TOP 5 RUSHING MATCHUPS WEEK 16
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Chicago at Jacksonville
The Bears backfield has been on a roll as of late with David Montgomery as he has exceeded 100 rushing yards in three of their last four games with five rushing touchdowns over that span. This recent success includes a season-high 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns from a whopping 32 carries last week--marking a career-best game for Montgomery. The strong volume has been there for most of the season, but Montgomery is finally doing something with that opportunity in these past few weeks. He has absolutely no competition for carries either, especially now that Cordarelle Patterson suffered a knee injury that could put his Week 16 status in doubt. The Bears offensive line also continues to play well despite some injuries cropping up. Right guard Alex Bars and center Sam Mustipher are showing great chemistry from playing together in college at Notre Dame, while left tackle Charles Leno Jr. continues to have a strong season anchoring this unit.
The Jaguars defense continues to get gashed on the ground week in and week out after giving up another 100+ rushing yards to running backs last week--marking their fifth straight game allowing triple-digit yardage to the position. On the season, Jacksonville has given up the third-most rushing yards in total (2,051) and third-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. This defense has problems all-around, but the front seven, in particular, is doing this team no favors. Their rotation of interior defenders lacks true run-stuffing talent while their edge defenders leave a lot on the table when it comes to tackling. Much of the same can be said for this linebacker group as Myles Jack and Joe Schobert continue to disappoint. Extremely tough game scripts also continue to hurt this defense as Jacksonville has been getting down early in games, yielding to a high volume of rushes typically coming against them throughout the course of this season (447, 2nd-most). The improving Bears offensive line should be able to make space for David Montgomery to continue his impressive running against the Jaguars.
Tampa Bay at Detroit
The Tampa Bay rushing offense was under new leadership last week with Leonard Fournette getting the start in place of the injured Ronald Jones II. Jones recently had surgery on a finger and was placed on the COVID-19 list last week. His status remains in question as of early in the week and will be worth closely monitoring--as Jones would resume his role as the lead running back if he suits up. Fournette’s stat line looked great last week as he punched in two scores from the goal line, but he averaged only 3.5 yards per rush attempt and simply did not look sharp with the ball in his hands. The Buccaneers offensive line has been proficient for most of the season, hanging around the top-third according to our Footballguys offensive line rankings. Left tackle Donovan Smith did get added to the COVID-19 list prior to last week’s game due to close-contact protocol, but backup Josh Wells played well in replacement and Smith should have a good shot at returning this week barring a positive test.
The Lions were predictably gashed by the league’s top runner, Derrick Henry, last week as he amassed 147 yards and a touchdown on the ground. This mediocre run defense has been no stranger to big games from opposing running backs as they allowed 168 yards and two touchdowns to Aaron Jones in Week 2 along with 206 yards and two touchdowns to Dalvin Cook in Week 9. Detroit has given up a league-leading 24 rushing touchdowns while opposing running backs have scored the league’s most fantasy points per game when facing the Lions. Linebacker continues to be a weak spot here, but the defensive backs have also struggled to support against the run as teams have found plenty of room on the perimeter runs against this group. The solid Tampa Bay offensive line should have no problem with this Lions front seven as either Jones or Fournette leads this backfield to prominence in Week 16.
Philadelphia at Dallas
The Eagles rushing offense has an entirely new look with dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts under center. In his two starts, Hurts has racked up 169 rushing yards from 29 rushing attempts, averaging just under six yards per carry. Adding to his rushing upside, Hurts also passed for over 300 yards, proving that defenses cannot attack the Eagles using a rush-centric defensive scheme. Hurts adds immense upside to what was already an above-average rushing offense. Miles Sanders has seen solid volume as the clear leader of the Eagles backfield over the past two weeks and should continue with that volume leading into this week. He isn’t running behind the strongest of offensive lines, but Sanders should benefit from the added threat of Hurts--especially in read-option situations.
