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Week 19 Rushing Matchups

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

Great Matchups:
Good Matchups: [ARI] [BAL] [NO] [NYJ]
Neutral Matchups:
Tough Matchups: [DAL] [IND] [MIN] [SD]
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 Peyton Manning 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.


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The 2010 wild card matchup between Green Bay and Arizona was one of the all-time highest scoring games ever during the playoffs, with a total of 96 points scored during the game. Neither team's defense could find an answer for the other offense until the OT period, when Karlos Dansby dashed the Packers' hopes with a 17 yard fumble return for a TD to end the contest 51-45. Chris Wells led the Cardinals with 14/91/0 rushing, followed by Steve Breaston (1/28/0), Tim Hightower (7/19/1 rushing and 3/21/0 receiving) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (1/18/0 rushing and 3/19/0 receiving). The Cardinals cracked open the Packers' top-ranked rush D for 23/156/1 on the ground. They are playing at a peak level entering this divisional playoff round.

The Saints rested up last week after ending regular season ranked 21st in the NFL vs. opposing rushers (they averaged 122.2 net rushing yards allowed per game, with 19 rushing TDs given up through 16 contests). The team gave up 588 rushing yards during the final four weeks of regular season (147 per contest, on average), including 37/178/1 rushing to the Panthers during Carolina's season-ending victory (but the Saints weren't playing their top players in week 17). This is not an impressive group of run defenders, folks.

The Cardinals' backs bounced back from a poor showing in week 17 to eke out a big win last week - they have a good matchup to work with this week despite traveling to the Louisiana Superdome.

Weather: Inside the Louisiana Superdome, weather won't impact either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense at Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The first time these teams clashed, November 22nd, 2009 (a 17-15 win for the Colts), Ray Rice (20/71/0 rushing) and company were held to 31/98/0 on the ground. However, Rice added 7/64/0 receiving to go over 100 yards of total offense from scrimmage. Willis McGahee averaged 4.2 yards per carry with 6/25/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving.

During the final weeks of the regular season, Rice and McGahee were both among the top 12 fantasy RBs in the land, with 73/464/1 rushing and 14/103/0 receiving posted by Rice, and 34/269/5 rushing with 4/15/0 receiving ground out by McGahee. The duo continued to be a dominant force during the first playoff game - Baltimore rushed the ball 52 times against the Patriots (vs. only 10 passing attempts), gaining 234 yards and scoring four rushing TDs. Rice led the attack with 22/159/2 rushing (0 receptions), followed by McGahee (20/62/1 rushing with 1/13/0 receiving) and even Le'Ron McClain got in the act vs. New England (4/8/1 rushing with 1/-4/0 receiving). The Ravens' offense relies on the running backs for the majority of plays on any given week - this was doubly true last week.

The Colts' rush D allowed 578 rushing yards between weeks 13 and 16 (the team rested most starters in the season-ending loss to Buffalo when they surrendered 42/248/0 rushing to the Bills), an average of 144.5 rushing yards allowed per game - the Jets rolled to 44/202/1 rushing during week 16. This simply hasn't been a solid rush D for most of the season, ending regular season ranked 24th in the NFL averaging 126.5 rushing yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores surrendered during the year. The teams' starters have had several weeks of light duty/rest so they should come in at the top of their game - but at best this has been a mediocre group more often than not.

The Ravens' backs are going full speed entering the divisional round of the playoffs, while the Colts are trying to put their poor finish behind them. The Ravens have a definite edge in this phase of the game.

Weather: Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable roof will be closed - weather won't impact this matchup.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Saints rested Pierre Thomas in week 17, preferring to lean on a committee of Lynell Hamilton (10/48/1 rushing with 3/38/0 receiving), Reggie Bush (5/35/0 rushing) and Mike Bell (17/28/0 rushing with 2/-2/0 receiving). Going forwards in the playoffs, reports out of New Orleans this week indicate that Thomas (sore ribs) and Bell are expected to receive the majority of the carries throughout the playoffs despite Bush's success during the last four games of the regular season. If Thomas' ribs act up (he did practice in full on Tuesday - so far, so good), look for Hamilton to be in the mix fairly prominently as well. During regular season, the Saints' rushing attack averaged 131.6 rushing yards per game (sixth in the NFL), with 21 TDs scored as a unit (tied for second last season) and a healthy 4.5 yards per carry. The many-headed monster that is the Saints' RB stable is very productive, as you can see.

