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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Minnesota at LA Chargers
Dalvin Cook appears to be back to peak Dalvin Cook form after dominating last week in a tough matchup against the Ravens rushing for 110 yards on just 17 carries. To put that into context, Cook was the first running back to rush for over 100 yards against the Ravens since Week 11 2020 against the Titans. Since coming back from injury, Cook has averaged 109 yards rushing in three tough matchups against Carolina, Dallas and Baltimore. The one thing to keep an eye on this week is the Covid impact for Minnesota as Garrett Bradbury, Dakota Dozier, and a practice squad tackle all are dealing with Covid at the moment so hopefully it does not expand. Of those players only Bradbury is a regular starter, but it can spread rapidly.
It's become tradition at this point, that the Chargers are hitting lead off in our best matchup writeup. They have been in this article now every week since Week 3, and unless they find a way to change things drastically can be expected to be an every week mainstay. Last week, the Eagles ran the ball a staggering 39 times while throwing the ball just 17 times in this game. In total they amounted 176 yards and 2 touchdowns as this defense just continues to not be able to stop anyone. The problem with this defense just continues to be that the front seven is the weakest in football as outside of Joey Bosa, there is not a player to get excited about. This is a team that is entirely dedicated to stopping the pass, as Kyzir White and Dru Tranquill are decent pass defenders and even better pass rush linebackers but find themselves consistently out of position and the defensive line is not doing them any favors as they are having to try to shed a block while out of position which that combination makes it almost impossible.
Buffalo is coming off of likely one of the biggest upsets in 2021 after failing to score a touchdown against Jacksonville and losing the game 9-6. The lack of running game was evident when Zack Moss departed after just three carres with a concussion which has put his status in doubt heading into this week. Devin Singletary was not much better as he produced just 16 yards on 6 carries while the rushing attack once again ran through Josh Allen who was able to pickup 50 yards on the ground in the losing effort. While this is a true low-volume running back split in the purest sense of the definition, the total rushing offense has been effective as they rank 11th in rushing yards per game with 120 yards per game. No player on the Bills is averaging more than 45 yards per game, but if Moss is out this week with a concussion Devin Singletary becomes intriguing in a favorable matchup this week.
The Jets run defense has fallen on hard times after a strong start to the season. The Jets have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs, the second-most rushing yards per game, the most rushing touchdowns per game, and the most receptions and receiving yards in the NFL. Over the last three games, the Jets have allowed a staggering 10 touchdowns to opposing running backs. We could keep listing stats all day, but long story short, this is a defense that is one of the worst in the league. The big reason here is the linebacker group is the worst in the NFL. Between Jarrad Davis and C.J. Mosley, this is a group that consistently struggles at making plays. For Mosley, while the tackle numbers are there, many of those are combined tackles in which he has needed help making the play. Also, for Mosley who was a coveted free agent acquisition and 4-time Pro Bowler, he has more missed tackles this season than he had in his final Pro Bowl season in 2018 where he only had 6.3% missed tackle rate, this season he is up to 14.5%.
Pittsburgh vs Detroit
Najee Harris is a bit of an enigma this season. In terms of actual production, there is nothing flashy from the running back who is averaging just 3.6 yards-per-carry and 3.25 over his last three games. However, the reason he is so effective is just on a pure volume basis as he has a staggering 72 carries over his last three games. Pittsburgh has had their share of offensive line issues this season but do appear to be a unit that has improved throughout the season as they originally started as Matt Bitonti’s worst offensive line, and has now jumped up to the 10th worst.
Detroit’s rushing attack has been a culmination of game script and just an overall lack of talent as the Lions are officially on 0-17 watch this season. On the year, Detroit is allowing 110 yards rushing per game and 1.3 touchdowns per game and coming off a game in which they allowed 144 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns to Philadelphia running backs and another 71 yards to Jalen Hurts. The Lions have allowed the 2nd-most rushing attempts per game this season ahead of only the Chargers who we discussed earlier. Unlike the Chargers they have actually been a better defense as they’re firmly in the middle of the pack for yards-per-carry at 4.3. The issues for Detroit are that their linebacker group is weak as Alex Anzalone has really struggled with run stopping this season and the rotation between Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Derrick Barnes simply has not worked this season. Expect another high carry game this week from Najee Harris and while he may not have 150+ yards this week, he should have another very impressive performance.
