Go here for this week's Passing Matchups
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Las Vegas At LA Chargers
The Las Vegas offensive line performed better in Week 3 after struggling mightily in the first two weeks of the season. Peyton Barber started in place of an injured Josh Jacobs and produced 23 carries for 111 yards and a rushing touchdown. Barber averaged 0.5 yards before contact in Week 3 after averaging -1.1 yards before contact in Week 2. Right tackle Alex Leatherwood missed time with an injury in Week 2 but was able to play all of the Raiders’ offensive snaps in Week 3, playing better as a run blocker than as a pass blocker. While Las Vegas signed Kenyan Drake in free agency, he has struggled as a runner and does not present a threat to the rushing workload of Jacobs or Barber. Jacobs’s injury status will be a key watch this week after missing the past two weeks.
The Chargers rank 32nd in rushing yards allowed this season (170 yards per game), and gave up a season-best performance to Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Week 3 with 17 carries at 100 yards. Much of the Chargers’ defensive scheme is designed around playing two high safeties and prioritizing passing defense ahead of run defense, which creates rushing opportunities for opposing offenses. The Chargers have given up the ninth most fantasy points per game allowed to running backs through three weeks (27). Joey Bosa returned from injury in Week 3 and should see a growing role in future weeks. This continues to be a defense that is trying to find an identity at the linebacker position. Second-year first-round pick linebacker Kenneth Murray has seen his snap counts decrease from 100% in Week 1 down to 79% in Week 2 and down to 51% in Week 3. This truly is a rotational unit as they have had six linebackers with 30% or more snaps last week and none had more than 70% of the snaps.
Philadelphia vs Kansas City
The Philadelphia Eagles managed only three running back carries against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Philadelphia trailed early in the game with Dallas dominating time of possession throughout the first half, which resulted in Philadelphia relying on the pass. The running back priority is clear with Miles Sanders (30 carries) clearly ahead of Kenneth Gainwell (16 carries) through three weeks but the position as a whole is a low workload position. The Eagles have a top 10 offensive line in run blocking through four weeks and will play in one of the higher game totals against the Chiefs at home in Week 4.
The Kansas City defense has been a concern through three weeks, giving up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to running backs (28.7). The defense did rebound in Week 3 by holding Austin Ekeler under 60 yards, after getting beat up by Cleveland and Baltimore in the first two weeks of the season, one of the tougher strengths of schedules against the run through three weeks. The defense was without defensive end Frank Clark with a hamstring injury in Week 3, forcing Chris Jones to move from defensive tackle to Defensive End. Clark’s return could help the defense and his status during the week is a key watch. This continues to be a defense that is built to stop the pass, as the linebackers and safeties are definitely pass-protection type players.
LA Rams vs. Arizona
The Rams will be a home favorite against the Cardinals in Week 3, which should create an opportunity for the running game to get on track as it has struggled thus far averaging just 83 yards per game which is the sixth-fewest in football. Darrell Henderson missed Week 3 against Tampa Bay with a rib injury and his practice status should be monitored this week. Sony Michel got 20 carries and played 74% of the offensive snaps against a tough Tampa Defense with Henderson out, but produced below his expected rushing yards. The Rams’ offensive line has been playing better than expected so far this year as thus far they are an above-average unit.
This remains a tough Cardinals defense to figure out from a run defense standpoint. On one hand, the Arizona Cardinals have given 22.5 points per game to running backs, the 18th most in the league through three weeks. On the other hand, the Cardinals gave up 88 yards to James Robinson in Week 3 on 15 carries and has given up the fourth-most rushing yards through three weeks and tied for the second-most yards per carry surrendered. The Cardinals statistically are propped up by only allowing two rushing touchdowns through three weeks, so they may be due for some negative touchdown regression in the coming weeks. This remains a talented unit led by defensive ends in J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones, but they have faced two really good rushing offenses in Minnesota and Tennessee thus far this year. This could be an offense that could improve with a more favorable matchup against the Rams this week.
Indianapolis at Miami
The Colts are a middle-of-the-road offensive unit as Jonathan Taylor ranks 12th in the league in rushes (42), with 0.39 yards above expectation through three weeks. Taylor also leads the league in carries inside the red zone (13) and second-most yards (43) but has failed to score a touchdown. Nyheim Hines (36.3) has outscored Taylor (32.1) with 12 of his 28 touches coming through the receiving game. Carson Wentz was able to play with two sprained ankles in Week 3, but the offense lost left guard Quenton Nelson to a sprained ankle and is unlikely to play this week which is a major hit to the Colts offensive line.
