Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
Go here for this week's Passing Matchups
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Baltimore vs LA Chargers
Baltimore’s running game continues to run through Lamar Jackson as this offense continues to deal with significant injuries. Baltimore continues to be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley who is suffering from an ankle injury. Alejandro Villanueva has taken Stanley’s spot on the left side of the line. The Baltimore offense again was led by Latavius Murray, the third consecutive week he led the backfield in touches. Notably, Ty’Son Williams was active in Week 5 after being a healthy scratch in Week 4, when the Ravens made Le’Veon Bell active instead. Williams only had four carries last week and did nothing with them amounting just six yards. Latavius Murray continues to be the lead back, but even he only had 6 carries in a game that Baltimore fell behind early in this past week after having 18 carries the prior week.
The Chargers scheme to protect against the passing game and create a run funnel making a good matchup for opposing running offenses. The Chargers are coming off a shootout win against the Browns in Week 5, where they surrendered 230 rushing yards, including a 21 carry, 161-yard, one touchdown performance by Nick Chubb and a 12 carry 61-yard, two touchdown performance by Kareem Hunt. Outside of a 48-yard performance by the Raiders in Week 4, the Chargers have surrendered 126 or more rushing yards, and in three of the last four games they have surrendered 186 or more rushing yards. The issue for the Chargers is that they are incredibly weak up the middle. This is a defense that has gotten incredibly poor performances thus far out of their defensive tackles in Christian Covington and Jerry Tillery. This greatly impacts a linebacker and safety unit that are better coverage players than run stoppers. This defense greatly lacks an identity against the run.
Cleveland vs Arizona
The Cleveland Browns will be a small home favorite against the Arizona Cardinals in one of the higher point totals of the week. Left Tackle Jedrick Wills missed Week 5 with an ankle injury, so his status is a monitor. If Willis plays, the Browns will have an offensive line advantage against the Cardinals defensive line. In the past three weeks, Nick Chubb has had 22 touches in each week, while Kareem Hunt has 16, 16, and 17 touches respectively. The big advantage the Browns have almost every week continues to be on the offensive line. Led by Joel Bitonio who is in conversations as one of the best offensive guards in football.
The Cardinals are another team that is designed to stop the pass and score enough points to game script the run out of the game plan for the opposing offenses. This season, they have given up at least 91 rushing yards through five weeks but bounced back from a 216 rushing yard performance by the Rams in Week 5 by holding the 49ers to only 94 yards. The Cardinals have surrendered the 25th most points to opposing running backs through Week 5 (20.1 points per game). The matchup for the Cardinals will be difficult in the form of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but Arizona played well against Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook earlier in the season. The linebacker play for the Cardinals continues to be a problem as Jordan Hicks is no longer the player he was earlier in his career and he is relied upon heavily to be the run-stopper on this defense.
Washington vs Kansas City
Outside of two very difficult matchups against New Orleans and Buffalo, Antonio Gibson has been solid thus far this season. Gibson is averaging just 2.8 yards-per-carry in those contests, while against Atlanta, New York Giants, and LA Chargers, Gibson is averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry. This week, Washington is once expected to be without right guard Brandon Scherff who suffered a sprained knee in Week 4. With Scherff out, Washington should have an average offensive line against Tampa Bay in Week 6.
Kansas City has had one of the worst defenses in the league through five weeks enroute to a 2-3 start. Overall, Kansas City has given up the fourth most rushing yards in the league (705) through five weeks, has faced a strong group of running quarterbacks in the form of Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and Josh Allen. These quarterbacks have likely made the defense look worse against the run than they would be for opposing running backs. Their performance against running backs in the running game as the Chiefs have surrendered the 13th most fantasy points to opposing running backs (26 points per game). This is by no means a good unit, but it could show some improvement over the next few weeks, but their issue continues to be at linebacker as Anthony Hitchens is one of the worst linebackers in the NFL while Daniel Sorenson is not much better and has been one of the worst safeties over the last several years.
Pittsburgh vs Seattle
After being one of the worst offensive lines in recent memory to start the year, the Steelers offensive line is starting to show moderate improvements. It is still an incredibly flawed unit, but right tackle Chuk Okorafor has returned from a concussion and played in Week 5, Pittsburgh turned heavily to the run in Week 5, with Najee Harris carrying the ball 23 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. The game plan against Seattle on a short week will be an important watch for an offense that has struggled to throw the ball this season.