LA Rams at San Francisco
There seems to be a change in philosophy for the Rams as they are moving toward the split backfield that they had talked about when they added Sony Michel. Ever since Darrell Henderson struggled against the Lions, Michel has had 9 and 7 carries against Houston and Tennessee while Henderson has had 14 and 11 carries. The lighter workload for Henderson while not great for fantasy, seems to be working so far as he’s averaging 5.8 yards-per-carry in those two games while Michel has been adequate at 3.9 albeit often coming in on shorter yardage plays which lead to lower output.
San Francisco’s run defense has fallen on hard times after losing to the Colt McCoy led Arizona Cardinals last week. The 49ers have now allowed 70 or more yards rushing in three consecutive games as teams have adapted towards a run heavy approach mostly due to how good the pass defense has been. Over the last three weeks, the 49ers have allowed 28.6 carries compared to just 20.8 in their first five games. While likely not a factor in this game, the 49ers have struggled against running quarterbacks as they’ve allowed the most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks on the season. The way to beat this team is to ensure that Joey Bosa and Arik Armstead are blocked (their on the same side of the ball most of the time) and have a blocker on Pete Warner at linebacker. If you can get to the second level, these safeties have struggled mightily to stop the run and are susceptible to give up a big play.
Kansas City at Las Vegas
All signs are pointing towards the Chiefs getting Clyde Edwards-Helaire back this week which is a significant help to this offense that has been sputtering as of late. Prior to the game that he was injured against Buffalo, Edwards-Helaire was showing why he was a first-round pick as he had back-to-back 100 yard performances against Philadelphia and LA Chargers. Edwards-Helaire is not a volume player as this is still a pass first offense, but the best thing about him as a running back is he rarely takes negative plays. Some running backs look for the home run play every time so while their stat line ends up looking great if they find it, in terms of sustaining drives it doesn’t help the team. Edwards-Helaire is the exact opposite of that, he will gladly take 6-7 yards instead of trying to bounce something to try to hit 50 while if it doesn’t work gain nothing.
The Raiders are coming off of arguably their worst run-stopping performance of the season. Devontae Booker and Elijhaa Penny had struggled mightily in the weeks heading into this game and to allow 134 yards on just 26 carries is just a terrible performance for a duo who were averaging 3.3 and 3.2 yards-per-carry this season. The Raiders are strong on the outside of the defensive line with Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, but up the middle is where they have struggled this season. Both Quinton Jefferson and Jonathan Hankins have struggled with consistency, so if there is any success for the Chiefs to have this week, it would be up the middle to try to eliminate the pressure that Mahomes is going to be under coming off the edge.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Tennessee vs New Orleans
It is difficult to panic after just one week and in a win none the less, but this Titans rushing attack is in severe trouble without Derrick Henry. The Titans tried three different running backs with Adrian Peterson, Jeremy McNichols and D’Onta Foreman none of which had success this week as they had 74 yards on 22 carries which if not for the two touchdowns setup by their defense could have been a completely different narrative. Expect for the Titans to continue to struggle as this is a sub-par offensive line ranked 24th according to Footballguys expert Matt Bitonti.
New Orleans run defense continues to be in the discussion as the best in the NFL. With the return of Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata, this has turned into a defense that has become almost impossible to run against as evidenced by Atlanta’s 34 rushing yards on 25 carries which is just a ridiculous 1.4 yards-per-carry. On the season, they have given up the fewest rushing yards per game (73.8) and have seven out of eight opponents to 90 yards or fewer. This is a unit that simply does not have any holes as both their defensive line along with their linebacking groups are incredibly solid. At the linebacker and safety position, the Saints have two of the best in veterans Demario Davis and Malcolm Jenkins who hardly ever are out of position.
Washington vs Tampa Bay
Heading into this week there are still some concerns for Antonio Gibson who has been playing through a stress fracture in his shin which led him to have just eight carries last week as Jaret Patterson took on a majority of the work with 11 carries. Expect a split backfield this week as Gibson has remained limited in practice this week. Patterson is a more than capable runner although has struggled as a receiving back which has been filled by J.D. McKissic who excels as a receiving back.
Tampa Bay continues to be in the discussion as the best run defense in the NFL. If you know the story by now, they’ve been featured in this article every single week this season and likely every single week last season. They have a unit that is cohesive returning all starters from the Super Bowl winning team, and are designed to stop the run. This is likely the biggest defensive line in the NFL and while Vita Vea or Ndamakong Suh are not going to post staggering stats, their impact on the game is profound as their job is to plug holes and keep blockers from getting to the second level to allow Lavonte David and Devin White to clean up the plays. Tampa Bay is allowing just 78 yards-per-game and 3.9 yards-per-carry as they did struggle against Khalil Herbert allowing their first 100 yard rushing game of the season back in Week 7. Taylor Heinicke could be in a good spot rushing this week as the Buccaneers have allowed 38 yards or more in three straight games to opposing quarterbacks.
