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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Chicago at Detroit
In his two games back from injury, David Montgomery has returned to the leading role in the backfield but has only averaged 13.5 carries and 60.5 rushing yards per during that time. The Bears will be without Justin Fields on a short week and face a cloud of uncertainty looms over the Bears, as rumors suggest Matt Nagy will be fired after the game. Fortunately for Montgomery, the Bears will be favored against a bad run defense. Damien Williams is dealing with an injury and even when healthy the backup running back has been given to Khalil Herbert.
Detroit’s run defense has struggled for most of the season as they have given up the second most rushing yards per game (140.5) and the fourth most rushing yards to opposing running backs (115). The Lions have been pummeled in recent weeks by Nick Chubb (22 carries for 130 yards), Najee Harris (26 carries for 105 yards), and an all hands-on deck approach by the Eagles where Boston Scott, Jordan Howard and Kenneth Gainwell combined for 144 yards on 35 carries. Edge defender Trey Flowers has missed practice early in the week as he attempts to play on a short week while dealing with a knee injury. The Lions have major issues on the front seven as Alex Anzalone has been one of the worst linebackers in the NFL, and the defensive line in Michael Brockers and Nick Williams have struggled to consistently make plays up the middle. The Bears should have a big day on the ground.
Denver vs LA Chargers
The Broncos enter this week with the 19th most rushing yards per game on the season (111.5 yards per game), with a nearly even split between Melvin Gordon III (11.8 carries per game and 52.2 rushing yards per game) and Javonte Williams (10.3 carries per game and 51.4 rushing yards per game). The passing game split is likewise split, with the edge going to Gordon having five rushing touchdowns to one for Williams. The offensive line for Denver is incredibly banged up with both tackles missing the last two games and questionable heading into this week, and they lost starting right guard Graham Glasgow for the year earlier this season. With a good matchup, the workshare between Gordon and Williams could make both flex options.
The Chargers have given up the most rushing yards per game to opposing offenses on the season (145.1) but have performed better in recent weeks. The Chargers held Najee Harris to 12 carries for 39 yards in Week 11 and Dalvin Cook to 24 carries for 94 yards in Week 10. The Chargers have returned linebacker Kenneth Murray from injury the past two weeks, and Murray could play a role in improving the defense for the rest of the season but he has struggled on low volume through two weeks back. The interior of the Chargers defensive line continues to be a problem, and they’ll be without Linval Joseph this week who is the veteran on that defensive line.
Houston vs NY Jets
Houston is coming off a road win against Tennessee in Week 11 and will find themselves a home favorite against the Jets. The Texans cut Phillip Lindsay during the week, which will consolidate the workload into David Johnson, Rex Burkhead, with Royce Freeman possibly getting some playing time as the season progresses. So far, all indications have been that the Texans will look at Burkhead first as the past two games, Burkhead leads the backfield with 20 carries and 49 rushing yards over Johnson with 17 carries and 29 yards, which could foreshadow a split workload in the absence of Lindsay (9 carries for 25 yards). This continues to be an offense that you just want to stay away from as they have the worst offensive line in football while having a bunch of below-average running backs.
The Jets defense has simply fallen apart over the second half of the season. Since Week 8, they have given up 122 yards per game, the second most yards allowed during that time, including by Miami (119 yards on 28 carries) and Buffalo (98 yards on 17 carries), two of the worst rushing offenses in the league. The New York Jets defense has given up the fifth most rushing yards per game (132.0) on the season on the ninth highest attempts against (289). Last week, Myles Gaskin had his best game of the season with 89 yards rushing and he was able to find the end zone in this one as a receiver which is now the 15th touchdown allowed to running backs over the last five games.
Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh
Joe Mixon has been hot and cold when it comes to yardage, but is the midst of a four-game touchdown streak, including multiple touchdown games in each of his past two games. Mixon was a workhorse last week as he carried the ball 30 times for 123 yards against the Raiders in Week 11, with a minimal involvement from Samaje Perine despite a three-score victory. Mixon is in the midst of a breakout, with a RB6 performance on the season, what would be his best performance of his career.