Miami’s defense is another defense that is built to stop the pass and the results are showing, as they have surrendered the sixth-most rushing yards through three weeks (408), including against Buffalo and Las Vegas who have otherwise struggled on the ground. Miami has also surrendered the second-most fantasy points to running backs (34). Injuries have also plagued this defense as they are without defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, one of the defense’s better run defenders. Jerome Baker is also questionable with a knee injury. Miami will be a small home favorite in one of the lower game totals of the week, which should keep running volume high during the game.
Cleveland at Minnesota
Cleveland’s rushing offense continues to be one of the bests in football and this week they are on the road as a small favorite against the Vikings. The key to Cleveland’s success is the offensive line which has been one of the top five offensive lines in the league and leads the league in rushing attempts (102), second-most rushing yards (524), and rushing touchdowns (8). Cleveland is coming off a 215 rushing yard performance against Chicago in Week 3. Nick Chubb (17 touches per game) and Kareem Hunt (13 touches per game) both have the volume to support strong fantasy production. This will continue to be a unit that is driven by both running backs although Hunt’s success last week could give him more opportunity in the running game in the 17 game season.
The Minnesota run defense surrendered 80 yards on only 12 carries against Seattle in Week 3 and has given up the 12th-most rushing yards and 5th-most rushing yards per attempt through three weeks. Overall, their defense has given up 22.9 points per game to running backs, 16th-most in the league, but two of their three games have been against Cincinnati and Seattle, who have struggled to produce for their running backs in the passing game. The big challenge for the Vikings is health as Anthony Barr still has not played this season, and Eric Kendricks who is the team’s best run-stopping linebacker has been playing far less than 100% which while it is better than the replacement, still leaves this defense as a liability that is not as good as it otherwise could be. The space eaters on the defensive line will have a challenge this week as Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce both have had success with prior teams, but have struggled thus far with consistent play.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
New England vs Tampa Bay
New England’s running back corps is an uncertain scenario with James White dealing with a hip injury that will result in him missing the remainder of the season. White’s absence leaves the passing game role open in the offense. In White’s absence in Week 3, Brandon Bolden played a season-high amount of snaps and ran 20 routes compared to 13 for Damien Harris and 8 for J.J. Taylor. New England’s offensive line has struggled to run block this season, and with Tampa Bay a touchdown favorite, the game script could be difficult for the New England running game. Harris was off to a great start early in the season, but the lack of pass-blocking has caught up to him, which greatly limits the trust in the Patriots to give him the bell-cow role.
Tampa Bay has held rushing offenses in check, surrendering the fourth-fewest rushing attempts (62) and the fourth-lowest rushing yards per attempt (3.1). Teams are rightly choosing to attack the team through the air instead of on the ground. Tampa Bay’s defense has given up the ninth most receptions to running backs, and the 10th-lowest amount of fantasy points per game to the running back position (21.1). This defense just continues to be stacked on the front seven and there is not much more to say at this point about them. Vita Vea, Devin White, and Lavonte David are the gold standard in shutting down opposing running backs.
Dallas vs Carolina
Dallas’s running game came alive against the Philadelphia Eagles, running for 160 yards on 41 carries. Ezekiel Elliott had a bounceback game after struggling earlier in the season, producing 0.62 yards over expectation after underperforming expectation in earlier weeks. Despite the involvement of Tony Pollard (11 carries per game), Elliott still has the leading role in the offense (17 carries per game). The offensive line will go through some changes after tight Tackle La'El Collins was suspended for violating the drug testing protocol. This is an offense that will be expected to bring balance to the Cowboys’ prolific passing attack. The good news is that Zack Martin appeared healthier than he has all year after dealing with Covid back in early September.
Carolina’s defense has been strong through three weeks, surrendering the fewest points per game to running backs (8.0) in the NFL. While they have held running backs in check, Carolina has benefitted from the schedule, facing two of the worst running back corps in the league, with the Jets in Week 1 and Houston in Week 3. Dallas will represent a strong test for the Carolina defense and be an indicator of the true strength of their defense going forward. Shaq Thompson continues to be the star of this defense as he has 20 tackles through their first three games, but the defensive tackles have done a good job in keeping blockers off of this linebacking group as DaQuan Jones and Derrick Brown have both prevented lineman from getting to the second level.
