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Week 15 Rushing Matchups

by Justin Howe, Devin Knotts, and Keith Roberts, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

Jump to Passing Matchups

Great Matchups: [ATL] [MIA] [MIN] [PHI] [PIT]
Good Matchups: [ARI] [BUF] [CHI] [JAX] [LAC] [NO] [NYJ] [SEA]
Neutral Matchups: [BAL] [CAR] [DAL] [DEN] [DET] [KC] [NE] [OAK] [TEN]
Tough Matchups: [CIN] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [LAR] [SF] [TB] [WAS]
Bad Matchups: [CLE] [NYG]


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 Tom Brady 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.


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Falcons continue to field one of the league’s more efficient run games. It’s not a particularly explosive one, but it’s as consistent as they come. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined for 96+ ground yards in 7 of their 10 games together, and at least one of the pair has reached 74+ in 10 of 13 overall. Running behind a top-tier line – our Matt Bitonti currently ranks it seventh, with a B+ run-blocking grade – the duo boasts a great floor with strong receiving and short-yardage upside (the Falcons tend to turn to the run near the goal line). Coleman will need to clear the concussion protocol to suit up this week, and if he can’t go, Freeman will represent one of Week 15’s best plays; his matchup with the Buccaneers’ up-and-down run defense only makes his outlook sweeter.

We can’t take much from their Week 14 performance: limiting the Lions’ barely-there running game means little, and doing it with Ameer Abdullah sidelined means even less. It’s much more sensible to consider this a lower-tier unit based on its tendency to give up huge games to quality lead backs. Since Week 6 they’ve allowed 91+ yards and 1-2 touchdowns each to Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, the Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara combination, Tevin Coleman, and Jamaal Williams. Things went from bad to worse when All-Pro tackle Gerald McCoy went down with a shoulder/biceps injury this week; he’s likely gone for the remainder of the year. Without McCoy to shed blockers and blow up plays, there’s little reason to fear this unit for fantasy purposes.

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


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Dolphins surprisingly traded away Jay Ajayi prior to Week 9, and it all makes more sense with every passing week. Second-year man Kenyan Drake has been a sheer revelation, explosive and ultra-productive through six semi-starts and averaging 5.11 yards per carry. Drake has made a habit out of ripping off huge chunk runs: he’s produced 5 runs of 26+ yards, with 2 of those coming against the often-smothering run defenses of the Panthers and Broncos. All in all, he’s significantly more of a weapon than passing down specialist Damien Williams, a marginal talent with a career 3.59 per-carry average. In the ground game, Williams brings little to nothing to the table and should be solidly behind Drake whenever he returns from injury. Drake, on the other hand, looks like an instant rejuvenation that Adam Gase probably wants to build his offense around. Even behind a marginal offensive line, Drake will boast a RB1 ceiling every week; his explosiveness is absolutely worth rolling the dice on his floor.

The Buffalo run defense appears to have given up. A dominant unit to open the year, they’ve now allowed 146+ ground yards to a stunning 5 of their last 6 opponents, including two stuck-in-the-mud running games in the Chiefs and Colts. The Bills have also allowed more rushing touchdowns (18) than anyone in football, thanks largely to some shaky short-yardage defense. With a depleted front seven and a secondary clearly designed to combat the downfield pass, it’s hard to expect much bounce-back from this unit.

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


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Latavius Murray has mostly seized control of this backfield from the likely-to-never-quite-get-there Jerick McKinnon, and it’s been going quite well. Murray ran into a ferocious Panthers defense last week that shut him down easily, but he’d averaged 4.52 yards per carry and 79.2 per game over his previous 6. That’s awfully impressive, and Murray looks set to ride game flow and the Vikings’ rebuilt offensive line to weekly high-end RB2 status every week. McKinnon is always in line for a handful of touches, but his carries have dipped for 3 straight weeks, and it’s hard to project him to make much noise. An inconsistent dancer, he’s averaged just 3.33 yards per attempt since Week 7. Both backs will be thrilled to see the Bengals’ poor run defense, replete with a relatively soft line and shaky second-level play, in Week 15.

The Bengals run defense, shaky all season, has devolved into arguably the league’s worst. Since the release of nose tackle Pat Sims, there’s no real space-eater up front, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s injury was a truly devastating one to this unit. All told, they’ve faced more rushing attempts (31.3 per game) and given up more ground yards (132.1) than anyone. Last week we saw just how easy it is for a dedicated running game to shred this defense, as the Bears’ Jordan Howard compiled 147 yards (and 2 scores) while change-of-pace back Tarik Cohen chimed in 80 more. Offenses capable of controlling the game’s flow can absolutely put on a running game clinic, and that’s not a particularly tall task against a 5-8 Bengals team that’s fading away rapidly.

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


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

With the Carson Wentz injury, the Eagles are going to be forced into running the ball even more than what they have been this season. The good news for the Eagles is that they are at a point where Jay Ajayi is being incorporated into this offense as the lead back instead of in a three-headed rotation with Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount. Ajayi last week had 15 carries and had over 50% of the snaps for this team while Blount only had 18% of the snaps last week which is almost a direct reversal of roles when Ajayi first came over from Miami. The Eagles offensive line is built for the run, as Jason Kelce is one of the best in the business at the center position and even will be the lead blocker at times on plays where he pulls on sweeps off-tackle.

