Week 16 Rushing Matchups

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

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

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.

Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Christian McCaffrey continues to carry the Carolina run game on his back, taking on 72% of team rushes dating back to Week 10. He and quarterback Cam Newton remain the only ballcarriers of note, and both always bring major dynamism and upside to the ground game. McCaffrey struggled last week against the run-dominant Saints, but has averaged 5.0 yards per carry on the year and run for 7 touchdowns. Working behind a mediocre front line, one that’s lost three starters to injured reserve, McCaffrey continues to maximize his every opportunity. He’s a true dynamo, both inside the formation and out, and an ever-present threat to turn a decently-blocked three-yard gain into a chunk run through traffic. Newton’s all-around play has dipped noticeably as he’s nursed a shoulder injury over the last month. After topping 35 yards in 6 of his first 7 games, he’s been held below the mark in 6 of the last seven. Until further notice, this is McCaffrey’s show to dominate, and he’s always a matchup-proof candidate to top 100 on the ground.

The Atlanta run defense scored a victory last week, overwhelming the Cardinals’ poor line and burying David Johnson. But it was a rare spark during a season of poor play, one that’s seen the Falcons allow the league’s seventh-most yards per game (126) and sixth-most touchdowns (16). Prior to last Sunday, they’d allowed 5 straight lead backs to top 75 yards, with 2 landing well over 100. They’ve trended a bit better lately, at least, but remain one of fantasy’s tastiest matchups. Grady Jarrett’s strong play in the middle hasn’t been enough to make up for a shaky linebacking corps, one that often finds itself badly out of place while lanes sprout up. When the Panthers last faced this unit, their trio of ballcarriers racked up 110 yards on just 16 attempts, routinely finding holes up and down the line of scrimmage. It’s hard to argue against a similar projection this week.

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

Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Browns running game has been above-average this season, ranking 11th in yards per carry (4.6) and 13th in rushing yards (121.2 per game). Rookie Nick Chubb has been excellent, averaging 5.2 yards per carry on the season. He has proven capable of handling a huge workload but has seen a decrease in both his snaps (under 60%) and carries (13 per game) over the last three weeks as the team is looking to conserve him a little bit. Chubb’s 100 rushing yards last week were his most since Week 10, with 53 of the yards coming in the final five minutes. Cleveland was able to jump out to a big early lead in their previous meeting with Cincinnati and then bled the clock with Chubb carrying it 28 times. The Browns productivity in the running game is due to strong play from the interior of the offensive line, where guards Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler were both named Pro Bowl alternates this season. The Browns are touchdown favorites at home and another early lead would likely mean a heavy dose of Chubb.

It has been a rough season for the Cincinnati defense. The Bengals have allowed the 4th-most rushing yards and 5th-most rushing touchdowns this season. The run defense has shown real signs of improvement over the last two weeks, though. Cincinnati gave up just 68 rushing yards to the Raiders last week and 85 rushing yards to the Chargers in Week 14. The Bengals certainly benefitted from opponent injuries, with Oakland missing a pair of starting linemen and Los Angeles playing without Melvin Gordon. However, the improved performance has also coincided with some lineup changes and this might not be a terrible run defense anymore. The biggest change has been the return of Nick Vigil. He missed six weeks in the middle of the season but has provided a big boost since his return in Week 12. The Bengals have also received strong play from recently signed defensive tackle Christian Ringo, who played a season-high 58% of the snaps last week. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb ran for just 84 yards on 28 carries (3.0 yards per carry) in the Browns Week 12 victory. This is still a very positive matchup for the Browns this week.

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

Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Despite limping off the field multiple times against the Colts in Week 15, Ezekiel Elliott finished the game with his sixth straight game of at least 25 touches, but his third consecutive contest without a rushing touchdown. Dallas has the third-most rushing yards per game and is also in the top-10 in efficiency. One concerning area for the Cowboys run game is a mere six running back touchdowns from inside the five-yard-line (goal line situations) despite seeing the eighth-most attempts in that zone of the field and converting just one of their last seven attempts for a score dating back to Week 12.Elliott continues to have a fantastic season as he's consistent with his career average of 4.7 yards per carry, but is on pace to get close to his career high in yards if he can finish with two strong games as he needs 282 yards to do so.

