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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
The Tennessee Titans rushing attack continues to be a bit of a mess as they’re scrambling to find consistency with the loss of Derrick Henry. Jeremy McNichols returned to the Tennessee offense but took a firm third turn in the offense behind starter D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard. After Adrian Peterson was released after Week 11, D’Onta Foreman has handled 20 and 15 touches in Weeks 12 and 14 around the team’s Week 13 bye. Foreman has been the more efficient runner in this offense as he is averaging 4.9 yards per carry even with somewhat significant volume.
Pittsburgh has uncharacteristically given up the third most rushing yards per game (139.5) as they have completely fallen apart over the past four weeks. In that time they have given up the third most rushing yards to opposing running backs (133) along with 1.8 rushing touchdowns per game, the most in the league over that stretch. Pittsburgh is coming off a Week 14 Thursday Night Performance where they gave up 205 yards rushing to Dalvin Cook and two touchdowns, the second time in the past three weeks Pittsburgh has given up more than 160 yards to a running back (Joe Mixon in Week 12). The issues at linebacker continue to haunt the Steelers as first-round pick Devin Bush just continues to struggle in his third NFL season and is one of if not the worst run-stoppers in the NFL.
Arizona at Detroit
Arizona will be a nearly two touchdown run favorite against Detroit coming off a Monday Night Football loss to the Rams. Arizona appeared close to activating Chase Edmonds but he remained on injured reserve for Week 14, allowing James Conner to carry nearly the entirety of the running back workload against the Rams. Conner has played well enough with Edmonds out to warrant remaining as the lead back ahead of Edmonds, but the exact split between the two is unknown. One thing that could derail the plans of having Conner taking over the lead is that he is dealing with an ankle injury suffered at the end of last week’s game which if he is unable to go, Chase Edmonds would likely see as much of a workload as he can handle with Eno Benjamin also seeing an increased role in this offense.
The Lions have fallen into the classic trap where they have a bad offense which forces their defense to be on the field longer, and it makes a bad defense even worse as they’re given up a lot of rushing stats and can’t get off the field. The Detroit Lions have given up the fifth most rushing yards to opposing offenses per game (135.2) and have been highly susceptible to big volume rushing attempt games, leading the league in opponents carries (411). In the past four games, the Lions have surrendered the fifth most rushing yards to opposing defenses (122), on 29 carries per game. Detroit is coming off surrendering 39 carries, 184 rushing yards, and 3 carries to the duo of Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams.
LA Rams vs Seattle
The Rams have been hit hard by COVID-19 with Darrell Henderson missing Monday Night Football on the COVID-19 list. Henderson has missed the past two weeks, the first with a thigh injury before the COVID-19 list in Week 14. Footballguys Dr. Jene Bramel thinks Henderson is doubtful for Week 15, leaving the work for Sony Michel. Michel has had 24 and 20 carry performance, while averaging 100 yards the past two weeks with Henderson out. The Rams had not had a runner break 60 yards in the prior three games. The Rams have 16 players currently on the Covid list and while most of the players are on the defensive side of the ball, tackle Rob Havenstein is dealing with Covid and may not play this week which would be a significant loss.
Seattle’s run defense is a unit that is improving, but overall is still a flawed unit that relies too heavily on Bobby Wagner to make plays. Seattle has given up the 11th most rushing yards to opposing offenses per game (116), but have given up the third most rushing attempts on the season (400). Seattle has performed better in recent weeks, given up the 17th most rushing yards to opposing running backs in the last four weeks (85). Seattle has played well in the last two weeks, holding both Houston and San Francisco’s running backs below 70 rushing yards. A big reason for this change has been the change from Jamal Adams to Ryan Neal who has played great against the run in each of the last two weeks.
Kansas City at LA Chargers
As the Chiefs are ramping up for a playoff run, they are slowly starting to come together as an offense. The rushing attack has evolved into a committee approach with both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams having a role in this offense. Edward-Helaire has seen double digit rushing attempts in the past three games after returning from IR and has averaged a rushing touchdown during that span. Darrel Williams has continued to see involvement in the offense after Edwards-Helaire’s return, including six touches, eight touches, and five touches, with double digit fantasy point performances in the past three weeks.
