Week 21 Rushing Matchups

by Mark Wimer and Joe Bryant, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

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Great Matchups:
Good Matchups:
Neutral Matchups: [SF]
Tough Matchups: [BAL]
Bad Matchups:


PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT replace the Cheatsheet ranking. The Cheatsheet rankings are the final say on where we see a player for that week. The Matchup Breakdowns are simply one more tool in the box when it comes to helping choose your lineup.

Also note, just because a player has a "bad" matchup, it does NOT mean he's not a starter in your league. If Aaron Rodgers is playing the toughest pass defense in the league, that just means he's got a tough matchup that week. He's also your starter unless you're loaded at QB. In the same way, if the worst QB on your roster has a "great" matchup that week, it doesn't necessarily mean he's your starter. It means we think he'll fare better than normal that week.

Bottom line is that the cheatsheets are the final say.


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

These teams haven't faced off during the 2012 pre- or regular season, so they'll have watched lots of film on each other during the bye week. As two brothers are the head coaches of the two teams (in case you haven't heard yet), you can expect a high-intensity contest at all levels of the teams in this most-anticipated game of the year.

The 49ers exposed and humiliated the Packers' defensive front during the divisonal round, putting up a jaw-dropping 43/323/4 rushing as a team. Colin Kaepernick set an all-time NFL record for rushing by a quarterback in a game with 16/181/2 to his credit, followed by Frank Gore (23/119/1 rushing with 2/48/0 receiving). LaMichael James (3/21/0 rushing with 1/7/0 receiving) and Anthony Dixon (1/2/1 rushing) chipped in around the margins and the 49ers easily won the game 45-31. At Atlanta, Kaepernick ran a lot less (2/21/0), but Gore (21/90/2) and James (5/34/1) powered the 49ers to three TDs during the conference championship game. All told, the 49ers had 29/149/3 rushing as a team at Atlanta (a 5.1 yards per carry average). It's all good in this phase of the game for the 49ers entering the Super Bowl. Coach Jim Harbaugh was enthused by the team's practice on Wednesday, January 30 'I would really like to have a photocopy of yesterday,' Harbaugh said on Thursday. 'That's what I would like to have today. The execution at practice, the energy at practice, a photocopy - a mimeograph - of what we had yesterday, that would be outstanding.'

The Ravens' rush D wasn't impressive during most of regular season, averaging 122.8 yards rushing allowed per game (20th in the NFL) with 15 rushing scores handed over. Even the return or Ray Lewis didn't help clamp down on the bleeding vs. Indianapolis - the Colts ran wild for 30/152/0 at Baltimore during the wild card round of the playoffs, while the Broncos managed 41/125/0 rushing during a double-overtime game (Denver did lose their newest lead back, Knowshon Moreno, early in the contest so they were down to reserve running backs for most of the game with Willis McGahee also sidelined due to injury). New England was held to 28/108/0 rushing during the conference championships, giving the Ravens an average of 128.3 yards rushing allowed per game during the playoffs, slightly more than their regular-season mark. More importantly, though, they've not allowed rushing TDs of late and have improved their total rushing yards allowed in each of the three playoff games so far.

The 49ers' rushing attack is prolific, while the Ravens' rush D is improved in the red zone during the playoffs. On balance, we see this as neutral matchup.

Weather: Inside the Louisiana Superdome, weather won't be an issue for either team.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

These teams haven't faced off during the 2012 pre- or regular season, so they'll have watched lots of film on each other during the bye week. As two brothers are the head coaches of the two teams (in case you haven't heard yet), you can expect a high-intensity contest at all levels of the teams in this most-anticipated game of the year.

Ray Rice was outstanding against the Broncos' third-ranked rush D (they averaged 91.1 yards rushing allowed per game during regular season), posting 30/131/1 rushing at Mile High Stadium during the divisional playoff game. Bernard Pierce wasn't able to contribute much in that game (5/14/0 rushing) due to tweaking a sore knee. However, in the conference championship game at New England, Pierce outrushed Rice with 8/52/0 rushing (and added 1/8/0 receiving), while Rice handled the bulk of the load - 19/48/1 rushing with 3/22/0 receiving - but only managed 2.5 yards per carry at New England. All told, the Ravens posted 33/121/1 rushing as a team at New England, good enough for the big 'W' and a ticket to the Super Bowl. Rice and Pierce form a solid 1-2 punch for the Ravens, and with a bye week to rest they should both be in good shape for the ultimate throw down of the 2012-2013 season. Pierce practiced fully on Wednesday, January 30 and looks set to play in the big game.

The 49ers were fourth in the NFL in this phase of the game by the end of the season, averaging 94.2 yards rushing allowed per game, with seven rushing scores given out. Arizona's sad-sack offense was held to 17/55/0 rushing in the season finale, but Seattle put up 39/176/1 rushing on this unit back in week 16. The 49ers ended the year inconsistently in this phase of the game, to say the least. They gave up 6.5 yards per carry to the Packers during the divisional playoff game, with 16/104/1 surrendered, but rounded back into form at Atlanta, holding the Falcons to 23/81/0 rushing (3.5 yards per carry). Though they've been up and down lately, this is still one of the premier defensive fronts in the NFL entering the final game of the 2012-2013 season.

On balance, this looks like a tough assignment for Rice and Pierce.

Weather: Inside the Louisiana Superdome, weather won't be an issue for either team.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


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