The Buccaneers are a unit that is one of the weakest in the league as they are coming off of another 100-yard rushing performance to an opposing running back which is the fourth in the last five games as Gus Edwards carved through the defense last week. This is a unit that has had issues at linebacker all season since Kwon Alexander went out as Devante Bond and Riley Bullough make up the linebacking group alongside veteran Lavonte David. While the defensive line remains strong with Vita Vea and Gerald McCoy, running backs have had big days by getting up to the second level against this defense.This is a unit that should have major issues stopping Ezekiel Elliott this week.

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

Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Denver’s rushing offense has been excellent this season, ranking second in the NFL with a 5.0 yards per carry average. Starter Phillip Lindsay has produced at an impressive 5.4 yards per carry clip. Lindsay is just nine yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season, and he looked unstoppable after back-to-back huge weeks with 110 yards an 1 touchdown against the Steelers in Week 12 and 157 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Bengals in Week 13. The last two weeks, he has come crashing back to earth, however. Lindsay combined for just 54 rushing yards on 28 attempts over the last two weeks in rough outings against San Francisco and Cleveland. The Broncos have lost three interior lineman who started games this season but have been able to maintain a decent unit due to solid depth and having some versatile backups. Billy Turner has been a strong contributor since moving into the starting lineup at left guard. The Broncos dominated the trenches in their previous matchup against the Raiders, rushing for 168 yards. Phillip Lindsay led the way with 107 yards on 14 carries.

The Raiders run defense has given up a league-worst 146.4 rushing yards per game. Oakland is allowing 4.8 yards per carry and facing the second-most rushing attempts (30.6 per game) in large part due to falling behind early in games. Last week was a prime example, with the Bengals racing out to a 17-0 first-half lead before grinding down the Raiders run defense with 171 yards on a whopping 41 rushing attempts. Oakland has started to find a few potential long-term answers with defensive tackle P.J. Hall and linebacker Jason Cabinda both making solid contributions. This is a prime bounce-back week for Lindsay and the Broncos rushing attack

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

Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Due to a variety of factors - injuries, team performance, and just a general lack of dynamism - Leonard Fournette continues to look like a mediocre runner. On the year, he’s now averaging just 3.4 yards per rush, down even further from his ho-hum 3.9 as a rookie. In fact, he’s been held below 3.7 in 14 of his 20 NFL games, and 8 of his last 12. He broke loose for an impressive 25-yard scamper last week but managed just 21 over his other 10 attempts. Of course, not all of Fournette’s struggles this year have been his fault. Since his return from injury, the Jacksonville line, already a mediocre unit, has lost both starting guards - its two best blockers - and its right tackle to injury. Still, Fournette simply hasn’t shown the game-breaking ability to overcome with either speed, elusiveness, or power. When game flow doesn’t go the Jaguars’ way, he’s no more than a mid-level plodder, and his fantasy value is tied to his 4-10 team. And even that role may be in danger. Last Sunday, he lost huge chunks of game time - including most of the third quarter and everything after his nice run - to powerful rookie David Williams. Fournette has long frustrated the Jaguars with his nagging injuries and attitude, and Williams could be pulling into an even timeshare. Even in a cherry matchup, both Fournette’s floor and ceiling for Week 16 ground production are uninspiring.

Few matchups have been as generous throughout 2018 as Miami’s run defense. They’re giving up 145 ground yards per game, third-most in football, and 4.8 per carry (seventh-worst). Despite almost always being in slow-paced, low-volume games, they’ve allowed several backs to rack up massive rushing totals, including Kerryon Johnson (158), Aaron Jones (145), Dalvin Cook (136), and Lamar Miller (133). Even struggling runners like Dion Lewis, Jordan Howard, and LeGarrette Blount have found success. Last Sunday, Cook repeatedly found wide lanes and had little trouble outrunning Dolphins into the secondary. With the linebacker struggling to stay in the gaps, chunk runs will always be a problem for this unit, and explosive runners are always in position to put up big numbers.

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

Los Angeles Rams Rushing Offense at Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Todd Gurley had a rough day on the ground by his standards last week with just 40 yards, but he still managed to average a decent four yards per rush attempt with two rushing touchdowns while staying heavily involved in the passing offense. The game script played a part in Gurley only receiving 12 carries compared to 13 targets in the passing game as the Rams found themselves playing from behind--a rare occurrence this season. Gurley did suffer a knee injury that posed quite the scare as he was sidelined for one series during the second half, but he returned to the game and played through his injury. Reports indicate he is day to day with inflammation, so keep a very close eye on the practice reports to gauge his health. The Rams are still vying to lock up a first-round bye and home field advantage, so it is logical to believe Gurley will play even if slightly less than 100 percent. Should Gurley sit, it would be a huge opportunity for the likes of John Kelly and newly acquired C.J. Anderson. Running behind the top offensive line in football, all of the running backs for the Rams are set up for success this week.