The Giants run defense has struggled for a large portion of the season as while their defensive line play has been strong in Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson, the linebacker play has been abysmal this season. The problem for the Giants is that the defensive line play has been playing a little bit worse, personnel changes have made this linebacker group even worse than what it was to start the season as Calvin Munson and Kelvin Sheppard are both players who did not see significant time early on in the season are now being asked to play significant snaps leading to this run defense being even worse. Over the last four weeks, the Giants are allowing 4.5 yards per carry to opposing running backs and have allowed three touchdowns in those four games. This should be an opportunity for Ajayi and the Eagles backs to run all over the Giants this week.

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


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

At this point, we’re only rostering LeVeon Bell in fantasy due to his volume and his receiving ability. As a runner, Bell has been exceptionally hit-or-miss all year: he’s garnering just 3.91 yards per carry, his lowest mark since his rookie year, and he’s been held to 80 yards or fewer in 5 of his last 6 games (and 8 of 13 overall). It hasn’t just been strong defenses neutralizing him, either. Bell has been ho-hum against mediocre-to-bad run units like the Jaguars, Lions, and Bengals. Some of that can be blamed on the Steelers front line, which has been injury-depleted at times and generally underperformed throughout the year. Bell continues to force missed tackles; he’s just not lighting the world ablaze on a down-by-down basis. Still, he’s the league’s leader in both rushing attempts and yards, and Antonio Brown aside, he’s the clear focal point of the Steelers’ potent offense. It would be foolish to look at Bell’s relatively inefficient 2017 and call him anything but a bona fide top-two or -three fantasy back on any given week.

The Patriots run defense remains a gross liability, to the point that it’s an ideal unit to target in fantasy even when the game script projects to be ugly. No team in football is allowing more yards per rush – nor even close – than the Patriots’ eye-popping 5.07. Two weeks ago we saw LeSean McCoy rack up 93 yards on 15 rushes in a 20-point game, and in Week 8, Melvin Gordon posted a 132-yard, 1-touchdown line in another New England win. This front seven is laughably light, with only one true space-eater up front and extremely limited linebacker play. The Patriots struggle mightily to contain the edges and defend counter/stretch runs, so LeVeon Bell’s quickness and burst could propel him to a massive line.

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


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Cardinals were without Adrian Peterson for the second straight week against the Titans last Sunday, but that did not appear to matter as they still racked up 136 rushing yards against one of the league’s best run defenses. Kerwynn Williams went from 50% of the snaps in Week 13 to 60% of the snaps last week as he out-worked fellow backup D.J. Foster with a whopping 20 carries compared to Foster’s two rushes. The late game lead helped pad Williams’ stats here as last week was a grind for both offenses with yardage hard to come by. In Peterson’s absence, Williams now has rushed for 16 and 20 carries with 170 rushing yards over that two-game span. Peterson has no timetable for a return from his neck injury, so Williams will continue to lead this backfield as long as Peterson is on the sidelines. The Cardinals offensive line took a couple blows last week though as right guard Earl Watford suffered a high-ankle sprain while left tackle Jared Veldheer was placed on season-ending injured reserve—both injuries causing a downgrade to this overall rushing offense as their offensive line had already been in tough shape.

The Redskins were taken to town by the Chargers on the ground last week, allowing 174 rushing yards and a touchdown for an average of 5.0 yards per rush attempt. While the Redskins did a decent job against Melvin Gordon, it was guys like Austin Ekeler with 49 yards on four carries or Travis Benjamin with a 22-yard carry that really hurt them. The second half of the season has not been good to the Redskins at all as they are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, fueled by 128 rushing yards per game allowed to the position over that span—second most in the league. They allowed just 66 rushing yards per game through Week 7, so this Redskins defense is not moving in the right direction at all. On top of it all, the Redskins had a couple linebackers go down with injuries during last week’s game with Zach Brown expected to miss this week’s game. Despite the banged-up offensive line of the Cardinals, they should be in for a decent matchup here against the reeling Redskins front seven.

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


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

LeSean McCoy is back to looking fantastic as a runner – he’s rushed for 91+ yards in 3 of his last 4 games, and 5 of his last 8. But it’s a fair question as to just how strong a fantasy RB1 he is going forward. McCoy has been inconsistent at times as he (and his line) have learned a new blocking scheme this season. Most importantly, though, his touchdown outlook has taken a nosedive, from last year’s 13 ground scores to just 5 in 13 games this season. With the Bills’ passing game hinging on either a dinged-up Tyrod Taylor or an absurdly bad Joe Webb, we almost certainly won’t see McCoy afforded many touchdown opportunities, and we may see him smash into stacked boxes for the rest of the year. He’s still a bell cow, and a dynamic one at that, but comes with more volatility than we’re used to from him.

The Miami run defense generally lacks in talent – beyond tackle Ndamukong Suh, of course – and its cracks are showing after a great, overachieving start to the season. They’re basically alternating good and bad performances in this area; dating back to Week 8 they’ve allowed 84 yards or fewer 3 times but 174 or more in 3 others. The dip has largely aligned with the sharp midseason decline in the quality of their linebacker play. Barely-there Rey Maualuga has been released, while Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso have been exposed as limited, inconsistent run-stuffers. As a result, strong running games and those capable of controlling game flow enter this matchup in good shape.