The Seahawks lack of run defense has really been a shocking revelation to start the 2021 campaign. Seattle has given up at least 113 rushing yards in each week and surrendered the second most rushing yards in the league through five weeks (726). Seattle has given up the fourth most fantasy points to running backs through five weeks (31.5), including the second most rushing yards (127 per game). This is a unit that relies heavily on Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams as they have one of the worst linebackers alongside Wagner in Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks. While this worked last year, they also had K.J. Wright to help stop the run. The issue is that Jamal Adams’ play has significantly deteriorated since he got his big contract this offseason. They still have enough talent in Wagner/Adams who at times have been the best run-stopping units in football, but they need to get back to that quickly. Keep an eye on Bobby Wagner this week as he’s dealing with a bruised knee. If he’s not able to go, this could be devastating for the Seahawks.
Carolina vs Minnesota
Carolina’s offense is a bit of an unknown heading into Week 6. Christian McCaffrey appears to be 50/50 to play this week, and the team could be less incentivized to play him if he is not 100% healthy due to Chuba Hubbard showing he can handle a heavy workload last week as he ran for 101 yards and had 29 total touches. On the offensive line, left tackle Cameron Erving missed Week 5, and should be a monitor in Week 6, for one of the weaker offensive lines in the league. If McCaffrey is able to go this week, expect him to be near 100%, as they have been overly cautious with him and when he plays he typically gets a full allotment of snaps.
There seems to be some turmoil in Minnesota due to the lack of success in stopping the run so far this season. Star linebacker Eric Kendricks called out the coaching staff after last week’s game talking about how the team does not have a proper game plan going into the game and they are relying too heavily on half-time adjustments. The Vikings have surrendered over 100 yards in the running game each week, as the Vikings have given up the 11th most rushing yards through five weeks (650), which coincides with surrendering the 11th most points to opposing running backs. Outside of Kendricks, the outside linebackers have struggled in Nick Vigil and Anthony Barr at consistently stopping opposing rushing threats.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Philadelphia vs Tampa Bay
The Eagles are in a tough spot this week. Left tackle Lane Johnson has been on personal leave and his status for the return for the rest of the season is unknown. Miles Sanders is ahead of Kenneth Gainwell in priority in the backfield, but Philadelphia has operated one of the most pass heavy schemes in the NFL over the last three weeks. Over the last three games, Miles Sanders has just 20 total carries as much of the running game has gone through Jalen Hurts who has carried the ball 26 times over that same time span. The tackles on the Eagles continue to be a bright spot, while the guards are an issue as the team has really struggled at running up the middle this year.
Tampa Bay’s rushing defense continues to be the gold standard of the NFL. On the season, they have surrendered the fewest rushing attempts, the fewest yards, the lowest yards-per-attempt, and the second-fewest touchdowns. Teams have just completely tried to avoid rushing against this team and instead have picked on the passing game. There is some concern for the Buccaneers in this game as Lavonte David has been ruled out, so they will be without their best run-stopping linebacker which could create some vulnerability as more pressure is going to be put on Devin White who has dealt with consistency issues throughout his career. This is still a front four on the defensive line that is incredibly difficult and should give the Eagles offensive line some trouble.
Seattle at Pittsburgh
Seattle will look to rely on their rushing attack more in the upcoming weeks due to Russell Wilson’s finger injury that will keep him out of Week 6 and beyond. The Seattle Seahawks have one of the top 10 offensive lines in the league, which they may need to lean on. Chris Carson is questionable once again this week, but did not participate on Wednesday. If he’s unable to go, Alex Collins will once again be the clear starting back. Collins did not have much success running the ball this past week as he had just 47 yards on 15 carries in a neutral matchup against the Rams.
Pittsburgh’s run defense has been up and down throughout this season. They played well in week’s 2 and 3, but have stumbled the last few weeks as they have allowed 131 yards to Green Bay and 106 yards to Denver. has played well against he run, holding the Raiders and Bengals below 100 yards on the ground in Weeks 2 and 3 before giving up 131 and 106 rushing yards to Green Bay and Denver the past two weeks. Pittsburgh has been the fourth toughest matchups for opposing running backs in fantasy points (16.7 per game) and have shut running backs out of the end zone, through five weeks, the only defense to not allow a running back touchdown this year. Joe Schobert has been a nice addition for the Steelers as Schobert while flawed in the passing game, has been good against the run this season. Nothing that he does is flashy, but he’s in the right position nearly at all times.