The Rams are in a tremendous spot this week as they square off against one of the league’s statistically worst rushing defense this week that has allowed 4.7 yards per carry on the season and have allowed the most carries against. The Cardinals continue to be embarrassed by opposing running backs with Tevin Coleman racking up 145 rushing yards against them last week. The Falcons could have made it even worse had a long touchdown run from Coleman not been called back due to a penalty. Linebacker has been a challenging position for the Cardinals as they lost their top starter, Josh Bynes, a few weeks ago while Haasan Reddick has struggled to step up as a playmaker against the run. Part of the issue here is the effectiveness of Arizona’s pass defense to funnel teams towards the run. This group actually held Todd Gurley to one of his least productive games of the season in their Week 2 meeting, however, Gurley managed to find the end-zone three times in that outing and will be looking to once again find the end-zone in this one. The Cardinals allowing at least one rushing touchdown in four straight games and more rushing touchdowns than any other team this season.

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

Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Seahawks backfield continues to be led by Chris Carson, who has now seen 22 carries in back-to-back weeks and is averaging 18 carries per game since returning from injury in Week 11. Carson also has four touchdowns and has surpassed 80 rushing yards three times in that five-game span. Mike Davis was minimally involved last week as Rashaad Penny was sidelined with a knee injury. Penny may return this week, so keep an eye on the practice reports--but even if he is back on the field, keep expectations to a minimum with Carson acting as the clear workhorse for this Seahawks backfield. The offensive line continued to play well despite another game without their starting right guard, and they should be expected to continue as a top-tier run-blocking unit that has supported the league’s top rushing offense on a yards per game basis.

The Chiefs continue to hover near the bottom of the league in run defense, allowing the seventh-most rushing yards per game, tied for the third-most rushing touchdowns, and the league’s most rushing yards per attempt. They have been consistently terrible against running backs all season, allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to the position whether measuring over their first seven or last seven games. A running back has scored a rushing touchdown against the Chiefs in all but four games as this defensive front seven is struggling both inside and outside of the red zone. While the Chiefs have dominant edge defenders and Chris Jones having a career year on the interior, they simply are not playing well in run defense while their linebackers and safeties have been a glaring weakness all season long. The Seahawks offensive line has blocked very well this season, and Seattle will likely game plan to run early and often to control the pace of this game while keeping the ball away from the Chiefs offense. With consistent volume on his side, Carson has every reason to be productive this week.

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

Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense vs Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Derrick Henry was the focal point of the Titans offense for the second straight week as he rushed a career-high 33 times for 170 yards and two more goal-line touchdowns. Henry has now scored six rushing touchdowns while running for 408 yards from 50 carries in his last two games. Dion Lewis, on the other hand, has rushed just 17 times for 48 yards over that span as he is becoming an afterthought in this offense with single-digit carries in three of his last four games. The Titans offensive line has been blocking very well in recent weeks despite the loss of Jack Conklin, while Derrick Henry has been as close to unstoppable as a runner can get with his powerful running style and thunderous stiff-arms on full display. This is not a rushing offense the depleted Washington defense will look forward to facing.s

This Washington run defense started the season very strong with opposing running backs averaging a meager 60 rushing yards per game through Week 8--third-fewest in the league. That span of games included some impressive performances against top talent such as Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, and Saquon Barkley--holding them all to fewer than 40 rushing yards and no touchdowns. From Week 9 onwards, however, this defense has significantly regressed to one of the worst in football against running backs. They have allowed the second-most rushing yards per game (132) and eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in standard scoring formats in their last seven games. Those impressive outings against Barkley and Elliott were flipped upside down as the pair put up 291 combined rushing yards and two touchdowns in their second crack at this defense. They are still loaded with relatively healthy talent on defense, especially in the trenches, but suspect play from their linebackers combined with what has been some very poor offensive showings in recent weeks contribute to these poor numbers against the run. The Redskins did look better against the Jaguars last week, but that was an offense that can make even the worst of defenses look impressive at this point. The Titans should pose more of a challenge here as their ground game has the upper hand coming into this one.

