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TOP 5 Rushing MATCHUPS WEEK 11
To view all of our Week 11 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 11
Bottom 5 Passing Matchups Week 11
Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 11
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 11
Rushing Matchup Chart Week 11
Passing Matchup Chart Week 11
Minnesota vs Dallas
The Vikings make no secret of their ground-dominant gameplan, running on 51% of their offensive snaps - fifth-most in football. They boast a pair of playmaking receivers, but Dalvin Cook remains the clear engine to this attack. And he tends to respond well to the workload, putting up 140 yards per game over his past six. Even when the matchup isn’t friendly, or his mid-level offensive line (currently ranked 18th by our Matt Bitonti) isn’t dominating, Cook always boasts one of the highest floors in fantasy football. His upside comes when the Vikings are keeping defenses off-balance with Kirk Cousins’ play-action game - and that’s been truly dynamic of late. Considering that and the generous matchup, Cook should have little trouble finding open space Sunday.
The Cowboys’ nightmare 2020 has spread out far beyond Dak Prescott’s knee injury. They’ve also fielded one of football’s worst run defenses, with only the cross-state Texans giving up more yardage per game. Runners like Kenyan Drake (20 for 164 and 2 touchdowns), Antonio Gibson (20 for 128 and 1), and even Boston Scott (15 for 70) have all enjoyed slump-busting games, posting their best lines of the season in this matchup. The Cowboys are in desperate need of beef in the middle of this line, where Dontari Poe didn’t work out and Anwaun Woods is inadequate. A solid nose would do wonders for linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, both solid but flawed playmakers who do need support from up front. This group did overachieve in last week’s near-upset of the Steelers, keeping James Conner to just 22 yards on 9 attempts. But if the Vikings are able to build any kind of early lead, they’ll be in a position to control it by bullying this unit up and down the field.
Carolina vs Detroit
The Panthers hope to have Christian McCaffrey back in action Sunday. They’ve treaded water without him, with Mike Davis producing 4.2 yards a carry (and catching gobs of McCaffrey’s checkdown throws). But there’s no question what a boon it is to have their franchise cornerstone in uniform. McCaffrey has been both busy and productive in his 3 healthy games, averaging 20 carries and 75 yards, and there’s no reason to expect a decreased workload on his return. Even behind a substandard front line, McCaffrey is always a fantasy must-play. The only real question is just what upside to project based on the week’s matchup.
The Lions have struggled mightily to contain the run throughout 2020. Opposing running backs have put up 4.8 yards per rush and 128 a game, and they’ve found the end zone 13 times. Amazingly, the Lions have already allowed 10 different runners to top 60 yards. They’ve been a bit unlucky in terms of scheduling, but it’s telling that defensive-minded Matt Patricia’s unit has failed to stop virtually anyone. With Damon Harrison gone for good, this group lacks early-down specialists up front, as well as dependable linebackers to clean things up. Even when former first-rounder Jarrad Davis is healthy, there is far more name recognition than run-stuffing value in this front seven. Jamie Collins and Reggie Ragland remain among the NFL’s least effective players, yet they lead the way on early downs because there are so few impact bodies here. McCaffrey could hardly ask for a better spot to return to action.
New England at Houston
The Patriots ground out a sluggish, hard-nosed win over the Ravens on Sunday night, thanks largely to a running game that controlled most of the action. Damien Harris drove through the Baltimore defense for 121 yards, while a Cam Newton touchdown run proved the difference in the six-point win. With very little pass-game dynamism to speak of, the Patriots will look to churn out big ground days like that whenever possible. It’s virtually their only chance of piling up yardage and points in a given week. Harris, Newton, and Rex Burkhead will continue to work the interior, particularly the right side, where guard Shaq Mason and rookie tackle Michael Onwenu have dominated for much of the year. Harris is a powerful north-south runner who punishes on the second level, while Newton and Burkhead bring their own dynamism to the table. For his part, Newton has taken on 9+ rushes in every game but one, and he’s found the end zone in all but two. If all goes to plan, they’ll be in a position to ride this attack for most of their day against the 2-7 Texans.
