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  Passing Matchups  

Week 1 Rushing Matchups

[ARI] [ATL] [BAL] [BUF] [CAR] [CHI] [CIN] [CLE] [DAL] [DEN] [DET] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [JAX] [KC] [MIA] [MIN] [NE] [NO] [NYG] [NYJ] [OAK] [PHI] [PIT] [SD] [SEA] [SF] [STL] [TB] [TEN] [WAS]


PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT replace the Cheatsheet ranking. The Cheatsheet rankings are the final say on where we see a player for that week. The Matchup Breakdowns are simply one more tool in the box when it comes to helping choose your lineup.

Also note, just because a player has a "bad" matchup, it does NOT mean he's not a starter in your league. If Peyton Manning is playing the toughest pass defense in the league, that just means he's got a tough matchup that week. He's also your starter unless you're loaded at QB. In the same way, if the worst QB on your roster has a "great" matchup that week, it doesn't necessarily mean he's your starter. It means we think he'll fare better than normal that week.

Bottom line is that the cheatsheets are the final say.


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Cardinals made a huge splash in the off-season, signing Edgerrin James to improve their rushing attack, which averaged a league-worst 3.2 yards per carry last season. While he hasn't shown us much in the pre-season (3/-2/0 rushing during the 3rd pre-season game), James hasn't played very much, either, as the team concentrated on developing their back-ups. James is a premier NFL veteran who'll be ready to go for the season opener. The best news for the Cardinals this pre-season has been the development of J.J. Arrington, who has run strong and opens the season at #2. He racked up 10/44/0 rushing and 2/1/0 receiving during a part-game appearance vs. Chicago in week 3 of pre-season.

The San Francisco defense was dead last in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 391.2 total yards per game, and were 18th vs. the run, giving up an average of 114.5 rushing yards per game. This year, during week 3 of pre-season (when most starters play fairly deep into the game) they surrendered 41/189/1 to the Dallas stable of running backs. This is not an impressive group of defenders.

This is a great matchup for James and the Cardinals.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Tim Hightower seems to have held off Beanie Wells for the starting job in Arizona as of week one of the regular season. Hightower looks like the lead back in a running-back-by-committee scenario, with Wells also handling a large chunk of the rushing attempts. There is also news as of Monday September sixth that Wells injured a knee in the final preseason game and that he isn't "100%" entering the practices preparing for the season opener. Hightower started during the third preseason game and extended his strong play during preseason, with 8/62/0 rushing and 1/11/0 receiving during the game. In contrast, Wells posted 8/14/0 rushing while adding 2/22/0 receiving. While the Cardinals were 32nd in rushing attempts last season (with 365) and 28th in rushing yards (1,494), they were 12th in rushing TDs with 16 - Hightower claimed eight of the TDs last year (149/598/8 with 63/428/0 receiving), while Wells handled seven (176/793/7 rushing with 12/143/0 receiving). We expect the team to run the ball a good bit more this season (given Kurt Warner's retirement and the struggles of Derek Anderson to consistently throw the ball well this year so far). As a team, the Cardinals were 23rd in the NFL with a 4.1 yards per carry average during 2009.

Hightower and Wells have a chance to shine during week one, as they face the woeful Rams in the season opener. New England ground out 41/136/1 rushing vs. St. Louis during week three of the preseason, when the starting lineups are in the game the most. Last year, the Rams were 27th in rushing yards allowed (2,201), and 31st in rushing TDs given away (24). There were multiple reasons the Rams went 1-15 last year, but one of the major reasons was their ineffective rush defense.

Hightower and Wells enjoy a great matchup to open the season, though owners of both players will want to monitor Wells' progress this week in returning to action from his tweaked knee.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Michael Turner (301/1,340/11 rushing with 27 targets for 17/168/0 during 2011) posted 10/35/0 rushing and 3/36/0 receiving (three targets) as the Falcons gave Turner more game time in the regular season 'dress rehearsal' game at Miami in the third preseason game, while Jacquizz Rodgers (57/205/1 rushing with 33 targets for 21/188/1 receiving last year) posted 4/4/0 rushing and grabbed one reception for 18 yards during the contest. 'I'm not concerned,' QB Matt Ryan said of the Falcons' lackluster/underutilized rushing attack during preseason. 'We have strong offensive line and a good stable of running backs. It's something that we'll get rolling as you have a chance to play all four quarters, its interesting to see how things shake out. I think we'll be just fine.' On Tuesday, August 21 Turner commented on the new offense coordinator Dirk Koetter has installed, saying: 'It's kind of an adjustment because we are getting used to having these established weapons. Is it run first? Is it pass first? Really it's score first. That's what it is. Start fast and control the tempo. We are fortunate enough to be able to run it or pass it.' The Falcons figure to use Turner most in their committee, but they are mixing in a lot of screen passes this year that will likely increase the number of touches Rodgers sees from week to week - the numbers discussed in preseason indicated 70% touches for Turner and 30% for the other backs on the squad. We'll see how many carries Turner garners in week one, given how outstanding the passing attack has been during 2012.

The Chiefs' rush defense ended 2011 with an average of 132 rushing yards given up per game (26th in the NFL), and they allowed 14 rushing scores last year (tied for 20th in the NFL). They coughed up 15/93/1 rushing to rookie Robert Turbin when he started for the injured Marshawn Lynch in the third preseason game (all told, the Seahawks posted 28/189/1 rushing in that contest) - the Chiefs' defensive front looks like it has problems again entering the 2012 regular season.

Turner and Rodgers haven't been called on to 'show their stuff' much during preseason, but now that the games count we expect them to contribute a fair share to the Falcons' offense - advantage, Atlanta.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Though we didn't see a lot of Steven Jackson during preseason, he flashed his abilities in this high-octane offense at Tennessee. On the Falcons' first drive of the night, Jackson looked powerful and decisive, with two double-digit runs (11 and 13 yards) among the five carries he handled. He also picked up a first down with a strong three-yard run on second-and-three during the drive. When Jackson was finished for the night, he had amassed 12/51/0 rushing and 3/15/0 receiving for his new team. Jacquizz Rodgers is clearly the backup/change-of-pace option and due to Jackson's good receiving abilities Rodgers may not see much action on third downs this year - for better or worse the Falcons are going to hitch their title hopes to Jackson as their bell-cow running back.

The Saints' rush D was putrid during 2012, ranking dead last in the NFL averaging 147.6 yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing scores surrendered. Things haven't changed much even with a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan - during the third preseason game the Houston Texans ran for 141 yards and a score on the way to 496 net yards combined against the Saints. This is not a strong defensive unit in either phase of the game.

Jackson is a dual-threat back who can rush with or catch the football with equal facility - against the bumbling Saints defense Jackson has an excellent matchup to enjoy in the season opener.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Baltimore's offense averaged almost 150 yards rushing per game during 2008 (148.5) and returns it's top three backs Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain to begin 2009. The big guys up front allowed the team to average a respectable 4.0 yards per carry (tied for 21st in the NFL last season). The team is talking to FB Lorenzo Neal about signing to lead-block for the trio, but that won't come into play for week 1. Right now, we expect to see Ray Rice in the lead role, with Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain sprinkled into the mix liberally. Remember, this is a team that rushed the ball 592 times last year for 2376 yards and 20 TDs - there is plenty of work to go around. Rice posted 10/32/0 rushing and 8/67/0 receiving vs. the Panthers in the third preseason game (McGahee had 6/16/1 rushing and 3/8/0 receiving; McClain gained 2/3/0 rushing and 1/1/0 receiving that day).

The Chiefs' rush D was atrocious last season, averaging 158.9 yards allowed per game on average, with 25 rushing TDs surrendered (the team averaged 27.5 points allowed per game, 29th in the NFL). The new DC Clancy Pendergast joins Haley from Arizona, where Pendergast served as defensive coordinator during 2008 until being fired after the Super Bowl. His defenses in Arizona had been bottom-tier for several years, so it is unclear if his 3-4 front and new scheme will help improve a shaky unit. The team coughed up 38/112/0 to Seattle back in week three of the preseason (a 2.9 yards per carry average), so perhaps this unit is improving. We'll see how they look when a real game plan comes at the Chiefs.

The Ravens have a steam-roller rushing attack, while the Chiefs field a very suspect defense. This looks like a great matchup for the home-team Ravens.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Ray Rice (291/1,264/12 rushing with 112 targets for 76/704/3 receiving last year) remains the focal point of the Ravens' offense. He didn't see a lot of action during preseason (why would the Ravens risk injury to the engine of their offense) - during a cameo in week three of preseason Rice averaged 15 yards per carry and 13 yards per reception (2/30/0 rushing with 1/13/0 receiving). Start him if you've got him and smile. Good pick!

The Bengals' rush defense was dominated by Rice during 2011, allowing him 44/295/4 rushing with 12 targets for 7/51/0 receiving during their two regular season games last year. For the entire season, the Bengals were 10th in the NFL averaging 104.7 rushing yards per game, with 14 rushing scores given up over 16 contests - but Rice did much better than average against the Bengals as you can see.

This looks like a good matchup for Rice under the bright lights of Monday Night Football on September 10 during the early game of the season-opening double-header.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Bills enter 2014 with much the same situation as they began 2013 - the team sports a running back tandem of C.J. Spiller (201/927/2 rushing with 34/197/0 receiving) and Fred Jackson (207/896/9 rushing with 46/375/1 receiving). Both players handled nine touches on the football during the third preseason game, with Spiller seeing 9/36/0 rushing, while Jackson handled 5/15/1 rushing and 4/23/0 receiving against Tampa Bay. Bryce Brown provides an injection of youth to the stable should Jackson falter, but entering Week One it looks like more of the same two-headed committee situation that fantasy owners got used to during 2013.

The Bears were worst in the league last season vs. opposing rushers, allowing an average of 161.4 yards per game, with 22 rushing scores surrendered. The team signed new defensive ends Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to overhaul their defensive line, so we'll see if the new personnel can help stem the tide of opposing running backs. However, the Bears defense had no answers for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks during the third preseason game. They allowed touchdowns on each of the first four possessions (the first two of which were rushing TDs by Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson), and also gave up seven straight third-down conversions to Seattle. The score was 0-31 in favor of Seattle by the start of halftime. Not too good, folks.

Though the Bears brought in new talent up front on defense, the performance hasn't improved much over last years' fiasco so far - this looks like a great opportunity for Spiller and Jackson owners, friends.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Carolina enjoys perhaps the most powerful tandem in the NFL with starting caliber RBs in both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart - as a team, they rushed for 2.498 yards last year (third in the NFL), with 18 rushing TDs (10th). Jonathan Stewart has not played during preseason this year due to an ongoing rehab of an ankle surgery that removed bone spurs from near his Achilles tendon (a condition that limited his practice participation last year) - even with limited practice reps last year, Stewart posted 221/1,133 yards/10 TDs rushing and had 18/139/1 receiving, while Williams gained 216/1,117 yards/7 TDs with 29/252/0 receiving. Stewart did practice on Wednesday, September eighth. Both players were over 5.0 yards per carry (5.1 and 5.2, respectively). However, there is a concern entering regular season as RT Jeff Otah, one of the best linemen in the league, had lingering issues from a surgery to repair cartilage in his knee and underwent another arthroscopic surgery to relieve the symptoms. Otah hasn't appeared in preseason and his level of readiness for the regular season isn't known as of mid-week. Otah didn't practice on Wednesday, September eighth.

The Giants' rush D wasn't very good last year, especially at the goal line, with an average of 110.8 rushing yards allowed per game (14th in the NFL), and 21 rushing TDs handed over (30th in the league). The team hired Perry Fewell (the interim head coach of the Bills) to fix the defensive woes that beset New York last year. In the third preseason game, vs. Baltimore, the Giants held the Ravens to 26/75/0 rushing (a 2.9 yards allowed per carry average) - they seem to be heading in the right direction as of regular season.

The Panthers' rushing attack will give the new defensive regime a thorough test on Sunday - advantage, Carolina.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

DeAngelo Williams was said to be a priority for the Panthers' front office during the lockout this past spring/summer (despite his injury-curtailed 2010 campaign), and they proved it as soon as free agency opened, signing Williams to a whale of a new contract (five years, $43 million with $21 million guaranteed). Williams is the lead back in the Panthers' stable entering 2011 on the strength of that contract. Also, his usual partner in the backfield, Jonathan Stewart, has once again suffered/re-aggravated an Achilles/ankle injury that has seriously impacted Stewart's performance during preseason - Stewart posted an anemic 8/13/0 rushing (1.6 yards per carry) with one target for zero receptions at Cincinnati during week three of the preseason, while Williams cranked out 5/27/0 rushing (5.4 yards per carry) and two targets for 1/11/0 receiving in his cameo appearance. The new coaching staff under Ron Rivera may elect to feature Williams more prominently this season given Williams' pay rate and Stewart's performance woes.

The Cardinals' rush D ended 2010 allowing an average of 145.2 yards per game (30th in the NFL), with 19 rushing TDs surrendered over 16 games. During the week three preseason game vs. San Diego on August 27th, the Cardinals averaged 5.3 yards allowed per carry while handing over 21/111/0 rushing to Ryan Mathews and company. It doesn't look like the Arizona rush D has done much to improve so far this season - they are ranked at #24 as a team D by the Footballguys.com board of experts entering 2011, and are pegged at 19th among the 32 defenses on David Dodd's individual team D board.

The Panthers' path back from their dismal 2-14 2010 record begins at Arizona on Sunday - and they have a great matchup for Williams (and Stewart, if he can play) to exploit. Additionally, with rookie starter Cam Newton struggling to throw the ball effectively so far in his young career (24/57 for 300 yards and one TD during preseason - a 42.1% completion percentage), we expect the Panthers to feed the ball to Williams a lot in week one.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Carolina's many-headed monster of runners gave opposing defenses fits during 2011. Quarterback Cam Newton stuffed in 14 rushing TDs (126/706/14 rushing all told); Jonathan Stewart (142/761/4 rushing with 60 targets for 47/413/1 receiving) and DeAngelo Williams (155/836/7 with 25 targets for 16/135/0 receiving) combined for 11 more rushing TDs; and the Panthers ended the year third in the league with 2,408 total yards rushing. The Panthers locked up Stewart with a nice contract extension (after doing the same for Williams last year) - this three-pronged attack is set to roll for several years going forwards. However, Stewart enters regular season with a sore ankle that got rolled in the third preseason game - as of September 3 he is still rehabbing in the pool and on a treadmill. Check on his practice participation this week before inserting Stewart in your week one fantasy lineups. Stewart missed practice participation on Sunday, September 2.

Tampa Bay's rush D was horrible during 2011, ranking dead last in the NFL in average rushing yards allowed per game (156.1) and in rushing TDs allowed (26). As John Norton, Footballguys.com defensive players expert puts it: 'After finishing 32nd against the run last season the Buccaneers have no place to go but up. From a personnel perspective the only major addition in the front seven is rookie linebacker Lavonte David. They will get DT Gerald McCoy back from injury as well and first round pick SS Mark Barron will spend a lot of time as an in the box run support strong safety . What this unit needed most however, was a change of attitude. That comes in the form of a new coaching staff that features an aggressive scheme run by defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.' We'll see if the new scheme can help repair the fortunes of this sorry unit.

Carolina fields one of the most potent rushing attacks in the league - the Buccaneers' unit could improve quite a bit and still be in the bottom half of the league this year. Advantage, Carolina.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

When Kelvin Benjamin went down for the season with a torn ACL, fantasy owners immediately knew that Jonathan Stewart had just become even more central to the Panthers' game plans than he was previously. Given the struggles of Corey Brown during preseason, and Devin Funchess' sore hamstring that limited him in training camp, it would be no surprise to see the Panthers hand the football off a lot more than they throw it in Week One - perhaps a 2:1 run/pass ratio. Stewart is going to get all the work he can handle and then some. His backups Cameron Artis-Payne (a NFL rookie) and Fozzy Whittaker may be chipping in a good bit, too.

Last season, Stewart had 179/809/3 rushing with 25/181/1 receiving in a time-sharing arrangement with DeAngelo Williams (until Williams went out due to injury). Fozzy Whittaker managed 32/145/1 rushing with 5/60/1 receiving (and had one spot start to his name). This year Stewart figures to have a much larger workload as the featured back from day one.

The Jaguars' rush D wasn't impressive during 2014, averaging 127.1 rushing yards allowed per game (27th in the NFL) and nearly a rushing TD per game, with 15 allowed over 16 contests. They did a little better during preseason (94.8 rushing yards allowed per game, tied for ninth in the NFL) but this remains a suspect group unless the 'ones' can stand up to Carolina's first-team offense.

Advantage, Carolina.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Matt Forte (12 games played during 2011 for 203/997/3 rushing with 75 targets for 52/490/1 receiving) has headlined the Bears' rushing attack since signing his contract extension, but Michael Bush has handled the goal-line work during training camp and appears to be set as the Bears' short-yardage specialist. A big worry for both players is the shambolic offensive line, which has produced little surge throughout training camp/preseason - there haven't been many holes to run through for either player. Forte managed 10/39/0 rushing at the Giants during the third preseason game, while Bush posted one rush for two yards - neither player caught a pass during the contest, though both were targeted by Jay Cutler. Heading into week one regular season, Forte figures to be the headliner for this committee of backs, but his scoring opportunities will likely be limited again this year (Forte had three rushing TDs last year compared to six for now-departed Marion Barber III). We'll see if the offensive line can jell now that the games count. We're not holding our breath, though.

The Colts' 2011 rush defense was embarrassing, averaging 143.9 rushing yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL), with 19 rushing scores allowed (next-to-last in the NFL). Redskins rookie RB Alfred Morris averaged 7.6 yards per carry on the Colts' first team in the third preseason game, racking up a ridiculous 14/107/1 running through this wet-Kleenex defensive front. Enough said.

The Bears have a great matchup this week despite their offensive line woes.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Chicago didn't score any TDs in the third preseason game vs. Seattle, but the team elected to play Matt Forte on only a handful of downs (3/17/0 rushing for Forte) before turning over the attack to his backups. In all, the team only attempted 13 rushes against the ferocious Seattle defense, gaining 51 yards during the contest. One thing is certain - now that the games count, Forte will handle a LOT more work - he posted 288/1,341/9 rushing and 75/592/3 receiving last season and remains the Bears' linch-pin at running back.

First teamer Doug Martin trampled the Bills with 12/38/1 rushing before taking a seat on the bench during the third preseason game (he added 2/27/0 receiving during the contest), and all told the Bills allowed 38/99/1 rushing during the tune-up for regular season. Last year Buffalo ranked 28th in the NFL averaging 128.9 yards rushing allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores given up over 16 games played. This is not a top rush D, folks.

Advantage, Chicago.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Cincinnati cruises into week 1 with Rudi Johnson ready go. We expect Chris Perry to spell Johnson some as Perry's looked very strong this Summer. Still though, we think Johnson is the man. He gained 17/72/0 rushing against the Eagles during the key preseason week 3 tune up, and is ready to build on his 14th ranked fantasy performance of last year (14.13 fantasy points per game due to 362/1457/12 rushing and 15/84/0 receiving).

Cleveland fielded the worst rush defense in the nation last year, allowing an average of 144.6 rushing yards per game and a league-worst total of 22 rushing TDs. After a major retooling during the off-season, there is nowhere to go but up. During the week 3 pre-season game, the Panther's DeShaun Foster gashed the Browns for 9/56/0 on the ground, and Carolina threw down 31/143/0 in the course of the game. You could say the Browns are still a work in progress in this phase of the game...

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Brown's Stadium expects near-perfect weather on Sunday - 80F for a high, 64F for a low, with a 0% chance of rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this contest.

Cincinnati's Johnson and Perry have a clear advantage in this matchup - the Browns will have a hard time containing them.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Cleveland's plans for their backfield took a major blow in the final preseason game when Montario Hardesty, who missed most of training camp and preseason due to hamstring woes, blew out an ACL in his knee and was lost for the season. Luckily for the Browns, they had acquired Peyton Hillis from the Broncos in the Brady Quinn deal, and Hillis provides quality depth for Cleveland behind now-entrenched starter Jerome Harrison. In fact, Hillis led the Browns in rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards during the preseason (through August 31st, at least). Harrison showed a solid skill set when pressed into service as the starter last year, rushing for 194/862/5 and adding 34/220/2 receiving to the mix - the Browns have some capable runners to help move the chains during 2010.

Tampa Bay is still in their rebuilding mode, with a finish at 32nd in the NFL last year in rush D, averaging 158.2 yards allowed per contest, with 16 rushing TDs handed over during the season. Head coach Raheem Morris retained the defensive coordinator job and added two rookie DTs, Gerald McCoy and Brian Price to help rebuild the interior of the defensive front - both are listed as starters to open the season. We'll see how well the rookies hold up to a regular season game plan on Sunday.

Harrison and Hillis have a great matchup to work with this week.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Peyton Hillis was a fantasy owners' dream last year, coming out of seemingly nowhere to finish as the second-ranked fantasy RB in the land (PPR paradigm) with 270/1,177 yards/11 TDs and 61/477/2 receiving to his credit. Though there were rumbles that Montario Hardesty would eat into Hillis' carries during the coming year, Hardesty's knee troubles persisted through much of training camp and he didn't really impress in his few chances to play during preseason. The bottom line here is that Hillis looks like he's firmly entrenched as one of the rare three-down running backs currently playing in the NFL. He led the team in receiving vs. Philadelphia in week three of preseason (2/35/0 out of four targets) and had 3/18/0 rushing in his time on the field, highlighting Hillis' dual-threat nature. His talents and opportunities to shine make him one of the most desirable starting running backs in the NFL - David Dodds projects him to be the top fantasy RB in week one, with over 100 yards combined and a solid chance of scoring at home vs. the Browns' divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Speaking of Cincinnati, the Bengals' rush D was 19th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 115.2 yards per game, and they gave up almost one rushing score a game, with 15 rushing TDs surrendered last year. This week, the team will have a rookie QB, Andy Dalton, going through his first live NFL game - the time of possession in this contest is very likely to favor Cleveland due to the Bengals' growing pains on offense. When an offense struggles, the defense wears down - both the Footballguys.com staffers (who rank the Bengals 28th overall among the NFL team defenses) and David Dodds (he has them at 29th) are pessimistic about the Bengals' likely defensive performance under the teams' current circumstances.

Hillis has home field advantage at his back, and will likely get to face a tired defensive unit in the second half of this contest - that sounds like a great matchup to us.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Marion Barber has been impressive throughout training camp and preseason, and looks ready to take on the featured back role for the Cowboys. Against the Texans in week 3 of the preseason, he posted 13/75/1 rushing and also snagged 2 receptions for 9 yards, showing that he is ready to roll for regular season. "It was great," OC Jason Garrett said after the game. "That's the way he plays. That's the Marion Barber I think we all have come to know and really love to watch. He just plays with reckless abandon." Felix Jones, who had done some good things early in camp, looked pretty ordinary against the Texans, with 5/10/0 rushing and 2/4/0 receiving - he's still going through the rookie learning curve entering week 1.

The Browns' rush D was not good last year, ranking 27th in the NFL allowing an average of 129.5 yards per game. However, they were stubborn at the goal-line, with only 8 rushing scores handed over (6th in the league). In week 3 of the preseason, Detroit took advantage of the Browns' soft defensive front to the tune of 30/129/1 - right on pace for this group. There is lots of room for improvement on this unit, as you can see.

Barber looks like his engines are stoked for the season opener - against the soft Browns, he should enjoy an outstanding afternoon.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Mike Anderson has earned his starting spot. With his 13/159/2 rushing (2/22/0 receiving) effort vs. division rival Indianapolis, he cemented his hold on the coveted "Bronco Back" job. He looks ready to roll but understand that Tatum Bell is hovering should something happen to Anderson.

Miami's run D was porous during 2004, giving up an average of 143.9 rushing yards per game (31st in the NFL) and 12 rushing TDs over 16 games. During the week 3 preseason game, Tampa's Cadillac Williams slashed them for 5/28/0 in a short appearance, and the Bucs totaled 29/125/1 during the game -- clearly, Miami still has a long way to go in this phase of the game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Dolphin's Stadium calls for a high of 91F and low of 79F with a 30% chance of precipitation. That forecast translates into "hot and muggy, with possibly poor field conditions". Weather could adversely affect both squads, especially if the rain comes down hard around game time. Keep an eye on the weather if you are planning on starting a Bronco or Dolphin.

Anderson will grind out the tough yards regardless of field conditions - start him if you've got him. The Dolphins aren't very scary in this phase of the game.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Travis Henry looks like a perfect fit for the Bronco's offensive philosophy. He is a one-cut runner and that should work well in Denver, but we have a problem. Henry sprained his left knee during training camp and hasn't appeared during the final 2 games of the preseason. While he's expected to be fine for the season opener vs. Buffalo, there's still some uncertainty. Last year, he ground out 270/1211/7 rushing and 18/78/0 receiving while with the moribund Titans - in Denver's attack, he should produce much better numbers.

Buffalo was 28th against the rush last year, averaging 140.9 yards allowed per game (14 rushing TDs given up). Tennessee shoved 30/132/1 down the Bills throats during week 3 of the preseason - a 4.2 yards per carry average. There isn't much room for optimism on Tennessee's part entering the season opener.

Advantage, Denver.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Entering the season, it appears that Selvin Young is going to lead a committee of backs composed of Young, Andre Hall and Michael Pittman. Young will lead the attack between the 20's, but it appears that Hall is the preferred short yardage/goal line back as of week 1. Young touched the ball 175 times last year as the part-time starter (140/729/1 rushing with 35/231/0 receiving), and will probably see at least that much work this year (possibly more). Both Young (6/42/0) and Hall (9/46/0) saw a good deal of work during the 3rd preseason game vs. Green Bay. Pittman handled the ball in the 2nd half with 10/36/0 rushing and 6/25/1 receiving.

The Raiders filed a poor rush D, which averaged 145.9 yards allowed per game last year - 31st in the NFL (with 24 rushing scores given up, worst in the league). Arizona exploited the obvious weakness here in the 3rd preseason contest, racking up 39/215/2 rushing on the weak Raider defensive front.

Young and Hall have a great matchup to work with this week.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

This is a classic AFC West rivalry that will be fought with great intensity on Monday Night Football during opening weekend. We can't wait for this second MNF game to cap the opening week of pro football.

The Broncos hired ex-Carolina coach John Fox to guide their team back into the playoffs after a disastrous 4-12 campaign that saw Denver finish dead last in the AFC West. Fox is a run-first, play-tough-defense type of coach, and he immediately set out in search of a power back to complement Knowshon Moreno in the back field. The team found their man in Willis McGahee, and now the Broncos enter 2011 with a double-barreled 1-2 backfield loaded and ready to fire. During the third preseason tilt vs. Seattle, Denver split the carries evenly between Moreno (10/47/0 rushing with 1/11/0 receiving) and McGahee (10/25/1). McGahee also handled the scoring plays for Denver's backs during week two at Buffalo, with 5/6/1 rushing and 2/33/1 receiving, while Moreno posted 6/28/0 rushing and 2/21/0 receiving. So far, this looks like a fairly even split between two backs in a committee. David Dodds expects Moreno to see a majority of the work for over 80 yards combined and perhaps one TD, while McGahee may get a shot at a score too, and McGahee should put up over 30 yards in his time on the field.

The Raiders' rush D was among the league's worst last year, averaging 133.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores surrendered. During the third preseason game, New Orleans took advantage of the obvious weakness by posting 28/126/3 rushing at Oakland. On the eve of regular season, the Footballguys.com staff considers the overall Oakland team D to be 20th in the NFL, while David Dodds slots them at 18th - nobody thinks this is a top-tier, shut-down group of defenders (New Orleans had 40 points by the end of the game on August 28th).

The Broncos have a capable duo of backs to throw at Oakland, and Oakland hasn't found any answers to their problems in this phase of the game entering week one - advantage, Denver.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Detroit's running back stable has been racked by injury issues/suspensions during preseason - Jahvid Best has yet to recover fully from last season's concussion and is on PUP, while Mikel Leshoure is on suspension for the first two games (and Leshoure is continuing a rehab for a torn Achilles tendon while on suspension). Once-again Lion Kevin Smith is the starter for week one, but the familiar pattern of suffering assorted dings repeated in preseason, and he enters regular season after suffering an ankle injury in the third preseason game August 25. He did practice fully with the team on Monday, September 3, which indicates that Smith (seven games played last year with 72/356/4 rushing and 33 targets for 22/179/3 receiving) should be available to anchor the Lions' attack vs. St. Louis this week. Keiland Williams (58/195/2 rushing with eight targets for 8/62/0 receiving during 2011) and journeyman Joique Bell (no stats in 2011) figure to be the backups for the first two weeks while Leshoure is out of the picture.

The Rams' rush D was among the league's worst last year, averaging 151.7 rushing yards allowed per game, with 17 rushing scores allowed over 16 games. Demarco Murray (5/26/0) and Felix Jones (6/34/0) both averaged over five yards per carry when they saw the Rams in the third preseason game - enough said.

Smith has a great matchup to work with here, friends.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Jaguars tied for 14th in the NFL last year, with an average of 4.2 yards per carry and 110.9 rushing yards per game. This year, Maurice Jones-Drew becomes the featured back (Fred Taylor is a Patriot now), with young Rashad Jennings and FB Greg Jones as his primary backups. The Jaguars will lean heavily on Jones-Drew in the rushing phase of the game. He posted 197/824/12 rushing and 62/565/2 receiving last year and looks up to the task. In limited time against the Eagles in the third exhibition, Jones-Drew gained 5/12/0 rushing and 2/58/0 receiving - he's ready to go.

The Colts were fairly soft against the run last year, averaging 122.9 rushing yards allowed per game (24th in the NFL), with 18 rushing scores given up during the season. However, the team was 7th overall in the NFL in points allowed, with an average of 18.6 given up per game, due to their outstanding pass D. They coughed up 8/50/0 rushing to Kevin Smith, the Lions' starter, in week three of the preseason, and handed over 35/151/0 to the Lions as a whole - with S Bob Sanders out for several weeks, this unit looks like they are going to struggle. New DC Larry Coyer has his work cut out for him this year.

This is a great matchup for Jones-Drew despite playing in front of a hostile crowd.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Maurice Jones-Drew missed the second half of the preseason with a knee problem - there were reports that he had arthroscopic surgery, but his camp denied that he needed to go under the knife. Whatever the truth is, we know that he wasn't healthy enough to play for a couple of weeks due to a knee problem. On Friday, September third Jones-Drew said he will be back doing everything he needs to do Monday, September sixth, to prepare for Week 1. He also called the false report about him having surgery 'a big mess over nothing.' Jones did practice on Monday, September sixth. If he is truly healthy, Jones-Drew will once again be the focal point of this offense, and an elite fantasy back.

The Denver rush D crashed and burned as the season went along last year, eventually settling at 26th in the NFL averaging 128.7 yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given away. They have lost DE Elvis Dumervil for the season entering week one, and will ask Robert Ayers to take over Dumervil's role of tweener DE/OLB. A new defensive coordinator (Don Martindale) and three new DL (Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams and Jarvis Green) were brought in to help solidify the defensive front - Williams starts at NT and Bannan is the RDE. However, Pittsburgh still crammed the ball past the new DL for 30/175/1 rushing (a 5.8 yards allowed per carry average) during the preseason week three tune-up to regular season. Obviously, there is still work to be done here.

Jones-Drew has an outstanding matchup to work with in week one.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Larry Johnson. He blew the doors down and annihilated the opposition once he became the Chiefs' full-time starter. From week 9 to the end of the season, he never failed to post at least 107 yards rushing, and exceeded 200 yards rushing twice. He scored 16 rushing scores and 1 receiving TD during that tear, and had at least 2 TDs in every game from week 13 forward to season's end. He ended the season with 336/1750/20 rushing and 33/343/1 receiving. He helped his fantasy owners dominate their opposition during the playoff stretch run. The retirement of Willie Roaf early in training camp and the loss of lead-blocking FB Tony Richardson are concerns coming into 2006, but Johnson averaged 5.2 yards per carry last year, folks. Some of that was due to the outstanding OL play, but a lot of it was Johnson's will and desire to be the best running back in the NFL.

The Bengals sported the NFL's 28th ranked defense last year in total yards allowed, surrendering an average of 338.7 yards per game, and they were 20th vs. the rush, giving up 115.6 rushing yards per game on average. They allowed 16 rushing TDs during the season (24th in the NFL) - this isn't a top defensive unit. They did generate a lot of big plays, with 44 total take-aways, but also gave up their share of big plays. The team added Sam Adams to the DL in the off-season, so hopefully he can help shore up the line. However, the off-field meltdown of Odell Thurman hurt their defense at MLB - he may not be back with the team once his suspension is served.

Johnson should have a great day against the overmatched Bengals.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Chiefs' offense has sputtered throughout preseason, and that malaise has included Jamaal Charles. He fumbled twice in the final preseason game, and his longest run during the four contests was a 10-yard scamper. Charles acknowledged he had a poor showing in August, but said on September third that the slow start will force him to remember he isn't perfect and that he has to work hard to succeed in the NFL. However, he is still the guy who posted 230/1,467/5 rushing with 64 targets for 45/468/3 receiving during 2010 - gaining an astronomical 6.4 yards per carry on average - so we're not too worried about Charles' upcoming season. In week one, David Dodds thinks Charles is in for a top-three finish among fantasy RBs with over 100 yards combined and a better-than-even chance of scoring a TD against the Bills.

Speaking of the Bills, they were a putrid rush D last season, averaging a league-worst 169.6 yards allowed per game in this phase, with 18 rushing scores given up over 16 contests. Jacksonville showed us that not much has changed in Buffalo during the third exhibition game, when they ran up 32/145/2 against the Bills without the help of number one running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who was held out for precautionary reasons, and number two running back Rashad Jennings had just one carry for -1 yards before being knocked out due to injury. The Bills couldn't even stop the reserve Jacksonville running backs, folks. The horrible rush D is a big part of why the Bills are the consensus 29th-ranked team defense by Footballguys.com's staff, and they check in at 28th on David Dodd's individual team defense rankings.

Charles has looked rusty in preseason, but at home against the anemic Bills we look for a big start to 2011.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Jamaal Charles looks set for a monster season in the new Kansas City offense. During his time on the field during preseason, the Chiefs were very often either handing Charles the football or tossing it to him. Alex Smith is a solid veteran but doesn't take over games with his throwing arm, so Charles is going to be the Chiefs' home-run threat this year. Charles should be an every-week, fire-and-forget fantasy starter during 2013. That's why you gave up a high first-round pick to draft him, so make sure to start him.

The Jaguars' rush D was not good last year, ranking 30th in the NFL averaging 141 yards allowed per game, with 19 rushing TDs allowed. They were blown up by Bryce Brown in the third preseason game (11/92/1 rushing allowed to him) and eventually handed over 34/172/2 rushing during the game. Yes, they are that bad.

This is an excellent matchup for Charles.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Jamaal Charles had a sore foot during preseason, and was held out of most contests, but he returned to practices on August 21, and is expected to start as usual during regular season. He was fantasy dynamite last season with 259/1,287/12 rushing and 70/693/7 receiving, and is one of the 'no-brainer, always start' fantasy studs in the league. David Dodds has Charles down as the second-best fantasy running back in the FBG scoring system for Week One (1st in PPR scoring), with a projection of 17/76/.8 rushing and 5/37/.2 receiving.

The Titans' rush D ranked 20th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 112.2 rushing yards per game, and they were awful in the red zone allowing 21 rushing TDs (third-most in the NFL last year). During the third preseason game, the Titans gave up 8/33/0 rushing and 5/31/0 receiving to Jacquizz Rodgers, another dual-threat back, and don't appear improved over last seasons' version.

Advantage, Charles and the Chiefs.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Miami's multi-faceted rushing attack was prolific and productive during 2009, with 509/2,231 yards/22 TDs (third, fourth and first in the NFL respectively), while averaging 4.4 yards per game (10th). Ronnie Brown was in action for nine games before suffering a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot (147/648/8 rushing with 14/98/0 receiving), and the team didn't miss a beat when Ricky Williams stepped in as the lead back (241/1,121 yards/11 TDs and 35/264/2 receiving over 16 games). Brown has apparently recovered from the foot injury - . 'I feel real good. It was a little different coming back from the foot injury. It was a little easier than the knee. Everything has fallen into place as far as timetables. Everything looks good. Everything feels good. I'm just looking forward to the season to start,' Brown said on August 25th. He and Williams form a terrific 1-2 punch for the Dolphins.

The Bills' rush D was horrendous during 2009, allowing 2,501 rushing yards (30th in the NFL) and 19 rushing TDs (28th) while averaging 4.7 yards allowed per carry (30th). Paul Posluszny is back to full strength after a 2009 injury that cost him four games, but the team lost Aaron Schobel to retirement (he was reportedly sick of all the losing the Bills have done during Schobel's time with the team). New defensive coordinator George Edwards is trying to install a 3-4 front but it remains to be seen how effective the team's current personnel will be in the new alignment. There is essentially nowhere to go but up, though. Cincinnati cranked out 24/119/0 rushing vs. the Bills in the third preseason game (a 5.0 yards allowed per carry average), which shows us that the defensive front is still very much a work in progress.

This looks like a great week to be a Brown or Williams owner.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Vikings just missed making the top-5 last season in terms of yards per carry (they were sixth with 4.5 per tote), but they shoved around their opponents for an average of 145.8 yards per game (5th in the NFL last year). There is a reason that Adrian Peterson (363/1760/10 rushing last season, with 21/125/0 receiving) is the near-unanimous #1 pick in most fantasy leagues. As a team, the Vikings rushed for 519/2332/15, with Chester Taylor providing most of the other touches out of the backfield. The Vikings will stick with what works again this year - look for a lot of Adrian Peterson with Chester Taylor providing change-of-pace again during 2009.

The Browns' defense was awful last year, averaging 151.9 rushing yards allowed per game, with 16 rushing TDs handed over during 16 games. They were tied for 16th in the NFL with an average of 21.9 points allowed per game as a unit. Eric Mangini and new DC Rob Ryan will do their utmost to improve on those numbers with a 3-4 defensive front, but they've got their work cut out for them this year. The D got off on the right foot in the third week of preseason, holding Tennessee to 21/83/0 on the ground. We'll see how they look now when the games count.

Peterson and Taylor face a suspect defense in transition in this matchup - advantage Minnesota.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The NFL schedule makers set up a barn-burner for the special Thursday night opener, rematching the Saints and the Vikings (who met in the NFC Championship last year and took it to overtime). Adrian Peterson remains the driving force behind the Vikings' rushing attack, though he was limited to cameos during preseason (17/54/1 rushing and 5/61/0 receiving). With Chester Taylor now hanging his helmet in Chicago, Peterson may take on more receptions/third-down situations than in years past. He is one of the elite fantasy RBs in the league this year.

The Saints' rush D wasn't impressive during 2009, with an average of 122.2 yards allowed per game (21st in the NFL) and 19 rushing scores handed over (28th in the NFL). San Diego exploited their defensive front for 20/68/2 rushing in the third preseason game.

Peterson is an elite back, while the Saints are sub-par at rush D - advantage, Minnesota. Look for the Vikings to feed Peterson the ball a lot while Brett Favre and the receivers work on getting their rhythm back during week one.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Laurence Maroney leads a crowded backfield into regular season (Kevin Faulk will be missing for his week, though, due to a 1-game suspension) - Maroney is likely to split time with Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan during the contest on Sunday. Last year, Maroney posted 185/835/6 rushing and 4/116/0 receiving as the leader of the New England committee - he'll see a similar workload this year, most likely. Morris has played extensively during preseason while Jordan hasn't seen much work, making Morris the candidate to fill the short yardage/goal line/change of pace roles at least early in the season (and especially this week in Faulk's absence).

The Chiefs were 28th in the NFL last year vs. opposing rushers, averaging 130.6 yards allowed per contest. They gave up 11 TDs over 16 games (tied for 12th in the NFL) - rush D isn't a team strength, as you can see. Miami crammed 31/164/1 down the Chiefs' throats in the 3rd exhibition game - K.C. hasn't improved measurably over last year, and may have even regressed.

This is a great matchup for the home-team Patriots.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

New England's running back corps had injury issues aplenty last season, starting with Laurence Maroney's broken shoulder and extending to knee issues for LaMont Jordan and Sammy Morris - yet despite the rotation of backs that was forced on the team, the Patriots averaged 4.4 yards per carry (7th in the NFL, tied with Atlanta and Washington) and they also averaged a robust 142.4 rushing yards generated per game. This year, it looks like the team will go with a RBBC again, led by Kevin Faulk, free agent import Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris. Maroney is still with the team, but saw a lot of special teams play during preseason - assuming that wasn't a subterfuge by coach Bill Belichick, Maroney is the buried man on the depth chart. We'll see how it turns out week 1. Last year Faulk led the backs in total yardage with 83/507/3 rushing and 58/486/3 receiving, while Sammy Morris led the team in rushing yardage with 156/727/7 rushing and 17/161/0 receiving. With Taylor in the fold now, any way you slice it this looks like a massive RBBC.

The Bill's rush D was 22nd in the NFL last year, averaging 121.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing TDs given up over 16 games (the team handed over an average of 21.4 points per game last year). Pittsburgh was constrained to 38/81/1 by the Bills in the third preseason game, which may bode well for the direction of the unit entering regular season. Unfortunately, their offense looks so anemic that we expect to see the Bills' defenders on the field often during September. This looks like a great matchup for the Patriots' stable of backs.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Tom Brady is trying to knit together a lot of new faces into a cohesive passing attack - one way to ease his burden will be to hand the ball off to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen early and often in this season opener at Buffalo - a sound strategy considering the weakness of the Buffalo run D. The Bills were horrid run defenders last year, ranking 31st in the NFL averaging 145.8 rushing yards allowed per game, and they coughed up a league-worst 23 rushing TDs. During the third preseason game, with only part of the Redskins' starting lineup on the field, Washington posted 43/208/2 rushing against the Bills, indicating that the problems with the defensive front are still an issue entering the 2013 season.

Ridley led the Patriots in rushing during 2012, with 290/1,263/12 on the ground, and the other Patriots' backs combined for another 828 yards rushing and nine TDs - Vereen produced 62/251/3 of that total and added 8/149/1 receiving to the mix. With Danny Woodhead now in San Diego, Vereen should see more of the rushing touches/yards and also increase his targets dramatically (Woodhead handled 40/446/3 receiving for the Patriots last year).

Against the soft Bills, New England's tandem of backs has a great matchup to exploit on Sunday.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Saints tied for 21st in the NFL last season, while posting a respectable 4.0 yards per carry - however, the team averaged under 100 yards rushing a game (99.6 - 28th in the NFL). This year, Deuce McAllister is gone and Pierre Thomas (if he can overcome his sore right MCL sprain) will be the lead rusher in the stable. Regarding week 1, however, Thomas stated on Friday, September 4th: 'My main focus is trying to get back for the first game. But if it's not ready, it's not ready. I can't push it.' Thomas estimated his injured knee to be at '65 percent' full strength. Reggie Bush, the dual-threat back, has fought through swelling in his surgically repaired knee and a calf strain during preseason - he claimed on Tuesday, September 1st that he was 100% healthy, but his spotty participation during preseason is a red flag here. Owners of Bush and Thomas will want to scrutinize the official injury report and their practice participation leading up to the season opener vs. Detroit (one of the worst rushing defenses, ever, during 2008, averaging 172.1 yards allowed per game, and coughing up almost two rushing TDs per game last year (31)) at the Superdome on Sunday, September 13th. Mike Bell, the #3 RB in New Orleans, has looked solid during preseason and would have a large role in the event that Thomas misses week 1. Stay tuned to the late-week reports in Footballguys.com's Players In The News feature to get all the latest on Thomas, Bush and Bell.

The Lions' D was the worst in the league at defensing the rush last year, allowing an average of 172.1 yards on the ground, with an astronomical 31 rushing TDs handed over as well. They were also 32nd in the NFL with an average of 32.3 points given up per contest - it wasn't hard to beat the Lions last year. With a new head coach Jim Schwartz and new DC Gunther Cunningham working to reform the defense into a more aggressive, high pressure unit it remains to be seen if the holes in the defensive front have been adequately addressed this year. The Colts only managed 19/50/1 rushing vs. the Lions in the third exhibition game; while the Bills were held to 29/87/0 in the fourth - so far, so good.

With so much uncertainty about the lineup this week, it would be wise of fantasy owners to closely monitor the Saints' practice/injury reports later this week - whoever does get in the game has a great matchup against a suspect (though perhaps improving) Detroit D.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Giants' running back stable is set to be productive in 2008, headlined by Brandon Jacobs (the 8th best fantasy RB in points per game last year, with 200/1011/4 rushing and 23/174/2 receiving over 11 games), backed up by Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. All 3 rushed for 4 yards a carry or better in the 3rd exhibition game (vs. the Jets) - Ward led the team with 4/36/0, Bradshaw posted 7/28/1, and Jacobs posted 6/26/0. This position is set on the squad and at full health entering 2008.

Washington has a problem on defense - injuries have gutted the DL and recent acquisition Jason Taylor is also down due to a knee injury suffered in the 3rd preseason contest. He tried on several knee braces in practice on Tuesday, and coach Jim Zorn stated "I'd say it's easily 50-50 whether he plays or not." Carolina posted 32/228/2 on the ground vs. the afflicted unit in the 3rd preseason game. Forget what Washington did or didn't do last year - right now, this unit appears to be in serious trouble.

The Giants have a very attractive matchup against the injury-challenged Redskins at home in Giants' Stadium on Thursday night.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

To open the season we get to watch the Giants and the Redskins renew their traditional NFC East rivalry - this is always an entertaining and hard-fought game. Enjoy!

The Giants' roster of running backs returns for the 2011 season intact after some concerns that Ahmad Bradshaw might land elsewhere during free agency. That didn't come to pass, so we enter week one with Bradshaw once again in tandem with Brandon Jacobs in the backfield. Last year Bradshaw was the superior fantasy back (especially in PPR leagues) with 276/1,235/8 rushing and 47/314/0 receiving, while Jacobs ground out 147/823/9 rushing and 7/59/0 receiving. In the third preseason game against the hard-nosed Jets, Jacobs got the call more often than Bradshaw with 10/51/0 rushing to his credit, while Bradshaw ran the ball for 3/5/0 but added 1/29/0 receiving. We'll see these guys in varying roles from week to week depending on the nature of the rush D lining up across from the Giants.

This week, Washington lurks in FedEx Field waiting for their rivals to show up - The Redskins' rush D was not very good last season, ranking 26th in the NFL averaging 127.6 yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing TDs handed over. Baltimore took advantage of the obvious weakness in the third exhibition game, and rolled to 28/138/1 rushing during the contest (a 4.9 yards per carry average). Though it isn't specific to the strength of the Redskins' rush D in particular, both the Footballguys.com staff and David Dodds rank Washington's overall team defense as 27th in the NFL on the eve of regular season. This team doesn't do much right when it comes to defense, folks.

During their contests vs. Washington during 2010, the Giants' backs scored two rushing TDs each, with Jacobs posting 18/145/2 rushing (with eight first downs to his credit) during the two contests, while Bradshaw managed 37/114/2 rushing (six first downs) and 3/16/0 receiving. They've had good luck playing against their rivals - Jacobs especially - and we expect the tandem to do well again this week. Advantage, New York.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Chris Ivory (198/820/6 rushing with 18/123/1 receiving last season starting 10 games for the Jets with 16 games appeared in) has seized the top job in New York entering Week One of regular season. Bilal Powell (33/141/1 rushing with 11/92/0 receiving during 2014) is the #2, with Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley (on PUP list to start the season) in reserve. It's Ivory's job to lose, and he draws a tasty matchup here in Week One.

The Browns' rush D was dead last in the NFL last year, averaging 141.6 yards allowed per game, with 13 rushing scores handed out over 16 games. They did better during exhibitions this year (111.5 yards allowed per game on average, 22nd in the league) but the preseason is usually an uncertain guide for regular season results - bottom line here is that the Browns' rush D is suspect entering regular season.

Advantage, Ivory and the Jets. Also, the Cleveland pass D is stout so the Jets may elect to lean on Ivory in the season opener at home on Sunday.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

This is a classic AFC West rivalry that will be fought with great intensity on Monday Night Football during opening weekend. We can't wait for this second MNF game to cap the opening week of pro football.

During 2010 Darren McFadden finally became the lead back we expected when he was drafted fourth out of Arkansas back in 2008 - he played in 13 games and posted 223/1,157 yards/7 TDs rushing and had 61 targets for 47/507/3 receiving to his credit - the lights finally went on for McFadden last season. As a team Oakland was second in the NFL averaging 4.9 yards per carry last year - they really turned up the heat in the AFC West. This year, the team added speedy Taiwan Jones to the mix in the backfield (he put up 13/81/1 rushing and 2/18/0 receiving in the third preseason game vs. New Orleans), and they still have Michael Bush (158/655/8 rushing and 18/194/0 receiving over 14 games played last year) for a change-of-pace from McFadden. The Raiders' backfield is loaded, though McFadden did miss most of preseason thanks to a broken orbital bone (the eye-socket) suffered early in preseason. McFadden is expected back for the season opener in Denver, and we have him projected for over 100 yards combined with a good shot at (at least) one TD.

Speaking of Denver, the Broncos allowed a league-worst 26 rushing TDs last year, and they were 31st in average rushing yards allowed per game with 154.6 to their discredit. The team hired new head coach John Fox (a defensively-minded head coach) and he brought in Dennis Allen from New Orleans to be the new defensive coordinator (Allen coached the New Orleans secondary from 2008-2010) as the Josh McDaniels' era came crashing to a close after a 4-12 trainwreck of a season. There was a glimmer of hope for this unit when they held Seattles' backs to 19/58/0 rushing on August 27th, but the Seattle offense is in shambolic shape as of September 2011 so don't be overly impressed. While the overall team defense rankings aren't only about how tough a run defense the Broncos field, it is apparent that nobody is impressed with the current unit as the staff consensus ranking of Denver's team defense is 31st, as is David Dodds' individual ranking (31st).

McFadden and company should have a strong outing against their rivals on Monday Night Football despite playing in hostile Mile High Stadium.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Brian Westbrook says his sprained foot, which kept him out of most of the pre-season, feels great and that he's 100% for the start of regular season. "It feels a lot different with the commitment to the run," he said on 9/5/06. "It's going to remind people of 2003, when Duce was still here." The coaching staff also intends to get a lot of work to surprise returnee Correll Buckhalter, who has overcome a second serious knee injury to rebound into the Eagle's RB mix. With a 1-2 punch of Westbrook and Buckhalter, the Eagles have a good combo to throw at the Texans. Westbrook posted 156/617/3 rushing and 61/616/4 receiving last year in 12 games - there is plenty of room for Buckhalter to carry the ball too and for both players to be productive (although Westbrook is the superior fantasy option thanks to his huge role in the passing game).

The Texans were atrociously weak against opposing running backs last year, allowing an average of 143.9 rushing yards per game (32nd in the NFL), and 21 rushing TDs (29th in the NFL). There is nowhere to go but up from there, folks. The team expended its' first pick in the draft on DE Mario Williams, who is an instant starter, and 2nd rounder DeMeco Ryans is the starter at MLB going into regular season. The new coaching staff is undertaking a major rebuilding project.

Westbrook and Buckhalter are savvy veterans, and will make the most of any rookie mistakes that Williams and Ryans commit in their first full-speed NFL game. The Eagles have a great matchup to work with here, folks.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Brian Westbrook has had no problems getting into top form during preseason, posting 9/39/0 rushing and 1/19/0 receiving vs. New England's tough unit in the 3rd exhibition game. Donovan McNabb looks really sharp right now, which bodes well for Westbrook as a pass catcher (the injury to Kevin Curtis may boost his number of targets as well) - in PPR leagues, Westbrook looks like a lock for top-5 numbers again this year. He was the #2 fantasy RB in points per game last year, and this year the Eagles' offense looks stronger than ever.

The Rams' rushing D is not impressive, ranking 20th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 115.3 yards per contest. They handed over 16 rushing scores last year (tied for 27th in the NFL). During the 3rd exhibition game, the Rams gave up only 18/70/0 to the Ravens (but the Ravens rushed a rookie QB into the lineup at the last minute, making defense a pretty simple proposition during that game - and they were missing their top RB, Willis McGahee, due to a knee injury/rehab).

At home in Lincoln Financial Field, Westbrook and company have an attractive matchup against the suspect Rams.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

LeSean McCoy was Mr. Everything for the Eagles last year, punching in 20 total TDs (273/1309/17 rushing with 69 targets for 48/315/3 receiving). He's the focal point of this attack and that won't change for 2012 as the team returns almost the entire roster of skill position players intact. Against the Browns in week three of preseason, McCoy put in a very brief cameo (1/-4/0 rushing with 1/11/0 receiving) - you can bet he'll be the battering ram that assaults the Browns' defensive front this week. Dion Lewis appears to have held off Bryce Brown and Chris Polk as the rarely-seen backup to McCoy.

The Browns' rush D was weak last season, averaging 147.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with 12 rushing TDs coughed up over 16 contests (18th in the NFL). With Mike Vick out due to sore ribs and McCoy restricted to one carry in the third preseason game, the Eagles' reserves managed a mere 26/55/0 rushing. However, now the games count, and McCoy and Vick will be coming at the Browns on Sunday.

