FBG says: Neutral matchup. With 35 of 42 team rushes thus far, Christian McCaffrey remains the engine of the Panthers' ground attack. He was bottled up Thursday by the Buccaneers' improved run defense, but shredded the Rams for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 1. It's comforting to note that Thursday's letdown was just the fourth time over his last 13 games he's been held below a 4.0 average. McCaffrey is an open-field dynamo, of course, but has bulked up noticeably and become a difficult tackle on the interior. And he's aided by a strong run-blocking line that consistently opens big holes. McCaffrey is always a top-tier play, regardless of game script or matchup. Quarterback Cam Newton hasn't run the ball much - just five attempts through two games. The 30-year-old may be in the process of drastically reducing the weekly punishment he takes. He no longer takes on goal-line work, either; that goes almost entirely to McCaffrey now.
For the second straight week, the Cardinals' improved run defense held a solid opposing ground game somewhat in check. They had no answer for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who shredded them for 120 yards. But behind him, running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards managed just 58 yards over 16 attempts. That came after the Cardinals held explosive Lions runner Kerryon Johnson to 3.1 per carry in the opener. Linebacker Jordan Hicks (25 tackles thus far) remains an underrated run-stuffer on the second level, while Haason Redick and safety Budda Baker have also taken steps forward. And 330-pound Corey Peters does a fine job of occupying space and absorbing blockers up front. Still, this unit isn't by any means unbeatable, as Jackson proved with his read-option runs off the edge. Baby steps have been taken, and this isn't quite the slam-dunk fantasy matchup it was last year. But speedy backs like Christian McCaffrey remain fully capable of excelling here. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton hasn't run much of late, but he's certainly boning up on the tape of Jackson's Week 2 dominance.