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Bottom 5 RUSHING MATCHUPS Week 1
To view all of our Week 1 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 1
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 1
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 1
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 1
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 1
Passing Matchup Chart Week 1
Tampa Bay Rushing Offense vs New Orleans
There’s plenty of excitement over the Buccaneers’ new-look passing attack. But for a variety of reasons, that doesn’t extend to the run game (not yet, at least). The Tampa Bay ground attack has been vanilla and unimpressive under Bruce Arians, and it will now be split among three plodding backs that don’t inspire confidence. Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, and LeSean McCoy have combined to average just 3.9 yards per rush over the past 2 years. They’re working behind an offensive line that’s generally stout up the middle, but has questions on the outside with rookie Tristan Wirfs and Donovan Smith who has been average thus far in his career.
The Buccaneers will open the year against a Saints defense that’s grown to be thoroughly dominant against the run. Few were able to work out much against it last year especially Arians’ Buccaneers, who managed all of 76 yards in their 2 meetings. The Saints boast one of the league’s best front sevens, led by still-underrated linebacker Demario Davis and a stout line rotation. Tackles Sheldon Rankins, Malcolm Brown, and David Onyemata have been the spark to ignite this suffocating unit, and all are healthy for Opening Day. This game may feature more than its share of scoring, but it’s hard to imagine much of that production coming on the ground.
Jacksonville Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis
The Jaguars are stripping themselves down to almost nothing - perhaps in preparation of a brighter 2021 - and the exodus has spread to their run game. Just three years after spending the No. 4 pick on glorified plodder Leonard Fournette, they’ve cut him after an uninspiring stretch. Most likely, their Week 1 attack will be headed by undrafted rookie James Robinson, who had apparently closed the gap to Fournette even before the veteran was released. Robinson ran hard all camp but doesn’t look to offer much speed or elusiveness. If the Jaguars want to spring leaks in the Colts’ strong front, they may have to turn some opportunity over to Devine Ozigbo, who made a number of splash plays during camp.
The Jaguars are in for a tough test against a Colts front seven that boasts a blend of star power and underappreciated playmakers. The Colts added DeForest Buckner in a pre-draft trade, and he’ll work multiple gaps in front of All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. They’ve stockpiled depth as well, so they’ll be fresh against the underachieving Jacksonville line. Even if there’s ground volume for the Jaguars on Sunday, it’s hard to see where the production could come from as the Colts rushing attack should improve on the 97 yards per game they allowed last season. The Colts continue to boast one of the strongest linebacking groups in the NFL led by Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker who are both tackle machines and should make for a long day for the Jacksonville rushing attack.
New Orleans Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay
Alvin Kamara and the Saints defense will rarely be on this list this season and this will likely be the only time that they are on this list at home. Alvin Kamara is reportedly healthy and is extremely close to receiving a new contract. He is still capable of a big play at any time especially running behind this offensive line which is consistently in Matt Bitonti’s top 5 and currently ranked as the #3 offensive line heading into this season.
Kamara and the Saints have the misfortune of kicking off the new season against 2019’s most dominant run defense, which allowed a meager 3.3 yards per rush and just a single runner over 75 yards. Little has changed for the Tampa Bay front, which returns rising star nose tackle Vita Vea and virtually all of his 2019 support. Vea looks more every day like an updated Haloti Ngata, adept at both dominating gaps and making stops in the backfield. He and Ndamukong Suh work wonders in keeping the linebackers free to make plays. That will go even further if Devin White, last year’s No. 5 pick, takes a step forward on the inside. If their 2019 success carries over immediately, the Buccaneers will force Sean Payton to move away from the ground game, giving Kamara a low-floor rushing outlook in a possible shootout.
Washington Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia
It’s fair to wonder whether new Washington coach Ron Rivera is even yet aware of his 2020 running back plans. Adrian Peterson dominated first-team reps in camp but didn’t survive cuts, leaving a shaky and confusing crew to share the ground load. Whatever rotation emerges will work behind a line that shed its best lineman, Trent Williams, during the draft and now lacks a stable left side. The team got a taste of post-Williams life last year, and running backs not named Derrius Guice managed just 4.0 yards per carry. Unless quarterback Dwayne Haskins and his bare-bones receiving corps can open things up downfield - and fast - the new backfield crew could find itself in quicksand often.
Washington opens against an already-strong Eagles front that worked to fortify its line in the offseason. Largely considered one of the best run-stopping units over the last several seasons, led by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, the team seemingly improved this offseason. In one of the league’s more underrated moves, they added ex-Steeler nose tackle Javon Hargrave to help stabilize things up the middle. That makes a tough matchup even tougher for an up-in-the-air Washington attack that lacks dynamism in either phase of its offense.
Arizona Rushing Offense vs San Francisco
The Cardinals certainly seem to have upgraded at running back, bumping up from an ineffective David Johnson to the explosive Kenyan Drake, but it may take more than one week of the new season to reap any further benefit. The Cardinals found gold in Drake last season as he made an immediate impact rushing for 5.2 yards per carry and seemingly electric when he touched the ball. The big question for Drake will be how does he handle the extra workload with David Johnson gone as he had three games over 110 yards and three games under 40 yards rushing. The offensive line continues to be an issue in Arizona, the team elected to not sign A.Q. Shipley at Center instead promoting his backup, Mason Cole, and brought in Kelvin Beachum, who has not played right tackle since his rookie season.
The Cardinals open the year against the division-rival 49ers, who continue to boast one of football’s strongest front sevens against the run. All-Pro tackle DeForest Buckner is gone, and top linebacker Fred Warner looks iffy at best for Sunday - he was put on the COVID-19 list just 10 days before kickoff. But this is a deep group packed with matchup-winners up front; they’ve proven they can withstand personnel issues. They turned the draft pick they got for Buckner into a new starting tackle, Javon Kinlaw, who brings dynamic strength and burst to the table. Kinlaw and Nick Bosa, who earns his name as a pass-rusher but dominated the edge as a rookie, will lead the effort to keep the playmaking linebackers clean of blockers. It’s not that Drake, Kyler Murray, and the rest of the Arizona run game can’t produce Sunday. But it’s never encouraging to open the season against one of the toughest matchups on the schedule.
Methodology: Worst matchup does not mean the players who are projected for the least amount of points. We try to balance the impact that the defense will have on the offense as we start with a baseline for each team and try to determine which defenses will have the biggest impact on the offense. More often than not, bad offenses will show up on the worst rushing matchups and good offenses will show up on the top matchups but occasionally you will have a scenario where the top offense is facing the top defense, therefore, making it a difficult matchup for that offense.
You should always start elite players even if they are in one of the more difficult matchups of the week.