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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Minnesota vs Pittsburgh
The Vikings have shown that regardless of who is playing at running back, they are a run-oriented team as they ran the ball 22 times with Alexander Mattison last week. There is a clear drop off from Dalvin Cook to Mattison who as able to gain just 90 yards on the 22 carries and does not have the burst that Cook has as his longest carry of the day against the lowly Lions was just 11 yards. Dalvin Cook is questionable to return this week with a shoulder injury, and at 5-7 is going to be a key piece for the Vikings who are going to look to run the ball more than ever with Adam Thielen being out for this game.
The Steelers simply can’t get out of their own way when it comes to stopping the run when it comes to stopping elite running backs. Over the last four weeks, the Steelers have given up 107, 198, 147, 227, 125 yards total rushing yards. The problem continues to be that if you can get past the interior of the defensive line, the linebacking group may be the worst in the NFL as Devin Bush may be the worst run stopping linebacker in football as he finds himself constantly out of position often even turning away from plays or running right into an offensive lineman. This is a defense that is going to need to get right quickly for the Steelers to have any chance at making a deep playoff run, but at the moment, they just are not making enough plays.
New Orleans at NY Jets
The Saints have gambled the last few weeks, by not playing Alvin Kamara who has been practicing the last few weeks instead waiting for him to get healthy for the last five weeks of the season as they look to make a run to make a run in the crowded NFC. It could not come at a better time for the Saints as Mark Ingram II was placed on the Covid-19 list and will miss this game and it appears they may be getting perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead back this week after he put in a limited practice this week. When this offense is clicking, it is one of the best run offenses in football, which they will look to lean on the running capabilities of both Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara this week as Hill continues to deal with a finger injury.
The Jets once again got torched on the ground last week as they gave up 174 rushing yards to Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders as the Eagles ran the ball a staggering 36 times. The touchdown streak restarted after being broke two weeks ago, as the Jets have now given up a touchdown to a running back in 10 of the last 11 games. C.J. Moseley just has not looked the same after missing the entire 2019 season and then opting out of the 2020 season and the problem is that the Jets have largely moved to a primary Nickel defense since the loss of Marcus Maye which has put even more pressure on Moseley and this defense. The Jets are allowing the most fantasy points to the position on the season, and a staggering 1.8 touchdowns per game to the position.
Seattle at Houston
Seattle’s offense is a difficult one to figure out as they have not figured out a running back combination that produces consistent yardage since they lost Chris Carson for the season. They should get Alex Collins back this week, but outside of a 100-yard performance against the Steelers, Collins has failed to top 50 yards rushing in a game, while Rashaad Penny has struggled mightily averaging just 2.9 yards-per-carry. There was some optimism that this was a unit that would get right once Russell Wilson returned, but we have yet to that materialize. If there is a silver lining here it is that the Seahawks have faced difficult run defenses over the last several weeks in New Orleans, San Francisco, Arizona.
There is massive turmoil going on in Houston as they have released linebacker Zach Cunningham. We’ve talked about Cunningham’s poor play throughout the season, but this is the second highly paid linebacker that the Texans have released as they also cut Whitney Mercilus earlier this season. The Texans’ run defense is largely non-existent as they’re allowing the most rushing yards per game (126), and are coming off of a 186 yard performance led by Jonathan Taylor and the Colts offense who also added in 3 rushing touchdowns. The Texans have now allowed 100 yards or more rushing in all but one game since Week 2 with the only game they held being against the Dolphins.
Denver vs Detroit
There are a lot of people calling for Denver to end the running back committee in Denver, and it may have finally been broken after a big performance from Javonte Williams who ran for 102 yards on 23 carries on Sunday Night. The second-round rookie looked outstanding on a prime-time game. Regardless of the long-term status, Melvin Gordon III appears to still be less than 100% for this week which should bode well for Williams to see the bulk of the carries. Denver has been one of the most productive rushing units in the NFL this season as they are averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry which is the seventh-best in the NFL so we will see if Williams can do enough to convince the coaching staff to abandon a tandem that so far has been extremely productive.
The Lions have been impressive this season in that they have not given up like other teams have this season, but they remain a flawed run-stopping unit that desperately needs a talent influx. The issue for the Lions continues to be the linebacker position as Alex Anzalone has struggled with consistency, while the Lions continue to rotate the second linebacker between Derrick Barnes Josh Woods, and Jalen Reeves-Martin as they try to find consistency. The Lions have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs as they’re averaging 108 yards rushing per game. The Lions have been better as of late holding Alexander Mattison to 90 yards and shutting down the Bears at 55 yards rushing over the last two weeks.
