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Top 5 Rushing Matchups Week 2
Green Bay vs Detroit
The Green Bay rushing offense got off to a rough start on the road against New Orleans in Week 1, where the game was out of hand early, creating minimal opportunities for the Green Bay running game. The offensive line is still dealing with big losses at left tackle with David Bakhtiari on IR, and losing right tackle Rick Wagner and Center Cory Linsley in the offseason. The Packers only ran 15 times for 43 yards, with second-year running back AJ Dillon leading the team in yards (19). There should not be a lot to read into about Dillon outproducing Aaron Jones, as the game got away from the Packers early, and Jones should be the lead back in normal game script. The Packers will be a solid home favorite against the Lions in what projects as a get-right game for the offense.
The Detroit Lions defense is coming off a game against the San Francisco 49ers which saw an Elijah Mitchell breakout after Raheem Mostert’s injury. The Lions gave up 131 yards on 28 carries and performed as a bottom-five run defensive unit in Week 1. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers was questionable heading into Week 1 but played and finished third on the team with five tackles. The biggest injury for the defense is in the secondary, with cornerback Jeff Okudah tearing his Achilles in Week 1 which will put even more pressure on the defensive line as the secondary will be a liability for the Lions in this game. There are still a number of questions facing the Lions particularly at the linebacker position as Jamie Collins Sr has struggled for the past few seasons, and Alex Anzalone has never been a top tackle guy, so consistent tackling is something that the Lions will need to develop quickly as a lot of pressure will be put on Collins to get back to his time in New England.
Arizona vs Minnesota
The Arizona Offense ran for 136 yards on 33 carries against the Tennessee Titans in a road win in Week 1. The offense saw a split between James Conner and Chase Edmonds. Conner led the team in carries (16 to 12) but it was Edmonds who led the backfield in rushing yards (63 to 53). Edmonds also handled the backfield’s passing game work where he caught four passes for 43 yards compared to no passing game work for Conner. Right tackle Kelvin Beachum left Week 1 with a rib injury that is expected to be day-to-day and is expected to play in Week 2.
The Minnesota defense gave up 149 yards on the ground to the Cincinnati Bengals, the seventh-highest of Week 1. While the overall yardage surrendered was high, the game went to overtime, and the Bengals ran the ball 36 times, the third-highest rushing attempts on the week. A big question for the Vikings will be the health of linebacker Anthony Barr who missed Week 1 with a knee injury. The defense made several penalties that kept them on the field and could have cut short Cincinnati’s possessions and ability to establish the run, a fixable problem that could help their defense in the coming weeks.
Baltimore vs Kansas City
The Baltimore Ravens ran for 189 yards on Monday Night Football against the Raiders in a loss. The running game was led by Lamar Jackson’s 86 rushing yards, with Latavius Murray leading the running backs in carries ahead of Ty'Son Williams (10 to 9). The volume did not tell the full story as Williams outrushed Murray (65 to 28) and played ahead of Murray early in the game. Both running backs ran for a touchdown on the ground, with Williams contributing the only running back production in the receiving game (3 receptions for 29 yards). The status of recent additions Devonta Freeman and Le'Veon Bell is a big source of uncertainty in the backfield.
The Chiefs struggled in Week 1 as they gave up 153 yards on Sunday to one of the best rushing units in the league in the Cleveland Browns. The Chiefs had one of the bottom five performances against the run on Sunday and will not get much of a reprieve before facing another preeminent rushing offense in the form of the Ravens. The defenses dodged a bullet with Anthony Hichens leaving the game in the first half with an apparent arm injury before returning in the second half. The ability of the offense to get ahead of the Ravens will be a key in determining in protecting the run defense. This remains a team that is designed to stop the pass
LA Chargers vs Dallas
The Chargers Offense ran for 90 yards against a stingy Washington defense in Week 1. Austin Ekeler led the team in carries (15) and yards (57). The notable feature in the backfield was the emergence of Larry Rountree III ahead of Justin Jackson who only saw one carry and Josh Kelley who was inactive. Tackle Brian Bulaga reaggravated a groin injury in Week 1 and may miss Week 2. The Chargers get a significant improvement in opportunity when they face the Dallas Cowboys at home in Week 2.