The Cardinals' rush D ended regular season ranked 17th in the NFL averaging 112.8 rushing yards allowed per game, and gave up 13 rush TDs all told. Over the final four weeks of the season, Arizona allowed 547 yards rushing (136.8 per game on average), with 91 points allowed from scrimmage. Last week, the Packers posted 20/90/2 rushing as a team during the ultra-high-scoring affair (a 51-45 victory for the Cardinals). Most of the time, this unit is mediocre-to-sub-par when it comes to rush defense.

The Saints' solid stable of backs have a good matchup to work with this week.

Weather: Inside the Louisiana Superdome, weather won't impact either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


New York Jets Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Jets played to their strengths last week in Cincinnati, rushing the football 41 times for 171 yards and two rushing TDs while throwing just 15 passes all day long (12/15 for 182 yards, one TD and zero interceptions). Shonn Greene elevated his play during the wild card round, going over 100 yards rushing for the first time since week seven of the regular season - he averaged 6.4 yards per carry last week against the Bengals top-ten rush D, posting 21/135/1 rushing. Thomas Jones got his touches, too, but only managed 15/34/1 during his time on the field. Brad Smith didn't have the 'Wow' factor last week, managing 2/4/0 rushing and 1/1/0 receiving in the Jets' version of the wildcat.

The Chargers' rush D ended regular season ranked 20th in the NFL, averaging 117.6 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing TDs given away over 16 contests. They allowed 468 rushing yards over the final four games of regular season, with 22/66/0 given away to the Redskins during the season finale (Washington was down to their deep reserves at RB, though). Tennessee ran for 27/182/2 during week 16 (even though the Titans were blown out 42-17, the Chargers' rush D didn't handle Chris Johnson very well). This is a pretty mediocre bunch of rush defenders, folks.

The Jets led the nation in rushing yards per game last season (averaging 172.2 per game) and were tied for second in rushing TDs scored, with 21. Against the so-so Chargers, the Jets' stable of backs hold the edge in this divisional contest.

Weather: The forecast for San Diego calls for beautiful weather - 67 F for a high on Sunday afternoon and just a 10% chance of rain - conditions shouldn't play much of a role in the outcome of this game.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Cowboys have injury concerns entering the divisional round of the playoffs - Marion Barber had a MRI on Monday, January 11th and isn't expected to practice until late in the week - he has a sore knee that is impacting his performance. According to reports out of Dallas, running backs coach Skip Peete said after the win over Philadelphia that he pulled Barber out of the team's Wild Card game Saturday, Jan. 9, because he 'didn't look like Marion Barber.' Barber was visibly limping in the locker room after the game. Head coach Wade Phillips is optimistic Barber will be ready to play Sunday, Jan. 17, in the team's Divisional Round game, though. Fantasy owners of Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice will want to keep an eye on Barbers' practice participation as the weekend approaches - the Vikings could be in for a heavy dose of Jones and Choice if Barber can't go this weekend.

In Barbers' forced absence (he posted 3/4/0 rushing vs. Philadelphia last week before being sidelined), Felix Jones was an explosive fantasy producer during the wild card round, racking up 16/148/1 rushing and 1/30/0 receiving. He didn't handle the ball much more than usual, but he did more with his touches last week than we've been seeing during the closing weeks of the regular season. Choice stepped in for Barber and ground out 14/42/1 rushing with 1/6/0 receiving as the #2 RB last week. Dallas has a deep stable of backs but they may be thinner than usual this week.

The Vikings' rush D completed regular season ranked second in the NFL, averaging 87.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with just five rushing TDs given away over 16 games. They allowed 383 rushing yards over the final four games of regular season, an average of 95.8 rushing yards per game, ending the year with a dominant 44-7 stomping of New York in which the Giants rushed for a mere 12/35/1 as a team. The Bears managed 28/105/0 rushing against the Vikings during week 16 - this is a stubborn bunch of run defenders, folks.

The Cowboys showed a lot of fire last week, but they've got some tough customers to deal with this week up in the Vikings' home dome. This looks like a tough matchup for Dallas, regardless of which backs get in the action on Sunday.

