Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
Go here for this week's Rushing Matchups
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
After early season uncertainty, involving Le’Veon Bell and Ty’Son Williams, the Baltimore backfield has consolidated around Devonta Freeman in recent weeks. Freeman has double digit carries in each of the past four weeks including two 16 carry games since Latavius Murray returned from injury in Week 11. Murray has returned to the offense in the lesser half of a committee, with the Ravens moving on from Le’Veon Bell upon Murray’s return. This is a rushing offense that still runs through the quarterback position as Lamar Jackson is averaging 75 yards per game.
Pittsburgh has uncharacteristically given up the fifth most rushing yards per game in 2021 (133.1 yards per game) and the fourth most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs (110). Most of the damage has come in the last few weeks as Pittsburgh surrendered 165 yards on 28 carries to Joe Mixon in Week 12, which comes two weeks after surrendering 227 yards to the Detroit Lions on 38 carries. Pittsburgh has had better performances against Chicago (17 carries and 76 yards) in Week 9 and the Chargers (14 carries and 57 yards and two touchdowns) in Week 11 but remain prone to explosive outputs on the ground. The issue for the Steelers continues to be at linebacker as Devin Bush is simply not an NFL caliber linebacker as he has been one of the worst run stoppers in the NFL this season finding himself consistently out of position.
Philadelphia vs. NY Jets
Miles Sanders suffered an ankle injury in Week 12 but was able to return to the game and operate in a time share with Boston Scott. Jordan Howard, who broke out in Sanders’s absence is doubtful for Week 13 as he recovers from a knee injury. Since transitioning towards a run heavy approach in Week 8, the Eagles have supported 10 running back games with double digit carries. The health of both Sanders and Howard are a monitor this week, and if both miss could make Boston Scott a high-end play as Scott had 15 carries last week with Sanders limited. Scott looked
The touchdown streak has been broken in New York, as they had given up a touchdown to a running back in every game since Week 2, but they held the Texans rushing attack scoreless last week. On the season, the New York Jets have given up the sixth most rushing yards to opposing offenses (128.7). The Jets have given up the third most rushing yards to opposing running backs (112) and most rushing touchdowns (1.5) while surrendering the second most receiving yards to opposing running backs per week (63). The Jets have performed better since surrendering 172 yards and two touchdowns to Jonathan Taylor in Week 9, but have faced arguably the worst rushing offenses in the NFL as they have faced Buffalo, Miami, and Houston over the last three weeks. This week, expect big things from the Eagles to once again exploit this Jets defense that simply can not stop the run.
Indianapolis vs Houston
Jonathan Taylor enters Week 13, on a nine-game touchdown scoring streak, is the RB1 on the season, and quickly developing into the best pure running back in the NFL. Taylor is running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league in an offense intent on featuring him, making this a highly productive situation. In Taylor’s earlier matchup against Houston, Taylor ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 carries. Indianapolis projects as a heavy favorite and should have the opportunity for favorable game script against Houston.
Houston has given up the second most rushing yards to opposing offenses in 2021 (135.6). The full impact of the defensive weakness of Houston has not been felt as big performances have come through committed with the Jets in Week 12 (31 carries and 147 yards and a touchdown), the Titans in Week 11 (23 carries for 100 yards), the Rams in Week 8 (28 carries for 143 yards) and the Cardinals in Week 7 (28 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown) have been spread amongst committees since last facing the Colts in Week 6. This is a defense that has faced a very easy running back schedule since that Week 6 meeting, yet are allowing the second most rushing yards since Week 7 while facing Arizona, LA Rams, Miami, Tennessee, New York Jets.
Cincinnati vs. Chargers
Joe Mixon is in the midst of four consecutive multi-touchdown performances and has had 123 and 165 rushing yard performances over the past two games. Mixon’s recent hot streak has put him in the top 6 of the position of seasonal scoring and he is on track for his best career performance. The Bengals sport a middle of the road offensive line, which can produce strong performances when Cincinnati commits to a heavy running approach. The strength of this offensive line is at the tackle position as Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff both are playing at a high level for the Bengals. There are still some questions in the interior as the Bengals benched Jackson Carman back in Week 9, and Hakeem Adeniji is struggling at right guard, while the center Trey Hopkins has been inconsistent this season.
