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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Arizona vs Houston
Arizona should be amongst the biggest favorites of Week 7, which should greatly benefit them in the running game due to a positive game script this week. The dual threat of Conner and Edmunds has paid off so far for Arizona as they are sixth in the NFL in total rushing yards this season. While James Conner has led the Cardinals in carries (13.2 per game), Chase Edmonds has more rushing yardage (316) than Conner (272) despite only carrying the ball 8.8 times per game. Edmunds is the primary receiving and change of pace back, so with the spread heavily favoring Arizona, it may be more of a Conner-centric game script than an Edmonds-centric passing game in Week 7.
Houston’s run defense has been abysmal this season, as the 1-5 Texans has surrendered the sixth most rushing attempts per game (29.8) and the second most rushing yards per game (141.3). Houston’s defense has given up the 10th most points in the league to running backs (26.1) but the fifth fewest receiving points per game to running backs (8.3). Houston has surrendered 100 yards rushing each week since Week 2 and are fresh off surrendering 145 yards and two touchdowns to Jonathan Taylor in Week 6. Houston has notably played two weak rushing offenses, Buffalo and New England, which has likely inflated their performance against the run through six weeks. This is one of the worst defenses in football this season as the front-seven has been abysmal this year. Zach Cunningham who was once lauded as an under-the-radar linebacker is having the worst season of his career, while the defensive line is not doing this team any favors as they are getting dominated seemingly game after game.
Tennessee vs. Kansas City
What more is there to say about Derrick Henry at this point after his Monday Night incredible performance. Derrick Henry is coming off a 20 carry, 143 yard, and three touchdown performance, his fifth straight game with 113 yards or more. Henry leads the league in yards per game (130.5) and total carries through six weeks (162), and has seen a notable increase in receptions per game (2.7) over last season (1.2). The Titans offensive line is banged up as left tackle Taylor Lewan was injured on Monday Night Football and is in the concussion protocol. With a short week, he may have a difficult time getting cleared by Sunday. Henry’s matchup s a good one as long as Tennessee can stay with Kansas City and does not have to play from behind against the Kansas City offense.
The Kansas City defense relies on taking away the run through game script as they havegiven up the 17th most rushing attempts per game (25.8) but the sixth most rushing yards per game (133.2). The Kansas City defense ranks 10th in points allowed to opposing running backs (26.1). There is some hope for this defense as while they started poorly, after facing the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in the first two weeks of the season, they have rebounded, surrendering no worse than 121 rushing yards and holding two opponents, the Chargers and Washington, under 100 yards. The Chiefs will be without Anthony Hitchens this week as he is dealing with an elbow injury, but that could be a good thing as he has been abysmal so far this season against the run, while Willie Gay Jr filled in nicely for Hitchens last week. Hitchens and Ben Niemann have been two of the worst linebackers in football this season.
Houston at Arizona
Houston rushing attack has almost everything working against it this season as they are a bad football team, have a rookie quarterback, have limited talent at running back, and have the worst offensive line according to Matt Bitonti. The Houston offensive line is a struggle, with Right Tackle Marcus Cannon undergoing back surgery and Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil expected to miss a month with a thumb injury. The division of labor in the backfield is relatively predictable, with Mark Ingram II the rushing centric option (14.3 rushes per game) and David Johnson the leading receiving option out of the backfield (3 targets per game). Ingram is in a tough situation as the game script could lead more towards David Johnson.
The Arizona Cardinals philosophy of defense is to score enough to hide their poor run defense. This defense on the season ranks 20th in rushing attempts against (24.7) but has surrendered 128 yards per game, the ninth most in the league. When teams run against this defense they have success as evidenced by the 5.2 yards-per-carry. Arizona could be turning the corner here as they are coming off a dominant performance against a beat-up Cleveland Browns team holding one of the league’s top rushing offenses to only 73 yards, the lowest Arizona allowed has allowed this season. Houston’s offensive line looks very similar to what Cleveland rolled out there last week, but as of now, the Texans still have an opportunity to establish the run which would likely be the only path to keep this game close this week.
New Orleans at Seattle
The New Orleans Saints will travel to Seattle on Monday Night Football. The Saints will be a road favorite, coming off a bye, against the Seahawks without Russell Wilson. Both left tackle Terron Armstead and center Erik McCoy are eligible to return from Injured Reserve and their status should be monitored during the week. Alvin Kamara as a runner has been solid this season as he is the clear leading running back in this offense, averaging 18.8 carries and 73.6 yards per game, which has overshadowed his limited role in the offensive (3 receptions per game) compared to earlier years in his career.