This looks like a great matchup for McCoy and company.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Eagles were fourth in the NFL last season with 500 rushing attempts, first in the league with 2,566 yards rushing, and second in the league with 19 rushing TDs. This team means to run the ball early and often in every game, folks. LeSean McCoy (314/1,607/9 rushing with 52/539/2 receiving last season) and Darren Sproles (53/220/2 rushing with 71/604/2 receiving in New Orleans) will both have plenty of work to keep them occupied during 2014. This is a fantastic 1-2 punch, friends. McCoy has practiced steadily since having thumb and toe issues late in training camp, and looks st to rock against the Jaguars.

The Jaguars were ranked 29th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 131.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 20 rushing scores handed out during the season. The Jaguars gave up 2/95/1 rushing to Reggie Bush in the third preseason game, and ultimately allowed 27/178/2 rushing to the Lions in that contest. It looks like Jaguars' fans can expect more of the same out of their sorry defensive front during 2014.

Advantage, Eagles.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Willie Parker was awesome last year, with 337/1494/13 rushing and 31/222/3 receiving in his first season out from under Jerome Bettis' shadow. There was some rearranging along the OL this offseason as C Jeff Hartings retired (Sean Mahan is the starter there heading into regular season) and LG Alan Faneca was unhappy with his contract entering training camp - he's probably hitting the road after this season. We'll see how the unit jells once the games start counting, but if Faneca wants to cash in during free agency he needs to play well during 2007. Parker posted 10/32/1 rushing and 3/40/0 receiving during the week 3 preseason contest vs. Philly, and looks like he's ready to rock during 2007, despite the knee sprain that limited him early during training camp/preseason.

Cleveland averaged 142.2 rushing yards allowed per game last year (29th in the NFL) and coughed up 31/157/1 to the Travis Henry-less Broncos during week 3 of the preseason. Starting DE Orpheus Roye missed most of preseason due to an arthroscopic knee surgery; starting LB Andra Davis missed a significant amount of time due to a concussion and then an ankle injury. The Cleveland defensive front is not a pretty picture entering regular season.

Pittsburgh's Parker has the edge this week - advantage, Steelers.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

LaDainian Tomlinson. Got him? Start him. He's been the 3rd ranked fantasy running back four years in a row. He is the engine that makes the Chargers offense go.

The Raiders give Tomlinson owners just another reason to start him. They were 25th against the rush last season, allowing 128.1 rushing yards per game to the opposition on average, and 25th in rushing scores allowed, with 18. Tomlinson rushed for 31/140/1 and snagged 2/39/1 in the first game against Oakland last year, and crossed the 100 yards combined barrier the second game, with 25/86/0 rushing and 5/24/0 receiving. New coach Art Shell is trying to bring back the excellence, but this rebuilding defense isn't ready for prime time yet.

This is a great week to have Tomlinson on your fantasy football squad.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Chargers' rushing attack ran in the middle of the NFL pack last season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry (18th in the NFL), with an average of 107.9 rushing yards per game. This year, LaDainian Tomlinson (292/1110/11 rushing with 52/426/1 receiving last year over 16 games) is said to have rededicated himself to excellence after suffering from injuries at the tail end of the last two seasons which helped derail the Chargers' playoff hopes. 'I'm feeling good,' Tomlinson said after the second preseason game. 'I'm feeling really good, actually. I haven't had any problems. I'm healthy. Not even sore at all, either. So I'm pretty encouraged by the way I feel.' Tomlinson was held out of the later preseason games to preserve him for the regular season - his sidekick Darren Sproles handled the starting duties in the third preseason game, and both sat out in the finale.

The Raiders' rush D was embarrassing last year, averaging 159.7 yards allowed per game (only the Lions were worse) - and they coughed up 23 TDs during the season. Overall, the team was 24th in the NFL with 24.3 total points handed over per game. The Raiders have allowed a 100-yard rusher in over 50% of their games over the last three years - they just don't seem to have any answers in this phase of the game. New DC John Marshall has his work cut out for him, obviously. The team attempted to trade for Richard Seymour over the Labor Day weekend, but he has yet to report to the Raiders. On Monday, September 7th HC Tom Cable said 'We have attempted to make a deal,' Cable said Monday. 'There are some issues still between him and the Patriots that are being worked out. I'm hoping that that will get resolved as quickly as possible. We know that the player wants to be here, but we have really no control over those issues.' The Raiders were embarrassed by the Saint's backup RBs in the third week of preseason, allowing an astronomical 46/232/3 to the New Orleans' scrubs.

This is a great matchup for Tomlinson and the Chargers.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Ryan Matthews has been so strong a player during preseason that the Chargers elected to keep only two running backs on the roster to start 2010 - Matthews and Darren Sproles. Over three preseason contests, Matthews posted 34/146/0 rushing (a 4.3 yards per carry average) and 5/33/0 receiving. He's one of those increasingly rare players, a featured back on an NFL roster. Sproles was very lightly employed during preseason with 2/8/0 rushing and 5/51/0 receiving in the change-of-pace role. The Chargers were last in the NFL during 2009 with a 3.3 yards per carry average, so they aren't out of the woods yet - but Matthews looks like he'll be a shot in the arm for this phase of the Chargers' game.

The Chiefs were horrible at rush D last year, averaging an astronomical 156.5 yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing TDs given up as well. Philly was slowed a little bit by K.C. in week three of the preseason, but still managed 26/106/1, though LeSean McCoy was able to average 5.6 yards per carry during his time on the field (5/28/1). The Chiefs don't scare opposing rushers, folks.

This looks like a great week to be a Ryan Matthews owner, friends.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Shaun Alexander - what is there to say that hasn't been written or said already? The guy has scored high-teens to 27 TDs for years, and has posted 20 and 28 total TDs in the last 2 seasons. He posted 370/1880/27 rushing and 15/78/1 receiving last season. He hasn't missed a game in 6 years, and he's only 29. If you had the first or second pick in your draft, you are one of the lucky few to have him on your fantasy team. Start him!

The Lion's rush D was anemic last year, ranking 24th while allowing an average of 127.5 yards on the ground, and 20th in rushing scores allowed (20). New head coach Rod Marinelli came in determined to improve this squad's play - we'll see if his cover-2 schemes will help stiffen the rush D. The Raiders slapped down 37/123/1 during the week 3 pre-season contest, including 6/30/1 by starter Lamont Jordan, so clearly there is plenty of room for further improvement.

Alexander has a nice matchup to work with this week.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Early during the preseason, it looked like there might be a shakeup of the running back depth chart in Seattle because of Marshawn Lynch's holdout, but it was not to be as the disagreement was quickly made up and Lynch (301/1,257/12 rushing with 36/316/2 receiving last season) returned to settle in at No. one running back. Robert Turbin and Christine Michael make up the rest of the depth chart at this time. Each back got a handful of work in the third preseason game - Lynch ran in a score with 3/16/1, while Turbin posted 6/26/0 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving, and Michael managed 8/28/0 rushing and 3/36/1 receiving during the contest. The Seahawks have a lot of talent on their short bench of backs.

The Packers' rush D ranked 25th in the NFL last season, averaging 125 rushing yards allowed per game, with 16 rushing scores given up over 16 games. Maurice Jones-Drew popped a long run of 40-yards for a TD against the Pack in the third preseason game, but after that the running game was damped down, and Oakland finished the game with 17/77/1 rushing as a team (Jones-Drew ended his time with the first team with 3/45/1 rushing).

Lynch and company have a big home-field advantage and a suspect defense to exploit - advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Frank Gore only needed two carries to hang 58 yards rushing on the Raiders in week three of the preseason - and that was all the carries the 49ers allowed him to attempt during their four-game winning streak. Gore is one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL, and the sudden retirement of Glen Coffey during training camp further entrenched Gore (229/1,120/10 rushing and 52/406/3 receiving last year) as the focal point of the 49ers' rushing attack.

The Seahawks' defensive front wasn't impressive during 2009, allowing 111 yards per game (15th in the NFL) and 17 rushing TDs (24th) to opposing runners. They were right on their usual pace during the third preseason game, with 33/112/1 handed over to the Vikings on August 28th.

Gore should feast on the suspect Seahawks this week.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The 49ers passing offense is a shambles, so look for Frank Gore to be heavily featured entering the regular season. He and backup Kendall Hunter are the legitimate weapons San Francisco has to throw at Seattle this week while the coaching staff works on fixing the passing attack (if they can). Gore received a three year extension that gave him an additional $21 million on August 31st, so hopefully his bulging wallet will help him be motivated on the field. Gore was held out of the third preseason game due to undisclosed reasons, though his fractured hip (suffered during 2010) is reportedly completely recovered. We'll see if Gore can reverse the downwards spiral in his on-field numbers during 2011 - he managed 11 games for 203/853/3 rushing and 46/452/2 receiving last season for the 49ers.

The Seattle rush D was 21st in the NFL last year, averaging 118.9 yards allowed per game, with 13 rushing TDs given up. Denver mauled them for 34/148/1 rushing during the third exhibition game, though Oakland's backups and reserves only managed 23/47/0 in the preseason finale. On balance, it appears that Seattle's unit is once again sub-par as we begin the 2011 regular season.

Gore will see a lot of work in the home opener - he should have solid numbers at the end of the day given his abundant opportunities and a soft Seattle defensive front (Gore is second on our mid-week RB rankings for week one of regular season).

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Frank Gore (276/1,128/9 rushing and 16/141/0 receiving last year) enters 2014 as the entrenched starter for the 49ers - he handled one carry during the third preseason game but otherwise was held out as has become usual for him during preseason. The 49ers know what Gore can do and don't wish to expose him to injury during meaningless games. Carlos Hyde (6/38/0 rushing vs. San Diego in the third exhibition game) has locked down the backup job behind Gore, and would get the call if Gore is sidelined for whatever reason. LaMichael James will handle return duties and is the reserve running back as of Week One. Along with Colin Kaepernick (92/524/4 rushing last season), it's more of the same for the 49ers entering the 2014 season, with Gore as their featured back.

The Dallas rush D is not good - they ranked 27th in the NFL last year averaging 128.5 rushing yards given up per game, with 17 rushing scores handed out. The Cowboys have lost MLB Sean Lee and OLB DeVonte Holloman to IR already this year and are relying on oft-retired, oft-returned Rolando McClain to start in the middle of the linebacking corps as of Week One, with rookie Anthony Hitchens also slated for action at that position. The Cowboys are also banged up among the defensive ends entering Week One, with several of the guys walking wounded. As you can see, the Dallas D is injury-challenged to start out the season. They are the consensus worst team defense according to Footballguys.com's panel of experts, with nine rankings of 32nd out of 32 to their 'credit' as of September 2.

Gore has a great matchup ahead of him in Week One.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Steven Jackson is arriving in the NFL. After bursting on the scene as a part time player across from Marshall Faulk (134/673/4 rushing and 19/189/0 receiving) last year, Jackson is now in the drivers' seat at RB in St. Louis. His 174/108/1 rushing and 1/12/0 receiving effort against the hapless Lions on Aug. 29th set the stage for a strong regular season effort. He looks fantastic and appears to be champing at the bit.

The 49ers gave up the most rushing TDs in the land last year - 22 - and ranked 20th in the league allowing an average of 124.7 rushing yards per game. They did manage to hold the youthful Titans to 30/107/0 during their preseason week 3 contest, but nobody calls the Titans a "powerhouse" club this year.

Both teams come into this game in decent shape, injury wise - nothing catastrophic to note. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for San Francisco boils down to: perfect football weather. 69 F for a high, 56 F for a low, with a 10% chance for rain on Sunday.

Steven Jackson should run wild against the 49ers.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Cadillac Williams. That's the name of the running game in Tampa this year. Will he be an upgrade over Pittman/Garner? Time will tell, but the early returns (5/28/0 rushing during week 3 of the preseason, for example) look encouraging. He's an instinctive runner who hits the hole hard. This week, we'll see how getting into a rhythm with 20+ carries helps out Williams' game.

Minnesota was not impressive in this phase of the game last year, allowing 125.4 rushing yards per game (21st in the NFL) with 15 rushing scores allowed in 16 games. However, they did manage to limit San Diego to 16/82/0 rushing during week 3 of the preseason - this could be a sign of good things to come.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in the Metrodome, so weather won't be a factor.

Williams faces a sub-par rush D in this matchup. He should get off to a great start against the Vikings.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Tampa is committed to going with Cadillac Williams (209/816/4 rushing and 29/219/3 receiving through 16 games last season) as their starter (Derrick Ward was released in the final cut to the 53 man roster). Kareem Huggins came on during preseason with 25/134/0 rushing and 3/28/0 receiving to make Ward an expendable player. Tampa managed just five rushing TDs last year (31st in the NFL), but was a little more respectable in yardage (1,627 for a 23rd place finish). We'll see just how senior a partner Williams is in this duo of backs once week one is in the rear-view mirror.

Cleveland's rush D was weak during 2009, averaging 144.6 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL) while handing over 15 rushing TDs. Detroit blew the Browns up for 26/154/3 rushing in the third preseason game - it doesn't look like the Browns' D is on an upward trajectory as of week one of the regular season.

Williams and Huggins have a great matchup to anticipate in week one.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Chris Brown has weathered the storm of LenDale White, and was proclaimed the starter for week 1 by coach Jeff Fisher on August 31st. White is the #3, behind veteran Travis Henry, at least for now. Brown put up 224/851/5 rushing and 25/327/2 receiving in 15 games last year, and hopes to progress in his 4th year, getting back closer to his 2004 yards-per-carry average of 4.8 (220/1067/6). We'll see how the chaos at the QB position plays out, but for now the RB depth chart is all set.

The Jets stunk vs. the run last year, ranking 29th in the NFL allowing 136.6 rushing yards per game, and 28th in rushing TDs allowed with 19. They brought in a new head coach in Eric Mangini, but he hasn't had time to assemble a crew of quality defenders (and the team let DE John Abraham go in a trade). This year the Jets' defense is in "rebuilding mode" and that is generally a good thing for opposing offenses.

Brown has a great shot at a solid game in this one. The team needs to lean heavily on the running game with all the chaos at QB entering the season.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Chris Johnson, 2009, 358/2006/14 rushing and 71 targets for 50/503/2 receiving. If you've got him, you paid the top pick in your fantasy draft to get him. Start him, he's a fantasy phenomena right now.

Oakland's defense was 29th vs. the rush last year, averaging 155.5 yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL). They gave up 24 rushing TDs (31st). They allowed 4.5 yards per rush on average (28th). The 2010 group gave up 33/165/1 to San Francisco in the third preseason game.

Start Chris Johnson and smile, you lucky Johnson owners.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Alfred Morris is firmly atop the depth chart in Washington after his breakout rookie season (335/1,606/13 rushing with 11/77/0 receiving) - he had a cameo in the third exhibition game (4/16/0) while his backups sorted out the depth chart. Now that the games count, and while the Redskins ease Robert Griffin III back into full-speed NFL action, expect Morris to be heavily involved, occassionally spelled by Roy Helu (Helu is also probably going to handle third downs/passing situations).

The Eagles cleaned house after Andy Reid's last season at the helm - new defensive coordinator Bill Davis aims to better last year's 23rd-place finish among rushing defenses (the Eagles averaged 126.3 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given away). Unfortunately there is some work to be done here - Jacksonville's running backs ripped up the Eagles for 34/202/1 on the ground during the third exhibition game.

Morris is a highly productive runner, and he'll have home field advantage over the suspect Eagles - advantage, Washington.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

During the week 3 preseason game vs. Oakland, Edgerrin James showed that he is back up to full speed entering the 2008 season, posting 6/26/0 rushing for a 4.3 yards per carry average during the contest. Team observers in Cardinals' country think we can expect James to wind up with around 2/3's of the carries in any given week, with newcomer Tim Hightower grabbing most of the rest of the work. Hightower did some good things during preseason, and posted 10/52/1 rushing during the week 3 "tune-up" for regular season. He looks like a capable backup to James. J.J. Arrington is in the reserve roll as of week 1.

The 49ers were in the middle of the NFL pack during 2007, averaging 118.5 rushing yards per contest, with 9 rushing scores handed over during 16 contests (tied for 7th-least in the league). Chicago posted 22/109/0 rushing vs. San Francisco during week 3 of the preseason - a 5.0 yards-per-carry average, with starter Matt Forte accounting for 11/44/0 during the game. ILB Jeff Ulbrich left the preseason game with a back injury - which is something to keep your eye on when the official injury report is released later this week. The 49ers' LB corps would be weakened if Ulbrich can't go in week 1.

Edgerrin James was the 17th-ranked fantasy RB in points per game last season, and with Kurt Warner bringing credibility to the QB position from day one this year, James is surrounded with a lot of offensive firepower that will keep defenses honest. He should find some room to roam against the so-so 49ers this week despite the Walsh Field advantage at the back of the defense.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Chris Wells comes into the regular season fired up because of persistent doubts about his ability to be a lead NFL running back: 'It's huge. I don't really like to say I have to go out and prove people wrong, but I have a lot of people saying what I can't do and who I'm not, so I'm going to go out there and play football and enjoy it.' he said on Sunday, September fourth. Wells feels that he is ready to be the team's featured runner, saying 'I was working like I was carrying the load anyway, so I don't think I have to do anything different.' Entering the 2011 regular season, Wells is ranked #24 among NFL running backs by the Footballguys.com staff of experts. The season-ending injury to rookie Ryan Williams and the preseason trade of Tim Hightower to Washington has cleared his path to carrying most of the load for Wells, but given his 56th-ranked finish last year (116/397/2 rushing with 5/74/0 receiving), Wells does have a lot to prove during 2011. He sounds like he's up to the challenge - this week we'll begin to see if Wells can back up his words and become the back the team expected when they selected him with the 31st overall pick back in 2009. Wells gave us reason for some optimism with his strong game during the week three preseason 'dress rehearsal' game vs. San Diego, when he put up 10/63/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving, sporting an outstanding 6.3 yards per carry average.

Wells draws an inviting matchup in week one, when the lowly Panthers (owners of this year's number one pick in the NFL draft) come calling. The Panthers were 23rd in the NFL last year vs. opposing backs (123.8 rushing yards allowed per game), and they coughed up 20 rushing TDs last season. In an ominous sign for 2011, the Panthers allowed the gigantic sum of 41/191/2 rushing to the Bengals in their third preseason game (a 4.7 yards per carry average), highlighting the unit's weakness up front. This squad didn't impress the Footballguys.com staff with their off- and pre-season moves/performance on defense. It's not a perfect translation to how tough the defense is against the run, but they enter 2011 ranked 26th as a team defense by the staff, with David Dodds placing them at 23rd on his individual team defense board.

Though Wells has a lot of upside potential this season, he also has a lot to prove - this week, he gets a good shot to begin his NFL redemption when Carolina's D steps onto the University of Phoenix Stadium field.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Andre Ellington comes into Week One of the regular season on a cold streak - he eked out 9/19/0 rushing with 3/8/0 receiving at Oakland in the third preseason game. Last season, Ellington fought through a myriad of foot, hip and ankle woes to just cross 1,000 yards combined (201/660/3 rushing with 46/395/2 receiving to his credit). This year, he has rookie David Johnson (4/-2/0 rushing with 4/40/1 receiving at Oakland in the third exhibition game) and veteran Chris Johnson (155/663/1 rushing with 24/151/1 receiving as a Jet last season) nipping at his heels for playing time, though Ellington enters Week One as the established starter in Arizona. Chris Johnson was listed at the backup on the first official depth chart, so he would be the next man up if Ellington goes down to injury (again).

The Saints' rush D ranked 29th in the NFL last season averaging 132.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with a whopping 17 rushing scores handed over. During the 2015 preseason this unit has been in the middle of the pack (tied for 12th), averaging 96 rushing yards allowed per game (but still coughing up six rushing scores over four contests). There is plenty of room for improvement here as you can see.

This looks like a good matchup for Ellington and company to open regular season.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Atlanta deploys a lethal rush offense that led the league last year in both yards per carry (5.1) and total yards (2672). Warrick Dunn produced 265/1106/9 rushing and 29/293/0 receiving to headline the three headed monster of Vick/Dunn/Duckett. Whatever you may think of the Falcons' prospects in the passing game, there is no doubt that they will try to jam the ball down their opponent's throats in this phase of the game.

Philadelphia ran in the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 118.9 rushing yards allowed per game (16th in the NFL), with a total of 13 rushing scores allowed last year. During the week 3 tune up game, Cincinnati managed 25/96/0 -- the Eagles are looking pretty good in this department to begin the season.

DE Jerome McDougle will miss the beginning of the season as he continues to recover from abdominal gunshot wounds suffered during the off-season. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The weather inside the Georgia Dome is expected to be perfect. No weather concerns during this matchup, folks.

Atlanta was the top rushing attack a year ago, and they bring much of the same mix to the table in this game - Philadelphia was merely average, and they are the visitors this week. Advantage, Atlanta.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

It has become apparent during the preseason that Baltimore will have to lean on Jamal Lewis more than ever this year, as Kyle Boller continues to struggle. Lewis was the 19th best fantasy back last year in points per game (averaging 12.85) - it wouldn't be a shock to see him move into the top ten among RBs this season if he can stay healthy.

The Colts weren't a great rush D last season, allowing an average of 127.3 rushing yards per game (24th in the NFL) and coughing up 12 rushing scores during the year. They've made some improvements for 2005, with MLB Gary Brackett ascending into Rob Morris' starting MLB spot and adding DT Corey Simon. Denver absolutely trampled this unit during their week 3 preseason game - 25/203/2 (starter Mike Anderson garnered 13/159/2).

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in near-perfect conditions: the forecast calls for a high of 84F and a low of 72F -- this is the Sunday night game, so the temperature will be in the low 70's -- with a 0% chance for rain. Weather won't be a factor in this matchup unless things change quickly.

Lewis is motivated, he is the focus of the Baltimore offense, and he faces a weak defense in this matchup. Baltimore has a lot going for them on Sunday night in this phase of the game.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Buffalo brings Willis McGahee to the game this weekend. This guy threw down 284/1128/13 rushing and 22/169/0 receiving during 3/4 of a season last year. The Bills have a new, inexperienced QB in starter J.P. Losman - it looks like McGahee will carry the load, at least in the initial weeks this year. Start him if you've got him.

Houston was hard to score on last year, allowing a miniscule 4 rushing TDs during the entire season (they were 13th in the league with an average of 115.2 rushing yards allowed per game). However, they aren't too impressive entering the 2005 season, having coughed up 37/158/2 to the Cowboys during their week 3 pre-season game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium is ideal - 78F for a high, 60F for a low on Sunday, with a 0% chance for rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this matchup.

McGahee is a fine, talented back - the Texans field a stubborn rush D. Home field advantage helps to tip the scales in McGahee's favor this week.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch is the Bills' every-down workhorse, but he needs some help from the guys up front. During the week 3 contest vs. Indianapolis, the Bills struggled to open lanes for Lynch (4/2/0 rushing with 1/-3/0 receiving) during his cameo appearance. The Bills were spot on 4.0 yards-per-carry last year while Lynch piled up 280/1115/7 rushing and 18/184/0 receiving in his rookie campaign (10th-best fantasy RB in points per game), so we know he can be very productive behind the line. Hopefully once the first team offense is on the field (Trent Edwards missed a lot of preseason due to a thigh injury) Lynch will enjoy more room to roam.

The Seahawks' rush D was a mixed bag last year, ranking 12th in the NFL averaging 102.8 yards allowed per game, but handed over 16 rushing scores over 16 regular season games (tied for 27th in the NFL). San Diego trampled the 'Hawks for 27/130/2 during the 3rd preseason game - without LaDainian Tomlinson. Obviously, Seattle has room for improvement in this phase of the game entering 2008. Starting DT Rocky Bernard will miss the opener due to a one-week suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, weakening the defensive front for the first contest.

Lynch has a good match-up to work with this week, at home in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Buffalo's Fred Jackson is nursing a hand injury (fracture) and Marshawn Lynch remains in the team doghouse (and he's been a gimpy ankle for much of the preseason) - it looks like the team is going to rely on rookie C.J. Spiller as their primary ball carrier, at least to open the season. Coach Chan Gailey commented on Wednesday regarding Jackson 'I think Fred Jackson will be fine for the game. He'll still be hampered a little bit with that hand. But I think they've worked it out and they should be able to pad it well enough that it should not be an issue.'. The team made Spiller the official starter when practices resumed on Wednesday, September eighth. They sat him for the final preseason game (a usual precaution for starters), and Spiller has been running strong for most of preseason. His strong showing during week three of the preseason (12/52/2 rushing with 2/33/0 receiving vs. the Bengals) likely cemented his hold on the top job with the Bills.

The Dolphins were a mediocre rush defense during 2009, averaging 114.7 yards allowed per game (18th in the NFL), while handing over 16 rushing scores. During the third game of the preseason, Atlanta posted 36/102/0 rushing vs. the Dolphins - they may have managed to improve their unit somewhat during the wind up to 2010. We'll see how Miami does when they face a full offensive package that has been game-planned, though - most teams use 'vanilla' offenses during preseason.

Spiller has looked impressive during his short time in the league, while the jury is out on the Dolphins' rush D just yet. This looks like a good matchup for the home-team Bills.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Fred Jackson only appeared in 10 games last season, but he still posted over 1,300 yards of combined offense (170/934/6 rushing with 49 targets for 39/442/0 receiving) before breaking his leg. He has since completely healed from the injury, and is poised to reclaim his leading role in the Bills' running back stable. In the third preseason game, Jackson averaged 4.9 yards per carry (7/34/1 rushing, with 1/4/0 receiving), and reports out of training camp are that he is handling the goal-line work for the first team. While Jackson was out the second half of the season, C.J. Spiller showed that he is a very capable back in his own right (107/561/4 rushing with 54 targets for 39/269/2 receiving). Spiller figures to be the change-of-pace back for the Bills - he's the junior member of this committee of backs. The Bills have a stacked backfield entering the 2012 season.

The Jets' rush D slipped into the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 111.1 rushing yards allowed per game (13th in the NFL), with 17 rushing scores allowed (tied for 27th in the NFL). DeAngelo Williams (7/28/0 rushing) and Cam Newton (2/16/0) both found room to roam while the Panthers' first team was on the field in the third preseason game - the Jets need to tighten up in this phase of the game, but we have yet to see if they can.

Jackson and Spiller have to travel to New York for this one - that's always a tough place to play - but they have a slight edge on the so-so Jets despite the hostile venue.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bills will start rookie E.J. Manuel at quarterback on Sunday. Given their powerful tandem of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, it would be no surprise to see the rookie handing off to his backs early and often in this game. Spiller was a monster running the football last season, with an astronomical 6.0 yards per carry average (207/1,244/6 rushing with 43/459/2 receiving), while Jackson managed 115/437/3 rushing and 34/217/1 receiving before going down due to LCL and MCL sprains in his right knee. Jackson is back healthy entering week one of the regular season, so Buffalo has a potent rushing attack to lean on while the green-as-grass quarterback gets acclimated to the speed of the pro game. Last year, Jackson stuffed in two rushing scores on the Patriots with 29/109/2 rushing and had 7/85/0 receiving vs. New England, while Spiller posted 17/106/0 rushing and 6/66/0 receiving against the Patriots.

On an important side note - Spiller has been away from the team dealing with a horrible homicide/suicide that involved his step-grandfather. "I understand that it is a tragic event that took place and it's going to take a while to cope with," Spiller explained on September 3, "but at the same time I can't forget the task and the goal and the dreams that we have here as a team and an organization. I wanted to be a part of that. I'll do everything I can to make sure I'm ready to go." Spiller resumed practicing on September 2.

The visiting Patriots were ninth in the NFL last year allowing an average of 101.9 yards rushing to their opponents, with 10 rushing TDs given away. Reggie Bush was contained by the Patriots in the third preseason game (6/1/0 rushing), but all told Detroit managed 29/124/1 rushing vs. New England.

The Patriots play rush D fairly well, while the Bills field an elite back in Spiller and a nice compliment in Jackson - also, the Bills will likely be very run heavy on offense in this game, played in front of their home crowd. All the above makes this a good matchup for the Bills' backs as they'll have lots of cracks at the Patriots' front seven.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The biggest question coming into week 1 about the Panthers is this: which running back will see the most carries/be most productive? As Eric Shelton is out of the picture (IR, broken foot), we're down to selecting between Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster. Foster has said that Davis is the starter - but we haven't seen much of Davis on the field. He has all of 5 carries for 17 yards and 0 TDs during preseason. Which guy will carry the load for Carolina? Right now, we think Davis will see the majority of the work but it's far from certain. This could easily be a running back by committee situation, with neither player gathering enough carries to make a big difference.

The Saints are in a tough situation - they've been evacuated from their home town, and will understandably struggle to keep up intensity in the face of the disaster that has devastated their home town and fans. On the flip side, players like Joe Horn have stated the disaster has sparked the team with a desire to give the affected people something positive to hold onto.

The Saints sport one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL (they averaged 140.8 rushing yards allowed per game last year, 30th in the league, while coughing up 16 rushing TDs during 2004). Baltimore's backups and reserves shoved the ball down the Saints' throat to the tune of 26/181/1 during the week 3 preseason game - obviously, the Saints are still vulnerable to their opponents' rushing game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Bank of America Stadium calls for a high of 86F and a low of 69F with a 0% chance of rain - it should be a great day to play some football.

Whoever carries the ball the most on Sunday should rip up the Saints soft rush D -- we think it'll be Davis but expect Foster to see significant action as well.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

DeShaun Foster finally has a chance to be the team's featured running back, now that Stephen Davis is a Ram. He has played well during the pre-season, and rookie DeAngelo Williams is 2nd on the depth chart by virtue of Foster's solid play. During week 3 of the pre-season, Foster ran for 9/41/0 vs. Miami's solid D, a 4.6 yards per carry average (Williams had 9/25/0, a 2.8 average, in contrast). Considering that the Panthers were 10th in rushing attempts last season (with 487 rushes) and Foster's career average of 4.1 yards per carry (he's been at 4.3 over the past 2 seasons that he played), Foster should do well as long as the injury bug stays away. He'll get more chances to score TDs with Davis gone, too.

The Falcons ranked 22nd in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 325 yards per game (total) and were 26th vs. the rush, coughing up 126.8 yards per game on average - and an embarrassing 4.7 yards per carry. That's not too strong, folks. Tennessee could only manage 19/54/0 vs. them during the week 3 pre-season game (when the starters generally play deeper into the contest than other exhibition games), though, so it appears that free agent import John Abraham and the return of MLB Edgerton Hartwell may have helped in this phase.

Carolina didn't have a good ypc average last year (3.4), but that was largely due to Davis' 3.0 ypc average. The Falcons may not be quite as soft as they were last year, but at home we think the Panthers' unit has the edge in this matchup.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Contrary to the wishes of many fantasy football owners, it appears that DeShaun Foster is the starter in Carolina again this season. However, we think that the workload will be split up between Foster and DeAngelo Williams in a frustrating running back by committee again during 2007. Foster looks like he'll handle more of the load, but Williams will do just enough to make Foster compromised in fantasy terms. To further complicate the situation/worry his fantasy owners, Foster was completely stuffed vs. New England during week 3 of the preseason (3/0/0 rushing and 1/8/0 receiving) while Williams fared a tad better (9/29/0 rushing and 1/9/0 receiving). This attack hasn't gotten on track entering 2007, folks.

The good news is that the Rams coughed up 46/172/1 rushing to the Raiders during week 3 of preseason, and enter 2007 after averaging 145.4 rushing yards allowed per game during 2006 (31st in the NFL) with 21 rushing TDs surrendered. This isn't a top rush defense to say the least, and it looks like there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Look for the Panthers to spread the ball around between Foster and Williams, but in aggregate they should have good results against the soft Ram defensive front.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Thomas Jones held off the challenge of Cedric Benson, largely due to Benson's shoulder woes and an attitude problem on Benson's part, and was named the opening day starter. Jones is respected on the team as a blue-collar, get-it-done guy - he had 314/1335/9 rushing and 26/143/0 receiving over 15 games last year, and carried the offense while the passing game struggled through a succession of under-powered outings. The team's 4.3 yards-per-carry average from last year is very impressive, given that almost every game the passing threat was not very legitimate.

Green Bay's defensive statistics from last year are anomalous, as they were the top-ranked pass D in terms of yards allowed per game (167.5), but 23rd in the number of passing TDs surrendered (22). They were 23rd in rush defense, giving up an average of 125.6 yards per game on the ground, but 8th in defending against rushing scores (10 allowed). Basically, once teams got into the red-zone, they passed to score - but they ran the ball to get to that position. Part of the strangeness is due to a lot of short fields being awarded to the opposition (Favre threw a horrible 29 interceptions, and the rushing offense was literally down to the last man standing by the end of the season, with Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and then finally Samkon Gado all sidelined by injury). Rookie linebackers A.J. Hawk (5th overall pick) and third-rounder Abdul Hodge will hopefully help solidify the rush defense.

Even though this game is to be held at Lambeau Field, we see this as a good matchup for the Bears' rushing attack.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bears will rely heavily on Matt Forte in the wake of the season-ending injury to his counterpart, Kevin Jones (torn ligament in his left ankle). Forte carried a heavy load last year (316/1238/8 rushing, with 63/477/4 receiving), while playing on a team that ranked 26th in the NFL in yards-per-carry (3.9 per tote on average, with 104.6 rushing yards per game, on average). Forte amassed his 4th-best fantasy back finish as a featured back - he'll be in a similar situation/facing a similar workload again this year thanks to the Jones injury. In the third preseason contest Forte racked up 9/21/1 rushing and 4/11/1 receiving (granted, vs. Denver's anemic D, but two TDs is two TDs).

The Packers' defensive front didn't perform very well last year, with an average of 131.6 rushing yards allowed per game (26th in the NFL) and 20 rushing TDs handed over to the opposition. The first team coughed up 7/46/2 rushing to Chris Wells back in week three of the preseason (22/108/2 as a team), and followed up with 43/174/1 handed over to the Titans' reserves in week four. Obviously, there is still a lot of hard work that needs to be done in Green Bay regarding this phase of the game. New DC Dom Capers intends to address this problem by installing his 3-4 front/defensive scheme in Green Bay, and the team drafted DT B.J. Raji and LB Clay Matthews with that end in mind - unfortunately Matthews has been banged up with a bad hamstring for a lot of training camp and is behind the learning curve - he is getting some playing time at ROLB recently, though.

Chicago comes into hostile Lambeau Field in this matchup, but they still have the edge over the soft Packer rush D.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Forte appears to be getting comfortable in the new Chicago offense - he had a strong outing against the pitiful Raiders in week three of the preseason, with 6/76/0 rushing and 2/33/1 receiving to his credit, including a 32-yard TD reception. . "He's getting more and more comfortable with the running lanes and the blocking schemes," QB Jay Cutler said after the third exhibition. "I think Marc [Trestman] is doing a great job of getting him outside and finding nifty ways to get him touches outside the box." As usual, Michael Bush handled goal-to-go TDs in this same game, with a 10-yard TD rush and a one-yard rushing score. The two make a formidable duo for the Bears. Last year, Forte posted 248/1,094/5 rushing and 44/340/1 receiving for the previous coaching regime, while Bush had 114/411/5 rushing and 9/83/0 receiving.

The Bengals' rush D was ranked 12th in the NFL averaging 107.2 rushing yards allowed per game, while allowing a frugal 13 rushing TDs to opponents over 16 games. During the third exhibition game, DeMarco Murray posted 12/51/0 rushing on the Bengals, and the Cowboys eventually ran for 43/154/0 dring the contest - not a stout showing on the part of the Bengals' starters vs. Murray or their expanded preseason unit as a whole. We'll see if they can get closer to last year's levels now that the games count.

Forte is going strong entering regular season (and this game goes down at Soldier Field), while the Bengals were middle-of-the-road run defenders last year and aren't dominating to begin this year either. Advantage, Chicago.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Cedric Benson resurrected his career last season in Cincinnati, leading the team in rushing with 214 /747/2 rushing and 20/185/0 receiving after taking over for bust Chris Perry. However, the team only averaged 3.6 yards per rush last season (30th in the NFL) while Carson Palmer was sidelined most of the campaign - there is lots of room for improvement on this unit during 2009. So far Benson hasn't been overwhelming in the preseason cameos, with 5/17/0 rushing vs. St. Louis in week three of the preseason - he did bust off a long run vs. the Colts in week four, and ended up with 2/35/0 rushing and 1/9/0 receiving during that game.

Denver's defense was in shambles during 2008, with an average of 146.1 rushing yards allowed per game (27th in the NFL) and a total of 26 rushing TDs coughed up as well. They didn't do much of anything right in this phase of the game last year. Chicago ground out 28/114/2 rushing vs. Denver in week three of the preseason - new DC Mike Nolan has his work cut out for him during 2009.

Benson was steady but not outstanding last year - against the soft Broncos, he has a shot at a nice game to start out 2009. Advantage, Cincinnati.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Battle of Ohio will be joined once again in week one, with in-state and in-division rivals Cleveland and Cincinnati crossing swords at Cleveland Browns' Stadium. Cedric Benson (321/1,111 yards/7 TDs rushing with 28/178/1 receiving last season to check in as the 17th fantasy RB in the PPR paradigm) got his jail-time out of the way at the end of preseason and is back with the Bengals as of September third, and he is expected to start for Cincinnati as usual in this contest. Bernard Scott has posted solid numbers during the exhibition season and the coaching staff has been frank about their desire to get him the football more this year - we'll see how the workload actually breaks down this week now that the games count. David Dodd's projections have Benson leading the way with over 70 yards combined and a good shot at a score, while Bernard Scott figures to see around eight carries and a reception for ~50 yards combined in a change-of-pace role.

The Browns bring a less-than-intimidating defense to this episode of the rivalry, with a unit that was 27th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 129.4 rushing yards per game. However, the Browns did get stubborn in the red zone, with just seven rushing TDs allowed through 16 contests - when the field was compressed teams didn't have a lot of luck scoring on Cleveland. During the third preseason contest, Philadelphia steamrolled over Cleveland for 32/147/3 rushing during the contest, indicating there is still a lot of work that this unit needs to do in order to climb out of the NFL cellar as a rush D. Cleveland is ranked in the bottom tier of the NFL team defenses by the Footballguys.com staff consensus (30th) and on David Dodds' individual board (26th).

Benson and Scott have a good matchup to work with despite being on the Browns' home turf this Sunday.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jeremy Hill (222/1,124/9 rushing with 27/215/0 receiving to his credit last season) exploded into the fantasy world in just eight starts last season, and has a stranglehold on the top job in Cincinnnati entering 2015. His compatriot, Giovani Bernard, does a great job as the change of pace back for the Bengals (168/680/5 rushing with 43/349/2 receiving during 2014). Both backs went over 1,000 yards combined last season, and they are both still young and resilient. This is a very solid running back tandem, friends.

The Raiders' rush D was soft last year, ranking 22nd in the NFL averaging 119.4 yards allowed per game, with 17 rushing scores given out. They averaged 117.5 yards rushing allowed during exhibition season, with three rushing scores surrendered - it doesn't look like much has changed here for the Raiders entering 2015.

Advantage, Cincinnati.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Reuben Droughns had a rough off-season, with several brushes with the law. However, he is atop the depth chart in Cleveland and ready to help power the Browns' offense. There is a big depth problem at center on the OL, where the Browns lost LeCharles Bentley to a season-ending knee injury, Bob Hallen retired and then Alonzo Ephraim was handed a 4-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Ross Tucker is the 4th player to man the starting C position, so there is a lack of continuity along the line. Droughns didn't look too strong in the 3rd pre-season game, either, rushing for 8/17/0 and grabbing 1/2/0 in a limited appearance. He'll have to do better than that to repeat his season of a year ago (309/1232/2 rushing and 39/369/0 receiving). Jerome Harrison is the backup now that the team disposed of Lee Suggs (cut) and William Green (IR).

New Orleans suffered through a very difficult, nomadic season last year, ranking 14th in total yards allowed (312.1 per game), but 27th in rushing yards given up (134.1 per game on average). They gave up 16 rushing scores to rank 23rd in that department. They have added Scott Fujita to the LB corps, which might help some, but lost free agent Tommy Polley to IR before the season even began. It remains to be seen if this unit is able to better their miserable 2005 performance - they did hold the Edgerrin James-less Colts to 38/60/1 in the 3rd pre-season game, which is a somewhat hopeful sign.

Droughns has a good matchup to exploit this week, if his OL can open up some holes for him to run through.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Trent Richardson opens the season at home - he is primed for a huge role in Norv Turner's offense, and head coach Rod Chudzinski said on September 3 that he wants Richardson to "play as much as possible.", this year. All this means that Richardson is going to be a three-down back with a role in all third-down packages and goal-line packages - and he'll also be in the two-minute/hurry-up packages. Can you say "workhorse running back"? That term is increasingly rare and music to fantasy owners' ears. "You just got to step up and get in shape. Just take it upon yourself, put the team on your back, whatever it takes." Richardson stated on September 3. Considering that Richardson had 1,317 yards combined and 12 TDs total last year, an increase in his workload should lead to even more stellar numbers for Richardson's fantasy owners. Richardson is the third-ranked fantasy running back for week one according to Footballguys.com's David Dodds' first-cut projections - start him and smile, fantasy owners.

The Dolphins' rush D was in the middle of the NFL pack last year averaging 108.4 yards allowed per game (13th in the NFL), but they got stubborn at the goal line with just 10 rushing scores handed over during the 16-game season. During their third exhibition game vs. the Buccaneers' second-and-third-string running backs (Doug Martin was held out for precautionary reasons), the Dolphins limited Tampa Bay to 26/90/1 rushing. So far, so good for the Dolphins' defensive front.

Richardson has home-field advantage in this contest, and he should handle the football a lot - against the so-so Dolphins, this looks like a good matchup for the Browns' lead back.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Tate is the starter and lead back in Cleveland entering Week One. He played just one series in the third preseason game (3/5/0 rushing) and has reportedly looked strong throughout camp after arriving from Houston this past offseason. Rookie Terrance West (7/17/0 rushing vs. St. Louis) is the number two running back, followed by fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell. We expect to see Tate get the majority of work during regular season, with West in for a couple of series per game and when Tate needs to catch his breath on the sidelines.

The Steelers' defense was 21st in the NFL vs. opposing running backs last season, averaging 115.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing scores handed over during 16 games. They allowed 6.0 yards per carry to LeSean McCoy (4/24/0) and 5.5 per tote and a TD to Darren Sproles (6/33/1) during the third preseason game, and eventually coughed up 35/182/3 to the Eagles - if Pittsburgh has improved in this phase of the game it didn't show during the third exhibition game when the first-team played the longest. Uh oh, Steelers' fans.

Advantage, Cleveland, despite traveling to Heinz Field for the season opener.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Julius Jones is the Man in Dallas. He threw down 10/50/1 rushing and 1/-2/0 receiving for the Cowboys vs. Houston during week 3 of the preseason. After piling up 197/819/7 rushing and 17/109/0 receiving during half of the 2004 season, he looks ready to headline for the Cowboys all year long. Anthony Thomas is an ideal #2 back/compliment to Jones. Between the 2 players, the Cowboys' rushing attack will be feared.

San Diego ranked third in the league last year, allowing a mere 81.7 rushing yards per contest (they did cough up 15 rushing scores - their goal-line D wasn't among the strongest in the league). 2004 statistics were skewed by the fact that the Chargers fielded one of the worst secondaries in the league. The high octane Vikings totaled 31/122/1 vs. this unit during their preseason game week 3. The Chargers look like a mediocre unit heading into the 2005 regular season.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

San Diego is noted for it's great weather, and this Sunday is no different. Qualcomm Stadium should have a high of 78F and a low of 62F with a 10% chance of rain. Both teams will benefit from playing in such mild conditions.

Dallas has a top-notch running game, while the Chargers seem to be in neutral entering 2005. Advantage, Dallas.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Dallas has a new head coach (Wade Phillips) with a new attitude - but assistant head coach Tony Sparano is still in charge of the running game, and it looks like the RBBC will continue. Phillips stated on 8/29/07 "It used to be you had one running back. Now it's changed where a lot of teams have been able to utilize two good backs. That's the situation I've walked into and I think it's a good situation... So we're going to try to utilize both of them." That means that Julius Jones will run the ball between the 20's (he posted 267/1084/4 rushing with 9/142/0 receiving last year in this role), while Marion Barber III will attempt to recreate his 135/654/14 rushing and 23/196/2 receiving campaign again this year. It is worth while to note that Barber had 138/538/5 rushing and 18/115/0 receiving during 2005 - we'll soon see which direction he's leaning under new head coach Wade Phillips.

The Giants welcomed Michael Strahan back to the team over the weekend, but it remains to be seen if he is in football shape or not. Last year, the Giants were in the middle of the NFL averaging 114.4 rushing yards allowed (14th in the league), and surrendered 19 rushing TDs (on the high end of the scale in the NFL - St. Louis was the worst last year with 21 rushing TDs given away). The Jets threw down 28/85/2 against the Giants during week 3 of the preseason - without their top back Thomas Jones.

The Cowboys have the backs to pound the ball, while the Giants are suspect in this phase. Advantage, Cowboys.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

NFC East divisional games are always hard-fought affairs, and the Giants/Cowboys rivalry is no exception to this general statement. DeMarco Murray (161/63/4 rushing with 34/247/0 receiving over 10 games played last year) enters regular season healthy. He played well in the third exhibition game vs. the Bengals, posting 12/51/0 rushing and 2/14/0 receiving. Right now, his backups are Lance Dunbar (coming off a sprained left foot, probably not available for week one), Joseph Randle (16/66/0 rushing vs. Cicinnnati) and Phillip Tanner (14/39/0 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving vs. the Bengals). Murray figures to get the lion's share of the carries during regular season as long as he stays healthy.

The Giants' rush D ranked 25th in the NFL last year in terms of average yards allowed per game (129.1), but they got hard-nosed at the goal-line and only allowed nine rushing TDs all year. The Jets eked out 29/39/1 rushing vs. the Giants in the third preseason game, but they had a rookie quarterback under center making it easy for the Giants to stack the box in that situation.

Dallas has a fine back in Murray, while the Giants' rush D was so-so last year on balance. At home in Cowboys' Stadium we give Murray a slight edge in this contest.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Owning a Denver running back is the fantasy equivalent of going in for a weekly root canal - you know it's gonna be painful, but you just have to do it because the alternative is worse. This year is no different, with coach Shanahan playing coy yet again about who is going to tote the rock. One thing is apparent - a guy named Bell will get at least some of the work on Sunday. The only question is, will it be Mike Bell or Tatum Bell who rises to the top of the heap in terms of carries and production. After training camp and pre-season, it's a close call. Going into week 1, we're betting Mike Bell gets the majority of the work - but who ends up with the most yards and touchdowns remains to be seen. None of these guys (Cedric Cobbs is also in the mix) has solidified the top spot as of week 1.

Luckily for whoever ends up running the ball, St. Louis rush defense was pathetic last year. They ranked 28th with 136.1 rushing yards allowed per game last season, and were dead last in rushing TDs allowed (22). Free agents MLB Will Witherspoon and DT LaRoi Glover were brought in to help slow down opposing rushers this year - they limited the Chiefs to 39/110/1 during week 3 of the pre-season, but starter Larry Johnson plunked down 9/37/1 in a short appearance vs. the first team - there is still work that needs to be done in St. Louis.

This looks like a good matchup for the Broncos' squad of runners.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Denver enters 2014 with a new featured running back, Montee Ball - unfortunately, due to a training camp appendectomy, we didn't get to see a lot of Ball in his new featured role, though he did have four rushes for 13 yards and four receptions for 21 yards against the Houston Texans during the third exhibition game. After the game, Ball noted he’d been working with Peyton Manning after practices on catching the football, 'it really expands our offense and puts a lot of pressure on the defense by having a back that can catch the ball like that.', he stated. Given Ball’s return, Ronnie Hillman (7/24/0 rushing with 1/5/0 receiving vs. Houston) did not start against Houston, but he was the first back off of the bench, spelling Ball during the first drive and then handling RB duties for the remainder of the first half. It's clear that Hillman is the second running back on the depth chart with C.J. Anderson (3/16/0 rushing with 1/-3/0 receiving) holding the reserve role as of Week One. David Dodd's initial week one projections have Ball at fifth fantasy running back overall with 18/80/.7 rushing and 3/20/.1 receiving against Indianapolis, while Hillman should see around 5/22/.1 rushing and 2/14/.1 receiving in a change-of-pace role.

Indianapolis was ranked 26th in the NFL last season averaging 125.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores given up over 16 games played. They allowed 8/46/0 rushing to Mark Ingram during the third preseason game (5.8 yards per carry), and coughed up a total of 35/160/0 rushing to the Saints as a team during that third exhibition game. There is still a lot of room for improvement by the Colts' defensive front in this phase of the game.

At home in Mile High Stadium, we think the Broncos hold an edge over the weak Indianapolis defensive front - advantage, Denver.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Kevin Jones has been a bright spot for the Lions. He hits the hole decisively and looks like the back we expected him to be after last year's late charge. He ground out 9/38/0 (1/9/0 receiving) against the Rams despite the passing games' struggles. Jones is the real deal, folks. Start him if you've got him.

Green Bay was in the middle of the NFL pack last season in this phase of the game, giving up an average of 117.4 rushing yards per contest (14th in the NFL) and a total of 12 rushing scores during the year. New England ripped them for 34/155/2 during the week 3 preseason game - the Packers look pretty suspect in this phase of the game.

Green Bay’s starting OLB Na'il Diggs has a partially torn MCL in his left knee and will miss at least 2 weeks. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in Ford Field's dome, so weather won't be a factor.

The up an coming Jones should have a good game at home against the luke-warm Packers.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The situation in Detroit as it stands week 1 is this: Tatum Bell is the starting RB, keeping Kevin Jones' roster spot warm, while backup T.J. Duckett is the wild card (he may be the goal-line "plunge back"). Jones did not go on the PUP List as had been feared and is on the active roster. Coach Rod Marinelli would not rule out Jones playing this week, but it seems unlikely. Remember that last year the Lions were dead last in the NFL in rushing yards and 26th in rushing TDs (304/1129/9 as a team) - Bell will be the guy week 1, but the question for fantasy owners is "what will he do with his chance?". We haven't seen a lot of Bell during preseason (for example, he posted 3/12/0 rushing during week 3 of the preseason), so it's unclear how effective Bell will be as the "Martz back" while Jones gets healthy.

However the Lions opt to parse out the carries this week, Bell and Duckett should find room to roam vs. Oakland's 25th-ranked rush D (the Raiders averaged 134 yards allowed per game on the ground last year, with 15 TDs given up). St. Louis posted 17/96/0 against this unit during week 3 of preseason (5.6 yards per carry) - there is a lot of room for improvement along the Raiders' defensive front.

This is a good matchup for the Lions' stable of backs.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jahvid Best has looked outstanding throughout preseason, with a minimum yards-per-carry average of 4.8 during his outings (the other two times he averaged 6.1 and 51 yards per carry (1/51/0)). He's also caught at least one pass per game in which he appeared and has averaged 7.2 yards per catch so far (4/29/0). In short, Best is a very promising rookie who has cemented his hold on the top job in Detroit, while backup Kevin Smith is still fighting his way back from a serious knee injury. Head coach Jim Schwartz commented after the third preseason game, 'Kevin's usually pretty good with the football, he doesn't fumble very often and I'm sure he's very disappointed to put that ball on the ground. It really wasn't a big hit but, again, he's coming back from a major injury and there are a million things going through his mind and ball security was one of the last ones. He needs to do a better job of taking care of that football. He did a nice job in the pass game and in protections and all that stuff. Kevin's still working his way back from a major injury.' Best is one of those rarest of fantasy commodities in the modern NFL - a true featured back.

The Bears' rush D was sub-par last year, ranking 23rd in the NFL allowing an average of 126.4 net rushing yards per game, with 14 rushing TDs given away. They do get MLB Brian Uhrlacher back into the defensive mix this year (he missed a majority of last season, 15 games, due to a badly dislocated wrist), and if he's retained his skills Uhrlacher can be a difference maker. In the third preseason game vs. Arizona the Bears limited the Cardinals to 25/87/0 rushing, a 3.5 yards allowed per carry average.

Best looks like the real deal, and he's got a suspect divisional rival in front of him for the season opener. This looks like a good matchup for the youngster.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jahvid Best battled through dual turf-toe injuries during 2010 and posted a disappointing 172/563/4 rushing with 58/487/2 receiving during parts of 15 games (he ended up the 20th-ranked fantasy RB in the PPR paradigm last year). He came into training camp healthy, but in competition with Mikel LeShoure for touches on the football - but LeShoure was bitten by the injury bug (Achilles' tendon injury) and placed on IR during preseason. Unfortunately, Best suffered a concussion in week two of the exhibition season and only managed a brief cameo in the fourth preseason game (2/2/0 rushing) before being shown the bench. 'I'll be playing a lot next week (Week 1 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers),' Best said on September third. 'I'm really excited. I mean, I'm not going out there to prove anything. I'm going out there to just play, but I'm really excited about week one.' While Best recovered from his head trauma, Aaron Brown and Jerome Harrison carried the load for Detroit (but Brown was released on September fourth, the day after cut-down day, for an offensive lineman). If Best encounters trouble in week one, it'll likely mean that Harrison steps in to carry the rock. We think that Best is fully recovered, though, and that he'll get the lion's share of carries in week one, landing among the top-12 fantasy RBs during opening weekend (with around 90 yards combined and perhaps a rushing TD, according to David Dodds' projections).