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


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bears offense had a breakout game last week against the Bengals as they put up a season-high 33 points in this blowout victory. With a rare lead at halftime, the game script last week was great for the run as the Bears piled up 232 rushing yards on 38 rushing attempts. Jordan Howard led the way with 23 carries for 147 yards and two rushing touchdowns. This game goes to further show how much of a boom or bust play Howard has been this season. In the two previous games, Howard barely averaged over two yards per attempt for 44 total rushing yards—yet, this game marked the fifth time he has surpassed 100 rushing yards and the third time he has rushed for 140 or more yards in a game this season. Tarik Cohen was also involved last week as he reached a new season-high 80 rushing yards from 12 attempts with an early touchdown called back due to him barely tapping a toe out of bounds. Cohen, however, had rushed for over six yards in just one of his last six games leading up to last week.

The Lions run defense continued to struggle last week as they gave up 133 rushing yards to the Buccaneers last week. They did a great job at shutting down Doug Martin, but Lions were burned by an end around to DeSean Jackson while getting worn down by the combination of Doug Martin and Peyton Barber. The Lions have now given up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, fueled by their 14 rushing touchdowns allowed to the position—second most in the league. The play of Jarrod Davis continues to hinder this run defense despite the solid play of his counterpart Tahir Whitehead. Despite the Bears right guard Kyle Long landing on injured reserve, that unit still played well last week as Tom Compton did a decent job filling in. With as poorly as the Lions have been playing against the run lately, the advantage will have to go to the Bears here.

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


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Leonard Fournette after struggling heading into last week got back in form as he ran against a good Seattle run defense for 101 yards and scored a touchdown last week. Fournette has been a little bit inconsistent throughout the season, but when he is good and getting volume carries he has been tremendous as he has five 100 yard games or more in his eleven games that he has played. Part of the inconsistency for Fournette has been the offensive line not creating space for him as heading into last week this offensive line was ranked as the 27th best offensive line, but did get Jermey Parnell back which paid off significantly as he was a big reason they were able to run against Seattle last week.

Houston’s run defense statistically is better than what they actually are, as while they are only allowing 85 yards rushing to opposing defenses on the season they are allowing 4.0 yards per carry. Teams have not needed to run on Houston as their secondary has been poor on the year, but this defense does have talent particularly along the defensive line as D.J. Reader and Jadeveon Clowney headline the group. This is a defense that from a talent standpoint is near the league average as they have playmakers in their front seven, but also have holes particularly ones created by the early season J.J. Watt injury.

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


Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Melvin Gordon has really struggled this season after a very promising 2016 breakout season the running back is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry on the year. The good news for Gordon is that the team is actually increasing his workload later in the season even though he has been struggling as he is averaging 22 touches per game over his last four games. This is a team that is going to commit to Gordon as long as they can as if they can get a consistent running game going they could be extremely dangerous come playoff time.

The Chiefs run defense is one that on the year are averaging allowing 4.1 yards per carry to opposing running backs and are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. As of late, they have not fared any better as they were torched by Marshawn Lynch last week on just 7 carries he was able to run for 61 yards and a touchdown. This is a defense that has talent in Justin Houston and Chris Jones on the defensive line along with Reggie Ragland and Derrick Johnson at linebacker, but have gaping holes at every level. Things got worse for the Chiefs this past week as Steve Terrell who had filled in admirably at strong safety was placed on IR which means that Daniel Sorensen will once again move back into the base defense which has been a liability for the Chiefs this year in the running game.

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


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Assuming rookie phenom Alvin Kamara clears the concussion protocol this week, the Saints should immediately resume their thoroughly dominant ground-game ways. Kamara’s early Week 14 exit provided the first hiccup for this dominant unit since the Adrian Peterson trade. Since Week 6, they’ve averaged an easy league-high of 154.9 ground yards per game and run for 18 touchdowns (also first leaguewide by a mile or two). Prior to last week, the Kamara/Mark Ingram duo had combined for 103+ yards in all 8 post-Peterson games, and topped 118 in 7 of those. Both backs are dynamic, with Ingram still showing deceptive, versatile explosiveness and Kamara simply a difficult man to tackle. They operate behind a strong offensive line, and they’re afforded a ton of space by Drew Brees’ passing game. We saw last week that anything can happen to derail a fantasy week, but there’s no intellectually honest reason to discount a full Saints backfield anytime soon.

The Jets run defense is one of the league’s more up-and-down units. They’ve held 5 opponents to 90 ground yards or less, but given up 140 or more 6 other times. Much of the issue can be traced to the interior, where down lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and the linebackers have been wildly inconsistent. Wilkerson is essentially lame duck, as his play has fallen off a cliff and he’ll almost certainly be cut loose minutes into 2018 free agency. Inside linebackers Darron Lee and Demario Davis have been generally solid, but the revolving door of outside men are struggling to hold contain. That’s great news for ultra-dynamic Saints rookie Alvin Kamara, who (provided he suits up) could shred this defense on the edges.

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


New York Jets Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Jets’ three-headed running back monster has flashed dynamism at times, but only very briefly so; they’re still hard to trust in any fantasy capacity. Matt Forte has looked every bit of his age of late, averaging just 3.13 yards per carry and 32.3 per game since returning from injury in Week 12. Bilal Powell is a more athletic and dynamic back than he’s given credit for, but in a timeshare with Forte and running behind a mediocre line, the deck is typically stacked against him. Rookie Elijah McGuire isn’t much of a factor, either; he’s been given just 11 carries over his last 9 quarters of play and hurt his ankle in Week 14. Altogether, this is generally a unit to avoid regardless of matchup or expected game flow. And with quarterback Josh McCown out and the Jets’ league-worst backup situation in play, both matchup and script are turning overwhelmingly negative for the trio.