The Chargers have given up the second most rushing yards to opposing offenses per game this season (140.7). The Chargers struggled earlier in the season, but have performed better of late, only giving up 101 rushing yards per game, tied for the 9th most to opposing running backs over the past four weeks. Despite giving up the second most rushing yards in the league, the Chargers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 5. The Chargers did surrender the biggest game of the year to Saquon Barkley since 2019, a 16 carry 64 rushing yard performance in Week 14. The Chargers have taken a smart approach to this season playing the best players on the field as they have mostly benched Kenneth Murray in favor of Kyzir White who has really improved his play over the last several weeks.
Cleveland vs Las Vegas
The Cleveland Browns offense may be without Kareem Hunt in Week 14 with an ankle injury. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski said the short turnaround to the Saturday game may make it more difficult for Hunt to play in Week 15. Nick Chubb played 66% of the snaps in Week 14, his highest snap share of the season. In two games earlier this year where Nick Chubb played and Kareem Hunt did not, D’Ernest Johnson had five and eight touches, with 45 total yards and a rushing touchdown. One thing to keep an eye on is that Cleveland is in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, with quarterback Baker Mayfield, starting offensive linemen Wyatt Teller and Jedrick Wills, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, along with Stefanski have been placed on the list and with a Saturday game it seems unlikely that they will be able to play this week leaving a very short
Las Vegas has given up the seventh most rushing yards per game this season (125.3). Over the past four weeks, the Raiders have given up the 9th most rushing yards to opposing running backs (101). Las Vegas is coming off a performance where they gave up 114 rushing yards, but 66 came from Derrick Gore when the game was largely out of hand against the Chiefs. The Raiders have a fairly strong defensive line, but it all breaks down after that as their linebacking group is one of the weaker units in football and Johnathan Abram at safety has been a liability against the run throughout his career as the first-round pick has not progressed as much as the Raiders would have hoped this season.
Bottom 5 Rushing Matchups
Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans
Leonard Fournette is coming off 100-yard rushing game against the Bills in Week 14. Fournette has consolidated the workload in recent weeks which should continue with Giovani Bernard’s knee and hip injuries. Bernard is unlikely to play in Week 15, which leaves Fournette with the ability to play both in the running game and the receiving game against a tough New Orleans running defense. The key to the Buccaneers has been their offensive line this season as they have been a mainstay in the top 5 of Matt Bitonti’s offensive line rankings all season.
The New Orleans Saints have given up the sixth fewest rushing yards per game (95.0). However, over the past four weeks, the Saints have performed worse, tied for the ninth most rushing yards for opposing running backs (101). The Saints have had favorable matchups in the pass four weeks, facing the Jets and Buffalo, while also giving up 126 rushing yards to the Dallas Cowboys backfield in Week 13, along with 173 yards to the Eagles in Week 11. The problem for the Saints is that this has been a unit that has had to account for the struggles in the secondary which has put more pressure on the rushing attack leaving fewer players in the box than usual. The Saints are still dealing with Covid issues as Cameron Jordan has not been cleared from the Covid list, but it appears that he might be ok after missing last week’s game. If they’re able to get him back, he makes a significant difference in this run-stopping unit as he is the anchor of this defensive line.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Alvin Kamara returned form a four-week absence to run 27 times for 120 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Jets. With Mark Ingram II missing the game on the COVID-19 list, Tony Jones was the backup running back behind Kamara. The 120-yard performance in Week 14 was only the second time this season Kamara has broken 100 yards on the ground. The Saints have received significant offensive line upgrades last week as Terron Armstead returned from a knee and shoulder injury. The key will be whether they can get Ryan Ramczyk back, who did not practice on Wednesday, but this would jump back into a top 5-10 offensive line in football.
Tampa Bay has given up the third fewest rushing yards per game to opposing offenses (91.2), and have been run against the fewest times (268) of any defense in the league. This is a defense that has been a mainstay in terms of the best run defenses in football as they have had very little turnover and have one of the best defensive lines in football. Tampa Bay has recently been slightly more susceptible to opposing running backs, surrendering 77 yards per game, the 11th fewest in the league in the past four weeks. Since surrendering 100 rushing yards to Khalil Herbert in Week 7, Tampa has given up no more than 83 yards to a running back, while holding Alvin Kamara (19 carries, 61 rushing yards, and one touchdown), Antonio Gibson (24 carries, 64 rushing yards, and two touchdowns), Saquon Barkley (6 carries, 25 rushing yards), Johnathan Taylor (16 carries, 83 rushing yards, and one touchdown), and Cordarrelle Patterson (13 carries, 78 rushing yards) below 85 yards since Week 7.