The Buccaneers' defense struggled to contain opposing runners last year, averaging 131.7 rushing yards allowed per game (28th in the NFL) and giving up 12 rushing TDs during regular season. The team drafted and will start MLB Mason Foster in their base D this season - he is largely an unknown quantity at this level and will face a steep learning curve anchoring the Tampa D as a rookie middle linebacker. There are a lot of question marks surrounding this defensive front as of opening weekend, friends. Miami really struggled to move the ball at all against them in the third preseason game (17/22/0 rushing as a team), but we're not going to give an exhibition game too much regard as Reggie Bush only got seven touches on the football in that game (5/-1/0 rushing and 2/23/0 receiving).

Best is the key running back for Detroit this year - hopefully he'll avoid injury in the opener and flash his considerable skills while challenging the suspect Tampa Bay D.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Lions have a great 1-2 punch to throw at all comers this year, with Reggie Bush (23/1,006/4 rushing with 54/506/3 receiving last season) and Joique Bell (166/650/8 rushing with 53/547/0 receiving during 2013) both healthy and ready to rock as of Week One, regular season. Bush rocked the Jaguars during the third preseason game with an impressive 86-yard TD run and finished the game with 2/95/1 rushing. Bell posted 7/24/0 rushing and 1/1/0 receiving during his chances - both backs are in shape and ready to start ripping up opposing defenses.

The Giants' rush D ranked 14th in the league last year averaging 108.9 rushing yards given up per game, with 12 rushing scores handed out over 16 games. Chris Ivory (6/50/0 rushing with 1/23/0 receiving) and Chris Johnson (9/42/0 rushing with 2/35/0 receiving) had no problems slicing through the Giants' defensive front during the third preseason game, though - in the end, the Jets had 32/146/0 rushing against the Giants. There is room for improvement here, friends.

Advantage, Lions.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Is Ahman Green back, or not? After a disappointing 2004 campaign (259/1163/7 rushing with 40/275/1 receiving), most fantasy owners are wondering if Green has lost that crucial half step that divides fantasy stars from fantasy scrubs. Putting up 11/23/0 vs. New England during week 3 of the preseason didn't make anyone feel more comfortable about Green (he did snag 3 receptions for 26 yards and 0 TDs during the game, though).

Detroit's rush D was middling last year, averaging 117.9 yards allowed per game (15th in the NFL) with 10 rushing scores allowed during 16 games. Not too shabby. However, the team looked horrible vs. the Rams during week 3 of the preseason, giving away 39/183/2 in this phase of the game - they enter regular season back on their heels, at the very least.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in Ford Field's dome, so weather won't be a factor.

Green is looking to make a statement, while the Lions are just looking to be respectable. Advantage, Green Bay.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Eddie Lacy (246/1,139/9 rushing with 42/427/4 receiving during 2014) and James Starks (85/333/2 rushing with ) will be the 1-2 punch for Green Bay at running back once again this year. Lacy is a top-10 fantasy back in all formats and Starks is a solid second option for Green Bay. The Packers enter 2015 in good shape among the running backs' stable.

The Bears' rush D was not good last year, ranking 17th in the NFL while averaging 112.7 rushing yards allowed per game, with 12 rushing TDs given out. Chicago averaged 106.5 rushing yards allowed per game during exhibitions (19th in the NFL) with three preseason TDs coughed up. They look mired somewhere in the middle of the NFL pack again this season.

Though Green Bay is on the road, they will quiet the Windy City fans with Lacy's performance on Sunday. Advantage, Green Bay.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Domanick Davis is out for the season on IR due to his knee injury, so in his place the Texans will be starting rookie Wali Lundy and adding a heavy dose of Vernand Morency to try and form an adequate replacement for Davis. Lundy played college ball at Virginia and was a 6th round draft pick this year. The good news for Lundy owners is that the Texans' line, though they can't pass block, are decent run blockers, tying for 9th in the NFL while averaging 4.2 yards per carry during 2005. We'll see how he does in live, regular season action - during pre-season week 3, Lundy managed 10/44/0 rushing and 3/17/0 receiving vs. the tough Broncos' defense, while Morency posted 13/36/0 rushing and 3/20/0 receiving. The pair may fill in for Davis quite nicely.

The Eagle's rush defense was sub-par last year, ranking 21st in the NFL while allowing 117.7 rushing yards per game - they also coughed up 15 rushing scores, which was 21st in the NFL. Pittsburgh slapped down 30/108/0 on this unit during week 3 of the pre-season - the Eagles are still a work in progress, with aging linebackers (Dhani Jones and Jeremiah Trotter, to name 2) at #1 on the depth chart. We'll see if free-agent import DL Darren Howard and DT Brodrick Bunkley can help shore up the trenches.

In the Texans' house, this looks like a good matchup for the young tandem of Lundy/Morency.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ahman Green relocated to Houston during the offseason, part of the offensive makeover that the Texans have carried out entering 2007. He rejoins Mike Sherman (now OC in Houston), giving him an instant rapport with the offensive coaching staff. During week 3 of the preseason, Green ripped up the Dallas Cowboys with 8/65/0 rushing and 1/13/0 receiving - he looks primed to have a solid season with his new team.

Kansas City ranked 18th against the run last season (120.5 rushing yards allowed per game) and handed over 14 rushing scores during 2006. Herm Edwards and company weren't thrilled with their week 3 preseason contest vs. New Orleans, when the Saints piled up 37/197/2 on the ground - there is a lot of work to do if the Chiefs' defensive front is to hold up against the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson and Travis Henry.

This is a good matchup for the home-team Texans.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The big question looming for the Houston Texans and fantasy owners everywhere is this: how healthy is Arian Foster's aching hamstring? For a full analysis of why this injury is a worrying injury, go read Footballguy Dr. Jene Bramel's explanation HERE (http://subscribers.footballguys.com/2011/11bramel_2ndopinion.php). As Dr. Bramel explains: 'It takes time for the bleeding inside the muscle belly to resorb and for the associated inflammation to settle so that the muscle fibers can heal. Even a mild hamstring strain represents torn muscle fibers. Come back too soon and it's easy to re-aggravate the injury, and potentially suffer a more significant tear. One study of NFL players returning from hamstring injuries reported that at least a third re-aggravate the injury within two weeks of returning.'

Foster has repeatedly insisted that he'll be fine, but there is good reason to be worried about his readiness for week one, folks, as Foster has already aggravated this injury once during preseason. Owners of Foster, Derrick Ward and Ben Tate will want to pay close attention to the reports out of practices this week and what injury status the team assigns to Foster on the official injury report. It is likely that we'll only know Foster's status in a dreaded game-time decision. Foster owners will want to check our late-breaking updates on Sunday morning before setting their week one lineups.

Given all the uncertainty surrounding Foster in week one, it's worth looking at how Tate and Ward have done during preseason - Tate didn't play until the second preseason game, but then he posted a strong showing with 5/95/1 rushing vs. New Orleans (and 1/13/0 receiving). Tate also led the team in rushing during the third 'dress rehearsal' for regular season, with 11/52/0 rushing and 2/14/0 receiving at San Francisco, while Ward posted 6/13/1 rushing and had one target for zero receptions. It looks to us that if Foster can't go, Tate would likely split the load with Ward, but that Tate would put up better numbers. We'll just have to wait and see how Fosters' recovery pans out.

The Colts' rush D was among the league's weakest units during 2010, allowing an average of 127 yards per game (25th in the NFL), with 14 rushing TDs surrendered. After awarding Peyton Manning a $90 million extension, the Colts didn't have a lot of extra cash to spend on the defense during free agency, either. Even so, the Colts did limit Green Bay's backs to 19/45/0 rushing in the third preseason contest, so there is some hope that they are moving in the right direction entering 2011. While it's not a perfect measuring stick to say how tough or soft the Colts' rush D is, it is worth noting that the Footballguys.com staff consensus ranking of the Indianapolis team defense is 19th overall, while David Dodds' individual rankings slots them at 22nd. This is not a shut-down type of defense most of the time, folks.

The Texans have a good matchup for their home opener in Reliant Stadium - if only they have their top running back to exploit it...

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Arian Foster has been MIA throughout preseason contests due to an ongoing hamstring injury. Various reports have said that he's run with his usual acceleration and agility during practice sessions, but when it comes to game day the team has steadily elected to not expose him to game time conditions. On September 2, Foster said he feels 'wonderful' physically, and stated, 'I'm excited about (Sunday). I can't wait to play football.' While Foster sat out of preseason, youngsters Jonathan Grimes (21/73/1 rushing and 6/76/0 receiving during two games for the Texans last year) and rookie Alfred Blue beat out veterans Andre Brown and Dennis Johnson for roster spots. They are his backups, with veteran Ronnie Brown in a reserve/mentor role as of Week One.

The Washington rush D ranked 17th in the NFL last season allowing an average of 110.6 rushing yards per game, but they coughed up a hefty 23 rushing scores during the season (dead last in the NFL in this category). During the third preseason game Baltimores' starter Bernard Pierce was knocked out of the game early on due to a concussion (after four rushes for -3 yards), and the defense managed his backups fairly well, holding the Ravens to 28/82/0 rushing as a team. If Washington can do as well against an elite back like Foster, they will prove something to us.

Foster and company have a good matchup against a suspect unit that may be improving - time will tell this tale.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Joseph Addai is the man in Indianapolis now, with Dominic Rhodes cooling his heels in Oakland on suspension. He's positioned to be the featured back on one of the best offenses in the NFL. During week 3 of the preseason, Addai and company nuked Detroit 37-10 and Addai flashed his dual-threat talents with 5/18/0 rushing and 5/48/0 receiving during a part-game appearance. It looks like the lights are all green for Addai entering 2007.

New Orleans visits the RCA Dome with the 23rd ranked rush D from a year ago, averaging 128.9 yards allowed per game - they handed over a scant 10 rushing TDs last year, though. Without Larry Johnson during week 3 of the preseason, the Chiefs mustered 18/54/1 rushing against the Saints - but going into a game without Larry Johnson is like going mountain climbing with only 1 boot. The jury is out on the Saints' defense this year - Addai will test them on Thursday.

This looks like a good matchup for Addai and the Colts.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Colts' are set at RB with Joseph Addai (last year's 5th best running back in points per game, with 261/1072/12 rushing and 41/364/3 receiving), once-again colt Dominic Rhodes and a good-looking rookie in Mike Hart. However, their OL has suffered considerable attrition during preseason due to injuries - C Jeff Saturday is likely to miss half the year at least due to his right knee (ligament damage), and veteran G Ryan Lilja is still recovering from offseason knee surgery. During the 3rd preseason game vs. Buffalo, the Colts could only manage 12/32/0 rushing, an ominous sign for fantasy owners invested in the attack. However, the team was also without Peyton Manning (who is expected back for the first regular season game) - obviously, the team has much less passing threat when Manning is sidelined.

The Bear's once-feared D faltered last year and ended up in the bottom tier of NFL defenses vs. opposing running backs, allowing an average of 122.9 yards per game (24th in the NFL) and handed over 17 rushing scores (29th in the NFL). This year, they are hoping the MLB Brian Urlacher can play at the top of his abilities and help the defense rebound - but that was something they didn't do vs. San Francisco in the 3rd preseason game. The 49ers rushed for 35/160/2 as a team - it looks like the Bears have a long way to go in improving their defense this year.

The Colts' OL has injury challenges, but the Bears don't look very scary entering week 1. In Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts have an edge over their suspect opponents.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

With the upheaval at QB this week, look for Tennessee to attack the line of scrimmage and dare the Jaguars to throw the ball. The Titans were cellar dwellers vs. the running game last year - 30th in the NFL, averaging 144.6 yards allowed per game (with 20 rushing scores handed over) - but this is a special circumstance. During the week 3 preseason game (when the starters play the deepest into the game), Tennessee held the Bills to 28/94/1 on the ground (a 3.4 yards per carry average).

Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor need to play large this week while the team settles in with David Garrard as the starting QB. Between the 2 backs (with a little help from others on the team), Jacksonville ranked 3rd in the NFL with 2541 rushing yards and 2nd in the league with 23 rushing TDs last year. We'll get our first glimpse of the new attack on Sunday - hopefully, Garrard can present a credible enough threat in the passing game to open up the field for Jones-Drew and Taylor.

This looks like a good matchup, but realize Tennessee is going to force the issue in this phase of the game.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Maurice Jones-Drew played sparingly during preseason (he had 7/28/0 rushing in the third exhibition game) as he is coming off a corrective surgery for a Lisfranc injury during the offseason. He is reportedly looking good entering regular season and figures to be the centerpiece of the Jaguars' offense again this year with limited Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as the options at starting quarterback for the Jaguars. Justin Forsett missed almost all of preseason due to a turf toe injury but finally started practicing on September 2, while Jordan Todman did a lot of the running during preseason and did well enough to make the 53-man roster. Unless Jones-Drew has a setback with his foot, the backups are unlikely to see significant touches in any given game.

The Chiefs' rush D was putrid during 2012, averaging 135.7 yards allowed per game (27th in the NFL), though they did get more stubborn at the goal line with just 11 rushing scores allowed. We'll see if the new coaching regime, led by Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton can get better results out of their personnel - Pittsburgh was held to 28/97/0 rushing during the third preseason game.

Jones-Drew is still knocking off the rust, but with precious few other options on offense while Jusin Blackmon serves a suspension, look for him to have a healthy diet of touches during week one - he's Footballguys.com's 14th-ranked fantasy running back for week one.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Kansas City has Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson in their arsenal at RB. Holmes has averaged 4.4 yards per carry since landing in K.C., while Johnson averaged 4.8 yards per carry in limited work last year. Holmes has scored 66 TDs over the past 3 years, while Johnson has punched in 10 TDs in his few chances.

Kansas City fields one of the very best rushing attacks in the NFL, folks.

The Jets were one of the best rush defenses last year, allowing only 97.9 rushing yards per game and 8 rushing scores over a 16 game slate. That's pretty tough, folks. They held Tiki Barber to 13/47/0 during week 3 of the preseason, and allowed an average of 3.4 yards per carry (0 TDs) during the game. The Jets look ready to rumble in this phase of the game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Arrowhead Stadium calls for a high of 87F and a low of 64F with a 0% chance of precipitation. You couldn't ask for better weather on opening day.

At home, the Chiefs have a slight edge over the Jets' fine defense. Expect Holmes to see the lion's share of work but he will yield some carries to Johnson.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Larry Johnson and the Chiefs finally found common ground and concluded a contract. Johnson's stats the last 2 years speak for themselves - he is easily a top 5 running back and some missed practices shouldn't impact him too much at this stage of his career. He worked out extensively during his contract negotiations, which should help maintain his stamina and conditioning now that he's back on the squad.

The Texans were pretty weak vs. the rush last year, allowing an average of 122.3 rushing yards per game (20th in the NFL) and handed over 16 rushing TDs. They gave up a mere 21/57/0 rushing to the Cowboys during week 3 of the preseason - it looks like the rush defense is ready to rock entering regular season.

Johnson is an all-world back, and he's a guy you almost have to start just because of who he is, but at Reliant Stadium and coming off a long lay-off we're going to guardedly call this a good matchup for Johnson and the Chiefs.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jamaal Charles participated fully during training camp and posted 3/12/0 rushing and 1/11/0 receiving in the preseason opener vs. Arizona, following up with 3/17/0 rushig and 2/18/0 receiving at St. Louis during the second preseason game, and then racked up 6/32/0 rushing with 1/7/0 receiving vs. Seattle in the third preseason contest. As of week one, regular season, Charles appears fully healed from his torn left ACL suffered September 18, 2011. However, since last year the team has bolstered the #2 running back position by signing Peyton Hillis away from Cleveland - Hillis had his best season in Cleveland (270/1,177/5 rushing wit 61/477/0 receiving during 2010) under Kansas City's new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. All local reports indicate that the team wants to run the ball over 500 times this year, with plenty of touches for both Charles and Hillis - this looks like a close work-sharing arrangement with Charles seeing a slight majority of touches, but it may well end up very close to a 50-50 split.

The Falcons' rush D was sixth in the NFL last year averaging 97 rushing yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores given up over 16 games (tied for sixth in the NFL). However, as Footballguys.com defensive players' expert John Norton points out: 'I believe the Falcons will miss MLB Curtis Lofton a lot more than they expected this year. Not only was he the centerpiece of the run defense, Lofton was their leader. He was also the team's nickel and dime package linebacker. Akeem Dent will try to replace Lofton's run stopping while Stephen Nicholas will take over the nickel snaps. I see this as a downgrade on both ends.'. Complicating matters further, Dent missed the middle part of training camp due to a concussion, cutting down on his reps in his new role as the starting MLB. Daniel Thomas, part of Miami's committee of running backs, averaged 4.8 yards per carry vs. Atlanta in the third preseason game (6/29/0), though Reggie Bush was not as successful running the football that day (5/17/0 rushing, a 3.4 yards per carry average). It appears that the Falcons have some question marks about their defensive front seven entering week one of regular season.

The Chiefs have a powerful 1-2 combination to throw at the Falcons' defenders, while Atlanta enters 2012 with a transition ongoing in the middle of their defensive front. On balance, this looks like a good matchup for the Chiefs who enjoy a big home-field edge in Arrowhead Stadium.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ronnie Brown has some company in the Miami backfield entering 2007 - Jesse Chatman looks like a threat for some playing time, and Lorenzo Booker is going to get his chances on third downs. The situation has degenerated (from a fantasy football perspective) into a running back by committee. Brown commented on 8/28/07 "I think [the competition] will continue. We're going to come out and compete each day and try to make each other better. We're both going to be in there and have the same goals as far as winning football games. So if I can come out and make him better by competing, and he does the same for me, I think it will help the team throughout the season." This week, we think Brown will do the heavy lifting for the Dolphins vs. Washington, while Chatman figures in as a change of pace/stand in for Brown.

The Redskins were 27th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 137.3 yards on the ground per game. However, they were tougher in the red zone, with only 9 rushing scores handed over. During week 3 of preseason, Washington held Baltimore to 11/55/0 on the ground - we'll see if they can hold down the Dolphins at home this week.

This looks like a good matchup for the Dolphins' crowded backfield.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Dolphins were tied for 14th in the NFL last season, averaging a healthy 4.2 yards per carry (118.6 rushing yards per game). Ronnie Brown figures to be the lead back of the Dolphins' committee this year (he's now 2 years removed from reconstructive knee surgery and has ran strongly during preseason - we've only seen glimpses of his game to date (4/12/0 rushing and 2/15/0 receiving vs. the Bucs in the third preseason game; 3/14/0 rushing and 2/8/0 receiving in the fourth), and all reports out of training camp indicated he's more involved in the offense, not less. Ricky Williams has been steadily productive as well and seems ready to reprise his change-of-pace role from 2008.

The Falcons' rush D ranked 25th in the NFL last year, averaging 127.5 yards allowed per game, with 17 rushing TDs surrendered during 16 games - the defensive front was not impressive last season, as you can see. Overall, the defense surrendered an average of 20.3 points per game (11th-best in the NFL). With problems in the secondary, too, the team elected to draft DBs and brought in free agent Mike Peterson to shore up the linebacking corps and also drafted hefty DT Peria Jerry to solidify the middle of the line. So far the results have been mixed - San Diego rushed for 30/118/1 vs. the Falcons in the third preseason 'tune up' game, and the team still needs to work out the kinks with their new personnel.

Brown and Williams form a formidable tandem at the RB position, while the Falcons are in the process of trying to establish a stronger unit - advantage, Miami.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Miami/New England is one of the great rivalries of the AFC East, and is always a hard-fought game regardless of when the contest occurs.

Despite a strong showing from Knowshon Moreno in the third preseason game (10/64/0 rushing against the sorry Cowboys' D), his absence from most of training camp due to having his left knee scoped has relegated Moreno to the backup role in Miami as of Week One - as Joe Bryant put it in the September 2 Daily Email Update responding to Miller being listed atop the Dolphins' September 2 depth chart: 'Miller is the starter and Moreno is the backup. It should stay that way unless Miller begins to struggle. We are interested in seeing how this entire offense looks under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.' Last year Miller managed 177/709/2 rushing and 26/170/0 receiving in a part-time arrangement with now-departed Daniel Thomas. We'll see if Miller can stay the lead back and keep Moreno marginalized as the weeks go along.

The New England rush D ranked 30th in the NFL last season averaging 134.1 rushing yards allowed per game, but they stemmed the tide in the red zone, with just 11 rushing scores handed over during 16 contests. Carolina was handled neatly by the Dolphins - they limited the Panthers to just 22/63/0 rushing, holding Jonathan Stewart to 4/11/0 on the ground (he had one reception for 20 yards) and DeAngeolo Williams was limited to 5/9/0 rushing. The Patriots' defensive front may be toughening up entering 2014.

Two units in transition meet in this contest - we give the Dolphins a slight edge due to home field advantage, and the prior history of the Patriots' rush D.

The New England

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Vikings are likely to run by committee to start week 1, which probably means some sort of shared workload between Mewelde Moore and Moe Williams. During week 3 of the preseason, Moore (6/21/10 and 1/11/10) and Williams (2/18/0 and 1/3/0) shared the work with several other players. Understand that both are a little risky, as their playing time is going to be unpredictable.

Tampa Bay was substandard in this phase of the game last year, allowing an average of 123.3 rushing yards per game (19th in the NFL). However, they only coughed up 8 rushing scores all year -- the Bucs were no pushovers at the goal-line last year. Ricky Williams tore them up during week 3 of the preseason, though, with 10/59/1 in the early going. The Buccaneers are not feared in this phase of the game entering regular season.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in the Metrodome, so weather won't be a factor.

Whoever carries the ball for the Vikings will have a good shot at a decent outing vs. the Bucs. It's just tough to count on one guy getting most of the carries.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

One of the raging fantasy football debates of the 2007 NFL preseason will begin to be resolved during week 1, when the Vikings face off against the Falcons. How much will the Vikings play Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson? During the critical week 3 preseason game, Taylor toted the ball 8/61/0 and Peterson posted 10/41/0 (neither guy had a reception). Entering week 1, it appears that the Vikings will go with a RBBC, with Taylor starting but Peterson seeing a significant number of touches. Artose Pinner was cut during the final rush to a 53 man roster, leaving Mewelde Moore as the 3rd back/punt returner.

The Falcons were respectable against the rush last year, averaging 103.6 yards allowed per game (that was 9th in the NFL - they gave up 14 rushing TDs last year). The Bengals managed 17/86/0 vs. this unit during the week 3 preseason contest, with starter Rudi Johnson gaining 13/69/0 (a 5.3 yards-per-carry average) during the contest. Overall, Mike Zimmer's 4-3 front has underwhelmed during preseason.

With home-field advantage at the Vikings' backs, we think this is a good, but not great, matchup for the home team. We'll see how all the pieces of the Vikings' puzzle perform now that the games count.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

If you have Adrian Peterson on your fantasy team, you used a top pick to get him. He is a no-brainer, start-every-week running back coming off a season for the ages (348/2,097/12 rushing with 40/217/1 receiving). Given how weak Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel have looked during preseason, we expect Peterson to have another exceptionally heavy workload running the football during 2013. Start him if you've got him.

The Lions' rush D averaged 118.1 yards allowed per game (16th in the NFL) with 13 rushing scores handed over during 2012. However, Peterson socked them for 48/273/1 rushing over two games last year (and he added seven receptions for 25 yards). If history repeats itself Peterson should be comfortably above 100 yards rushing at the end of this game.

Advantage, Adrian Peterson.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Week One, regular season onwards is why you draft Adrian Peterson friends - forget his non-appearance during the preseason - he is now a Norv Turner running back on an offense that HAS to feature Peterson (for good reason, he put up 279/1,266/10 rushing and 29/171/1 receiving on a 5-10-1 dog of a team last year). If you feel nervous for some reason, go look up what Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson did on Turner-crafted offenses, and you'll fell better. Just start Peterson and smile, friends.

The St. Louis rush D ranked ninth last season in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (102.9), but they were soft at the goal line, allowing 18 rushing scores over 16 games (the best rush defenses last year gave up four). They did shut down the Browns in the third preseason game (15/32/1 rushing for Cleveland that day), but Cleveland was still sorting out the Hoyer/Manziel question at that point and they threw the football 31 times during that evaluation process.

This looks like a good matchup for Peterson and the Vikings' other backs (if they play at all).

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Corey Dillon is the main man for this offense. He rushed for 345/1635/12 last season, with 15/103/1 receiving - he is the workhorse of the Patriots' RB stable. The team has played him sparingly during preseason, but he had time to rip up Green Bay for 14/70/2 on the ground during week 3 of preseason. It looks like Dillon is ready to rumble for a lot of yardage again this year.

Oakland's rushing defense was sub-par last year, averaging 125.8 rushing yards allowed per contest, 22nd in the league (they also allowed the second-worst total of rushing TDs surrendered in the league, giving up 21 rushing scores during 2004). However, the Raiders did hold J.J. Arrington to 10/31/0 during his preseason week 3 appearance for the Cardinals. Things might be looking up for the Raiders as they roll towards this week's Thursday opener.

The NFL released an early injury report for Oakland/New England. T Brandon Gorin is questionable for New England; Oakland reports a clean bill of health on defense.

The forecast for Gillette stadium calls for a high of 85F and a low of 59F with a 20% chance of precipitation. It should be a great evening to play some football.

Dillon is a top player on an elite offense - the Raiders are still putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. Advantage, New England.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The big news on the eve of the season opener is that Laurence Maroney suffered a knee injury during the week 3 pre-season game, and did not play in the exhibition finale. The team is being its' usual tight-lipped self about the exact nature and severity of the injury, and some are speculating that Maroney may not play in the opener. However, he was spotted practicing with a brace on the leg during Monday's practice, so the bottom line is that early in the week, we don't know his prospects for playing. Corey Dillon figures to start in any case - he had 5/12/0 rushing in the week 3 pre-season game vs. Washington, and many feel that Dillon has lost a step. We'll know more as the week progresses, and Dillon/Maroney owners will want to keep an eye on the late-week injury updates and news as this situation plays itself out leading up to the 10th. Prior to his injury, Maroney had looked pretty impressive in his chances.

Buffalo's defense was pathetic last year, ranking 29th in the NFL allowing an average of 343.5 total yards per game, and 31st in the rushing phase, turnstiling at a clip of 137.8 yards per contest. Although that was without Takeo Spikes for much of the season. It's no wonder that the Bills spent their first 5 picks in the draft on defense, including two first round selections (DT John McCargo (1st) and DT Kyle Williams (5th) were among the players selected - neither projects to start week 1, though). This is a rebuilding year for the Bills on defense.

If the starter is Dillon with no Maroney, then we think this matchup is a good one for the Patriots. If Maroney has a shot to get in the game, this looks like an even better opportunity for the rushing offense to get off to a strong start.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

After a tense offseason/preseason spent wondering about Laurence Maroney's shoulder injury/surgery/rehab, it appears that he is set to go for week 1. There is some speculation that Sammy Morris may see goal-line duty for the Patriots, but we think that with Maroney's shoulder in good shape, he'll be the workhorse for New England with Morris in a secondary/support role. Kevin Faulk figures to be the 3rd down back, as usual. During his extended appearance in preseason, Maroney posted 15/58/0 rushing vs. Carolina. He looks set to roll into regular season action.

The Jets were 24th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 130.3 yards per game, with 14 rushing TDs surrendered. They handed over 30/136/0 to their cross-town rivals during week 3 of preseason - there just hasn't been much improvement on this unit from last year to this.

Maroney has a good matchup to work with in the season opener.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The New England running-back-by-committee of Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen begins week one of regular season down one member - Vereen hasn't practiced since hurting his left foot August 24 and he missed the Monday, September 3 practice session as well. Keep tabs on his practice participation (or non-participation) on Wednesday if you are invested in this stable of backs. Ridley looks like the lead back for the Patriots this year - he posted 87/441/1 rushing last year (six targets for 3/13/0 receiving) and has averaged 4.5 yards per carry this preseason (34 carries for 152 yards). Woodhead (77/351/1 rushing last year with 33 targets for 18/157/0 receiving) will be the third-down/change-of-pace option in week one, especially if Vereen (who had handled some nice gainers on screen passes during preseason ) is out.

The Titans' rush defense averaged 128.3 yards allowed per game last year (24th in the NFL) with 10 rushing scores handed over last year (tied for sixth in the NFL). The Cardinals' starting tandem of Ryan Williams and Chris Wells combined for 9/27/0 rushing at Tennessee in the third preseason game (but both those guys are in the process of rehabbing injuries).

The Patriots have to visit LP Field this week - they should have a good shot at a decent showing from Ridley and Woodhead despite being on the road.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Miami/New England is one of the great rivalries of the AFC East, and is always a hard-fought game regardless of when the contest occurs.

The unofficial depth chart at www.patriots.com as of September 2 indicates that Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are co-starters on an offense with two starting running backs, two starting wide receivers, and one starting tight end. However, during the third preseason game Ridley didn't get into the game until after rookie James White, while Vereen actually started the game (and feasted on the Panthers with 6/18/0 rushing and 5/57/2 receiving) - Ridley wound up leading the team in rushing with 8/28/0 on the ground, while White compiled 4/15/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving during the game. If you play in a PPR league, Vereen is clearly the best Patriots back to own, but otherwise it appears that the backs will play musical chairs again this season in a tortuous New England committee. As a team last year the Patriots ran the ball 470 times for 2,065 yards (landing at ninth in the NFL in both categories) with 19 rushing scores (tied for second in the NFL) - they do move the ball on the ground up in New England, it's just hard to say who'll gain the most rushing yards from week to week.

The Dolphins were ranked 24th in the NFL last season averaging 124.9 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores given up over 16 games. They kept the Cowboys' backs out of the end zone in the third preseason game, surrendering a total of 25/94/0 rushing to Dallas (DeMarco Murray had 6/18/0 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving against the Dolphins' starters).

This looks like a good matchup for the Patriots' commmittee of backs.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister are a scary 1-2 punch. McAllister has been productive in his opportunities during preseason (6/14/0 rushing and 4/32/0 receiving vs. K.C. during week 3; 3/15/1 rushing and 1/10/0 receiving in a cameo appearance vs. Cincy during week 2). Reggie Bush posted 6/51/0 vs. K.C. during the week 3 preseason tilt. It looks like the Saints will once again field one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the league.

Indianapolis was very porous during the regular season last year (32nd in the NFL averaging 173 rushing yards allowed per game, with 20 rushing scores surrendered), but they did manage to clamp down during post season. Having safety Bob Sanders on the field made a huge difference. Detroit could only manage 14/32/0 rushing against the Colts during preseason week 3 - has Indy brought their "post-season" mentality to regular season this year? Only time will tell - on August 23rd, key S Bob Sanders was activated off the PUP and commented "I feel strong, I feel fast, and I'm ready to go." With Sanders on the field, the Colts' rush D is much more effective.

The Colts have home field advantage in this game, but they also have a suspect defensive front that lost Anthony McFarland (a key run stuffer at NT) during preseason to a knee injury. This looks like a good matchup for the Saints' dynamic duo.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Saints are going with a full-blown committee of backs again this year, comprised once again of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles. As Ingram noted after the third preseason tilt at Houston - . "It just depends on the personnel and the play call. If it happens to be, they call empty and I'm in there, I can line up in the slot and run the route as well. So can [Travaris] Cadet, Khiry [Robinson], Sproles... We can all contribute in every phase to the offense." During that third preseason game, Ingram led the team in rushing with 4/24/0, while Thomas posted 4/19/0 rushing and 1/51/1 receiving, while Sproles handled 2/17/0 receiving. The Saints are not shy about spreading the work amongst their running backs, fantasy owners.

The Falcons' rush D was 21st in the NFL last year averaging 123.2 yards allowed per game, and they handed over 16 rushing scores, right at one per game played. Tennessee cranked out 36/171/0 rushing on the Falcons during the third exhibition game, including 11/65/0 by starter Chris Johnson - there is definitely plenty of room for improvement on this squad coming into regular season.

The Saints have a lot of talent in their running back stable and enjoy home-field advantage in this game, while the Falcons are subpar run defenders entering regular season - advantage, New Orleans.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Saints' running back stable is a three headed monster, with nearly even touches on the football split up between Mark Ingram (8/46/0 rushing during the third preseason game at Indianapolis), Khiry Robinson (8/21/0 rushing with 1/4/0 receiving), and Pierre Thomas (five targets for 4/66/0 receiving, with 3/13/0 rushing) in the pass-catching/third-down back role. The split role is clearly evident with Ingram at eight touches, Robinson at nine, and Thomas at seven - the work is shared out fairly evenly between the three members of the committee.

The Falcons' first-team defense wasn’t sharp during the third preseason game, giving up 10 points and 207 yards on 29 plays (7.1 yards allowed per play on average) to the Tennessee offense - Atlanta eventually lost 17-24. Shonn Greene (6/15/0 rushing) and Bishop Sankey (16/44/1 rushing) were both held under 3.0 yards per carry during the contest, but it wasn't enough to cover for the poor play in the Falcons' secondary. Last season, Atlanta was ranked 31st in the NFL averaging 135.8 yards rushing allowed per game, with 14 rushing TDs given up over 16 games.

Ingram, Robinson and Thomas enjoy a good rushing matchup, and in aggregate the Saints should have a solid outing vs. the Falcons' suspect defense.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tiki Barber has been joined by bruiser Brandon Jacobs in the Giant's backfield this year, and Jacobs has some Barber owners worried. It appears that the team intends to utilize Jacobs as the short yardage/goal-line back, which may eat into Barber's statistics - especially his TDs. However, the team intended to do the same thing last year with Ron Dayne, and Barber's numbers didn't suffer a bit. Time will tell how the workload gets shared, but right now we think Barber will do just fine (especially in leagues that award a point per reception to RBs). Barber threw down 13/47/0 rushing and 1/15/0 receiving vs. the Jets during week 3 of the preseason (Jacobs had a mere 7/13/0 rushing).

Arizona was a bottom feeder in this phase of the game last year, averaging 131.6 rushing yards allowed per game (27th in the league), with 12 rushing scores surrendered during the year. The team hopes to improve on that performance this year, and they held the Raiders to 23/76/0 during their week 3 game in preseason - not a bad way to conclude the preseason action for the starters. Now we'll see if they can carry the momentum forward into the regular season.

Arizona’s starting MLB, Gerald Hayes, has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He’ll be out for at least 6-8 weeks. James Darling will replace Hayes as the starting MLB. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Giants' Stadium is forecast to be a great place to play a football game on Sunday -- 85F for a high, 70F for a low, with a 0% chance for rain.

The Giants are blessed with 2 gifted running backs, and the Cardinals have a lot to prove - advantage, Giants.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tiki Barber and backup Brandon Jacobs look ready to roll entering the 2006 season. Jacobs has been getting reps with the first team during training camp as the team plans to give him the ball more in 2006, giving the Giants a powerful 1-2 punch. Said coach Coughlin of Jacobs, "From a confidence standpoint, there’s no doubt that he’s improved. I watched him pass-protect today and he did a nice job with that, so I’m very confident that he is much further along than he was a year ago and can handle more parts of the offense." Jacobs has scored 3 rushing TDs during pre-season, all from the 1 yard line. He's a perfect compliment to Barber (357/1860/9 rushing and 54/530/2 receiving last year). Barber slapped down 11/60/0 rushing and 2/6/0 in the week 3 pre-season tune-up for regular season, showing he's not quite out the door yet.

The Colts ranked 16th vs opposing ball carriers last season, coughing up an average of 110.3 rushing yards per game. The were stubborn in the red zone, though, with only 9 rushing scores surrendered over 16 games (6th in the NFL) - the Colts are a well-rounded, top shelf defense. Cato June is a solid OLB, but the team is somewhat shaky at MLB with Gary Brackett and Rob Morris - we'll see how they hold up in the middle. During the 3rd pre-season game against New Orleans, starter Deuce McAllister slashed them up for 6/62/1 - more work is needed in this area heading into regular season.

Barber and Jacobs are rolling into regular season, while the Colts don't seem to have a full head of steam. In Giants' stadium we think this is a good matchup for New York.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Rashad Jennings (11 games appeared in last season with nine started, for 167/639/4 rushing with 30/226/0 receiving) has received mixed reviews during preseason, while Andre Williams (217/721/7 rushing with 18/130/0 receiving over seven games started with 16 appearances) is said to have worked hard to become an all-around running back throughout the past eight months. The Giants also added change-of-pace/third-down back Shane Vereen to this mix during the offseason (96/391/2 rushing with 53/447/3 receiving for New England last year) - this has the look of a running-back-by-committee situation entering Week One. Jennings was listed as the starter on the official Week One depth chart, for what that is worth.

The Cowboys' rush D ranked eighth in terms of rushing yards allowed per game last year (103.1), but gave up 18 rushing scores over 16 games - they were not strong in the red zone, friends. Also, they have key defensive players on suspension to open the year (DE Greg Hardy and MLB Rolando McClain) so the unit is not up to full strength for this divisional showdown on Sunday Night Football. Dallas was 24th in the NFL averaging 112.5 rushing yards allowed per game during exhibition season - there are warning signs here entering regular season.

Advantage, New York backs - but remember that they are still sorting out the work-sharing arrangement in New York, making any one of the backs a risky proposition for Week One.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Curtis Martin won the NFL rushing title last year after 9 seasons in the NFL (last year was his tenth). He has never rushed for less than 1,000 yards in any season, and has put up 245 receiving yards or more in each year he has played in the league. The man is amazing. You're supposed to slow down when you have 10 years of experience playing RB in the NFL. With 13/59/0 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving vs. cross town rival Giants during week 3 of the preseason, we don't see any evidence of Martin slowing down just yet.

Kansas City lurked in the middle of the NFL pack last year, ranking 12th while allowing 114.6 rushing yards per game and a total of 18 rushing TDs during the 16 games. Not too good, folks. Seattle's Shaun Alexander only managed 12/23/0 vs the Chiefs during the third week of preseason, and the team rushed for 28/69/0 during the entire game -- the Chiefs may have improved their rush defense (but be aware the Seahawks ripped K.C. for 30/45 for 358 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions through the air).

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Arrowhead Stadium calls for a high of 87F and a low of 64F with a 0% chance of precipitation. You couldn't ask for better weather on opening day.

K.C. is soft in this phase, and Curtis Martin is an elite back - advantage, Jets.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Curtis Martin is on the PUP list due to his balky knee, leaving newly-arrived Kevan Barlow, Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock in a three-headed running back by committee. By the way, the Jets were 28th in the NFL last year with a 3.5 yards per carry average. This is one ugly situation to be caught up in if you are a fantasy owner. Look elsewhere for your starters at least until we get some clarity on the pecking order in New York, if possible.

The Titans were 22nd against opposing rushers last season, averaging 118.4 yards allowed per game. They coughed up 12 rushing scores to rank 16th in the NFL in that department. They are a young, rebuilding unit that has yet to put together all the pieces of their team. During the 3rd pre-season "tune-up" game, the Atlanta Falcons trampled these guys to the tune of 42/262/1 rushing, a 6.2 yards-per-carry average. Ouch.

If only the Jets had a settled running back depth chart, this would be an inviting matchup from a fantasy perspective.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Although Eric Mangini is out and Rex Ryan is in, the offense, coordinated by Brian Schottenheimer, has essentially remained in place. As Ryan is a defense-minded coach who wants to control the clock (and he has a rookie QB at the helm), look for a heavy dose of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington again during 2009. Shonn Greene, the rookie, hasn't shown us much to date due to a variety of nicks and dings (most recently, he's suffered from a rib injury). Last year, the Jets featured the AFC's leading rusher (Thomas Jones, with 290/1312/13 and 36/207/2 receiving) and averaged 4.7 yards per carry (fifth in the NFL), with a healthy average of 125.3 rushing yards per game generated by the RB stable. Jones scored a TD vs. the Giants in the third preseason game (12/16/1 with 1/7/0 receiving), but Washington was the guy who moved the sticks, with 9/62/0 rushing and 3/7/0 receiving vs. the hard-nosed Giants. Washington gained 76/448/6 rushing and 47/355/2 receiving in the change-of-pace role last year and should at least duplicate that effort in 2009 if the chips fall right for him.

Houston's rush D was 23rd in the NFL last year, averaging 122.6 rushing yards allowed per game (18 rushing TDs given up during the season). The D handed over 24.6 points per game on average, landing at 27th in the league in that category. New DC Frank Bush was promoted from within the organization after Richard Smith was fired, and intends to put more guys in the box and play more man coverage in order to stem the opposing rushers during 2009. That didn't work against the Vikings and Adrian Peterson in week three of preseason (30/180/1 given up to the Vikings), but few defensive schemes stand up to Peterson's talents.

The Jets have proven, effective backs while the Texans are trying to improve but still have evident weaknesses - advantage, New York.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Jets enter 2014 with a two-headed monster on their hands - Chris Johnson (279/1,066/6 rushing with 42/345/4 receiving in Tennesssee last season) arrived from Tennessee in the offseason and has moved into the top slot on the depth chart, but Chris Ivory (182/833/3 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving for the Jets last season) still figures to see a significant role as the goal line/short yardage back in this committee. Johnson got the start in the third preseason game and ran well, with 9/42/0 rushing and 2/35/0 receiving, while Ivory led the team in rushing with 6/50/0 and also added a long-gainer in the passing game with 1/23/0 receiving. These two are set as the Jets' 1-2 punches as of Week One, regular season.

The Raiders' offense will labor with a rookie under center for his first real-live NFL game, so Oakland's defense is likely to be on the field a good bit in this game. Oakland was 13th against the run last season, averaging 107.9 rushing yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing scores allowed over 16 contests. Seattles' reserve backs were held to 24/111/0 in the preseason finale, but the Raiders didn't see Marshawn Lynch at all. In the third 'tune up for regular season' exhibition, Oakland gave up 6/36/1 rushing to starting running back Eddie Lacy on the first offensive series.

The Raiders are doomed to watching their rookie quarterback get baptised by fire in New York's MetLife Stadium this week, so this looks like a good matchup for the Jets' offense in general and their running backs in particular.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

With Michael Bush on the PUP list and Dominic Rhodes serving a 4-game suspension, LaMont Jordan has a clear path to prove his worth to new head coach Lane Kiffin and OC Greg Knapp. Knapp prefers a ball-control approach to offense, so Jordan should see a lot of opportunities this week. He posted 18/41/1 rushing and 1/49/0 receiving during week 3 (vs. St. Louis) - Jordan looks like he's primed to explode after a frustrating and injury-riddled season during 2006.

Detroit was 21st in the NFL last year, averaging 125.6 rushing yards allowed per game (18 rushing scores allowed). Indy posted a mere 19/48/0 rushing vs. this unit during week 3 of the preseason, but they tossed 39/50 for 360 yards, 5 TDs and 0 interceptions in that contest - Joe Barry is having some troubles installing his Cover-2 scheme during preseason.

Jordan has home field advantage at his back and a soft defense will line up in front of him - sounds like a good matchup to us.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Raiders will open the season with Justin Fargas as the nominal starter, but expect to see a full-blown committee approach with Fargas and rookie Darren McFadden sharing the workload. With little in the way of a passing game, the team will lean on Fargas and McFadden heavily, at least until JaMarcus Russell starts to get into rhythm (if that happens - he's still a very green pro QB). The team got some bad news during the week 3 contest vs. Arizona, when starting FB Oren O'Neil was lost for the season. The team is going with Justin Griffith there now, but they are thin and Michael Bush may see some playing time in the FB slot - but mostly as a receiver, not a blocker, according to coach Lane Kiffin. "We're going to look at some things in some certain personnels to utilize him because he catches the ball so well and he is a bigger tailback. But don't mistake that. Michael Bush isn't here to be a fullback. (He) has a chance to be a spectacular tailback in this league and that's what he's here to play." We'll see how the workload is shared out as the game unfolds on Sunday.

The Broncos rush D was not good last year, averaging 142.6 yards allowed per game (30th in the NFL), with 14 rushing scores allowed last season (23rd). 3 DEs went down in the 3rd preseason game (Elvis Dumervil, dislocated finger; Ebenezer Ekuban (back) and Paul Carrington (left calf - now released)) and also starting S Marquand Manuel (broken thumb - surgery required). Obviously, the defense is kind of beat up entering week 1. Green Bay posted 32/94/2 rushing against this unit during the 3rd preseason game - the Denver defensive front has lots of room for improvement, as you can see.

At home, and with a suspect divisional rival in town, expect the Raiders to exploit Denver's weakness in this phase of the game - advantage, Oakland.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Latavius Murray (84/424/2 rushing with 17/143/0 receiving over 15 appearances last year, with three games started) eventually supplanted now-departed Darren McFadden at running back during 2014, and he's set up as the lead back for Oakland here in 2015. Trent Richardson is gone, leaving Taiwan Jones and Roy Helu as the backups/change-of-pace options for the Raiders entering regular season. Murray is the clear, featured back entering Week One of regular season.

The Bengals had the league's 20th-ranked rush D last year, averaging 116.3 yards allowed per game, with 16 rushing scores surrendered over 16 games. Key linebacker Vontaze Burfict is out for the first seven weeks of the season due to being placed on PUP, which means that the Bengals' already-suspect defensive front is degraded entering regular season. During the exhibitions, Cincinnati posted an average of 100.2 rushing yards allowed per game (16th in the NFL) - not stellar, but not alarming, either.

This looks like a good matchup for the Raiders' newest starting running back.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter are at it again this year, with new addition Tony Hunt looking to contribute in short-yardage situations. Both Westbrook and Buckhalter have missed some practices during camp due to soreness in their legs/knees, but entering week 1 it looks like more of the same from Philly in this phase of the game. In late August, Westbrook was agitating for more carries during 2007: "I think to be a very good running back and put up the numbers that the great running backs, the good running backs in the game, are putting up, you have to have at least 20 to 25 carries per game to put those types of numbers up." We'll see if coach Reid will grant Westbrook's wish, but however he ends up getting the ball, we think Westbrook will be a top 10 back during 2007. This week, he's projected to post 100+ yards combined and to have a solid shot at finding the end zone.

The Packers were 13th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 114.1 yards per game on the ground (12 TDs handed over). They coughed up 26/104/1 to the Jaguars during week 3 of preseason - a slight improvement over their 2006 pace. We'll see which direction the unit is heading entering 2007 when Westbrook and company test the defensive front this weekend.

Some talented backs face off against a mediocre defense in this game, but home-field advantage is at the Packer's backs. We'll give the nod to Westbrook and company, but this one won't be a slam dunk for the Eagles.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Eagles managed to average 4.0 yards rushing per carry (tied for 21st in the league last year), but they didn't impress with 106.1 rushing yards per game (22nd in the NFL) - the team did punch in a respectable 15 rushing TDs during the course of the season. Brian Westbrook had knee and ankle surgery during the offseason, and as a result we haven't seen him in game-situation action during preseason. Rookie LeSean McCoy has played well during preseason in Westbrook's place (he had 11/31/1 rushing and 5/17/0 receiving vs. the Jaguars in week three of the preseason), so much so that the Eagles cut Lorenzo Booker on September 5th. All indications are that Westbrook will suit up and play vs. Carolina in week 1.

The Panthers ran into big trouble with their defensive line on the first day of training camp, when DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu tore an Achilles tendon and went down for the seaason. Then, further misfortune struck on Thursday, September third when third-round pick Corey Irvin suffered a season-ending knee injury (he's now on IR). The center of the Panthers' line is very shaky - they haven't looked at all good during preseason, with 28/118/1 allowed to Baltimore during the regular-season tune-up game in week three of the preseason, and 30/137/1 handed over to the Pittsburgh reserves in week 4 of the preseason. Damione Lewis and Louis Leonard (by way of a trade from Cleveland) will try to man the center along with Nick Hayden - the center of the line is pretty weak entering the first game of the season, folks. MLB Jon Beason was also banged up for most of training camp with a sore knee, but he's expecting to play in the season opener. New DC Ron Meeks has a personnel challenge to overcome in this phase of the game.

Both teams have injury issues entering week 1 - the Panthers have home field advantage, but the weakness in the middle of their defense can't be ignored - advantage, Philly.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

DeMarco Murray (393/1,845/13 rushing with 57/416/0 receiving during 2014 as a Cowboy) moved on from Dallas to Philadelphia this year, and he's the clear lead back in the Eagles' Eyrie - however, he's expected to share work with ex-Charger Ryan Mathews (who vultured a TD run from Murray in the third preseason game) and Darren Sproles. Of course, the Eagles run the ball a LOT so if Murray commands 65+ % of the carries in any given game he'll have plenty of fantasy value. So far as an Eagle, Murray has managed 11/45/1 rushing in two brief appearances during preseason.

The Falcons' rush D was 21st in the NFL last season averaging 118.4 yards allowed per game, and gave up a whopping 21 rushing TDs (1.31 per game) over 16 contests. So far during exhibition season, the Falcons averaged 78.2 yards rushing allowed per game (fifth in the NFL), which is a vast improvement. But of course exhibitions feature vanilla game plans and lots of backups/reserve players, so take those preseason results with a grain of salt. None-the-less, the Falcons' rush D looks like it has potential to improve this year.

The Eagles will certainly test the Falcons' suspect defensive front. Advantage, Philadelphia.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Hello Footballguy favorite "Fast" Willie Parker! With both Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis ailing, Willie Parker is set to start in the season opener for the Steelers. He has averaged 5.8 yards per rush during his very brief career -- but 5.8 yards per carry is quite notable at this level. The Steelers averaged 4.0 yards per carry last year.

Tennessee is playing with a very youthful and very inexperienced defense. Forget what happened last year -- the team is so completely altered that our only guidepost is the week 3 preseason contest vs. another young team, the San Francisco 49ers. Tennessee lost, 13-16. The Niners threw down 37/148/1 rushing during the game. Early indications are that it could be a long season if you are a Titan fan.

Pittsburgh’s RB corps is banged up heading into the regular season. Duce Staley has been out for almost a month (initial diagnosis) after surgery to repair a tear in his right knee’s lateral meniscus. Jerome Bettis injured a calf during the week 3 pre-season game and did not return to action - he's expected to miss the first two weeks of regular season. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Heinz Field is forecast to have a 0% chance for rain, a high of 80F and a low of 65F on Sunday -- practically perfect football weather, in our opinion.

Parker is an explosive, but raw player, while the Titans field a suspect defense. Pittsburgh has the edge in this matchup.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jerome Bettis is retired, and Willie Parker is the featured back for the Steelers heading into regular season. Parker led the team in rushing last year, with 255/1202/4 and 18/218/1 receiving, Bettis and Verron Haynes scored 12 TDs between them, though, limiting his goal-line chances. This year, Haynes is the #2 RB and may get some of Bettis goal-line touches - Parker owners hope that he sees some more scoring chances, too. With starting QB Ben Roethlisberger out due to an emergency appendectomy, the team will be handing off early and often to their backs in week 1.

The Dolphins swam in the middle of the NFL pod last year, ranking 17th against opposing rushers allowing an average of 110.7 yards per contest. They gave up 11 rushing TDs, 14th in the NFL - they were respectable but not outstanding during 2005. Dom Capers joins the team as defensive coordinator and is a respected defensive coach regardless of his train-wreck in Houston. They held to Panthers to 26/76/0 rushing during the week 3 exhibition game - it looks like their defensive front has got it going heading into regular season.

Pittsburgh will pound the ball all night long, so the Dolphins better be ready to play some smash-mouth football. In Pittsburgh, we think the champs have an edge in this matchup.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Willie Parker has held off the challenge from Rashard Mendenhall (Mendenhall's fumbling problems during preseason haven't helped him earn more playing time, either) - entering week 1, Parker remains firmly atop the Steeler's depth chart. Regarding Mendenhall's fumbling problem, head coach Mike Tomlin said "He is a talented guy. He does have great running speed, cutting ability, etcetera, etcetera. But fundamentals of being a pro, and understanding how guys are going to go after the ball in this league, are big. It's good to learn lessons when you win. Hopefully, he'll do that. I'm sure that he will." Parker didn't light up the world vs. Minnesota in the 3rd exhibition contest (10/18/0 rushing and 2/2/0 receiving), but not many guys do so against the top-ranked rush defense in the league. Last year, Parker was the 21st ranked fantasy back in points per game despite only scoring 2 rushing TDs (321/1316/2 rushing with 23/164/0 receiving).

The Texans ran in the middle of the NFL herd last season, ranking 19th in rushing yards allowed per game (114.1 on average), and were 25th in the league with 15 TDs given up. Dallas posted 27/111/1 rushing against Houston in the 3rd preseason game, which is in keeping with the Texans' mediocre showing from a year ago. Entering 2008, it appears that Houston has neither progressed or regressed in this phase of the game.

Pittsburgh was 7th in the NFL last year averaging 4.2 yards per carry - against the Texans' mediocre squad, Parker and Mendenhall should find plenty of room to roam in Heinz Field on Sunday.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

LaDainian Tomlinson - need we say more? This week, Tomlinson has been publicly stating his desire to eclipse Erik Dickerson's all-time rushing yardage record (379 rushes for 2105 yards with 14 TDs) during 2005.

Dallas was a top-ten rush D last year, allowing an average of 110.3 yards per game on the ground (14 rushing scores given up over 16 games). Houston didn't find paydirt in this phase of the game during their week 3 preseason matchup (28/114/0) - it looks like the Cowboys are picking up where they left off last year.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

San Diego is noted for it's great weather, and this Sunday is no different. Qualcomm Stadium should have a high of 78F and a low of 62F with a 10% chance of rain. Both teams will benefit from playing in such mild conditions.

LaDainian Tomlinson is an outstanding back, and he has home field advantage at his back this week. The Cowboys are tough but we say advantage, San Diego.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

LaDainian Tomlinson: 315/1474/15 rushing, with 60/475/3 receiving during 2007. A minimum of 18 TDs scored in each of his last 4 seasons, and just 2 years removed from his monster 2323 combined yards, 31 TD season. This is the guy you picked #1 in the draft. He starts every week, no matter what (unless he's on bye or is out).