The Saints’ run defense numbers are actually decent, but they belie the true vulnerability that exists here. They’re allowing 4.50 yards per rush, fourth-most in the league, after all. But when they dominate games, as they often did from Weeks 6-10, they’ve been able to snuff out opposing runners and prevent big fantasy days. Offenses can’t stay committed to the run, of course, when the Saints are leading comfortably and their own backs are grinding out the second half. That said, their run of huge wins seems to have skidded to a stop; they’ve spent most of their last four weeks in neutral or negative game script, and it’s afforded their opponents more opportunity – and room – to run. Samaje Perine (117 yards and 1 touchdown), Todd Gurley (74 yards), and Devonta Freeman (91 and 1) have been able to wear them down successfully. The Saints are overwhelming Week 15 favorites (currently -16), but we need to bear in mind what their opponents are capable of when the game is rolling toward the middle.

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


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Rams Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Seahawks fed Mike Davis as the lead back for the second straight week since his return from injury as he saw 15 carries for 66 yards. Davis split snaps with J.D. McKissick, but McKissick only carried three times as he contributed more in the passing game than Davis did. Davis is averaging 4.2 yards per carry over these past two games, which is an impressive mark considering what the Seahawks have been used to getting from their running backs this season. Davis did exit last week’s game early though after injuring his ribs midway through the third quarter, so his status will be worth monitoring throughout the week. The offensive line continues to improve with Duane Brown healthy at left tackle and Justin Britt playing well at center. Russell Wilson also continued with his weekly contribution to the running game as he averaged 10 yards per carry for 50 rushing yards—the third time in the last six games that he has rushed for 50 or more yards.

The Rams continue to struggle mightily against the run despite the pass-rushing talent they have up front. Last week, they allowed the Eagles to rush for 139 yards on 32 carries, good for an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. While this was below the Rams 4.7 yards per attempt average on the season (T-2nd worst in the league), it was still a very poor showing in which the Rams defense was simply overwhelmed by the volume and worn down as the game went on. The Seahawks run game is improving while the Rams run defense has been consistently bad in recent weeks. One thing the Rams have done a decent job of this season has been containing mobile quarterbacks as Russell Wilson had one of his worst rushing games of the season against the Rams back in Week 5, but Wilson has kicked it up to another level as the season has progressed—so do not look for him to be hindered in what will still be a soft matchup.

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


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Alex Collins looked tremendous last week going up against a Steelers defense which heading into the game had been a good run defending unit. Collins over his last two games is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has three touchdowns during that timeframe. He has scored a touchdown in each of his last four games as well as he tries to solidify a job for himself heading into next season. A big reason for the improvement in the running game is the improvement in the offensive line play as Matt Bitonti had this offensive line as the 28th best in week 7, and now has them up to the 15th best offensive line.

The Browns run defense started off the season as a historically dominant run defense but that is quickly changing. Over their last five games the Browns have allowed 3.9 yards per carry which while that is still good it is not the elite unit that it was earlier in the season and it took a major hit when it comes to injuries as elite run-stopper Danny Shelton did not play last week and appears highly questionable heading into this game. If he were to be unable to go, it would force the Browns to play Trevon Coley even more than he already has been playing. Coley has been the weak link in this Browns defensive line this season.

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


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Panthers rushing offense exploded for 216 yards on the ground against one of the best rushing defenses in the league last week. A 60-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Stewart in the first quarter is really what made his day as Stewart had just one run over six yards after that play, which would have ended up resulting in less than 2.9 yards per attempt. Stewart also added in a couple goal-line touchdowns to further pad those stats as he had his best fantasy game of the season and now has a three-game scoring streak going after finding the end zone just once prior to this streak. Cam Newton also continues his dominance on the ground as he rushed for 70 yards to extend his lead on Russell Wilson for the most rushing yards by a quarterback this season. Newton has now rushed for at least 50 yards in six of his last eight games with five rushing touchdowns on the season. Christian McCaffrey had another poor showing on the ground last week as he continues to see fewer carries than Stewart despite out-snapping him in nearly every game this season.

The Packers run defense has struggled over the last three weeks as they have given up at least 95 rushing yards to each lead running back they have faced over that span despite not allowing a single rushing touchdown. The play of their interior linemen Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels has been nothing less than spectacular, but this Packers front seven has been less effective defending against runs to the outside as teams are avoiding between the tackles due to this usual mismatch with Daniels and Clark. From a talent perspective, the core of Green Bay’s run defense is solid and they have been great on the goal line this season. However, when you allow Isaiah Crowell and a struggling Browns offense to post a season-high 121 rushing yards just after giving up 102 rushing yards to Peyton Barber and a struggling Buccaneers offense, something is not quite right.

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


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The duo of Rod Smith and Alfred Morris led the Cowboys backfield to another solid showing on the ground last week as they amassed 109 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Giants. Smith and Morris virtually split snaps with Morris getting just four more plays than Smith, but Morris remains the clear first/second down back as he racked up 19 carries compared to Smith’s six. Both players contributed in the passing game, but Smith had a massive day sparked by an 81-yard touchdown reception that blew the game wide open in the second half. With Tyron Smith and Zack Martin both back and playing, a healthy Cowboys offensive line will be a tough matchup for any opposing defense. Alfred Morris will continue to lead the backfield next week until Ezekiel Elliott returns in Week 16.

