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TOP RUSHING MATCHUPS
To view all of our Week 5 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 5
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 5
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 5
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 5
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 5
Passing Matchup Chart Week 5
Jacksonville at Houston
The Jaguars have taken a step forward on the ground here in 2020, swapping out the enigmatic, one-speed Leonard Fournette with hard-charging rookie James Robinson. He’s a grinder, but has shown off surprising athleticism and produced 4.8 yards per carry. As the Jaguars’ clear-cut bell cow, Robinson boasts a strong fantasy floor with decent volume-based upside. He’s been working behind a mediocre front line, but he could get back center Brandon Linder, one of the game’s better run-blockers, as soon as Sunday.
The Texans continue to stand as one fantasy’s most targetable matchups on the ground. Through four weeks they’ve allowed more raw yardage than anyone (182 per game), with three opposing backs topping 100 yards on their own. And in that fourth game, the Ravens’ trio of running backs combined for 176 yards at 8.4 a carry. Houston desperately misses nose tackle D.J. Reader, whom they developed into a run-stuffing specialist only to lose to the Bengals this offseason. Without his protection, linebackers Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney struggle to attack the ball, leaving wide lanes all over the box. Last week 11 of Dalvin Cook’s 27 attempts went for 5+ yards; he faced little trouble grinding out the Vikings’ win down the stretch. That’s been the norm for the Texans this season, so Robinson’s outlook is fantastic. If the Jaguars want to attack their opponent’s gravest weakness, he’ll be something like the offensive focal point Sunday.
Buffalo at Tennessee
The Bills have drawn early headlines for their newfound passing game, but have yet to get untracked on the ground. Devin Singletary has posted two effective games and two duds, while rookie Zack Moss has been slowed by a toe injury. The ace in the hole, quarterback Josh Allen, has dramatically trimmed back his rushing impact over the past few weeks. Still, Singletary continues to flash dynamic ability - he’s run for 10+ yards on 9 of his 50 carries - and should find creases to exploit in this leaky defense. Allen, too, can assert himself on quick-call runs into the soft Tennessee line. It’s an ideal spot for a diverse, talented ground game to bounce back.
The Titans have opened the year dragging pitifully in both phases of their defense. The problems have been most pronounced on the ground, where opposing backs have put up a league-high 5.8 yards per attempt. The three lead runners they’ve faced - Melvin Gordon, James Robinson, and Dalvin Cook - combined to produce 361 yards at 6.8 a carry. The play at linebacker has ranged from mediocre to horrid, with Rashaan Evans yet to develop into a consistent run-stuffing presence. Jayon Brown has been even worse next to him, and the safeties are generally more focused on the pass than playing the box. And of late, the unit as a whole has struggled badly with missed tackles. It’s allowed a lot of three-yard runs to turn into seven or more - Cook certainly exploited it last game - and it bodes well for the shifty, explosive Singletary.
Baltimore vs Cincinnati
The Ravens backfield may not be fun to project week-to-week, with four different runners sharing the workload at odd intervals. All are dynamic and carry real-life value; as a result, only twice has a Ravens back seen 10 carries or 70+ yards in a game. Still, one has to marvel at the dominant level of efficiency of ‘s ground attack. They work behind arguably the league’s best front line, graded A+ in the run game by Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti. Even with star left tackle Ronnie Stanley questionable, the depth and scheme up front is a powerful catalyst for one of football’s most dominant units.
The Bengals remain one of fantasy’s most favorable ground matchups. The front office invested in this unit during the offseason, adding a full-time nose tackle (D.J. Reader), an in-the-box hybrid safety (Vonn Bell), and a powerful inside tackler (rookie Logan Wilson). But the results have yet to show: through 4 games, they’ve somehow allowed 7 different runners to top 60 yards on the ground. They’re giving up 4.9 per rush - 5.1 to running backs - Bell cow runners Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb, Miles Sanders, and James Robinson have faced little difficulty finding and exploiting lanes on the second level. Reader is impressive as a space-eater inside, but the linebackers are replacement-quality overall. The Ravens’ is a downhill-running attack, and it’s hard to see this soft front seven putting up much argument. Lamar Jackson in particular loves this matchup - he posted 217 yards and 2 touchdowns in their 2019 meetings.
Atlanta vs Carolina
The Falcons haven’t been the league’s flashiest or most efficient running team here in 2020. Todd Gurley has put up a serviceable 3.9 yards per rush, but it’s come on a fairly flat curve, with few breakaway runs and a struggle to create room on his own. Through 4 games, 48% of his carries have produced 3 yards or less, even when adjusted for short yardage. Still, Gurley remains capable of savvy running and of pacing a team’s ground game. The Falcons’ tendency to spread and stretch the field usually opens up an extra step for Gurley to hit the edge. Sooner or later, he’s going to see some regression to the mean and hit on a few chunk runs. They may not be easy to predict, but they’re almost certainly coming.
The Panthers have rebuilt much of their front seven this offseason, and the growing pains have shown. With fixtures like Luke Kuechly gone and new faces all over, there’s not much cohesion, nor even consistency to the rotations. Through 4 weeks, they’ve allowed running backs to average 4.6 yards per carry and score 7 times - and that doesn’t even factor in Kyler Murray’s big rushing day. This isn’t a talentless unit by any stretch. Kawann Short and first-round rookie Derrick Brown have been stout inside, serving as true anchors to free up the linebackers in pursuit. But that linebacker play has been sorely lacking in the wake of Kuechly’s retirement. Shaq Thompson and Tahir Whitehead are doing little beyond bringing runners down several yards downfield. If the Falcons offense can successfully spread this thin unit even thinner, Gurley will be in position for an efficient day.
Kansas City vs Las Vegas
The Chiefs have been solid, though not dominant, on the ground here in 2020. In 3 games since his 138-yard Week 1 explosion, rookie runner Clyde Edwards-Helaire has amassed 38, 64, and 64 while averaging just 3.6 per rush. It’s fair to note, though, that he’s faced three stout defenses over that span. There’s little shame in underwhelming against the Chargers, Ravens, and Patriots, who all shut down opposing runners more often than not. Edwards-Helaire is a dynamic runner who’s earning more of coach Andy Reid’s trust every week, and he works behind a strong front line that our Matt Bitonti ranks sixth in football (with an A- run-blocking grade). The team shrewdly added former All-Pro left guard Kelechi Osemele for depth in the offseason, and he’s paid big dividends as a road-grader on the interior.
The Raiders are still in the process of assembling a viable defense. The secondary remains woefully undermanned, and the front seven still lacks difference-makers against the run. As a result, while there have been incremental improvements here and there, this is very much a unit to target in fantasy. It’s especially bothersome considering run defense was virtually their only strength last season. They’ve allowed running backs to average 6.1 yards per carry and find the end zone 7 times already (Bills quarterback Josh Allen also added a short touchdown last week). Christian McCaffrey (96 yards, 2 scores) and Sony Michel (117) have posted huge days on the ground, and Alvin Kamara (79 and 2) likely would have in Week 2, had the Saints stayed in that game for four quarters. High-priced linebacker Cory Littleton has yet to make much of an impact, and new middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski just recently returned from a Week 1 pectoral injury. Until the Raiders find consistency on the front line - and with their second-level playmakers - this will remain a fun fantasy target. There’s not much dynamism or depth here, so they’re easily exploited once runners can clear the line.