The Texans’ 2020 collapse certainly hasn’t missed the run defense, which has been as bad as any in recent memory. Virtually everyone has shredded Houston on the ground, to the tune of 5.2 yards per rush and 167 a game. Last week the Browns, who make no secret of their run-happy ways, simply dominated this group from the opening drive to Nick Chubb’s game-clinching, 59-yard scamper. By the final gun, both Chubb and Kareem Hunt had topped 100 yards, checking in as the sixth and seventh runners to do so in this matchup. There’s just very little run-stuffing presence up front - that’s what nose tackle D.J. Reader was for, but he was allowed to leave town in the offseason. Linebacker Zach Cunningham is highly paid and racks up tackle numbers, but has been a net negative against the run. Similarly, safety Justin Reid has been unreliable in box support after a fantastic 2019. All told, this may well be fantasy’s best ground matchup each week, and a run-dominant offense like the Patriots should take full advantage.
Detroit at Carolina
The Lions’ ground production has been sporadic throughout 2020 as a whole. Early on, reps were dominated by the ancient Adrian Peterson, who’s managed just 3.8 yards per rush in his 14th season. But their fortunes have turned more and more as they’ve turned the ground game over to the dazzling D’Andre Swift. Since his Week 6 breakout, the rookie has turned 58 rushes into 289 yards (a 5.0 average), compensating for subpar blocking with tremendous burst and athleticism. Last Sunday, Swift both drew the start and dominated usage down the stretch; it appears he’s firmly in the driver’s seat here. The team is in much more dynamic hands that way, as opposed to plodding along with Peterson and Kerryon Johnson up front.
The Panthers’ rebuilt defense continues to struggle mightily on the ground. A key exception came in Week 9 when the Chiefs were forced into an aerial shootout and quickly abandoned the run. When pressed into a neutral game script, though, this unit is still finding its footing without crucial names like Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short. There are missed assignments and poor tackle angles all over the field, on full display during Ronald Jones II’ 98-yard rumble last Sunday. Jones met almost no resistance on the second level, pausing only to brush off safety Tre Boston en route to the end zone. And he’s far from the only back to produce big in this matchup - they’ve also allowed season-high totals to Todd Gurley (121), Leonard Fournette (103), and Alvin Kamara (83). There are big problems up front, where Short (injured reserve) is badly missed and rookie Derrick Brown has yet to find his stride. The line lacks dedicated run-stuffers, which too often leaves Shaq Thompson and Tahir Whitehead stranded and in a tough position to replace Kuechly. Rookie Jeremy Chinn has flashed as a linebacker/safety hybrid, but has struggled mightily as a tackler in the open field - and Boston’s miss on the Jones run Sunday is hard to forget. On the whole, big shifts are needed in this unit, and that certainly seems like a big ask for this Sunday.
Washington vs Cincinnati
The Football Team has handed the keys to the ground game to rookie Antonio Gibson, betting on a massive talent gap over the rest of a weak depth chart. Gibson hasn’t produced much efficiency (4.2 yards a carry), but offers a mix of bulky power and elusiveness that always hints at big things. He’s established a firm grip on lead runner duties - J.D. McKissic isn’t involved much on early downs - making him integral for as long as there’s neutral game flow. The Washington line has underachieved here in 2020, but Gibson is gifted enough to overcome it, if only from time to time. And he faces a forgiving matchup Sunday, one that could open things up for a second 100-yard eruption.
The Bengals have been shredded on the ground a bit less of late, at least in terms of raw yardage (108 per game dating back to Week 4). But for the most part, that dip has come as a result of less rushing volume, and certainly not from a step forward from this beleaguered run defense. As the Bengals continue to find themselves in high-paced shootouts, opponents are running less but just as effective as ever, at 5.0 per rush over that span. If James Robinson (17 for 75), Mark Ingram (11 for 57), Jonathan Taylor (12 for 60), or Derrick Henry (18 for 112) had been asked to do more, they’d likely have posted much bigger fantasy days. The Bengals lack reinforcements all over the front seven, where opponents continue to find success both inside and out. The loss of new nose tackle D.J. Reader for the season was just too big a blow for such a thin group to withstand. His replacements are substandard, and it doesn’t help that linebackers Josh Bynes, Germaine Pratt, and rookie Logan Wilson have graded near the bottom of the league behind them. Whenever offenses find the need to attack this matchup, they typically have no trouble maximizing their opportunities. The elusive Gibson projects extremely well against a front seven devoid of playmakers.