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

Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Buffalo run game is sitting pretty in terms of raw numbers, producing the league’s ninth-most yards and 13th-most touchdowns on the ground. But those marks have been largely inflated by volume - they’re running the ball 30 times a game, fifth-most in the league - and by quarterback Josh Allen’s massive rushing totals over the last month. On the year, Buffalo running backs have managed just 3.6 yards per rush, and semi-explosive change-of-pace guy Marcus Murphy and his 4.8 average just landed on injured reserve. Whether LeSean McCoy can return for Week 16 or not, this projects to remain a low-efficiency, low-impact unit. The front line has been one of the league’s worst all year, struggling to provide any push at all for its mediocre runners. Neither McCoy, Chris Ivory, or Keith Ford project to create much, and Allen remains the Bills’ best hope for usable ground production. He was held in check last week, but found the end zone for the fourth time in 6 games, and recorded 99 yards or more in each of the previous three.

The Patriots have struggled all year to defend opposing run games, but it’s come to a head over the last three weeks. Over that span, running backs have produced an astounding 7.8 yards per carry, most in the league by a mile. Last Sunday, Steelers rookie Jaylen Samuels broke out as a runner, racking up 142 yards on just 19 attempts. Like many before him, Samuels consistently found success pushing onto the second level, where the Patriots are exceptionally light and inconsistent. These problems aren’t new: the Patriots have long been weak against the run, but a good enough team to jump to leads, control game flow, and diminish the overall effect. Runners would routinely pick up chunk gains early, but finish with relatively little volume and mediocre fantasy days. With the Patriots slipping noticeably all-around, though, there’s far less room for error. At this point, any runner of even decent volume can be projected to run efficiently and maximize whatever opportunity he’s given.

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

Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

On the season, the Bengals are the 26th most run-heavy team (37.4%). However, the full season stats don’t reflect the current reality of the offense. With A.J. Green and Andy Dalton out the last two weeks, the Bengals have decided to build the offense around Joe Mixon and the run game. Mixon set his career high in carries (26) in Week 14 only to set a new career high (27) in last week’s win over Oakland. Mixon rushed for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Raiders in a game the Bengals controlled from start to finish. As long as the game stays close this week, expect another heavy dose of Mixon. The Bengals run blocking has been solid enough for the Bengals to average an efficient 4.6 yards per carry (11th-best) this season but it may be tougher sledding the final two weeks. The injuries that have decimated the passing offense will likely allow teams to stack the box and dare the Bengals to beat them through the air.

The Browns have given up the 9th-most rushing yards (126.1 per game) and have also allowed the 2nd-most rushing touchdowns (1.3 per game). The defense has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, though. The Browns smothered the Broncos running game last week, holding Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to a total of 31 rushing yards on 18 carries. In Week 14, Cleveland held Christian McCaffrey to just 63 yards on 13 carries. The Browns allowed 89 yards on just 14 carries (6.4 yards per carry) to Joe Mixon in the Week 12 meeting. With the Bengals newfound commitment to the run, Cleveland will need to hold up better this time around. The issue continues to be that the defensive line is allowing too many defenders to get up-field and the Browns have a talent deficiency at the linebacker position as rookie Genard Avery has really struggled and been susceptible against the run.

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

Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

2018 will be remembered as the year of Aaron Jones for Packers fans, as Jones was given the role of the Packers bell-cow back in week eight and never looked back. In seven games as the Packers starter, Jones amassed 532 yards on 97 carries (5.4 yards per carry), seven rushing touchdowns and 22 receptions for 165 yards and another touchdown. Jones time as the Packers lead back came to a screeching halt this past week when he sprained his MCL and was placed on injured reserve. Jamaal Williams now steps in as the clear #1 running back, but there is a clear drop off of talent between Jones and Williams. Even so, there is a lot of value to be had as the #1 running back in the Green Bay offense, and Williams will be the preferred option on all three downs and in the red zone. The Packers claimed Kapri Bibbs off waivers, but he will only be called upon to spell Williams throughout the game. The Packers have an advantageous matchup this week against a Jets defense that is giving up 125.9 rushing yards per game (23rd). While the Jets have been easy to run on from a yardage standpoint, they rank seventh in points surrendered to opposing running backs, having given up 11 rushing touchdowns on the season. The Packers offensive line has a clear advantage over the Jets defensive line, but it remains to be seen whether Williams can excel when given a large volume of touches.

