Go here for this week's Passing Matchups
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
New England at LA Chargers
The Patriots are fresh off a 54-13 victory against the Jets in Week 7, when Damien Harris ran 14 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. One of the bigger stories of the game was Rhamondre Stevenson as a healthy scratch in favor of J.J. Taylor. Taylor himself scored two touchdowns, but both were late game garbage time situations. Damien Harris has scored in three straight games, with 14, 18, and 14 carries in Weeks 5, 6, and 7 respectively, and is locked into a leading role in the running back corps. Harris has been productive with his volume averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry as the team looks to continue to build the running game to help their weak pass blocking offensive line.
Over the past four weeks, the Chargers have given up the third most points per game (31.2) to opposing running backs. The Chargers are without starting linebacker Kenneth Murray who has been on injured reserved with an ankle injury, while Drue Tranquill, who has filled in for Murray, is nursing a chest injury. The Chargers have given up the most rushing yards (132) to opposing running backs through Week 7 and the third fewest running back receiving yards (27) per game, which sets up as a good matchup for Damien Harris, who has done nearly all of his work on the ground. The Chargers linebacker depth is a major issue as this is a team that is built to rush the passer and shut down the pass, but their 5.3 yards-per-carry against the run is a major weakness.
Jacksonville vs Seattle
Jacksonville is coming off a bye after playing Week 6 in London where they were able to grind out a win against the Dolphins, with a strong fantasy performance from James Robinson. Robinson has scored in four straight games, with 15, 18, 18, and 17 carries through that stretch, while finishing in the top 12 of the position each of those weeks. The Jaguars run-blocking unit has been one of the bright spots this season as they get an A- grade from Footballguys offensive line expert Matt Bitonti. If there is something to keep an eye on for the Jaguars, it is the continued development of center Tyler Shatley who is replacing starter Brandon Linder. Shatley played well in his first full game against Miami as James Robinson ran for 73 yards and a touchdown in London.
Seattle has been maligned as a poor defense, with the second most points allowed by running backs per game through seven weeks, allowing 31.4 points per game. Notably, the damage has been worse in receiving yards, allowing the second most receiving yards (71 per game), and was been shredded by Alvin Kamara in Week 7 (10 receptions and 128 yards and a touchdown) and Najee Harris (6 receptions and 46 yards and a touchdown) in Week 6. This is a defense that outside of Bobby Wagner continues to lack an identity. Outside of Wagner, Jordyn Brooks has been awful at the other linebacker position, and this is a team that does not trust their pass defense so they’re forced to play in Nickel coverage for essentially the entire game.
LA Rams at Houston
Darrell Henderson disappointed a lot of fantasy managers last week with just 45 yards in a premiere matchup against Detroit. Since Week 3, Darrell Henderson ranks 10th amongst running backs in fantasy points per game (20.1). Henderson’s usage is also notable, because he has had a snap share of more than 80% in all but an injury shortened Week 5 performance (where he had 66% snap share). Henderson is shaping up to be one of the lower profile bell cow running backs in an elite offense. The Rams rushing defense has been one of the most favorable in the NFL, so it will be interesting as the season goes on how good this Rams run offense truly is as they have faced Arizona, Seattle, NY Giants and Detroit in four consecutive weeks and now have another favorable matchup against Houston.
Houston has given up the 10th most points to opposing running backs on the season (25.8), and have had a difficult time defending against negative game script, being held to less than 7 points in three of the last four games. Over the last two weeks, this is a defense that has largely fallen apart as they allowed 145 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 14 carries to Jonathan Taylor, and 145 yards combined to James Conner and Chase Edmonds. The linebacker play of Houston has been downright abysmal as Zach Cunningham who previously had been an above average player at middle linebacker has struggled so much that the team has had to make a move and essentially bench him. They’re playing more of a Nickel package, but Kamu Grugier-Hill and Christian Kirksey do not have the ability to consistently make tackles. The defensive line has been decent as Jonathan Greenard has made a significant jump up in play after a poor rookie season.
Arizona vs. Green Bay
Arizona projects to be a home favorite on Thursday Night in one of the bigger game totals of the week. After working in a close tandem with James Conner in prior weeks, Chase Edmonds led the backfield in touches (16) and total yards (90), while Conner was able to score a rushing touchdown in Week 7. There was speculation that injuries were the reason Edmonds was in a time share with the Conner in recent weeks, so the resurgence of Edmonds in Week 7 is a positive development and a trend to monitor. This is likely still going to be a timeshare albeit more in Edmonds favor going forward with Conner taking on more of a short yardage back. The other thing to note here from a rushing perspective is the lack of running that Kyler Murray has needed to do over the last three games. Murray has ran for just 17 total yards over the last three games as the Cardinals have opened up big leads in the first half. In a close game this week, and in a primetime game, look for Kyler to open up a little more as he did in the first few weeks of the season.
