Week 18 Rushing Matchups

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

Jump to Passing Matchups

Great Matchups:
Good Matchups: [WAS]
Neutral Matchups: [GB]
Tough Matchups: [CIN] [HOU] [MIN] [PIT] [SEA]
Bad Matchups: [KC]


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.


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

This is the first meeting between Green Bay and Was/hington this season - they didn't face off in pre- or regular season during 2015.

Washington elected to rest most of their starters last week at Dallas - Alfred Morris (202/751/1 rushing with 10/55/0 receiving through Week 17) had a full load, though, and responded with 19/100/0 rushing on the day, backed up by Pierre Thomas (7/30/0 rushing with 1/5/0 receiving) and Chris Thompson (7/19/0). Matt Jones (144/490/3 rushing with 19/304/1 receiving during regular season) was limited in practices last week due to a hip injury and was inactive for the season finale, but he is expected to be back in the mix as a key component along with Morris here in the Wild Card round. Thomas likely won't get more than a handful of touches unless Jones is unable to go on Sunday afternoon.

The Packers' rush D has been fairly generous over the final four weeks of the season, averaging 19.9 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs (12th-most in the NFL). Last week, Minnesota posted 27/151/1 rushing at Green Bay; two weeks ago the Green Bay D allowed 26/121/1 to the Cardinals' rushing attack.

This is a good matchup for Morris and Jones.

Weather: FedEx Field expects a temperature around 51 F on Sunday, with light drizzle falling, and wind around 10 MPH. As long as the rain doesn't intensify during the game, conditions shouldn't impact unduly on either team during this contest.

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


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

This is the first meeting between Green Bay and Washington this season - they didn't face off in pre- or regular season during 2015.

The Packers' rushing attack has languished along with their team's offensive line woes (in particular the absence of left tackle David Bakhtiari has allowed Rodgers to be sacked regularly (13 sacks over the last two games) and has created a 'jail-break' scenario where opposing teams blitz with regularity) - last week, Eddie Lacy managed a mere 13/34/0 rushing with 2/7/0 receiving despite a tight-end heavy game-plan that put six-to-seven players on the line of scrimmage on any given snap. James Starks (8/24/0 rushing with 3/18/0 receiving) didn't fare much better. Lacy has failed to rush for more than 60 yards in any of his last three games, and has one receiving TD during that time span to his credit. Starks has not gone over 51 yards rushing during that three-week window and has zero TDs to his credit during that time.

The Washington rush D has averaged 20.1 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs over the past four weeks (10th-most in the NFL), with 16/100/0 given up to Dallas last week after allowing 16/45/2 rushing to the dysfunctional Philadelphia offense two games ago. To date, the Washington defensive front averages 122.6 rushing yards allowed per game (26th in the NFL) and has given out 10 rushing TDs over 16 games.

This is a neutral matchup between sub-par units.

Weather: FedEx Field expects a temperature around 51 F on Sunday, with light drizzle falling, and wind around 10 MPH. As long as the rain doesn't intensify during the game, conditions shouldn't impact unduly on either team during this contest.

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


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cincinnati split the 2015 season series with Pittsburgh, winning 16-10 during Week Eight but losing 20-33 during Week 14 - Cincinnati won at Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh won at Cincinnati. This game will go down in the Bengals' house on Saturday, January 9 at 8:15 P.M. ET. In the first game Jeremy Hill had the best results against the Steelers, with 15/60/0 rushing and 1/8/0 receiving (7/16/0 rushing and 2/8/0 receiving at Pittsburgh during Week 14), while in the second, higher-scoring affair Giovani Bernard led the team in rushing with 6/40/0 rushing and 3/27/0 receiving after having posted a modest 1/12/0 rushing with 2/22/0 receiving at Pittsburgh during Week Eight. Neither guy supplied fantasy owners with a bonanza of points in their appearances against the Steelers.