The Panther's defense gave up 13 rushing TDs last year (21st in the NFL) and averaged 110.7 rushing yards allowed per game (18th in the league). During the off- and preseason, the team made a lot of adjustments to the defense which appear to be paying off. Dan Morgan is out at MLB, and Jon Beason is in, while Thomas Davis has moved into a WLB role this year. DE Julius Peppers looks renewed in his contract season. During the week 3 preseason game vs. Washington, the team limited Clinton Portis and company to 22/79/0. So far, so good.

After this week, we'll know how far the Panthers' defensive front has improved, as they face the sternest test around in the NFL at this time on Sunday. Advantage, San Diego.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Shaun Alexander has worked his way back into the lineup after his 2006 foot injury - during week 3 of preseason, he managed 8/30/1 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving against the Vikings' defensive front (which was #1 vs. the rush last year, averaging 61.6 rush yards allowed per game). Alexander is just two years removed from an awesome 370/1880/27 rushing campaign (2005 - he had 15/78/1 receiving that year) - we'll soon see if he can recapture his top form this year.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fallen on hard times since their Super Bowl year - they were 17th vs. the rush last year (119.8 yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given up), and enter 2007 without some old stalwarts of years past (Simeon Rice was the most recent defensive player let go). During week 3 of preseason they did manage to limit Miami to 21/69/1 - a 3.3 yards-per-carry average. We'll see if the Bucs can maintain that level of rush D now that the games count.

Alexander and company have home-field advantage at their back, and should do well vs. the diminished Bucs.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Despite a disappointing season a year ago, the Seahawks' rushing attack was respectable, with an average of 4.2 yards per carry and 110.5 rushing yards per game - however, their OL has suffered serious injury woes during the preseason this year. The ambiguous status of LT Walter Jones could negatively impact the new-look rushing attack featuring Edgerrin James, Julius Jones and Justin Forsett (T.J. Duckett was cut recently). Jones appears to be mired in a three-headed RBBC since the arrival of James - we'll see how the team apportions carries in week 1, but right now we're not enthusiastic about starting any of the backs in this committee. If we had to go with one of the backs this week, Jones is highest on our RB board at #25 this week.

St. Louis was one of five teams to allow more than 150 rushing yards per game on average during 2008 (154.7, 29th in the NFL last year), while also coughing up 26 rushing TDs to their opponents. They were 31st in the NFL averaging 29.1 total points allowed per game (only Detroit was worse during 2008). HC Steve Spagnuolo and DC Ken Flajole are expected to turn up the heat with the Rams' blitzing schemes during 2009, but there is a long way to go before the Rams are even average in this phase of the game. The Rams handed over 32/141/1 to the Bengals in the third exhibition game (4.4 yards per game) - as we said, there is a long way to go.

The committee of backs in Seattle devalues this good matchup from a fantasy perspective, but as a team Seattle should do well against the Rams' weak defensive front.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch missed the third preseason tilt vs. Denver due to an ankle injury, and although he was running on the side in practices at the end of August he was also held out of the preseason finale vs. Oakland for precautionary reasons. Lynch is expected back as the starting running back in week one. In that role last post-season, Lynch helped the Seahawks surprise New Orleans in the wild card round with 19/131/1 rushing to his credit. That success plus his 11 starts during 2010 once he arrived from Buffalo (165/573/6 rushing and 21/138/0 receiving as a Seahawk last season) have Lynch atop the depth chart entering 2011. Backup Justin Forsett posted 6/23/0 rushing and one target for zero receptions vs. Denver in the third preseason game, and Leon Washington led the team with 8/33/0 rushing and 2/19/0 receiving in his time on the field. The Seahawks have three guys to turn to when they decide to run the ball (which might be a lot this year, given the poor QB play they've gotten out of Tarvaris Jackson so far during 2011).

The 49ers rush D was sixth in the NFL last year averaging 96.7 yards allowed per game, with just nine rushing scores allowed over 16 contests. They didn't fare so well against the Texans in the third exhibition game this year, though - Houston's second and third-stringers rushed for 42/172/1 during the game (Arian Foster was out with a sore hamstring) and the Texans held the ball for an astonishing 40:36 - the 49ers offense eked out a mere 105 net yards of offense during the game, leaving their defense hung out to dry, folks. Given how impotent the San Francisco offensive 'attack' has been during preseason, the 49ers defense appears to be in a bad situation entering the season opener.

Lynch was impressive vs. New Orleans in the playoffs - we'll see if he can build on that momentum against the reeling 49ers in this divisional battle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch finished preseason nursing back spasms (and missing preseason games), but the spasms appear to be a thing of the past as of August 29 - 'He took a really good turn this week, rehab has been effective,' head coach Pete Carroll said. 'We think he is going to be fine.' Although Lynch was cited for DUI in Northern California during offseason, the league hasn't taken action on a possible suspension yet - it appears that they legal system will process the arrest before the league takes action (Lynch is contesting the charges, and the case likely won't be resolved until after the season is over). In any case, Lynch looks set to go for week one regular season. Rookie Robert Turbin is Lynch's backup and would be plugged in if Lynch's back spasms flare up in practices this coming week. On August 25th, coach Carroll commented on Turbin 'He's a really good football player... I'm so happy with the draft pick. We went out to get a guy who could complement Marshawn [Lynch] and could give us good, hard-nosed running, and he's shown exactly that.'

Lynch finished 2011 with 285/1,204/6 rushing and 28/212/1 receiving to his credit - with a new, rookie QB under center in Russell Wilson, the Seahawks figure to hand the ball off to Lynch early and often to help ease the youngster into his first regular season start.

The Cardinals' rush D was not impressive during 2011, ranking 21st in the NFL averaging 124.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing TDs allowed (tied for 23rd in the NFL). In the third preseason game, the first team shut down Tennessee's Chris Johnson (13/27/0 rushing) so there looks like some hope the unit is improved over the 2011 version - we'll see how much better they are (or are not) once Lynch and Turbin are done testing Arizona's defensive front.

The Cardinals have home-field advantage this week, but they were suspect enough last year - and Lynch impressive enough - that we think the visiting Seahawks have the edge in this matchup. Advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch was only in for cameos during preseason (5/9/0 rushing over the first three exhibition games) as the Seahawks sorted out the depth chart behind him. Robert Turbin and Christine Michael played well during their extended auditions in preseason - Seattle is stacked at the running back position entering regular season. Lynch was an every-down workhorse for Seattle last year (315/1,590/11 rushing with 23/196/1 receiving) and figures to be heavily involved in the attack once again this year.

Though the Panthers' defense engineered their team's win in Baltimore during the third exhibition game, they didn't defense the Ravens' running backs very well, allowing 16/62/1 rushing to Ray Rice, and 43/169/2 rushing to the Ravens as a whole. Last year, the Panthers were 14th in the NFL averaging 110.1 yards rushing allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores handed over. Though Luke Kuechly is a force to be reckoned with at MLB, the rest of the defensive front isn't as intimidating.

Seattle opens on the road, but with an elite running back facing a mediocre D, we give Lynch and the Seahawks the edge in this contest.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch was reunited with his old Buffalo teammate Fred Jackson after the Bills unexpectedly let Jackson go as part of the cut-downs - they form a formidable 1-2 punch for the Seahawks entering Week One of regular season. Lynch (280/1,306/13 rushing with 37/367/4 receiving for Seattle last year) should be ready to put some Beast Mode on the hapless Rams in this divisional showdown. He's the clear-cut featured back for the Seattle rushing attack.

The Rams' rush D ranked 14th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 110.3 yards rushing to opposing backs, with 12 rushing scores given up. Lynch gashed them for 14/60/1 rushing and 3/36/0 the last time he faced St. Louis in Week 17 of the 2014 regular season. Indianapolis' backups managed 28/56/1 rushing at St. Louis in the third 2015 exhibition, but Frank Gore didn't log a carry in that contest.

Advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Frank Gore, the all-everything back for San Francisco, had to sit out preseason due to a broken hand. He was the 4th best fantasy back last year, posting 312/1695/8 rushing and 61/485/1 receiving - he carried the team last year. Unfortunately, we haven't seen him during preseason due to the broken hand - but, coach Nolan intends to run Gore hard during regular season: "If he has to carry 500 times for us to win a lot of games, he'll carry 500 times." Nolan stated in mid August. As Nolan noted during an interview August 24th: "I think Frank, with 300 carries last year, knows where the holes are." Gore was medically cleared to play in the final pre-season game, but the coaching staff elected to hold him out until the season opener. He looks great this week in camp and has "fresh legs".

Under the guidance of DC Clancy Pendergast, the Cards were fairly stout against the run last season, with 1897 rushing yards allowed (16th in the NFL) and 16 rushing TDs surrendered (26th). However, they lost DE/LB Chike Okeafor due to torn left biceps tendon (IR) during preseason, and gave up 32/106/1 to the Chargers (with LaDainian Tomlinson on the sidelines) during week 3 of the preseason. Entering 2007, it's fair to say the Cards rush D isn't a top unit.

This looks like a good matchup for Gore and company - advantage, San Francisco.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The 49ers rushing attack was adequate last season (4.0 yards per carry, on average, with 99.9 rushing yards per game to their credit), but with only 10 rushing scores they didn't quite live up to fantasy owners' lofty expectations for Frank Gore (240/1036/6 rushing with 43/373/2 receiving last year). This year, the team has added rookie Glen Coffee from Alabama, and he's played well during the preseason, giving the team a decent backup/change of pace option to deploy alongside Gore. With a new focus on rushing the ball with OC Jimmy Raye replacing pass-happy Mike Martz, Gore should see ample opportunities to rack up 25+ touch outings during 2009. Gore had 5/19/0 rushing and 2/8/0 receiving vs. the Cowboys in week 3 of the preseason, while Coffee ran 8/34/0 and caught three balls for 27 yards.

Last year, the Cardinals were 16th vs. the opposing rushers, averaging 110.3 yards per game on the ground. They were 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game (26.6), with 13 rushing TDs surrendered over 16 games. Green Bay had their way with the Cardinals in week 3 of the preseason, rushing for 25/123/1 during the contest - even though the team switched out DC Clancy Pendergast for Bill Davis during the offseason, not a lot appears to have changed in Arizona. We'll see how they do with a real game-plan and preparation this week in the home opener.

Gore has to face a hostile crowd in this matchup, but he's up to the task - advantage, San Francisco.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

This is a rematch of the divisional playoff game that San Francisco won 45-31 last January - Colin Kaepernick tore up the Packers' D with 17/31 for 263 yards, two TDs and one interception passing and 16/181/2 rushing during that contest. Frank Gore also ran wild against the Packers, with 23/119/1 rushing and 2/48/0 receiving - all told, the Packers allowed 43/323/4 rushing to the 49ers in that game. This is the reason that Green Bay's defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent a portion of every practice during training camp on defensing the read-option offense. "We've been working on it," DE Ryan Pickett said early on during training camp. "Not just for the 49ers, but we play Washington (and Robert Griffin III), too. A lot of people are going to this read-option. It's like the Wildcat back in the day. You just have to be prepared for it. You have to be pretty disciplined." The Packers don't want to be embarrassed in the season opener. Last year, they fielded the 17th-ranked rush D that averaged 118.5 yards allowed per game, with 12 rushing scores given up. Seattle did tear up this defensive front for 7/166/1 in the third exhibition game, so there are still worries about the Packers' rush D entering the first game of regular season.

Frank Gore (259/1212/8 rushing and 28/234/1 receiving last season) has played strongly during the preseason/training camp, and enters 2013 firmly atop the depth chart in San Francisco again. On July 30th, Gore put it this way: "I respect all my guys here. I'm glad they push me. But I'm being real: I train like I still want to be 'The Man.' I really do. I'm not ready to pass the baton yet." Running backs' coach Tom Rathman also commented: "He's still got some youth left in him. Look at him when he runs. He still has the same moves as he's always had. He's a tremendous football player with great passion and desire to be one of the best." Kendall Hunter returned to action in preseason after a November 2012 Achilles injury/surgery and figures to be Gore's primary backup again this year.

Gore torched the 49ers the last time he saw them, and has a good outlook for week one at home on Sunday.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Steven Jackson is a stud - he posted 346/1528/13 rushing and 90/806/3 receiving last season. If he's on your team, you spent a top 3 draft pick to land Jackson - he's a must start every week (barring injury). Draftee Brian Leonard may see some action spelling Jackson this year, but Jackson is going to carry the load for the Rams again during 2007.

The Carolina defensive front slipped last year, averaging 108.6 rushing yards allowed per game (only 10 rushing scores allowed, though) - they were 11th in the NFL vs. the rush last year. New England found plenty of room to roam during their week 3 clash with Carolina (36/148/1 rushing) - the D has been without MLB Dan Morgan for most of the preseason (and last year) due to concussion problems, and Mike Rucker hasn't played or practiced much to date - we'll see how the Panthers jell once the games start to count.

This is a good matchup for the home team Rams.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Rams were tied with five other teams for 21st in the NFL last season, averaging 4.0 yards per carry as a team, and they managed just eight rushing scores altogether through 16 games. However, with a new HC in town (Steve Spagnuolo) and a new OC in Pat Shurmur, the team is expected to rely heavily on Steven Jackson while they try to build around him this year and in future years. Jackson had 254/1043/7 rushing with 62 targets for 40/379/1 receiving (in 12 games) last year, and figures to get even more touches this year.

Seattle was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, with an average of 118.7 rushing yards allowed per game and 13 rushing scores handed over during the season. The team averaged a hefty 24.5 total points allowed per game (25th in the NFL). New DC Gus Bradley is expected to stick with a cover-2 defense, but with a more attacking style of defense. K.C. was able to move the ball efficiently against the Seahawks in the week three 'tune-up' game, posting 20/108/0 rushing (a 5.4 yards per carry average). There is plenty of room for improvement in Seattle this year, as you can see.

Jackson is on the road, but he has a suspect defense in front of him which should present opportunities to make good things happen in week 1. Advantage, St. Louis.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Steven Jackson made a couple cameo appearances during preseason, with 5/22/0 rushing vs. New England during week three of the preseason and 4/20/0 vs. Cleveland during week two. He has spent the majority of the offseason and preseason rehabilitating following back surgery for a herniated disk. According to all reports he has successfully rehabilitated his back and he is reportedly ready for another slog through regular season. Jackson is the focus of the Rams' offense, with 325/1,424/4 rushing and 50/314/0 receiving during 2009 - we don't expect his featured role to change anytime soon, either, considering his backups are Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston.

Arizona's defense was 17th in the NFL last year vs. opposing rushers, allowing an average of 112.8 rushing yards per game (1,804 rushing yards allowed through 16 games), with 13 rushing TDs surrendered last year (also 17th in the NFL). The Cardinals were tore up by Tennessee's backfield during week two of the preseason, with 34/142/3 allowed, but they bounced back against Chicago with 19/82/0 given up. The up-and-down play of the Cardinals during the 2010 preseason is in keeping with their mediocre numbers from 2009.

Jackson is an outstanding running back - against the so-so Cardinals, we give Jackson the edge in this matchup.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Steven Jackson (330/1,241/6 rushing with 46/383/0 receiving last year) played well in the third exhibition game vs. Kansas City, with 15/72/0 rushing (a 4.8 yards per carry average) and he added 1/5/0 receiving during his time on the field. His new backups Cadillac Williams (12/53/0 rushing) with 1/19/0 receiving and Jerious Norwood (7/17/0 rushing with one target for zero receptions) also went through their paces prepping for regular season - all told, the Rams racked up 40/170/0 rushing on the day. The Rams' rushing attack looks locked-and-loaded as of week one regular season.

The Eagles' new-look defense has taken some lumps during preseason, with Cleveland gaining 20/103/0 rushing in the key third preseason game (a 5.2 yards allowed per carry average). There are concerns that rookie MLB Casey Matthews may not be up to the task of solidifying the center of the Eagles' defense, and the cohesiveness of all the new free agents on this squad under new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who switched from offensive line coach (the past 13 years) to defensive coordinator, hasn't been the best during preseason. We'll see if the high-priced D can better last year's 15th-ranked rush D that averaged 110.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with 12 rushing scores surrendered.

Jackson plays on an improving attack, while the Eagles are still in transition to a new set of personnel (and they have question marks in the center of their defensive front). We think Jackson will do pretty well in week one, ranking him 12th among all fantasy backs as of midweek.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Steven Jackson didn't make a lot of headlines during preseason, but he did average 5.2 yards per carry over three appearances (17/89/0 and he caught one pass for six yards), including 6/23/0 during the preseason finale vs. Baltimore. Jackson figures to be the heavily-utilized featured back in Brian Schottenheimer's grind-it-out offense. Rookies Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson are slated to backup Jackson this year.

The Lions' rush D was ranked 23rd in the NFL last year averaging 128.1 yards allowed per game with 10 rushing scores given up (tied for sixth in the NFL). They coughed up 9/27/1 to Darren McFadden in the third preseason game (and an embarrassing 40/198/2 during the entirety of the contest).

Jackson is a top talent despite being stuck on a rebuilding NFL franchise - he should have a good outing against the sub-par Detroit defense.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Daryl Richardson withstood all challengers during training camp and enters the regular season as the top back in St. Louis. Isaiah Pead is suspended to start the season, and Zac Stacy didn't show enough to earn a significant role in the exhibition games, let along regular season. As Steven Jackson's understudy last year, Richardson averaged 4.8 yards per carry with 98/475/0 rushing and added 24/163/0 receiving. He is a dual-threat back that will be heavily involved in the Rams' attack this year - for week one, Footballguys.com's David Dodds has Richardson pegged as the 20th fantasy running back in the land. He's worthy of starting this week unless you are stacked at running back.

The Cardinals' defense was 28th in the NFL vs. opposing rushers last year, averaging 137.0 yarsd allowed per game, with 12 rushing scores given up. The team remade the defense over the offseason, though, and may have better personnel in the lineup for 2013 - the front seven didn't shut down the Chargers during the third preseason game, though, allowing 14/57/1 rushing to Ryan Mathews and 37/127/2 to the Chargers as a whole. This squad is still a work in progress.

Richardson has a good matchup to work with this week.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Cadillac Williams disappointed a lot of fantasy owners last year with his 225/798/1 rushing and 30/196/0 receiving season - but this is a new year, and he should start on the path to redemption at Qwest Field on Sunday. He posted a solid 4/25/0 rushing vs. the Dolphins during week 3 of preseason, and has reportedly been strong throughout training camp. Coach Gruden insists that despite the light workload during preseason, the coaching staff is happy with Williams "We like what we see out of him out here. The guy is a rookie of the year who set an NFL record exploding on the scene there. If we can just give him 15 to 18 quality looks a week, he'll be just fine." We're about to find out just how fine Williams will be during 2007.

The Seattle rush D isn't impressive, averaging 126.8 yards allowed per game last year (22nd in the NFL) and surrendering 12 rushing scores over 16 games. They were trampled by the Vikings during preseason week 3 for 34/152/0 (a 4.5 yards per carry average) - there is room to roam when a back faces the Seahawks, although TDs aren't plentiful in general.

This looks like a good time for Tampa to unleash Cadillac Williams.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tampa Bay retooled their running back stable during the offseason, allowing long-time running back Earnest Graham leave while drafting young Doug Martin in the first round (31st pick). Martin has run strongly and caught the ball well during preseason (Martin was the starting running back during the third preseason game vs New England, and responded with 13/53/1 rushing and 3/12/0 receiving out of four targets). He'll be the lead back in a committee along with last year's rushing leader LeGarrette Blount (184/781/5 rushing with 25 targets for 15/148/0 receiving during 2011). After cut-down day the team signed ex-Giant Danny Ware for veteran depth in the stable.

The Panthers' defense has some new faces (starting rookie WLB/MLB Luke Kuechly) and also some veterans returning from injuries (OLB Thomas Davis is back in the mix after his third ACL surgery on the same knee, and MLB/WLB Jon Beason is returning from Achilles' tendon surgery). It remains to be seen how the unit will jell as Beason was hampered by a sore hamstring during preseason and didn't return to practice until September 2. Last year, the injury-ravaged unit ranked 25th in the NFL averaging 130.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing scores allowed (29th in the NFL). There is plenty of room for improvement on this unit, as you can see.

At home, we think the rebuilding Buccaneers have a slight edge on the rebuilding Carolina defensive front.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Doug Martin took a knee to the helmet in week two of the preseason, and though he wasn't concussed, the scare was enough to persuade the Buccaneers to sideline him for the balance of the exhibition season. We haven't seen much work from him this year, but based on last year's stellar season (319/1,454/11 rushing, with 49/472/1 receiving) we're not too worried about his prospects for week one of the regular season. David Dodds projects him as the sixth-best fantasy running back for week one, with one hundred yards combined and a good shot at a TD - 19/77/0.6 rushing and 3/23/0.1 receiving. The Tampa Bay offense is very run-oriented so Martin should get a lot of work on opening weekend.

The Jets' rush D was soft last year, ranking 26th in the NFL averaging 133.6 yards allowed per game, with a hefty 17 rushing TDs given away. During the third exhibition against the Giants, the Jets opened by giving up an 84-yard TD run to David Wilson, but then tightened up and limited the Giants to 55 yards rushing for the rest of the game. When the dust settled, the Jets had allowed 23/139/1 rushing, which is right on pace with their poor 2012 results.

Martin has a year of experience under his belt and is the centerpiece of the Tampa Bay offense - he should post a strong game against the suspect NYJ run defense.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Doug Martin seems to have gotten his mojo back as the lead back for the Buccaneers entering 2015. He is healthy and has played well during preseason (9/40/1 rushing in the third preseason game, and has shown well in most training camp practices to boot). On September 7 local beat writers noted that Martin is well ahead of rival Charles Sims and Mike James after the successful preseason - it looks like Martin might be able to get back to numbers reminiscent of his rookie season (319/1,454/11 rushing and 49/472/1 receiving). He's a bright spot for the Buccaneers as they move forward with breaking in Jameis Winston as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

The Titans' rush D was awful during 2014, ranking 31st in the NFL averaging 137.2 yards rushing allowed per game, with 17 rushing scores given up. Kansas City hung 17/115/0 rushing on this unit in the third preseason game. Not too good, friends.

Advantage, Tampa.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Titans bring a three-headed monster into Kansas City, with veteran Shonn Greene atop the depth chart as of Week One, but rookie Bishop Sankey working to gain touches on the football. Dexter McCluster is the change-of-pace back who also splits out wide often - there are several mouths to feed in this stable entering 2014. Greene has played his way into shape and the top spot on the roster: '(Greene) looked good...running the football [at Atlanta],' said head coach Ken Whisenhunt. 'He had a couple of good runs. He's done a good job. He's gotten to the weight that we asked him to get to, and he's working hard in practice.' Though neither Greene nor Sankey looked particularly impressive during preseason, they are the best Tennessee has this year so they'll handle the rushing duties going forwards.

The Chiefs' rush D ranked 22nd in the NFL last year allowing an average of 120.2 rushing yards per game, but they get very stubborn in the red zone, giving up just nine rushing scores over 16 games. Minnesota held Adrian Peterson out of the third preseason game, but K.C. still gave up 28/148/0 during the contest - plenty of yards between the 20's, but once again no TDs.

Tennessee's committee should move the ball at Arrowhead stadium this weekend, but TDs may not be in the cards. On balance this looks like a good but not great matchup for Greene, Sankey and McCluster.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Clinton Portis is entering his second season with the Redskins. Will he be more productive in this go-around, or will Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright limit his upside? The answer to this question remains to be seen, as Portis hasn't scored a single TD during preseason. His most extensive work came during week 3 of the preseason (8/48/0 rushing and 1/8/0 receiving) vs. Pittsburgh. Last year, he disappointed may fantasy owners with 343/1315/5 rushing and 40/235/2 receiving (ranking 15th in fantasy points per game during the year).

Chicago's rush defense was mediocre last season, allowing an average of 128.1 rushing yards per game (25th in the NFL); however, they only coughed up 9 rushing scores during the season. These guys are tough at the goal-line. Willis McGahee averaged a mere 2.9 yards per carry against the Bears during the week 3 preseason "tune up" (he rushed for 21/61/0 in that contest). Regardless of the mess at QB, the Bears' D looks to be improving.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Fed Ex Field expects a high of 83F and a low of 68F with a 0% chance of precipitation on Sunday -- perfect football weather appears to be on tap.

At home, vs a so-so rush defense, we expect Portis to get off to a good start. Advantage, Washington.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Clinton Portis hurt his left shoulder (partially dislocating it) early in pre-season and hasn't played since. On September 5th, coach Gibbs described him as day-to-day with the injury and stated he doesn't know if Portis will play on Monday: "The decision will be pretty much up to them (Portis and injured CB Shawn Springs)". If Portis is ruled out, or rules himself out, then we expect newly arrived T.J. Duckett to see a good bit of the work land on his plate with a healthy helping of Ladell Betts on the side, although there are reports on Tuesday that Betts will get the starting nod if Portis can't play (which would make Duckett the "healthy side helping"). Anyway, those two will see the most work in Portis' absence, if it happens. The Redskins averaged 4.2 yards per carry last year, so whoever gets in the game should find some holes to hit.

The Vikings were 19th against the rush last season, allowing an average of 115.1 rushing yards per game, and 18th in rushing TDs surrendered, with 14. NT Pat Williams anchors this average defensive front. During the week 3 exhibition game, the Ravens managed 25/85/1 against the Vikings defenders.

At FedEx Field, we think the Redskins' stable has the edge in this matchup.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tim Hightower arrived from Arizona and free agency, and when Ryan Torain broke his hand and was forced to the sidelines for the bulk of preseason, Hightower seized the top spot on the depth chart and never looked back. He posted 6/70/1 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving vs. Indianapolis in week two of the preseason, and then followed up with 9/56/1 rushing and 1/-3/0 receiving vs. Baltimore (including a long 37-yard TD run against that hard-nosed defensive front). Entering regular season, Hightower is poised to be the featured runner for the Redksins (hopefully he won't fumble the football and get into coach Mike Shanahan's doghouse). Torain looks like he'll be relegated to backup duties.

The Giants' rush D finished 2010 ranked eighth in the NFL allowing an average of 101.2 yards per game, with 11 rushing scores handed out. However, the defensive team has suffered a barrage of injuries during the 2011 preseason, losing MLB Jonathan Goff to IR, OLB Clint Sintim to IR, lead CB Terrell Thomas to IR, and they enter week one without DE Osi Umenyiora (knee injury) or rookie CB Prince Amukamara (broken foot). The team is scrambling to find a replacement for Goff at MLB as of Wednesday September seventh (they are looking at Lofa Tatupu, Keith Bulluck and Dhani Jones according to local reports), and may start rookie MLB Greg Jones in the opener due to Goff's injury and the lack of time for any free agent to get up to speed in time for Sunday. Let's just say that the starting lineup of the Giants' D is in turmoil as of week one. Players like Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff aren't easily replaced on short notice.

The Redskins host the Giants in a situation where the Giants' D is injury-depleted and in turmoil - advantage, Washington.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Alfred Morris is the one constant for Washington during this chaotic training camp - he'll be heavily worked as Kirk Cousins gets his feet back under him as the starting quarterback in Washington. David Dodds expects Morris to post 16/60/.5 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving against the stout Miami defense in the opener at FedEx Field (#22 fantasy running back in Week One). He spent time during training camp working to become a better receiver and may be a three-down option for Washington with Matt Jones firmly behind the veteran Morris on the depth chart entering Week One.

The Miami rush D was in the lower echelon of the league last year, averaging 121.1 yards rushing allowed per game, with 13 rushing scores given out over 16 contests. They averaged 102.5 rushing yards allowed during exhibition season, an improvement, but not a decisive one given the nature of vanilla preseason offensive and defensive schemes. We'll see if they can maintain the improvement now that the games count.

Morris has a solid shot at a productive game, from a volume standpoint if nothing else. Advantage, Washington.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cardinals' rushing attack has been less-than-impressive during preseason, especially new starter J.J. Arrington. However, the team swears that they will do better once regular season rolls around - and the vanilla offense of training camp gives way to the full arsenal in Arizona. We'll wait and see, but Arrington's 10/31/0 performance during the week 3 preseason game vs. Oakland doesn't make us very happy. Don't panic if you are an Arrington owner, but consider your other options carefully for week 1 until we see how he responds to a "for real" game. If you own Arrington and can make room for Marcel Shipp on your roster, we'd do it though. Just for insurance. We've all been around Denny Green long enough to take his proclamations with a grain of salt.

The Giants' rush D was very soft during 2004, giving up an average of 134.8 rushing yards per game (with 13 rushing scores surrendered over the 16 game slate). They did hold their cross-town rivals to 23/77/0 during week 3 of the preseason, which is a hopeful sign for the Big Blue faithful.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Giants' Stadium is forecast to be a great place to play a football game on Sunday -- 85F for a high, 70F for a low, with a 0% chance for rain.

The Giants are rebuilding, while the Cardinals deploy a high-potential offense. This one looks like a pretty even matchup to us, given home field advantage flowing to the defense.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

James' first season with the Cards was unremarkable (337/1159/6 rushing and 38/217/0 receiving), but with the arrival of head coach Ken Whisenhunt (formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers), assistant head coach Russ Grimm, and the drafting of new RT Levi Brown (among other personnel moves), the team aims to do a lot better than the 3.4 yards per carry that James averaged during 2006. James commented early in September "Everything is on-point now. These coaches know exactly what it takes to win and how to accomplish it. Denny was more of a veteran's coach, but for this team, which hasn't won yet, Coach Whisenhunt is a much better fit. He's very detailed, and everything is done a certain way until we do it the way he wants." James was inactive for the week 3 preseason game, so we have yet to see him in a substantial numbers of snaps under game-time conditions. Week 1 of regular season will tell us a lot about how far the Cardinals have been able to turn around their running game - vs. the Houston Texans in week 2, James only managed 5/11/0 rushing, but he did grab a TD pass from Matt Leinart.

The 49ers were the league's worst defense in points allowed last year (412 points given up), and ranked 19th vs. the rush with 1936 yards allowed during the season. During the week 3 preseason game vs. Chicago, the 49ers were ground down to the tune of 45/146/2, although they did limit starter Cedric Benson to 19/33/1 rushing (1.7 yards per carry average). We'll see if new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and his 3-4 defensive front can improve once the games count for real.

James and the Cardinals struggled last year, and haven't looked impressive during preseason. The same could be said for the 49ers - this looks like a neutral matchup to us, with neither team holding an edge over the other.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Last year, the Cardinals were 31st in the NFL averaging a mere 3.5 yards per rush, although they did score 14 rushing TDs during the season. The poor showing led to Edgerrin James departing the team and rookie Chris Wells joining the squad - Wells missed a large chunk of training camp due to an ankle issue that eventually cleared up (he posted 7/46/2 rushing during the third preseason game after his ankle quit flaring up). Tim Hightower is currently #1 on the depth chart (143/399/10 rushing last year, with 34/237/0 receiving), but if Wells can replicate his effort from the third preseason game against real-live NFL defenses, that could change shortly. For now, they'll be deployed in a RBBC.

The Niners averaged 106.8 rushing yards allowed per game last year (13th in the NFL), with 14 rushing TDs handed over during the season. They were not great, but not horrid, either. The D as a whole averaged 23.8 total points allowed (23rd in the NFL), but they tightened up significantly once coach Singletary took the helm. We expect to see some intense play out of the 49ers this week. During week 3 of the preseason (when the starters play the longest), the 49ers handed over 28/125/1 to the Dallas Cowboys - there is still work that needs to be done in this phase of the game.

Two units in transition meet in this matchup - with the home field advantage at the backs of the NFC Champs, we'll call this pretty even.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Andre Ellington (118/652/3 rushing with 57 targets for 39/371/1 receiving last season) outplayed the field of other backs in Arizona so thoroughly last year that he is the new lead back for the Cardinals, while Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams are now out of Arizona (Mendenhall is retired; Williams is on the Cowboys' practice squad). Though the Cardinals plan to use some sort of committee to help keep Ellington 'fresh', the fact is that neither Johnathan Dwyer or Stepfan Taylor have shown elite abilities so far during their NFL careers. We look for Ellington to handle the ball most of the time in perhaps a 60-40 split, with the other backs on the roster splitting up the remaining 40% of available touches. In other words, Ellington is the fantasy-worthy starter on this squad, though he likely won't get enough work to challenge for a top-12 finish at the end of the regular season.

San Diego's first team defense limited the 49ers' running backs to nine yards rushing (total) during the time that Colin Kaepernick/the first team offense was in the game (Kaepernick had two rushes for 13 yards to his credit). Frank Gore managed -2 yards rushing; Carlos Hyde had 14 yards while playing with Kaepernick, and LaMichael James posted -3 yards rushing during the first quarter-and-a-half. All told, the 49ers posted 35/129/1 rushing on August 24, but that was mostly accomplished against the Chargers' backups and reserves. Last season, San Diego ranked 12th in the NFL averaging 107.8 yards rushing allowed per game - they gave up 14 TDs on the ground over 16 games played.

The Cardinals have turned the keys to their backfield over to Ellington - in this first contest we think the Chargers represent a neutral matchup for the Cardinals' running backs stable.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Michael Turner looked impressive at points during the preseason with his new team, especially during week 2 vs. Indianapolis (4/113/0 rushing, with a long of 63). During the week 3 tuneup for regular season, he ground out 5/16/0 vs. the Titans - the Falcons are still in rebuilding mode, folks, and haven't proven they can consistently break open holes for Turner and sidekick Jerious Norwood (4/53/0 rushing vs. Tennessee, with 7/25/0 vs. Indy the week before). Last year, the Falcons averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which is a tad below the 4.0 standard which is considered "average" in the NFL.

The Lions were among the league's worst run defenders last year, averaging 119.4 yards allowed per game while handing over 19 rushing TDs in 16 games (31st in the NFL). However, they have looked improved during preseason, and in the week 3 contest vs. Cleveland the Lions forced the Browns' first team offense off the field in 3 downs during 3 consecutive series to open the game. The Browns could only muster 16/55/0 rushing during the contest (a 3.4 yards per carry average) - coach Rod Marinelli seems to have this unit heading in the right direction entering 2008.

Two units in transition clash in this week 1 contest - neither one has a clear edge over the other, although the Falcons will be in their home dome on Sunday.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Falcons' offensive line was devastated at the tackle position during preseason, so the team will be juggling a new alignment up front coming into this game. Further, starter Steven Jackson has been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout preseason and didn't play a down during the exhibition games. If Jackson's hamstring acts up this week during practices, the Falcons may start Jacquizz Rodgers on Sunday, with a healthy dose of rookie Devonta Freeman thrown in - Rodgers started the third preseason game in Jackson's absence (8/33/0 rushing with 5/31/0 receiving vs. Tennessee) while Freeman did a lot of work later in that game (4/11/0 rushing with 4/33/0 receiving). These two would likely be in a committee of some sort if Jackson misses Week One. Antone Smith is the reserve back entering Week One (4/4/0 rushing vs. Tennessee in the third preseason game).

New Orleans' rush D was ranked 19th in the NFL last season averaging 111.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given up over 16 games. During the third preseason contest at Indianapolis, the Saints allowed just 6/17/0 rushing to starter Trent Richardson (who has struggled to run the ball since being traded away from Cleveland), but the entire team eventually coughed up 29/162/0 rushing over the course of 60 minutes.

Neither team is strong in this phase of the game - we think this is a neutral matchup with neither side holding an edge over the other.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Falcons parted ways with Antone Smith, waiving him with an injury settlement, so we are down to Tevin Coleman (Coleman managed 4/2/0 rushing at Miami in the third exhibition) and Devonta Freeman (65/248/1 rushing and 30/225/1 receiving behind Steven Jackson last year) as the main contenders for carries in the Falcons' anticipated committee. Terron Ward made it onto the 53-man roster as a reserve running back. Frankly, due to hamstring injuries Coleman and Freeman had little opportunity to display their merits to the coaching staff during preseason - it may take a few games for the mix at running back to be determined, making this rushing attack a risky proposition for fantasy owners. Also, the run blocking by the offensive line during preseason was not impressive. Forewarned is forearmed. On Tuesday, September 8 head coach Dan Quinn indicated that Coleman would get the start on Monday Night Football - but fantasy owners should realize that running out for the first offensive snap of the ball may not translate to a dominant share of the carries available.

The Eagles' rush D finished 2014 ranked 15th in the league averaging 110.7 rushing yards allowed per contest, with 14 rushing scores handed over over 16 games. They have given up an average of 140.8 rushing yards per game during preseason (31st in the NFL) - yes, the teams use vanilla schemes and a lot of backups during preseason, but being in the bottom quarter of NFL rush defenses after four exhibitions isn't an endorsement of this unit.

Two shaky units face off in this one - that sounds about even to us.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

As of August 25th, Willis McGahee had only gained 23 yards on 10 carries for his new team. He managed 4/12/0 rushing during the 3rd preseason game of the year (vs. Washington), when the starters put in the most time on the field. Considering that McGahee averaged 3.8 yards per carry during his final 2 seasons with Buffalo, and that the Ravens averaged 3.4 yards per carry last year, it looks like McGahee has an uphill battle vs. Cincy ahead of him. The return of LT Jonathan Ogden late in training camp is a positive development for the Ravens' offense but it's unclear how healthy he'll be. We'll see if Ogden can make the difference during the (early game) Monday Night Football opener.

Cincinnati was 16th in the NFL last year vs. the rush, allowing 118.6 rushing yards per game and 15 rushing TDs. They averaged 4.19 yards allowed per attempt - this defensive front didn't scare folks during 2006. Atlanta's new offense did struggle to run the ball during preseason week 3, with 32/74/1 - it appears that the Bengals have moved in the right direction in this phase of the game.

An underpowered rushing attack clashes with a mediocre rush D in this matchup - we think it's a neutral matchup for the Ravens when they visit Cincy in the opener.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Willis McGahee is very shaky to play in the opener (he was running in a swimming pool as late as last week, and hasn't had many reps with the first team this year); meanwhile the Ravens' pass offense is a shambles with rookie QB Joe Flacco the last man standing at the position right now. Further bad news for McGahee owners came out during the final weeks of preseason - rumors indicate the new coaching staff is unhappy with his grasp of the playbook and lackluster effort during the spring prior to his injury. On Monday, coach John Harbaugh commented on McGahee (who did practice): "I wouldn't say he's 100 percent just [from] watching him run around out there. But he was out there. We'll just have to see how he progresses this week. He wants to be out there, I know that." Many signs point to week 1 being a huge opportunity for Ray Rice, the rookie RB who has carried the ball almost every first team snap since McGahee went down with his bum knee. Rice ran for 5/20/0 and snagged one reception for 4 yards in the 3rd preseason game vs. St. Louis. He looks like opportunity may be knocking on his door for week 1 of the regular season.

Cincinnati's rush D was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 118.3 rushing yards allowed per game (21st in the NFL) with 11 rushing scores surrendered (tied for 12th in the NFL). The Saints rolled over the Bengals for 145 yards in the 3rd preseason game, though (29/145/0 - a 5.0 yards per carry average), which is not what the coaching staff had in mind at all. On some plays, they limited the Saints to a short gain, only to let a runner loose in the secondary on the next. Inconsistency is the key term used to describe the Bengals' rush D this year.

The Ravens' offense is in turmoil and will have a rookie starting at QB and may have a rookie starting at RB on Sunday. The Bengals' defense hasn't established a strong presence during preseason - that sounds like a fairly even matchup between weak squads to us.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ray Rice posted 2,000+ combined yards last season (254/1339/7 rushing and 101 targets for 78/702/1 receiving) to land at fourth among all fantasy RBs in scoring. If Willis McGahee continues to star in goal-line packages (109/544/12 rushing and 15/85/2 receiving last year), he'll be enough of a millstone to keep Rice out of the top three positions among fantasy RBs. However, by any yard stick Rice is one of the premier fantasy RBs in the land, and he should enjoy a productive season as the lead back in Baltimore. Neither back saw much action during preseason (Rice posted 5/13/0 rushing and 4/44/0 receiving during the third preseason game, while McGahee was out of the picture that day), but now the games count. The Ravens were first in the NFL last year with 22 rushing TDs, fifth in rushing yardage (2,200) and fourth in average yards per carry (4.7). This is one of the premier rushing attacks in the league, folks. There is some uncertainty along the OL because OT Jared Gaither is struggling with a back injury as of week one - he's not certain when he'll be able to get back on the field.

The Jets field one of the league's most ferocious defenses, though - they were eighth in rushing yards allowed during 2009 (with 1,578 given up), 11th in TDs allowed (11), and fourth in average yards allowed per carry (3.8). Though LB Calvin Pace is out with a broken foot right now, the core defense has remained together and looks as tough as ever this year - Washington's RBs could only muster 29/82/0 vs. the Jets in the third preseason game (when starters on both teams play the longest) - a 2.8 yards per carry average.

The Jets will be starring on Monday Night Football in their new digs, New Meadowlands Stadium, so expect a loud, hostile crowd to add their throats to the Jets' defensive stands. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup with neither team enjoying a big advantage - team strength vs. team strength clash in this matchup.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

During the preseason there was some acrimony on the Bills' rushing offense as Fred Jackson didn't appreciate taking a back seat to C.J. Spiller during week two of the exhibitions: 'I was shocked,' Jackson said on August 23rd. 'I feel like a No. 1 back, and I should be treated like one. As far as what's going on, you would have to ask them. I'm going to come out here and compete. I feel like I have been competing. I feel like I have done everything I can. It's been like that for two or three years, and nothing has changed.' In response to Jackson's concerns, he started and appeared in most of the first-half snaps during the week three preseason game (generally considered to be the most important contest of the preseason). Jackson finished the game with 9/33/0 rushing and 1/30/0 receiving compared to Spiller's 4/21/0 rushing. Heading into the regular season, it appears that Jackson is the top dog in this committee. David Dodds expects Jackson to be on the cusp of RB #2 numbers in week one, with around 80 yards combined and perhaps one TD, while Spiller projects to under 50 yards and just a slight chance for a TD. Jackson is the better bet for fantasy owners out of this backfield.

The Chiefs' rush D was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 110.2 yards allowed per game (14th in the NFL), with 11 rushing TDs given up during regular season. St. Louis walloped this unit in week three of the preseason, posting 40/170/0 rushing during the contest (a healthy 4.3 yards per carry average). While it isn't a perfect translation to how tough a defense is against the run, the consensus ranking of the Kansas City team D by the Footballguys.com staff is 16th, while David Dodd's individual board has them pegged at 25th - nobody considers the Chiefs' D as a top-ten unit entering 2011.

Jackson and Spiller have to travel to a tough venue, Arrowhead Stadium, this week, but they have a so-so defense to exploit. All things considered we think this is a fairly even matchup.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Buffalo Bills' running back situation is tentative early in the week - LeSean McCoy has missed the bulk of training camp due to a serious hamstring injury, and he was only able to participate in individual drills at practice on Tuesday (the same limitations applied last Friday). Karlos Williams, the new backup running back with Fred Jackson now a Seahawk, had an undisclosed surgery during training camp and just started back to practicing last week. It is fair to say it is unclear who will get the bulk of the carries during Week One, at least so far. Pay attention to which back is able to practice with the team later on as the season opener on Sunday approaches.

The Colts' rush D was strictly average last year, ranking 18th in the league averaging 113.4 yards rushing allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores given up over 16 contests. So far (during 2015 exhibition season), they have averaged 114 rushing yards allowed per game (26th during preseason), with four rushing scores handed out.

Two banged-up backs are trying to come back for Buffalo, while the Colts look similar in this phase of the game from last year to this one - this looks like a neutral matchup, but may be one to avoid if we don't get more clarity on the injury situation in Buffalo by Saturday.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Panthers' new backfield is shaping up to be a powerful 1-2 tandem. DeAngelo Williams has been showing decisiveness running the ball and good power between the tackles during preseason, and looks improved. However, Jonathan Stewart has come along nicely as training camp progressed, and he appears to have worked through the lingering soreness in his surgically repaired foot. Against the Redskins during week 3 of the preseason, both players posted 100 yard rushing efforts (Williams gained 9/101/1 rushing and Stewart 10/100/1) - with the new OL blocking well, it appears the sky is the limit for the Panthers' rushing attack during 2008.

The Chargers' defense has been impacted by the knee injury to SLB Shawne Merriman, and it showed against the Seahawks during the 3rd preseason game. Seattle piled up 32/162/0 during the game, with 13/61/0 posted by the starting tandem of Maurice Morris and Julius Jones in their time on the field. Last year, the Chargers were in the middle of the NFL pack averaging 107 rushing yards allowed per game (16th) and they allowed 11 rushing TDs (tied for 12th in the league). So far, it appears that the Charger defense is about where they left off 2007 - not great, but not soft either.

Carolina has answered some questions about their backfield during preseason, but they still have a lot to prove once the games start counting. This first test of the season at Qualcomm Stadium looks like a pretty even match-up, all things considered.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Starters Jonathan Stewart (4/11/0 rushing with 1/20/0 receiving) and DeAngelo Williams (5/9/0 rushing) were both held under 12 yards rushing in the third exhibition game. 'There was no consistency in the way we played,' head coach Ron Rivera said after the game. 'It's something that has to be corrected and has to be fixed now.' Reserve running back Fozzy Whittaker actually led the team in rushing at New England with 7/17/0 rushing - none of the Panthers' backs impressed during the tune-up to regular season. The good news for the Panthers to arise out of the preseason is that Stewart seems to have finally gotten past the ankle issues that marred the past two seasons, although a training camp hamstring injury means he's had limited reps/contact so far this year. We'll see how Stewart and Williams play now that the games count.

Buffalo co-starter C.J. Spiller posted 9/36/0 rushing, while Fred Jackson handled 5/15/1 rushing and 4/23/0 receiving against Tampa Bay in the third preseason game. All told, the Bills put up 21/89/1 rushing against Tampa in that tune-up for regular season. Last year, Tampa ranked 15th in the NFL allowing an average of 110.1 yards per game, with 10 rushing scores given up over 16 games. The Buccaneers got stubborn in the red zone, but were fairly generous to opposing backs between the 20's.

Stewart and Williams have yet to find their rhythm running the ball, while the Buccaneers are so-so at defending against the run - that sounds about even to us.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Bears bring two capable backs to the regular season opener, with Matt Forte hanging on as the starter and free agent import Chester Taylor currently in the supporting/change of pace role. 'It is working fine. I've been through this in Baltimore and Minnesota with Adrian Peterson and Jamal Lewis, so I know how to work well with another back in the backfield,' Taylor said on August 27th. 'You have to help each other out in the backfield because it's going to be a long season.' For his part, Forte feels he's gotten back to top form for this season Forte commented in mid-June that he is completely healthy after suffering hamstring and knee injuries last season - 'I know I have more burst,' Forte said. 'I look different on tape. I was missing burst last year, and a second gear. It really wasn't there.' If Forte is right, he should be able to improve on last year's disappointing fantasy showing of 258/929/4 rushing (a 3.6 yards per carry average) with 57/471/0 receiving. Both backs are good receivers out of the backfield, which is a prerequisite for playing in new offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system.

The Lions were not a good team last year, and they finished 2010 ranked 25th in the NFL averaging 126.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing scores handed over during the year. They have added a quality DL in Kyle Vanden Bosch, and drafted the top DT prospect in the 2010 lottery in instant starter Ndamukong Suh - this year's edition of the Lions' D is quite a bit more talented than last year's group. However, Cleveland's lowly offense managed 26/109/1 rushing vs. the Lions in the third preseason game, showing that their is still a lot of hard work ahead for Detroit's defenders.

Forte wasn't exciting last year but he claims to be back to full health now, while the Lions are still in rebuilding mode. On balance, this looks like a fairly even matchup between the divisional rivals.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Matt Forte thrived during the first year of Mike Martz's offense being run in Chicago, posting 237/1,069/6 rushing and 69 targets for 51/547/3 receiving over 16 games played. He's never missed a game during his three year career, and is currently in contract negotiations for a lucrative extension, rumored to have about $15 million in guaranteed money among it's details. He is the clear-cut, featured back for Chicago, one of the increasingly-rare three-down starters to be found in the NFL. Forte improved his yards per carry by almost a yard per tote in his third NFL season (from 3.6 yards per carry in 2009 to 4.5 yards per carry in 2010), and upped his TD total from four in 2009 to nine in 2010. At Tennessee during week three of the preseason, he posted 17/74/1 rushing and 1/15/0 receiving during his tune-up on the field. It looks like all signals are green for Forte entering the 2011 season opener.

The Falcons were 10th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 105.9 yards rushing per game, and they were pretty stout in the red zone, too, with just nine rushing TDs allowed over 16 contests. Teams did average 4.6 yards per carry against Atlanta, though, so not everything was outstanding, but when the field was compressed the front seven got very stubborn. This preseason, the Falcons held Pittsburgh to 28/96/1 rushing (a 3.4 yards per carry average) during week three, so they are starting off on the right foot as a rush defense entering September, folks. Atlanta is seen as a middle-of-the-pack defense by the Footballguys.com staff, who rank them 14th on the eve of regular season, and David Dodds has them slotted just outside the top ten at 11th among team defenses for 2011.

Forte is a quality starter playing in front of the home crowd this week, but he's got a solid rush D to deal with as well. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup to us - but a lot of Forte's yards come in the passing game, so the rushing dimension of the matchup is only part of the picture when it comes to evaluating Forte. Overall, Footballguys.com's David Dodds projects him to finish among the top-ten fantasy RBs this week.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Bears' wide receiving corps is banged up entering regular season: Kevin White is out with a fractured shin; Alshon Jeffery has been dealing with a calf injury and is banned from discussion with the media this week by his tight-lipped coaches; and Marquess Wilson describes his health as 'a work in progress' as he tries to rehab a hamstring injury. Suffice it to say that Matt Forte will be called on early and often here in Week One, which is a role that he is used to - Forte posted 266/1,038/6 rushing and saw 130 passing targets for 102/808/4 receiving last season. Though he may not catch as many footballs with Marc Trestman now hanging his hat in Baltimore, new head coach John Fox/offensive coordinator Adam Gase aren't stupid - they'll utilize Forte's obvious talents (especially in light of the power outage at wide receiver).

The Packers' rush D ranked 23rd in the NFL last year in terms of average rushing yards allowed per game (119.9), but it is a hallmark of Dom Capers' defenses to be stubborn at the goal line - Green Bay only allowed 11 rushing scores last season. During the exhibition season, Green Bay averaged just 71.8 yards rushing allowed (fourth in the NFL) with a mere one rushing score surrendered. While we take the exhibition results skeptically for the most part, the dramatic improvement may point to a unit on it's way up in this phase of the game. At least, the Packers seem to be heading in the right direction entering regular season.

Forte has a neutral matchup to work with this week - he may face a lot of men in the box given the lack of receivers available for Chicago to challenge the Packers with over the top.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Here's the bad news for Cincinnati fans: Rudi Johnson spent the entire 2005 season fighting through a knee injury. Here's the good news for Cincinnati fans and Johnson's fantasy teams: Rudi Johnson spent the entire 2005 season fighting through a knee injury and put up 337/1458/12 rushing and 23/90/0 receiving - now that the knee is healed, he is even MORE explosive and powerful than he was during 2005. It looks like the sky is the limit for Johnson this season - teams have to respect Palmer/Johnson/Houshmandzadeh and simply can't crowd the line unless they want to get burned. Johnson is ready for an outstanding season.

The Chiefs defense lived in the cellar last year, allowing an average of 328.1 total yards per game (25th in the NFL) - they were 7th vs. the run, though, giving up less than 100 yards per game over the season (98.1 per game on average). They gave up 11 rushing scores last year (13th in the NFL) - in aggregate, the rush defense was fairly respectable. St. Louis could only manage 25/65/0 during the third pre-season game, so it looks like rush defense could be a strength again this year.

Johnson is a fantasy stud and the Bengals offense is lethal - at Arrowhead, we think this is an even matchup thanks to the "12th Man".

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Cedric Benson got his mojo back in Cincinnati last year, posting 301/1,251 yards/6 TDs and 17/111/0 receiving for his very first appearance in the top 20 fantasy RBs (16th). He's been used sparingly during the preseason, but in the third full week of games (the fourth game for Cincinnati, who appeared in the Hall of Fame game) he posted a 6.3 yards per carry average with 8/50/0 rushing - Benson looks ready to rock for 2010 as the centerpiece of the Bengals' rushing attack.

The Patriots were a bend-but-don't break rush D last year, ranking 13th in the NFL averaging 110.5 yards given up per game, but they handed over a mere six rushing scores all year (third-best in the NFL). Teams could move the ball between the 20's on New England (who averaged 4.4 yards allowed per carry, 23rd in the NFL), but they excelled in goal-line situations. In the third preseason game, Steven Jackson had a 4.4 yards per carry average (5/22/0), but couldn't find the end-zone. All told, St. Louis posted 41/136/1 rushing during the regular season preview in week three.

Benson should rack up yards vs. New England, but TDs are generally hard to come by against this unit. This looks like a neutral matchup for the visiting Bengals.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The changing of the guard has happened in Cincinnati as last year's veteran leader, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, was cut by the Bengals at the end of August. The team will go with a committee comprised of second-year man Giovani Bernard (170/695/5 rushing with 56/514/3 receiving last season) and rookie Jeremy Hill, leavened with a few appearances by veteran Cedric Peerman (8/17/0 rushing last season). Hill looked good in the place of Green-Ellis during the third preseason game (12/48/0 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving), while Bernard struggled vs. Arizona's stout first team (10/17/0 rushing with 2/1/0 receiving). With such a youthful tandem at running back, the Bengals' team will have to help the youngsters mature quickly if they are going to provide the steady 1-2 punch that the coaching staff is seeking from the running game this season.