Offenses have had success attacking Seattle’s defense on the ground, surrendering 32 carries per game, the second most in the league, and 140.8 rushing yards per game, the third most in the league. Seattle has given up the fourth most points to opposing running backs (30.7) while also surrendering the fourth most points to running backs in the receiving game (14.2). Seattle has surrendered at least 110 rushing yards each game this season, but was able to hold Najee Harris to only 81 rushing yards on 24 carries in Week 6 on Sunday Night Football. The big issue is that this defense simply is relying too much on Bobby Wagner as he leads the NFL in tackles, while the rest of the linebackers and safeties have struggled mightily against the run. Jamal Adams continues to play very uninspiring football despite claiming he’s the “best in the nation” on Sunday Night Football.
Las Vegas vs. Philadelphia
The Raiders are off to a great start this season, but the rushing game has not been a key reason why as it has been abysmal thus far. Josh Jacobs is the leading running back in the backfield, but has struggled, with 3.2 yards per attempt, on his 13.5 carries per game. Despite the loss of Head Coach John Gruden, there was no discernable effect on Jacobs’s workload in Week 6. On the year, Jacobs does not have a carry longer than 15 yards, and has just three over 10 yards which is a big factor into him not topping 3.4 yards-per-carry in any game this season which is horrendous. It will be interesting to see how long the playoff hopeful Raiders can manage with Jacobs as their lead guy or if they start a guy like Kenyan Drake who has only seen 18% and 21% of the snaps each of the last two weeks.
Philadelphia has surrendered the most carries per game to opposing offenses (33 per game) and 135.3 rushing yards per game, fifth in the league. The Eagles have given up the seventh most points to opposing running backs per game (28.6). Philadelphia has given up 100 yards in each week this season and is fresh off surrendering the RB1 finish to Leonard Fournette in Week 6. The issue for the Eagles continues to be the play up the middle for the Eagles. Fletcher Cox once a dominant run-stopper is no longer that player, while Javon Hargrave at defensive tackle is more of a pass rushing tackle than a run-stopper, and most of all Alex Singleton at linebacker has really struggled with consistency shutting down the run.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Seattle vs. New Orleans
The Seahawks are an absolute mess this season as Chris Carson was put on injured reserve in Week 6, handing the reigns of the running back position over to Alex Collins. In the absence of Carson in Week 6, Collins saw 60% of the snaps over DeeJay Dallas who played 34% of snaps. Collins had 20 of the 26 running back carries as Dallas was used primarily as a pass catching option for Geno Smith and the Seahawks passing offense. Collins will also benefit from the fact Seattle has one of the best offensive lines in the league.
New Orleans run defense continues to be one of the best units in the NFL on a year in year out basis. This season is no different as they has given up the second fewest rushing yards per game (79) on 23.6 carries, the seventh most carries in the league which is just mindblowing. The Saints have also defended against running backs well, ranking 25th in points allowed to running backs (20.5). This defense should be getting even better this upcoming week as Kwon Alexander should be returning which is a great sign for the Saints as they add depth to this elite run-stopping unit.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Joe Mixon continues to be the heart of the Bengals offense as when he succeeds this offense is tough to stop. Mixon has seen double digit carries in every week this season, and outside of the injury shortened Week 5 game, Mixon has seen at least 17 touches per game. Mixon posted a season high receiving line in Week 6, (6 targets, 5 receptions, 59 receiving yards and a touchdown) heading into a good matchup in Week 7. played in Week 6 with Samaje Perrine missing Week 6 while on the COVID-19 list. Cincinnati is one of the league average offensive lines, but Right Guard Xavier S'ua-Filo has been placed on injured reserve and replaced by Jackson Carman, a downgrade at the position.
The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the better run defenses in the league, surrendering the third fewest carries (20.2) and rushing yards per game (82). The Ravens have been dominant against lead running backs as they have not allowed a running back top 56 yards while facing a fairly difficult schedule thus far (Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon III, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Josh Jacobs). The Ravens are coming off of an extremely dominant performance as they held Austin Ekeler to just 7 rushing yards last week. This is a defense that is one of the worst at stopping running backs catching the ball out of the backfield, but in terms of just pure run-stopping performance this is one of the best. Calais Campbell is once again playing at an All-Pro level while Chuck Clark has been outstanding this year at the safety position coming down to make consistent plays.