Pittsburgh has struggled against opposing running backs of late, giving up the ninth most points to opposing running backs (28.1) since Week 8. Pittsburgh gave up four total touchdowns to Austin Ekeler last week as the Chargers running back dominated this game from start to finish both on the ground and through the air totaling 115 yards of offense. The Steelers also gave up 227 rushing yards on 38 attempts against the Lions running backs in Week 10. The Steelers have given up the 7th most rushing yards per game (126.6), a surprising outcome from a franchise with a historically good run defense. The ineffectiveness of the linebacker play has been the most surprising thing this season as Devin Bush’s flaws are finally showing light after missing most of last season and being surrounded by veterans in 2019. Bush continues to find himself out of position and slow to read the play. The good news for the Steelers is that they should be getting some of their starters back as they’ll get T.J. Watt, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick back this week which will be a significant increase to help the defense as a whole.
Dallas vs Las Vegas
Ezekiel Elliott appeared to suffer a knee injury in Week 11 but was able to return and has been a limited participant in practice early in the week. This is a good sign Elliott will be able to play on Thanksgiving Day. Tony Pollard was more involved in the offense with seven carries for 50 yards along with two receptions for 20 yards, but is clearly behind Elliott in the backfield, in all other matchups that were not blowouts. Elliott is still hard to trust this week as he is averaging just 11 carries per game over his last three games as
The Las Vegas Raiders have given up the fourth most rushing yards per game (132.1) on the season. The Raiders have also struggled of late, giving up 116 rushing yards per game, the fifth most rushing yards per game surrendered to opposing running backs in the last four weeks. The Raiders have also been prone to the big performance, giving up 123 yards and two touchdowns to Joe Mixon in Week 11, as well as 144 total yards to Darrel Williams in Week 10. This is a defense that has elite defensive ends with Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, but struggle up the middle. Veterans Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Jefferson have both been disappointing, while the Raiders have largely moved away from K.J. Wright playing him only in base formations as they’ve primarily ran a Nickel as the season has progressed.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Buffalo at New Orleans
Buffalo’s running game is one where the collective results are better than the individuals on the team. The Buffalo offense ranks 12th in rushing yards per game (118.8) but have struggled to consolidate the running back position with Zack Moss (29.4 yards per game) and Devin Singletary (41.5 yards per game) forming a low upside committee. Matt Breida has been active the past two weeks and totaled 8 carries for 79 rushing yards along with a touchdown in the past two weeks. This is a fantasy nightmare as it is simply impossible to trust any of the running backs in Buffalo, but they’re somehow still an above average rushing unit as they are sixth in the NFL in yards-per-carry with 4.7.
New Orleans has firmly surpassed Tampa Bay as the best run-stopping unit in the NFL. This is a defense that has carried this team throughout the year as they have seven Pro Bowl caliber players, and when your weakest link on defense is Kwon Alexander it’s an absolute elite unit. Through the first ten weeks of the season the Saints gave up the fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs (54 per game). Philadelphia’s high powered running attack was able to beat up the Saints defense to the tune of 173 yards on 32 carries. Miles Sanders (94 yards) was the most rushing yards the Saints have surrendered on the season, with Jordan Howard (63 yards) the third highest rushing yards a running back has rushed for in a game against the Saints this season. The defensive line of this team might be the best in the NFL led by Marcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan, but David Onyemata has made such a significant improvement to this defense after missing the first seven weeks of the season.
Indianapolis at Tampa Bay
Indianapolis is coming off a massive rushing performance at Buffalo in Week 11. Jonathan Taylor carried the ball 32 times for 185 rushing yards with four touchdowns and then added a receiving touchdown on three catches. Taylor has had a rushing touchdown in his last eight games, with five of his last six performances over 100 rushing yards. Offensive Guard Quenton Nelson aggravated an ankle injury against Buffalo, so his status will be important watch during the week.
Tampa Bay’s run stopping unit has been a mainstay as they have been on the list every week this season. On the year, they have given up the fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs (56) and the fewest total rushing yards (78.4) on the season. Last week, the Buccaneers were without their top run-stopper in Vita Vea, but he should return which is a significant upgrade for the The matchup with the Colts will be interesting, as Tampa Bay’s defense has given up the fewest running back attempts per game (16) of any team. Offenses have chosen to attack Tampa through the air, so the run heavy approach of the Colts will be a clash. In the three weeks before demolishing the Giants, Tampa Bay held Antonio Gibson to 64 yards on 24 carries, Alvin Kamar to 61 yards on 19 carries, Khalil Herbert to 100 yards on 18 carries.