The Jets rushing defense was sitting near the bottom of the NFL for most of the season, but they have recently started to turn it around and at the very least, keep from getting flattened by opposing offenses. The Texans came into the game having had a lot of success running the ball the second half of the season. Lamar Miller had four 100+ yard rushing games in the last seven weeks, despite the Houston offensive line grading out as one of the worst units in the league. The Jets came out and shut down any attempt that Houston made at running the football. Lamar Miller had three carries for eight yards, Alfred Blue rushed nine times for six yards (0.7 yards per carry) and the Jets even did a good job of limiting Deshaun Watson to 26 yards on four carries which was his fourth-lowest total of the season. This week the Jets face off against a Packers rushing attack that just lost its most dynamic playmaker in Aaron Jones. The Jets defensive line can match up well with the Packers offensive line in the run game, especially if Leonard Williams gives a consistent effort and plays like the one-man wrecking crew that we have seen glimpses of this season. The Packers offensive line is a much better unit in pass protection than they are run blocking. Jamaal Williams is a plodder and will need his line to do a lot of the work for him, so this represents another great opportunity for Leonard Williams and the rest of the Jets lineman

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

Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Houston is third in the NFL with 420 rushes but is merely an average unit in efficiency and is in the bottom-10 for producing explosive plays from the run game. Lamar Miller has been the lead back when healthy but missed the second half of Week 15 with an ankle injury, which is not believed to be serious but could threaten his status for Week 16. Blue excelled as a receiver in his Week 5 spot start for Lamar Miller but was held in check on the ground, which was the same story in Week 15 with struggling as a run game. D’Onta Foreman is also close to returning to active status following a late-season Achilles injury last year.

The Eagles have faced the second-fewest running back carries this season as. However, they have been gashed to the tune of 4.8 yards-per-carry and have been far worse over the second half of the season than the first. All of the Eagles’ five 100-yard rushers allowed have been since Week 6 as well as eight rushing touchdowns combined. While they held Todd Gurley to 48 yards last week, he did score two rushing touchdowns against the Eagles and game script and injury was a factor to limiting Gurley to 12 carries. This remains one of the most talented defensive lines in football led by Fletcher Cox, but the inconsistency has been a real problem as the defense has tried to make up for their lack of passing defense by playing nickel and dime looks.

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

Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense vs New York Giants Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

On pure stats alone, the Colts running game does not look like a unit that is going to scare opposing teams. Stats can be deceiving though. The Colts rank 20th in the NFL, rushing for 107.9 yards per game, but they had been without their top running back, Marlon Mack for four games this season. Combine that with a patchwork team of receivers behind TY Hilton, and it is no wonder that the Colts had to tip their offensive balance towards the passing game. When given a full complement of carries, Mack has put up some impressive games, including a 139 yard, two touchdown effort against the Cowboys last week. It was the third time this year that Mack has scored two touchdowns in a game, as well as the third time he has exceeded 120+ rushing yards. Mack is the Colts bell-cow back, but they also have solid depth behind him. Nyheim Hines has carved out a role as a pass-catching back that can split out as a receiver, totaling 56 receptions for 359.

Coming into last week’s game against the Titans, the Giants were ranked 22nd in rushing defense, allowing 121.8 yards per game. The Giants had just shut down the Redskins ground game, holding Adrian Peterson to 16 yards on 10 carries and the Redskins to 84 total rushing yards. Then the Titans came to town, and a rejuvenated Derrick Henry ran all over them, totaling 170 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. The Titans attacked the middle of the Giants defensive line and Henry was consistently getting to the second level and challenging the Giants secondary to tackle him. Dion Lewis and Marcus Mariota added another 45 yards on the ground, and with 215 rushing yards allowed, the Giants now rank 28th in the NFL with 128.4 rushing yards allowed. It doesn’t get any easier for the Giants this week, as they travel to Indianapolis and will be faced with the task of slowing down Marlon Mack and the Colts ground game. Mack is coming off a 139 yard, two touchdown effort against the Cowboys, and his speed poses bigtime matchup problems for the Giants defense. The New York defensive line had a difficult time containing both Matt Breida and Alvin Kamara, who combined for 235 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Mack has the same type of dynamic, home run ability, and should take advantage of a Giants defensive line that will be overmatched in the trenches.

