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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Pittsburgh at LA Chargers
The Pittsburgh Steelers draw a fantastic matchup against the Chargers in Week 11. The Steelers over the last several weeks have turned into a run-heavy team with Najee Harris locked in as the lead back. Over the last five weeks, Harris has totaled 23, 24, 26, 22, and 26 carries as the team continues to utilize the first-round draft pick. The offense was without Ben Roethlisberger in Week 10, who was on the COVID-19 list and struggled as a consequence. All signs points to Roethlisberger being able to play this week, which will help the rushing attack significantly as
The Chargers have allowed the most rushing yards to opposing offenses per game (155.1). The Chargers are coming off a loss to the Vikings, where they held the Vikings backfield to 110 yards on 28 carries. The issue for the Chargers continues to be both personnel and scheme. The linebacker position has been a weakness for the Chargers all season, but it did show glimpses of improvement this past week as Kenneth Murray returned from injury that has kept him out most of the season. The Chargers have a defense structured to prevent the passing attack and give up lower efficiency rushing yards, but their approach against a weak Pittsburgh passing game may need to be modified.
Miami at NY Jets
Since the injury to Malcolm Brown, the Dolphins have turned to Myles Gaskin as the primary ball carrier in this offense. Gaskin, who has struggled with consistent volume is now struggling to succeed with the expanded role. Over the past four weeks, Gaskin has double-digit carries each week, averaging 15.25 carries, but only once had more than 36 yards during the stretch, his 67-yard performance in Week 7 against Atlanta. The Dolphins’ offensive line is middle of the league in production to date.
The Jets run defense has simply fallen apart as of late. On the season, the Jets have given up the fourth-most rushing yards per game (133.9), but since the bye week, they have allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing running backs in just 4 games. The Jets have given up 13.9 points per game more to opposing running backs than running backs have scored against their other opponents, the worst performance against running backs in the league, by a wide margin. The Jets have surrendered a rushing touchdown in every game since Week 1, and multiple touchdowns in 3 of the past 4 games. Last week, the Bills simply dominated this game in all facets, but they only needed to run the ball 17 times, but found the end zone 3 times while amounting 98 yards on the ground.
Cleveland vs Detroit
The Cleveland Browns offense was dominated by the Patriots defense in Week 10, but the Browns were able to rush for 99 yards on 20 carries. D’Ernest Johnson stepped into the leading role with Nick Chubb missing Week 10 on the COVID-19 list while Kareem Hunt is on injured reserve. When Chubb has been healthy, he has played between 47% and 57% of snaps, leaving Johnson the ability to carve out a flex viable role in a good matchup as a big favorite. As of Wednesday, Kareem Hunt has been ruled out once again, while Nick Chubb is still on the Covid-19 list. If Chubb is unable to go once again, Johnson should be in line for the bulk of the workload as Johnson saw 88% of the snaps last week.
The Lions have surrendered the third-most rushing yards per game (135.7), and the third-most points per game to opposing running backs (29.0). The Lions are coming off a tie with the Steelers in Week 10, where they held Najee Harris to 106 yards on 26 carries. The Lions have only surrendered rushing touchdowns in one of the past five games, a four rushing touchdown performance by the Eagles in Week 8. This is a defense that has struggled with personnel as Alex Anzalone who has been a good run-stopping linebacker in his career has struggled mightily, but the defensive line is not doing the Lions any favors either as Michael Brockers, Nick Williams and rookie Levi Onwuzurike simply are not making enough plays.
Tampa Bay at NY Giants
Tampa Bay is coming off a two-game losing streak. Tampa Bay ranks 27th in rushing yards per game (90.9) while the work is almost entirely consolidated in Leonard Fournette, with 67% of the running back carries on the season. After posting a season-high 10 carries in Week 7 in a blowout win against the Bears, Ronald Jones II has four total touches in the two games since, including one snap in Week 10. This is a rushing offense that will continue to be Leonard Fournette’s who has shown that he is matchup dependent as when he is facing teams such as Philadelphia, and Chicago he has looked dominant, while he looks mediocre in difficult matchups. The good news is this should be a highly favorable matchup for Fournette this week.
On the season, the Giants have given up the sixth-most points per game to opposing running backs (27.8) and the fourth most rushing yards for opposing running backs (110). The Giants are coming off a bye but gave up effective rushing performances to Kansas City (24 carries for 97 yards) and Las Vegas (17 carries for 106 yards) the prior two weeks. The Giants are a team that get exposed when facing quality rushing attacks, as they have allowed over 100 yards to Dallas (185), New Orleans (142), LA Rams (120), and even struggled against some of the mediocre rushing offenses in Denver (146) and Las Vegas (106).
