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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
LA Chargers at Kansas City
The Chargers have a top half of the league offensive line through two weeks. Their offense has only rushed 48 times through two weeks, which ranks 21st and have failed to crack 100 yards yet on the ground in a game this season. However, Austin Ekeler has performed well, rushing for 1.35 yards over expectation per attempt, with a clear hold on the lead share in the backfield. Justin Jackson and Larry Rountree III are competing for the backup job without a clear indication who would take over if Ekeler were to miss time. The good news for the Chargers is that what was once a potential issue in the offensive line, seems to be improving thus far this season, as they have increased seven spots in Matt Bitonti’s offensive line rankings moving up from 29th to 22nd as they have an offensive line that has not played together before.
The Chiefs simply are unable to stop the run at this point. They have allowed 67 rushing attempts, third most in the league and given up the most yards per carry (6.0) in the league through two weeks. Kansas City’s Defense has given up 404 yards, the most in the NFL. The overall stat line may not be totally indicative of how Kansas City performs against the run as Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson ran 16 times for 107 yards against the Chiefs on Sunday night. The big problem for the Chiefs continues to be the linebacker play as it is seemingly non-existent. Tyrann Matheiu came out after the game and stated that the team had to commit to stopping the run, indicating that their could be some play calling adjustments needed from Steve Spagnuolo. The problem is, that this is a team that is fully built to stop the pass as their defensive line is built to rush the passer with Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
Minnesota vs Seattle
The Minnesota Vikings have an average offensive line performance through two weeks. The Vikings are still without offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw who continues to rehab a core muscle injury surgery. The offense has been able to commit to the run, with Dalvin Cook averaging 21 carries and 4 receptions per game through two weeks, with 251 total yards from scrimmage, with the team ranking 10th in rushing yards and 6th in rushing yards per attempt. This formula is particularly potent in fantasy as the production is almost entirely concentrated on Cook.
The Seattle Seahawks have surrendered the second most rushing attempts (70) and second most rushing yards (325) of any defense through two weeks this season. Seattle is coming off a home loss to Tennessee where they surrendered 212 yards on the ground including a 35 carry 182 rushing yard and three touchdown performance to Derrick Henry. Notably, Henry also managed six receptions for 55 yards, despite being limited in the receiving game in prior years, which could be a significant area for Minnesota to exploit. The Seahawks are somewhat of a surprise here in that they are a team that is built to stop the run. Jamal Adams has historically been one of the best run-stopping safeties in football, and Bobby Wagner has been one of the best linebackers in football. Wagner had 20 tackles last week, and is showing that right now, he is the only linebacker making plays as the team is trying to find an identity without K.J. Wright. The big question is whether they are forced to play further back because of the departure of Shaq Griffin leaving the Seahawks without a true number one corner.
Kansas City vs LA Chargers
The Chiefs have a top half of the league offensive line through two weeks, while Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a disappointment. Edwards-Helaire has the fifth-worst rushing yards over expectation per attempt (-1.36), while the team’s 41 attempts rank 29th in total running attempts through two weeks. The Chiefs will be a home favorite by nearly a touchdown against the Chiefs, with Edwards-Helaire carrying 27 of the Chiefs 31 running back carries through two weeks.
To guard against the passing game, the Chargers have allowed opponents to run on the ground. This played out last week, against the Cowboys when Tony Pollard ran for 109 yards and Ezekiel Elliott ran for 71 yards with each scoring a touchdown. The extent the Chiefs take the bait against the Chargers’ run defense is a key fantasy watch from what is an intriguing matchup. This is the second straight week in which the Chargers have struggled as they allowed Antonio Gibson to rush for 90 yards against Washington back in Week 1. The problem for the Chargers is the linebacker play as Kenneth Murray and Drue Tranquill struggled to stop the run. This is still one of the youngest defenses in football, led by Murray, safeties Derwin James and Nasir Adderley.
Baltimore at Detroit
The Baltimore Ravens have produced a top rushing offense even with struggles at the offensive line positions so far this year. The Ravens lead the league in rushing attempts and rushing yards, largely a result of Lamar Jackson’s prevalence in the offense. The offensive line looked better after a horrendous Week 1 against Las Vegas as they had their way with Kansas City last week, including a late game fourth down conversion that sealed a victory. Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley missed week two but Alejandro Villanueva switched back to his natural Left Tackle position and performed significantly better than week one. Ty’Son Williams continued his strong performance in week two, leading the backfield in routes run and leading the league in rushing yards over expectation per attempt (2.03).