Cleveland vs. Denver
Cleveland’s offense has been decimated by injury this week. They will be without their starting quarterback, top two running backs, both offensive tackles, and could be without their top two wide receivers. Last week, Cleveland had mediocre success before Kareem Hunt went down with a calf injury that placed the running back on IR. D’Ernest Johnson projects to start and only has three carries on the season, but had a career performance when thrust into action last year in Week 4 when he ran 13 times for 95 yards. Rookie Demetric Felton has played only two snaps as a running back this season, instead lining up primarily as a wide receiver through five weeks but could be a reserve option behind Johnson in Week 7.
The Denver Broncos have been one of the better run defenses in the league, surrendering the fifth fewest carries (22.8 per game) along with the fourth fewest yards (85.5 per game). Denver has been even more dominant against opposing running backs, allowing only 16.9 points per game, the second fewest points allowed to opposing running backs. The Denver Broncos are dealing with some injuries as they lost linebacker Alexander Johnson to a torn pectoral in Week 6, along with reserve Linebacker Andre Mintze to Injured Reserve and will have to adjust on a short week. Johnson is a major blow to this defense as he was the only consistent run-stopping linebacker that they had, so this will put additional pressure on Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons both who have been solid at stopping the run this season.
Denver at Cleveland
Denver will be a road underdog on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. So far this season, the Denver Broncos are a full blown committee with Melvin Gordon III averaging 13.8 touches compared to 13.2 for Javonte Williams through Week 6. Last week, the two Broncos running backs were nearly identical as Melvin Gordon III had 10 carries for 50 yards, while Javonte Williams had 11 carries for 53 yards. This seemingly has been the trend on the season as neither running back has been able to separate themselves. On the year, Gordon has 332 yards compared to Williams’ 300 yards on five less touches.
Cleveland’s defense so far this season has been the bright spot of what otherwise has been a disappointing season thus far this year. On the year, Cleveland has allowed the sixth fewest rushing yards per game (87) and has surrendered the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs through six weeks (17.2). The defensive line is the bright spot as they are led by their two defensive ends in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. The Browns will be without rookie sensation Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah who was placed on IR this past week which will put additional pressure on free agent acquisition Anthony Walker to step up this week.
Chicago at Tampa Bay
The Bears found a bright spot in Khalil Herbert this past week as he had 97 yards rushing on 19 carries and should have had over 100 yards with a second touchdown if not for a horrendous holding call this past week. Damien Williams missed last week due to Covid, and Matt Nagy has not commented on his status this week as he remains on the Covid list. Williams would jump back into the starting role, but expect a very similar story to Week 5 for the Bears in which the two running backs split the carries pretty evenly. Williams would likely win out later in the game due to the tough matchup and Herbert’s inability to catch the ball, as well as the game script as the Bears are significant underdogs this week going on the road.
The Buccaneers continue to be the premiere run-stopping unit in the NFL this season. On the season, Tampa Bay has not allowed a running back to top 67 yards which required Sony Michel 20 carries to get to and have held opposing running backs to an incredible 42 yards-per-game. The defensive line for Tampa Bay continues to be dominant as Vita Vea, Ndamakong Suh, and William Gholston make up one of the biggest defensive lines in football which allows Devin White and the linebackers to have space to clean up tackles. This is an extremely well coached unit that has been playing with each other for a long time that just makes it an absolute nightmare for opposing rushing attacks.
|Week 7 Rushing Matchups|
|Tennessee||vs Kansas City||Great|
|New Orleans||at Seattle||Great|
|Las Vegas||vs Philadelphia||Great|
|Philadelphia||at Las Vegas||Good|
|LA Rams||vs Detroit||Good|
|Carolina||at NY Giants||Good|
|New England||vs NY Jets||Good|
|Detroit||at LA Rams||Neutral|
|Green Bay||vs Washington||Neutral|
|Kansas City||at Tennessee||Neutral|
|Washington||at Green Bay||Neutral|
|NY Giants||vs Carolina||Neutral|
|Indianapolis||at San Francisco||Neutral|
|San Francisco||vs Indianapolis||Tough|
|Tampa Bay||vs Chicago||Tough|
|NY Jets||at New England||Tough|
|Seattle||vs New Orleans||Bad|
|Chicago||at Tampa Bay||Bad|