Las Vegas vs Denver
Anticipating what Raiders team will show up this week is anyone’s guess. The Raiders are more unpredictable because of John Gruden’s resignation this week. The offensive line for the Raiders is also a mess as they are trying to rotate players around. The Raiders have moved Alex Leatherwood to right guard after a failed attempt at right tackle earlier this season. Since returning from injury, Josh Jacobs has struggled as while he is averaging 14 carries per game, he is just averaging just 44 yards-per-game in those two games including a very favorable matchup against the Chargers.
Vic Fangio’s second season for the Broncos has been nothing short of a success defensively. Through the first five weeks, this defense has been one of the best against the run. The Broncos have allowed the 6th fewest rushing yards through five weeks (427 total), giving up the lowest amount of fantasy points to running backs (12.7 per game). Denver almost broke Baltimore’s 100-yard consecutive performance in Week 4 allowing 102 yards, before giving up a surprise breakout performance to Najee Harris in Week 5 who had the best game of his career with 122 yards and a touchdown. This remains a very good unit as A.J. Johnson has developed into a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker so far this season. Johnson has benefited from the defensive line as Mike Purcell and Shelby Harris have been great on the season.
New England vs Dallas
The Patriots offensive line has been struggling with injuries to Trent Brown along with a COVID-19 outbreak forcing Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu to miss last week. Their return is a critical monitor along with Damien Harris who missed time with an injury during the Week 5 performance. Harris, Wynn, and Onwenu all missed practice on Wednesday which could create turmoil for the Patriots this week. If Harris is unable to go, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson took the lead role for the Patriots, but he was largely uninspiring as he ran 11 times for 23 yards in relief of Harris in Week 5.
Dallas defense has been a bit of a surprise so far this season against the run. has performed well against running backs, giving up the 25th most points (20.1). Dallas has reshaped the linebackers as Keanu Neal has largely stepped in and replaced Jaylon Smith who was released this past week. Neal is an undersized linebacker who converted from safety this past offseason. This is a defense that from a talent standpoint still has gaps as Micah Parsons has been a great player this season, but Leighton Vander Esch has struggled with consistency throughout his career. This is a defense that is playing extremely well as the moment, but they are somewhat propped up due to their offensive success and getting out to big leads. There could be some regression coming for the Cowboys, but facing a banged up Patriots team they should be able to shut down the run.
Arizona at Cleveland
Kliff Kingsbury is known for a pass heavy offense in his days at Texas Tech, but is quietly producing a top-10 rushing offense in the NFL this season. The Cardinals on the season are averaging 128 yards rushing per game and a big reason is the dual threat in James Conner and Chase Edmonds. The problem for defenses as it is a scheme issue as with the Cardinals running a spread offense it reduces the number of people in the box and puts significant pressure on one-on-one matchups. Like a lot of teams this season, health will once again be an issue for the Cardinals as right tackle Kelvin Beachum is questionable with a rib injury. Chase Edmonds is also once again questionable in this game as he is still dealing with the shoulder injury, but should be fine this week.
The Browns rebuilt defense took a step back this past week as they allowed three touchdowns to Austin Ekeler which was something that he has never done in his career. However, the overall stats for Cleveland were not that bad as they held Ekeler to just 66 yards on 17 carries which was his lowest yards-per-carry (3.9) on the year. Cleveland’s defense has performed well against running backs through five weeks, holding opposing teams to only 17.1 points per game, the fifth best defensive performance to date. Cleveland has been the beneficiary of some favorable running matchups, including Kansas City in Week 1, Houston in Week 2, and the disastrous Justin Fields game in Week 3. Cleveland’s defense should face a different test in the form of a backfield with enhanced receiving abilities of Chase Edmonds and James Conner. On the defensive side of the ball, John Johnson continues to be one of the better run-stopping safeties in the NFL, while Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is one of the best defensive rookies so far this season. Jadeveon Clowney is questionable this week after missing this past week with knee soreness and would be a tough loss if he is unable to go this week.
|Week 6 Rushing Matchups
|vs LA Chargers
|vs Kansas City
|vs LA Rams
|at NY Giants
|vs Las Vegas
|at New England
|vs Green Bay
|vs Tampa Bay