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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Tampa Bay at Cleveland
Tampa Bay is coming off a Week 11 bye after they beat Seattle in Germany in Week 10. The game saw Leonard Fournette injure his hip, with Rachaad White taking over and rushing 22 times for 105 yards. The performance was the first time since week one that Tampa Bay had a 100-yard rusher. The status of Leonard Fournette’s injury, as well as the backfield workload split, are key items to monitor heading into a great matchup off a bye. The team has rushed for only 70.7 yards per game, the worst in the league, but could be in a good opportunity this week to start getting back on track as the Buccaneers look t make a playoff push.
The Cleveland Browns have given up the tenth-most rushing yards in the league per game (135.1). The team started well, holding Carolina (54) and the New York Jets (93) in check, but have given up at least 160 yards in five of the past seven games to Falcons, Chargers, Ravens, Miami, and the Bills. The team traded for Linebacker Deion Jones, who made his debut in week seven, but he performed poorly against the run with Cleveland, which was the trend prior to his trade from Atlanta. He struggled against the run over the last two seasons. This is a Browns defense that looked completely uninspired against the Dolphins and Bills, as there were consistently massive holes for what previously were mediocre rushing attacks to dominate.
NY Jets vs Chicago
The Jets rank 20th in rushing yards per game (110.3) but are heading into a great matchup against the Bears. The team has not been able to find consistency after Breece Hall was lost for the year with a torn ACL, as Hall is still the team’s leading rusher after playing just seven games this season as Michael Carter II and James Robinson have been in a committee since the team acquired Robinson earlier this year. Carter (27) has led Robinson in carries the past three weeks (25) and has scored the only touchdown among the running backs during that time. The team was dominated by the Patriots in Week 11, coming off their bye, and the Jets will start Mike White this week after benching Zach Wilson.
Chicago has given up the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the league (142.6) thus far in the season. The Bears gave up the ninth-most rushing yards in the league in 2021 (125.1 per game) and have gotten worse under new head coach Matt Eberflus. The Bears have given up three 130-yard rushing performances to Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley, and Tony Pollard. The Bears traded Roquon Smith, who was replaced by undrafted linebacker Jack Sanborn who has been put in a really difficult spot but has played well, as he has 17 solo tackles over the last two games since the Smith trade. The big issue for the Bears this season is their defensive line, as Justin Jones, Trevis Gipson, and Dominique Robinson have all struggled mightily in what is supposed to be a rebuilding unit with the loss of Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack in the offseason and then trading away Robert Quinn at the trade deadline. Cornerback Kyler Gordon has been a good run defender for the Bears but entered concussion protocol in Week 11.
Arizona vs LA Chargers
Arizona is coming off a bad loss to San Francisco in Mexico on Monday Night Football. The team has been without Kyler Murray the past two games, with Colt McCoy being a near non-entity in the rushing game. James Conner has returned to the backfield after missing three weeks with an injury and has reclaimed his starting role. Conner has 17.5 carries in the past two weeks and a touchdown and a half while leading the backfield. Darrel Williams remains on injured reserve, and the team cut Eno Benjamin, leaving Keaontay Ingram as the backup to Conner.
The Chargers were the third-worst defense against the run in 2021 when they surrendered 138.9 rushing yards per game. The team made moves to improve the defense but has been worse, allowing 148.4 rushing yards per game, the third most in the league, and has been trending worse. The team has given up more than 130 yards per game in seven of the last eight games and has given up more than 90 yards in every game since week one. The team is extremely depleted on the interior of the defensive line after losing Austin Jackson to a knee injury in Week 9, cutting Jerry Tillery before Week 10, and losing both Otito Ogbonnia and Christian Covington to injured reserve in Week 10. This will put even more pressure on one of the weakest linebacking groups in the NFL, as Kenneth Murray has not shown an ability to stop the run in his three seasons in the NFL, while Drue Tranquill has struggled at times with consistency.
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