During the weeks after their most recent clash with Pittsburgh (Weeks 15-17), Hill has been, by far, the best fantasy back on the club, with 54/193/3 rushing and 4/17/0 receiving, while Bernard has been a change-of-pace option with 28/83/0 rushing and 9/59/0 receiving. As the weather has turned cold, the Bengals have relied on Hill to handle about 65% of the carries, and he's done well in that expanded role. Hill went over 100 yards combined last week vs. Baltimore, with 16/96/1 rushing and 2/19/0 receiving, compared to Bernard's 6/36/0 rushing and 1/12/0 receiving.

The Steelers' rush D has been stout to close the NFL season, with an average of 14.6 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs over the past three weeks (Weeks 15-17) - that's eighth-least in the NFL during that three-week span. Last week, Cleveland managed 23/86/0 rushing vs. Pittsburgh; the Steelers gave up 31/121/1 rushing to the Ravens two games ago.

This looks like a tough matchup for the Bengals' backs, given their history against the Steelers this season and how well the Steelers' rush D is playing entering the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Weather: Paul Brown Stadium expects a temperature of around 47 F on Saturday evening, with light rain forecast and winds around just 5 MPH at game time. If the forecast holds up, conditions shouldn't be a big concern for either team, but due to the precipitation threat (which could become heavier or sleet/snow if the temperature drops) fantasy owners should check a shorter-term forecast before picking playoff rosters this weekend.

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


Houston Texans Rushing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chiefs visited the Texans back in Week One, and came away victorious 27-20 - back then, Houston was waiting on Arian Foster to get on the field so they played essentially the same committee of backs in Week One - Alfred Blue (9/42/0 rushing with 1/7/0 receiving); Chris Polk (5/22/0 rushing with 1/9/0 receiving); and Jonathan Grimes (6/28/0 rushing with 1/2/0 receiving) - as we've seen at the end of regular season. Not a lot has changed for the Texans in this phase of the game.

Over the course of the season, Blue wound up being the 'lead' back in this committee (when healthy) - he posted 183/698/2 rushing with 15/109/1 receiving; Polk handled 99/334/1 with 16/109/1 receiving; Grimes had 56/282/1 rushing and 26/173/1 receiving. Last week, vs. Jacksonville, Blue led the team in rushing with 21/102/0 rushing and 1/2/0 receiving; Grimes scored both of his season's TDs in the game with 4/26/1 rushing and 4/28/1 receiving; and Polk was quiet with 3/4/0 rushing.

K.C. comes into this game after limiting Oakland to 16/48/0 rushing last weekend. Cleveland surprised the Chiefs for 36/232/1 rushing two games ago (quarterback Johnny Manziel had 11/108/0 of that to his credit) - over the past four weeks the Chiefs are among the stingiest run defenses in the NFL, averaging 13 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs (even with the big total from the Cleveland game) - that's sixth-least in the NFL during the stretch run into the playoffs.

This is a tough matchup for Blue and company, although at least they avoid the Arrowhead 12th-man as the fourth seed/home-team.

Weather: Inside NRG Stadium weather won't be a concern for either team. If conditions look threatening the retractable roof will be closed.

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


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Vikings were crushed 7-38 vs. Seattle back in Week 13 - Jerrick McKinnon (4/18/0 rushing and 3/6/0 receiving) and Adrian Peterson (8/18/0 rushing with 4/6/0 receiving) both posted a meager 24 yards (combined) from scrimmage during the beat-down. The only Minnesota TD of the game came on a 101 yard kick return by Cordarrelle Patterson. There isn't anything nice to say about how the Minnesota offense played on December 6, 2015, in either phase of the game.

Peterson comes into this game nursing a tweaked back that had him out for a sizable chunk of the second half of the NFC North Championship game in Green Bay last Sunday - he wound up with 19/67/1 rushing and 1/1/0 receiving to his credit during the contest. Jerrick McKinnon (4/15/0 rushing and 3/33/0 receiving) and Adam Thielen (2/67/0 rushing with 1/16/0 receiving) helped move the chains when Peterson was out, and all told the Vikings had 27/151/1 rushing during the victory over Green Bay. As the week goes by pay attention to Peterson's practice participation/lack thereof - if he isn't able to play on Sunday McKinnon proved to be a valuable backup running back last season while Peterson was on suspension for a majority of the year. McKinnon posted 113/538/0 rushing with 27/135/0 receiving during 2014 - he averages 4.9 yards per carry so far during his two-year career with 165/809/2 rushing and 48/308/1 receiving total over two seasons.