Baltimore was ranked 11th in the NFL last season, averaging 105.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with just seven rushing scores handed out over 16 games (fourth in the NFL in this category). During the third preseason game, they limited Washington's tandem of Roy Helu (7/30/0 rushing) and Alfred Morris (6/29/0 rushing) to 13/59/0 rushing while they were on the field, and didn't allow a TD score the entire game (24/81/0 for Washington on the ground). They continue to be stubborn in the red zone, folks.

Teams can move the ball around between the 20's on the Ravens, but things get harder at the goal line - on balance this looks like a neutral matchup for the youngsters in the Cincinnati backfield.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Here's the big question for fantasy owners - who will carry the ball the most for the Browns? The answer to that question right now appears to be Reuben Droughns (William Green was ineffective vs Chicago (5/9/0), and Lee Suggs is dinged up again). The Browns released an unofficial depth chart Tuesday that listed Droughns as #1 but coach Romeo Crennel said it would likely be Sunday before he named a starter. It's hard to be too enthusiastic about any of the Browns' backs as 1). they are clearly in a running back by committee situation and 2). the team ranked 25th in the NFL averaging 3.8 yards per carry last year. Droughns could be a play for owners in deep leagues, but there isn't a lot of confidence in the Browns' backs right now.

Cincinnati drafted two high-profile rookies (LB's Odell Thurman and David Pollack)as part of their defensive makeover coming into 2005. Both Thurman and Pollack are starters entering the season -- but now the games are for real. During week 3 of the pre-season, the Eagles' starters scored 3 TDs and 2 FGs in a half vs. the Bengals, although the teams' running backs only managed 21/81/0. Cincinnati gave up an average of 128.9 rushing yards per game last year (26th in the NFL), so there is plenty of room for improvement.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Brown's Stadium expects near-perfect weather on Sunday -- 80F for a high, 64F for a low, with a 0% chance of rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this contest.

The Browns bring a muddled backfield to this game, while the Bengals are hoping that their personnel upgrades will make a difference this year. This one looks pretty even to us.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cowboys were 10th in the NFL last year averaging 4.3 yards per carry, with an average of 107.7 rushing yards generated per game. This year, they return to the field with a healthy Felix Jones to complement big back Marion Barber, with now-veteran Tashard Choice also in the mix for touches at RB. Head Coach Wade Phillips said on Tuesday the 8th of September, 'Hopefully we'll get a lot of carries with him [Jones] and Marion. I wouldn't be surprised if they were back there together some.' During the week three preseason game, Barber led the trio with 13 carries (for 47 yards), but Choice led the team in rushing with 8/55/0 - Jones posted 5/23/1 rushing in the contest. The Cowboys will employ the RBBC extensively during 2009, with Barber figuring to be the lead back in the trio.

The Bucs slipped into the middle of the NFL pack last season as far as rushing yards allowed per game, landing at 18th in the NFL (average of 118.8 yards per carry). However, they handed over just 8 rushing TDs during Monte Kiffen's swan song season (he's now at the University of Tennessee, with Jim Bates taking over at DC). It'll be interesting to see how the combination of Raheem Morris and Bates works out as the season goes along - the defense is in a retooling mode entering 2009. Miami was held to 25/79/0 in the third exhibition game, so the Bucs are off on the right foot entering regular season - we'll see if the improvement continues.

Dallas is on the road this week and faces a unit with a proud tradition that slid somewhat last year - this looks like a neutral matchup from where we're sitting.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Dallas has settled on a depth chart that looks very much like last year's edition at RB - Marion Barber (12/23/0 rushing with 1/1/0 receiving during minimal preseason action) got his torn quadriceps muscle healthy (an injury the team suppressed reporting during 2009) and has run with more authority and explosion during training camp, while Felix Jones (9/21/0 rushing and 3/17/0 receiving during preseason) suffered from swelling in his knee early in camp and never really mounted a challenge for the top job during training camp. Entering 2010 the pecking order at RB is Barber, Jones and then #3 RB Tashard Choice. During 2009, the Cowboys rushed for 2,103 yards as a team (seventh in the NFL) with 14 rushing TDs (15th) - Barber posted 214/932/7 rushing to lead the team and added 26/221/0 receiving; Jones had 116/685/3 rushing and 19/119/0 receiving; and Choice gained 64/349/3 rushing and 15/132/0 receiving.

The Redskins turned over the entire coaching staff when Mike Shanahan came to town - Jim Haslett is the new coordinator and is switching the team to a base 3-4 front. This move upset the multi-millionaire Albert Haynesworth and it looks like the Redskins would like to dispense with his services if they are able to move him and his huge contract to another team. In any case, the defense will look a lot different than the one that landed at 16th vs. opposing rushers last year, averaging 112.4 yards allowed per game with 10 rushing TDs handed over. The team coughed up 32/161/0 to the Jets in week three of the preseason - it's fair to say that Washington is in transition entering regular season.

The Cowboys bring a healthy Marion Barber into FedEx Field on Sunday night - a mediocre Washington unit will be waiting in the renewal of this divisional rivalry. Given home field advantage flowing to the Redskins, we think this one is about even.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Since the Cowboys' receiving corps is banged up entering week one - Miles Austin is battling a sore hamstring, Dez Bryant has patellar tendinitis in his knee, and Jason Witten may miss week one as he continues to recover from a spleen injury - Demarco Murray figures to be heavily involved in the Wednesday night season opener at the Giants. Murray was a force for the Cowboys once he cracked the starting lineup last season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry over 13 games played (163/895/2 rushing with 35 targets for 26/183/0 receiving). The one glaring issue with the Cowboys' running backs last year was their poor output of rushing TDs - the entire roster of running backs managed just four rushing TDs last year, vs. 33 passing TDs thrown by Tony Romo and the other quarterbacks.

The Giants' rush D wasn't strong last year, averaging 121.2 rushing yards allowed per game (19th in the NFL) with 15 rushing scores handed over during 2011 (23rd). However, though they averaged 111 rushing yards allowed per game during the post-season, they gave up not a single rushing TD during the playoffs. During the 2012 preseason, they've given up 136 rushing yards per game (second in the league so far this year, pretty good for preseason with backups and reserves playing a lot of downs), with four rushing scores allowed - Chicago starter Matt Forte was held to 10/39/0 rushing (a 3.9 yards per carry average) in the third preseason game, and he didn't record a reception during his time on the field. The 2012 version of the Giants' rush defense is off to a respectable start, friends.

Murray will carry a heavy load this week, and the Giants know that Dallas' receiving options aren't in top shape (so they can devote more attention to stifling Murray this game). On the road vs. divisional rivals, this looks like a neutral matchup to us, with neither team holding a big edge over the other.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

DeMarco Murray (217/1,124/9 rushing and 53/350/1 receiving last season) put up 6/18/0 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving during a limited engagement at Miami during the third preseason game. The Cowboys were still sorting out the depth chart behind Murray at that point - he is set as the lead back for Dallas heading into Week One, regular season, and Murray will play a lot more now that the games count. Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle made it onto the 53-man roster as Murray's backups, while Ryan Williams, who led the Cowboys in rushing during the third exhibition (12/47/0) is now on the practice squad.

San Francisco's defense has a fearsome reputation - they were fourth in the NFL averaging 95.9 yards rushing allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores allowed last season - but this unit has suffered attrition among the linebackers due to injury (NaVorro Bowman is on PUP due to tearing his ACL and MCL in the playoffs last season) and suspension (Aldon Smith is out for nine games due to a long list of off-the-field issues). During the third preseason game Ryan Mathews (4/22/0 rushing) and Danny Woodhead (4/16/0) both moved the ball effectively against the 49ers' defense. We'll see how the reconstituted defense plays now that the games count, but they are not the same unit that stonewalled opposing backs a year ago.

Murray enjoys home-field advantage in this game and that helps move the needle to a neutral matchup between the Cowboys' solid rushing attack and a 49ers' defensive front that is shakier than usual due to missing key players.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cowboys seem to be wavering between Joseph Randle, the nominal starter entering Week One, and Jerry Jones' favorite Darren McFadden (On August 18 McFadden got the bulk of first-team reps in practice and looked good - 'Boy, if we can keep him out there, he'll tear their you know what up,' stated owner Jerry Jones.) While Randle may take the first snap vs. the divisional rival New York Giants, it looks like a running-back-by-committee is forming where Randle and McFadden share touches - or even the dreaded-by-fantasy-owners 'hot hand' approach. The dominating offensive line in Dallas will move the pile for whoever handles the football, but unfortunately it is unclear who will be the guy in Dallas Week One - we suggest considering other options in the opener even though the Giants' D is a tasty matchup.

Speaking of Big Blue, the Giants' D ranked 30th in the NFL last year averaging 135.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing scores handed out. Their top DE, Jason Pierre-Paul, had an accident with fireworks in July and lost a finger - his contract negotiations with New York are reported to be breaking down as of September 8. There is turmoil on defense for the Giants right now.

Both teams have unsettled situations on the relevant units entering regular season - we call this one ugly but even with neither squad holding a clear edge over the other.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Broncos drafted Montee Ball to be their bell-cow back, but he didn't seize the opportunity and claim the top job in Denver, leaving fantasy owners with a runnning-back-by-committee situation between Ball, nominal starter Ronnie Hillman, and third-down back/change-of-pace option Knowshon Moreno. "We've pretty much said, 'Hey, this is going to be a by committee-type backfield,'" offensive coordinator Adam Gase stated about the situation. "We've never shied away from that and right now those three guys have done a good job of handling the workload." It remains to be seen what percentage of touches will flow to each of the backs - during week three of the preseason, Ball had 16 touches (14/43/1 rushing with 2/27/0 receiving), Hillman handled the ball nine times (6/34/0 rushing with 3/15/0 receiving), and Moreno had eight touches (5/33/0 rushing with 3/42/0 receiving). As you can see, the fantasy points are spread around in this backfield entering the season-opener on Thursday night.

The Ravens' rush D ranked 20th in the NFL last year averaging 122.8 yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing scores given up during the 2012 season. Now, MLB Ray Lewis is retired and his backup, Jameel McClain is sidelined indefinitely due to a spinal cord injury. All of this means that 24-year old Josh Bynes (a 2011 undrafted free agent) and 31-year old Daryl Smith (signed to a one year deal in Baltimore after nine seasons in Jacksonville) are going to hold down the middle of the Baltimore D this year - we'll see how they do now that the games count. DeAngelo Williams (4/2/0 rushing) and Cam Newton (2/20/0 rushing) combined for just 22 yards rushing during the third preseason game - the Ravens' defensive front comes into the regular season playing pretty well.

Given the jumble of backs competing for touches in Denver and a Baltimore defensive front that is playing respectably as of week one, we think this looks like a neutral matchup with neither side holding a clear edge over the other.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Lions are going with rookie Kevin Smith as their starter - Smith has shown flashes of ability during preseason (he busted a nice 35 yard TD run vs. Cleveland in the week 3 contest, ending with 10/45/1 on the ground and 1/-6/0 receiving), and the team appears really committed to running the ball during 2008. "It's got to get better," said coach Rod Marinelli after the game. "It's got to be more consistent. We had a couple that broke, which is good. What I want is a punishment. I want to punish the defense. And I want to take their legs out of them so they can't rush. And that's what I'm trying to do." The Lions managed 30/129/1 during the Cleveland game - it looks like they are on the right track entering 2008. Tatum Bell started the week as the backup RB, but with the signing of Rudi Johnson he was released. We'll see how soon Johnson can get back on the field with his new team - he probably won't be much of a factor in week 1, but head coach Marinelli seems excited to have Johnson in the fold. He said on Monday "I just had a chance to watch him in some drills (during a workout) and he's impressive. He's a big, thick guy who has great feet. I played against him over the years so I know he's a very physical back. He's a guy with a lot of talent and a lot of experience." Stay tuned to see how the workload gets doled out with Johnson in the fold, competing with Smith for touches.

Atlanta's rush D was not strong during 2007, with an average of 127.1 rushing yards allowed per game (26th in the NFL) and 12 rushing scores handed over during 16 games (tied for 17th in the NFL). The team has some new, young talent at LB in the middle of the field (rookie MLB Curtis Lofton and Tony Taylor have both put in a lot of practice/game time for the Falcons this year) - Lofton started in the 3rd preseason game and said afterwards "It went pretty good I thought. I had a few mental errors, but overall I thought I played pretty good. I'm starting to come into my own and I'm starting to feel more comfortable out there." Atlanta held the Titans to 22/75/0 during the 3rd preseason contest. It appears that the Falcons are going the right direction entering 2008.

Two teams in transition square off in this game, with both teams fielding rookies at key positions. That sounds about even to us.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Lions' pathetic offense could only muster 83.3 rushing yards per game last season, with an average of 3.8 yards per rush (28th in the NFL). During the season/after the season, the front office and coaching staff were purged, leaving Tennessee's long-time defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz charged with rebuilding the team from scratch. Kevin Smith (238/976/8 rushing and 39/286/0 receiving last season) was productive under adverse circumstances last year and he was already in place when Schwartz arrived to anchor the rushing attack. We'll see if the 2009 version of the team can overcome the stigma of going 0-16 last year. They have won three of the four exhibitions played during August and early September - at least they enter regular season with a little momentum. Smith ran for 8/50/0 and caught 3/33/0 in the third contest vs. Indianapolis and looks rearing to go as of regular season.

The Saints were 17th in the NFL last season averaging 117.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing TDs handed over through 16 contests. Overall, New Orleans was 26th in the NFL averaging 24.6 total points given up per game. They absolutely stomped the Raiders in week 3 of the preseason (45-7) and held Oakland to 11/52/0 on the ground in the lopsided affair. A 4.7 yards-per-carry isn't something to boast about, but limiting any NFL team to under 100 yards rushing is worth noting.

Smith has all the skills to be a top NFL back, but he'll garner a lot of attention as the rookie Matthew Stafford will be under center from the get-go this year. Against the Saints' so-so defense, this looks like a neutral matchup to us.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Reggie Bush showed off his receiving skills vs. New England in the third exhibition game, leading Detroit with 5/103/0 receiving on seven targets, but he faltered running the ball, with 6/1/0 to his credit. 104 yards combined is nothing to sniff at, however, and Bush looks primed to shine as the new starting running back in Detroit during 2013. Joique Bell (5/52/0 rushing and 2/49/0 receiving vs. New England in the third exhibition) figures to be Bush's main backup/change-of-pace stand-in during 2013, with Mikel Leshoure in a minor role (he managed 5/32/0 rushing vs. New England).

The Vikings' defensive front averaged 105.8 rushing yards allowed per game last year (10th in the NFL), with 10 rushing scores allowed. However, San Francisco stuffed 34/125/2 rushing down the Vikings' throats during the third exhibition game - it remains to be seen if Minnesota can get back to top-ten form for week one.

Bush is a dual-threat back who faces a neutral rushing matchup on Sunday - he is currently the 18th-ranked fantasy running back according to Footballguys.com's David Dodds' first-cut projections.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Joique Bell didn't show us much during preseason due to an ongoing Achilles and knee surgeries, while rookie Ameer Abdullah opened eyes with his play in camp and limited cameos during preseason. Bell opens regular season as the starter on the official depth chart, with Abdullah third behind Theo Riddick on the same chart. We'll see how close to reality the depth chart is now that the games count - some form of running-back-by-committee seems inevitable to open the season, at least. Abdullah commented on the by-committee scenario on August 27, saying 'There's certain things necessary to get that team [to the playoffs], and if that's to be a running back team by committee, I'm going to be that guy. And when I'm in, I'm going to make sure I make an impact.'

The Chargers' D ranked 26th in the NFL last season averaging 124.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given out. They did better than that during preseason this year, averaging 107 rushing yards allowed per game, but that checked in at 20th among all NFL defenses during exhibitions - there hasn't been a lot of visible improvement here so far.

This looks like a neutral matchup for the visiting Lions as they sort out their depth chart.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The post-Ahman Green era hasn't gone well in Green Bay - Vernand Morency is hobbled by a knee injury that dogged him throughout training camp, while Brandon Jackson is shaking off a concussion entering regular season. Jackson is probably going to be the starter this week, but he is very much a rookie adjusting to the NFL level. Jackson discussed his experiences with RB coach Edgar Bennett on Wednesday, September 5th "You know, he puts so much on me in the meeting rooms. At times it gets to me. He drills me -'What's this, what's that? You've got to know this, you've got to know that!' It's like, man . . . But when we're on the field, I see why. Then he comes back to me and says, 'I know you're mad,' but I am not mad. The guy is expecting a lot out of me." We'll see if Jackson can step into Green's shoes during week 1.

Philly fielded the 26th ranked rush D last year, averaging 136.4 rushing yards allowed per game - they were more stubborn in the red-zone, though, with only 12 rush TDs given up over 16 games. Pittsburgh only managed 23/76/2 vs. the Eagles during week 3 of the preseason - a 3.3 yards per carry average (but the 2 TDs aren't a good sign). It'll be interesting to see how the new LB corps (MLB Omar Gaither, OLB Takeo Spikes and Chris Gocong) handles themselves now that the games count.

Jackson has been out of the lineup for a while with a concussion, and Morency is far from a sure thing due to his patellar tendon strain/conditioning issues. This looks like a neutral matchup to us with neither team significantly stronger than the other.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Packers rushed for 112.8 rushing yards per game last year, averaging 4.1 yards per carry in the course of the season (11 rushing TDs scored last year). This year, Ryan Grant will have the benefit of a full and focused training camp (he held out the first year he was in the league, and then he suffered a hamstring injury early in his second campaign which limited him for most of 2008 training camp). Reports out of Green Bay indicate that Grant has looked very good during preseason practices and appears to have regained his 'top gear' which should help with his explosiveness (Grant rushed for 312/1203/4 last year and caught 18/116/1). Brandon Jackson (who is currently nursing an injured ankle, and unable to practice) and DeShawn Wynn provide depth on the unit.

The Bears' rush D ranked fifth in the NFL last year, averaging just 93.5 rushing yards allowed per game, but they weren't very stout at the goal line, giving up 16 rushing TDs (and averaging 21.9 points allowed per game as a defensive unit (16th in the NFL)). The Broncos checked in right in line with those parameters in the third preseason game vs. Chicago, rushing for 28/93/2 vs. the Bears. Chicago needs to get tougher at the goal line in this phase of the game.

Grant looks strong entering the regular season, and the Packers enjoy home-field advantage in this matchup - although the Bears can be tough against the run. We're calling this one pretty even.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Green Bay has a crowded backfield entering September, and it appears that the coaching staff is planning on a work-sharing arrangement between starter Ryan Grant and his top backup James Starks (think DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart's situation down in Carolina back in '08 and '09). Grant has fully recovered from his serious ankle injury from early in the 2010 season, but in his time away from the field last year Starks claimed a share of the carries for 2011 with his play during the post-season. 'It's just a matter of getting them comfortable and making sure they've gotten enough reps to do it,' running backs coach Jerry Fontenot said Monday, September fifth. 'The only way I see them doing that is getting them as equal of work as I possibly can.' Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the equal split is likely to lead to unspectacular fantasy results - both Grant and Starks are well out of the top 24 running back projections by David Dodds as of early Tuesday, September sixth.

The Saints rush D was among the league's middle-of-the-road pack during 2010, ranking 16th in the NFL averaging 112.3 rushing yards allowed per game, with 13 rushing scores given up last year. Despite the fact that Oakland did without Darren McFadden in week three of the preseason, the Raiders' backups still managed to post 24/127/1 rushing against New Orleans, with rookie Taiwan Jones averaging 6.2 yards per carry on the way to 13/81/1 rushing during the game. It looks like the Saints haven't moved the needle much in this phase of the game during August 2011, folks.

The Packers have a two-headed monster to throw at the Saints on Thursday night, but neither unit looks like it will dominate the other - we think this is a neutral matchup.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Texans tied for 10th in the NFL last year averaging 4.3 yards-per-carry, with 16 rushing scores over 16 games played. They were sparked by then-rookie Steve Slaton (268/1282/9 rushing, with 50/377/1 receiving last year) who exploded for a top-5 fantasy finish out of nowhere. This year, Chris Brown is expected to play more of a role as a change-of-pace and short yardage back (if he can stay healthy, that is - he's played in 0 ('08), 12 ('07) and 5 ('06) games over the last three years). During the third exhibition game against the Vikings, the team fed Slaton the ball extensively during his time on the field, and he rewarded their persistence with a rare rushing TD vs. Minnesota (12/27/1 rushing with 3/20/0 receiving for Slation while in the game - Brown had 4/11/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving in the same contest).

The Jet's rush D was solid during 2008, with an average of 94.9 yards allowed per game during the year - they handed over just 10 rushing TDs during the year, as well. The defense landed in the middle of the NFL field in terms of total points allowed per game, with 22.3 given up per contest on average (18th in the league). This year, under new HC Rex Ryan and new DC Mike Pettine, the Jets will meld free agent importees LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard and CB Lito Sheppard with the quality talent already on the roster (like OLB Calvin Pace, though he is currently on suspension) to attack, attack, attack the opposition in a style similar to the Baltimore Ravens (from whence Ryan and Pettine came to New York).

Rex Ryan has the personnel and the scheme to make things tough on just about any team - but Houston has a solid attack and home field advantage. On balance, this one looks about even from where we sit.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Houston has an exciting new starter at running back - Arian Foster - who has ran the ball quite well during preseason, posting 28/169/2 rushing and 6/31/0 receiving through three preseason appearances. He helped tear up the Dallas Cowboys on August 28th, ripping off 18/110/1 rushing and 4/16/0 receiving, but take that result with a large grain of salt because Dallas will be at Houston in week three of the regular season - the Cowboys elected to run very plain, vanilla schemes in their first meeting during preseason so as not to tip their plans for week three. All that said, Foster has played well so far this year and Steve Slaton hasn't (he fumbled at the goal line in one contest and is coming into regular season nursing turf toe). Foster looks like the clear lead back as of week one, regular season. He may be able to help boost the Texans' rushing attack back to respectability after the team averaged just 3.5 yards per carry last year (tied for 30th in the NFL in this category).

The Colts' rush D wasn't impressive during 2009, with an average of 126.5 rushing yards allowed per game - but they did get stubborn in the red zone with only 10 rushing TDs allowed over 16 contests. During the third preseason game, Indianapolis limited the Packers to 34/93/1 rushing (but starter Ryan Grant averaged 4.5 yards per carry in limited work (8/36/0)). We'll see if the defensive front is actually improving or not starting this week, when Foster will test the Colts' D at home in Reliant Stadium.

This is a divisional game, so expect both teams to bring their 'A' game - we think this matchup looks fairly even from where we're sitting.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Arian Foster is out rehabbing his groin injury/surgery, so Alfred Blue (recently listed as the #2 running back on the first official depth chart of the season) will presumably face off against the Chiefs in the opener. He had an uninspiring 3.1 yards per carry average last year (169/528/2 rushing with 15/113/1 receiving to his credit). Chris Polk didn't excite with 11/22/0 rushing to his credit during the third preseason game. In short, this looks like a running back situation to avoid for opening weekend, if possible.

The Chiefs' defense ranked 28th in the NFL last year averaging 127.2 rushing yards allowed per game, but gave up a mere four rushing scores all year long. They are stubborn in the red zone, and their offense looks like it will stay on the field longer this year with an improved passing game.

The Texans rushing attack isn't attractive to us this week - even though this is a neutral matchup.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Colts' rushing attack was worst in the NFL last year averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, with a mere 79.6 rushing yards per game to boast of at the end of the season. Joseph Addai struggled to stay on the field and only managed 155/544/5 rushing and 25/206/2 receiving over 12 games. To address the deficiencies in the rushing attack, the team drafted Donald Brown out of Connecticut in the first round (pick 27) back in April - he will play in a committee with Addai this season and may supplant Addai as the lead back sooner, rather than later. Against the woeful Lions in the preseason tilt week three, Addai managed 7/22/0 rushing with 1/21/0 receiving while Brown posted 5/16/1 rushing and 0 receptions. We'll have a better idea of the workload ratio between these two after week one.

The Jaguars tied for 13th in the NFL last year averaging 106.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores handed over during 16 games. Overall, the defense was 21st in the NFL allowing an average of 22.9 points per game. The team imported a new DC this offseason, Mel Tucker, who joins the Jaguars staff from Cleveland, where he served as defensive coordinator last season and coached defensive backs from 2005-2007. Jack Del Rio will have lots of input into the scheme as well - so far, the rush D has responded to the new scheme, with 19/66/1 (a 3.5 yards per carry average) allowed to Philadelphia in the third exhibition and 19/57/1 yielded to Washington in the fourth. The D is off on the right foot entering regular season, anyway.

Addai didn't impress last season, and the Colts' rushing attack hasn't been notable during preseason - meanwhile, the Jaguars look like they are improving in this phase of the game. At Lucas Oil Stadium, this looks like a neutral matchup between divisional rivals.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Joseph Addai ran the ball very well in the third preseason game, and ended up with 100 combined yards vs. the Packers (7/60/0 rushing and 2/4/0 receiving) on only nine touches of the football. He's in fine shape entering the 2010 regular season - his backup, Donald Brown, managed 5/6/1 rushing during the contest. Though the Colts lost the third preseason game lopsidedly (59 - 24), Addai did his part before taking a seat on the bench. Last year, Addai posted 219/828/10 rushing and 51/336/3 receiving to land at ninth among all fantasy backs. He looks as good as ever entering the 2010 regular season.

The Texans' rush D was among the top third in the NFL last year, averaging 106.9 yards allowed per game (11th), but they weren't stout at the goal line, with 17 rushing scores given up (24th). Entering the 2010 regular season, the team will do without OLB Brian Cushing due to a four game suspension for violating the leagues' substance abuse guidelines. Xavier Adibi will fill in for Cushing during September (he's a third-year pro who had 27 solo tackles and eight assists last year) - the Texans have their fingers crossed that Adibi can handle subbing for Cushing in the starting lineup.

Addai is in top form entering regular season, while the Texans' unit has some personnel issues and isn't terribly effective at the goal line - the home field advantage at Reliant Stadium helps to level the playing field for Houston, though. On balance this looks like a fairly even matchup to us.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Houston had the worst pass defense in the league last year, and even with teams attacking the secondary with regularity the defensive front struggled to contain opposing running backs, too. The team ended 2010 ranked 13th in the NFL allowing an average of 109.4 rushing yards per game, and they coughed up 16 rushing scores (to go with the league-worst 33 passing TDs surrendered last year). The Footballguys.com staff thinks the Houston team D is 23rd overall entering regular season while David Dodds is even more pessimistic about the entire unit, ranking them 30th among the NFL teams - there isn't much this defense does right in either phase of the game.

Joseph Addai will once again lead the Colts' rushing attack - he could only manage eight games during 2010 and ended up with 116/495/4 rushing and added 19/124/0 receiving to his stat lines by season's end. Despite the opportunity that Addai's absence gave to Donald Brown, he failed to assert a claim to the top job (129/497/2 rushing with 28 targets for 20/205/0 receiving during 2010) and has now been supplanted on the depth chart by rookie Delone Carter. With Peyton Manning likely sidelined for week one, Addai will have to assist new starter Kerry Collins with solid pass protection and good hands out of the backfield - the Colts' offense is in transition entering September. We expect Addai's fantasy production to be limited in this tenuous situation to somewhere around 50 yards rushing with perhaps 2/13/0 receiving at Houston.

The unsettling loss of Peyton Manning for the season opener will limit Addai's chances to take advantage of a suspect Texans club - we're calling this one a neutral matchup.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Donald Brown (134/645/5 rushing last year with 19 targets for 16/86/0 receiving) will be the lead back in the Colts' committee this year, but so far he has struggled to move the ball during 2012 - he managed 15/40/1 rushing (2.67 yards per carry) with 2/72/1 receiving during the three preseason games in which he participated. Vick Ballard appears to have won the backup job in Indianapolis, leaving Delone Carter in a reserve role - both Brown (7/8/0) and Ballard (7/8/0) had a tough time running the football at Washington during the third preseason game. The rebuilding Colts have challenges running the ball entering regular season.

Chicago was very stout vs. opposing rushers last year (fifth in the NFL, averaging 96.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with just 10 rushing scores handed over). However, John Norton, Footballguys.com defensive players expert notes: 'Chicago had the league's fifth best run defense last season but they will have a tough time repeating that feat. Brian Urlacher could miss time with a sore knee early in the season and he may battle the knee all season. He is a vital cog to the success of the Bears defense and if he is not right, the Bears will struggle.' On September 2, Urlacher conceded his surgically-repaired left knee 'just isn't the same anymore' and is 'never going to be the same.' Urlacher had three surgeries on the left knee during offseason, and though he expects to play in the opener, he expects to be restricted as the Bears ease him back into the lineup.

The Colts and the Bears both have difficulties with their units in this phase of the game - this looks like an ugly but fairly even matchup from where we're sitting.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Colts have patiently brought Ahmad Bradshaw along during preseason (we've yet to see him play a down this year), while Vick Ballard has continued to provide a solid-if-unspectacular base of rushing to the Colts' attack (10/33/0 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving during the third preseason game). The situation appears muddled as of week one regular season - Bradshaw is largely unknown in his ability to play within the Colts' offensive system after missing all the reps in training camp. He and Ballard will have some sort of work sharing arrangement going forwards - time will tell what the role of each back will be going forwards.

The Raiders' rush D ranked 18th in the NFL last season, averaging 118.6 yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing scores handed over. This year during preseason, the unit has appeared even more shaky, with 30/164/3 coughed up to the Bears in the third exhbition. "It's coming along," LB Nick Roach said after the Chicago game. "The more we get to play with each other, the more improvement you'll see. The last two games we've gotten our fits better, anticipating where we're going to be." The Raiders' defense is very much a work in progress as of September 1, friends.

Two units striving for chemistry face off in this game, making this a neutral matchup in our book.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Fred Taylor has carried the ball 4 times for 18 yards and 0 TDs during preseason. Is he ready for the regular season? He says he is but the reality is that he doesn't know how he'll hold up after a full load of 25-30 carries. Taylor is an intriguing and explosive player, but understand the risk there as we see if he's fully recovered from last year's knee injury/this year's knee surgery.

Seattle was not a top unit vs. the rush last year, ranking 23rd in the league while allowing an average of 126.9 rushing yards per game (with 17 total TDs surrendered during 2004). The defense is very young, with 11 of the 23 defensive players in their first seasons with the team (LB Isaiah Kacyvenski has been with the team for the longest period (6 years)). With so much inexperience and so many new players, it's no wonder that the Chiefs ripped this group for 25/215/1 on the ground during the week 3 preseason game. Defensive Coordinator Ray Rhodes was hospitalized on Monday, which won't help things any come Sunday.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Alltel Stadium calls for a high of 91F with a low of 77F and a 30% chance of rain. The heat and humidity may take a toll on the players, and if the rain comes down heavily at game time, the field could become treacherous.

Taylor can dominate games on his own when he's 100%. We'll get a chance to see how close he is to 100% this weekend.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Fred Taylor has missed some practices recently with a sore shoulder, but looks like he is on track to start on Sunday as of early this week. He's been up and down during training camp, but posted decent numbers during the week 3 pre-season tune up, with 9/37/0 rushing and 2/18/0 receiving. He's the best option the Jaguars have, so look for him to get the ball a lot in the opener, while being spelled by #2 Maurice Jones-Drew (10/42/0 rushing during week 3 of pre-season). The Jaguars tied for 16th in the NFL last season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, while Taylor appeared in 11 games for 194/787/3 rushing and 13/83/0 receiving. He'll need to stay healthier this year if he is to exceed those numbers during 2006.

Dallas' rush D ranked 15th in the NFL last year, giving up an average of 108.2 rushing yards per game, while surrendering 13 rushing scores (17th in the league). As you can see, they're a pretty average lot in this phase of the game. Free agent import Akinola Ayodele (from Jacksonville, by the way) will help solidify the middle of the defense this year, and should be very familiar with Taylor's tendencies.

The Jaguars offense is mediocre in this phase, as are the Cowboys. At Jacksonville, this looks like a fairly even matchup.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Rookie T.J. Yeldon rushed the ball for 8/10/1 and caught 1/12/0 during the Jaguars' third preseason game, after missing the first two exhibitions due to a finger injury. He stayed on the field for all three downs, and appears to be locked in as the Jaguar's lead running back over Denard Robinson (135/582/4 rushing with 23/124/0 receiving in 13 appearances/nine starts for Jacksonville during 2014). Yeldon was listed as the first running back on the depth chart that Jacksonville released for Week One on September 8. We don't have a long track record on Yeldon, but he will have ample opportunity to tote the football here in Week One, it appears.

The Panthers' rush D was ranked 16th in the NFL last season, averaging 112.0 yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores handed out over 16 games. They have averaged 112.8 rushing yards allowed per game during exhibition season this year - right in line with last year's so-so numbers.

Yeldon has home-field advantage in this game - we call it a neutral matchup for the youngster.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kansas City has opted to employ a running back by committee to open the NFL season, with Thomas Jones in the starting RB slot and Jamaal Charles listed second on the team. They do seem committed to feeding Jones the football, with 10/30/1 rushing and 4/16/0 receiving allotted to Jones during the week three preseason game vs. Philadelphia. According to head coach Todd Haley, 'What he [Charles] did last year ... it was an eight-game window or an eight-game sample that we saw. What we're pushing Jamaal to do is show that he can do that throughout a 16-game and hopefully-plus schedule. That's something that Thomas has proven through time.' All told, Jones had 25 caries for 87 yards and one TD over four appearances in preseason, with 5/18/0 receiving, while Charles posted 16/105/0 rushing and 8/75/0 receiving as the change of pace back in the four games. It appears that the two will get roughly equal touches to start the season, with perhaps a slight advantage to Jones as the starter. We'll know more once the full game plan is displayed vs. San Diego this week.

Speaking of San Diego, the Chargers were the 20th ranked rush D last year, averaging 117.6 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores given up over 16 contests (seventh in the NFL in this category). The Chargers were a bend-but-don't-break style of rush D last year. During the third preseason game vs. New Orleans, they stayed true to that blueprint, with 28/129/0 given up (a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, but no TDs).

The Chiefs are still figuring out how to distribute the workload between their two lead backs, while the Chargers have the playoffs on their mind and will be primed for this divisional, Monday Night Football showdown. This one looks about even to us, with neither team holding a decided edge over the other.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ricky Williams has seized the top job in Miami, and was rewarded with a one-year contract extension on August 31st. "You guys see it out there, we see it out there," said Miami general manager Jeff Ireland said. "He's done an excellent job in the weight room, the meeting room, he's come out there and he's jumped out at us on tape. He looks good in the preseason. So everything we've seen since we got here ... he's done everything we've asked him to do." Williams gained 47 yards on 12 carries and added 2 receptions for 8 yards in the first half vs. Kansas City in the 3rd exhibition game and looks strong heading into regular season. Ronnie Brown didn't play in the 3rd exhibition game (a sprained finger stopped him from contributing) and hasn't looked like his old self during preseason as he continues to come back from a knee injury/ACL reconstruction. For now, the Dolphins' offense will rely heavily on Williams to carry the load.

The Jets ended 2007 ranked as the 29th rush D in the land, averaging 134.8 yards allowed per game. They handed over 14 rushing scores last season (23rd in the NFL) - in short, the defensive front wasn't very good. The team added Kris Jenkins at NT in their 3-4 scheme this year, and imported some LB help through free agency (Calvin Pace) and the draft (Vernon Gholston) - so far, the unit is somewhat improved. In the 3rd preseason game against the Giants, the Jets gave up 21/107/1 to Brandon Jacobs and company - not a great showing, but less than the 130+ yards the team averaged last season. We'll have a better idea how much the Jets have improved in this area after a full 60 minutes from the first team defense on Sunday.

Williams has been impressive against vanilla defensive schemes in the preseason, but now the games count and teams won't be playing developmental prospects. The Dolphins are in transition this year and have a lot to prove yet - but so do the Jets. With the home field advantage behind the Dolphins this week, we think this is a fairly even matchup.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas have competed throughout preseason, and the majority opinion is that Miller handily outplayed Thomas - witness the results of the third preseason game, in which Miller ran for 8/35/0 rushing and had 1/2/0 receiving, while Thomas crept to 7/3/0 rushing on the day. Miller did have two cracks at the end zone from the four yard line and failed to score, but the Miami offensive line has to create a lane for him in goal-line situations so the failure to score in that situation isn't just Miller's fault. Heading into week one of regular season, the Dolphins list Miller as the starting running back and he should handle the majority of carries for the Dolphins, with Thomas perhaps handling short-yardage duties and other change-of-pace plays. For week one, David Dodd's initial projections have Miller as the 22nd-best fantasy back in the land, with 16/60/0.4 rushing and 3/18/0.1 TDs, while Thomas may see 8/27/0.2 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving in his part-time role.

The Browns' rush D was ranked 19th in the NFL last season, averaging 118.6 yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores allowed over 16 games. The Colts' starter Vick Ballard was held to 10/33/0 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving by Cleveland during the third exhibition game on August 24, but when the entire game was over the Colts had piled up 34/149/0 rushing for a 4.4 yards allowed per carry average. We'll see if the Browns can improve on last year's so-so average now that the games count - the Cleveland squad is expecting DE Des Bryant and OLB Jabaal Sheard back in the lineup for week one (they missed the third exhibition, weakening the defensive front), though rookie first-round pick OLB Barkevious Mingo isn't expected to be in the rotation for week one as he continues to deal with his bruised lung suffered on August 15.

Miller looks like the real deal entering regular season, but he still has a lot o prove at the NFL level - meanwhile the Browns' rush D is getting back to full strength for week one. Neither team appears to have the edge over the other in this contest.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Lamar Miller (216/1,099/8 rushing with 38/275/1 receiving last season) has seized control in Miami as the featured running back, after fending off a training camp challenge by Jay Ajayi (currently on IR/Designated to Return after fracturing multiple ribs - out until Week 10 at the minimum). Damien Williams is slated as a clear-cut backup, leaving Miller as a scarce three-down back in this age of running-back-by-committee. Start him if you've got him!

The Washington defense has suffered several losses due to injury (ILB Adam Hayward and OLB Junior Galette are on IR due to injury) and a key suspension (staring CB Bashaud Breeland is suspended, currently) which has thrown the unit into flux entering regular season. They did manage to hold teams to an average of 66.5 rushing yards per exhibition game, but those results will now be tested by a full 60 minutes of the 'ones' from Miami. Last year Washington was respectable at 11th in the NFL averaging 107.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given up over 16 games.

This looks like a neutral matchup for the visiting Dolphins.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Chester Taylor has been unimpressive during the pre-season, with a 2.8 yards per carry average through 3 contests. When asked about his start with his new team, he replied "I'm not concerned. We still have two weeks to work out some things." Work out some things? During the week 3 exhibition game that is traditionally a "tune-up" for regular season, Taylor managed 10/27/0 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving. Color us unimpressed. We'll see how well the coaches can motivate Taylor and company come Monday for the national debut of ESPN's Monday Night Football.

The Redskins were ranked 13th in rushing defense last season, averaging 105.4 yards allowed per contest. They were 22nd in rushing scores allowed, with 15 surrendered in 16 games - this is an average defensive front. LB LaVar Arrington is now a Giant. The team added LB Rocky McIntosh via the draft and DE Andre Carter to the line, but he's noted more for his pass rush. During the week 3 exhibition game, New England abused the Redskins for 38/170/4 on the ground, a 4.5 yards per carry average - however, Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney only managed 9/24/1 between the two of them early in the game (a 5 yard TD run by Maroney). It remains to be seen if the Redskins have improved or regressed in this phase of the game.

At FedExField, this looks like a neutral matchup to us, with neither team holding a clear edge.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Minnesota's rushing game is geared up for the regular season - last year's fifth-ranked fantasy RB (PPR paradigm) Adrian Peterson has been a constant presence during preseason and he looks ready to rock for week one. During the third preseason game vs. Dallas, Peterson rushed for 14/81/0 during his time on the field (a 5.8 yards per carry average) and looked outstanding in the tune up to preseason. He's been agitating for an three-down role in the Vikings' offense this year, and concentrating on his pass-catching abilities during preseason. If Peterson gets his wish to play more on third down he could go well over the 36/341/1 receiving that he racked up last year. Peterson looks like a lock to finish among the top five fantasy RBs again during 2011, and we expect him to finish among the top-12 fantasy RBs during week one of the regular season. Start him and smile.

The Chargers' rush D was pretty stout last year, finishing as the fourth-ranked rush D in the land averaging 93.8 yards allowed per game, but they did give up 14 rushing TDs (in contrast, number one rush D Pittsburgh allowed just five). The Chargers' unit didn't look particularly strong in week three of the preseason, with 25/167/1 rushing allowed to Chris Wells and company (a 6.7 yards allowed per carry average). It looks like the departure of defensive coordinator Ron Rivera for the head coaching job in Carolina (new DC Greg Manusky is running a similar 3-4 defensive scheme) has left some issues to be resolved by the new coordinator.

Peterson is an elite talent and he appears primed to go off in week one, while the Chargers' defense is still settling in under their new coordinator. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup to us as the Chargers have home-field advantage at their backs for this contest.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Adrian Peterson has made an astonishingly fast recovery from his horrific late-season knee injury (a torn MCL and ACL as well as meniscus damage in his left knee on Saturday, December 24, 2011). However, he hasn't taken a full-speed hit in a game yet, and the Vikings declined to expose him to game conditions during the preseason - he is being carefully eased back into action and that doesn't figure to change suddenly in week one. Toby Gerhart (109/531/1 rushing - 4.9 yards per carry - with 28 targets for 23/190/3 receiving last year)is a capable back in his own right and we expect the Vikings to play Gerhart heavily during the season opener - we'd be surprised to see Peterson get more than a handful of carries (if that) in week one. If you are invested in the Minnesota rushing attack, we'd urge you to start Gerhart over Peterson.

The Jaguars' rush D was ninth in the NFL last year in terms of yards allowed per game (104.2 on average), but they did cough up 14 rushing TDs (tied for 20th in the NFL). Ray Rice slashed them for 2/30/0 rushing during the third preseason game, though, and the Ravens averaged 5.3 yards per carry during the entire game (26/138/1 rushing allowed by Jacksonville). We'll see if the first team defense can clamp down on the Vikings' backs this week.

Gerhart ran strongly during his chances last year - he's got a neutral matchup to face at home this weekend.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Adrian Peterson is one of the all time greats - and he never plays in preseason. If you invested a high draft pick in him, you start him regardless of the competition - so start him. The year off from football may mean fresh legs for Peterson (a scary thought for his opponents this year!).

San Francisco's defense is a thin shell of it's former self. When Navorro Bowman was unavailable early in preseason, the opposition ran the ball right up the gut with little problem. Now that Bowman is back in action, the interior of the defense has stiffened, but the 49ers are perilously thin on D and lacking in supporting talent. Last year, they ranked seventh in the NFL vs. opposing rushers (100.8 yards allowed per game on average, with seven rushing scores given up), but this unit has lost several guys over the offseason due to free agency and scandal (Ex-49er Ray McDonald may go to jail for rape if convicted).

Peterson has to go on the road in this one but the 49ers' D is suspect. We're calling this a neutral matchup for Peterson on Monday Night Football (David Dodd's official Footballguys.com projections put Peterson third among fantasy backs this week, with 17/78/.5 rushing and 3/22/.1 receiving projected for Peterson).

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Reggie Bush has made some impressive big plays during pre-season, flashing his considerable talents. However, he has also played like a rookie at points, including a 5/22/0 rushing and 5/20/0 receiving outing vs. the Colts during week 3 of the exhibition season. Deuce McAllister posted 6/62/1 rushing in that same game, and looked like he is recovering well from last year's knee injury. This is going to be interesting and fun to watch as the Saints work to optimize the mix between these 2 backs (from a football fans point of view), but may turn into a frustrating RBBC situation for those who have invested in either Bush or McAllister. We'll see how each performs once the full defensive schemes are in place and the starters play on every down during regular season.

Cleveland held Willis McGahee and company to 22/56/1 rushing during their week 3 pre-season game, giving their fans some hope that last year's 30th-place finish against opposing rushers (137.6 yards per game allowed) is a thing of the past. The team went through an extensive off-season remodeling of the defensive personnel, including 6 defensive draft picks yielding probable opening-day starters DQwell Jackson at ILB and Kamerion Wembley at OLB. Free agents NE Ted Washington and OLB Willie McGinest also arrived via free-agency, and it looks like the team is headed in the right direction in the rushing phase of the game.

Cleveland's revamped defense will have the "12th Man" behind them on Sunday, but the talented tandem of Bush and McAllister will put everyone to the test. We think this is a fairly even matchup.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Saints' backfield remains a bit of a muddle heading into regular season - Darren Sproles was held out of a majority of preseason due to a 'minor' knee injury (since August 13), and Mark Ingram has been in and out of practices and preseason games as he continued to rehab his turf toe and arthroscopic knee surgeries during August. The solid play of undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet forced the Saints to keep him on the 53-man roster (they couldn't sneak him onto the practice squad), so he's a reserve behind Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. The team insists that Sproles could have played through his tweaked knee if the injury had happened in regular season - we assume they are telling the truth and we'll see him with his accustomed 10-11 touches in week one, while some subset of Ingram/Thomas/Ivory handles the other carries for New Orleans. At this point, Sproles looks like the surest bet to provide meaningful fantasy points in week one.

The Redskins' rush defense was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, ranking 18th in yards allowed per game (117.8) with 15 rushing scores handed over (tied for 23rd in the NFL). Donald Brown (7/8/0) and Vick Ballard (7/8/0) were stifled in the third preseason game by the Redskins. They are starting out 2012 on the right foot.

This looks like a fairly even matchup to us.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

It appears that Brandon Jacobs is cementing his hold on the #1 RB job within the Giants organization. Reuben Droughns sounded resigned to his backup role on August 10th when he stated "I understand they're going to want him to get the majority (of carries). But at the same time, whatever it takes to be on the field and help this team, I'm willing to do." Jacobs has always been a good goal-line back (95/423/9 rushing and 11/149/0 receiving last year), but we have yet to see him handle the ball 20+ times per game. He threw down 11/43/0 rushing vs. the Jets during preseason week 3 - it looks like Jacobs is headed in the right direction opening 2007.

Dallas averaged 103.7 rushing yards allowed per game last year (10th in the NFL), and handed over 12 rushing scores over 16 games. However, the Texans posted 26/142/0 during week 3 of the preseason. Ahman Green posted 8/65/0 (a 8.1 yards-per-carry average, and backup Samkon Gado gained 4/32/0 rushing (a 8.0 YPC average). Based on the preseason (which is usually a shaky assumption), this unit looks a little suspect.

Jacobs has a neutral matchup to work with opening day.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Giant's rushing attack led the league last year, averaging an astounding 5.0 yards per carry, with 19 rushing TDs over 16 games (157.4 rushing yards per game, as well, #1 in the NFL). This year, Danny Ware will try to replace Derrick Ward in the utility back role, but Brandon Jacobs (219/1089/15 rushing last year with 6/36/0 receiving) and and Ahmad Bradshaw (67/355/1 and 5/42/1 receiving) return to enjoy another season behind their fine OL. During the third preseason game, the Giants posted 27/134/0 rushing vs. the Jets, with 8/47/0 (2/5/0 receiving) rushing for Bradshaw, 9/43/0 for Ware and 6/24/0 receiving (1/8/0 receiving) for Jacobs. Jacobs has worked hard to improve his pass-catching abilities during the preseason and hopes to play a bigger role in the passing game this season. With a new-look receiving corps, the team may rely on the backs more than in the past in the passing game.

The Redskins were eighth in the NFL last year, averaging 95.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with 12 rushing TDs handed over during the course of the schedule. The team ended up sixth in points allowed per game, with 18.5 allowed each week on average. This is a quality unit, though they did surrender 24/110/0 rushing to the Patriots during the third preseason contest. The addition of DT Albert Haynesworth during the preseason should increase the unit's prowess.

Two top-notch units clash in this divisional rivalry - home field advantage will help the Giants but this matchup looks pretty even entering week one.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Giants have a nice problem to sort out - both their top backs, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, have looked solid during the 2010 preseason, and they are engaged in a contest to see who will earn the most touches. As both backs came into the preseason rehabbing injuries, it is a nice bonus for the Giants to have both healthy and playing at a high level. During the third preseason game, Jacobs led the team in rushing with 6/41/0 while Bradshaw posted 7/22/0 rushing and 2/5/0 receiving. They will both have a large role in the Giants' offense during 2010, but we view Bradshaw as the probable starter for week one (Bradshaw is our 23rd-ranked fantasy RB for week one according to David Dodds' first-cut projections, while Brandon Jacobs checks in at 35th). Fantasy owners should be aware that this is a likely running-back-by-committee situation with neither player headlining the rushing attack with a huge portion of the touches.

Carolina's rush D wasn't a team strength last year (they had injury problems in the trenches during 2009) - at season's end the Panthers averaged 124.8 rushing yards allowed per game (22nd in the league), with 15 rushing TDs given up. However, they have reconstituted the line during 2010 and the group played well in preseason, with just 20/45/0 rushing allowed to Tennessee during the third preseason game (Chris Johnson had 8/10/0 rushing with 1/3/0 receiving in an abbreviated appearance). So far, so good for the Panthers.

The Giants will be launching their new home stadium on Sunday, but they won't get a walk-over from the improving Panthers. This looks like a neutral matchup with neither team clearly holding a better hand than the other.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

NFC East divisional games are always hard-fought affairs, and the Giants/Cowboys rivalry is no exception to this general statement. The Giants lost their short-yardage/goal-line back Andre Brown to a fractured leg in the final preseason game (he's on IR/designated to return now) so David Wilson will handle the vast majority of the work for New York in the first half of the season - he's now backed up by Da'Rel Scott and Michael Cox. Wilson posted 71/358/4 rushing and 4/34/1 receiving in part-time duty behind Ahmad Bradshaw last year, and showed us 5/92/1 rushing and 2/0/0 receiving vs. the Jets in the third preseason game, taking the first handoff from scrimmage 84 yards to the end zone. Wilson enters week one hot, friends.

The Dallas D has been remade by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, and they limited the Bengals to 17/89/0 rushing during the third exhibition game. Last year under Rob Ryan they were 22nd in the NFL averaging 125.2 rushing yards allowed per game, with 17 rushing TDs given away. The team hopes for significant improvement on that mark in Kiffin's system.

Wilson flashed big-play ability vs. the Jets, but now the games count and he'll be in the Cowboys' house for this one - on balance, we think this is a neutral matchup.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are the only 2 active tailbacks this week, as Jesse Chatman is currently serving a 4-game suspension, and Musa Smith didn't stick on the roster up to opening day. Both backs figure to get a lot of work this week behind their improved offensive line (the Jets signed LG Alan Faneca and added another veteran blocker in Damien Woody, and brought in lead-blocking FB Tony Richardson). Neither back impressed vs. the Giants in week 3 of the preseason (6/11/0 rushing for Jones, 3/10/0 rushing for Washington), but both will see ample opportunities in the current situation.

The Dolphins were the league's worst rush D last year, averaging 153.5 yards allowed per game, and they were 30th in the NFL with 18 rushing scores given up last year. However, a new coaching staff has come in and cleaned house - even Jason Taylor was shown the door. Against the Chiefs (during the 3rd exhibition contest), Miami limited Larry Johnson and company to 25/90/0 on the ground and shut the Chiefs out on the scoreboard. The Chiefs have OL problems, but none-the-less the Dolphins' unit showed they have moved in a positive direction during this year's training camp and preseason. Matt Roth has been more effective as an OLB (his new position) than as a DE, and lots of free agent talent is being integrated into the unit.

The Jets have worked on improving their rushing attack, while the Dolphins have done a similar makeover along the defensive front. This week, we'll see which "new-and-improved" unit has grown the most. This looks like an even matchup between two teams in transition from where we are sitting.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

This game should be a fun contest to watch as Jets' head coach Rex Ryan grapples with his brother Rob Ryan's defensive scheme for Dallas (and vice versa). You know that both teams will be pumped up for this opener with the added spice of a brotherly spat going on.

Shonn Greene has taken the torch from LaDainian Tomlinson this preseason, and Greene looks like the much stronger back at this stage in his career - he's been featured extensively by the Jets in practices and games, and looks like he'll see plenty of work during the coming season. Greene posted 11/42/0 rushing and 2/7/0 receiving out of four targets during the starters' time on the field vs. the Giants in the third exhibition game, while Tomlinson posted just one rush for zero yards. Bilal Powell may move up the depth chart this year if Tomlinson doesn't get his engine going now that the games count (Tomlinson has rarely played during preseason in the past, however, so don't count him totally out just yet). For week one, David Dodds' projections have Greene as a fantasy RB #2, with around 75 yards combined, and maybe a TD, as his likely output on Sunday Night football.

The Cowboys' rush D was so-so during 2010, averaging 108.6 yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing TDs given up. This season, Rob Ryan was brought in to retool the unit in the wake of Wade Phillips' departure at the 2010 mid-season. The results from the contest up in Minnesota during week three of preseason weren't encouraging, as Adrian Peterson and company rolled to 27/175/1 rushing on the day (Peterson averaged 5.8 yards per carry with 14/81/0 on the ground). There is still work to be done here - the overall Dallas team defense is considered middle-of-the-pack by both the Footballguys.com staff consensus ranking (13th) and by David Dodds (he slots them at 14th), which is in keeping with their so-so defensive front.