The Dallas defense graded out as one of the better run units in Week 1 and gave up the third-fewest rushing yards (52). The defense has not been fully tested as the Tampa Bay offense threw the ball 50 times to only 14 carries. The defense has the addition of linebacker Micah Parsons, who has all but taken over for Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith in Dallas’s revamped defense. The new scheme under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has returned early progress will be tested more on the ground in the coming weeks.
Washington vs NY Giants
The Washington Football Team offense lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip injury in Week 1 which creates some uncertainty heading into Week 2. The offensive line performed among the bottom ten-run blocking units in the league but the offense features a consolidated workload for Antonio Gibson atop the depth chart, with 20 carries ahead of Jarrett Patterson (2) and J.D. McKissic (1). Despite the Fitzpatrick injury, Washington will be a home favorite on a short week on Thursday night, which should allow Gibson should get a positive game script.
The Giants struggled to get off the field and stop big plays in Week 1, however for the most part there is some promise to this defense. The overall numbers for the Giants were atrocious allowing 165 yards on 28 carries (5.9 yards-per-carry). The big issue for the Giants is their linebackers as Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, and Oshane Ximines struggled to stop the veteran in Melvin Gordon III. The defensive line remains a tough unit and can close up holes which caused rookie Javonte Williams to struggle. This will be a good test for the Giants who came into the season with high expectations and could show some promise to regress back to the middle of the pack defense.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups Week 2
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
The first week of the Arthur Smith offense was a disappointment, with the team getting blown out at home by the Eagles. Mike Davis was the leading running back with 15 carries and 49 yards, with Cordarelle Patterson operating as the secondary back ahead of Wayne Gallman who was inactive. Davis added three receptions with Patterson adding two, which demonstrates more flexibility than the running back position had in Smith’s Tennessee offenses.
The Tampa Bay defense played well in opening night, with the Cowboys throwing heavily in Week 1. The Cowboys threw the ball 58 times compared to only 18 rushes, the ninth-best rushing yards-per-carry for Week 1 defenses (3.7). Tampa Bay should be able to score on the Atlanta Defense, making it hard for the Falcons to lean on the run in Week 2. This remains the top unit in the NFL the cohesiveness combined with the defensive line being able to eat up blocks freeing Devin White and LaVonte David make this a defense that is going to likely be the best defense all season.
Carolina vs New Orleans
Christian McCaffrey had 187 total yards, leading the team in both receptions (9) and receiving yards (89) while carrying all of the running back carries (21). The Carolina offensive line had one of the best offensive line performances in Week 1, as the team attempts to alleviate pressure from Sam Darnold. Even in tough matchups, Carolina’s running back volume should be high enough to protect his floor. The big question heading into this year is the offensive line which Footballguys expert Matt Bitonti has ranked as the 31st offensive line as Cam Erving and Pat Elflein have been replacement-level players throughout their career and are starting on the left side of the line.
The New Orleans defense held the Packers down in Week 1, after getting a big lead early in the game. The Saints played like a top 5 run defense in Week 1, and they were able to hold the running backs to 2.9 yards-per-carry, the second-best performance of a run defense in Week 1. The defense should be even better than the defense that we saw in 2021 as they saw productive snaps from Kwon Alexander who was on the field for 60% of the snaps in Week 1. This is a unit that is going to see even more pressure with Marshon Lattimore out, as they will have to pay more attention to the pass.