Over the past four weeks, the Seattle rush D has averaged just 10.7 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs (fourth-least average in the NFL during that time span). Last week, Arizona was crushed 36-6 at Arizona by the Seahawks (they held Cardinals to 13/27/0 rushing last Sunday). Two weeks ago 30/104/1 rushing was allowed to Todd Gurley and company. To date, the Seahawks' rush D averages just 81.5 yards rushing allowed per game (they bumped New York Jets down to #2 on the season during Week 17, so now Seattle averages the least amount of rushing yards allowed per game) but Seattle has surrendered 10 rushing scores during 2015 regular season. Of late, though, they have held two of their past three opponents without a rushing score.

This is a tough matchup for Peterson and/or McKinnon.

Weather: TCF Bank Stadium expects a temperature around 0 F on Sunday, with winds around 14 MPH. In cold and windy conditions, the passing and kicking games are more problematic than usual, and the football becomes hard and slick, causing ball-handling issues for all players on the field. Keep in mind that frozen footballs don't go very far when kicked, although since TCF has a state-of-the-art artificial turf field (Field Turf), footing shouldn't suffer as much in the sub-freezing conditions as it would on a grass field. Fantasy owners in leagues that reward long field goals with extra points may want to look elsewhere for kickers this weekend.

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


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cincinnati split the 2015 season series with Pittsburgh, winning 16-10 during Week Eight but losing 20-33 during Week 14 - Cincinnati won at Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh won at Cincinnati. This game will go down in the Bengals' house on Saturday, January 9 at 8:15 P.M. ET. Le'Veon Bell went down to MCL/PCL injury in the mid-season game and landed on IR - DeAngelo Williams has enjoyed good success against the Bengals with 9/71/0 rushing and 4/39/0 receiving relieving Bell during Week Eight and then 23/76/2 rushing and 2/15/0 receiving during Week 14.

Unfortunately, Williams suffered an ankle/foot injury during the season finale game at Cleveland, and though his Monday MRI showed no major damage, he seems to be a long-shot to be ready to play on Saturday. Reports by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday indicated that Williams has a small chance to play on Saturday, but that pain tolerance will be a major factor in whether he can play - in other words, he won't be fully healed by then. Gerry Dulac, the Steelers beat writer for the Post-Gazette, wrote that the team 'intend to use Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jordan Todman and fullback Will Johnson against the Bengals.' These three have the following statistics during regular season to their credit: Toussaint (18/42/0 rushing this season), Todman (4/22/0 rushing during 2015 regular season) and Johnson (4/7/1 rushing with 2/16/0 receiving so far this season). Toussaint handled all the carries for Pittsburgh last week (12/24/0 rushing) after Williams went down to his ankle injury, so he would seem to be positioned to get first crack at the carries against Cincinnati. Williams (ankle/foot) remained in a walking boot Wednesday and did not practice, making it more likely that the Steelers go with their reserve backs for this game.

Footballguy Matt Waldman summed up Toussaint's game succinctly in his 2014 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, stating: 'Speed is Toussaint's calling card, but power and patience are lacking.'

The Bengals' rush D has been in the middle of the NFL range over the last three weeks (15-17), averaging 19.5 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs (14th in the NFL). They coughed up a mere 21/59/0 rushing to the Ravens last week, though, after 21/113/1 was allowed to Broncos two weeks ago. As of the end of regular season, the Bengals were seventh in the NFL averaging 92.3 rushing yards given up per game, with eight rushing TDs handed out over 16 contests.

Given that the Steelers are likely to have their reserve players at running back in action for the Wild Card round of the playoffs, this looks like a tough matchup for that caliber of player(s).