The Raiders run defense continues to be mediocre as they are statistically in the middle for most categories. They had a tough time keeping Kareem Hunt contained last week as he rushed for 10 or more yards on three plays on his way to 116 rushing yards with a 4.6 yards per carry average. This was a step back after the Raiders locked down a couple of very bad backfields for the past two weeks. We have seen opposing running backs get the best of the Raiders with an 80+ yard game allowed to five different running backs over the course of the season, but other than those few games, the Raiders have done a decent job managing opposing backfields. Navarro Bowman continues to play well while their weaker defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes actually had a solid outing last week and has been playing well over the last five weeks. Still, though, the Cowboys have the definite advantage in the trenches and should get the edge in this one.

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


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Broncos employ a loose committee of runners, with C.J. Anderson leading the way virtually every week and Devontae Booker running ahead of Jamaal Charles to spell him. But even in success – like last week’s 23-0 win over the Jets – there’s generally nothing to see here. Anderson’s line was truly pitiful (22 rushes, 48 yards, long of 7), while Booker averaged just 2.44 yards in his own right and Charles didn’t receive a carry. Anderson seems to have volume in his corner, but not much else; he’s not nearly the same player he once flashed as in Peyton Manning’s backfield. Running behind a deteriorating front line – and frequently smashing into stacked boxes at the line – there’s little upside to speak of here for any of these participants.

The Colts run defense has been surprisingly stout for much of 2017; most of their opponents’ fantasy points have come from touchdowns, not efficiency. Even with a revolving door of starting linebackers and frequently negative game script, they’ve only been gashed by four running games all year. In each of their other 9 games, they’ve allowed 111 yards or fewer – including dates with Todd Gurley, Carlos Hyde, LeVeon Bell, and the Titans’ powerful duo. Of course, one of those gashings came just last week at the hands of the Bills, who had no choice but to turn to LeSean McCoy for 32 carries. In all, though, this is not a unit we want to expressly target in fantasy. They boast two strong interior linemen, Jonathan Hankins and Al Woods, who have tied up blockers and clogged run lanes all year; the Broncos front line will have its hands full clearing room for its mediocre runners.

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


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Lions backfield is in shambles this season as they have not been able to get any resemblance of a rushing game together, ranking dead last in the league with 76.3 rushing yards per game and only 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Ameer Abdullah was the lead back for most of the season, but after missing Week 13 with a neck injury, Abdullah was benched last week despite being medically cleared to play. Theo Riddick saw 77% of the offensive snaps and led the team in carries with 10, but he is simply not built to be a lead back as he averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt despite scoring a couple touchdowns. Riddick did have one impressive 18-yard touchdown run, but that was all he impressed with as his other nine rushes all went for five or fewer yards with three of those accounting for negative yardage. This was the first time Riddick had reached double-digit carries in a game this season, but don’t expect that trend to continue as he is not suited lead-back duties. There was a lot of buzz about rookie Tion Green coming into the game last week, but he disappointed with just five carries for 15 yards as Green saw only 21% of the snaps.

The Bears run defense looked OK on paper last week with just 70 rushing yards allowed, but the game script really kept that total down as the Bengals had only 13 rushing attempts. This unit has been much better at limiting the scoring of opposing running backs in recent weeks as they have allowed just three rushing touchdowns to running backs since Week 6 compared to giving up five in their first five games. Over the past four weeks, the Bears have actually allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs due primarily to the fact that they haven’t given up a rushing touchdown over that span. One of those games, however, was against this horrible Lions backfield in which they limited Lions running backs to just 57 rushing yards. There is no reason to expect an improved performance this week as the Lions backfield has actually gotten worse since then.

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


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Finally, Kareem Hunt returned back to the form that we had been waiting on for so long as he was on a nine-game touchdown drought which he snapped this past week. Kareem Hunt ran for 116 yards last week against an Oakland team that had allowed just one other 100-yard rusher all season. What was even more impressive from Hunt was that he did most of the work without one of those signature long-runs that we saw early on in the season as his longest run of the day was just 17 yards. While it is a small sample size and we do not want to overreact, hopefully, it is a sign that Hunt is changing his running style to instead of looking for that huge play every time like he was during his mid-season struggles.

The Chargers rush defense has transformed itself into one of the better units in football after a horrible start to the season. A big reason for that is Denzel Perryman who missed the first eight games of the season has replaced Hayes Pullard and has been playing tremendous football as of late and had it not have been for a blowout last week he would have been on the field for 100% of the plays for three straight games. Since Perryman’s return, the Chargers have allowed just 79 yards rushing in each of their last five games. This defensive unit is still not a great one as the team is designed to stop the pass, but it is one that is much improved compared to where it was earlier this season.

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


New England Patriots Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Patriots’ tandem of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead continues to impress. Since shedding Mike Gillislee from their rotation and scaling back snaps for the one-dimensional James White, the Patriots running game has been among the league’s most effective. Lewis has averaged a studly 5.34 yards per rush and 62.3 per game since Week 5; he’s running fantastically both inside and out and is a perfectly viable fantasy RB2, especially given his touchdown upside. He’s spelled nicely by Burkhead, who’s versatile and has chimed in 136 ground yards and 4 touchdowns over the past 3 weeks. These two are a bit reliant upon game flow and tired, trailing defenses – there’s not quite enough volume here to project 100-yard games. But given the Patriots’ play volume and scoring prowess, there’s always RB1 upside for both.

