WORST RUSHING MATCHUPS
To view all of our Week 4 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 4
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 4
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 4
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 4
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 4
Passing Matchup Chart Week 4
Tennessee vs Pittsburgh
The Titans’ deep dedication to the ground game here in 2020 (49% of snaps) hasn’t been a surprise. And last Sunday, reigning rushing leader Derrick Henry got on track with his first efficient game of the year, going for 119 yards (4.6 per carry) and 2 touchdowns in the win over Minnesota. He works behind an elite front line, as well: Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti ranks it seventh, with an A+ run-blocking grade. It’s a line built to run-block, with cohesion and power both inside and outside. Simply put, it’s hard to poke holes in Henry’s fantasy outlook when viewed in a vacuum.
The Steelers continue to boast one of the NFL’s premier defenses, though, and they still neutralize opposing ground games more often than not. Aside from two isolated runs by Melvin Gordon III in Week 2, this has been the stingiest unit in football by a wide margin. They opened the year by holding Saquon Barkley to just 6 yards (on 15 attempts), then gave up just 2.9 per rush combined to Gordon and David Johnson. The dominance starts up front, where Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are both stout and versatile in the gaps. They set up Devin Bush and Vince Williams, an imperfect but active and dynamic linebacker duo, to chase plays in traffic. Behind them, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds are plenty willing to step into the box and add their athleticism to the mix. This unit will be tested by Henry at high volume, but If they’re staying home and tackling well, it’ll be hard to project much efficiency.
LA Chargers at Tampa Bay
The Chargers have always run the ball effectively under coach Anthony Lynn, and early 2020 has been no exception. Austin Ekeler remains one of the game’s most underrated runners; far more than a scatback, Ekeler is much sturdier than his frame suggests, and he’s proven fully capable as a lead back. Still, he and rookie Joshua Kelley are working behind a banged-up line that’s mediocre even at full strength. The Chargers definitely miss center Mike Pouncey, and they’d love a full game from right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Ekeler feels almost due for an underwhelming performance in the wrong matchup.
The Buccaneers continue to pad perhaps the most dominant stretch of run defense we’ve ever seen. Dating back to the start of last season, opposing backs are producing a minuscule 3.0 yards per rush and just 56 a game. Last week was no exception, as Denver’s backs turned their 10 carries into all of 30 yards. Nose tackle Vita Vea, a dominant two-gapper in the mold of ex-Lion Shaun Rogers, leads a unit that simply isn’t run on with any real success. This run has included a handful of dates with Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley, who combined to produce just 2.8 yards a carry; none topped 75 in a single matchup. Vea may be the catalyst of this group, but the star turn of second-year linebacker Devin White has been a sight to behold. White is just as speedy and active as advertised, and it’s no surprise he leads the league in tackles through three weeks. He and Lavonte David arguably form 2020’s best inside linebacker duo, and it’s always hard to project much of anything against them.
Tampa Bay vs LA Chargers
The Buccaneers offense isn’t built to run the ball with much gusto. Coach Bruce Arians tends to view the ground game as a necessary evil, and he doesn’t love committing to a lead back, either. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II rotate the role weekly, and aside from a single Fournette breakaway in Week 2, they’ve posted just 3.7 yards per rush. If one of the two could emerge from the competition, he’d boast fantasy value on volume and touchdown opportunity alone. But as it stands, neither offers the efficiency to project much in a part-time role.
The Chargers have opened 2020 with a big step forward in run defense. Through 3 games they’ve given up just 4.0 yards a carry to running backs, shutting down the likes of Joe Mixon (3.6) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (3.8) along the way. They boast superstar edge man Joey Bosa, of course, plus a stout rotation of tackles capable of tying up blockers and minimizing gaps. That makes life easier on the second level for rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray, who’s registered 23 tackles as an early full-timer. Murray is still very much learning the NFL game but has been given a great support system to kick off his career in the middle. The unit gets a boost from its secondary, which is physical and more than willing to provide run help. It all adds up to a daunting matchup for the Tampa Bay ground game, which really only succeeds situationally anyway.
San Francisco vs Philadelphia
The 49ers backfield has been snakebitten by injuries, ironically leaving Jerick McKinnon as the lead runner. He and Jeff Wilson failed to answer the bell last week, totaling just 53 yards on their 25 attempts. McKinnon’s career has been beset by serious knee woes, and he hasn’t been an effective runner since 2015 (3.8 yards per carry since). There’s a chance Raheem Mostert can return for Week 4, and he looked explosive if volatile before going down in Week 2. If not, it will again be McKinnon and Wilson sharing the load. Coach Kyle Shanahan is a schematic icon, but he’s yet to draw much consistency from his ground attack.
The Eagles have seen little go right during a disaster of an 0-2-1 start, but at least their run defense remains dominant. Apart from a single 40-yard scamper in Week 2, they’ve allowed just 3.0 yards per rush to opposing backs. The unit struggled against the Rams’ misdirection but gave the more traditional Bengals’ Joe Mixon no quarter last Sunday. Mixon managed just 49 on his 17 attempts, gaining 5+ yards only twice and showing how truly suffocating the Philadelphia front can be. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and company are known as pass-game playmakers but are also adept at pinching off the edges and keeping runners in play. The 49ers’ shell-shocked backfield has its work cut out here.
Chicago vs Indianapolis
The Bears have run the ball rather effectively to open the year. David Montgomery has shown off the burst and athleticism many questioned he even had during a nondescript rookie season. He’s mostly dependent upon game flow but has put up 4.4 yards per rush. Coach Matt Nagy will have to tweak things on the fly, though, with scatback Tarik Cohen facing ACL surgery. Cohen had only taken 14 rushes through 2.5 games, but his change-of-pace role is difficult to clone out of the blue. There’s a good chance we see a dose of receiver/returner/runner hybrid Cordarelle Patterson in the game plan going forward. His brand of east-west athleticism could help paper over the Bears’ serious lack of backfield depth.
The Colts have built an impressive stockpile of talent in their defensive front, so their early dominance against the run hasn’t been a surprise. They boast two legitimate superstars in tackle DeForest Buckner and middle linebacker Darius Leonard - quite possibly the league’s best at each spot. Buckner has moved seamlessly to Indianapolis; he’s a wrecking ball when tasked with absorbing blocks or closing off a lane. And not enough is said about fellow utility lineman Denico Autry, who bounces around the line to make and facilitate plays. They allow Leonard to focus on diagnosing the run, and he’s a surefire tackler in the gap. There are so many elite playmakers that this has the feel of the Buccaneers’ 2019 breakout group. It will likely take a powerful interior on a great day to press the issue and hand the Colts their first 70-yard game of the season.