WORST RUSHING MATCHUPS
To view all of our Week 3 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 3
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 3
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 3
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 3
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 3
Passing Matchup Chart Week 3
Denver vs Tampa Bay
The Broncos have run the ball well here in 2020 when truly given the chance. Phillip Lindsay has been out since mid-Week 1, but Melvin Gordon III has shown the ability to carry the ground game in bursts. Working behind a line that’s overachieved a bit, Gordon has been able to rip off a handful of chunk runs. Last week against the Steelers, he followed several good lanes up the gut for runs of 17, 16, and 10 yards. It’s no surprise he finds most of his success on the interior, where he gets support from the team’s best blocker, left guard Dalton Risner.
The Buccaneers, though, are unlikely to be intimidated by Gordon’s breakaway runs. Dating back to the start of the 2019 season, no team has allowed fewer ground yards per carry or per game than this Tampa defensive unit. They’ve opened the year by shutting down both Alvin Kamara (12 for 16) and Christian McCaffrey (18 for 59) - the third straight time they’ve held McCaffrey under 3.3 per rush. They certainly boast an ideal nose tackle in Vita Vea, who occupies space in the middle like few others in recent memory. That allows the linebackers, particularly Lavonte David and Devin White, to roam the front seven and hunt splash plays. White is still learning to play consistently and in control, but his chase-down athleticism can’t be questioned. And the Buccaneers are enjoying big early returns from rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr Jr., who’s shown exceptionally well as a playmaker in the box. The rich get richer, and this unit seemingly gets harder and harder to puncture as it moves along.
Green Bay at New Orleans
The Packers enjoyed a ground explosion in Week 2, with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams simply splitting the Lions defense for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns. It came as no big surprise, as coach Matt LaFleur has stated a desire to balance the offense with more running. However, this may not be the time to project a similar eruption. The Saints tend to dominate inside, and that could spell doom for the Packers, whose front line has been sapped by injuries. They’ve worked through several bodies at the guard spots and may be without center Corey Linsley, who injured his snapping hand late Sunday, for the coming week.
The Saints, however, present a sizeable challenge. Last week Josh Jacobs became just the fourth back over their last 18 games to top 80 yards on the ground, and he needed 27 hotly-contested carries to do it. The Saints boast a stout rotation on the line, with as many as five tackles capable of overwhelming run-blockers. David Onyemata leads the way - he’s played at an All-Pro level thus far - while undrafted rookie Malcolm Roach has impressed on the nose. Together, they allow linebacker Demario Davis, safety Malcolm Jenkins, and Co. to flow to the ball and blow up runs in the gap. On Monday night, Jacobs ran hard but was rarely able to find even the beginnings of a rushing lane. That dominance inside matches up well against anyone, let alone the Packers’ banged-up line.
NY Jets at Indianapolis
The Jets are springing leaks and taking on water from all over their roster, and it certainly hasn’t missed the ground game. Le'Veon Bell followed a miserable Week 1 start by landing on injured reserve, leaving the job to 37-year-old Frank Gore and a cast of reserves. None fared well in Sunday’s loss: Gore led the way with 63 yards but needed 21 attempts to get there. Perhaps coach Adam Gase will open up the playbook a bit, getting rookie Lamical Perine more involved sooner than expected. But they’ll all work behind a rebuilding front line - our Matt Bitonti ranks it 31st in football - and contend with stacked boxes as the Jets passing game continues to crumble.
The Colts have quietly pieced together one of the NFL’s most suffocating run defenses. Adding star tackle DeForest Buckner in the offseason has made a clear impact, as expected. But the unit as a whole continues to hammer opposing runners, to the point that this is now one of fantasy’s scariest matchups. Last week, Dalvin Cook garnered 24 yards on his first 3 rushes - but just 39 over his final 11. Too often, he found his interior lanes pinched off by Buckner, Grover Stewart, and the always-underappreciated Denico Autry. The Colts are rich with rotational linemen capable of both shooting gaps and occupying blockers in front of All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. For his part, Leonard remains the NFL’s gold standard in the middle. He’s active, instinctive, and a surefire tackler; few opponents are able to find their way through him up the gut. Dating back to Week 7 of last season - Leonard’s return from injury - they’ve allowed only a single runner (Derrick Henry) to top 75 yards on the ground.
Washington at Cleveland
The Football Team has yet to piece together any real identity. After slogging through an inefficient Week 1 with Peyton Barber in the lead role, they turned the keys over to the more elusive Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. The results were solid - 108 yards over 21 rushes - so the team will likely stick with the more dynamic backfield. But for the time being, they’ll do so without their best blocker, as right guard Brandon Scherff hit injured reserve this week.
The Browns have shaken up their front seven, and early returns have been positive. They let top linebackers Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey walk in free agency, replacing them with much cheaper options (veterans B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith) without much drop-off in run coverage. They also fortified their interior line, with rookie Jordan Elliott providing quality snaps alongside Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi. In Week 1 this group held Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' powerful ground game to just 3.7 yards per rush, then gave up just 2.9 to Cincinnati's Joe Mixon. That deep rotation should fare well against Washington's banged-up front line, and it helps that the Browns boast a pair of safeties (Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo) capable of providing great box support. Containing the Football Team's anemic ground game shouldn't be much of a problem.
Miami at Jacksonville
The Dolphins seemingly are giving up on the Jordan Howard experiment as the offseason acquired running back has ran for just 11 yards on 13 carries in their first two games this season. What makes this even more interesting is that as much as Howard has struggled, there has been virtually no uptick to Matt Breida’s role as it seems that Myles Gaskin has the chance to take over as the starting running back in Miami. Gaskin has been electric when he touches the ball this season averaging 5.4 yards per carry and giving the Dolphins a boost as a receiver as well. The problem for Miami continues to be the offensive line which Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti has as the worst offensive line in football this season and the only unit that has a D overall rating as some of their moves from the offseason just have not paid off. It is a young unit that should take time to come together as there is talent there, but as of now it remains one of the league’s worst units and much like their running backs is still trying to find an identity.
The Jaguars have been the surprise of the NFL in 2020. This was a team that seemingly was given up on to start the season. But Jacksonville has been competitive in both games, and thus far, their run defense looks outstanding. The Jaguars all but shut down both Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry in their first two contests this season and are allowing just 3.5 yards per carry so far this season. The acquisition of Joe Schobert so far is paying dividends as well as the rebuilt defensive line that while it does not have any star names on it, is playing well and keeping blockers off of Myles Jack and Schobert. The question will be whether this defense can hold up and continue to play as well as it has for the entire season, but as of now, it looks like one of the better units in the NFL.