Green Bay at Baltimore
The Green Bay offense has taken a turn in recent weeks, with AJ Dillon being the leading rusher in each Green Bay game since Week 10, including Week 12 and Week 14 where Aaron Jones played and had 10 carries and 5 carries respectively. Dillon has averaged 16.75 carries in the past four weeks but has a high of 71 yards during that time. Jones has taken on a more passing centric role in recent weeks, making it a tougher projection of workload, particularly against a strong Baltimore defense.
Baltimore has given up the fewest rushing yards to opposing offenses through Week 14 (85.5) and they showed their dominance shutting down the Browns run-heavy approach in two of their last three games. Baltimore has given up the fifth fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs in the past four weeks (66) and have not surrendered a rushing touchdown to opposing running backs during that time. This is notable, considering they did so against Nick Chubb twice, Najee Harris, and David Montgomery during the time. This is a unit that is led by Calais Campbell and while Patrick Queen gets most of the hype, Josh Bynes has been the better run-stopper this season. Baltimore’s recent secondary injuries should only help this run-defense as offenses are likely to go with a more pass heavy approach without Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith.
Philadelphia vs. Washington
Philadelphia is returning from a Week 14 bye, which was much needed due to the injuries that they had at the running back position. Miles Sanders is dealing with an aggravated ankle sprain and Jordan Howard recovering from a knee injury. Our Dr. Jene think Sanders is probable for Week 15, while Howard’s status is more in doubt. The workload of the backfield has been unpredictable since Miles Sanders returned from IR in Week 11. Sanders ran 16 times for 94 yards in Week 11, but only 9 times for 64 yards in Week 12 while playing behind Boston Scott’s 15 carry, 64-yard and one rushing touchdown performance. Sanders’s best work came in Week 13 with 24 carries and 120 yards along with three receptions and 22 yards, when both Boston Scott and Jordan Howard were out of the lineup.
Washington has quietly developed into one of the best run-stopping units in football and is right up there with the league’s best. On the year, Washington has given up the fifth fewest rushing yards to opposing offenses per game this season (93.6). Over the past four weeks, Washington has given up the second fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs (57). Washington is coming off giving up 26 carries and 92 rushing yards to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14 and they have not allowed a sixty-yard rusher since Darrel Williams in Week 6. This is a defensive line that is the best in the league but is going to be heavily tested this week as they are likely going to be without 5 defensive lineman including Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis. This is a unit that is already missing Chase Young and Montez Sweat.
Pittsburgh vs Tennessee
Najee Harris had his best performance since Week 10 against the Vikings, with 20 carries and 94 yards and a touchdown to go with three receptions and 10 receiving yards and receiving touchdown. Harris has at least 20 carries in seven of the last nine games, and despite a tough matchup is one of the better sources of safe volume at the position in a week. The issues for the Steelers on the offensive line continue as they rank 27th in Matt Bitonti’s offensive line rankings.
Tennessee has given up the second fewest rushing yards to opposing offenses through Week 14 (90.9). Tennessee has given up the fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs in the past four weeks (49). Tennessee is coming off a weak schedule the past month coming off a blowout win against Jacksonville, where Jacksonville’s running backs ran for only six yards on seven carries, after facing New England, Houston and an Alvin Kamara-less New Orleans Saints. This is a unit that benefits from the struggling pass defense in Tennessee as they have faced the second-fewest pass attempts in the NFL this season.
|Week 15 Rushing Matchups|
|LA Rams||vs Seattle||Great|
|Kansas City||at LA Chargers||Great|
|Cleveland||vs Las Vegas||Great|
|Miami||vs NY Jets||Good|
|Dallas||at NY Giants||Good|
|San Francisco||vs Atlanta||Good|
|Indianapolis||vs New England||Good|
|Baltimore||vs Green Bay||Neutral|
|NY Giants||vs Dallas||Neutral|
|NY Jets||at Miami||Neutral|
|Seattle||at LA Rams||Neutral|
|LA Chargers||vs Kansas City||Neutral|
|Las Vegas||at Cleveland||Tough|
|Atlanta||at San Francisco||Tough|
|New England||at Indianapolis||Tough|
|Green Bay||at Baltimore||Bad|
|New Orleans||at Tampa Bay||Bad|
|Tampa Bay||vs New Orleans||Bad|