Tennessee vs Houston
The post-Derrick Henry backfield has been an absolute nightmare in terms of both production and a committee-based approach. In the two games Henry has missed, the team has run the ball 27.5 times per game, down from 33.4 rushing attempts per game when Henry played. The rushing yards per game have more than cut in half, down from 147.1, near the top of the league in rushing production, to 67.5 rushing yards per game, which would be the worst in the league. Adrian Peterson, D’Onta Foreman, and Jeremy McNichols have worked in a committee the first two weeks, with Foreman leading the team in snap share in Week 10. Foreman is the player to keep an eye on here as Jeremy McNichols is dealing with a concussion and Adrian Peterson looks completely washed up as he has just 42 yards on 18 carries. While Foreman is averaging less than 4 yards-per-carry if there was a running back to take over this offense it would likely be Foreman.
Houston has been the perfect storm of game scripts and personnel both leading towards a very poor run defense. On the season, they have surrendered the second most rushing yards per game (136.9) and the second most rushing touchdowns (15). The Texans have given up 1.5 points per game more to opposing running backs than running backs have scored against their other opponents, the ninth most favorable matchup on the week. Houston is coming off a bye with an additional week to prepare for the matchup. What remains to be seen is what Houston will do from a personnel standpoint, as by all accounts they tried to trade highly paid linebacker Zach Cunningham who has been the focal point for the team’s struggles alongside Kamu Grugier-Hill. Cunningham’s role has been shrinking ove the last several weeks as Cunningham has 20 snaps or less in three of his last four games, but was on the field for a vast majority of their last game. If Cunningham can get back to playing at a Pro Bowl level, this is a defense that could turn around quickly.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Philadelphia vs New Orleans
In the seven games Miles Sanders has played this season, Philadelphia has 23.9 rushing attempts and 116.7 yards per game, which would rank 12th in full season rank. However, in the three games Sanders has missed, the Eagles have averaged 42 rushing attempts per game, and 209.3 yards per carry, which would easily rank 1st in the league. During Sanders’s absence, Howard has averaged 13.7 rushing attempts per game and 70.3 rushing yards per game. Boston Scott has played in a committee with Howard, with 11 rushes per game and 60.3 rushing yards per game while it has been Kenneth Gainwell operating as the clear third running back. The structure of the running game will change when Sanders returns, so watch for early week practice reports. The recent dominance was fueled by a blowout against Detroit and facing the league’s worst rushing defense (Chargers) in the three-game stretch.
For the first time in quite some time, the Saints have overtaken the Buccaneers as the most difficult matchup of the season. This is a Saints defense that is next to impossible to run against as evidenced by the fact that they have only allowed one running back to top 60 yards on the season which was Christian McCaffrey who had 72 yards back in Week 2 and it took him 24 carries to get there. The Saints have given up 5.5 fewer points to opposing running backs than teams have scored against their other opponents, the second-worst matchup of the week. The Saints have surrendered the fewest rushing yards per game (72.9) and should be a clash of matchups with the new look Eagles' offense. This is a defense that we’ve talked about only getting better over the last few weeks as they are now healthy and essentially have Pro Bowlers at every position now that David Onyemata is back and healthy at defensive tackle.
NY Giants at Tampa Bay
The New York Giants are coming off a Week 10 bye, with the hope that Saquon Barkley can return from his ankle injury. Barkley also was placed on the COVID-19 list during his sprained ankle recovery, so watching his status during the week will be important. Devontae Booker has largely handled the workload with Barkley out this season, with 15.75 rushing attempts per game in games where Barkley played, compared to only 7 total carries in the games he and Barkley both played and Barkley was not hurt. Barkley should have a full workload when he returns from his injury.
Tampa Bay, along with Tennessee, has given up the fewest rushing attempts to opposing running backs (17) through Week 10 and surrendered the second-fewest running yards per game on the season (79.8). The Buccaneers are a combination of having an elite front seven with extremely strong cohesion led by Vita Vea and Lavonte David, but a big reason why teams don’t even try to run against this defense is that their pass defense is a weaker unit. After giving up 100 yards to Khalil Herbert in Week 7, the Packers held Alvin Kamara (19 carries and 61 yards) and Antonio Gibson (24 carries and 64 yards). The three touchdowns they allowed in the past two weeks to Kamara (1) and Gibson (2) are the first running back rushing touchdowns since Week 2.