The Chargers have given up the most rushing yards to opposing offenses (145.3) on the season and are also worst in the league to rushing yards surrendered to opposing running backs (121). Additionally, they have given up the second most rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs (1.3 per game). Their overall performance against running backs ranks fifth worst (27.1 per game). This is part schematic, as the offense leans more heavily on stopping the pass, but also is burdened by one of the leagues worst linebacker corps, especially as Kenneth Murray has been unable to elevate his game after returning from IR. The Chargers have gone as far as benching Kenneth Murray electing to play primarily a Nickel formation as Murray has been on the field just 22% and 15% of plays over the last two weeks.
San Francisco vs. Seattle
San Francisco is coming off a dominating running performance against Minnesota where Elijah Mitchell ran 27 times for 133 yards and a touchdown on top of Deebo Samuel’s six carry 66 rushing yard, two touchdown performance. San Francisco has leaned heavily into the running game the past three weeks, with running backs combining for 37, 29, and 29 carries during the span of time in addition to Samuel’s work. Samuel’s health should be a monitor as the running back volume could increase in a good matchup if he misses the week.
Seattle has struggled throughout the season with consistency and it showed on Monday Night against Washington as Antonio Gibson ran for 110 yards while JD McKissic added another 30 yards with two touchdowns (one receiving). On the year Seattle has given up the 10th most rushing yards to opposing offenses (124.9) on the season, while giving up the most attempts to opposing running backs (27) and the seventh most rushing yards to opposing running backs (106). Seattle ranks worst in the league in receptions surrendered to opposing running backs per game (8) and receiving yards per game (72). This is a defense that is allowing the second-most fantasy points to the position, and statistically they had been a much better unit as of late, but last week looked like the early season Seahawks with Jamal Adams consistently out of place and missing tackles in the hole. With the Seahawks season effectively over at 3-8, one has to wonder how they will end the season this year.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Dallas vs. New Orleans
Dallas will play the Saints on Thursday Night Football. This would ordinarily be a short week, but both teams played on Thanksgiving, so each team will get a full week of recovery time. There was speculation over the weekend that Ezekiel Elliott may sit out time to recover from some injuries, but he was a full participant in early week practice reports. Elliott has continued to play ahead of Pollard during the season but was out carried last week against the Raiders. Elliott’s volume continues to be a concern with his knee injury as he is averaging just 10.5 carries per game albeit he is still heavily involved in the passing game.
New Orleans continues to be one of the more dominant defenses in the NFL this season as they are allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, second-fewest rushing yards to running backs (66 per game), the second fewest touchdowns, and have allowed just two running backs to top 60 yards with no running backs topping 100 this season. The Saints held the Buffalo Bills to only 70 yards, despite the Bills otherwise moving the ball well on Thursday Night Football. The performances of Jordan Howard (63) yards and Miles Sanders (94 rushing yards) in Week 11, were two of the top three rushing performances against the Saints on the season by opposing players. Expect the Cowboys to go with a pass heavy attack similar to what the Bills did last week as the way to beat this Saints team is through the air.
Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay
Cordarelle Patterson returned to the lineup in Week 12 after suffering a sprained ankle in Week 10 and missing Week 11 and was able to spark an offense that struggled in his absence. Patterson saw a consolidation of the running back workload, with a season high in carries (16) and rushing yards (108) to go along with two touchdowns. Qadree Ollison was ill during the week with a non-COVID related illness and not activated from the practice squad and missed Week 13. In his absence it was Mike Davis (5 carries for 16 rushing yards) and Wayne Gallman (4 carries and 19 yards) filling the non-Patterson role in the backfield.
Tampa Bay has regressed a little bit since their early season dominance, but on the year, they are still the clear cut second-best run defense in football. On the season, they have given up the fewest rushing yards to opposing offenses this season (81.0) and the fewest rushing yards per game to opposing running backs (59). Tampa Bay held Jonathan Taylor below his average weekly performance in Week 12 (16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown), which was the second most rushing yards against them by a running back this season. There have been some cracks recently as they have allowed 60 yards or more to a single running back in four of their last five games including a 100-yard game to Khalil Herbert and 83 last week to Jonathan Taylor. The advantage for the Buccaneers this week is the offensive line for the Falcons is not great as they rank 20th in the NFL this season according to Matt Bitonti. This should be a big week for Vita Vea shutting down the middle and forcing everything to the edge.
Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore
Pittsburgh is coming off the worst two game stretch of his season, combining for only 62 yards on 20 carries and a rushing touchdown. Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been one of the worst performing units in the league, while the offense has struggled with Ben Roethlisberger’s deterioration. The Steelers have completely backed away from Najee Harris who was a workhorse for most of the season but has averaged just 10 carries per game over his last two games as the Steelers have been very quick to abandon the run the second it isn’t working, or they fall behind. Harris has not been great on the ground this season as he is averaging just 3.6 yards-per-carry and a big part of that is the previously mentioned offensive line issues in Pittsburgh.
Baltimore’s defense has been very under the radar and are now showing that they belong in the conversation for the elite run defenses in the NFL. Baltimore has given up the second fewest rushing yards to opposing teams this season (84.2) and the fourth fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs (70). Baltimore is fresh off a prime-time performance where they held Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to 36 rushing yards on 15 carries. After surrendering their two worst performances of the year 111 yards to Cincinnati’s running backs in Week 7 and 119 rushing yards to Minnesota in Week 9, the Ravens have had three strong performances completely shutting down Myles Gaskin, David Montgomery and then the Browns last week.
NY Giants vs. Miami
The New York Giants are in a transition period, after Jason Garrett was fired as the offensive coordinator and replaced by Freddie Kitchens. The change in offensive coordinator did not make a significant offense in the Giants’ offense, but Kitchens had early success when he took over play calling in Cleveland in 2018. Saquon Barkley has not run for more than 60 yards since December 2019. Barkley just does not look like the same running back as we saw early on in his career as he is averaging just 3.6 yards-per-carry. Last week, Barkley had 40 rushing yards, but 32 of that came on one carry, and outside of that carry, Barkley had just 8 yards on 12 carries. There simply are too many negative runs or runs for no gain. The offensive line has not done this rushing attack any favors as they rank 31st by Matt Bitonti.
Miami has given up the tenth fewest rushing yards per game to opposing offenses in 2021 (104.9), but that doesn’t tell the full story. Miami struggled out of the gate, giving up more than 100 yards to opposing running backs in each of the first five weeks. However, Miami has turned the corner and has been stout against opposing running backs in recent weeks, holding Carolina (45), the Jets (84), Ravens (36), Texans (50), and Bills (47) in the past five weeks. The defensive line has really stepped up as Christian Wilkins on the interior and Emmanual Ogbah on the outside have carried this defense while the safeties are also excellent at preventing the big play.
Kansas City vs. Denver
Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned to the Kansas City offense in Week 11, taking on 12 of the 17 running back carries ahead of Darrel Williams. Edwards-Helaire ran for 63 yards and found the end zone. Kansas City is returning from a Week 12 bye, which could give Kansas City the ability to adjust the offense for a stretch run. This is an offense that desperately needs to become more balanced to help alleviate some pressure on Patrick Mahomes II and this passing game.
Denver’s run defense is completely hit or miss this season, as they are a complete shut-down unit, or they are allowing 140+ yards as they have done three times this season. Even with those three blowup performances against Cleveland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Denver has allowed the 12th fewest rushing yards to opposing teams (107.3) in 2021 and are allowing the 7th fewest fantasy points to the running back position driven mostly by allowing the fourth-fewest rushing touchdowns on the season. Denver is fresh off a strong performance against the Chargers, holding their running backs to 13 carries and 36 yards, but surrendered 8 running back receptions in the game. The good news for the Broncos is that they should get Kareem Jackson back this week at safety after missing last week with a neck injury, and Bradley Chubb played in 42% of snaps last week in his first game back since Week 2.
|Week 13 Rushing Matchups|
|Philadelphia||at NY Jets||Great|
|Cincinnati||vs LA Chargers||Great|
|San Francisco||at Seattle||Great|
|Miami||vs NY Giants||Good|
|Washington||at Las Vegas||Good|
|Tampa Bay||at Atlanta||Good|
|Buffalo||vs New England||Neutral|
|NY Jets||vs Philadelphia||Neutral|
|Jacksonville||at LA Rams||Neutral|
|New Orleans||vs Dallas||Neutral|
|LA Rams||vs Jacksonville||Neutral|
|Denver||at Kansas City||Tough|
|Las Vegas||vs Washington||Tough|
|New England||at Buffalo||Tough|
|LA Chargers||at Cincinnati||Tough|
|Seattle||vs San Francisco||Tough|
|Kansas City||vs Denver||Bad|
|NY Giants||at Miami||Bad|
|Atlanta||vs Tampa Bay||Bad|
|Dallas||at New Orleans||Bad|