The Cowboys enter Week 16 as the worst rushing defense in football, giving up a league-leading 161.8 rushing yards per game and a league-leading 5.0 yards per rush attempt. The last time these two teams met, in Week 8, it was Boston Scott leading the Eagles backfield with 4.7 yards per rush attempt for 70 rushing yards. The new-look Eagles rushing offense should have plenty of opportunities for success, especially considering how this Dallas defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks. They gave up 97 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson and 74 rushing yards to Kyler Murray, along with a touchdown to each, earlier this season. Running backs have also seen no shortage of successes as the 49ers backfield amassed over 130 rushing yards last week as this defense has given up at least 120 rushing yards to running backs in four of their last five games. Despite this matchup in the trenches not being particularly one-sided in any direction, look for the Eagles to get their runners into space and take advantage of the terrible tackling of this battered Dallas defense.
Buffalo at New England
The Buffalo backfield continues to operate on a committee approach between Zack Moss and Devin Singletary. Moss has been the lead back over the past couple of weeks though, out-rushing Singletary 26-to-15. Moss has looked sharp, especially last week, as he averaged 6.2 yards per rush for a season-high 81 rushing yards. Moss hasn’t seen a strong workload this season with having to share snaps, but he has certainly begun to emerge as the top running back option on this team. Singletary has struggled with efficiency as, if not for a 51-yard touchdown run last week, he would have finished averaging just over two yards per carry. The last time these two teams met, however, both running backs were perfectly effective as each rushed 14 times for more than 80 rushing yards with Moss finding the end zone twice. The Bills also now have the benefit of a fully healthy offensive line, as they were missing center Mitch Morse back in that Week 8 meeting.
The Patriots have not played well against the run in recent weeks, giving up an average of 146 rushing yards per game and the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs over the last four weeks. Their last two games, in particular, have been flat out embarrassing as Cam Akers racked up 171 yards in Week 14 while the Dolphins backfield racked up over 230 rushing yards last week. That same Dolphins backfield had averaged only 3.6 yards per rush attempt leading into last week, which goes to show just how terribly this Patriots defense played. The defensive line has not played well despite still having a solid run-defender in Lawrence Guy. The weak linebacker group has truly been the Achilles heel here, and that group may be running even thinner this week if Ja’Whaun Bentley is sidelined with an arm injury sustained last week. Adding to the injury woes, the Patriots also lost top cornerback Stephon Gilmore for the season last week. Gilmore was a strong run-defending cornerback, making the edges even more vulnerable this week.
Cincinnati at Houston
The Bengals had one of their best games of the season on the ground last week as they amassed 152 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against the Steelers, one of the league’s top run defenses. It was an encouraging performance for what has been a very sub-par rushing offense overall this season. With Joe Mixon likely to remain sidelined, Giovani Bernard will continue to lead the Bengals backfield. Bernard had his best game of the season last week despite a lackluster 3.3 yards per carry. Bernard should have minimal competition for touches from Samaje Perine, who has not rushed well in minimal opportunities. Ryan Finley being under center also adds some upside to this rushing offense, as he ran 10 times for 47 yards and a touchdown. It’s unclear at this point if Finley will get another start under center in place of the injured Brandon Allen, but if he does, it will certainly help the prospects of this rushing offense.
The Texans have consistently fielded one of the worst rushing defenses in football throughout this season. They enter Week 16 having yielded the second-most rushing yards per game (150.5) while also giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Their past few games have been just as forgettable as the start of the season, as Houston has given up over 100 rushing yards to opposing backfields in seven straight games while the position has scored at least one rushing touchdown in nine straight games. J.J. Watt is the only player on this entire defense to be feared, as nearly every other starter has notably struggled. This rotation of interior defenders may be the worst in football, while Houston’s linebackers were already playing poorly before losing Benardrick McKinney earlier this season. It takes a very special matchup for the Bengals rushing offense to be on the favorable side of things, but this is the week as the Texans run defense can even make the most mediocre of backfields and offensive linemen look like a group of Pro Bowlers.