The Pittsburgh run defense, elite for most of the season, finds itself in moderate trouble at the moment. They’ve been worked over by their last 2 opponents, with the soft-running Bengals racking up 130 yards in Week 13 and the Alex Collins-led Ravens posting 152 last Sunday night. The Steelers have spent most of 2017 thoroughly neutralizing the run on a per-game basis – they’re still allowing just 102.9 yards, ninth-best in the league – but getting generally gashed per run (4.30, eighth-worst). It seems clearer every week that run-focused teams can blow the Steelers’ pass-oriented front seven off the ball with relative ease; we’ve seen them similarly slaughtered by the Bears and Jaguars earlier in the year. And with top linebacker Ryan Shazier sidelined indefinitely, there’s little reason to believe much in this unit. The Patriots’ isn’t a run-dominant offense, but if they’re able to establish any kind of early lead, they can blow the doors off this matchup and escort Dion Lewis to another strong day.

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


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Raiders absolutely abandoned the run game last week with the combination of Marshawn Lynch and DeAndre Washington getting just 11 carries combined. Game flow was not on their side as the Chiefs dominated most of the game causing the Raiders to become too pass-heavy. Lynch did what he could with such few touches as he crossed the 60-yard mark for the fourth consecutive week while also finding the end zone for the third consecutive week and fifth time in his last five starts. Washington saw his normal percentage of snaps and workload, so there is nothing to be concerned about there as long as Lynch stays healthy. The Raiders offensive line also continues to play at a very high level as everyone is healthy and blocking well in the running game.

The Cowboys run defense had a bit of a tough time with the terrible Giants backfield last week. In a game where their defense dominated for most of the day, they still allowed 102 total rushing yards to one of the worst backfields in football. Sean Lee was much more effective against the pass in his return from injury than he was in run defense. Despite last week though, we have seen what Lee can do in the middle of the field against opposing running backs. While the Cowboys have a weaker interior defensive line that is not a great matchup for the strong Raiders offensive line, Lee should help to limit big plays in the run game as long as he stays on the field.

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


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

With only 65 total rushing yards and 3.0 yards per attempt, the Titans run-first offense was incredible ineffective last week. Demarco Murray saw the majority of snaps and carries again, but Derrick Henry came away with the touchdown for the second straight week despite the lack of production from both running backs. Murray had a nice game against Houston the week prior, but he still has only rushed for more than 70 yards in one game all season back in Week 3. Derrick Henry has looked like the more effective running back, he just is not getting enough touches to provide sustainable fantasy value. Marcus Mariota had two rushing touchdowns in his last three games leading up to last week, and he continues to provide some upside with his legs on a weekly basis. Left tackle Taylor Lewan was forced from last week’s game with back issues, and it has been reported that he is dealing with spasms. He is expected to play through them, but this is still a situation worth keeping an eye on as Lewan is the best offensive lineman on this squad.

The 49ers rushing defense has been much improved as the season progressed. In the second half (since Week 9), the 49ers have given up the league’s fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs compared to allowing the most points to the position through the first eight weeks of the season. A big part of this is that they have not allowed a touchdown to a running back over their last five games.They have seen some soft matchups in recent weeks, but this defense has still done a great job at limiting big plays by running backs while also keeping them out of the end zone (no rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs in the last five games). Their defensive line is still suspect, but the play of Deforest Buckner on the interior has been immaculate despite the lack of help around him. Despite this recent success, we can’t forget how bad this unit played earlier in the season. The Titans offense has struggled, but they will be the best rushing attack the 49ers have played recently.

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


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

With Jeremy Hill on IR, this backfield will belong overwhelmingly to one of Joe Mixon or Giovani Bernard, and either would be a solid option as the starter. Mixon may be facing a race to gain clearance in time – his Week 13 concussion was a particularly awful-looking one – so Bernard may see another bell cow start. Bernard is explosive in his own right, averaging 4.48 per rush thus far in 2017, and he boasts tons of experience and instinct in this offense. Either option would be handicapped by one of the league’s worst offensive lines, which our Matt Bitonti currently ranks 28th, but that impact is lessening of late. The combination of Mixon and Bernard has produced 299 yards on 57 rushes over the past 3 weeks. The athleticism and dynamism of both seem to be swinging things a bit further than the turnstile-esque front line.

The Vikings continue to boast one of the NFL’s elite run defenses. They’re allowing the league’s sixth-fewest yards per rush and second-fewest per game, even after being worked over severely by the Panthers last week. Prior to that showing – which was heavily weighted by quarterback Cam Newton’s 70 yards – the Vikings hadn’t allowed a single run game to top 115 yards all season. Boasting a truly dominant defensive line of space-eating maulers inside and edge-challenging guys outside, opponents simply don’t create much running room in this matchup. When they do, the Vikings’ dynamic young linebacker tandem of Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, both exceptional in pursuit, are capable of shutting down promising runs left and right. Of course, we can’t merely wipe Week 14 from our memories, and it was indeed a collapse. But this remains a top-tier unit, one that’s not entirely prohibitive but tends to severely cap upsides.

