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Go here for this week's Passing Matchups.
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Cincinnati vs Cleveland
The biggest news for the Cincinnati Bengals this week will be the health status of Joe Mixon. Mixon has missed the past two weeks in the concussion protocol. This has left Samaje Perine as a near every-down role, and the offense has not suffered. The team has shown a more pass-heavy preference than last season, throwing on a more frequent rate in almost every game situation than the team did last season. That leaves the offense 20th in carries per game (25.7) and 26th in rushing yards per game (100.9) but face a terrific matchup to jump-start their running game. Mixon was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and is expected to pass the concussion protocol and play in the game.
The Cleveland Browns have given up the eleventh-most rushing yards in the league per game (127.4). The team started well, holding Carolina (54) and the New York Jets (93) in check, before they went through a stretch from Week 4 through Week 11, where they gave up 160 yards in five of their seven games, including to the Falcons, Chargers, Ravens, Miami, and the Bills. The team has been better the past two weeks, giving up only 96 yards to Tampa Bay in Week 12 and 82 yards to Houston in Week 13, but both teams are bottom-five rushing offenses. The team traded for linebacker Deion Jones, who made his debut in Week 7, but he has performed poorly against the run with Cleveland. This continues to be a defense with major issues up the middle, as their defensive tackles and linebackers are one of the worst combinations in the NFL.
Dallas vs Houston
The Dallas Cowboys rank seventh in rushing yards per game (145.9) and have performed better as an offense since Dak Prescott returned from injury. Ezekiel Elliott has looked and performed better of late with the team employing a full committee with Elliott and Tony Pollard. The two are operating largely interchangeably, sharing snaps, carries, and routes in the passing game. Ezekiel Elliott has 15 carries in each of his games since missing Week 8 and 10 around the Week 9 bye, while Pollard has double-digit carries in his past seven games, with six touchdowns during the stretch.
Houston has given up the most rushing yards per game (169.1), more than 10 yards per game above the next team (Seattle). The list of players who have gashed Houston is long, including 161 yards to Jonathan Taylor in Week 1, 157 yards to Khalil Herbert in Week 3, 143 yards to Josh Jacobs in Week 7, Derrick Henry had 32 carries for 219 yards in Week 9, and 152 yards to Saquon Barkley in Week 10. The team has given up more than 140 yards in six of the last seven games. The team had a surprisingly strong performance against the Dolphins in Week 12 before giving up a 174-yard performance by the Browns in Week 13. Cornerback Derek Stingley is suffering from a hamstring injury and missed the last three games.
Miami at LA Chargers
The Miami backfield is reverting toward Raheem Mostert after Jeff Wilson appeared to take over the backfield in his first three games with the team. Wilson led the team in rushing in each of his first three games but disappointed in Week 12 against Houston (13 carries, 39 yards, and a touchdown). The team turned back towards Mostert in Week 13, with him leading Wilson in carries (7 to 1) and rushing yards (30 to 3). Overall, the team ranks 28th in rushing yards per game (89.7) with 22.4 carries per game, which ranks 30th in the league, but is in an ideal matchup.
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 151.6 rushing yards per game, the fourth-most in the league, and have been trending worse in recent weeks. The team has given up more than 150 yards in their last six games. 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. Linebackers continue to be the issue for the Chargers as they’re forced to continue to start Kenneth Murray who has struggled, but the defensive line has also had its issues this season as well. Sebastian Joseph-Day and Breiden Fohoko have both struggled at the defensive tackle positions this season.
Philadelphia at NY Giants
Philadelphia has the second most rushing attempts this season (33.5) and ranks fifth in the league in rushing yards per game (154.6). Philadelphia had a complete domination of the Green Bay defense in Week 12, rushing for 363 yards in a game where both Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders ran for more than 100 yards. The Eagles had a tough matchup against the Titans in Week 13, where they only rushed for 87 yards, the worst performance since Week 4. On the season, Miles Sanders has career highs on carries (187), yards (924), and carries per game (15.6) through 13 games. The Eagles' dominance continues to be on the back of the offensive line that has been the number one offensive line throughout the season, as they’re a cohesive unit that has dominated
The New York Giants have given up the sixth most rushing yards per game (141.1). The Giants have given up 160 rushing yards to Detroit, 169 rushing yards to Dallas, and 165 rushing yards to Washington in the past three weeks. The team has given up the fourth most rushing yards to opposing running backs per game (119). Rookie linebacker Micah McFadden continues to struggle as he replaced the poor-performing Tae Crowder, but the fifth-round rookie draft pick just does not appear ready to be a run-stopping linebacker. While the defensive line is strong with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, this is a defense that, if you can neutralize those two dominant run-stoppers, then you can have success against.
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