There will be no rest for the weary on the Detroit defense. The Detroit defense was carved up by Aaron Jones’s three receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown on Monday Night Football. Detroit’s defense has surrendered the 6th most rushing attempts (59) but the silver lining is that they have held defenses to just 3.8 yards per attempt, the 11th fewest in the league through two weeks. The ability of the offense to move the ball against Baltimore’s offense will be a critical part to defending against the Ravens rushing attack. The Lions will be tested heavily this week as it will be a critical game to determine whether or this defense will continue to be a problem for most of the year as they are going to see a significant number of carries and really test this linebacking group that has a history of inconsistency in Jamie Collins Sr and Alex Anzalone.
Las Vegas vs Miami
The Las Vegas Raiders offensive line has struggled, performing as one of worst offense in the league with both Peyton Barber and Kenyan Drake rushing for more yards after contact than total yards in Week 2. Josh Jacobs missed week two after gutting out a two-touchdown performance in week one, but it appears like he will give it a go this week which will be a nice return to the offense. The offensive line has missed starting guard Richie Incognito through two weeks and right tackle Alex Leatherwood left the game in Week 2, with an back strain that has his status up in the air for Week 3. Leatherwood was a liability at right tackle, and if he is less than 100%, it could be a tough one for the offensive line, although thankfully they’re facing a favorable matchup against the Dolphins this week.
Miami’s run defense struggled mightily last week against Buffalo after struggling in Week 1 allowing Damien Harris to rush for 100 yards. Last week, the Bills managed three rushing touchdowns, and a long run of 46 yards, which is notable for a Buffalo offense that has failed to create big plays in the run game. Miami may be without Tua Tagovailoa in Week 3, which could result in create a more favorable game script for the Raiders, so his situation is a monitor.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
LA Rams vs Tampa Bay
The Rams versus Tampa Bay game will be a battle of strengths as their offensive line is a top 10 unit through two weeks while facing one of the better defensive units through two weeks. Darrell Henderson is dealing with a rib cartilage in injury, with his status up in the air for Week 3. Sony Michel would be the beneficiary of added volume if Henderson misses time, but the game script could get away from the Rams with Tampa Bay’s offensive strength combined with the elite run defense in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay’s defense has given up the fourth fewest rushing attempts (38) and second fewest rushing yards (115) through two weeks, after facing Dallas and Atlanta. Tampa Bay continues to be the perennial run defense over the last several seasons as they have allowed just two running backs to top 100 yards over the last two seasons. Vita Vea continues to be one of the best defensive lineman in football eating up a significant amount of space for Devin White and Lavonte David to clean up the tackles. This is a perfect storm of a defense as they have some flaws in the pass defense which leads teams to abandon trying to run the ball knowing that they need to keep pace against the Buccaneers elite offense.
Houston vs Carolina
Houston lack of talent continues to haunt them as their offensive line is in the bottom-ten in the NFL. The problems will continue to mount for the Texans as they will now be going through a transition without starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor on a short week which will limit the amount of versatility that the Texans have as Taylor presented a true dual-threat at the quarterback position. Mark Ingram II has been the bell-cow and while he looked good in Week 1, he was largely shut-down against a good Cleveland run-defense, while Phillip Lindsay largely plays the change-of-pace running back for the Texans.
The Carolina defense has performed as a top 5 run defense unit through two weeks, and what a change this has been compared to past seasons. Defensive tackles Daquan Jones and Derrick Brown have both been solid thus far in shutting down both the Saints and the Jets, holding Alvin Kamara to a career-low five rushing yards on eight attempts. The Panthers have given up the fewest rushing yards (93), second fewest carries (34) and are tied for the fewest yards per carry (2.7). Carolina will face another weak offense this week and based on performances thus far this season, should have the upper hand in this one this week.