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


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Packers struggled to move the ball on the ground in a tough matchup against a strong Browns run defense last week. Jamaal Williams led the way with 68% of the snaps and 15 carries for 49 rushing yards. While it was a less productive day on the ground, Williams was much more heavily involved in the passing attack as the Packers were playing from behind in most of this game. Williams did extend his touchdown streak to three straight games as he punched one in from the goal line in the fourth quarter. Averaging 19 carries per game over the last five weeks, Williams has clearly asserted himself as the lead back for the Packers. He has seen an encouraging amount of usage both on rushing and passing downs, making Williams a high upside running back option for consideration.

This week, Williams will face a Panthers run defense that has done an excellent job shutting down teams not from New Orleans this season. They have given up just the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs as opposing backfields are averaging just 75 rushing yards per game. Take out the two games against the Saints, and this defense would have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game and just three rushing touchdowns to running backs. Kawaan Short has been one of the best interior defenders in football while Luke Kuechly continues to light up the league with his tremendous play at middle linebacker. The Packers roll out a bottom tier offensive line, so look for them to struggle with opening up holes for Jamaal Williams to run through this week.

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


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Lamar Miller might be the most consistent running back in the league and we are not sure that is a compliment. Over his last seven games, Miller has between 51 and 61 yards rushing. It does not matter if he had just 10 carries or if he had 22 carries, or if it is a bad matchup or a good matchup he seemingly gets you somewhere between 50-60 yards every game. The issue for the Texans is that their offensive line is currently ranked by Matt Bitonti as the second-worst offensive line in football and if it is the second worst it cannot be by much as every one of their starters has struggled this season.

The Jaguars are a unit who has really grown since the start of the season when they were struggling against the run allowing 149 yards per game over their first four games. Since that point, over their last nine games, they have only allowed 73 yards rushing per game and have only allowed one rushing touchdown over their last nine games which is the best in football. The Jaguars are expected to get one of the best linebackers in football back this week which will only help their case as Telvin Smith has cleared concussion protocol this week and will help improve this already elite front seven led by their defensive line with Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and quite possibly the most improved defensive lineman in football in Yannick Ngakoue.

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


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

After a season of near-invisibility, we’ve finally seen back-to-back weeks of productivity from the Colts run game. Frank Gore, who still holds a vice grip on the lead job, has posted 191 yards on 49 attempts over the last 2 weeks. He’s not setting the world afire with his season-long 3.63-yard average, but he’s at least proving fantasy-viable as the team muddles along in the passing game. Where Gore is at a real fantasy disadvantage is in the touchdown column. With no Andrew Luck and a near-toothless offense around him, Gore carries a minuscule 1.4% touchdown rate, which makes sense – he’s only taken 2 carries from inside the 5-yard-line, fewer than the likes Jamaal Charles and Theo Riddick. (Consider that Robert Turbin, whom the Colts put on IR eight weeks ago, still has more than that.) Gore doesn’t bring any dynamism to the table, but his recent stretch has at least been encouraging. Rookie Marlon Mack has hit a productivity wall, with no more than 7 rushes in any of the last 4 games; he’s only reached 30+ yards once since Week 6.

The Denver run defense, long considered impenetrable, has definitely shown some cracks of late. Over the past 5 weeks they’ve allowed uncharacteristically strong rushing performances to Dion Lewis (55 yards and 1 touchdown), Marshawn Lynch (67 and 1), and Kenyan Drake (120 and 1). The personnel remains generally strong, though losing end Derek Wolfe was an underrated blow. It appears that this unit is merely buckling under the pressure of a team-wide collapse. It’s still a stout group, allowing the league’s second-lowest yardage per carry and third-fewest touchdowns. But when forced to bear the weight of a turnover-prone offense, they’re just as susceptible as any run defense. This is no longer a unit we should run from in setting our fantasy lineups.

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


Los Angeles Rams Rushing Offense at Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Todd Gurley continued his dominant season last week as he amassed his highest rushing yardage total since Week 7 and his highest yards per rush attempt (7.4) in a game this season. Even in a shootout of a game like we saw last week with Gurley receiving only 13 carries, he still proved to be highly effective as he busted off a 30-yard run to start the game and followed that up with two more runs of over 15 yards. Gurley has been busting off big plays all season as he now has 12 runs of 15 or more yards with these big plays accounting for just over a quarter of his total rushing yards. It is worth noting that starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth left last week’s game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He did return but had to exit again in the second half. Whitworth has been one of the Rams’ best offensive linemen, so his absence would certainly make it harder on Gurley to find room to run in this difficult matchup.

The Seahawks had a rough day against the run last week as they gave up over 150 rushing yards to opposing running backs for the third time this season. The Seahawks had been playing very well against the run in their last nine games as they hadn’t allowed an opposing running back to cross the 55-yard mark since Week 3. This last week, Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory both got the best of this Seattle squad as the pair averaged five yards per carry with Fournette punching in a goal-line touchdown. The Seahawks had another big injury on their defense as Bobby Wagner was forced out in the third quarter with a re-aggravated hamstring that had been bothering him for the past few weeks. Coincidence or not, but the Jaguars scored touchdowns on each of the next two offensive plays after Wagner left the field. If he is ruled out this week, this matchup would go to a great matchup.