Greene plays in a run-first offense and he'll have home field advantage at his back on Sunday Night Football - this looks like a neutral matchup from our vantage point.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Lamont Jordan had a great 2005 season, with 272/1025/9 rushing and 70/563/2 receiving, and enters 2006 firmly atop the depth chart. In the week 3 exhibition game, Jordan slapped down 6/30/1 rushing and 1/15/0 receiving vs. the Lions, showing us his multi-faceted game once again. He'll be ready to rock on Monday Night Football.

The Chargers were first against the rush during 2005 as far as yards allowed is concerned (yielding just 84.3 rushing yards per contest), but they were softer in the red-zone with 14 rushing scores surrendered (19th in the NFL). During the week 3 pre-season game, they held Seattle to 23/96/1 (the TD went to Shaun Alexander, 6/25/1), so they seem to be about where they were last year in this phase - pretty stout, but not a shut-down type unit.

This is a neutral matchup for Jordan.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Though Michael Bush was practicing on Monday, September sixth, it is very uncertain that he'll be able to play on Sunday vs. Tennessee, according to Footballguys' own Dr. Jene Bramel: "The thumb will need to be immobilized in a cast or splint for 4-6 weeks. He may be able to carry the ball with his opposite hand and play in a cast, but lots of factors could affect his return date. It's a tricky location, so the stability of his repair and concerns about long term arthritis and functional problems (a much bigger deal with the thumb than a finger) will play a role. The play of Darren McFadden and the other backs could also conceivably influence the decision on when to return. As Tom Cable said, it's possible that he could return in 2-3 weeks, but 4-6 weeks isn't out of the question."

What the above means is that we're likely to see Darren McFadden in the featured role this week at least (and conceivably longer) - McFadden (nagging hamstring injury) returned to action Saturday, August 28th, against the San Francisco 49ers. He rushed seven times for just nine yards and caught two passes for 16 yards. The team elected to keep him out of the preseason finale, so we just got a glimpse of McFadden so far this year. So far during his career in Oakland (two previous seasons), McFadden has posted 217/855/5 rushing (a 3.9 yards per carry average) and 50/530/0 receiving. We'll see if the change at QB will loosen up the running lanes during 2010.

The Tennessee Titans' rush D was so-so last year, averaging 106.9 rushing yards allowed per game (11th), with 16 rushing TDs given away (21st). Teams averaged 4.3 yards per carry against Tennessee (16th in the NFL). With both Jonathan Stewart sidelined and DeAngelo Williams in for just a cameo (9/13/0) in the third preseason game, the Panthers were held to 23/59/0 rushing, but Carolina didn't really challenge the Titans' D much as they were busy sorting out their passing game during preseason.

McFadden has a chance to be 'the man' in Oakland now - will he capitalize on the average Titans? We'll start finding out this week - the matchup looks about even to us.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Darren McFadden is finally fully healthy, and with Michael Bush out of the picture in Chicago these days, we expect McFadden to have a monster fantasy season. He's been explosive during cameos in preseason, including 9/27/1 rushing with 2/11/0 receiving vs. Detroit in the third preseason game. He is one of the few 'featured' running backs around the league and should compete for a top-five finish among fantasy running backs this year. Start him if you've got him.

The Chargers' rush defense was 20th in the NFL last season averaging 122.8 yards allowed per game, but they got stubborn in the red zone with just eight rushing TDs handed out last year (tied for third-least allowed in the league last year). Toby Gerhart managed 6/18/0 rushing in the third preseason game - none of the Vikings' running backs ran in a score that day.

McFadden is an exciting prospect but the Chargers won't lay down for him in this divisional rivalry - this looks about even from where we're sitting.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Philadelphia continues to tinker with their rushing game - they added Lamar Gordon, late of Miami, this week to be their "big back" after losing Correll Buckhalter (again). But the main man on this squad will be Brian Westbrook (he of the 177/812/3 rushing and 73/703/6 receiving during 2004). Westbrook is the sparkplug that drives the Philadelphia engine. He only put up 6/20/0 and 2/7/0 during the week 3 preseason tune-up, but don't let that bother you. He's going to get his hands on the ball a lot now that the games count. Even with all the Owens and McNabb drama, many feel (as do we) that Westbrook is the key to this offense.

Atlanta's rush D was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde unit last year -- they ranked in the top ten in rushing yards allowed per game (8th with 105.1 rushing yards given up per game), but were 29th in the NFL with 20 rushing scores surrendered. The team hopes the addition of Edgerton Hartwell at MLB will curtail the scoring around the goal line. During week 3 of the preseason, Jacksonville's stable only managed 27/88/1 (4/18/0 for Fred Taylor) - it appears that Atlanta may be on the right path to open 2005.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The weather inside the Georgia Dome is expected to be perfect. No weather concerns during this matchup, folks.

Westbrook is a dual threat back, while Atlanta's defense is maturing into a solid unit. With home field at the defense's back, we call this one an even matchup.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy come into this contest highly regarded as fantasy players for week one of regular season - Vick is atop our midweek QB board for week one, and McCoy checks in at eighth on the RB rankings. Of course, much of Vick's fantasy potential is due to his elusive moves as a runner, so he's got to be included in both sets of matchups from week to week - Vick ran for 99/676/9 last year in his first year starting for Philadelphia. McCoy is a dual-threat back who gained 207/1,080/7 rushing and 78/592/2 receiving during 2010, making him a PPR league fantasy force as well as a guy who gained over 1,600 yards combined last year. This is one of the most potent rushing attacks in the NFL, folks. Free agent import Ronnie Brown provides quality depth at the running back position, and he joined Vick in the end-zone during the third preseason game vs. Cleveland (Vick ran for 4/24/1 and Brown posted 6/41/1, while McCoy had 6/12/0 rushing but led the team in receiving with 7/69/0 to his credit).

The Rams' rush D was mediocre in the yards allowed department during 2010, averaging 113.1 yards allowed per game (17th in the NFL), but they gave up just seven rushing scores - the team is stubborn at the goal line. Kansas City's Jamaal Charles and company had just 20/58/0 rushing vs. St. Louis in the third exhibition (but Charles only carried the ball twice). It's fair to say that the Rams have started off 2011 strongly in this phase of the game.

The Rams held up well against the Chiefs' backups - but Vick and McCoy aren't backups. On balance, this looks like a fairly even rushing matchup (but remember that McCoy is a dual-threat back and Vick does damage passing the ball, too).

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Rashard Mendenhall won't be back until sometime in October, and Isaac Redman, the stand-in for Mendenhall, has been banged up during preseason, nursing a sore hip and a gimpy ankle as of the last week of preseason. While Redman has been banged up, Jonathan Dwyer has surged, displaying evidence that he may finally be ready to compete at the NFL level - he opened eyes with 3/48/0 receiving vs. Buffalo in the third preseason game and then cranked out 13/63/0 rushing vs. Carolina in the preseason finale. Local reports indicate that Dwyer may start at Denver this week if Redman doesn't look good in practice sessions. Fantasy owners invested in the Pittsburgh stable will want to monitor how the carries are divided up in practices leading up to the nationally-televised night game on Sunday.

Denver's rush D was 22nd in the NFL last year, averaging 126.3 yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores given up over 16 contests (15th in the NFL). San Francisco's Anthony Dixon averaged 4.5 yards per carry at Denver in the third preseason game (13/58/1 rushing) - it doesn't look like the Broncos have improved dramatically in this phase of the game entering regular season.

Two journeyman running backs will try to crack the so-so Denver defensive front on Sunday Night Football - this one looks about even to us.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The mid-foot sprain suffered by Le'Veon Bell during the third preseason game has been variously described since he limped off the field, and the time frames proposed for his return to action vary widely as well - what isn't in doubt is that Bell won't play in the season opener vs. Tennessee. Isaac Redman (110/410/1 rushing and 19/244/1 receiving last year) gets the nod as the starter in this game: "We know what Isaac is capable of," head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday, September 3. However, he went on to say that LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones will "obviously" replace Redman in various situations, leaving fantasy owners with little confidence in any of the current committee members in Pittsburgh. In fact, some earlier reports this week indicated that Jones was going to start. Redman is projected as the 30th-ranked fantasy running back for week one, hardly a situation that makes an owner's heart sing.

The Titans' rush D ranked 24th in the NFL last year averaging 127.2 yards allowed per game, with 16 rushing scores coughed up to opponents. During the third exhibition game, Steven Jackson rushed for 12/51/0 at Tennessee, indicating that the Titans' rush D is still suspect on the eve of regular season.

Two underwhelming units clash in this matchup - neither side has a clear advantage over the other.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Steeelers imported LeGarrette Blount from the Patriots over the offseason, and he looks poised to handle the ball several times a game - just enough carries to detract from LeVeon Bell's fantasy prospects, especially since Blount may get the goal-line work during 2014. To make matters worse, the Steelers' offense looked sloppy at Philadelphia in the third preseason game - Blount managed 7/32/0 rushing and 3/14/0 receiving, while Bell posted 9/23/0 rushing and 1/3/0 receiving - neither guy was a superstar after being arrested for marijuana possession (and in Bell's case, a DUI) earlier in the week. Though both players are unlikely to be suspended this year - not until the legal proces grinds to it's conclusion - the players haven't wowed us during the 2013 preseason.

Cleveland allowed 34/142/1 rushing to the Rams during the third exhibition game, although they did limit Zac Stacy to 5/11/0 on the ground they gave up 5/32/0 rushing and 1/6/0 to Benny Cunningham (who actually started in the third exhibition). Last year, the Browns were ranked 18th in the NFL averaging 111.3 rushing yards given up per game, with 13 rushing scores surrendered over 16 games - in other words, the Browns' rush defense is mediocre.

Two units in need of improvement face off in this contest - neither one looks like they hold an edge over the other.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Shaun Alexander has been a team player since signing his tender, and he scored a TD vs. K.C. during the preseason week 3 game (12/23/0 rushing with 2/9/1 receiving). He's a classic dual-threat running back - Alexander racked up 353/1696/16 rushing with 23/170/4 receiving last year - who is the unquestioned headliner for his squad.

Jacksonville was a pretty hard-nosed bunch in this phase of the game last year, giving up an average of 111.1 rushing yards per game (11th in the NFL) and only 7 rushing scores during the season. The high-octane Falcons' rushing attack did scorch the Jags for 31/176/0 during week 3 of the preseason, so there is definitely room for improvement.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Alltel Stadium calls for a high of 91F with a low of 77F and a 30% chance of rain. The heat and humidity may take a toll on the players, and if the rain comes down heavily at game time, the field could become treacherous.

Alexander is an outstanding back, while the Jags bring an up-and-coming defense to the table. At the Jags' house, this one looks pretty even to us.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kevan Barlow is atop the depth chart entering week 1 of the Regular season. Will he remain there? That's up to Frank Gore and the coaching staff. However, for now, Barlow is the headliner in San Francisco. Gore scored in the preseason finale (2/13/1 rushing) while Barlow churned out 3/4/0 rushing and 1/9/0 receiving in a limited appearance. Barlow also managed 9/30/1 rushing during week 3 of the preseason.

St. Louis was weak in this area last year, giving up an average of 136.2 rushing yards per game (13 rushing TDs allowed). The Lions didn't get their feet under them during the week 3 preseason game, and ended up with 17/66/0 on the ground as the Rams' offense humiliated Detroit 37-13. We'll see if the Rams can continue to play rush D at that level now that the games count.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for San Francisco boils down to: perfect football weather. 69 F for a high, 56 F for a low, with a 10% chance for rain on Sunday.

San Francisco has some talented but enigmatic runners on the roster, but can the OL open holes for them? All told, we're going to call this matchup even.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Frank Gore is near the top of almost everybody's draft boards this year for good reason. He was the 13th best fantasy back in points per game during 2007 - playing in a train-wreck of an offense with no credible quarterbacking available to keep defenses honest. With the arrival of Mike Martz in San Francisco, and the ascension of a new starting QB in J.T. O'Sullivan, the 49ers appear to have improved the passing attack, which should help open up some room for Gore to roam. If San Francisco can provide Gore with a few more scoring opportunities (his 5 rushing TDs and 1 receiving TD out of 313 total touches (rushing and receiving) depressed Gore's fantasy value last year), he could easily land in the elite tier of fantasy RBs by year's end.

The Cardinals' rush defense was fairly stout last year, averaging 97.9 rushing yards allowed per game (it was partly due to a weak secondary that encouraged teams to pass, though), while handing over 13 rushing TDs (tied for 21st in the NFL in that category). In the week 3 preseason "dress rehearsal" vs. Oakland, the Cards limited the Raiders' stable of backs to 19/54/0 on the ground - apparently, the defensive front is heading in the right direction to open 2008. We'll see how well that momentum carries forward into the regular season shortly.

There are good reasons to be optimistic about Frank Gore's 2008 prospects, but the Cardinals won't lay down for him in week 1. On balance, this looks like a fairly even matchup between two units that need to improve on their 2007 efforts.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Frank Gore is gone, and the 49ers are asking Carlos Hyde to step into his place - Hyde has posted 13 carries for 73 yards (5.61 YPC) during preseason and looks pretty good, given how abysmally the rest of the starting offense has played this season. We'll see how he does against eight men in the box - the 49ers' passing game hasn't shown anything to threaten defenses this preseason.

The Vikings' rush D ranked 25th in the league last season averaging 121.4 yards rushing per game, with 10 rushing scores handed over. They did better against vanilla preseason offenses this year, averaging 98.6 yards allowed per game, but we'll have to see if the improvements carry over to games that count.

This looks like a neutral matchup for the stuck-in-neutral 49ers' offense.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Zac Stacy (250/973/7 rushing last season, with 26/141/1 receiving) and Benny Cunningham (47/261/1 rushing with 6/59/0 receiving last season) are set as the No. one and two running backs entering the regular season. David Dodds sees Stacy as the 11th best fantasy back in Week One, with a projection of 16/66/.6 rushing and 2/13/.1 receiving, while Cunningham is seen as generating 6/27/.2 rushing with 1/6/0 receiving in the change of pace role. With a new starting quarterback (Shaun Hill) under center Stacy may get quite a few handoffs early in the game as the offense settles into the yoke.

The Vikings rush D was ranked 16th in the NFL last season, averaging 110.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 TDs given up over 16 games. New Coordinator George Edwards watched his D limit the Jamaal Charles-less Chiefs to 24/91/0 during the third preseason game - but they weren't tested by the best back on the Chiefs' roster, so take that result with a grain of salt.

This looks like a neutral matchup for the home team.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Titans got their man back in uniform on September first, and he's expected to take on the full load on September 11th. 'I'd like to get all the reps, that's just the type of player I am,' Johnson said September second. He also added that he wants to hit 2,000 yards again, but said going to the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl is atop his list of priorities. Team mate FB Ahmard Hall commented on Johnson's return: 'You're going to have to think. You're not going to just be able to roll in and hit the ground running as if coach (Mike) Heimerdinger were still here. Coach Palmer has put in a lot of good things, but the language is different. He's definitely going to have to think. The sooner he gets in the better.' We agree with Hall that Johnson faces a steep learning curve with absorbing a new offense in under two weeks - and that's part of why Johnson is projected just outside of the top 12 at his position in week one. Johnson also has to get his conditioning up to par with other pro players, which usually takes a few weeks. Fantasy owners shouldn't bank on an offensive explosion from Johnson in week one (although he remains a guy who can bust one all the way to the house on any given play despite the challenges facing Johnson in week one).

The Jaguars' team was surprised by the release of starting QB David Garrard on Tuesday, September sixth - the entire offense will have to make adjustments on the fly entering this contest, which may mean that the defense gets to spend a longer-than-usual amount of time on the field during week one. Jacksonville's rush D isn't that strong to start with, ending 2010 ranked 22nd in the NFL allowing an average of 121.6 rushing yards per game, with 19 rushing scores surrendered last season. Buffalo trampled this unit for 37/153/1 during the third exhibition game - there is clearly a lot of room for improvement in Jacksonville in this phase of the game. MLB Paul Posluszny had six tackles vs. his old team but he couldn't stem the tide single-handedly.

Johnson is an elite talent dealing with the ramifications of his extended holdout, while the Jaguars' defenders are suspect and figure to have issues from the offensive side of the ball spilling over onto them this week. On balance we think this is fairly ugly but fairly even matchup at Jacksonville in week one.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tennessee will rely on Chris Johnson as their bell-cow running back again this year - head coach Mike Munchak brushed aside concerns over Johnson's 2.9 yards per carry average during preseason saying 'C.J.'s had a great camp. Having a great sense of what we're doing, running with confidence... We cannot forget that he can make a lot of plays catching the bahttps://ieonline.microsoft.com/#ieslicell because of that speed, he can make plays at any time. So he's going to be a big part [of our offensive attack].' Last year, Johnson disappointed fantasy owners with a relatively lack-luster 262/1047/4 rushing and 79 targets for 57/418/0 receiving (remember, Johnson held out until September 1 last year, missing all of the lockout-shortened training camp due to a contract negotiation). We'll see which version of Johnson shows up vs. New England this week - the dominant back of 2008-2010 or the so-so player we saw in 2011.

New England was mediocre at rush D last year, averaging 117.1 yards allowed per contest, with 13 rushing scores allowed. According to John Norton, Footballguys.com's defensive players expert: 'The Patriots are another team that should show great improvement against both the pass and run. After finishing 31st in total defense last season there is really no place to go but up. The pass rush is going to get a boost from rookie defensive end Chandler Jones who is already playing like a seasoned veteran, and the secondary is finally at full strength after suffering several injuries last season. What is most impressive about this unit is their strength at linebacker. With Jarod Mayo on the weak side, Donta Hightower on the strong side and brutal run stuffer Brandon Spikes roaming the middle, this group is going to be much more difficult to run on I think.' During the third preseason game Tampa's Doug Martin reeled off 13/53/1 during his time on the field - there is still room for improvement from the Patriots front seven as of regular season week one, friends.

Johnson will get plenty of opportunities to carry the ball on Sunday - we think he's got an even chance to make good things happen against the Patriots.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

David Cobb landed on IR/Designated to Return due to an injured calf (hurt prior to the third preaseason game, and was placed on IR/Designated to Return on September 6 and will miss until Week 10 of the regular season while on that designation. Though Tennessee traded for Terrance West from Cleveland after cut-downs, West will need time to learn the offense - what all this means is that despite underwhelming almost all observers so far in his career, Bishop Sankey (152/569/2 rushing and 18/133/0 receiving last season over nine starts and 16 appearances) will be starting for the Titans Week One. Nobody is thrilled by this, including Footballguys.com's David Dodds, who ranks Sankey 36th among fantasy backs for Week One (10/41/0.3 rushing with 1/7/0 receiving as a projection this week).

The Buccaneers' rush D was ranked 19th in the NFL last year averaging 113.7 yards allowed per game with 15 rushing scores given out. Cleveland posted 34/119/1 rushing at Tampa in the third preseason game, indicating that not much has changed for the Tampa D in this phase of the game.

This looks like a neutral matchup for Sankey.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Alfred Morris and Roy Helu are the starting tandem for Washington entering Week One - Morris will be the lead back but the team plans to mix in Helu liberally as he is the superior receiver out of the backfield. During the third preseason game at Baltimore, Helu led the team in rushing with 7/30/0 and added 1/3/0 receiving, while Morris was second on the team with 6/29/0 rushing and one target for zero receptions.

The Texans have a formidable defensive front entering 2014, having added Jadeveon Clowney to OLB via the draft, having regained Brian Cushing at MLB and with stalwart J.J. Watt ready to rock at defensive end. We'll see if all the added talent will help Houston bounce back from a sub-par 2013 as a rush defense, when they ranked 23rd in the NFL averaging 122.4 yards rushing allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores surrendered over 16 games. During the third preseason game starter Montee Ball was limited to 4/13/0 rushing with 4/21/0 receiving and his backup Ronnie Hillman held to 7/24/0 rushing with 1/5/0 receiving - both backs were well under 4.0 yards per carry against the Texans' first team.

Morris and Helu face a reconstituted Baltimore rush D in this matchup, which looks about even to us

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Beanie Wells is listed as the Cardinals' starter on the team's official website, but Ryan Williams looked a lot more impressive during preseason. Williams' rehab from a patella tendon tear and meniscus damage in his knee (suffered last year in training camp) looks more complete than Wells' return from some sort of knee procedure on January 24, 2012. Wells posted six rushes for 12 yards at Tennessee in the third preseason game (a 2.0 yards per carry average), and had a cameo in the preseason finale with 7/35/0 rushing. Williams appeared in the second preseason game on August 17, and ran well with 5/25/1 rushing to his credit, and ran 3/15/0 with one target for zero receptions at Tennessee in the third preseason game (he didn't play in the preseason finale). 'It's been nice not to be talking about the running game every day, like in the past about how bad the running game was.' head coach Ken Whisenhunt commented on September 1. 'It can take a lot of pressure off the quarterback position,' Whisenhunt continued. 'It can help you with your play-action game. That's one of the encouraging things about our preseason and hopefully that'll carry over into the regular season.' LaRod Stephens-Howling provides veteran backup and is a good third-down back, so he'll likely be in the mix during week one as well. Fantasy owners invested in the Cardinals' backfield will want to pay attention to how the work is allocated between Wells and Williams this week - it may be best to look elsewhere for your starters at running back in week one until we get a better look at how this committee of backs will operate during regular season.

The Seahawks rush D finished 2011 ranked 15th in the NFL averaging 112.3 rushing yards allowed per game - they coughed up 10 rushing scores over 15 games, tied for sixth-least rushing TDs allowed last year. Chiefs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis were limited to a total of 8/31/0 rushing vs. Seattle in the third preseason game - they Seattle starting defense has begun the 2012 campaign on the right note, friends.

The Seahawks play hard-nosed defense (especially in the red zone) and looked stout in the 'dress rehearsal' game week three of preseason. This looks like a tough matchup for the unsettled Cardinals' stable of backs.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Cardinals didn't get to see much of starter Rashard Mendenhall during preseason as his surgically repaired knee had swelling and pain issues, and Ryan Williams barely played as well (11 carries for 35 yards during the final two presason games) - he continues to have confidence issues since returning from his knee surgery. In short, we don't have a good idea of how effective the Cardinals' backs will be, but given the injury to first-round OG Jonathan Cooper (he's on IR this year), we're afraid that the offensive line will look similar to the group that posted an average of 3.4 yards per rush and allowed 58 sacks a year ago. There isn't a lot of reason for optimism about the Cardinals rushing attack, which is why Mendenhall is ranked 24th among fantasy running backs for week one by Footballguys' David Dodds.

The Rams' D is on the rise, but they didn't shut down the Broncos during the third preseason game, allowing 33/133/2 rushing to Denvers' by-committee running back stable. The Rams finished 2012 in the middle of the NFL pack averaging 117.5 rushing yards allowed per game (15th in the league) while giving up 18 rushing scores.

Even a middle-of-the-road D will be a challenge for the limping and underpowered Arizona rushing attack - advantage, St. Louis.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Falcons sported one of the top rushing teams in the NFL last year, and led the league averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Warrick Dunn returns as the starter, after posting 280/1416/3 rushing (a 5.1 yards per carry average) and 29/220/1 last year. Rookie RB Jerious Norwood played well enough during pre-season (including an impressive 9/104/1 game vs. the Titans in the 3rd pre-season contest) that T.J. Duckett was judged expendable and traded to Washington. It looks like the Falcons are reloaded and ready to rock in this phase again during 2006.

This week, though, Atlanta runs into one of the NFL's elite defenses in Carolina. The Panthers ranked 3rd in the NFL in total yards allowed last year, and were 4th vs. the rush averaging 91.6 yards allowed per game. Dunn managed 16/80/0 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving (week 13) and 7/29/0 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving (week 17) vs. Carolina last year. During week 3 of pre-season, the Panthers held Miami to 25/70/0 on the ground. They are very tough to move the football against.

This is a battle of two top units - in Charlotte, we think it's an uphill battle for Atlanta to have success against Carolina's defense.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Falcons' RB corps performed well throughout training camp/preseason, with Michael Turner looking to be in mid-season form while Jerious Norwood played well in his change-of-pace role, too. Unfortunately, Norwood suffered a left knee sprain during the third preseason game and was held out of the fourth contest, but he's expected to be ready to play in the opener. Of course, Atlanta's rushing offense during 2008 was outstanding, ranking 7th in the NFL while averaging 4.4 yards per carry, with 23 rushing TDs scored over 16 games. Turner posted 376/1699/17 rushing and 6/41/0 receiving while Norwood contributed 95/489/4 rushing and 36/338/2 receiving to the cause. Expect more of the same from Atlanta's duo this year.

The Dolphins' rush D was top-10 last season, holding their opponents to an average of 101.3 rushing yards per game, and they only allowed 11 rushing TDs during the 16 game regular season - not too shabby. Overall, they were ninth in the NFL averaging 19.8 points allowed per game. In the third preseason game, the Buccaneers managed 26/127/0 rushing vs. the Dolphins (4.9 yards per carry), so there is room for concern entering 2009. New Orleans eked out 23/89/0 against the Dolphins in the fourth preseason game, but none of the Saints top backs appeared in that contest.

Atlanta has an awesome attack and home field advantage, but the Dolphins are tough in this phase of the game. We love the Falcons run game but this is a tough matchup.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Michael Turner worked very hard during the offseason and preseason to enter the regular season in top condition, and according to all reports out of Atlanta he has succeeded. Turner acknowledged that during 2009 he allowed his conditioning to slip and that he didn't feel fully healthy until mid-season. Turner has been more involved in the passing game during the 2010 preseason (a point of emphasis for him in training camp) - the absence of Jerious Norwood for the bulk of training camp due to a nagging hip flexor injury helped Turner refine his pass-catching abilities. During the third preseason game, Turner posted 16/47/0 rushing vs. Miami, while Norwood gained 5/22/0 rushing and 1/8/0 receiving - the two are #1 and #2 at the running back position entering the regular season. Last year, the Falcons were 15th in the NFL averaging 4.2 yards per carry (with 451/1,876 yards/15 TDs to their credit as a unit).

The Steelers' rush defense didn't fare well against the Broncos' backup running backs during week three of the preseason (Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter were both out of the lineup due to injury) - despite facing the reserves, Pittsburgh allowed 28/128/1 rushing to Denver (a 4.6 yards-per-carry average). During the 2009 regular season, Pittsburgh averaged 89.9 rushing yards allowed per game, and only gave up seven TDs all year long. We'll see if Pittsburgh can get their issues sorted out in time for the regular season opener. Most teams run "vanilla" packages/schemes during preseason so as not to tip their hands to their regular season opponents, so don't read too much into the Broncos' 34-17 win, but there is a potential red flag here.

Turner is coming off an injury-marred, sub-par 2009 campaign (as is Norwood), and Heinz Field is a tough venue to visit due to a vociferous 12th man. This looks like a tough matchup for the visiting Falcons.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Starter Michael Turner (334/1,371/12 rushing with 12/85/0 receiving last season) underwent groin surgery during the offseason, but has played strongly during the preseason practices and games according to all accounts. He had a tough time in Pittsburgh during the third preseason game (like most running backs do), gaining 7/19/0 rushing during a short appearance. His new change-of-pace counterpart Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing that day, with 7/38/0 rushing and 2/12/0 receiving to his credit, while backup RB Jason Snelling had 4/12/0 rushing and 1/3/0 receiving. All told the Falcons have rushed the ball 103 times for 470 yards and two TDs during preseason boasting a 4.6 yards per carry average - it is just exhibition season, but at least the unit hasn't struggled. With an explosive passing attack to keep opposing defenses honest during 2011, Turner should be able to find some room to roam this year.

However, in week one the Falcons travel to Chicago to face the vaunted Bears' D - Chicago was second in the NFL vs. opposing rushers last year, averaging 90.1 yards allowed per game. The Bears did give up 14 rushing scores, though, so their dominance slipped somewhat at the goal line compared to the elite Steelers for example (Pittsburgh was first in the NFL averaging 62.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with just five rushing scores given up over 16 games). During week three of the preseason Tennessee managed 24/81/1 rushing which is a fairly typical afternoon when Chicago is defending against the run. Chicago checks in at eighth among all team defenses on the Footballguys.com staff rankings on the eve of regular season, and are placed at 10th on David Dodd's team D rankings. They are one of the toughest units in the NFL, especially in the rushing phase of the game.

Turner and Rodgers look like an exciting tandem, but starting off the year in Soldier Field is a very tough assignment for any team - advantage, Chicago.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This is a divisional grudge match - the Ravens and the Steelers have one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL entering the 2011 regular season. Pittsburgh has ended Baltimore's playoff aspirations during two of the last three seasons. Players from both sides of the fence have been taking jabs at one another throughout the off- and preseason, adding even more drama than usual to this AFC North battle.

Fantasy owners of Ray Rice enter the 2011 season full of anticipation for the upcoming, no-more-Willis-McGahee campaign. The guy who stole away many goal line opportunities from Rice in years past is a Bronco now, and new free agent import Ricky Williams hasn't had much time in the Ravens' system. All the above leaves Rice one of the few three-down, featured running backs available in the NFL. Rice finished 2010 as the seventh-best fantasy RB in the land (PPR paradigm), with 308/1,223/5 rushing and 63/556/1 receiving to his credit - without McGahee draining off five or more rushing TDs (McGahee scored five last season), Rice has a legitimate shot at finishing with double-digit TDs to go along with his 350+ touches on the football. As of the eve of regular season, Rice is the consensus #1 fantasy RB in the PPR paradigm among the Footballguys.com staff - he showed us a glimpse of his promise in week three of the preseason with 13/72/1 rushing and 3/12/0 receiving in a part-time appearance vs. Washington. Rice should be poised for a monster fantasy season, folks.

However, this week Rice faces one of the toughest defensive fronts in the NFL. The Steelers blew away the other 31 teams last year, allowing a mere 62.8 rushing yards per game, with just five rushing scores given up through 16 contests. To put that accomplishment in perspective, Chicago was second in average rushing yards allowed per game last year - with an average of 90.1 rushing yards allowed per game. The Steelers bettered Chicago's mark by 27.3 less yards allowed per game, folks. They deploy a Steel Curtain - Rice averaged 3.05 yards per carry against Pittsburgh last year, with 17/52/0 rushing (and he had 3/27/0 receiving) during regular season. It's no wonder that the Steelers are a consensus top-five team defense according to the Footballguys staff entering regular season. They are tough to run on, and they are tough to score on.

Rice has a wide vista of opportunities ahead of him during 2011, but he draws a tough matchup in week one. He'll see a lot of touches on the football, but don't expect a 200-yards-combined performance against Pittsburgh and then you won't be disappointed.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Ravens head into week one of the regular season with just two running backs on the roster - a perilous situation for most any team. However, Ray Rice has played in 64 straight regular-season contests, and hasn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2008. Bernard Pierce, Rice's backup, played in all 16 games last year - the Ravens are banking on the duo's durability. Rice has four straight seasons with over 1,100 yards rushing, and has recorded a minimum of 61 receptions for 478 yards and one receiving TD during that same four year span. It is true that last season Rice had his lowest rushing, receiving, and combined yardage of the past four years (257/1,143/9 rushing with 61/478/1 receiving), but he still notched 1,621 yards combined on the season. Pierce helped ease the load for Rice with 108/532/1 rushing and 7/47/0 receiving, and the team will likely employ him in a similar mode this year. Why wouldn't they, when the formula led to a Super Bowl win for Baltimore this past February?

The Broncos' rush D was third in the NFL last year, averaging 91.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with a minuscule five rushing TDs given away. However, OLB Von Miller is suspended for six games due to substance abuse testing guideline violations, so here in the early part of the season Denver is improvising their starting lineup to try and cover the void left by Miller. St. Louis' starter Daryl Richardson was held to 5/10/0 rushing during the third preseason game - so far so good - and the Rams only posted 18/50/0 rushing during the entire game. We'll see if the Broncos can maintain their smothering run D now that the games count.

It's never easy to go to Denver, and this is the very first game of regular season on the special Thursday night kickoff show. The home crowd will be wound up and the Broncos will be tough to run on at home. Advantage, Denver

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Justin Forsett is set as the Ravens' lead back again - Javorius Allen averaged a meager 2.5 yards per carry during preseason, and Lorenzo Taliaferro has a knee injury (MCL sprain) which will keep him sidelined for at least part of September - he didn't practice at all on Tuesday, September 8. The above means that Forsett (235/1,266/8 rushing last year, with 44/263/0 receiving) is positioned to handle the bulk of the work in Baltimore again during 2015.

The Broncos' rush D was ranked second in the NFL last season, averaging 79.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with only nine rushing TDs given away over 16 contests. They only gave up one rushing score during preseason, while averaging 103.2 rushing yards allowed per contest. This is a scary-good defensive front, friends.

The Ravens have a tough road game on their hands this week.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Willis McGahee is the unquestioned starter in Buffalo, and the team expects him to carry a large load this year. He had trouble getting into some games at the end of last season, but that coaching staff is out and coach Jauron's staff intends to run McGahee a lot. The fact remains that the team averaged 3.75 rushing yards per carry last year (23rd in the NFL) so there needs to be some help from the guys up front if McGahee is going to live up to the lofty expectations of the Bills and his fantasy owners. During the week 3 pre-season game vs. Cleveland, there was still clearly work that needed to be done in this area as McGahee had 11/29/0 rushing (a 2.6 average) and 3/5/0 receiving during a shortened appearance. We'll have a much better feel for McGahee's prospects after watching him for a full, regular season game, but right now the Bills clearly need to do a better job opening holes for him.

The New England defense is on it's 3rd coordinator in 3 years, Dean Pees, and the personnel is in flux as Tedy Bruschi has been out most of pre-season due to a broken bone in his wrist - the team signed Junior Seau to help out at MLB, and they have a dominant defensive front anchored by Richard Seymour. The Patriots were 8th against the rush last season giving up an average of 98.8 rushing yards per game, with 11 rushing scores surrendered in 16 games (12th) - they always seem to be tough no matter who is lining up for the New England D. The Portis-less Redskins managed 18/74/0 vs. the Patriots during their week 3 exhibition game.

McGahee is a talented guy, but in Foxboro he'll face an above-average rush defense with his below-average blockers. Advantage, New England.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch comes into the league playing for a team that averaged 3.7 yards per attempt rushing the ball during 2006 (28th in the NFL, with 420/1552/9 rushing as a team). While it's true Buffalo made moves during the offseason to upgrade the OL, the stark truth is that Tennessee's weak D held them to 28/94/1 during week 3 of the preseason (9/9/0 rushing and 1/3/0 receiving for Lynch, with no carries by veteran Anthony Thomas). "We clearly have to run the ball better," HC Dick Jauron said after the game. "We're definitely concerned. You always want to play better. There are clearly things we need to improve on." We think Lynch will be the primary RB soon enough but it looks like the Bills will go with a RBBC with Thomas and Lynch splitting carries for week 1.

Denver ranked 12th vs. the rush last year, averaging 113.3 yards allowed per game (13 TDs). The Broncos imported Jim Bates during the offseason to become defensive assistant head coach - he's going to run a 4-3 scheme that aims to limit opponents' rushing attacks. Cleveland managed 28/102/1 against Denver during the week 3 preseason game. We'll see if Bates' philosophy improves or degrades the Broncos' rush D soon enough.

The Bills have home-field advantage at their back, but the by-committee approach doesn't make us excited for either Lynch or Thomas. This looks like a tough matchup for whoever totes the rock on Sunday.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Bills were tied for 14th in the NFL last year. averaging 4.2 yards per carry and they also punched in 16 rushing TDs over 16 games. Unfortunately, the offense has been in turmoil throughout the preseason, though, to the extreme extent that their offensive coordinator, Turk Schonert, was fired on Friday, September fourth. Former QB coach Alex Van Pelt is the team's new offensive coordinator - the offense has been anemic and unimpressive so far. We'll see if Van Pelt can generate some positive momentum. While Marshawn Lynch serves his suspension, the team will rely on Fred Jackson (assuming his sore thumb and wrist are up to the task) and Xavier Omon - Dominic Rhodes was cut in the purge down to 53 players last weekend. There really isn't a lot of reason to be excited about the Bills' rushing attack entering week 1, folks. They were blanked by Pittsburgh in the third preseason game (13/49/0 rushing as a team, with 3/3/0 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving by Omon - Jackson didn't play).

The Patriots were 15th in the NFL last season, averaging 107.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with only 8 rushing scores given up during the 16 game season (they tied for 4th in the NFL in this category). Overall, the Patriots were 8th in the NFL allowing only 19.3 points per game during the season, on average. New England's defense hasn't shone in the preseason this year, though, with 31/116/2 handed over to the Redskins in the third exhibition and 25/118/0 put up by the Giants in the fourth. They have also inexplicably traded DE Richard Seymour to Oakland although Seymour is refusing to report for the physical until he gets a long-term deal on the table. But he won't be playing for New England in week 1, that's for sure.

The Bills' offense looks like it is in a world of hurt, while the Patriots enjoy home field advantage. We give the nod to the Patriots in this one.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Carolina's rushing attack was superb during 2008, averaging 152.3 rushing yards per game, with an astronomical 4.8 yards-per-carry average. The dynamic duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart also punched in an amazing 30 rushing TDs last year. However, Stewart has suffered from an Achilles tendon injury throughout preseason and rarely practiced (he never appeared in a preseason game), while newcomer Mike Goodson has staked his claim to a change-of-pace role with solid play throughout preseason. DeAngelo Williams has looked very strong in his preseason appearances, but unfortunately tweaked a knee and had to miss the third preseason contest - all the backs are expected to be ready for the season opener, though.

The Eagles were stout vs. opposing rushers last year, averaging 92.3 rushing yards allowed per game (4th in the NFL), with only 7 rushing TDs handed over during the season. They were also fourth in the NFL averaging just 18.1 points allowed per game - the Eagles were tough to face last year. Unfortunately, the NFL lost one of it's premier defensive coordinators over the summer when Jim Johnson lost his fight with cancer. However, according to Footballguy and Eagles fanatic Jason Wood 'Sean McDermott will take over the job, and if things go according to plan, nothing will change. McDermott has been groomed as Johnson's replacement and was going to have a heavy hand in running the defense this year anyway. Despite being only 35, McDermott was one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in Philadelphia, and he has experience coaching both the secondary and the linebackers.' Results during the preseason have been high-scoring affairs, with Philly defeating Jacksonville 33-32 in the third 'tune-up for regular season' game (with only 27/64/0 rushing put up by the Jaguars) and then a 38-27 loss to the Jets (Philly's backup D crumbled vs. the Jets, handing over 25/191/2 rushing to the New York team). When the starters have played, though, the Eagles have looked solid in this phase of the game for the most part.

The Panthers have a top-tier attack and home field advantage, but the Eagles bring a top-ranked D to the dance. We love Carolina but this is going to be a tough matchup for them.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cedric Benson didn't sign his contract in a timely fashion. That left the door open for last year's RB, Thomas Jones, to make a charge at the starting spot. Heading into week 1, Benson is expected to play, but Jones is the man who'll carry the ball when rookie QB Kyle Orton hands off. Jones managed 14/94/0 vs. the tough Bills D during the week 3 preseason tune-up game, and he has been praised repeatedly by the coaching staff and team-mates throughout preseason. He posted 240/948/7 rushing and 56/427/0 receiving last year when the Bears were suffering from horrible QB play - this guy can get it done. For now, it looks like Jones is the man at RB in Chicago.

Washington was extremely tough against the run last year, allowing a mere 81.5 rushing yards per game and only 7 rushing scores in the course of 16 games. They held the Steelers to 15/87/0 during the week 3 matchup vs Pittsburgh, and 51 of those yards came on one scamper by Willie Parker -- it won't be easy to run the ball against the 'Skins this year.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Fed Ex Field expects a high of 83F and a low of 68F with a 0% chance of precipitation on Sunday -- perfect football weather appears to be on tap.

The problem with starting a rookie QB is that the opposing D will know you want to lean on the running game. Until Orton makes some key throws to back off the defenders, Jones will face a stacked line. Advantage, Washington.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Thomas Jones is out (a New York Jet now), and Cedric Benson is the featured back in Chicago. So far, Benson hasn't been very impressive, posting 19/33/1 rushing (1/2/0 receiving) vs. the undistinguished San Francisco D during week 3 of the preseason. We'll see how Benson progresses once the games count, but right now it is hard to be too excited about his chances.

San Diego was 7th in the NFL last year averaging 100.8 rushing yards allowed per game (with 13 rushing scores given away). However, the team was raided of defensive coaches this past offseason, with Wade Phillips, Greg Manusky and Brian Stewart all departing for new jobs - the current staff is headed by Ted Cottrell. Arizona could only post 21/64/2 rushing during week 3 of the preseason (a 3.0 yards-per-carry average) but the 2 rushing TDs are not what the Chargers wanted to see. The jury is out when it comes to the Chargers' rushing defense.

San Diego was tough against the run last year and we think they'll clamp down again now that the games count. This is a tough matchup for Benson and company.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Bears enter the regular season with a revamped running back stable (to match their new-look passing attack), headlined by rookie Matt Forte. Forte has played solid football throughout camp and performed well during the first half of the week 3 preseason game vs. San Francisco, posting 11/44/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving - helped out by some decent run blocking by the OL. His backup is free agent signee Kevin Jones, late of Detroit, who appears resigned to his backup role - said Jones after the week 3 preseason game: "Matt is a good running back. There is no way he is just going to be sitting on the side. If you can contribute, you can play, and obviously he can." Jones showed some of his old burst in the game, with a 34 yard run down the sidelines in the second half. He ended the game with 3/30/0 and looks like a nice complement to Forte. Adrian Peterson has dropped to 3rd on the depth chart and will be a role player/reserve to start the 2008 campaign.

The Colts' D is working DE Dwight Freeney and S Bob Sanders back into the mix after Freeney returned to action from rehabbing a serious foot injury during the early part of training camp (Sanders has come back from offseason surgery on his right shoulder). Against the Bills, the Colts' defensive front did very well, limiting the Bills to 42/100/1 - the score came late in the game. Starter Marshawn Lynch could only muster 4/2/0 rushing and 1/-3/0 receiving in his time on the field. Last year, the Colts were in the middle of the NFL range, averaging 106.9 rushing yards allowed per game (15th), with 10 rushing scores allowed (tied for 9th in the NFL). They may be able to do better with their defensive team back to full strength.

The Bears' offense is working to jell after adding a lot of new personnel to the mix, while the Colts are striving to bring familiar players back to 100% in their defensive unit. Home field advantage is at the Colts' back in this game, which tilts the match in their favor. Forte and company have a tough matchup to deal with in the season opener.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Rudi Johnson missed the club from the training room tub, and now the Bengals' rushing attack is in the hands of Chris Perry. Perry has looked decent in his chances during preseason (we have only seen him carry the ball 73 times for 337 yards and 0 TDs with 63/403/2 receiving during his 5-year NFL career, though). During the 3rd preseason game, Perry posted 12/36/0 rushing and 4/22/0 receiving vs. New Orleans - he is reportedly slated to be the team's every-down back, leaving Kenny Watson in a change-of-pace/backup role. 2008 will be his first extensive action since 2005 - we'll see how he holds up to the featured role very soon.

The Ravens' fearsome defense asserted itself strongly during 2007, ranking 2nd in the NFL averaging 79.3 rushing yards allowed per game. They were tied for 7th in the NFL with a mere 9 rushing TDs given up in 16 contests - it isn't easy to grind the ball against this club. St. Louis managed 3.4 yards per carry in their week 3 victory over Baltimore (34/113/1), but it wasn't easy to get over 100 yards rushing on the Ravens. Baltimore's defense remains among the league's best.

Perry has a tough challenge ahead in his first appearance as the Bengals' new featured RB.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

BenJarvus Green-Ellis arrived in Cincinnati this year after punching in double-digit rushing TDs for the Patriots in each of the last two years (229/1,008/13 rushing with 12/85/0 receiving during 2010; 181/667/11 rushing with 9/159/0 receiving last year) - he seems to be a perfect fit for the grind-it-out rushing attack that the Bengals have preferred for years. He was sidelined by soreness in one of his feet for the second half of training camp, but resumed practicing on August 27 and appears set to be the lead back for Cincinnati at Baltimore on Monday Night Football September 10. As of August 28, head coach Marvin Lewis stated that Bernard Scott will be cleared to return to action after his 'hardware' is removed and doctors OK his return. Footballguys.com's MD Jene Bramel indicated after Lewis' statement that he believes Soctt had a pin inserted in his broken hand - Scott may or may not be able to play in week one once the pin is removed. He appears shaky for the season-opener, so Green-Ellis is likely to get a very hefty workload vs. Baltimore.

Speaking of the Ravens, they sported the league's second-ranked rush defense during 2011, averaging 92.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing TDs handed over. However, spark-plug DE Terrell Suggs has been lost for at least the first six games of 2012 due to an Achilles' tendon injury/surgery - he's on the PUP list to begin the season, and Suggs led the team's defensive ends last year with 50 tackles (and 14 sacks). Jacksonville's starting running back Rashad Jennings averaged 4.4 yards per tote at Baltimore in the third preseason game (13/57/0 rushing) - there may be some cracks forming in this defensive front as of the start of regular season, friends.

Green-Ellis has a tough row to hoe this week, visiting the Ravens on Monday Night Football's first game of the season.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

BenJarvus Green-Ellis starts the regular season as the Bengals' starter, and he'll likely handle short-yardage/goal-line duties - but Green-Ellis is being pushed by rookie Giovani Bernard. Bernard begins the season as the passing down/change of pace option, but some observers feel that he's also been more effective running between the tackles during preseason. We'll see how Green-Ellis performs now that the full playbook will be installed for games that count, but he is uneasy in his perch atop the depth chart as of September 1, 2013. In the third exhibition game (the tune-up for regular season), Green-Ellis was held to 5/5/0 rushing by the Cowboys, while Bernard notched 6/39/0 rushing and 2/17/0 receiving during the contest.

The Bears' rush D ranked eighth in the NFL last year averaging 101.7 yards allowed per game, and they held opponents to just six rushing scores during 2012. They are moving ahead in 2013 without MLB Brian Urlacher who retired rather than accept a pay cut for this year. It remains to be seen if D.J. Williams will lead as stout a defensive front in the red zone. During the third preseason game at Oakland, the Bears gave up 29/128/1 rushing (but the score came in the second half on a 25-yard scamper by QB Terrelle Pryor).

The Bengals are figuring out their mix at running back entering week one, while the Bears will enjoy the 12th-man in Soldier Field on opening day - advantage, Chicago.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jamal Lewis continues to recover from what the team calls a "slight hamstring strain", but he wasn't at practice on Monday. He is expected to play on Sunday as usual, but if Lewis suffers a setback, the job would fall on Jerome Harrison and/or Jason Wright's shoulders. Last year, Lewis was 6th among all fantasy RBs in total points, with 298/1304/9 rushing and 30/248/2 receiving - obviously, the Browns are hoping that he'll be able to play as usual for the season opener.

The Cowboys' rush D was among the league's best last year, allowing an average of 94.6 yards per game (6th in the NFL), while ranking 17th in rushing TDs given up (12). They were off that pace during the 3rd preseason game vs. Houston, though, allowing a total of 28/114/1 to the less-than-impressive Texans. We'll see which team shows up for the season opener in Cleveland. LB depth is a concern as Anthony Spencer and Kevin Burnett have both had arthroscopic knee surgery recently and may not be available for the season opener.

Lewis is something of a question mark for this week - against the stout Cowboys, whoever totes the pigskin for Cleveland faces an uphill battle.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Browns' rushing attack is up in the air for week one, thanks to an aggravation of Trent Richardson's surgically-repaired left knee that occurred on August 7, 2012 and a subsequent additional arthroscopic surgery that was performed August 9 - Richardson hasn't participated in training camp since the aggravation/corrective surgery, though he reportedly finally returned to practice on Monday, September 3, but he didn't run full speed and he wore a protective sleeve on his knee. The best guess as of Monday, September 3 is that Richardson will be eased into action week one to test the knee, while backup Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson also see time in a running-back-by-committee situation. Richardson owners may wish to look elsewhere for their week one starter, or at least have a plan B, until we see how Richardson's knee responds to a full practice on Wednesday and the aftermath of that stress Thursday/Friday.

The Eagles' rush defense was in the middle of the NFL last year, averaging 112.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores surrendered. John Norton, Footballguys.com's defensive players expert notes: 'In 2011 the Eagles had an all star secondary and one of the best pass rushes in the league, but their lack of quality play up the middle opened the door for teams to hammer them on the ground. The additions of rookies Fletcher Cox at tackle, Mychal Kendricks at outside linebacker and veteran DeMeco Ryans at middle linebacker, should solidify the front seven. Ryans brings not only a physical presence but also the leadership that had been missing.' It so happens that Philadelphia and Cleveland played each other on August 24 in the third preseason matchup - in that game, Jackson led the team with 7/34/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving, while Hardesty posted 8/12/0 rushing. It does appear that the Eagles' front seven has solidified heading into 2012 regular season.

The Browns' running back stable is jumbled as of week one due to Richardson's knee woes, while the Eagles' new-look unit has already performed well against this team two weeks ago. Advantage, Philadelphia.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Duke Johnson (head injury) was still in the concussion protocol Monday, September 7. Head coach Mike Pettine wouldn't say whether Johnson would be ready for the game Sunday, September 13. RB Shaun Draughn will likely be activated from the practice squad for Week One, according to local reports, to play behind starter Isaiah Crowell. With the recent trade of Terrance West to Tennessee, Crowell (148/607/8 rushing with 9/87/0 receiving over 16 games appeared in last year, with four starts) has emerged as the top back in Cleveland - and given the relative weakness of the passing attack, look for the Browns to feed Crowell the ball early and often this season. He's got the chance to be a bell-cow back for the Browns.

The Jets' rush D finished 2014 averaging just 93.1 yards rushing allowed per game (fifth in the NFL), but they did give up 10 rushing scores last year. During preseason, the Jets averaged 109.5 rushing yards allowed per game, 20th in the NFL, but that was with mostly scrubs playing long periods of the contests. Now that the first team will be going full bore, we think New York gets back closer to the top five in this phase of the game.

Crowell has a tough task, traveling to the Big Apple for the season opener at MetLife Stadium.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The worst-case scenario for Julius Jones' fantasy owners is playing out this pre-season, as the team is planning on going with a running back by committee between Jones and Marion Barber III. Said Jones late in August "I think we're going to do what we did last year as far as the reps. I think whoever the hot back is or has the hot hand, then we're going to leave him in there. It's my job to produce, or I'm not going to be playing." The initial plan is to have Jones in for 1st and 2nd down, with Barber taking the 3rd-down and short-yardage situations. A RBBC, in which last year Jones produced 257/993/5 rushing and 35/218/0 receiving, while Barber posted 138/538/5 rushing and 18/115/0 receiving. It looks like more of the same is on tap heading into 2006, at least for week 1.

Jacksonville enjoys a just reputation for being a dominant defense, but last year they were merely average vs. opposing rushers as far as yards allowed was concerned, handing over an average of 106.8 rushing yards per game (14th in the NFL). However, in the red-zone they put up a brick wall, allowing a mere 4 rushing TDs over 16 games (1st in the NFL). One concern for the star-packed lineup is that MLB Mike Peterson suffered a sprained MCL during the 3rd pre-season game, but the team is optimistic that he'll be ready for this home season-opener. DT Marcus Stroud also sat out the final pre-season game, but coach Del Rio commented on 9/2/06 that "We believe we're going to get them all back" for the opening game.

The Cowboys were tied for 25th in the league last year with a 3.6 yards-per-carry average as a team - their committee approach didn't yield huge results. The approach continues week 1, though - against the hard-nosed Jaguars in the Jaguars' house, we think this is a tough matchup for Jones and Barber.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This game should be a fun contest to watch as Jets' head coach Rex Ryan grapples with his brother Rob Ryan's defensive scheme for Dallas (and vice versa). You know that both teams will be pumped up for this opener with the added spice of a brotherly spat going on.

The Cowboys remade their running back stable during the truncated free agency period, allowing Marion Barber to depart for Chicago and adding DeMarco Murray in round three of the 2011 NFL draft. Unfortunately, Murray missed most of training camp due to a hamstring injury, though he did play in the third preseason game on August 27th (he led the team with 7/32/0 rushing and had 1/7/0 receiving). Tashard Choice was hampered by a calf injury for much of training camp as well. All the injury woes behind Felix Jones led him into the featured role for Dallas - what Jerry Jones talked about doing in 2010 seems to be finally happening in 2011, with Felix Jones earning the top job full-time down in Dallas. For week one, we anticipate Jones finishing as a mid-tier fantasy RB #2, with around 80 yards combined and an even chance to score according to David Dodds' projections. He is the guy to start out of the backfield while we see how well Jones handles his new prominence in the Dallas attack. One thing to watch on the offensive line this week - longtime C Andre Gurode was let go on cut-down day, so second-year center Phil Costa and rookie Kevin Kowalski are a very young, shallow portion of the Cowboy's offensive line opening the season. The Jets will likely test the center of the O-line during week one given the new personnel there.