Pittsburgh at Minnesota
The Steelers went back to their roots last week after two weeks of seemingly abandoning the run mostly due to game script. The Steelers heavily leaned on Najee Harris last week even in a tough matchup giving him 21 carries and while he only amounted 71 yards, this was a great sign for the running back moving forward after failing to have 21 carries in his two prior games. The issue for the Steelers continues to be the offensive line as they rank just 28th according to Footballguys expert Matt Bitonti, but if the Steelers want to make a run at the playoffs, they must go about it with a balanced offense to take some pressure off Ben Roethlisberger’s diminishing arm.
The Vikings run defense is falling apart right before our eyes, but they could be getting some reinforcements back this week as they should be getting Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, and Patrick Peterson back after they all missed last week. Even still, this was a defense that had holes prior to Jamaal Williams rushing for 71 yards last week. In Week 12, Elijah Mitchell torched this defense for 133 yards and a touchdown, and on the season the Vikings are allowing the 9th-most rushing yards in the NFL. For the 3 running backs that the Vikings have faced that topped 20 carries, all three of them topped 100 yards, which should bode well if the Steelers continue to commit to the run this week.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
NY Jets vs New Orleans
The Jets running game is one that is likely going to struggle this week as it has most of the season as they are last in rushing attempts and the second-worst in rushing yards this season ahead of only the lowly Houston Texans. This week, they will be without Michael Carter II once again as he was placed on IR and won’t be eligible to return until Week 15. This would normally mean that Tevin Coleman would be the starting running back, but he may miss this week as well as he was put into the concussion protocol on Wednesday. If Coleman is unable to go, this running back room is a complete mess as the Jets have shown that they don’t trust Ty Johnson as anything other than a receiving running back, which likely means we will see Austin Walter as the main running back. This is a complete disaster facing the best run defense in the NFL.
For just the second time this season, the Saints have allowed over 100 yards rushing last week as they allowed Tony Pollard to break off a 58-yard run which was the longest allowed by the Saints this season. Besides the one play however, the Saints remained a complete shut down unit holding the Cowboys to 58 yards on 19 carries. This remains the best front seven in football led by the defensive line of Marcus Davenport, Cameron Jordan, and David Onyemata, while at the linebacker position rookie Pete Werner has been outstanding alongside veteran Demario Davis. This is an incredibly well coached unit that is very difficult to run against. The Jets should be in an uphill battle this week.
Buffalo at Tampa Bay
Buffalo simply can not find a solution to their running game which is having a significant impact to the overall offense. The Bills in a wind impacted game on Monday Night had zero success running the ball against the Patriots averaging just 3.0 yards-per-carry and have not had a running back top 50 yards rushing since dating back to Week 4. Matt Breida had a terrible fumble early in the Monday Night game which was his only carry of the game as the Bills promptly brought Zack Moss back into the running back fold after he was a healthy scratch two weeks ago. This screams of desperation from a team that is now 7-5 having lost three of their last five after once having Super Bowl aspirations.
The Buccaneers defense continues to be a strong defense against the run but did struggle last week against Cordarrelle Patterson who was able to break off a 39-yard run against this Buccaneers unit. Outside of this run, they were the typical dominant unit holding the Falcons to just 3.7 yards per carry. On the season, the Buccaneers are allowing the fewest rushing yards to running backs in the NFL as they are allowing just 64 per game, this is somewhat propped up due to teams simply avoiding running against them as they face the fewest rushing attempts at 16 per game. This is a combination of the run defense being good, along with the pass defense being a weakness, and the game script forcing opponents to throw against the Buccaneers rather than having a lead and going with a run-heavy approach. It all starts up front for the Buccaneers as Vita Vea continues to be one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL just clogging up the middle with his significant size. If there is a weakness it is Devin White who has struggled with consistency often finding himself out of position.
Cleveland vs Baltimore
This is a pivotal game for the Browns who are coming off of their worst rushing performance in the Nick Chubb era as he had just 16 yards rushing on 8 carries and was simply unable to get anything going against Baltimore. After a bye week, Chubb gets a chance at redemption as he is facing the same Baltimore defense. This is a Browns rushing attack that continues to be a staple as Nick Chubb is top 5 in the NFL in rushing yards this season, and this will be the second game back that they get Kareem Hunt back in the mix which should only help this rushing attack. It will be critical for the Browns to get this going, as they are seemingly getting no help from the passing game averaging just 207 yards passing per game.