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


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Carlos Hyde had a solid game last week as he averaged 5.6 yards per rush for 78 yards and a touchdown. This was Hyde’s first rushing touchdown since Week 6 and his fifth of the season. Hyde’s workload continues to be steady, but it has been alarming to see Matt Breida see 12 carries for two straight weeks. Breida has not made the most of his opportunities though, as he is averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt over these last two games. The 49ers offensive line continues to provide solid blocking for Hyde and company to run behind as long as Joe Staley can remain healthy.

The Titans have had one of the league’s best run defenses all season, giving up just 90 rushing yards per game and tied for the league’s fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (five). Opposing running backs have averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt against the Titans over the second half of the season with a ton of their success against the run attributed to the outstanding play of both Jurrell Casey and Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard actually had four run stops last week as he is having one of the best seasons of his career in terms of run defense. The 49ers offensive line has played well this season, but they will still be in for a very tough test here.

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


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Doug Martin already appears done. Here in his sixth season, he’s continued to smash into the massive wall that’s capped him throughout his NFL career. Since his explosive rookie 2012 season, Martin has averaged just 3.87 yards per carry and 64.3 per game – 3.33 and 52.9 if we remove his 2015. And in Week 14, he was benched for fumbling and didn’t touch the ball in the second half. Long dwindling in efficiency and rarely useful in the passing game or short yardage, Martin likely isn’t long for this offense. He was replaced by Peyton Barber last week, which has the look of a permanent move. Over 6 career games in which he’s been given 10+ carries, Barber has averaged 4.25 yards per carry and 56.0 per game. He’s not exciting, but he’d be a bell cow and therefore worth a WR3/FLEX look minus Martin.

The Falcons run defense is a deceptively stout unit. They’re middle-of-the-pack in terms of per-game and per-attempt efficiency, but those numbers are largely weighted by opposing change-of-pace backs and quarterback scrambles. Tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe have been excellent at occupying interior space, and linebacker Deion Jones has been All-Pro-caliber in pursuit across the field. They certainly do a fine job when controlling the game’s pace and script. In wins, they shut down the opposition as expected – opposing lead backs average just 39.1 yards (3.64 per rush) in the Falcons’ 8 wins. Given their current -5 road Vegas line, things are looking up for Week 15.

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


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Redskins rushing offense sputtered to just 65 rushing yards in what should have been a decent matchup against the Chargers weaker run defense. Part of the issue here was poor play by Kirk Cousins at quarterback, which set the entire offense back. The offensive line for Washington also did not play well last week despite the return of left tackle Trent Williams. Right guard Brandon Scherff was outmatched for most of the day while the Redskins continue to struggle with continuity at the Center position since Spencer Long went on injured reserve earlier this year. Samaje Perine now has two games in a row with less than 3.3 yards per rush and 50 rushing yards after going back to back games with 100 or more rushing yards. His workload is down from those two games, but it is obvious that Perine’s efficiency is also down due in part to the poor play from the rest of this offense along with his offensive line. Perine also looked to be banged up last week as he limped off the field once, but he is not on the injury report, so it must not have been a major setback.

The Cardinals did an excellent job in shutting down the Titans run game last week as they limited them to just 65 yards on the ground with 3.0 yards per rush. The Cardinals have been inconsistent against the run for most of this season, but they have had three solid showings in the past three games and have given up no rushing touchdowns in three of their last six outings, giving up the 10th fewest fantasy points per game to running backs over that span. Corey Peters missed his third straight game last week despite practicing on a limited basis leading up to Sunday, so barring setbacks, Peters may be back on the field this Sunday. If Peters returns, it would be a great boost for this defensive front that has been stepping up their game in recent weeks. With as bad as the Redskins offensive line has played, the Cardinals will have the advantage with or without Peters this week.

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


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Over his last five weeks, Isaiah Crowell has been a rollercoaster of a ride when it comes to production. In three of his five games, he has 90 or more yards, while in the other two games he has a total combined 59 yards rushing. Crowell looked tremendous against a good Packers run defense last week. A big reason for Crowell’s recent success has been the offensive line particularly at the guard position as Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler have really improved their play as of late.

Baltimore’s run defense has been an interesting group this season as they started off as one of the worst run defenses in football over the first six weeks allowing 125 yards rushing per game over that timeframe. However, this group has really turned it around over their last five games allowing just 59 yards rushing or 3.0 yards per carry which include last week where they held LeVeon Bell to just 48 yards rushing. The one problem for the Ravens, however, is the number of rushing touchdowns they have allowed recently as they have allowed six rushing touchdowns over their last five games which is the third worst in football. This is a defensive line that is very strong led by Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce so while it is difficult to predict touchdowns, expect a tough road for Isaiah Crowell, but possibly a touchdown in this game.

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


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Orleans Darkwa has come crashing back down to earth as over his last three games he has run for between 29 and 32 yards in each of those three games. Last week, we saw the Giants turn to Wayne Gallman particularly once the game got out of hand as Gallman had 12 carries and also caught 7 passes in this game. It would not be surprising if the team gave Gallman an extended look to see what they have out of the rookie for the last three games of the season now that Ben McAdoo is no longer with the team.

The Eagles run defense continues to be one of the best in recent memory as they have only allowed 50 yards rushing per game to opposing running backs which at this point in the season is the lowest since 2006 when the Vikings had just 49 yards allowed to opposing running backs. This Eagles defensive line might be the best in football as Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham have all been outstanding this season. This is a team that very few teams have had success running the ball against and some teams have abandoned the run completely.

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