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

New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Saints rushing attack is a two-headed one, but remains exceptionally efficient and capable of supporting two fantasy starters. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have combined to top 100 ground yards in 7 of their last 8 games together, and they find the end zone at a robust 6.0% rate. Due to his pass game usage, Kamara is closer to the lead dog role, but the two split rushing opportunity nearly down the middle. Both are explosive runners in their own way, and both benefit from an elite run-blocking line that’s not even at full strength. Replacement left tackle Jermon Bushrod has been a liability, but center Max Unger and the right side are strong. All told, this backfield boasts a ton of fantasy appeal, from its top-notch efficiency to the big game-flow benefits that come in this offense. Kamara and Ingram routinely see lots of touchdown opportunity, and they’re often called upon to salt away games on the ground. Distribution can be a problem, limiting their week-to-week upsides, but both are good weekly bets for strong rushing lines.

The Pittsburgh run defense, so dominant to open the season, has taken on a noticeable dip and continues to struggle with consistency. They tend to clamp down fairly well on power backs, but give up far too many chunk runs to quick-footed speedsters. Over the last month, Phillip Lindsay (14 carries for 110 yards and 1 touchdown), Christian McCaffrey (14 for 77 and 1), and Justin Jackson (8 for 63 and 1) have all found their way to big-time efficiency. Still, there’s plenty of reason to consider this one of fantasy’s tougher matchups. Things have settled down of late, after all, with the Steelers allowing just 112 yards to their last 3 opposing lead backs. The stout, athletic front line is still packed with talent, and top linebacker Vince Williams is enjoying a fine season on the inside. They’re typically hit for a splash run or two per game, but tend to control things otherwise and make for a rather tough matchup.

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

Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Rams Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

David Johnson continues to underwhelm at the helm of the league’s worst rushing offense. The Cardinals offense is averaging a league-low 82.4 rushing yards per game while Johnson has averaged above four yards per rush attempt only three times this season. He did find the end zone last week for his seventh rushing touchdown, but Johnson saw his fewest carries since Week 1 with just 11 rush attempts for 33 yards. Chase Edmonds continues to be involved in the Cardinals offense, but the blowout in last week’s game led to Edmonds seeing his season-high in carries with Johnson sitting on the sideline for most of the fourth quarter. Johnson remains the primary option for this offense as a whole, but the dysfunction of this unit combined with what may be the league’s worst offensive line (ranked 32nd by Footballguys offensive line guru Matt Bitonti) will continue to keep expectations for Johnson very low.

The woes against the run continue for this talented Rams defense as they coughed up three rushing touchdowns last week and have now allowed 100 or more rushing yards to running backs for the sixth time in their last seven games. Over that seven-game span, the Rams are giving up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to running backs in standard scoring formats, with the position averaging 118 yards per game against them. The Eagles did a good job double-teaming the unstoppable Aaron Donald to help neutralize him while play from Ndamukong Suh has been lackluster as the season has progressed. The Rams linebackers continue to disappoint as Mark Barron and Cory Littleton have been the big reason for the team’s struggles against the run. In order to beat the Rams against the run, you have to neutralize the strong defensive line for the Rams and this defensive line has a very clear talent advantage over the worst offensive line in football. The Rams had no problem with the Cardinals ground game in Week 2. With both game script and lack of talent in the trenches going against them, this matchup will not be a positive one for the Cardinals.

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

Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tevin Coleman remains one of football’s speediest and most explosive runners. Last week’s 43-yard, stop-start masterpiece was a strong reminder of that. On the year, he’s broken 21 runs of 10 yards or more, making up a robust 14% of his attempts. His burst has been much more valuable as the Atlanta line, sluggish and weak to open the season, has come together over the last month or so. Consistency has been hard to come by, but he’s averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, and he may close out the season as the Falcons’ unchallenged backfield leader. His only competition thus far, rookie Ito Smith, will finish the year on injured reserve. The team generally doesn’t like to give Coleman a bell cow role - he hasn’t topped 13 carries since Week 4 - so there remains a strong chance they shoehorn someone like Brian Hill into Smith’s shoes. But Coleman’s dynamism is clearly their only realistic chance at an efficient ground game.