Weather: Paul Brown Stadium expects a temperature of around 47 F on Saturday evening, with light rain forecast and winds around just 5 MPH at game time. If the forecast holds up, conditions shouldn't be a big concern for either team, but due to the precipitation threat (which could become heavier or sleet/snow if the temperature drops) fantasy owners should check a shorter-term forecast before picking playoff rosters this weekend.

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


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Vikings were crushed 7-38 vs. Seattle back in Week 13 - Seattle held the Vikings to 31 yards rushing, while posting 36/173/2 rushing as a team. Thomas Rawls (19/101/1 rushing with 3/22/0 receiving) led the charge for Seattle that day, with 9/51/1 rushing by Russell Wilson also in that dominating total.

Of course, these days Rawls is on IR with a surgically-repaired ankle, and the Seahawks are hoping that Marshawn Lynch will be able to practice and play well enough to return from his November 25, 2015 sports-hernia surgery. In Lynch and Rawls' absence, the Seahawks have made do with a streaky Christine Michael/Bryce Brown/Fred Jackson committee of backs - last week Michael bounced back from a fantasy-owners'-worse-nightmare game in Week 16 (6/6/0 rushing with 2/14/0 receiving) to post 17/102/0 rushing at Arizona. Bryce Brown punched in the TD with 10/20/1 rushing, while Fred Jackson was limited to one target for 1/6/0. It'll be Michael and Brown again against the Vikings if Lynch can't practice later in the week or if he suffers a setback.

The Vikings' rush D limited Green Bay to 26/76/0 on the ground last Sunday, after holding the Giants to 20/91/0 rushing two games ago - they limited Chicago to 20/94/0 rushing at Minnesota three games back. There hasn't been much room to roam against the Vikings in this phase of the game of late. To date, Minnesota is ranked 17th in the NFL averaging 109.2 rushing yards allowed per game, with seven rushing scores handed out - but they've been well below that season average during the stretch run into the playoffs.

Lynch will have some rust to knock off if he can play on Sunday - the rest of the running backs don't inspire us with much confidence, either. Advantage, Minnesota.

Weather: TCF Bank Stadium expects a temperature around 0 F on Sunday, with winds around 14 MPH. In cold and windy conditions, the passing and kicking games are more problematic than usual, and the football becomes hard and slick, causing ball-handling issues for all players on the field. Keep in mind that frozen footballs don't go very far when kicked, although since TCF has a state-of-the-art artificial turf field (Field Turf), footing shouldn't suffer as much in the sub-freezing conditions as it would on a grass field. Fantasy owners in leagues that reward long field goals with extra points may want to look elsewhere for kickers this weekend.

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


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Chiefs visited the Texans back in Week One, and came away victorious 27-20 - back then, Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis were still in action as the team's top two running backs, so looking back to Week One won't tell us much about the prospects for Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware during Wild Card weekend.

Last week, we saw Ware flourish against Oakland (16/76/1 rushing) while West floundered (13/34/0 rushing with 1/-2/0 receiving). Alex Smith chipped in 9/61/0 as the Chiefs racked up 39/189/1 rushing vs. the Raiders. However, two weekends ago West was the clear lead back against Cleveland, with 14/62/0 rushing and 1/-1/0 receiving, while Ware handled 5/15/0 rushing. We'll see both running the ball on Saturday afternoon, but it is hard to predict which (if either) guy will have the 'hot hand'.

The Texans' defense has cranked up their intensity as the team secured a playoff spot - over the last four weeks, they are the second-least-giving rush D to opposing running backs, averaging a mere 9.5 fantasy points allowed per game. Jacksonville managed 14/32/0 rushing at Houston last week; two games back Tennessee managed just 11/30/0 rushing at Houston. This has become a shut-down unit during the season's waning moments.

Advantage, Houston. This looks like a situation to be wary of during the Wild Card round, as the K.C. backs have been variable in production recently and the Texans have been shutting down opposing backs during that same time frame.

Weather: Inside NRG Stadium weather won't be a concern for either team. If conditions look threatening the retractable roof will be closed.

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