Go here for this week's Passing Matchups.
Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Indianapolis vs Houston
The Indianapolis offense is sputtering to the finish line as they head into Week 18. The Colts lost Nick Foles in Week 17 with a rib injury, and backup Sam Ehlinger has been named the starter for Week 18. Along with Ehlinger, the Colts will be starting Zack Moss at running back after Jonathan Taylor was placed on IR two weeks ago. In the past two games since Jonathan Taylor has missed, Zack Moss has 27 of the 37 running back carries, with Deon Jackson (3) and Jordan Wilkins (7) handling the backup duty. While there are always questions of motivation in Week 18, Moss is playing for a 2023 role and is in the midst of a career resurgence after being a gameday inactive at several points with Buffalo earlier this season.
Houston has been a bottom-five rushing defense every week this season. On the year, the Texans have given up the most rushing yards per game (168.6). 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 125 yards in 10 of their 11 games since their Week 6 bye. The team has given up 189, 184, and 169 yards in the past three weeks. This is a defense that invested heavily in the draft in 2022, and both Jalen Pitre and Christian Harris have been one of the worst run-stoppers at their position this season. The Texans have 11 draft picks in the 2022 draft class, including five in the first three rounds, and should use some of this draft capital to try to continue to solidify their run defense.
Minnesota at Chicago
Minnesota is incentivized to play out Week 18, as they could lock up a two-seed with a win against Chicago and a 49ers loss. Minnesota is coming off one of their worst performances of the season when they got beat 41-17 by the Green Bay Packers. As a result, Dalvin Cook had his lowest carry total (9) since his injury-shortened Week 2, so he should be fresh for this matchup. Center Austin Schlottmann fractured his fibula in Week 17. Starting center Garrett Bradbury has missed time this season and is hopeful for a return during the playoffs, but he has already been ruled out for Week 18. Offensive tackle Brian O’Neill left with a calf injury.
The Chicago Bears are sputtering toward the finish line of the 2022 season, as they have now lost nine games in a row after a dominant performance against the Patriots. The Bears have given up the second-most rushing yards per game (158.3) and have allowed 1.8 rushing touchdowns per game, the most in the league. Recent performance for the Bears has shown that the team’s trades, along with their injuries, have been too much to handle, as they have allowed 254 rushing yards to Buffalo and 265 rushing yards to Detroit in the past two weeks. The front seven for Chicago needs a complete overhaul, as they have one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL. Justin Jones and Angelo Blackson have both struggled this season, and the Bears are also weak at the linebacker position, especially after trading Roquan Smith and Jack Sanborn’s injury. This is a team that has some glaring holes heading into the 2023 season.
Denver vs LA Chargers
Latavius Murray has been the clear lead back for the Broncos since Week 8 when the Broncos released Melvin Gordon III, and he should be motivated to finish out the season strong before he hits free agency in the offseason. Chase Edmonds has returned from injured reserve and has had a limited role in his two weeks with just 6 and 7 carries in those games. Marlon Mack suffered a hamstring injury against the Chiefs, while guard Dalton Risner left the game with an elbow. Both were placed on injured reserve and will miss Week 18. This Broncos team came out and played hard last week against the Chiefs after their abysmal performance two weeks ago on Christmas against the Rams, so look for them to finish the year strong under interim coach Jerry Rosburg.
The Chargers are another team that has made frequent appearances in this article over the past two seasons. While they made offseason moves in bringing in Khalil Mack and Kyle Van Noy, their run defense this season is worse this season than it was in 2021, as they’re allowing seven more yards per game to opposing running backs in 2022 (126) than they did in 2021 (119). The team has performed better as a pass defense of late but is coming off a Week 17 game when they gave up 166 rushing yards to the Rams. The issue for the Chargers is up the middle. The interior of the defensive line has struggled this season, with Morgan Fox and Sebastian Joseph-Day both being weak points, but the real question remains at linebacker as Kenneth Murray continues not to show any improvements in his third season. The Chargers are going to have to make some important decisions about the former first-round pick heading into next season.
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