Houston at Cleveland
The Houston rushing offense featured Mark Ingram II (26 carries) ahead of Phillip Lindsay (8 carries) and David Johnson (3 carries). Ingram’s role as the primary ball carrier has relegated David Johnson to the receiving game where he caught three passes, for 18 yards, and a touchdown. Despite a good fantasy scoring performance, Johnson is a lesser committee back than his fantasy scoring would suggest. Likewise, Ingram may be fools gold as Houston is unlikely to get the favorable game script necessary to give him 26 carries in a game.
The Cleveland Browns were a top-performing run defense in Week 1 and were able to hold Kansas City’s running backs to 15 carries and 47 yards. The performance was partially game script related as the Browns held a lead until late in the fourth quarter, which forced Kansas City into a pass-heavy offense. Cleveland is a home favorite against the Houston offense in Week 2 which should help cap the Texans rushing upside. From a skill standpoint, this remains one of the top defenses in football and the scary part is that it was the first week playing together as a majority of their starters did not play during the preseason. Myles Garrett and Ja’Deveon Clowney combined with space eaters in Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell make this one of the best run-defenses in football.
New York Giants vs Washington
The Giants had a poor performance losing by two scores at home in Saquon Barkley’s return from his 2020 torn ACL. Barkley struggled along with the whole offense but had a 10 to 4 carry advantage over Devontae Booker while both were held to only one reception. While the offense struggled, Barkley was below his expectation on his yards-per-carry (-0.66) and the least efficient runner in the NFL this week.
Washington’s defense was a top half of the league unit against the run in Week 1 and was able to keep the Chargers to only 3.1 rushing yards per attempt, a top-five performance. The Washington defense was a similarly high-performing unit in 2020, so the defensive performance is a continuation of last year’s strength. Washington’s offense without Ryan Fitzpatrick may suffer and allow opposing offenses to have more favorable game scripts than they otherwise would against a Fitzpatrick-led offense. This continues to be one of the top defensive lines in the NFL as it is made up of four first-round picks in Daron Payne, Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat make this a defense difficult to deal with against the run.
Tennessee at Seattle
Tennessee’s offense struggled in Week 1, under new offensive coordinator Todd Dowling, and the running game was no exception. Derrick Henry struggled mightily as while he ended up with 58 yards on 17 carries, he was averaging one yard-per-carry for most of the game. The offensive style and scheme under the new offensive regime is a critical watch in the coming weeks, as Week 1 could be an example of a bad start to the season that gets on track, or a sign of misery to come. The big concern for the Titans is how poorly the offensive line played. Taylor Lewan looked awful for most of the game and there seemed to be no cohesiveness on the offensive line.
Seattle was a top half of the league performing defense in Week 1 and held a strong Indianapolis rushing attack to 113 yards on 30 carries. The Colts were able to salvage strong running back scoring performances because of 12 combined receptions and 108 combined yards from Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, an area of the offense the Tennessee offense is poorly suited to exploit the Seattle defense. Seattle’s offense should be able to move the ball on the Tennessee defense, which could make it difficult for the Tennessee offense to commit to the ground game in negative game script.
|Green Bay||vs Detroit||Great|
|Baltimore||vs Kansas City||Great|
|LA Chargers||vs Dallas||Great|
|Washington||vs NY Giants||Great|
|Dallas||at LA Chargers||Good|
|New Orleans||at Carolina||Good|
|Indianapolis||vs LA Rams||Good|
|Pittsburgh||vs Las Vegas||Neutral|
|NY Jets||vs New England||Neutral|
|New England||at NY Jets||Neutral|
|Detroit||at Green Bay||Neutral|
|Philadelphia||vs San Francisco||Neutral|
|Tampa Bay||vs Atlanta||Neutral|
|San Francisco||at Philadelphia||Neutral|
|Kansas City||at Baltimore||Tough|
|Las Vegas||at Pittsburgh||Tough|
|LA Rams||at Indianapolis||Tough|
|NY Giants||at Washington||Bad|
|Carolina||vs New Orleans||Bad|
|Atlanta||at Tampa Bay||Bad|