This Baltimore defense has turned into an elite run-stopping unit as outside of a 100-yard performance from Dalvin Cook as no running back has topped 75 yards all season beside Cook and they are averaging allowing just 72 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. Expect teams to simply not try to run the ball against the Ravens in future weeks based on how many injuries that they have in the secondary with both Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey now out for the season. A weird scheduling quirk has the Browns facing the Ravens in two consecutive games, and the first game was an absolute disaster for the Browns as the Ravens simply dominated the line of scrimmage holding the Browns to 16 yards on just 8 carries. The big problem for the Browns is that the Ravens dominated this game without their star defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who will be back this week and should make it even more difficult for the Browns to gain momentum against this defense.
Jacksonville at Tennessee
The Jaguars coaching staff decisions are highly questionable at times as they seemingly do not play players with regularity or consistency which has led to Trevor Lawrence lobbying to the coaching staff as they seemingly bench James Robinson at times only to replace him with Carlos Hyde. Robinson when he is on, has shown that he can be a highly dynamic back who has run for over 70 yards in every game that he has gotten 15 carries or more. Trying to predict what this coaching staff will do is difficult, but Robinson was limited in practice on Wednesday with a heel and knee injury which could once again limit his carries this week which will only lead to more frustration in Jacksonville.
The Titans’ run defense is turning into a premiere unit after they were embarrassed by the Jaguars back in Week 5 where James Robinson ran all over this defense amounting 149 yards. Since that game, they have not allowed a running back to top 70 yards, are second in the NFL allowing just 59 yards rushing per game and have faced several run-heavy teams in the Patriots, Colts, and Saints. This is a unit that is very strong on the defensive line, led by Jeffrey Simmons, and Denico Autry, but they may have the best safety tandem in the NFL led by veteran Keith Byard and Amani Hooker who have been tremendous at stopping the run. This will be a pivotal game to determine just how much the Titans have improved since that Week 5 matchup.
Dallas at Washington
The Cowboys rushing attack appears to continue to be a 60/40 split between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard as Pollard has earned himself a role in this offense showing the big play upside that Elliott who continues to deal with a knee injury just is unable to provide at the moment. Pollard broke off a 58-yard touchdown last week, which was his second 30-yard run or longer in his last two games which is something Ezekiel Elliott has done just once this season which was back in Week 4. Elliott is clearly less than 100% as he is averaging just 35 yards rushing over his last four games and is averaging just 3.2 yards-per-carry which is well below his career average of 4.5. Having lost three of their last five after starting the season 6-1, this is a team that needs to figure out how to get healthy quickly or figure out a combination that allows them to get back to the balanced offense that gave them so much success early on this season.
The Washington Football Team’s run defense is getting some much-deserved respect after being overlooked in this article for far too long. This is a defense that early in the season faced some offenses that were somewhat questionable running the ball in the New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, and Atlanta Falcons that it made it difficult to know just how good this defense was. However, since Week 5, this defense has faced some of the best competition in football and seemingly shut them all down, as they have faced New Orleans (with Alvin Kamara), Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Carolina (with Christian McCaffrey), and no back has topped 75 yards in that time frame. Since Week 5, Washington is allowing just 52 yards per game to opposing running backs which is the best in the NFL. This is a defense that everything starts on the defensive line, and it is something to monitor this week as Montez Sweat has tested positive for Covid, so it remains to be seen who else may have been impacted, but if it is just Sweat, they can manage as Jonathan Allen on the interior paired with Da’Ron Payne may be the best defensive tackle tandem in football. Matt Ioannidis is also a very strong run stopping lineman, who should see a lot of work this week.
|Week 14 Rushing Matchups|
|New Orleans||at NY Jets||Great|
|NY Giants||at LA Chargers||Good|
|LA Chargers||vs NY Giants||Good|
|Kansas City||vs Las Vegas||Good|
|Green Bay||vs Chicago||Good|
|LA Rams||at Arizona||Neutral|
|Tampa Bay||vs Buffalo||Neutral|
|Las Vegas||at Kansas City||Neutral|
|Chicago||at Green Bay||Neutral|
|Arizona||vs LA Rams||Tough|
|Cincinnati||vs San Francisco||Tough|
|San Francisco||at Cincinnati||Tough|
|Buffalo||at Tampa Bay||Bad|
|NY Jets||vs New Orleans||Bad|