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Top 5 Rushing Matchups
Kansas City vs Detroit
The Kansas City Chiefs are set to embrace a committee approach in their rushing game for the 2022 season. Leading the charge will be Isiah Pacheco, but he won't be alone in the backfield. The Chiefs also have former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who adds depth and versatility, and third-down specialist Jerick McKinnon. Last season, the Chiefs' rushing offense ranked 19th in the league, averaging 115 yards per game on the ground. This year, their rushing attack faces a significant shift, with a committee of running backs expected to share the load. A notable development for the Chiefs is the reconstruction of their offensive line, particularly at the tackle positions. Donovan Smith and Jawaan Taylor are the new faces on the edges of the line, and their performance will be under scrutiny. The pressure is on, as the Chiefs rely on a formidable interior offensive line led by Creed Humphrey, widely regarded as one of the league's best centers.
The Detroit Lions' rushing defense struggled mightily in 2022. They allowed a staggering 146.5 rushing yards per game, which ranked as the fourth-worst in the NFL. The Lions faced significant issues in stopping the run last season. Surprisingly, the Lions didn't make substantial moves to address their rushing defense concerns. Their first-round draft pick, Jack Campbell, may need time to make an impact. The defensive line also remains a question mark, with the Lions placing reliance on third-year player Alim McNeil to take a significant step forward. Additionally, they are counting on Brodric Martin, a third-round rookie who won the competition against Isiah Buggs, signed from Pittsburgh this offseason. This matchup presents an interesting dynamic. Can the Chiefs' new committee of running backs exploit the Lions' porous rushing defense, or will Detroit's efforts to bolster their defensive line and run-stopping capabilities lead to a more competitive battle in the trenches? The outcome will depend on how effectively the Chiefs' new-look rushing attack can navigate the untested waters of the Lions' defensive front.
Green Bay at Chicago
The Green Bay Packers are gearing up for the 2023 season with a strong emphasis on their rushing attack. Once again, they plan to feature a dynamic dual-running back tandem consisting of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. This commitment to the ground game was evident in their pursuit of Jonathan Taylor, showing their intention to bolster their rushing options further. Last season, the Packers running backs carried the ball a combined 400 times, highlighting their reliance on the ground game. With Jordan Love taking the reins as the starting quarterback, the Packers are poised to be a run-first offense, utilizing both Jones and Dillon extensively. Backing up this potent rushing attack is a solid offensive line led by the talented David Bakhtiari. Matt Bitonti ranks this unit as the 7th best in the NFL for the upcoming season, indicating their ability to create running lanes and protect the quarterback. The Packers' commitment to the run, coupled with a reliable offensive line, sets the stage for a formidable ground game in Green Bay.
The Chicago Bears' original plan of rebuilding their young defensive line seems to have encountered challenges, leading to late offseason moves to address their defensive front. They brought in veteran Yannick Ngakoue to bolster their pass rush and increased the role of Andrew Billings, who was signed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Despite their efforts to reinforce the defensive line, the Bears' rushing defense struggled last season, allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and ranking third in yards allowed. This is an area they're keen to improve upon. In the linebacker corps, the Bears made significant moves by acquiring Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, aiming to solidify this part of their defense. Expect to see rookies Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens rotating through the defensive line, especially in situations where the game might get out of hand. While they bring potential, these young players may still need time to develop, potentially leaving room for late-yardage opportunities for opposing running backs. The Bears' success in improving their rushing defense will be a crucial factor in their overall defensive performance in the upcoming season.
Baltimore vs Houston
J.K. Dobbins, despite his reported unhappiness, is expected to be on the field for the upcoming week. Dobbins has had limited touches throughout his career, accumulating just 226 career touches. However, he did see a notable increase in volume over the last four games of the previous season, with 12 or more carries in each of those games. The challenge with the Baltimore Ravens' rushing attack is that it has historically been challenging to trust for fantasy football purposes. The presence of Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Lamar Jackson, all vying for carries, results in a distribution of touches that can be frustrating for fantasy owners. Nevertheless, if one were to place trust in any of the Ravens' running backs, Dobbins would likely be the preferred choice. When given the ball, Dobbins has demonstrated exceptional effectiveness, boasting a career average of 5.9 yards per carry. While the distribution of touches can be uncertain, Dobbins' efficiency when he does get the ball makes him a compelling option in the Ravens' rushing attack.
The Houston Texans had a historically poor run defense in the 2022 season, allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Their struggles extended beyond fantasy points, as they also surrendered the most rushing yards per game (142) to opposing running backs, along with an alarming average of 1.3 touchdowns per game to the position. In an effort to address these deficiencies, the Texans underwent significant changes in their defense. They bolstered their defensive roster through both the NFL Draft, acquiring talent like Will Anderson, and free agency, with notable signings such as Denzel Perryman, Sheldon Rankins, and Jimmie Ward. One point of concern, however, is the starting position of Christian Harris over Corey Littleton. Harris had a challenging season as a run-stopping linebacker in the NFL last year, and his growth and improvement will be pivotal to the Texans' efforts to shore up their run defense. The success of this rebuilt defense may hinge on Harris's ability to elevate his performance and contribute positively against the run.
Miami at LA Chargers
The Miami Dolphins enter the 2023 season with significant question marks at the running back position. Despite the need for depth in the backfield, the Dolphins did not make substantial additions to address this area. Moreover, Jeff Wilson, a potential contributor, was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) earlier in the month. With these circumstances, Raheem Mostert is expected to take on the lead running back role. In his appearances last season, Mostert demonstrated his capabilities by averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. He notably carried the ball 14 or more times in four consecutive games last year, showcasing his potential to be a reliable and productive runner for the Dolphins. Backing up Mostert is Salvon Ahmed, who, despite opportunities arising from the frequent injuries in Miami's running back room, has struggled to establish himself as a consistent contributor.
The Los Angeles Chargers have had challenges in defending against the run in recent seasons. In 2022, they allowed the second-most rushing yards to opposing running backs, surrendering an average of 127 rushing yards per game. This issue persisted in the 2021 season, as they conceded the third-most rushing yards to opposing running backs, averaging 119 yards per game. The Chargers' struggles against the run have raised concerns, and while they made some additions in free agency, notable veteran Eric Kendricks being among them, they still face challenges, especially in the interior defense. Kenneth Murray, one of their linebackers, has faced criticism for his performance, ranking among the league's worst linebackers in this regard. Additionally, issues persist on the defensive line, with players like Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day struggling against the run. The secondary's primary focus is on pass defense, leaving room for potential big plays against the run. Improving their rushing defense remains a priority for the Chargers, and addressing these issues will be crucial to their defensive success in the 2
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