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis
Tampa Bay has been one of the most pass heavy teams in the league through 11 weeks, with much of the work consolidated into Leonard Fournette in both the run and pass game out of the backfield. Consistency has been the key issue for Fournette as he looked great in a four game stretch earlier this season, but he is averaging just 9.7 carries per game over the last three weeks while seeing an increase of workload in the passing game. Ronald Jones II ran eight times for 33 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in Week 11, his second-best performance of the season in both yards and attempts. Jones is limited to mop up duty in multiple score wins, with Fournette still being the primary back in Tampa Bay.
The Colts have given up the 8th fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs (79) on the season. The Colts are fresh off a good performance against the Bills (73 yards on 11 carries) and have strong performances against James Robinson (12 carries for 57 yards and a rushing touchdown) and Derrick Henry (28 carries for 68 yards) in the past month. This is a Colts team that is allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs on the season as they’ve allowed just three rushing touchdowns on the season. This is a unit that has one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL, as DeForest Buckner continues to be a dominant force in his sixth-season, and arguably the best middle linebacker in the NFL in Darius Leonard.
Miami vs. Carolina
Miami signed Duke Johnson Jr to the active roster and played him in lieu of Salvon Ahmed who was a healthy scratch in Week 11. While historically this has been a full-blown committee, this has been an offense as of late that has run through Myles Gaskin. Gaskin had a team high in both carries (23) and yards (89) in Week 11, which was only the third game this season Gaskin has run for more than 50 yards. Gaskin is locked into the lead role in the offense, with double digit carries in each of the last five performances.
Carolina has been one of the tougher teams against opposing running backs, surrendering just 18.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, the third best on the season. The Carolina defense has given up the 14th most rushing yards on the season (114.5) and the 13th most rushing yards to opposing running backs (97) but have given up only a half a rushing touchdown per game, tied for the sixth best performance in the league, and they have given up the fewest receiving yards to opposing running backs in the league (23 per game). This is a well-coached unit that is not led by any significant super-stars outside of Shaq Thompson, but it’s a defense that is cohesive and performing well together.
New England vs. Tennessee
After years of the Patriots struggling to run the ball, the bPatriots’ running game has been a two headed monster, with both Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris sharing the workload when healthy. Harris missed Week 10 while in the concussion protocol but returned to the time share in Week 11. Stevenson led the team in rushing attempts in Week 11, but both he and Harris will work in a tandem when healthy. Stevenson has been incredibly impressive as he’s averaging 5.5 yards-per-carry over his last three games and two of those games were against good defensive front sevens in Carolina and Cleveland. Harris has been more inconsistent of the two but is also a short yardage specialist having scored seven touchdowns on the season, so this could turn into a goal line/short yardage work for Harris while Stevenson gets the bulk of the work.
Tennessee has been one of the more improved units so far this season as they have allowed up the fourth fewest rushing yards per game (97.2) after surrendering the 14th most rushing yards per game in 2020 (120.8). The Titans have given up the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing running back (21.0) and have not given up more than 70 rushing yards since Week 5 when they gave up 149 rushing yards on 18 carries to James Robinson. This is a defense that is largely driven by their elite safeties as both Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker might make up the best safety tandem in the NFL. This is a defense that simply prevents long plays as they have allowed only one carry longer than 25 yards this season.
|Week 12 Rushing Matchups|
|Denver||vs LA Chargers||Great|
|Houston||vs NY Jets||Great|
|Dallas||vs Las Vegas||Great|
|Philadelphia||at NY Giants||Good|
|NY Giants||vs Philadelphia||Good|
|NY Jets||at Houston||Good|
|San Francisco||vs Minnesota||Good|
|LA Rams||at Green Bay||Neutral|
|Minnesota||at San Francisco||Neutral|
|Green Bay||vs LA Rams||Neutral|
|Tennessee||at New England||Neutral|
|New Orleans||vs Buffalo||Tough|
|Las Vegas||at Dallas||Tough|
|LA Chargers||at Denver||Tough|
|New England||vs Tennessee||Bad|
|Tampa Bay||at Indianapolis||Bad|
|Indianapolis||vs Tampa Bay||Bad|
|Buffalo||at New Orleans||Bad|