The Jets' rush D finished 2010 as the third-ranked unit in the league, averaging 90.9 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing TDs given up over 16 weeks. The Giants managed 25/105/0 rushing during the Jets' 17-3 victory in the third preseason game - the 'dress rehearsal' for regular season - it appears that the Jets' rush D is strong entering September 2011. Their solid defensive front is part of why the Jets are a consensus top-five team defense according to the panel at Footballguys.com (ranked third overall) and why they are slotted at fifth on David Dodds' individual team defense rankings. These guys are tough.

Jones has a large role in the Dallas attack entering 2011, but the Jets won't hand him a hall pass during their home opener. This looks like a tough matchup for the visiting Cowboys.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Denver had a nightmare season at the RB position last year. with a rash of injuries that landed six players on IR - during the nightmare, the team averaged an astounding 4.8 yards per carry despite the carnage, with an average of 116.4 rushing yards per game generated. This year, after replacing Mike Shanahan with Josh McDaniels, the team drafted Knowshon Moreno to anchor their new RB corps, but unfortunately he missed a lot of training camp/preseason due to a MCL sprain. Moreno is 'getting better every day, doing everything he can do to be ready to go' during Week 1. 'He is not totally there yet, but he is getting better every day. Hopefully we will have him ready to go on Sunday,' McDaniels said on Tuesday, September 8th. Right now, it looks like the team will go RBBC with Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Peyton Hillis and LaMont Jordan all potentially in the mix (Jordan is also nursing a sore knee as of the first week of regular season). The offense is in transition among the coaching staff, at QB, and is in flux in the running back stable entering 2009. It could be a bumpy first few weeks as the team settles in under the new regime.

The Bengals' rush D was sub-par during 2008, averaging 120.1 rushing yards allowed per game (21st in the NFL), with 15 rushing TDs handed over during the season. The defense as a whole was 19th in the league, averaging 22.8 points allowed per game - this is not one of the league's premier units. However, they drafted Ray Maualuga to help shore up the LB position and brought in Tank Johnson from Dallas to help solidify the center of the DL - we'll see if the moves help improve the unit's performance. The Rams ground out 31/102/1 rushing vs. this bunch back in the third preseason game - the Bengals are entering regular season on the right note in this phase of the game, anyway.

The Broncos' RB stable is unsettled, and they are playing on the road this week - the 11th man tilts this one in favor of the home team. Advantage, Cincinnati.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Denver's RB stable was racked by injuries during preseason - starter Knowshon Moreno had a serious hamstring injury early on in preseason and as recently as August 31st Moreno was saying he is only 80% recovered from the problem. Correll Buckhalter (neck and back injuries) rushed three times for three yards and caught two passes for 26 yards Thursday, Sept. 2 during the preseason finale, in his first game action since suffering an injury early in the preseason. If Buckhalter's back flares up, the Broncos may ask rookie Lance Ball (23/119/0 rushing and 5/39/1 receiving) and Andre Brown (21/95/1 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving during preseason before his waiver and claim by Denver) to carry the load in week one. Pay close attention to the injury report and practice reports this week if you are invested in the Denver RB stable.

The Jaguars were in the middle of the NFL in rush D last year, averaging 116.4 yards allowed per game (19th in the NFL), with 12 rushing scores given up (14th). They did a good job shutting down the Tampa Bay backs in week three of the preseason, holding the Buccaneers to 15/42/0 rushing during the contest. So far, so good for Jack Del Rio's club.

Denver's backfield is a jumbled mess right now, and neither of the top backs had much practice time or game time during preseason. The Jaguars' D is good enough to make things tough on the Broncos when they come calling to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Willis McGahee held off all challengers during training camp and remains the top option at running back for the Broncos heading into week one. Ronnie Hillman missed a lot of training camp (August 1 hamstring injury that he then aggravated August 15), but did get in the action for the third preseason game (10/29/0 rushing with one reception for four yards). Currently, it looks like Lance Ball (96/402/1 rushing with 35 targets for 16/148/1 receiving during 2011) is the #2 running back behind McGahee (who amassed 299/1,199/4 rushing and 22 targets for 12/51/1 receiving last season). During preseason McGahee rang up 19/71/1 rushing and is healthy entering regular season.

Last year, the Steelers ranked eighth in the NFL averaging 99.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with just seven rushing scores surrendered (second-least in the NFL last season). However, as Footballguys.com defensive player expert John Norton notes: 'The Steelers are perennially among best in the league, but they are now the NFL's oldest defense and may be starting to show signs of wear. In 2011 they were stingy when it came to yards allowed but recorded only 15 turnovers. Sack master James Harrison seems to constantly be battling injuries and his anticipated replacement (Jason Worilds) has yet to prove he is ready. Long time leader James Farrior is gone so Lawrence Timmons moves into the leadership position. The problem is, the rest of the guys who are supposed to take the next step up the ladder at inside backer have either not done so or have been injured. Pittsburgh can be pretty solid so long as everyone stays healthy, but they are very thin at a lot of positions, especially in the secondary.' Buffalo's Fred Jackson averaged 4.9 yards per carry vs. the Steelers' starters in the third preseason game, with 7/34/1 rushing to his credit.

McGahee is a solid starter, but the Steelers' defensive front isn't a pushover - even in Mile High Stadium, this looks like a tough matchup for the Bronco's running backs.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

C.J. Anderson outperformed Montee Ball so extremely over the past year-and-a-half that Denver cut Ball on the way to their 53-man roster. Anderson (179/849/8 rushing over seven starts last year, with 34/324/2 receiving) has a stranglehold on the top job in Denver entering Week One, though Ronnie Hillman (106/434/3 rushing with 21/139/1 receiving last year) has impressed the coaches enough to earn the backup designation entering September. This running back rotation is set, friends.

The Ravens' rush D finished 2014 averaging 88.2 yards allowed per game (fourth in the NFL) with a mere eight rushing scores given up (.5 per game on average). So far during exhibition season the Ravens averaged 144 rushing yards allowed per game (last in the NFL) - but remember, starters play sparingly in the preseason and backups abound. Take the preseason numbers with a large grain of salt - the 'ones' should clamp down for the Ravens now that the games count.

Even with home field advantage at their backs, the Broncos face a tough matchup in this phase of the game.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Kevin Jones enters a new era this season, playing in Mike Martz's offense. He is said to be in great shape entering regular season, and has been on track during pre-season games according to Martz's plans. "Any back - Marshall was no different - you need to get 11-15 reps in one of these games where you just kind of get into your groove so to speak so you get ready for the season.", Martz stated just before Jones went out and gained 11/43/0 rushing and 3/27/0 receiving vs. Oakland in the week 3 pre-season prep for regular season. Hopefully, Jones has gotten past the nagging injuries that marred his 2005 campaign and can flourish in his new role in Detroit.

Jones has a stern test in front of him this week, though, as Seattle was 5th in the NFL vs. the rush last season, allowing an average of 94.4 yards per game, and they were 2nd in rushing scores allowed, with a miniscule 5 surrendered over 16 games. That's stout! OLB Julian Peterson arrives via free agency hoping to recover his pre-Achilles injury form - if he's back to 100% this group gets even more imposing. They stumbled during week 3 of the pre-season, giving up 45/171/3 to the Chargers, but most of the damage came after the first team left the field.

This is a tough matchup for the Lions, even though they are opening at home in Ford Field.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Green Bay had to wait quite awhile to get Ryan Grant under contract and back at practices (he suffered a hamstring injury once he got back with the team), but they feel the wait was worth it and go into regular season with him atop the depth chart in a featured-back role. Noah Herron and Vernand Morency were released at cut-downs, leaving Brandon Jackson and Kregg Lumpkin as Grant's backups. Jackson struggled to move the ball against Denver's suspect defensive front in week 3 of the preseason (8/19/0 rushing, with 1/18/0 receiving) - this is Grant's backfield entering week 1 of regular season. However, the hamstring is flaring up at midweek (he missed practices on Tuesday) - Grant owners will want to monitor his practice participation later in the week and his injury status on the official injury report on Friday.

Minnesota's rush D was overpowering last year (they were 1st in the NFL allowing a mere 74.1 yards per game, with only 7 rushing TDs given up in 16 contests (tied for 3rd)). They looked stalwart vs. Pittsburgh in week 3 of the preseason, too, holding starter Willie Parker to 10/18/0 rushing and 2/2/0 receiving during the game. Pittsburgh could only muster 3.3 yards per carry during the contest (31/102/0). It looks like the Vikings will wall off opposing rushers again this year.

Grant and company face a very tough first game against an excellent rush D.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ryan Grant has recorded just a handful of carries during preseason (16 for 61 yards and one TD), but remains the lead back for Green Bay entering regular season. He was eighth among all fantasy backs last season with 282/1,253 yards and 11 rushing TDs, while adding 25/197/0 receiving during the season. Grant plays on one of the league's most powerful offenses, which means that teams can't stack the box against the Packers, leading to nice creases and holes in the opposing defenses on a regular basis.

Philadelphia was ninth in the NFL last year allowing and average of 104.7 rushing yards per game, with just 11 TDs handed over during the year (11th-best in the NFL in this category). However, the team didn't do well in this phase of the game vs. Kansas City in week three of the preseason, allowing 36/168/1 to the array of Chiefs backs that played that day. We'll see how the Eagles handle Ryan Grant on Sunday - they did look vulnerable during the preseason's most significant game.

Grant is going to a hostile venue on Sunday, and the Eagles aren't pushovers in this phase of the game. This looks like a tough assignment for Grant and the Packers.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This is a rematch of the divisional playoff game that San Francisco won 45-31 last January - the Packers had a tough time sticking with the running attack in the game, though DuJuan Harris did manage 11/53/1 rushing against the stout San Francisco defensive front. The struggles of last year's running back stable is why the Packers spent two draft picks on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. The Lacy pick is working out well as he has looked great during stretches of preseason and is now firmly atop the depth chart as the top running back (Harris has landed on IR due to a knee injury). Lacy faces a stern test in week one, traveling to San Francisco.

The 49ers were fourth in the NFL last year averaging 94.2 rushing yards allowed per game, with seven rushing scores given up over 16 games. Minnesota managed 22/86/0 rushing at San Francisco in the third exhibition game (Adrian Peterson didn't carry the football, however) - in short, the 49ers' D looks like a wet blanket for opposing running backs again this year.

This is a tough matchup for the Packers' rookie sensation Lacy - advantage, San Francisco.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

By all accounts Eddie Lacy has been a dynamic force as both a rusher and a receiver during the 2014 training camp/preseason, so much so that the Packers decided to limit his touches during preseason to preserve him for when the games started counting in September. Lacy looked unstoppable during his time on the field vs. Oakland in the third preseason game (6/36/1 rushing), and looks primed to pick up where he left off 2013 (284/1,178/11 rushing with 35/257/0 receiving). Backups James Starks and DuJuan Harris looked solid at points during the preseason and form a capable reserve behind Lacy - it's all systems go for the Packers' backs as of Week One, regular season.

However, this week they all travel to CenturyLink Field for the Thursday Night Football opener in Seattle, one of the toughest venues to visit in the NFL. Last year, the Seahawks were tied for first in the NFL with just four rushing scores given up all season, and they tied for seventh in the NFL averaging 101.6 rushing yards given up per game. During the third preseason game vs. Chicago, the Bears were held to 13/51/0 rushing, with starter Matt Forte posting 3/17/0 during a cameo appearance (Seattle won the game 34-6 and didn't allow the Bears a TD all night long). This is one of the premier defenses in the NFL, folks.

Lacy and company face a tough draw in the first regular season NFL game on Thursday Night Football.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Domanick Davis is one of the best dual-threat RBs in the league. He piled up 301/1180/13 rushing and 69/596/1 receiving last year. He posted 8/39/0 rushing and 1/2/0 vs. the Cowboys during preseason week 3. He did leave the game with a bruised right elbow and twisted right ankle. Neither injury is serious, but watch this one closely. Rookie Vernand Morency took over and ran well in that game rushing 11 times for 55 yards including a 23-yarder. Davis has not been an Iron Man so keep Morency in mind.

Buffalo fields one of the premier defenses in the league. They gave up a mere 6 rushing TDs last year, while ranking 6th in the NFL with 100.3 rushing yards per game allowed. They are as tough a unit as there is anywhere in the NFL. During the week 3 preseason contest, though, the Bears' Thomas Jones gained 14/94/0 -- he sent a wake-up call to the Bills' defenders.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium is ideal -- 78F for a high, 60F for a low on Sunday, with a 0% chance for rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this matchup.

Domanick Davis will try to carry his team, but he'll have a hard time against the stalwart Bills.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Texans have one of the most potent rushing attacks in pro football - they were second in the league last year rushing for 2,448 yards as a team, and they boasted two 1,000+ yards-combined backs who accounted for 2,166 yards rushing between themselves - Arian Foster, with 278/1,224/10 rushing and 80 targets for 53/617/2 receiving, and Ben Tate, with 175/942/4 rushing and 20 targets for 13/98/0 receiving. Both players return to the lineup healthy and rearing to go for regular season - the Texans should once again dominate their opponents with their overpowering rushing attack.

The first opponents of the Texans will be the Miami Dolphins, who actually sported a top-five rush D last year, averaging 95.6 yards allowed per game, with just eight rushing scores given away. During the third preseason game, the Dolphins limited Atlanta's Michael Turner to 10/35/0 rushing and held the entire slate of Falcons' rushers to just 27/69/0 - the defensive front in Miami looks stout again heading into regular season.

If Foster is your starting running back, you spent a top-three fantasy pick to get him - you're starting him no matter who the opposition is from week to week. However, this season opener against the visiting Dolphins is actually a tougher-than-usual matchup.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Arian Foster finally joined practices on Friday, August 23, and has since indicated on August 26 that "Over the past couple of months, I had the chance to just train and rehab and work on my body and didn't have all those carries in training camp. Even during camp, I got a long rest (because of the back injury). It's usually a grind. My body feels great." On August 30, head coach Gary Kubiak said "Obviously I don't think Arian's going to be a 30-carry guy on opening night.". It looks like the Texans will ease in Foster (351/1,411/15 rushing with 40/217/2 receiving last year) by liberally mixing in Ben Tate (65/279/2 rushing and 11/49/0 receiving during 11 games last season), who has carried the load for Houston during preseason while Foster was recuperating from his injured back.

The Chargers' rush D averaged 96.4 yards allowed per game last year (sixth in the NFL) and only gave up 10 rushing scores - a good enough record to get linebackers' coach John Pagano promoted to defensive coordinator this year. During the third preseason game the Chargers allowed 18/120/0 rushing (6.7 yards per carry), but only gave up one TD all day in the 24-7 victory. Now that the vanilla preseason game plans are a thing of the past, the Chargers should get back to playing stubborn run defense during regular season.

Foster has to knock off a lot of rust for this game - the Chargers aren't going to make things easy for him on the second half of Monday Night Football. Advantage, San Diego.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Colts bring Edgerrin James to this dance, a back who gained 2,000+ yards from scrimmage last year (334/1548/9 rushing, 51/483/0 receiving) - this player averages 4.2 yards per carry so far in his career, and has 312 receptions for 2502 yards and 10 TDs to his credit over 6 years (some of them injury-shortened). He was slowed by the Bears during a cameo appearance in week 3 of the preseason (6/4/0 rushing with no receptions), but we're not worried about the number of touches he'll see now that regular season has rolled around.

Baltimore fields one of the upper-echelon defenses in the NFL. They were 8th vs. the run last year (averaging 105.1 rushing yards allowed per game), and only coughed up 9 rushing scores over 16 weeks. They have Ray Lewis at MLB. Enough said.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in near-perfect conditions: the forecast calls for a high of 84F and a low of 72F -- this is the Sunday night game, so the temperature will be in the low 70's -- with a 0% chance for rain. Weather won't be a factor in this matchup unless things change quickly.

Two top units will test each other in this game. Both sides are outstanding and neither has a clear advantage over the other. Although it's clearly a tough matchup for the Colts.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Dominic Rhodes has kept Joseph Addai at #2 on the depth chart throughout pre-season, though neither has looked like a world-beater on paper(Dominic Rhodes has 17/46/0 and Joseph Addai has 21/32/0 during pre-season, neither appeared in the exhibition finale). "I think we'll run when we get looks to run," coach Tony Dungy said back on August 26th. "This preseason, people have given us (defensive) looks to take away the run and we've done a pretty good job moving up and down the field on them. My sense is people will play us differently in the regular season. We're going to see more safeties deep, more soft coverage, and we're going to have to run." One thing is certain, if teams ignore the passing game they'll be dead meat, as Manning and company have been lethal in the pre-season. Rhodes will get opportunities to carry the ball and Addai will play in a situational role as he learns to play at the pro level.

The Giants were 12th in the NFL last year allowing 103.5 rushing yards per game, and surrendered a total of 12 rushing scores to their opponents in 2005 (15th). In a word, they were mediocre vs. opposing rushing attacks. This year, the team added LB LaVar Arrington to the defense, and DE Mathias Kiwanuka to the defensive line via the draft. The starting tandem of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan at DE is as good as they come, too - this is a very solid looking group who need to take their game to the next level during 2006.

Rhodes and Addai have been underwhelming to date, and they'll be in the Giants house for this one. We think this will be a tough test for the Colts' stable.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Trent Richardson was a problem for the Colts during 2013, with a mere 192/564/3 rushing (2.9 yards per carry on average) with 35/316/1 receiving as well. The team was hopeful that a full offseason/preseason of OTAs and training camp would improve Richardson's outcomes because he'd be more comfortable in the system, but as of the third exhibition game things weren't looking up for Richardson (6/17/0 rushing, a 2.8 yards per carry average). Backup Ahmad Bradshaw is still working through his neck injury and did little during preseason - Bradshaw rushed three times for two yards and caught an 11-yard pass in the Colts' third preseason game against the Saints. He didn't play in the preseason finale. Dan Herron did some good things with the ball against New Orleans with a 43-yard long run and 8/68/0 during the contest (with 1/-4/0 receiving) but he's third on the depth chart (currently). It doesn't appear that the Colts' running game is going to complement their high-octane passing attack during 2014. Richardson is ranked 33rd in David Dodds' first cut projections, with an expectation of 13/45/.4 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving.

Denvers' rush D ended the 2013 season ranked seventh in the NFL, tied with Seattle, averaging 101.6 rushing yards allowed per game. However, Denver gave up 15 rushing scores over 16 games (Seattle allowed four) - the Broncos aren't a shut-down unit in the red-zone. Part of the reason for the low yards-against average is that the Denver offense frequently gets out to a big lead, forcing opponents to essentially abandon the running game (Denver was 27th vs. opposing passers last year allowing 254 yards passing per game on average). Against Houston in the third exhibition game, Denver allowed one rushing score to Jonathan Grimes (5/22/1 rushing with 1/24/0 receiving), while Alfred Blue was limited to 9/27/0 rushing (with one target for zero receptions). After it was all said and done, Houston had compiled 23/79/1 rushing - well under the 2013 season average. Denver has a stout but not shut-down rush D entering 2014.

This looks like a tough matchup for Richardson and company.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Frank Gore is almost the last man standing in the running back stable after preseason - Dan Herron is on IR with a shoulder injury, Josh Robinson has been out of practices due to being in the concussion protocols, and Vick Ballard aggravated a hamstring injury in the final preseason game and is out indefinitely trying to heal the nagging injury. Heading into Week One, Gore is 'The Man' for the Colts at running back - he was always going to be the starter, but Gore is definitely 'featured' by this team right now. He only touched the ball twice during preseason, so we'll judge his fit in the Colts' system by what happens here in Week One.

The Bills' defensive front is among the top units in the NFL - they finished 2014 ranked 11th against the run, averaging 106.4 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores given out over 16 contests. They led all 32 teams during exhibition season, giving up just 62.8 yards rushing per game on average, with a mere two rushing scores handed over in four contests. The Bills' D looks as strong as ever.

This is a tough place to visit on opening day - advantage, Buffalo.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Jaguar's running back stable is primed for action, with both Maurice Jones-Drew (18th in fantasy points per game last year) and Fred Taylor (23rd) healthy and ready to rumble entering week 1. The duo had an up-and-down preseason, with a disappointing showing vs. the hard-nosed Buccaneers during week 3 of the preseason (1/-4/0 rushing for Jones-Drew whose afternoon was shortened due to tweaking an ankle), and 7/26/0 rushing for Taylor during the contest. Taylor shrugged off the preseason contest asserting "We will be fine. We are going to continue to work our techniques and get better." Fantasy owners invested in the Jacksonville attack hope that Taylor's analysis is correct. Last season, the duo of backs was among the leagues most effective 1-2 combinations.

The Titans lurk in LP Field awaiting their divisional rivals, and sport a 5th ranked rush D that averaged 92.4 rushing yards allowed per game last year, with 11 rushing scores handed over in 16 games (11th in the NFL). Taylor had a tough time with the Titans last year, managing only 1 TD in 2 games and 22/61 rushing, but Jones-Drew fared better, posting 26/133/1 vs. Tennessee last season. During the preseason contest with Atlanta in week 3 of preseason, Falcon starter Michael Turner could only generate 5/16/0 vs. the Titans, although backup Jerious Norwood had better luck (4/53/0). In short, the Titans' D appears to be picking up where they left off last year in this phase of the game.

Taylor and Jones-Drew are good backs, but they face a tough challenge this week in LP Field.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The shocking news that David Garrard has been released by Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith just five days before the season opener has understandably introduced an element of chaos to this week one matchup. New starter Luke McCown was third on the depth chart until Tuesday of this week, and he's only had a handful of snaps with the first team during preseason (he played in the fourth preseason game with the starters, tossing 4/9 for 47 yards, one TD and zero interceptions). However, an obvious ploy by Tennessee in reacting to this situation is to stack the line to contain Maurice Jones-Drew and dare McCown to beat them through the air. Jones-Drew has seen precious little action this preseason due to a balky knee, and now he'll have to also adjust to a new QB handing off to him and a new cadence as well as knocking the rust off his game (Jones-Drew had five carries for 14 yards and one target for zero receptions in his brief time on the field vs. St. Louis).

Tennessee's rush D was 20th last year in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (115.7 per contest), but they were stubborn in the red zone with only seven rushing TDs given away over 16 games. The Titans won a hard-fought game in the third exhibition (14-13 victory over Chicago), but their defensive front was pierced repeatedly as the Bears racked up 34/148/1 rushing during the game (a 4.4 yards per carry average). There is a lot of room for improvement entering regular season, friends. Unfortunately, the Titans let MLB Stephen Tulloch (111 solo tackles and 48 assists last year) get away to Detroit during free agency, though they did manage to replace him with six-year veteran Barrett Ruud, who was let go by Tampa Bay. The team is working to integrate their new lineup under the new coaching staff led by Mike Munchak and new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray (a long-time assistant coach for Tennessee who spent 2010 coaching the Seattle secondary). It's a unit in transition, friends.

Two teams going through personnel changes meet in this divisional matchup - we give the edge to Tennessee, who have at least had the preseason to work out the kinks with their current lineup.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Maurice Jones-Drew finally ended his holdout September 2 (without a new contract and with up to $1.2 million in fines), reporting to try and learn a brand-new offense without the benefit of any OTAs, coaching sessions, or training camp. The team has already announced that Rashad Jennings will start in week one due to his solid work during preseason (he had 47 carries for 209 yards during the preseason, a 4.5 yards per carry average - the 209 yards led the AFC in rushing during preseason), and it may take Jones-Drew a few weeks before he is fully up to speed here - we don't look for him to play more than a handful of snaps in the season opener. Jennings should see up to 20 touches on the football, with around 17 carries according to Footballguys.com's official projections by David Dodds. Jennings is the guy to start this week if you are invested in the Jacksonville rushing attack.

The Vikings' rush D was 11th in the NFL last year averaging 107 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores given up (tied for sixth in the NFL). They held the Chargers' backups to 28/78/0 rushing in the third preseason game - Ryan Mathews was out due to a broken collarbone for that contest, though.

Jennings has a tough assignment ahead this week up in the boisterous Mall of America Field.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Toby Gerhart arrived via free agency this season via Minnesota, and he has cemented his hold on the featured job in Jacksonville as the preseason proceeded - he's in the 'bell cow' role as of Week One regular season and should see plenty of action given the limited passing attack that Jacksonville deploys. Gerhart posted 10/32/0 rushing against the Lions in the third preseason game before taking a seat - he's all set to go in reguar season.

The Eagles averaged 104.3 rushing yards allowed per game last season, good for 10th in the NFL, and gave up 12 rushing scores over 16 games played. They limited Le'Veon Bell to 9/23/0 rushing in the third preseason game, and held LeGarrette Blount to 7/32/0 on the ground - in all, Pittsburgh posted 17/58/0 rushing at Philadelphia in the third preseason game.

Gerhart will see plenty of work this week, but he'll battle a top-ten rush defense on the way - this looks like a tough matchup for the new Jaguar starter.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Larry Johnson is back for the Chiefs, but he is finding running room hard to come by behind the sub-par OL - during the month of August, his yards-per-carry average was 3.3. "I don't want to go out there and have to struggle through eight games to find my stretch when I really turn it on," he said just before the final preseason contest. "I want to be able to turn it on from the get-go - Obviously, this week, I'm not going to do a whole lot. I just want to be ready for New England." In the 3rd preseason contest with Miami, Johnson could only muster 13/36/0 rushing and 1/2/0 receiving - not exactly top-10 fantasy RB material, at least so far. The Chiefs averaged 3.3 yards per carry as a team last year (31st in the NFL), and after preseason it appears that they still need to improve dramatically in this department.

The Patriots were 10th in the NFL last year, averaging 98.3 rushing yards per game allowed. They handed over only 7 rushing TDs (tied for 3rd in the league) last year - the Pats' defensive front is among the league's best, obviously. This year, in the 3rd preseason contest, the Patriots gave up 30/110/0 to Philadelphia's stable (a 3.7 yards-per-carry average). They look strong entering 2008.

Kansas City hasn't gotten Johnson on track yet, and meanwhile the Patriots are entering the year in top form. Advantage, New England.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jamaal Charles is reportedly in fine health entering regular season, and the offense looks rejuvenated with Jeremy Maclin taking the place of Dwayne Bowe as the #1 wide receiver. Charles posted 3/26/0 rushing and 2/15/0 receiving in the third preseason game, and looks poised to reclaim his top-5 fantasy running back status during 2015 after finishing in seventh during 2014 (206/1,033/9 rushing with 40/291/5 receiving). Knile Davis (134/463/6 rushing with 16/147/1 receiving) is an uber-capable backup if Charles should need a breather on the sidelines. This unit is ready to rock on opening weekend.

The Texans' rush D finished 2014 ranked 10th in the NFL averaging 105.1 yards allowed per game, with six rushing scores given up to date. They are tough in the red zone, friends.

Charles is a dual-threat back, but the Texans' D is no joke. This looks like a tough assignment for any back in the league, going down to Houston to face J.J. Watt and company.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Miami will rely on Ronnie Brown to start the season. Vs. Tampa Bay during the preseason week 3 tune-up, Brown managed 6/20/0 rushing (no receptions). He also scraped together 5/25/0 (1/5/0 receiving) against the Falcons in the preseason finale on 9/1/05. As you can see, we don't really know how productive Brown may be given a full load during a game. This week, we'll find out. The offensive line has struggled and that's not what a rookie RB needs.

Denver's rush defense was fairly stout last season, ranking 4th in the NFL allowing an average of 94.5 yards per game - but they coughed up 16 rushing scores last year, which tied them with the 30th ranked Saints for scores allowed. To address the situation, the team remade the defensive line and linebacking corps, adding a bevy of ex-Browns to the mix, headlined by DT Gerard Warren (a former first round pick). During the week 3 preseason showdown with playoff nemesis Indianapolis, the results of this realignment were mixed, as the Broncos surrendered 28/111/0 (a 4.0 yards per carry average). It remains to be seen if the new unit is better than last year's edition.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Dolphin's Stadium calls for a high of 91F and low of 79F with a 30% chance of precipitation. That forecast translates into "hot and muggy, with possibly poor field conditions". Weather could adversely affect both squads, especially if the rain comes down hard around game time. Keep an eye on the weather if you are planning on starting a Bronco or Dolphin.

The Dolphins' pass game is suspect, so expect the Broncos to load up vs. the run and dare Frerotte to throw against them. It could be a long game for Ronnie Brown.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Miami's Ronnie Brown has been rid of the competition of Ricky Williams, and is now positioned as the team's unquestioned featured running back entering his second season. He had 207/907/4 rushing and 32/232/1 receiving in a committee role last year - this year, fantasy owners are expecting great things from Brown as he carries the full load for Miami. In his week 3 exhibition appearance against the hard-nosed Panthers, Brown ground out 13/27/0 rushing but added a nice 20 yard catch to round out a respectable outing against an elite defensive front.

The Steelers' defensive front is rock solid, allowing an average of 86 rushing yards per game last year (3rd in the NFL), with only 10 rushing scores allowed over 16 games (7th in the NFL). They make things very tough on opposing backs, as Philadelphia found out during their week 3 exhibition game (20/44/0 as a team that night).

Brown is in a great position to succeed, but this first game is a bear.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This is a fierce divisional rivalry that is always hard-fought regardless of the individual team's record - it should be an exciting opening day for the Dolphins and Patriots (and their fans).

The Dolphins have totally overhauled their running back stable this year, letting Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams depart via free agency and signing Reggie Bush from New Orleans to a two-year contract as part of a trade with the Saints, and drafting Daniel Thomas out of Kansas State in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. Entering the regular season, the plan at running back appears to be a committee with Bush as the senior partner seeing between 15-20 touches per game, while Thomas handles inside carries and change-of-pace work when a big back is needed. Thomas failed to impress during training camp and preseason and will start the season as Bush's backup and understudy. During preseason we saw highs and lows from Bush - he struggled to run the ball vs. Tampa Bay in week three (5/-1/0 rushing with 2/23/0 receiving), but was effective in week two against the Carolina Panthers with 8/48/0 rushing and 2/33/0 receiving. Thomas posted 7/16/0 rushing and 1/19/0 receiving vs. Tampa Bay in the third preseason game.

The Patriots bring the league's 11th-ranked rush D (2010 regular season) to Sun Life Stadium - they averaged 108 rushing yards allowed per game last season, with 10 rushing scores surrendered. Detroit was right in step with last year's averages during the third preseason game when they posted 33/114/0 rushing vs. New England. Entering 2011, the Patriots look like they have a solid-if-not-elite defensive front online. The overall defensive team receives high marks from both the Footballguys.com staff (who rank New England as the fifth-best team defense) and also from David Dodds (who rates them second-best among all team defenses). They are certainly respectable in this phase of the game.

Bush and Thomas are new to the Miami-New England rivalry, but they'll still have a tough row to hoe when the Patriots come calling in south Florida.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Minnesota has a ridiculously good run-blocking offensive line (the team averaged an astronomical 5.3 yards per carry last year). They field one of the league's most exciting young talents, Adrian Peterson (the 4th-best fantasy RB in points-per-game last year) and have a quality backup/change of pace back in Chester Taylor. The Vikings have no weakness in this phase of the game entering week 1, folks.

The Packers were tied for 13th in the NFL last year in rushing yards allowed per game (102.9) and gave up a mere 6 rushing TDs all year long - neither Peterson or Taylor scored a TD against the Packers last year. Denver couldn't score a TD against the Packers in the 3rd preseason game, either (28/131/0). Green Bay has a dominant rush D, folks.

Strength clashes with strength in this phase of the game on Monday Night Football, friends. This is an exciting, and tough matchup - it should make for an exciting season opener on Monday Night Football.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

It looks like the Patriots will hit the opposition with a running-back-by-committee again this year - they've played the hot hand during preseason as is typical for this team over the past few years. Good luck guessing which guy will be featured by the coaching staff in any given week. We think Fred Taylor will probably be the best fantasy play during week one, with David Dodds predicting him to emerge as the 31st-best fantasy RB in the season opener in his first-cut projections. Taylor had a strong game in week two of the preseason (11/54/1 rushing) but didn't appear in the third exhibition contest.

The Bengals' rush D was a top-ten unit last season, averaging 98.3 rushing yards allowed per game (7th in the NFL), with 12 rushing scores given up. Buffalo's C.J. Spiller threw egg on this unit's face in the third preseason game, though, with 12/52/2 rushing for Buffalo (30/132/2 rushing as a team) - the Bengals have some work ahead when practices resume on Wednesday September eighth.

Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, and Kevin Faulk will all likely see action vs. Cincinnati, and Sammy Morris is still in the mix too. Their committee faces a stout challenge at home in Gillette Stadium.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This is a fierce divisional rivalry that is always hard-fought regardless of the individual team's record - it should be an exciting opening day for the Dolphins and Patriots (and their fans).

After the preseason, BenJarvus Green-Ellis remains atop the Patriots' depth chart, but we expect to see a liberal dose of Danny Woodhead (and perhaps Stevan Ridley) thrown into the mix each game as well. Long-time Patriot Kevin Faulk is starting the year on the PUP list, so the fourth RB spot is held down by Shane Vereen as of week one. During the third preseason game (the tune up to regular season), Woodhead led the team in rushing with 4/28/0 (and he added 3/21/0 receiving) followed by Green-Ellis (8/18/0 rushing) - neither rookie (Ridley or Vereen) touched the football during that contest. It looks like Green-Ellis may get a shot at going over 1,000 yards rushing again this year after all.

Miami's rush D ranked seventh in the NFL last year, averaging 100.1 yards allowed per game, while giving up just eight rushing scores all year long. They held Tampa Bay's club to 27/99/1 during the third preseason game, which is right on their top-ten pace from last season. It isn't easy to gain ground against the Dolphin's front seven.

Green-Ellis and Woodhead are a solid tandem of backs, but they've got a tough divisional rival on their hands in the D's house this week - advantage, Miami.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jonas Gray was cut by New England and wound up back on the Dolphins' scout team, so New England will try to stitch together a stop-gap committee of backs with LeGarrette Blount out for Week One. James White (9/38/0 rushing and 5/38/0 receiving over three games played for New England last year), Brandon Bolden (28/89/1 rushing with 2/8/0 receiving last year in two starts with 16 games appeared in), Dion Lewis (a third-down back brought over from Philadelphia this year), and Travaris Cadet (late of New Orleans). Who will handle the ball most in Week One is anyone's guess - we suggest that fantasy owners avoid this situation until Week Two when Blount may be worth a look.

The Steelers' rush D ain't a Steel Curtain, but it is respectable again - last year, they ranked sixth in the NFL averaging 100.3 yards allowed per game, with just nine rushing scores given up over 16 games. However, Buffalo did trample them in the third exhibition game for 35/156/3 rushing so there is room to improve here entering regular season.

The Patriots' bevy of backs face a tough matchup in this Thursday night game.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Deuce McAllister is a top 5 fantasy back on almost everyone's board. He'll open the 2005 campaign at Carolina on Sunday, but we haven't seen a lot of McAllister to date during preseason. He put up 9/29/0 rushing and 2/10/0 vs Baltimore during the week 3 preseason game - a short outing, by all measuring sticks. Last year he was the 16th best fantasy back in points per game (he did suffer from a high ankle sprain to start the season, remember)with 269/1074/9 rushing and 34/228/0 receiving.

The Saints are in a tough situation - they've been evacuated from their home town, and will understandably struggle to keep up intensity in the face of the disaster that has devastated their home town and fans. On the flip side, players like Joe Horn have stated the disaster has sparked the team with a desire to give the affected people something positive to hold onto.

Carolina played poorly to open 2004, and played very well to close the season. Their 2004 statistics reflect this - the Panthers ranked 17th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 119.0 rushing yards per game (with 19 rushing scores surrendered during the season). Entering the 2005 regular season, the D seems to be back at the top of their game - Carolina surrendered 25/85 rushing during week 3 vs. Cleveland (although they did cough up 2 TDs).

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Bank of America Stadium calls for a high of 86F and a low of 69F with a 0% chance of rain - it should be a great day to play some football.

Division rivals face off in this game - we think that the Panthers will have a boost from the home crowd, which makes this a tough matchup for McAllister and company.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Saints' running back depth chart looks like this entering week 1 - Reggie Bush is the headliner in the committee, and Deuce McAllister appears to be in the 2nd spot, while Pierre Thomas holds down the #3 spot (Aaron Stecker is a distant 4th/reserve). However, McAllister hasn't tested his surgically repaired knee for a full game yet and we won't be able to tell how he's holding up until a day or two after he attempts the workload. In a nutshell, right now Bush is set at #1, but the rest of the depth chart is up in the air and could change during the game on Sunday. Thomas has looked solid during the preseason, and led the team in rushing in week 3 vs. Cincinnati (5/46/0 rushing and 4/35/0 receiving), while McAllister posted 6/9/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving - Bush bruised his thigh in the contest and had a cameo appearance with 2/6/0 as a result. The Saints were 28th in the NFL last year with 1466 rushing yards to their credit, and 10th in the league with 14 rushing TDs as a team. Reggie Bush will generated around 1/2 of that rushing yardage again this year, most likely - it remains to be seen who will earn the rest of the real estate for New Orleans.

The Buccaneers were in the middle of the league last year in both rushing yards allowed per game (107.9, 17th) and rushing scores allowed (11, tied for 12th). They stuffed Jacksonville in the 3rd preseason contest, limiting the entire stable of backs to 26/37/0 during the game (1.4 yards per carry). If the Bucs can maintain that level of stonewalling come regular season, this will be a fearsome run D.

New Orleans is seeking answers to their unsettled running back depth chart - Tampa appears to have solidified their defensive front entering 2008. This looks like a tough matchup for the home team.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The NFL schedule makers set up a barn-burner for the special Thursday night opener, rematching the Saints and the Vikings (who met in the NFC Championship last year and took it to overtime). The Saints have suffered from injury woes at their backup running back positions (P.J. Hill and Lynell Hamilton are already on IR, and Chris Ivory is banged up entering week one), but the team's loss will be Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas owners' gain as those two guys figure to become the focal point of the Saints' attack in this phase. Reggie Bush (70/390/5 rushing and 47/335/3 receiving last year) seems to have taken the loss of his Heisman trophy personally as he is running with much more authority between the tackles this preseason, and finally looks like the 'complete' back we expected when he entered the league. Thomas (147/793/6 rushing and 39/302/2 receiving last year) remains a solid back in his own right. Last year Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton had 207 rushes and seven TDs between the two players - neither of those guys are with the Saints this year.

The Vikings are not pushovers in this phase of the game, though, ending 2009 ranked second in the NFL averaging 87.1 yards allowed per game, with just five rushing TDs given up last season (first in the NFL). During the third preseason game, the Vikings allowed just 15/44/0 rushing to the Seahawks (a 2.9 yards per carry average) - they are just as stout as ever entering 2010.

Bush and Thomas will have plentiful opportunities during 2010, but this week they face a big test when the powerful Vikings come calling - this is a tough matchup, friends.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

New Orleans has been tinkering with the mix of carries for their three-headed monster throughout the preseason, and so far it looks like veteran Pierre Thomas and rookie Mark Ingram will at least begin the year sharing the ball carrying duties fairly evenly, while Darren Sproles provides a strong change-of-pace presence in the old 'Reggie Bush' role for the team. With a high-octane offense like the Saints boast, there will probably be enough work for both Ingram and Thomas to have strong games from week to week, but figuring out which guy will go off in any given game will be pretty tough. As of early Tuesday, September sixth we project the two lead backs to have almost identical numbers in the regular season opener, which makes neither guy a hot fantasy commodity.

Add into the above work-sharing scheme the fact that Green Bay is one of the stingiest run defenses in the red zone (the Packers gave up just six rushing TDs last year, just one more than Pittsburgh allowed), and you can see why we're not turning handsprings over the Saints' running backs' prospects on Thursday night. Lambeau Field is a deafening place to play, and the current champions' legion of fans will be in full throat for certain. In week three of the preseason, the Packers displayed their usual MO as a rush D, allowing 112 rushing yards to the Colts, but zero TDs (last year the Packers were 18th in the NFL averaging 114.9 rushing yards allowed per game - they give some ground between the 20's, but rarely crack in the red zone). The Packers' excellence as a team defense in both phases of the game are why they are the consensus #1 team defense according to the Footballguys.com staff, and they are also #1 on David Dodds' individual list.

The Saints' running backs have a tough challenge waiting ahead in Lambeau Field during the season opener.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Mark Ingram (226/964/9 rushing with 29/145/0 receiving during the 2014 season) enters regular season as the clear-cut #1 running back on this squad - C.J. Spiller had a knee procedure early in training camp (August 14) and though he was expected back for some level of work this week his training/conditioning was deemed not appropriate for a full-speed NFL game. Khiry Robinson (76/362/3 rushing with 8/63/0 receiving last year) will serve as the third-down/change-of-pace back during Week One as it was announced on Tuesday, September 8 that Spiller (knee rehab) will not play in the regular season opener Sunday, September 13, against the Arizona Cardinals. He is likely (according to the team) to return for Week Two going forwards. The Saints have been shifting their offensive philosophy towards a more balanced run-pass ratio (and will try to establish a power-running game this year) so Ingram is likely to see a heavy workload most weeks this year.

The Cardinals' rush D finished 2014 ranked 13th in the NFL averaging 108.7 rushing yards allowed per game, with just nine rushing scores surrendered over 16 games. They've been stout during preseason, with an average of 68.8 yards rushing allowed in the exhibitions, and just three rushing scores surrendered. This is one of the stronger defensive fronts in the league entering 2015 regular season.

Ingram will be asked to carry a heavy load, but he faces a stout defense here in Week One. The advantage in this one flows to the home-team Cardinals.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Giants have reworked their running back stable since their latest Super Bowl victory - Brandon Jacobs left town for San Francisco, and Danny Ware was cut last Friday. In their place, the Giants now have the exciting rookie David Wilson (28/131/0 rushing - 4.68 yards per carry on average, with two runs over 20 yards so far - and 5/61/0 receiving during preseason action) as the backup to Ahmad Bradshaw (12 games played for 171/659/9 rushing and 62 targets for 34/267/2 receiving during 2011), with Da'Rel Scott and Andre Brown forming the reserve cadre heading into week one. Bradshaw figures to be the lead back in the Giants' committee approach, but he'll share a significant number of carries with Wilson - Jacobs had 152/571/7 rushing and 27 targets for 15/128/1 receiving last year as the 1B option for the Giants.

Dallas' rush D was seventh in the NFL last year averaging 99.1 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores coughed up. Steven Jackson was held out of the third preseason game at Dallas - the Cowboys limited the Rams' starter that week, Isaiah Pead, to 9/22/0 rushing (2.4 yards per carry) and 2/4/0 receiving. So far, so good for the Cowboys' 2012 defensive unit.

Bradshaw struggled to move the ball against Dallas last year (24/69/1 rushing with 4/19/1 receiving), and he's got to face their tough D in the season opener this time around. Advantage, Dallas.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

With the loss of David Wilson to another neck injury during preseason (he retired from the NFL), Rashad Jennings has become the unquestioned lead back in New York. Jennings averaged over five yards per carry during two of his three seasons backing up Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville, and he was over 4.5 yards per carry last season as a counterpart to Darren McFadden in Oakland last season (Jennings had career highs in carries, yards rushing, rushing TDs, targets, receptions and receiving yards last year, posting 163/733/6 rushing and 47 targets for 36/292/0 receiving). He is now going to show what he can do in a featured role with the Giants. Rookie Andre Williams will get some action as a banger, big-back change-of-pace option to Jennings. David Dodds' first-cut projections peg Jennings at 19th among fantasy running backs this week, with 14/57/.4 rushing and 3/26/.1 receiving for Jennings, with 8/33/.3 rushing and 1/6/0 receiving as Williams' likely portion (43rd fantasy running back in the land for Week One).

The Lions' rush D ranked sixth in the NFL last season averaging 99.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores allowed over 16 contests. Jacksonville's starting running back Toby Gerhart was held to 10/32/0 rushing (a 3.2 yards per carry average) during the third exhibition game, while the entire Jaguar rushing attack could only muster 25/85/0 at Detroit.

Jennings has a new start with the Giants, but he faces a tough matchup in Ford Field this week.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Thomas Jones has been fighting through a calf injury during the final weeks of preseason, but it appears that he'll be ready to go on opening day. On September 5th, Jones confirmed his readiness to start in the season opener according to the New York Daily News: Jones said he feels “a lot better,” and he expects to practice Wednesday and Thursday and to “see how it goes” in the game. If Jones can't finish the game, the Jets will call on backup Leon Washington (151/650/4 rushing and 25/270/0 receiving last year for the Jets). Washington posted 7/6/0 rushing and 3/86/1 receiving during the preseason week 3 showdown with the New York Giants.

The Patriots were 5th in the NFL last year allowing an average of 94.2 rushing yards per game (11 rushing TDs given up). They limited Carolina to 18/57/0 during their week 3 preseason contest (the "tune-up" game for regular season when the starters stay on the field the longest during preseason) - it looks like the Pats are staying on track for a top 10 finish again this year even though they'll be without Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison for this game.

In this divisional grudge match, it looks like the Jets' backs have a some tough customers to handle September 9th - advantage, New England.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Jets' offense is centered on the running game - they were far-and-away the top rushing team in the NFL last year, with 607 carries for 2,756 yards and 21 TDs (first, first and third in the NFL, respectively), and they also averaged 4.5 yards per carry (fifth in the league). Since last season, the team has promoted Shonn Greene to the top back in the stable (109/541/2 rushing last season, a 5.0 yards per carry average), and acquired LaDainian Tomlinson to be the veteran mentor/change of pace/receiving running back - Greene was only targeted four times last year and had zero receptions, so Tomlinson addresses an obvious area of need on the team. Given the team's offensive philosophy and the fact that QB Mark Sanchez is still in the process of developing at this level, there should be plenty of work for both backs during 2010.

The Ravens' rush D was fifth in the NFL last year, averaging 93.2 yards allowed per game, with just eight rushing TDs given up during the season. During the third preseason game, the Giants were limited to 19/76/0 rushing - but the Giants were giving QB Rhett Bomar an extended audition that day, which explains the imbalance between rushes (19) and passes (38) attempted. The Giants did average 4.0 yards per carry in limited work.

Greene and Tomlinson face a challenging first contest, but they'll be in the partisan confines of New Meadowlands Stadium which should provide a boost. On balance, this looks like a tough assignment for the Jets' stable.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Jets' bread-and-butter back is Shonn Greene (253/1,054/6 rushing last season with 41 targets for 30/211/0 receiving) and now that LaDainian Tomlinson is out of the picture Greene figures to be even more heavily involved - Bilal Powell is the backup now (13/21/0 rushing with 1/7/0 receiving last year in just two games played). Powell brings youthful energy to the third-down/change-of-pace back role this year. Given the Jets' issues with passing the ball during preseason, look for Greene to see the ball early and often in the season opener.

Buffalo wasn't a good rush D last year, averaging 139 rushing yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL) and they coughed up the second-most rushing TDs during regular season 2011 with 19 allowed. However, as John Norton the Footballguys.com defensive players expert points out: 'I don't think anyone has improved more defensively than the Buffalo Bills. They have built an outstanding front four with two of the premier tackles in Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams to stop the run, and added free agent gem defensive end Mario Williams along with Mark Anderson to rush the passer. The linebackers are solid if unspectacular and the secondary is much improved with the return of Aaron Williams who missed much of last season, and the addition of 10th overall pick Stephon Gilmore on the corners.' It shouldn't be so easy to run on the rebuilt Bills' defense this year.

Greene didn't manage to score on the Bills last year (32/155/0 rushing with four targets for 3/12/0 receiving over two games vs. the Jets during 2011), and it looks like he's in for a tough time when the Bills' new-look unit rolls into the Meadowlands on Sunday.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Now we'll get to see what LaMont Jordan is made of. He's the man in Oakland, and he'll get the majority of touches (except perhaps at the goal-line/in short yardage situations, when Zack Crockett may see the ball a good bit). So far, Jordan has been up and down in his chances - he compiled 10/23/0 rushing and 5/23/0 receiving vs. Arizona during preseason week 3. Although he looked outstanding earlier in the preseason.

New England's defense was a tough nut to crack last year, allowing a season average of 98.3 rushing yards per game (6th in the NFL during 2004), with only 9 rushing scores allowed over 16 games. Ahman Green managed a paltry 11/23/0 during the week 3 preseason tune up game. The Patriots' rush defense looks like it is ready for the opening game.

The NFL released an early injury report for Oakland/New England. RB Justin Fargas is questionable for the Raiders. LB Tully Banta-Cain, DE Jarvis Green, and DT Dan Klecko are questionable for the Patriots.

The forecast for Gillette stadium calls for a high of 85F and a low of 59F with a 20% chance of precipitation. It should be a great evening to play some football.

Jordan is still working to find a comfort zone in Oakland, while the Patriots look like they are in mid-season form. Advantage, New England.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Raiders were pretty respectable as a rushing team last year, posting a team average of 4.3 yards per carry (10th in the NFL) and 124.2 rushing yards per game - however, at the goal line they struggled, with only 9 rushing TDs to their credit as a team. Oakland figures to start Darren McFadden (who is fully healthy this year and looks like he's regained his explosiveness) as the lead back with a heavy dose of Michael Bush as well - Justin Fargas has struggled with a sore hamstring for much of training camp and didn't practice on Sunday, September 6th - he may be out of the picture this year except as a reserve/veteran depth option.

The Chargers were on the cusp of the top-10 regarding rushing D last year, averaging 102.6 yards allowed per game (11th in the NFL), while handing out just 11 rushing TDs over the course of the season. Overall, the Chargers were 15th in the NFL allowing 21.7 points per game last year. Ron Rivera, who took over the DC duties mid-season last year, is in charge of keeping the San Diego defense solid in this area. Atlanta was limited to 24/88/1 by the Chargers D in week three of preseason, so they seem to be on the right track entering regular season.

The Raiders have some talented young backs, but they face a stout defensive front this week - advantage, San Diego.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Raiders' offensive line has been atrocious during preseason 2013, leaving us little hope of improvement in the production of Darren McFadden during 2013 (McFadden managed 216/707/2 rushing - 3.3 yards per carry - and 42/258/1 receiving over 12 games played last season). He sat out of the third preseason game due to a shoulder injury (yet another instance in which a ding not considered very serious cost McFadden a game), so backup Rashad Jennings got to struggle vs. Chicago, ending the night with 12/35/0 rushing and 2/4/0 receiving - that's a 2.9 yards per carry average for Jennings after the final second ticked off the clock vs Chicago. McFadden did practice on Monday, September 2 so it appears he may be able to take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

The Colts' rush D limited Cleveland to 16/59/0 rushing during the third exhibition game - a big improvement over their average of 137.5 rushing yards allowed per game during 2012 (the Colts also coughed up 14 rushing scores last year). We'll see if the momentum from preseason carries over into the regular season opener on Sunday.

The Raiders' team looks vey suspect, and with weak options at quarterback the Colts can stack the line and dare the Raiders to beat them throwing the football. This looks like a tough matchup for the hapless McFadden and company.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Eagles bring new head coach Chip Kelly's uptempo attack to bear on their divisional rivals Washington in week one - LeSean McCoy (200/840/2 rushing with 54/373/3 receiving over 12 games last season) and Bryce Brown (115/564/4 rushing and 13/56/0 receiving in an understudy/injury stand-in role last year) will be the main cogs of the Eagles' rushing attack. During the third preseason game at Jacksonville, McCoy put in a cameo (5/9/0 rushing and 2/19/0 receiving) while Brown dominated the Jaguars (11/92/1 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving). Philadelphia has a potent 1-2 combination of backs to bring along to FedEx Field in week one.

The Redskin's rush D ranked fifth in the NFL last year averaging 95.8 yards allowed per game, with 11 TDs handed over on the ground. Buffalo managed 26/92/1 rushing at Washington during the third exhibition game with a undrafted rookie under center for most of the contest. Still, C.J. Spiller was contained to 8/39/1 rushing during his time on the field - this defensive front looks pretty solid entering week one of the regular season.

McCoy and Brown face a tough challenge in this phase of the game on Monday Night Football.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Steeler's rushing attack was not impressive last year (Willie Parker was in and out of the lineup due to injury, and Rashard Mendenhall was lost in preseason due to a broken bone in his shoulder) - they averaged a mere 3.7 yards per carry as a team, and only 105.6 rushing yards per game. However, this year Parker has reclaimed his 'featured back' role (Mendenhall has been mostly pedestrian during training camp and preseason, although he had a strong outing vs. the Bills (48 yards rushing and a TD) on Saturday, August 29th)). Coach Tomlin has made it clear that Parker (210/791/5 rushing with 3/13/0 receiving over 11 games played) will be the team's lead back during 2009, with Parker reporting on Monday, September 7th that: 'We got a two-back system now, so when they call my number I just got to be ready. Coach Tomlin told me 30 carries (per game), but I don't know about that. I've just got to be ready.'

The Titans were sixth in the NFL last year, averaging just 93.9 rushing yards allowed per game, with 12 rushing TDs given up over the season. They were second in the league in points allowed per game, with only 14.6 handed over - this unit is stout in both phases of the game. New DC Chuck Cecil takes over for the departed Jim Schwartz, but isn't expected to make major changes to the successful scheme (he was promoted from within the Titans' organization). The loss of DT Albert Haynesworth to Washington is obviously a blow, but Tony Brown and Jovan Haye are adequate replacements. During the third exhibition game, Tennessee held the Browns to 27/75/0 rushing - the defense enters regular season on the right foot.

The Titans aren't pushovers in this phase of the game, and they will make things tough for Parker and his sidekick Mendenhall.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Now that the inexperienced Dennis Dixon is the starting QB in week one, look for the Steelers to feed the ball to Rashard Mendenhall while keeping the passing game basic. Now we'll see if Mendenhall is ready to be the focus of the Steelers' rushing attack, as the team has little option but to lean on Mendenhall heavily while Dixon adjusts to his starting role on the fly.