NY Giants at New Orleans
The Giants have run the ball 75 times through three weeks, the 16th-most in the league, for 323 rushing yards, the 12th-most in the league. The overall numbers obscure the fact that it is Quarterback Daniel Jones (161 yards) that is leading the team in rushing yards ahead of Saquon Barkley (134). Barkley has struggled to return to form, averaging -0.47 yards below expectation per carry through three weeks. The Giants are a touchdown road underdog on the with a low point total against the Saints in Week 4, which can provide a bad game script for the running back position.
The New Orleans Saints have given up the 6th-fewest points to running backs thus far. In Week 1 they held Aaron Jones to 24 total yards in what was a dud from Green Bay’s offense. The Saints have followed it up by keeping Christian McCaffrey under control on the ground (24 rushes for 72 yards) and dominating the Patriots running backs in week three. The way a running back has gotten a strong performance has been through the air, as with McCaffrey’s Week 2 performance (5 receptions for 65 yards), something Barkley could replicate gameplan-wise. The Saints have been dominant for each of the past several seasons as they are just a well-coached unit. If there is one drawback against them, it is that due to their cap issues this offseason, they are not as deep as they have historically been. Kwon Alexander is on IR, which puts a significant amount of pressure on Demario Davis as if he were to go down, this defense could change quickly as they also have one of their best defensive lineman Marcus Davenport on IR.
Houston at Buffalo
The Houston offense is going through a tumultuous stretch with Davis Mills starting in place of Tyrod Taylor in Week 3 when they rushed for 42 yards on 17 carries. Mark Ingram II has been the lead running back in the backfield, while Phillip Lindsay has been a disappointment. David Johnson has projected for a receiving role, but has struggled and was held without a target in Week 3. Houston is a two-touchdown underdog on the road against the Bills in Week 4, a dangerous sign for a weak running back corps.
Buffalo’s defense is coming off two strong performances against the run, holding Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic to 54 yards in Week 3 and Miami’s running backs to 16 carries and 63 yards. Buffalo’s defense has graded well against the run, but the game script has been a bigger impact on limiting opposing running volume, than their defense performance. The Bills have spent a significant amount of draft capital in their defensive line to align with their strong secondary and it is paying off. Greg Rousseau and Ed Oliver the team’s last two first-round picks both are playing well alongside Star Lotulelei who opted out of the 2020 season but has looked good in his return thus far.
Jacksonville at Cincinnati
After experimenting with Carlos Hyde in Week 1, Jacksonville has returned to James Robinson as the lead back, with 11 and 15 carries the past two weeks ahead of Carlos Hyde (2 and 8). James Robinson has produced over expectation (+0.33 rushing yards over expectation per attempt). Hyde did have a better game this past week averaging 5.5 yards-per-carry, so expect this to continue to be a timeshare going forward with Robinson getting 60-70% of the carries. The offensive line in Jacksonville continues to be one of the best units that they have as they rank 10th in Matt Bitonti’s offensive line rankings as this is a veteran group that has high cohesion together.
The Cincinnati Bengals rush defense has been a highlight through the first three weeks of the year. This is a unit that historically has fallen into the perennial bottom feeder of run defenses so the turnaround has been quite remarkable. The Bengals success has largely been due to D.J. Reader who was a big offseason acquisition in 2020 but missed the season due to injury, and free-agent signees Larry Ogunjobi and Trey Hendrickson have rebuilt this defensive line. It is not as if the Bengals have faced weak competition either, as they have held both Dalvin Cook and David Montgomery to 20 carries and 61 yards on the ground before holding Najee Harris to 14 carries for 40 yards in Week 3. Both Pittsburgh (15 receptions) and Minnesota (11 receptions) have been able to create running back receiving value despite Cincinnati’s success defending the run.
|Week 4 Rushing Chart|
|Las Vegas||at LA Chargers||Great|
|Philadelphia||vs Kansas City||Great|
|LA Rams||vs Arizona||Great|
|San Francisco||vs Seattle||Good|
|Seattle||at San Francisco||Good|
|LA Chargers||vs Las Vegas||Good|
|Kansas City||at Philadelphia||Good|
|Pittsburgh||at Green Bay||Neutral|
|Tampa Bay||at New England||Neutral|
|New Orleans||vs NY Giants||Neutral|
|Tennessee||at NY Jets||Neutral|
|Arizona||at LA Rams||Neutral|
|Green Bay||vs Pittsburgh||Tough|
|NY Jets||vs Tennessee||Tough|
|NY Giants||at New Orleans||Bad|
|New England||vs Tampa Bay||Bad|