagles, Cook tied for the most receptions (six) on the team and had 57 receiving yards, including a 29-yard catch-and-run that displayed his great hands and explosiveness. I still want to see Cook, who has over 1,000 scrimmage yards through 12 weeks, get more carries as he has yet to have even 18 attempts in a game in 2023.

Rank
13
NR
Bijan Robinson
Atlanta Falcons · Rookie

2023 stats: 11 games | 141 att | 703 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 3 rush TD | 32 rec | 240 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost


As mentioned above, the Falcons have rightfully utilized Robinson more often in the last two games. The rookie running back had at least 90 rush yards and one touchdown in both of those contests. He has a real chance to build on that success against a Jets defense that ranks 31st against the run.

Rank
14
NR
Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · Year 5

2023 stats: 11 games | 160 att | 669 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 4 rush TD | 39 rec | 233 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost


The Cowboys are cruising after averaging over 42 points in their last three games. Tony Pollard has finally been part of the scoring with TD runs in each of the last two contests after an eight-game drought. The schedule is set up nicely for him to extend that streak to three as Dallas faces a Seahawks defense that ranks 21st against the run on Thursday night at home.

Rank
15
NR
Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams · Year 2

2023 stats: 7 games | 113 att | 599 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 6 rush TD | 19 rec | 166 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost


Kyren Williams’ career outing -- 204 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns -- against the Cardinals helped the Rams improve to 4-1 against NFC West opponents. Though he didn’t play in Weeks 7-11, Williams has logged at least 150 scrimmage yards in consecutive games -- a good sign for this Rams team moving forward.

DROPPED OUT: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (previously No. 6); Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks (No. 8); Breece Hall, New York Jets (No. 9); Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts (No. 10); Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders (No. 15).

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

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