Buffalo vs Indianapolis
The Buffalo Bills had a big win over the New York Jets in Week 10 but still did not manage a 50-yard rusher. Zack Moss has been the leading snap share running back in games where he is not injured since Week 3, but it was Devin Singletary who lead the team in rushing yards (43) in Week 10. Matt Breida was also an active participant, with 3 of the 17 running back carries, and his two total touchdowns may only make the running back corps more crowded in coming weeks. Breida’s addition to the running back rotation would further muddle a low volume backfield.
Indianapolis has quietly become one of the better run stopping units in the NFL as most people wrote them off after a big Week 1 from Chris Carson and a big Week 3 from Derrick Henry. The Colts have held opposing offenses to low rushing volume in the past two weeks, with Jacksonville’s running backs (14 carries, 61 rushing yards, and one touchdown) and the New York Jets (17 carries and 70 yards) after containing Derrick Henry to 68 yards on 28 carries in Week 8. The Colts' performance against the run along with Buffalo’s pass-heavy lean, sets up for a potentially low volume rushing attack for Buffalo in Week 11. This is a defense that has a very strong defensive line led by DeForest Buckner, but progressively gets worse as you get further away from the ball as the linebacker unit has Darius Leonard who is a great linebacker, but the rest of the linebacking group is inexperienced and inconsistent, while the safety group have struggled this season with the injury to Khari Willis.
NY Jets vs Miami
The Jets saw the return of Tevin Coleman from injury in Week 10. With his return, Coleman took his share out of Ty Johnson’s snap share, with Coleman primarily a running-centric option and Johnson working in the passing game behind starter Michael Carter. This is a Jets unit that is averaging just 76 yards rushing per game which is the third-worst in the NFL as while Michael Carter has shown flashes at the running back position as a receiver, he is averaging just 3.6 yards-per-carry as a running back and does not have a carry over 20 yards this season. The offensive line is ranked 29th in the NFL by Footballguys expert Matt Bitonti which does not bode well for them going forward. Tackle Mekhi Becton remains on injured reserve with a knee injury and could soon be activated to return.
The Dolphins have allowed 109.3 rushing yards per game, the 18th most in the league, but much of the damage was done early in the year. The Dolphins have allowed three 100 yard rushers out of the backfield in Damien Harris (100 yards in Week 1), Peyton Barber (111 yards in Week 3), and Jonathan Taylor (103 yards in Week 4), but have not allowed running back to rush for more than 73 yards since Week 4. This is a defense that has completely turned around since that early week struggle and while a significant part of this has been the schedule, they are allowing only 3.8 yards per carry and just allowing 17 carries per game over their last six games. This is a defense that over the last three games to Buffalo, Houston and Baltimore has not allowed a running back to top 35 yards which does not bode well for the Jets running backs this week.
Chicago vs Baltimore
Chicago is coming off a Week 10 bye as they face the Baltimore Ravens. In Week 9, David Montgomery returned from injury and reclaimed his role at the top of the depth chart. Against the Steelers in Week 9, Montgomery ran 13 times for 63 yards while Khalil Herbert ran four times for 13 yards. The Chicago offensive line is in flux, with Larry Borom starting at right tackle, and Tevin Jenkins nearing a return from abdominal surgery. The Bears are also above expectation in run rate based on the game situation on the season. Look for the Bears to continue to build a game script with Justin Fields’ legs as Fields has now run for an average of 57 yards per game over his last four games.
Baltimore has performed well against the run, allowing only 88.2 rushing yards per game, the fourth-best performance in the league. This is a team that while coming off a good performance against Miami has shown cracks in their run defense as they gave up more than 110 yards per game in each of the prior two games, against Minnesota and Cincinnati. This is a unit that has some of the best players in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball in Calais Campbell and Justin Houston, but the problem is at the linebacker position there are real issues as Patrick Queen is one of the worst run-stopping linebackers in the NFL and has seen his role significantly decrease down to an average of 48% of the plays when he was an every down linebacker to start the season.
|Week 11 Rushing Matchups
|at LA Chargers
|at NY Jets
|vs NY Giants
|at Las Vegas
|vs San Francisco
|vs Green Bay
|at Kansas City
|vs New England
|at Tampa Bay
|vs New Orleans