New England vs New Orleans
While there are significant concerns about the pass protection in New England, the run-blocking continues to be a strength for this offense. The Patriots thus far this season have relied on Damien Harris to be the star of this offense. Harris thus far is averaging 19.5 carries, 81 rushing yards and 0.5 rushing touchdowns through two weeks. Harris has also seen 67% of the red zone rushing work, a top 15 percentage in the league, with six red zone rushes on the year. With a rookie at quarterback, establishing the run will continue to be a big focus for the Patriots offense as they look to make life easier for Mac Jones this season. The good news is it is looking like they will get Trent Brown back from a calf injury that has kept him out of the first two games this season.
The New Orleans Saints continue to have one of the top run-stopping units in football as they have performed as a top three rushing defense through the first weeks of the 2021 season. The Saints were able to hold Christian McCaffrey to 72 yards on 24 carries in Week 2, after holding Green Bay to 43 rushing yards in Week 1. This is a defense that is a well-coached unit that has veteran players at each level in Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, and Malcolm Jenkins. They will continue to be tested however, as they are going to be without some key players in Marcus Davenport and Kwon Alexander who were placed on injured reserve right before last week’s game.
NY Jets at Denver
The Jets have major problems on the offensive line, as they are without Mekhi Becton and currently rank as the 30th offensive line in football according to Footballguys offensive-line expert Matt Bitonti. The division amongst the running backs Tevin Coleman (14 carries), Ty Johnson (16 carries), and Michael Carter II (15 carries) make the situation a difficult one to trust for fantasy purposes. If the offensive line continues to improve and the running back depth chart consolidates to one running back, this could be a dependable situation later in the season but is tough to trust as a road underdog in Week 3.
The Denver Broncos have graded out as a top 10 rush defense through the first two weeks, as the second-year under Vic Fangio has paid off for the Broncos. The Broncos have given up the fourth fewest rushing yards through two weeks (135) but will be tested this week as they will be without Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell this week. The Broncos should still have enough talent to stop this Jets rushing attack as fellow linebacker AJ Johnson spoke highly about Justin Strnad who will be filling in for Josey Jewell this week.
Washington at Buffalo
The Washington Football team is a team that is still searching for an identity. Last week, Antonio Gibson was effective, but only saw 13 carries for Washington in a closely contested win against the Giants. However, with Fitzpatrick, Gibson saw 20 carries in a loss to the Chargers. Gibson is the key to this offense succeeding as it removes the pressure off of Taylor Heinicke. J.D. McKissic will continue to be the change-of-pace guy in Washington, but he has seen only five carries on the season. This rushing attack is going to be Gibson’s going forward, and expect him to see more carries in games ahead.
The Buffalo defense thus far has been a surprise. This is a team that historically has succeeded in shutting down the pass, but has been a team that has been in the middle of the pack statistically while playing in the division with the worst rushing offenses. This year, so far they’ve been a completely shut-down unit holding Najee Harris to just 2.8 yards-per-carry and last week completely shut down the Dolphins in all facets of the game as they allowed just 71 yards rushing on 20 attempts. The key to this defense has just been cohesion, A.J. Klein is in his second-season coming over from the vaunted Saints defense, Tremaine Edmunds is in his fourth season with the Bills, but shockingly just turned 23 years-old. On the defensive line, they continue to bring back the players from last season as Star Lotulelei, Jerry Hughes, Ed Oliver all return and they add in first-round pick Gregory Rousseau to the mix. This is a unit that could continue to play at a high-level this year if they can stay healthy as they’re well-coached with Leslie Frazier as the defensive coordinator, and have continuity which often times is more important that just pure talent.
|Week 3 Rushing Chart|
|LA Chargers||at Kansas City||Great|
|Kansas City||vs LA Chargers||Great|
|Las Vegas||vs Miami||Great|
|NY Giants||vs Atlanta||Good|
|Green Bay||at San Francisco||Good|
|San Francisco||vs Green Bay||Good|
|Atlanta||at NY Giants||Good|
|Tampa Bay||at LA Rams||Neutral|
|Miami||at Las Vegas||Neutral|
|Denver||vs NY Jets||Neutral|
|New Orleans||at New England||Neutral|
|NY Jets||at Denver||Bad|
|New England||vs New Orleans||Bad|
|LA Rams||vs Tampa Bay||Bad|