BOTTOM 5 RUSHING MATCHUPS WEEK 14
To view all of our Week 14 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 14
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 14
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 14
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 14
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 14
Passing Matchup Chart Week 14
Minnesota at Tampa Bay
The Vikings remain deeply committed to a clock-controlling run game, pounding the ball at a 48% rate (sixth-highest in football). And Dalvin Cook has answered the bell, though it’s worth noting his efficiency has tailed off over the past month or so. After putting up 6.0 yards per rush over the first 8 games, he’s generated just 3.7 since. That’s roughly the same timeframe as last year’s big dip, which saw Cook run as a fantasy RB2 over his final 7 games. There’s no doubt he’s a volume dominator, and that he boasts as good a touchdown outlook as anyone. But even if his efficiency weren’t slipping a bit, this week he’s staring down the most imposing matchup in all of football.
The Buccaneers continue to field the game’s most dominant run defense and by a wide margin. Only a single running back (Christian McCaffrey in Week 2) has cleared 50 ground yards in this matchup, and even he needed 18 attempts to do it. Along the way, they’ve thoroughly shut down the likes of Aaron Jones (10 rushes for 15 yards), Josh Jacobs (10 for 17), Melvin Gordon III (8 for 26), and Alvin Kamara twice (21 for 56). There’s just nowhere to exploit in this unit, which boasts a dominant front and a playmaking second level. Nose tackle Steve McLendon has proved a solid replacement for Vita Vea; his stable, gap-stuffing play pairs well with the still-dynamic Ndamukong Suh. Behind them, linebacker Lavonte David is enjoying the best season of an impressive nine-year career. He’s still instinctive and quick-footed in pursuit, and he papers over many of young Devin White’s miscues. All together, they make for the most suffocating unit in football. We’re at the point that even elite fantasy runners - like Cook - make for nothing more than volume/touchdown dice rolls in this matchup.
Philadelphia vs New Orleans
The Eagles have shifted into a rotation with their backfield, working Boston Scott and Jordan Howard into the game alongside starter Miles Sanders. It’s a puzzling development from an outsider’s (or a fantasy) perspective, as Sanders boasts gobs of explosiveness (5.1 yards per rush) and has already excelled when given heavy volume. Perhaps the team wants to help keep Sanders fresh down the stretch - also a puzzling concept for the 3-8-1 Eagles. In any event, this attack has talent but is low-volume and difficult to project at the moment. Even in a more forgiving matchup, it would be difficult to trust it right now. As it stands, the whole unit is hands-off for fantasy purposes until Sanders retakes the reins.
The Saints run defense has developed into one of the most suffocating units in recent memory. Running backs are averaging just yards per carry against it, and not a single one has reached 90 yards on the day. (In fact, you’d have to go back into 2018 to find the last 100-yard performance in this matchup.) The team has prioritized this unit by piecing together a cheap but effective run-stuffing front seven, headlined by linebacker Demario Davis and unsung tackle David Onyemata. Both deserve All-Pro consideration as consistent playmakers, always capable of blowing up a run at the point of attack. There’s a stout rotation of big, skilled bodies along the line, and the return of hybrid safety Malcolm Jenkins can’t be overstated. It will take a disciplined, explosive ground game to buck this unit’s dominant trend, and these Eagles look too out-of-sorts to be it right now.
Las Vegas vs Indianapolis
The Raiders will likely suit up without Josh Jacobs for the second straight week. Devontae Booker and Jalen Richard make for ho-hum replacements; last week in Jacobs’ absence, the pair combined to turn 20 rushes into just 61 yards. That alone is enough to pull fantasy attention away from this attack, as Booker can’t be trusted to create much on his own as a featured runner. But their prospects are even worse this week against a strong Colts front that can overwhelm even the Raiders’ powerful line. They won’t necessarily abandon the run, but it’s hard to envision many opportunities for Booker to overachieve.