New England vs Cleveland
The Patriots backfield suffered some key injuries that will likely limit them heading into Week 10 as both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson suffered concussions and have not practiced so far this week. It seems unlikely that they will play, which will leave Brandon Bolden as the primary ball carrier for the Patriots. Bolden looked strong in his limited workload last week as he had 54 yards on just 8 carries. Bolden has made a career out of being a special team’s player as he has never had more than 63 carries in a season dating back to 2012 when his career started. If there is good news for Bolden it is that the offensive line has developed into one of the better units in football as Michael Onwenu and Shaq Mason are both playing at a Pro Bowl caliber level while the rest of the offensive line has seemingly no holes this season.
Cleveland continues to be a defense that is not going to be a shut down defense, but they are going to limit you between 70-90 rushing yards in most games. The Browns have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards-per-game at 84.8 this season and while they are coming off of two somewhat difficult matchups in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, they held both teams under 100 yards total rushing. This is a defense that is built outside in as their edge players are elite led by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on the outside. The middle can be more beatable and is the path most teams take Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell have both struggled with consistency this season. The Browns could get a major lift this week as Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was designated for return. He has been the team's best linebacker this year prior to going out with an injury and if he's able to play this week puts this defense into the upper echelon of the elite run-stopping units.
New York Jets vs Buffalo
After getting injured last week with a nerve contusion, Mike White will once again get the start for the Jets which is great news for the running backs in Michael Carter II and Ty Johnson who should receive a nice reception boost with White who likes to check down to his running backs. This is a Jets rushing attack that is young and has struggled with consistency this season as Michael Carter II has topped 50 yards rushing just twice this season while Ty Johnson has not done it. This is a split backfield situation which for the team that runs the ball the fewest in the NFL (21.2 times per game) is not a great place to be.
The Bills have quietly turned into one of the more dominant run defenses in the NFL as they once again shut down the Jaguars rushing attack as Carlos Hyde had 67 yards but it took 21 carries for him to get there. On the season, they have allowed just one running back to top 70 yards which was Derrick Henry back in Week 6, but they’re allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs at just 15.7 PPR points. This is a defensive line that finally is playing to their strengths of how they were built as Star Lotulelei is a significant piece of this defense with all the space that he can eat up on the defensive line to draw the double team off of Ed Oliver.
Detroit at Pittsburgh
D'Andre Swift has struggled over the last few weeks, so the hope is that a bye week will recharge the running back to bring him back to the electric runner that we saw earlier in the season. In a very favorable matchup against Philadelphia, Swift amounted just 27 yards on 12 carries as the Lions were thoroughly blown out 44-6 in that contest. Swift The key thing to watch in this game is the health of Jamaal Williams, as Swift could be in line for some additional touches if Williams is once again out this week with a thigh injury. This is an offense that is a low-volume rushing offense as Swift is averaging just 11.3 carries-per-game so expect Swift to do more damage through the air this week rather than as a pure rusher.
Pittsburgh’s run defense has been solid as they’re allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. While not a shut-down unit by any means, this is a defense that excels in the Red Zone as they have allowed just two touchdowns to running backs (rushing or receiving) on the season. They do give up their fair share of yardage as they have allowed seven running backs to top 60 yards, but do not allow the huge games as no running back has topped 101 yards this season. Running on the off-tackle is almost not an option in this game as you have to choose whether you are going to run at Cameron Heyward or T.J. Watt both of which are playing at an All-Pro level and make it near impossible to run against. The only success teams have really had this season is to run it up the middle which is not the Lions strength with Dandre Swift so this could make for a long game for the Lions this week.
|Week 10 Rushing Matchups|
|Minnesota||at LA Chargers||Great|
|Buffalo||at NY Jets||Great|
|LA Rams||at San Francisco||Great|
|Kansas City||at Las Vegas||Great|
|Seattle||at Green Bay||Good|
|LA Chargers||vs Minnesota||Good|
|Green Bay||vs Seattle||Good|
|Las Vegas||vs Kansas City||Neutral|
|Tampa Bay||at Washington||Neutral|
|San Francisco||vs LA Rams||Neutral|
|Cleveland||at New England||Neutral|
|New Orleans||at Tennessee||Tough|
|NY Jets||vs Buffalo||Bad|
|New England||vs Cleveland||Bad|
|Washington||vs Tampa Bay||Bad|
|Tennessee||vs New Orleans||Bad|