Green Bay is an interesting situation heading into this game as they’re struggling mightily with Covid. The Covid status of the Green Bay defense could make this a situation to monitor after Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Week 8. The Packers will also be without Jaire Alexander who is one of the team’s best run defenders on the edge. This is a team that has been inconsistent throughout the year as they’re allowing 4.9 yards-per-carry which is the second-worst in the NFL, but have not allowed a 100-yard rusher (albeit Khalil Herbert should have if not for a run that was called back by a questionable holding penalty). Where the Packers really struggle is stopping the quarterback which could open up for a big day for Kyler Murray on the ground. Taylor Heinicke ran for 95 yards last week, while Fields, Goff, and Winston all had strong rushing performances as well. The Packers are strong up the middle with De'Vondre Campbell who right now is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, but the edge is a disaster as Rashan Gary and Jonathan Garvin have not consistently produced at stopping defenses off tackle.
Green Bay at Arizona
Green Bay is likely going to have to rely heavily on their rushing attack this week as their wide receiving room has been decimated with Covid. Both Davante Adams and Allen Lazard have been added to the COVID reserve list after a positive test early in the week, and will not play this week. Marquez Valdes-Scantling appears to be trending in the right direction as he made the trip with the team, but is still on IR at the time of this publishing. Without their top three wide receivers, Green Bay is going to have to get the running game right after struggling last week in a win against Washington. Aaron Jones managing just six carries and 19 yards, his worst performance since Week 1. Jones had previously seen double digit carries in his prior five games. Jones has been a bit of a disappointment this season, with six touchdowns, but only two since his four-touchdown performance in Week 2. Expect a heavy dosage from Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon this week.
The Arizona defense is a difficult defense to figure out as they have been up and down throughout the season largely looking better than some of their indicators and personnel based on game script forcing opponents to abandon the run. The Cardinals are allowing 5.0 yards-per-carry on the season which is second in the NFL only ahead of the Chargers. However, when you look at overall points scored by opposing running backs, this is a defense that has been solid due to only allowing one rushing touchdown on the season and no receiving touchdowns to running backs which inherently will correct itself even if just a little bit. The Cardinals will be without J.J. Watt this week which is a major blow to this defensive line as Watt once again is showing that he still has something in the tank as he has been a complete disruptor on the defensive line often unblockable.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Since taking over the majority of the snaps in Week 4, Leonard Fournette has been the RB5 in points per game (23.9). While Giovani Bernard was brought to Tampa Bay with the thought he would be the receiving centric option in the passing game, it is Fournette that leads the team in receptions (13) and yards (136). Fournette has largely been propped up by two elite matchups in Philadelphia and Miami, but is starting to show that he can be a top reliable running back for the rest of the season assuming he is healthy. This is one of the best offensive lines in football as they returned everyone from last season and Tristan Wirfs is developing into one of the better tackles in football, while Ali Marpet may be the best guard in the NFL this season.
The Saints dominance against the run continues this year as they have allowed just one running back to top 60 yards this season which was Christian McCaffrey who required 24 carries to run for just 72 yards. The Saints are coming off a strong defensive performance against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football, holding Seattle’s trio of running backs to 58 rushing yards on 23 carries. The defense has held every running back they’ve faced which includes Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Antonio Gibson to under 75 rushing yards this season. The linebacker play for the Saints has been elite as Demario Davis and Pete Warner have both been excellent this season. The Saints do get a big upgrade this week as David Onyematta will return after serving his six-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
New Orleans vs Tampa Bay
While Alvin Kamara did have a big performance on Monday Night Football against the Seahawks with 179 total yards and a touchdown. Kamara struggled on the ground with 20 carries and 51 yard. The Saints realized that there is a potential issue and an overdependency on Kamara which caused them to go out and trade for Mark Ingram II who could step in and spell some carries from Kamara from time to time as the Saints look to keep the star running back fresh. The Ingram trade likely is an indicator that Tony Jones may not return from injured reserve but should not threaten Kamara’s role as a bell cow in the Saints offense, as the Saints best offensive weapon.