The Colts run defense has been nearly flawless here in 2020. It’s true that Derrick Henry has cracked their code, compiling 281 yards in the two Colts-Titans games. But no other opposing runner has topped 75, a list that includes the likes of Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, and the Ravens’ dominant ground attack. Last week saw the return of two crucial down linemen, DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry, both of whom missed the second meeting with Henry and the Titans. They’re invaluable in the trenches, teaming with breakout nose tackle Grover Stewart to simply control the front line and allow the linebackers to pursue and strike. Led by All-Pro Darius Leonard, one of football’s premier tacklers, there’s generally very little room to maneuver against this unit. Even Jacobs would struggle to produce in this spot, and his backups wouldn’t project to much at all.
New England at LA Rams
The Patriots recognize their need to win games on the ground, rather than by Cam Newton slinging the ball across the field to the patchwork receiving corps. To that end, they’re running the ball at the league’s second-highest level (52.5% of snaps), trailing only the ground-dominant Ravens (53.5%). Among Newton, Damien Harris, and Sony Michel, this is a smashmouth unit capable of controlling any matchup. Harris does most of the work between the 20s, routinely grinding through arm tackles and producing in ways Michel never really could. Near the goal line, though, it’s typically Newton’s show - he’s found the end zone in 7 of his 11 games thus far. And they operate behind a stout run-blocking line, led by a powerful interior of center David Andrews and star guard Joe Thuney. That bullying run style has become the symbol of the new-look Patriots offense, which has done a true 180 since letting Tom Brady walk.
The Rams run defense is on a Tampa Bay-level hot streak right now, snuffing out opposing ground games on a historic level. Not since Week 3 has a running back cleared 70 yards in this matchup, with lead runners averaging just 3.2 per carry and 42 a game. It’s always tough to do anything with Aaron Donald working the middle of the field; he’s an immovable force and a playmaker in the gaps when needed to be. Michael Brockers joins him as a run-stuffing specialist up front, as does tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who’s developed nicely into a valuable rotation piece. Together they do a fine job of keeping the linebacking corps clean and freed up to make plays. This unit certainly isn’t weeping over the offseason loss of Cory Littleton, who’s struggled mightily with the Raiders after signing a $36 million deal there. His old unit has predictably rounded into one of the game’s stingiest, and it’s hard to like a fantasy matchup against it. Newton’s numbers may be relatively safe, as a handful of opposing quarterbacks have produced on the ground. Running backs, however, have yet to crack the code.
LA Chargers vs Atlanta
The Chargers have to be thrilled to have Austin Ekeler back; he’s by far the most skilled and dynamic name on the roster. But the team insists on platooning him with replacement-level bodies like Kalen Ballage and Joshua Kelley, who have claimed 39% of rushes over Ekeler’s two weeks back in action. Ekeler is no stranger to lead-back volume - he’s recorded 11 career games of 12+ carries - but the team seems set on spelling him liberally. Still, given Ballage’s underwhelming history (3.3 yards per rush) and Kelley’s plodding rookie performance (3.2), Ekeler is the only option truly projectable to a big day on the ground.
The Falcons run defense isn’t flawless, but it’s come leaps and bounds from its laughingstock days of the past few seasons. Last Sunday, Alvin Kamara became just the third back over 12 games to top 80 yards in this matchup. (And it’s worth noting that they held Kamara and teammate Latavius Murray to just 3.8 yards per rush just three weeks prior.) The charge has been led by tackle Grady Jarrett, one of the NFL’s most dominant interior men in both phases of the game. Jarrett draws most of his praise as a pass-rusher but regularly makes his presence felt by blowing up runs in the gap. On the second level, linebacker Deion Jones and safety hybrid Keanu Neal lead a front seven/eight that’s made huge improvements here in 2020. Altogether, this is definitely not an ideal matchup for the struggling Chargers. Ekeler is a fine runner, but it’s hard to project much open-field success against this quick-footed unit.