Weather: Inside the Metrodome, weather conditions won't affect either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Colts ran the ball fairly effectively the last time they saw the Ravens (November 22, 2009), with 25/76/1 rushing as a team (but a strong 19/74/1 rushing for starter Joseph Addai). Donald Brown couldn't get much traction (4/10/0 rushing), but the team managed enough yardage and points to eke out a 17-15 victory. Over the past regular season, Addai was the sixth-ranked fantasy RB in the land (PPR format), with 219/828/10 rushing and 51/336/3 receiving, while Brown checked in at #60 with 78/281/3 rushing and 11/169/0 receiving. Addai has had almost three weeks of rest (he had 6/40/1 rushing vs. the Jets in week 16, but didn't touch the ball in the season finale) coming into this game, while Brown (16/22/1 rushing and 1/12/0 receiving vs. New York; 4/-4/0 rushing at Buffalo) has also rested extensively. Both backs should be fresh for this contest at home in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Ravens crushed New England 33-14 during the wild card round of the playoffs, holding Kevin Faulk and company to 18/64/0 rushing during the game (a 3.6 yards allowed per carry average). Over the final four games of regular season, the team gave up 324 rushing yards (81 yards per contest, on average) with 20/51/0 handed over to the Raiders in the regular season finale. The Ravens were fifth in the NFL last season, averaging 93.2 rushing yards per game, with just eight rushing TDs allowed over 16 games. These guys are tough run defenders, friends.

Addai enjoyed some success the first time he faced this team back in week 11, but he faces a tough test again this week, when Baltimore comes calling.

Weather: Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable roof will be closed - weather won't impact this matchup.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Adrian Peterson played sparingly in the rout of New York during the season finale (9/54/1 rushing with 1/1/0 receiving), but as productive in his limited time on the field - Chester Taylor also was used only part of the game, with 7/12/0 rushing and 2/17/0 receiving. During week 16, Peterson rushed for 24/94/2 and added 3/43/0 receiving, while Taylor had 8/29/0 rushing and 2/26/0 receiving - they are going strong entering this divisional playoff game, and have had a week of rest to get over regular seasons' bumps and dings. During the bye week, Peterson commented on his increased number of receptions this past season: 'I have grown tremendously [as a receiver],' Peterson said. 'Just being more comfortable and running better routes. Getting different advice from [running back Chester Taylor], a guy that has been doing it for a long time. I feel pretty good.' Peterson caught 43 passes for 436 yards during the regular season, and added 315/1389/18 to check in at second among all fantasy RBs in points per game. Chester Taylor also caught more than 40 balls, with 93/332/1 rushing and 44/389/1 receiving (47th-ranked fantasy RB in the land). This is a dangerous duo of backs.

The Cowboys ended regular season by blanking two straight divisional foes (Washington and Philadelphia), and then repeated their domination of the Eagles again in the wild card round, limiting the team to 13/56/0 rushing en route to a 34-14 Cowboys' victory at Dallas. The team gave up just 218 yards rushing over the final four games of regular season (54.5 rushing yards per game on average) - this defensive front is playing elite football entering the divisional round of the playoffs, folks.

The Vikings have one of the best running backs in the NFL to deploy vs. Dallas, but Dallas' top-five rush D won't lie down for Minnesota (the Cowboys averaged 90.5 rushing yards allowed per game during regular season, with just seven rushing scores surrendered). This is a tough matchup for the Vikings' offense.

Weather: Inside the Metrodome, weather conditions won't affect either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

San Diego routed the Titans 42-17 during week 16 of the regular season - the last time they played their starters for a full game - LaDainian Tomlinson posted 16/59/2 rushing with 2/4/0 receiving during the contest, with 5/38/2 rushing and 2/23/1 receiving for Darren Sproles. After the game was out of hand for Tennessee, Mike Tolbert got extensive work (11/60/0 rushing with 1/11/0 receiving) - all told, the Chargers combined for 40/166/4 on the day. Tomlinson had two carries (2/1/0 rushing) and two receptions (2/17/0) during the season finale before taking a seat on the bench, and Sproles logged 2/18/0 rushing with 0 receptions. Little-used Michael Bennett mopped up for the Chargers with 11/28/0 rushing and 4/62/0 receiving at the end of the final game of regular season.

The Jets' rush D ranked eighth in the NFL at the end of regular season, averaging 98.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing TDs given up over the season. Prior to their playoff game in Cincinnati, the team had clamped down on opposing rushers during the final 1/4 of the season, with just 265 rushing yards allowed over four games (66.3 per contest on average). However, Cedric Benson sliced through the Jets' defensive front fairly easily last Saturday, gaining 21/169/1 rushing and 3/12/0 receiving (all told, the Bengals rushed for 22/171/1 last week). The Jets' rush D took a big step backwards during the wild card round.

Tomlinson hasn't been the dominant back we got used to earlier last decade, but he still has some skills to flash - against the Jets' quality D, this looks like a tough matchup for the Chargers' stable, despite the Jets' difficulties at Cincinnati last week.

Weather: The forecast for San Diego calls for beautiful weather - 67 F for a high on Sunday afternoon and just a 10% chance of rain - conditions shouldn't play much of a role in the outcome of this game.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.