Tampa continues to be the gold standard when it comes to run-stopping ability. Opposing offenses have basically stopped trying to run against this unit as part of it is due to the game script of having to face the high-powered offense, but also this is a defense that is almost impossible to run against allowing just 3.7 yards-per-carry which is the third-best in the NFL this season. Opposing teams have averaged a total of only 14 running back carries for 51 rushing yards per week. In Week 7, Chicago’s third string running back, Khalil Herbert, ran 18 times for 100 yards while adding another 33 yards receiving on 5 receptions, the first time a running back has had more than 67 yards rushing this season, and only the second running back with more than 11 rushing attempts this season.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
As good as Najee Harris has been for fantasy football due to his pass catching ability, he has struggled mightily as a pure running back. Harris is averaging just 3.8 yards-per-carry, while most of that is propped up due to his big performance in Week 5 against Denver in which he ran for 122 yards. Outside of that game, he is averaging just 3.3 yards-per-carry, so consistency has to become more of a regular item for Harris for the Steelers to continue to have a season that they are hoping for. This offense appears to be running completely through Harris as he has 47 carries over the last two weeks as the Steelers have largely moved on from the injured Benny Snell.
Cleveland’s rebuild defense has paid off so far against the run as they are allowing given up the fifth fewest points to opposing running backs (18.8), and are one of the league’s best units. The Browns have an unbelievable build on the defense this season as while they are by no means a perfect unit, their strengths compliment each other as on the defensive line they are strong on the outside but a little susceptible up the middle as Malik Jackson and Malik Mcdowell have struggled with consistency. However, at the linebacker position they are built inside out, as they are strong up the middle with Anthony Walker, but are susceptible on the outside. At safety they have one of the best run-stopping safeties in the NFL in John Johnson III to clean up anything that gets past either of the two units.
Denver vs Washington
The Broncos have lost four straight games after starting 3-0 and have only scored more 20 points once during the stretch after producing 27, 23, and 26 points in Week 1 through 3 respectively. Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams are locked into a full-blown committee, with Gordon averaging 11.1 attempts per game, compared to 9.9 attempts per game for Williams. Williams has out targeted Gordon (22 to 19) slightly through seven games, making it difficult to leverage the proper play in a given week. While Javonte Williams has shown that he can be the more explosive runner, he has more plays where he is unable to move the ball and statistically these two running backs are nearly identical they just get the yards in different ways.
Washington is a run defense that is a good unit propped up by their elite defensive line, but they also receive the benefit statistically of having quite possibly the worst pass defense in football which decreases the number of carries the Football Team has to face down to just 20 per game. Even still, the Football team are only allowing 3.5 yards-per-carry on the season to opposing running backs and have only allowed one running back to top 70 yards which was Alvin Kamara with just 71 yards. This is a defense that their defensive line while not generating a significant pass rush is still one of the best in football led by Jonathan Allen up the middle and Chase Young on the edge.
Miami at Buffalo
Miami’s running attack is a bit of a mess this season. On the season, the Dolphins are the second-worst in the NFL with just 80 rushing yards per game, and things don’t get any easier this week as Malcolm Brown suffered a quad injury and was placed on IRearly in the week. This may open up additional snaps and touches for Myles Gaskin or Salvon Ahmed. Brown has averaged 4.7 carries per game, which is not a significant amount, but could consolidate with Gaskin’s 7.7 carries per game and create a RB2 type workload. Last week, Miami took a more balanced approach as they ran the ball 29 times compared to throwing 40 times, which is a much better number than some of what they had earlier in the season where they often just forgot to even think about running the ball.
Buffalo’s defense has a chance to regroup after getting gashed by Derrick Henry during Monday Night Football in Week 6 as he ran for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns. Even with that Derrick Henry performance, Buffalo has surrendered just the second-fewest points to opposing running backs on the season (17.0 per game). Prior to Henry’s 20 carry 143-yard and 3 touchdown rushing performance, the Bills had not allowed a running back to top 50 yards, had only allowed one rushing touchdown, and were trending towards the top unit in the NFL. This is still an incredibly talented unit especially the front-seven, but if there is some concern it is at the safety positions as Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are two of the best coverage safeties in football, but have struggled at consistently making run-stopping plays this season.
|New England||at LA Chargers||Great|
|LA Rams||at Houston||Great|
|Arizona||vs Green Bay||Great|
|Green Bay||at Arizona||Great|
|Cincinnati||at NY Jets||Good|
|NY Giants||at Kansas City||Good|
|Kansas City||vs NY Giants||Good|
|Houston||vs LA Rams||Neutral|
|LA Chargers||vs New England||Tough|
|Chicago||vs San Francisco||Tough|
|San Francisco||at Chicago||Tough|
|NY Jets||vs Cincinnati||Tough|
|New Orleans||vs Tampa Bay||Bad|
|Tampa Bay||at New Orleans||Bad|