As the Steelers have spent the preseason contests sorting out their QB rotation, Mendenhall has been in the mix sparingly - he posted 5/28/0 rushing during the third preseason game, while reserve Jonathan Dwyer parlayed a decent showing (13/89/1 rushing) into a spot on the final 53-man roster. Right now, it looks like Mendenhall is going to be the featured back, with some change of pace work by Mewelde Moore and perhaps some short-yardage duty for the young Isaac Redman (who had 3/11/0 rushing in the third preseason game). The Steelers hope to better a sub-par 2009 campaign in which they ranked 19th in rushing yardage (1,793) and 20th in rushing TDs (10). They drafted to shore up the OL (taking C Markice Pouncey at 1.18), and Pouncey is the starter at C heading into regular season.

Atlanta's rush D was solid during 2009, with 1,711 yards allowed (10th in the NFL), 10 rushing scores surrendered (seventh) and an average of 4.0 yards allowed per carry (eighth in the NFL). Miami really struggled to run the ball during the regular-season 'tune up' game during week three of preseason (18/46/0 rushing, a 2.6 yards per carry average) - it looks like the Falcons' rush D is entering 2010 even stronger than they finished 2009.

The Steelers have a problem in September - they are starting an untested, young QB and the usual defensive response to that situation is for a team to 'stack the box' against the run and dare the opposition to pass the ball in order to win the game. We expect there to be little room to roam for Mendenhall during week one unless Dixon can back the defense off with some timely throws. This looks like a tough matchup for Mendenhall and company despite opening at home in Heinz Field.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Rashard Mendenhall is entrenched as the bell-cow back for Pittsburgh - he led the team last year with 324/1,274/13 rushing and handled 33 targets for 23/167/0 receiving. The next-most-prolific rusher on the team, Isaac Redman, posted 52/247/0 rushing last year - Mendenhall is a featured running back, as you can see. Mendenhall's numbers put him at 12th among fantasy RBs in the PPR paradigm last season.

This year, Mendenhall has been used sparingly during preseason in order to preserve him for games that count. He put up just 7/8/1 rushing vs. Atlanta during the third preseason game while watching Antonio Brown steal the show (4/137/2 receiving). Now that the games do count, we expect Mendenhall to once again go well over 300 touches on the football - he is the consensus eighth ranked fantasy RB in the PPR paradigm according to Footballguys.com's expert panel.

Remember, this is a divisional grudge match - the Ravens and the Steelers have one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL entering the 2011 regular season. Pittsburgh has ended Baltimore's playoff aspirations during two of the last three seasons. Players from both sides of the fence have been taking jabs at one another throughout the off- and preseason, adding even more drama than usual to this AFC North battle.

The Ravens field one of the most hard-nosed rush defenses in the NFL - they tied with Pittsburgh last year in allowing just five rushing scores through 16 regular season games, while landing at fifth in terms of average rushing yards allowed per game (93.9 per contest). Washington managed 23/103/1 rushing during the third preseason game, but now that the games count the Ravens will be going full bore all 60 minutes with their first-team personnel. The hard-nosed rush D that the Ravens deploy is a big part of why they are a consensus top-ten fantasy team defense entering regular season, landing at sixth overall on the Footballguys.com experts' consensus rankings.

Mendenhall is an elite NFL running back, but he's got a tough fight on his hands on the road in M and T Bank Stadium during week one.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

LaDainian Tomlinson doesn't play during preseason. He posted 348/1815/28 rushing and 56/508/3 receiving to blow away the competition at running back in fantasy circles (and real NFL circles) last year. If Tomlinson is on your fantasy squad, you spent pick 1.01 on him. Play him all year, in rain, in snow, against Jacksonville in week 11 and against the Ravens week 12. Just start him (as if you needed this advice).

Chicago's Brian Urlacher and company may beg to differ with the above opinion. The Bears averaged 99.4 rushing yards allowed per game last year (6th in the NFL) and only allowed 7 rushing TDs (tied for 2nd-least in the NFL). San Francisco (without Frank Gore due to his broken hand) posted a mere 24/67/1 rushing during week 3 of the preseason. The Bears' defensive front is no joke.

This is a tough matchup for Tomlinson, but he is still a must-start player regardless of the opposing defense.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ryan Mathews has played well in the preseason since overcoming some early-training-camp bumps and bruises. Mathews led the team in rushing during the third exhibition game at Arizona with 10/69/0 rushing (a 6.9 yards per carry average) while Mike Tolbert saw a more limited role in the 'dress rehearsal for regular season', posting 7/26/0 rushing and 2/27/0 receiving. Both backs are going to see touches on the football this year in a by-committee situation, but Mathews is showing more flashes of the talent that made him a 12th pick in the 2010 draft. 'He's going to get a chance to show he's in great shape because he's going to get opportunities,' head coach Norv Turner said on August 23rd. 'I love what we're going. I love the combination of he and (RB Mike Tolbert).' For week one, we think the two backs are going to see a lot of work, but the work-share arrangement has them both just outside the top 24 fantasy RBs as of our mid-week rankings.

The Vikings' rush D finished 2010 as the ninth-ranked unit in the NFL, averaging 102.2 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores handed out. Dallas did slightly better than that average in the third preseason game, with 29/117/1 rushing to their credit, but the Vikings didn't get steamrolled in this phase of the game. They look like the usual solid unit entering the 2011 regular season.

Mathews and Tolbert make up a strong duo in NFL terms, but their situation makes them less desirable fantasy backs - this week, they've also got a hard-nosed defensive front to deal with. On balance, we call this a tough matchup for the home team.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chargers lost their featured running back Ryan Mathews to a broken collarbone on the first play of preseason, and he's very unlikely to play in the season opener. Veteran Ronnie Brown (formerly of Miami and Philadelphia) will try and fill the role of featured back in week one - he put up a modest 42/136/1 rushing as LeSean McCoy's backup last year, but Brown was a key runner for the Dolphins over the last decade (he ran for over 1,000 yards once, in 2006, and scored 10 TDs for the Dolphins during 2008). He's not the back he once was, but Brown is what the Chargers have got until Mathews gets back in action - Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley are the reserves here for 2012.

Oakland is one of the defensive teams that we see on the rise this year. As John Norton, Footballguys.com's defensive players expert explains: 'Run defense has been the Achilles heel of the Raiders over the past several years. This is the year they turn that around. The return of Matt Shaughnessy at end along with the emergence of Desmond Bryant and the return of a healthy Richard Seymour at tackle will go a long way toward improving the front seven. Middle backer Rolando McClain came on last season as well and they added a physical run stuffer, linebacker Phillip Wheeler, in free agency as well.' There is room to improve for sure - Oakland was 27th last year averaging 136.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing scores surrendered.

The Chargers go without their star in week one, facing a defensive unit on the rise - that sounds like a tough matchup for the Chargers as they visit their divisional rivals in the Black Hole on Monday Night Football.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ryan Mathews hasn't lived up to the featured running back expectations of fantasy owners or ex-head coach Norv Turner, but he at least enters the 2013 season healthy. At Arizona in week three of the preseason, Mathews posted a respectable 14/57/1 while his new sidekick/backup Danny Woodhead handled 1/3/0 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving. Woodhead is widely expected to handle passing situations for the Chargers this year, rendering Mathews into more of a two-down, starting running back (but not a three-down bellcow-type player). We'll see how the work sharing arrangement plays out now that the games count.

The Texans just inked ILB Brian Cushing to an extension through 2019, solidifying the interior of their defense. Last year, with Cushing out for 11 games, Houston still managed to be seventh among run defenses averaging 97.5 rushing yards allowed per game, with just five rushing scores given up all year long. New Orleans could only muster 21/78/0 rushing at Houston during the third exhibition game - it is tough to move the ball on the ground vs. Houston.

This looks like a bad week to be invested in Mathews (or the San Diego offense in general).

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ryan Mathews (285/1,255/6 rushing with 26/189/1 receiving last season) led the running backs stable in total yards from scrimmage during the third exhibition game at San Francisco, with 4/22/0 rushing and 2/26/0 receiving to his credit, narrowly missing out on a 25-yard TD reception that was called back due to a penalty. Danny Woodhead posted 4/16/0 rushing and 2/11/0 receiving, while Donald Brown added 5/13/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving. Heading into Week One we expect Mathews to get the majority of work for the Chargers, with Woodhead and Brown contributing to the committee's totals.

Arizona's defense held the Cincinnati offense to field goals in the third exhibition game - the only TD scored was on an interception return by the Bengals' defense. Lead back Giovani Bernard could only manage 10/17/0 rushing with 2/1/0 receiving, while backup Jeremy Hill had a better day with 12/48/0 rushing and 2/10/0 receiving. It was no surprise that Bernard had a tough time running against the first-string Arizona D - the Cardinals were first in the NFL last season allowing an average of 84.4 yards rushing per game, and were second in the NFL with just five rushing scores surrendered over 16 games.

Mathews and company have a tough matchup to start off 2014.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Rookie Melvin Gordon is slated to handle the first two downs of work for the Chargers this year, with Danny Woodhead handling obvious passing downs and third-down situations. It's a running back by committee, where Woodhead has real value (especially in PPR leagues) while Gordon is a modest option at #2 fantasy running back. David Dodds' official Footballguys.com projections peg Gordon at 13/43/.4 rushing and 2/13/.1 receiving (#27 fantasy running back) and Woodhead at 4/15/.1 rushing with 5/37/.2 receiving to check in at #33 for Week One. There are some fantasy points to be had here, but this isn't a tandem that will be likely to provide dominating numbers for fantasy owners.

The Lions' rush D lost Ndamukong Suh to Miami over the offseason, so looking back to last year's #1 finish as a run D (averaging 69.3 yards rushing allowed per game) is probably over-optimistic. However this remains a likely top-ten unit in this phase of the game - Detroit averaged 103.2 rushing yards allowed per game during exhibitions (17th in the NFL) but preseason is usually a poor guide to how things shake out when the games start to count.

This looks like a tough matchup for the rookie Gordon and company.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Seattle jettisoned Shaun Alexander (still in the unemployment line as of week 1, by the way) and have opted to go the running-back-by-committee route this year, with Maurice Morris and Julius Jones figuring to split up most of the carries entering the season. Morris appears to be ahead of Jones in the pecking order, with more work with the first team during training camp/preseason, which means he'll probably see more work than Jones in the committee. T.J. Duckett hasn't shown much during preseason - he's strictly backup/bench material at this stage of the game, though he did lead the team in rushing during the 3rd preseason game with 6/46/0 rushing(he played in the later stages, though). Morris posted 5/31/0 rushing and 1/8/0 receiving vs. San Diego, while Jones gained 8/30/0 during the contest.

Buffalo's defense has looked stout in preseason, and held Indianapolis to 32 yards rushing during the 3rd preseason "tune-up" game (12/32/0). They have come a long way since 2007, when the unit ranked 22nd in the NFL averaging 124.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 15 rushing scores given up (25th in the NFL). The return of MLB Paul Posluszny has lifted the unit's performance - hopefully he can stay healthy this year. DT Marcus Stroud arrived from Jacksonville and didn't miss a practice in camp - he has also helped solidify the center of the Bills' defensive front.

The Seahawk's rushing attack was subpar last year (the team averaged 3.8 yards per carry) and is in the process of integrating new personnel. The Bills' defense appears improved over last year's version, and will have the friendly confines of Ralph Wilson Stadium at their back on opening day - the Bills appear to have a slight edge in this matchup given their strong preseason performances.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The training camp battle between Frank Gore and Kevan Barlow was won by Gore, who is now the entrenched starter in San Francisco (Barlow was traded to the Jets). In limited appearances during pre-season, Gore has run strongly, including 9/49/0 against the Cowboys during week 3 of the pre-season. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry against opponents last season (127/608/3 rushing) and is a decent receiver, too (15/131/0 last season). Now we're set to see him in his first full game as a featured rusher.

The defense lining up across from Gore this week ranked 8th in total yards allowed per game last year (averaging 295.6 given up per contest) - Arizona was 10th in the league vs. the rush, giving up an average of 102 yards on the ground per game. Vs. Chicago in week 3 of the pre-season, the Cards held the Bears to 17/52/0 on the ground, a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. Coach Green has one of the better rush defenses around in the NFL entering 2006.

Gore proved he could find room to run behind the 49er line last year, and has continued to do so this year so far. However, this will be one of his tougher matchups this season as the Cardinal's D is no joke in this phase.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Frank Gore has been employed very sparingly during preseason as the 49ers have sorted through the other options at running back on the team. Gore put in a cameo in the second preseason game with 2/12/0 rushing and then sat down - "He looks as spry as ever. We're right on track with Frank.", head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game. Gore then had two rushes for -4 yards at Denver in the third preseason game. As of September 3, it looks like Kendall Hunter is the backup to Gore, with Brandon Jacobs in a short-yardage/change of pace role. LaMichael will likely see some time in third down situations, and Anthony Dixon appears set to be a 'tweener' running back/full back for 2012. We'll know more about how much Gore will share the workload after this contest at Green Bay.

The Packers' rush defense ranked 10th in the NFL last year averaging 111.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores handed over (tied for sixth in the league in this category). They faced backup RB Brian Leonard at Cincinnati in week three of preseason as lead back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and backup Bernard Scott were both out due to injuries - Leonard managed 4/19/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving vs. the Packers while the first team units were on the field.

Gore and company face a top-ten rush D this week - at Green Bay - making this a tough matchup for the season opener.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Steven Jackson is playing in a new offense that emphasizes the run (compared to bygone years in the pass-happy Mike Martz offense), which should help him reach the top tiers of fantasy production during 2006. However, the first team offense did not score a TD during pre-season, and in part to address this concern the team has signed power-running veteran Stephen Davis (formerly of Washington and Carolina). Davis practiced for the first time on Saturday, September 3rd, and coach Linehan commented afterwards "The first time we actually handed him the ball - I think we had the second group in there - he hit it up in there. My first statement was, 'Who's that?' Steven came back and kind of tapped me on shoulder and said, 'I'm back.' I know he's real excited to be here, and he'll be a great addition to our team." Davis scored 12 TDs for the Panthers last season before being sidelined by a knee injury, so he may depress Jackson's fantasy value somewhat in relation to goal-line opportunities. We'll see how big an impact Davis can have soon enough. One thing is clear, though - the Rams intend to run the ball consistently this season. They ground out 25/65/0 during the week 3 pre-season tuneup game vs. Kansas City (Jackson was 10/22/0 rushing with 2/20/0 receiving in a limited appearance).

Denver was stout in the rushing phase of the game last year, holding opponents to an average of 85.2 yards per game (2nd in the NFL) and gave up only 10 rushing scores over 16 games (10th in the NFL). Their LB corps is very solid, featuring Ian Gold and Al Wilson, and they held Houston to 26/89/0 rushing in the week 3 pre-season game - these guys are ready to be a dominant unit again in 2006.

St. Louis' Jackson and Davis face a tough matchup to open the season.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Rams finally paid Steven Jackson enough to get him into camp, and now they intend to run his wheels off: "We'll use him; we're not going to inactivate him," coach Scott Linehan said on Monday. "He's going to be ready to go. We've really worked the conditioning level. He's had one grueling week and had a lot of good snaps today." It appears that Jackson, last year's 9th best fantasy RB in points-per-game, has navigated the transition from individual workouts to full speed NFL workouts well and is in line for a heavy workload at Philadelphia. We'll see how well the patchwork OL works out in real games. They only generated 5 rushing TDs all of last season and the unit has suffered injury attrition again this year (new starting C Nick Leckey was considered a longshot to stick at the beginning of training camp, but Brett Romberg broke his hand and still can't snap a ball, while Mark Setterstrom was lost for the season to a knee injury on August 16th, opening the door for Leckey).

The Eagles' rush D was 7th in the NFL last year, averaging 95.8 yards allowed per game, and handed over only 10 rushing TDs in 16 games (they were tied for 9th in that category). New England managed to post 20/65/0 against the Eagles in the 3rd exhibition game - it looks like the Eagles will be hardnosed again this year.

A suspect OL blocking for a superstar running back will try to make things work on Sunday. In the Eagles' house, this looks like a tough matchup for St. Louis' offense.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cadillac Williams has been held out of most of the pre-season games in order to preserve him for regular season. The team didn't want to risk a guy who put up 290/1178/6 rushing and 20/81/0 receiving over 14 games in his rookie campaign - he is simply too valuable for their squad. Given that Williams is the star of the RB stable, you can be sure that he'll see plenty of carries now that the games count.

Baltimore's defense isn't quite as feared as it once was, but they are still very good against the run, ranking 9th in rushing yards allowed (1591)last year, and 3rd with only 8 TDs given up on the ground during 16 games. They held Minnesota to 24/86/0 during week 3 of the pre-season, with starter Chester Taylor eking out a mere 10/27/0. They are not a pushover in this phase of the game.

This matchup will be a tough one for Williams and company.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tampa plans to run Earnest Graham at their opponents this year in the featured role, with Warrick Dunn as a supporting/change of pace presence. Michael Bennett is the reserve player in the cast, while Cadillac Williams sits out at least the first 6 weeks on the PUP list. Graham was the 16th best fantasy RB in the land last year in points per game once he got his chance at starting - we'll see if he can improve on 222/898/10 rushing and 49/324/0 receiving now that he's in the lead role from day one of regular season.

The Saints were solid at rush defense last year, averaging 102.9 yards allowed per game (tied for 13th in the NFL) while handing over 7 rushing scores over 16 games (tied for 3rd in the league with New England and Minnesota). During their 3rd exhibition contest vs. Cincinnati they refused to allow a rushing score and only allowed 17/38/0 on the ground all night long. This unit looks super-solid entering 2008.

Graham and company posted a 4.2 yards-per-carry average last season, but they'll have their hands full vs. New Orleans in the Superdome on Sunday.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Heading into regular season, the Buccaneers fired their first-year OC Jeff Jagodzinski as first-year HC Raheem Morris struggles to jell his coaching staff. The team has promoted quarterbacks coach Greg Olson to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Also, the return of Cadillac Williams to full health has shaken up the depth chart, with Williams landing at lead back in a 3-headed RBBC heading into week 1, although no-one is sure exactly what the breakdown of carries will be. As you can see, a lot of elements are in flux for the Buccaneers entering week 1 of the regular season. How well Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham can produce fantasy points with Williams in the mix is the concern for many fantasy owners. We think the three headed RBBC is going to knock all three backs out of the top 24 this week.

Dallas' rush D ranked 12th in the NFL last year averaging 106.6 rushing yards allowed per game, and they handed over 11 rushing TDs over the 16 game season. The D was 20th in the NFL averaging 22.8 points given up each game - the unit was mediocre but not horrible. The 49ers sliced up the defensive front for 2 late scores in the third preseason game (both came in the second half), but the starter Frank Gore and his backup Glen Coffee were held out of the end zone.

The Cowboys have a respectable rush D that is stingy at the goal line, while the Buccaneers are juggling personnel and have turmoil among the offensive coaching staff entering the first game of the year - advantage, Dallas.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tampa Bay won the NFL equivalent of the lottery when they scooped LeGarrette Blount off of waivers during the 2010 preseason - he became an absolute monster for the Buccaneers in the second half of 2010 and ended the year with 201/1,007 yards/six TDs and 5/14/0 receiving. Three of Blount's final five games featured him going over 100 yards rushing for Tampa. Blount was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for December after posting 511 rushing yards on 87 carries in the final five games of the year, and he also tied for the NFL lead with 14 carries of 10 yards or longer during that span. He looks ready to pick up where he left off entering 2011, according to reports out of Tampa's training camp this year. Blount had some trouble getting traction as a runner vs. Miami in week three of the preseason (5/10/0 rushing), but he remedied the situation by leading the Buccaneers as a receiver on the day (3/62/0 receiving, with a long of 52 yards). Multi-talented Earnest Graham looks like the backup to Blount as of the first week in September, with Kregg Lumpkin handling some change-of-pace duties during the year.

The Detroit defense has built up a scary defensive front over the past two years, with Ndamukong Suh solidifying the center of the line (he arrived in 2010 via the NFL draft). This year's rookie defensive lineman, Nick Fairley, hasn't been able to play yet due to a fractured foot/surgery that happened in early August, but when he does get back on the field the center of the line will be even stronger than it is now. The team also added Stephen Tulloch from Tennessee in free agency this year (he had 111 tackles and 48 assists for the Titans during 2010) so now they have a stud MLB at the second level. Though the Lions were 24th in the NFL vs. opposing rushers last year (averaging 124.9 yards allowed per game, with 18 rushing scores surrendered), we don't expect them to be a pushover in this phase during 2011. Detroit is a consensus top-ten team defense according to the Footballguys.com staff rankings, and David Dodds has them pegged at #9 on his individual board. This should be a much-improved rush defense (New Englands' multi-headed backfield was limited to 17/61/0 rushing by the Lions in the third exhibition game, for example).

Blount finished 2010 strong but he'll have a tough challenge this week when the ascending Lions come calling at Raymond James Stadium.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Doug Martin has come back from his season-ending shoulder injury during 2013, and has looked stronger than ever. He's improved as a receiver out of the backfield during preseason/training camp, and is running the ball well entering regular season (12/38/1 rushing with 2/27/0 receiving at Buffalo during the third preseason game). Martin spoke about working on his receiving skills after the third preseason game: 'I have him [an assistant coach] throw me high balls, low balls, everything,' Martin said. 'It's something I've really worked hard at, and I think I'm doing a really good job catching the ball right now.' Head coach Lovie Smith agreed, saying 'Just from watching him in practice, I can see that Doug is catching the ball a lot better... And we are going to ask him to catch the ball out of the backfield for us.' Martin took the challenge of the team drafting Charles Sims (out until at least mid-season rehabbing an ankle surgery) as a pass-catching back and turned it into motivation to improve his game.

Carolina's rush D is outstanding, ranking first in the NFL last year with just four rushing scores given out, and second in the league in average rush yards allowed per game (86.9). Stevan Ridley (8/28/0 rushing) and Shane Vereen (6/18/0 rushing) were both held under 4.0 yards per carry in the third exhibition game, and New England as a team managed just 31/82/0 on the ground in that

Martin has improved his game, but has a tough draw facing divisional-rival Carolina in the first game this year.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Here's the million dollar question - can Chris Brown stay healthy? He's been very good during preseason, throwing down 6/28/1 during the preseason finale and 11/72/0 rushing with 2/20/0 receiving during the week 3 "tune-up" game (when most teams play their starters for a half). If he's past the nagging turf toe injury that marred 2004, Brown owners may be in for a lot of fantasy points this year.

Pittsburgh fielded the #1 rush defense in the land last year, allowing an average of 81.2 rushing yards per game, with only 8 rushing scores given up in 16 games. That's a Steel Curtain, folks. Washington did manage to rack up 41/166/1 against the Steelers during week 3 of the preseason, though - there is always room for improvement.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Heinz Field is forecast to have a 0% chance for rain, a high of 80F and a low of 65F on Sunday -- practically perfect football weather, in our opinion.

Brown has come on strong this year, but playing the Steelers in Heinz field is not going to be a cake-walk.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

LenDale White posted 304/1108/7 rushing with 20/114/0 receiving last season - all while playing on a bum knee (torn meniscus cartilage). The knee was repaired during the offseason, and White has worked his way back into football shape as of week 1 2008. He figures to be the starting RB again this year, and will see a lot of work. However, the situation in Tennessee has changed as rookie Chris Johnson has earned playing time during preseason (while White rehabbed his knee, Johnson practiced and played well). Following an NFL trend, the Titans are going with a committee of backs with White and Johnson splitting workload starting week 1. "We're going to use them both depending on the game plans and it makes sense to take advantage of both of their abilities," coach Jeff Fisher said on August 27th. "I think we'll have a better gauge once we get to the middle part of the season how the carries and the touches are going to work. Provided they're healthy week in and week out I would assume it would be close to 50-50, maybe 60-40." Last year the team ran the ball 543 times for 2109 yards and 17 TDs (remember, Vince Young generated 93 carries for 395 yards and 3 TDs), meaning there should be around 210-220 carries and 20-25 receptions for each back at a 50-50 split. We'll see how the plan survives first contact with a divisional rival this week.

The Jaguars invade LP Field sporting the 11th ranked rush D in the land, averaging 100.3 rushing yards allowed per game during 2007. The Jags gave up 12 rushing TDs (tied for 17th) during '07 - this is a pretty solid group, folks. Tampa Bay was held to 20/75/0 rushing vs. Jacksonville in their preseason tilt back in week 3 - starter Earnest Graham only managed 5/7/0 rushing. Coach Jack Del Rio's rush D is hardnosed.

The Titans have a good looking stable of backs, but in this divisional grudge match look for both teams to bring their "A" game - this looks like a tough challenge for Tennessee's RBs starting off the season, folks.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Chris Johnson is running well so far this year - in the third exhibition against Atlanta, he posted 11/65/0 rushing (5.9 yards per carry) and 1/-5/0 receiving during about one half of action. Shonn Greene lumbered to 5/17/0 in his short-yardage role for the Titans, giving us a glimpse of how Greene will relieve Johnson from time to time during 2013. All told, the Titans managed 36/171/0 rushing vs. Atlanta on August 24 - the tandem of Johnson and Greene looks like a solid 1-2 combination as of week one regular season.

Pittsburgh's defensive front ended 2012 ranked second in the NFL averaging 90.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with just nine rushing scores surrendered over 16 games. They held Kansas City to 24/116/0 rushing during the third exhibition game, keeping starter Jamaal Charles to 7/10/0 rushing during his time on the field. Going on what we've seen so far this year, the Steelers' rush D looks formidable again entering week one of regular season.

Johnson has elevated his game so far this year, but he faces a tough test on the road at Heinz Stadium this week.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Will Clinton Portis be effective this week or not? That's the big question. On September 3rd, coach Gibbs indicated that Portis would start on Sunday, September 9th, but that Betts would also see significant action: "He'll start off and he and Ladell [Betts] will take the load." That's as clear as mud... Anyway, as of Wednesday we think that Portis and Betts will pretty much split the carries between the two of them - it's another running back by committee, folks. Neither guy looks like a lock for 100+ yards (combined).

The Dolphins were 8th vs. the rush last year (allowing 101.1 yards per game) and tied for 2nd with only 7 rushing TDs given up over 16 games. This team has a hard-nosed defensive front. Tampa Bay did manage to post 28/133 vs Miami during week 3 of the preseason, but they did not score a rushing TD. It looks like the Dolphins' D is back for more of the same during 2007.

Washington has a tough matchup here, despite their home-field advantage.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Clinton Portis (#7 among fantasy RBs in points per game last season) will lead the Redskins into regular season on Thursday night, backed up by Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright. Portis has been very active in OTAs, the weight room and training camp this year under the new coaching staff headlined by Jim Zorn - we'll see if his renewed commitment will produce top results starting on Thursday. During the 3rd exhibition game, Portis gained 8/32/0 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving before taking a seat on the bench - he appears fresh and ready to go on Thursday.

The Giants' defensive front suffered a shattering blow during the 3rd preseason game, when Osi Umenyiora went down to a season-ending non-contact knee injury - he joins Robert Henderson on IR to start out 2008. Mathias Kiwanuka steps into Umenyiora's spot - we'll see how well the front 7 adjusts soon. Last year, the Giants were 8th in the NFL vs. opposing rushers, averaging 97.7 yards allowed per game. They tied for 17th in the league with 12 rushing TDs given up. Against the Jets in week 3, the Giants only allowed 26/58/0 on the ground. They seem to be solid as of week 1.

Portis is a top flight running back, but he'll have to work hard in Giants stadium during the regular season kickoff spectacular on Thursday night.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Redskins were among the seven-best rushing teams last year, averaging 4.4 yards per carry (tied with the Patriots and the Falcons) - they also averaged a healthy 130.9 rushing yards per game. Clinton Portis shouldered a lot of the load last year, with 342/1487/9 rushing and 28/218/0 receiving, while change-of-pace back Ladell Betts played in 13 games but only managed 61/206/1 and 22/200/0. The team is starting out 2009 saying that Betts will get more touches during the regular season, but they said that last year, too and you can see the results. Portis is the man in this attack. Portis played sparingly in the preseason as the team wished to preserve him for games that count.

Despite numerous injuries on the DL (Osi Umenyiora missed the entire season, for example), the Giants still managed to finish among the top-10 rush D's in the league (95.8 rushing yards allowed per game, ninth in the NFL, with 14 rushing TDs given up over 16 games). Overall, the Giants were 5th in the NFL averaging 18.4 points allowed per game - this is one tough nut to crack if you are an opposing running back, friends. The Jets eked out 29/99/1 vs. the Giants in the third preseason game, but starter Thomas Jones could only rack up 12/16/1 on the ground vs. this defensive front. So far, new DC Bill Sheridan (promoted from within) looks like he is maintaining the high bar set by Steve Spagnuolo.

Portis is a great back, but running the ball in Giants stadium at this defensive front is no easy task. Advantage, New York.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Clinton Portis (9/39/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving during preseason games) and Larry Johnson (17/46/0 rushing and 1/15/1 receiving during preseason) have established themselves as the top two running backs under new head coach Mike Shanahan's regime. While neither has been a top fantasy option in recent years (Portis appeared in only eight games last year due to a concussion issue and ended up 53rd among running backs at year's end, while Johnson had lots of friction with coaches and the front office in Kansas City, was cut, and ended up a Bengal for part of the season, scoring 0 TDs for the first time in his career), Portis has reportedly recommitted himself to football in 2010 and Johnson has arrived in a more congenial atmosphere in Washington. What remains to be seen is if Portis is the lead back and Johnson is a change-of-pace option, or if both will be utilized in a committee-style approach - we haven't seen enough of either player to get a read on Shanahan's intentions for the RB stable.

Dallas was the fourth-ranked rush D last year, allowing an average of 90.5 yards per game, with just seven rushing scores handed out over 16 games. Houston hung 36/173/1 on the Cowboys during their week three exhibition game, but the Cowboys purposefully played a very vanilla, predictable game as they face Houston again during regular season while in contrast the Texans attacked full-bore for most of that contest. It really wasn't an accurate snapshot of the real state of the Dallas defense.

Portis and Johnson have a tough fight ahead of them at FedEx Field this weekend.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The usual guessing game about which running back will start this week in Washington is beginning already in week one. Alfred Morris caught lightning in a bottle during the third preseason game vs. Indianapolis (14/107/1 rushing) and then was held out of the fourth preseason game (as is traditionally done with starters). However, Roy Helu (sore Achilles tendons) and Evan Royster (sore knee) missed the third preseason game due to injuries, but both played well in the preseason finale, with Helu posting 15/90/2 rushing and 2/34/0 receiving and Royster 10/44/1 rushing with 2/15/0 receiving. As you can see, the situation is about as clear as mud, and Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan indicated Saturday, September 1, that he has settled on a starting running back for Week one, but he is keeping it a secret. He said Helu and Royster have made 'tremendous progession' in pass protection. Good luck figuring out which of the three will actually get the most touches at New Orleans.

Whoever gets the carries will face a stacked box in rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III's first regular-season start. New Orleans was 12th against the run last year, averaging 108.6 yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores surrendered last season (tied for 15th in the NFL). They gave up 8/32/1 rushing to Arian Foster in the third preseason game, and also allowed Ben Tate to score with 4/10/1 to his credit.

This situation (a rookie quarterback's first NFL start) will make things difficult on the Shanahan's 'flavor of the week' running back, whoever it is. Griffin is going to have to prove he can hurt the Saints through the air to force them off the line of scrimmage/out of blitz packages.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Last year, the Falcons led the NFL in rushing yards, yards per carry, and rushing attempts. The bad news for the Falcons' rushing attack is that Michael Vick is out of the equation. It's a new era for the Falcons, and due to the nagging back injury/corrective surgery to Warrick Dunn (which kept him out of most of the pre-season action), the picture at RB is unsettled entering week 1. Dunn played briefly against the Bengals during week 3 of the preseason schedule, but only managed 6/8/0 rushing before exiting the game. Jerious Norwood had a better showing, with 9/25/0 rushing and 2/17/1 during his time on the field. Dunn did not appear in the preseason finale, while Norwood threw down 7/11/0 rushing and 3/29/1 against the tough Baltimore defense.

Minnesota was very tough against the run last year (1st in the NFL averaging 61.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with only 9 rushing scores given up), and they look stout again this year. They gave up 23/75/1 rushing to the Seahawks during week 3 of preseason. The defensive front of Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Kenechi Udeze is a veteran unit and figures to cause problems for opponents all season long.

This looks like a bad match up for the in-transition Falcons.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Both Jamal Lewis (strained hip flexor) and Mike Anderson (foot sprain) have been missing time during training camps, so we haven't seen much from either during pre-season. Anderson managed 7/11/0 rushing during the week 3 pre-season game. Last year, Lewis really struggled to be effective (269/906/3 rushing and 32/191/1 receiving), managing a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. Given his poor showing last season and the injury issues this season, it's hard to get a read on his chances in the season opener. During the week 3 pre-season game, the team averaged 3.4 yards per carry and had just 1 rushing score (from backup QB Kyle Boller) - Baltimore's rushing attack doesn't look too scary right now.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sported the league's 6th ranked rushing D last year, allowing 94.7 rushing yards per game and only 10 rushing scores over 16 games - Monte Kiffen's defense is excellent in all phases, ranking 1st overall allowing a mere 277.8 total yards per contest last year. They did give up 37/149/2 against the Jags during week 3 of the pre-season, but none of the TDs were surrendered during the first half to the Jags' 1st team offense. Make no mistake, Tampa has an "A" list rush defense.

This is a bad matchup for Lewis and Anderson.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Ravens' line was unable to open holes on the ground against Washington’s first-team defense during the third preseason game, as starting running back Bernard Pierce carried four times for -3 yards before leaving the game with a concussion (he has since resumed practicing as of Saturday, August 30 and appears on track to start for the Ravens in Week One while Ray Rice is out on his two-game suspension). The offensive line was also stuffed on two fourth-and-short plays during the game, leaving the status of the Ravens' ground game in limbo heading into Week One of the regular season. The line was not good during 2013, either, during which Baltimore averaged 3.1 yards per carry (423/1,328/7 rushing as a team last season). There is reason to be concerned about Pierce's prospects against the Ravens' divisional rivals here in Week One.

Speaking of Cincinnati, the Bengals ranked fifth in the NFL last season averaging just 96.5 rushing yards allowed per game, and they gave up a mere six rushing scores through 16 games played (third in the NFL in this category). Andre Ellington did manage 9/46/0 rushing (with 1/1/0 receiving) against the Bengals' first team D during the third preseason game, but the Bengals ended the game with 19/82/0 rushing allowed (under the 96.5 yards per game average from last season).

The Ravens' rushing attack was not impressive last season, and they have work to do entering this season if the third preseason game is a reliable indication - the Bengals' defenders have a big edge in this phase of the game.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

With Jonathan Stewart on PUP to open the season, the Panthers are going to rely on DeAngelo Williams as their featured running back during 2013. We didn't see a lot of Williams during regular season - and what we did see wasn't great, as he had 21 carries for 51 yards over the first three exhibition games (2.4 yards per carry). The big guys up front haven't opened a lot of holes for Williams to run through so far this year. Mike Tolbert, who nursed a hamstring injury during training camp, resumed practicing on September 2 and is expected to be the change-of-pace option for the Panthers while Stewart is off the field. Rookie Kenjon Barner will likely be used sparingly as he didn't flash much during preseason.

The Seahawks have one of the most dominant defensive units in the NFL. They were 10th in the league last year in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (103.1), but only allowed eight rushing scores over 16 contests. Green Bay's starter Eddie Lacy was limited to 8/-5/0 rushing when he saw Seattle in the third preseason game, and the Packers had just 23/75/0 rushing (3.3 yards allowed per carry by Seattle).

The Panthers' offensive line is a work in progress, but the Seahawks' defense is already playing stout football - advantage, Seattle.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Bengals drafted Kenny Irons to spell/compete with Rudi Johnson for playing time (but Irons was injured during preseason and will miss this year). Chris Perry is on the injured list again (PUP), leaving Johnson and Kenny Watson to handle the ball carrying duties - it's not an ideal situation from a real world NFL standpoint, but it is almost ideal from the fantasy perspective - Johnson is the featured back in this attack, and will once again shoulder a huge load for the Bengals. Last year, that meant 341/1309/12 rushing and 23/124/0 receiving.

However, it is not easy to move the ball against the Ravens' defensive front. They were #1 in the NFL last year in rushing TDs allowed (a mere 5) and 2nd in yards allowed (1214) and yards per carry allowed (3.31). That's a hard-nosed defense, folks. Washington eked out 13/32/0 rushing during their week 3 preseason tilt vs. Baltimore - enough said.

We like Rudi Johnson and he's still a starter for many teams but this is a bad matchup for the Bengals. To make your final roster decisions, check our cheat sheets.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Jamal Lewis relocated to Cleveland after several tough seasons in Baltimore. He joined a team that averaged 3.59 yards per carry last year, and was 31st in the NFL with 1335 yards rushing total. During the week 3 preseason game vs. Denver, Lewis managed 15/46/1 rushing (a 3.1 yards-per-carry average with a long run of 9 yards) and 2/30/0 receiving. We'll see if Lewis can better his season totals of 314/1132/9 rushing and 18/115/0 receiving from last year, but it looks like he is in for a tough season given what we've seen so far.

Pittsburgh was 3rd in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 88.3 rushing yards per game. OLB Joey Porter departed for Miami in the offseason, a loss for the unit, and they are still working through the transition - James Harrison has Porter's spot now. The Steelers allowed 30/125/0 to the Eagles' stable during week 3 of the preseason - they were not up to their usual standards.

Lewis has changed his uniform, and the Cleveland line has improved from 2006, but it isn't much better than the Ravens unit he left behind. This looks like a bad matchup for the Browns' backs.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

There were a lot of rumbling that Jamal Lewis (279/1002/4 rushing last year, with 23/178/0 receiving) was going to be cut in the final purge down to 53 players, but it didn't turn out to be what happened - however, rookie James Davis is mounting a serious challenge for playing time here and he could supplant Lewis as the top back in this attack at any time. 'I'm looking forward to seeing him [Lewis] as we go throughout the season,' new head coach Eric Mangini said on Monday. 'I think one thing that happens during any transitional time in the league is that there's always speculation on a lot of different topics.' Jerome Harrison has also played competently during preseason and looks set as the third-down/change-of-pace back. Last year, the Browns averaged 3.9 yards per carry (100.3 rushing yards per game), which landed them at 26th among all NFL teams. During the third preseason game, Lewis posted 10/23/0 rushing and 4/36/0 receiving while Davis led the team in rushing with 5/28/0 and added 4/27/0 receiving. Right now, we think Lewis is still the starter but expect to see Davis get his share of touches, too.

The Vikings field the league's sternest rush D when it comes to yards allowed per game (76.9 on average last year), although they were more porous than three of the other top-5 rushing defenses last season when it came to goal-line situations (10 rushing TDs given up, vs. four allowed by Baltimore, and seven allowed by both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). The Vikings were 13th in the NFL in terms of total points allowed per game last year, with 20.8 handed over per contest. They choked the Texans in week three of the preseason, holding the team to 23/61/1 on the ground - the Vikings are as stubborn as ever entering regular season.

Anytime you face the Vikings' defensive front, you're in for a long day. Advantage, Minnesota.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Can Ahman Green get back to form after missing most of pre-season recovering from his catastrophic quadriceps-tendon injury? If not, can Samkon Gado be the man in Green Bay, after flashing potential in the late stages of last year's disastrous season (143/582/6 rushing and 10/77/1 receiving over 8 games)? These are the questions that will start to be answered on Sunday, at Lambeau field.

One thing is for certain, the Bear's defense won't make it easy. #2 last season in total yards allowed (281.8). #11 vs. opposing rushers, giving up 102.3 yards on the ground on average. They were 5th in the NFL allowing only 9 TDs, and gave up an average of 12.6 points per game. This is one hard-nosed unit, headlined by MLB Brian Urlacher.

Green and Gado will have their work cut out for them on Sunday with this bad-news matchup against Chicago.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

James Starks has battled a turf toe throughout training camp, and Alex Green has been rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in mid-November last year - neither guy inspired confidence during preseason so Cedric Benson was brought in to be the Packers' first-and-second-down back - so far, he's responded well in limited playing time. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said August 23 that he has been impressed with RB Cedric Benson's work ethic and commitment since joining the team. 'He's been motivated,' McCarthy said. 'He's taken my seat in the meeting room. He sits next to Aaron. I've been bumped back a row. I think that's a good thing. He's really into trying to learn this offense because I know I've said it a couple times already, he's trying to learn a different language. He's an accomplished football player. I'm glad he's here. He seems very motivated. And I know he's looking forward to playing Thursday.' On Thursday August 23, Benson posted 6/38/0 rushing and had one catch for 10 yards out of two targets. 'Ced was great,' Aaron Rodgers said after the game. 'He's getting his feet wet. He made some runs out of nothing and did a nice job on some check-downs. It was a good start for him. We're excited to have him.' Entering regular season, Benson is set to be the lead back for the Packers' offense.

The 49ers sported the league's most fearsome rush defense last year, leading the league in yards allowed per game (just 77.2 per contest on average), and also leading the NFL in rushing TDs allowed over 16 games, with just three rushing scores handed over last season. They kept Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman out of the endzone in the third preseason game, while giving up just 26/83/0 rushing to the wide array of Broncos who played in the preseason contest. These guys are a hard-boiled bunch.

Benson will have to work for his yards this week - advantage, San Francisco.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Texans expect to use a running back by committee for week 1. "I think we very well could because you have to remember that Ahman hasn't played a lot. To all of a sudden go out there and start and think he is going to carry the ball 25 times this weekend, I think would be a mistake." coach Gary Kubiak said in explaining the plan for week 1. Green will share time with Steve Slaton (coming off a turf toe injury) and perhaps even Chris Taylor. Chris Brown is on IR due to his bad back and won't play this year. Green has struggled to stay healthy dating back to 2007 (he managed only 70/260/2 rushing and 14/123/0 receiving in limited action last year).

Pittsburgh's rush D was among the league's best units last year, with an average of 89.9 yards allowed per game (3rd in the league), while giving up only 6 rushing scores over 16 games (tied for 1st in the NFL). The first team defense didn't allow a first down during the first 4 drives by the Vikings in the week 3 exhibition game, which is a positive sign that the defense is back to top form entering 2008. The Vikings ended the day with 22/32/1 rushing (a 1.5 yards per carry average).

The Texans rushing attack is undermanned and in disarray as of week 1, while the Steelers look like their defense is fully up to speed entering the season - advantage, Pittsburgh (who have the Heinz field faithful at their back this week on top of their already formidable edge).

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Chiefs were actually tied for 2nd in the NFL last season (with Carolina and the Broncos) averaging 4.8 yards per carry rushing (113.1 rushing yards per game). Of course, the team turned over the coaching staff during the off-season and is installing a new attack under HC Todd Haley, but there is no doubt that the big guys up front got the job done for K.C. last year in the rushing phase of the game. Unfortunately for continuity's sake, the team fired OC Chan Gailey on the eve of the NFL regular season (he was held over from Herm Edward's regime until August 31st) - it remains to be seen how the offense will respond to suddenly answering to directly to Haley, who has assumed the play calling duties and is also now the team's QB coach. Larry Johnson appears to have retained the lead role in the RB stable under the new regime, and should see more action than he did under the Herm Edwards' staffs. He rushed for 8/36/0 vs. Seattle in week three of the preseason, while his sidekick/change-of-pace counterpart Jamaal Charles gained 7/54/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving in the tune-up game.

The Ravens' rush D was third in the NFL last season, averaging a mere 81.4 rushing yards allowed per game (3.6 yards per carry), and only allowed 4 rushing TDs through 16 games. The defensive unit as a whole was third in the NFL averaging only 15.3 points allowed per game - it is very hard to stuff a rushing TD into the end-zone when facing Baltimore. Baltimore didn't face the Panther's top backs in week three of the preseason due to injury woes in Carolina, but the starters have looked impressive throughout preseason when on the field.

This is a bad matchup for Johnson and company.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Reggie Bush (15 games played; 216/1,086/6 rushing with 52 targets for 43/296/1 receiving) and Daniel Thomas (13 games played; 165/581/0 rushing with 16 targets for 12/72/1 receiving) return to power the Dolphins' running back by committee this year, despite the changeover among the coaching staff (Mike Sherman is the offensive coordinator here now). Another big change that is bound to impact the rushing attack - raw rookie Ryan Tannehill is now the starting quarterback. He played for Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, but wasn't getting quarterback reps until midway through his junior season. The Dolphins drafted him with their eighth pick in the 2012 draft, and Tannehill is going to do a lot of learning on the job this year. What this means for Bush and Thomas is that NFL defenses are going to stack the line to stop the run until Tannehill proves he can move this team through the air. Thomas is also in hot water with head coach Joe Philbin over showing up late for a team flight and a weightlifting session - 'I'm getting queasy about you,' Philbin told Thomas on camera for HBO's Hard Knocks. 'You have to take responsibility for your own career. I don't want to have to talk to you again.'

To make matters worse, this week the Dolphins travel to Houston and face the league's fourth-ranked rush D - the Texans averaged just 96 rushing yards allowed per game last year, and only allowed eight rushing TDs over 16 games. Mark Ingram was limited to 6/19/0 rushing when the first teams faced off in New Orleans during the third preseason game - the Texans' front seven is a tough nut to crack, folks.

This looks like a bad way to start off the year - Bush and Thomas owners will likely examine other options on their roster for week one starters at running back.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Unfortunately for the Jets' backs, New York will start a rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, on Sunday. Tampa's D will respond by pressuring the passer and stacking the box, daring Smith to win the game by throwing the football - and Tampa was first in the NFL last season averaging just 82.5 rushing yards allowed per game, with 13 rushing scores allowed. During the third preseason game, Miami was limited to 30/71/0 rushing (2.4 yards allowed per carry), indicating that Tampa is starting off 2013 in the same vein as they finished 2012 - by playing shut-down rush D.

The Jets will field ex-Saint Chris Ivory as part of their rushing mix in week one - he's in a committee with Bilal Powell and Green Bay castoff Alex Green. Regardless of which back is handed the football, they will face a tough road ahead given the circumstances described above. David Dodds' first-cut projections show Ivory to be the 29th-ranked fantasy running back prospect for week one - 15/59/0.5 rushing with one reception for six yards is about where we expect Ivory to be at the end of this game. Powell checks in at #43 with a projection of 43 yards combined and a slight chance of a TD. If you have other options at running back this week it would be wise to consider them.

This looks like a bad week to be invested in the Jets' backfield. Advantage, Tampa Bay.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Maurice Jones-Drew has to be wondering what he did to deserve this - after years of suffering with youngster Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville, the Raiders have decided on the strength of a fourth-exhibition game performance (against Seattle's reserves) that Derek Carr is ready to become the next starting quarterback for the Raiders. Expect the Jets to aggressively blitz the youngster, tying up Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden in desperately blocking for the flailing youngster. With so many defenders likely around the line of scrimmage, Jones-Drew and McFadden are unlikely to find much room to roam in week one, while Derek Carr gets baptised by fire in New York's MetLife Stadium.

The Jets fielded the league's third-ranked rush defense during 2013, averaging 88.3 yards allowed per game, with nine TDs given up over 16 games last year. The Giants did manage 28/119/1 rushing during the third exhibition 'Snoopy Bowl' game, but they didn't have a jittery rookie under center.

Advantage, New York.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

LeSean McCoy is now the lead back for the Eagles (Brian Westbrook is now a 49er), which means that opportunity is knocking at McCoy's door during 2010. He has been allowed to dip his toe in the waters during preseason, with 20 carries for 82 yards and one TD, and he caught two passes for 17 yards and zero TDs during the three games in which he played. Last year, Philadelphia tied for 11th in the NFL averaging 4.3 yards per carry - McCoy should enjoy solid run-blocking again during 2010.

The Packers were the league's best rush D last year, however, and averaged just 83.3 yards rushing allowed per game, with a tiny five rushing TDs handed over in the 16 game regular season (they were best in the NFL in this category, too). The veteran D returns with most of their pieces intact - second-year player B.J. Raji is the new nose tackle, though, giving the interior of the defensive line a tweak.

McCoy has a great opportunity this year, but he's pulled a very tough assignment for his first game.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

With Le'Veon Bell on suspension, the Steelers will ask DeAngelo Williams to approximate Bell's role on offense - 'They let me know that coming in,' Williams said on September 7. 'They are not going to take plays off or change plays according to what running back is in there. We are going to run our offense and run it to the best of our ability.' Williams' talent is not at the same level as Bell's at this late stage of Williams' career (62/219/0 rushing, a 3.5 yards per carry average over six games played for Carolina last year, with 5/44/0 receiving) but he will get the bulk of the work that is assigned to the running backs.

The Patriots' rush D was ranked ninth in the NFL last year, averaging 104.3 yards allowed per game, with a mere six rushing scores surrendered over 16 games played. Carolina starter Jonathan Stewart eked out 7/12/0 rushing against the New England first team in the third exhibition game, and Carolina was held to 27/84/0 rushing during the entire contest. It looks like the Patriots' defensive front is very solid again entering regular season.

Advantage, New England.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Justin Forsett was named the Week one starter by new head coach Pete Carroll on September seventh. However, Carroll said this decision only applied to the coming game, and he didn't guarantee that Forsett would see more carries than fellow backs Leon Washington and Julius Jones. 'This is a competition that is still open. This is not set in stone,' Carroll said. 'Somebody has to go out first and I want Justin to go out first.' Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Forsett, is it? Anyways, we expect the team to go with a by-committee approach this year, with Forsett and Washington the primary ball carriers - depending on who has the hot hand on any given Sunday, perhaps - with Julius Jones doing spot duty. Forsett led the team in fantasy scoring last year with 114/619/4 rushing and 41/350/1 receiving, while Julius Jones led the team in rushing with 177/663/2 and added 35/232/2 receiving to the mix.

The 49ers were ranked sixth vs. opposing rushers last year, averaging 97 yards allowed per game with 12 rushing TDs surrendered (14th in the NFL). They held opposing backs to a mere 3.6 yards per carry, which was third-best in the NFL. During their third preseason game vs. Oakland, the Raiders could only muster 19/55/1 rushing (a 2.9 yards per carry average). This is a hard-nosed group of defenders.

Forsett, Washington and company have a bad matchup for the season opener despite being at home against their divisional rivals.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Tre Mason (hamstring injury/rehab) did not participate in practice Tuesday, September 8. The team has already stated that Todd Gurley will not play in the season opener, which means that the Rams are looking at Benny Cunningham as their featured back on opening day (66/246/3 rushing (3.7 yards per carry) over two starts and 16 appearances for the Rams last year, with 45/352/1 receiving to his credit). Cunningham has spent his career to date in St. Louis, so he is very familiar with all the ins and outs of the offensive package.

Unfortunately for Cunningham, he faces the Seahawks in Week One - they were third in the NFL averaging 81.5 rushing yards allowed per game with a mere eight rushing scores given out over 16 games played. Melvin Gordon managed 14/34/0 rushing with 2/7/0 receiving against this group during the third preseason game.

This looks like a bad week to be invested in Cunningham/the Rams' rushing attack.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The situation in Tennessee's backfield is muddled - LenDale White started off slowly showing up out of shape to OTAs and then getting injured early during training camp. Chris Brown was resigned as insurance after White underwhelmed the coaching staff - heading into week 1, it looks like White will get more of the work than Brown (15 carries for 50ish yards and maybe a TD for White, 8 carries for 30ish yards for Brown) - obviously, neither guy excites us too much in the season opener.

The Jaguars sport the 4th best rush D in the NFL, averaging 91.3 rush yards allowed per game last year, with 14 rushing scores given up over 16 games. With Marcus Stroud and John Henderson in the middle, surrounded by Reggie Hayward and Bobby McCray, it is just tough to move the ball on the ground vs. this team. Green Bay managed 25/84/1 against Jacksonville during their preseason week 3 tilt - just slightly below the Jaguars' stellar average from 2006.

This is a bad matchup for the Titans' backs.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Tennessee tied for 10th in the NFL last year, averaging 4.3 yards per carry (and posting an average of 137.4 rushing yards per game). The combination of Chris Johnson (251/1228/9 rushing last season, with 43/260/1 receiving) and LenDale White (200/773/15 rushing and 5/16/0 receiving) returns this season - White is said to be in much better condition than he was entering 2008 and both players appear highly motivated entering week 1 of the regular season. With an unsettled WR corps (#1 WR Nate Washington is nursing a sore hamstring and may miss a few games to start the season), expect the Titans to feed the ball to their RBs early and often. Lendale White made sure to fire up the Steelers in advance of their game on Thursday, declaring 'If it happens to be there, I'm going to stomp all over that [towel], man,' White said. 'If there's a towel in the stands, I will stomp on it. I don't care who gets mad... If they throw a towel at me, I'm going to kick it and stomp all over it. If they don't want their towel stomped on, keep it out my face.'

The Steelers were second in the NFL last year, handing over only 80.3 rushing yards per game, and also holding the opposition to just seven rushing TDs during the season. They were #1 in the NFL last year averaging just 13.9 points allowed per game - this is one hard-nosed unit, folks. Just ask Buffalo, who eked out 13/49/0 vs. the Steelers during week three of the preseason. The Titans may want to stomp on towels, but they need to concentrate on bashing through the super-stout Steel Curtain - advantage, Pittsburgh.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none




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