The Panthers continue to show well against the weaker rushing attacks on their schedule but fall apart when challenged. They’ve done a fine job against the likes of Peyton Barber and Wendell Smallwood but looked very average in tougher matchups. Last Monday night, for example, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram had little trouble racking up 130 yards on their 26 carries and icing the game away late. The Panthers’ low-volume game flow tends to keep rushing totals in check, but explosive runners keep maximizing opportunity and winding up with efficient lines. Luke Kuechly and a pair of stout tackles anchor the middle of the field, but the edges are still beaten a bit too often, and poor downfield tackling hasn’t helped. This week’s opposing lead back, Tevin Coleman, ripped off a number of splash runs en route to 107 yards in their Week 2 meeting.

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

Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Bears rushing offense continues to be centered around Jordan Howard, who is receiving the vast majority of the volume on the ground. Howard has seen 19 carries in back-to-back games with at least 16 carries in four of his last five outings. Over those last five games, Howard has rushed 79 times with at least 60 yards in four of the five outings while Tarik Cohen has rushed just 32 times with one game of over 30 rushing yards. Howard ended a five-game touchdown drought last week as he scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season. While Howard is the clear leader on the ground, his efficiency has been an issue as he is barely averaging 3.5 yards per rush attempt due in part to shaky play from his offensive line. Losing Kyle Long was a big deal for this offensive line, as they have not looked the same since then and are average, at best, as a run-blocking unit.

The 49ers had a tough outing for the second time against Seattle this season as they allowed Chris Carson to run for 119 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. San Francisco has now allowed one rushing touchdown in four straight, but if not for facing Seattle who is the most run-heavy offense in football twice over that span, their stats actually would be serviceable. While touchdowns have been an issue for this run defense, they are giving up an average of just 89 rushing yards per game to running backs which is just below league average. DeForest Buckner has been up and down this season, but he had a great game last week despite the stats amassed by Seattle. Arik Armstead has also been a key piece of this interior defensive line, but the 49ers have been weaker on the edges and thirsted for a run-stopping playmaker in the secondary with top safety Jaquiski Tartt sidelined from a shoulder injury. The 49ers should pose a challenge for this middling Bears offensive line, but Howard is capable of picking up extra yards after contact against this secondary and linebacker group.

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

Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense at Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

With Kareem Hunt now out of the picture and Spencer Ware sidelined with multiple injuries last week, this backfield was in the hands of Damien Williams. Spencer Ware may be on track to return this week, but if for any reason he is not 100 percent, Damien Williams has proven to be a more than capable backup as he looked impressive last week and now has three rushing touchdowns in his last two games. The Chiefs offensive line continues to play well despite being without their starting left guard Cameron Erving for the past game and a half. Replacement Jeff Allen has played very well while their tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher continue to anchor this unit that has blocked well regardless of who is running behind them. The big story will continue to be Spencer Ware’s status, which will require monitoring closely as he should be the leader in this backfield if near 100 percent with Damien Williams likely to remain involved at a lower snap count.

The Seahawks have buckled down against the run in recent weeks, but with two of those games against a banged up 49ers backfield, it is tough to put much stock in those performances. Their run defense has been up and down all season but typically has struggled when facing a competent offensive team. The Chiefs certainly tick the box in that category as the best offense in football with a strong running game regardless of who is in the backfield. The Seahawks have the elite presence of Bobby Wagner continuing to dominate the middle of the field, but they are paper thin outside of Wagner at linebacker while also struggling in run defense on the edge of their defensive line. Linebacker K.J. Wright has a chance to play this week according to reports early in the week, so keep an eye on his status as a return to the field by Wright will be a significant bump to this otherwise mediocre, at best, run defense.

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

Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Frank Gore’s foot injury looks likely to end his 14th season a bit prematurely, but it was a largely successful campaign. The 35-year-old produced 4.6 yards per carry and 52 per game, serving as a dependable lead runner for Adam Gase’s ball-control scheme. Without him, Gase looks set to hand over the majority of groundwork to explosive rookie Kalen Ballage. The youngster broke out last week with 123 yards on just 12 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown scamper that showcased his blazing foot speed. It was his first time taking more than four attempts as a pro, and he acquitted himself beautifully. The 237-pound Ballage looks far more suited to the lead role than Kenyan Drake, whom Gase simply doesn’t trust for big usage. Drake hasn’t taken on double-digit carries since Week 8, averaging just 3.9 yards per rush over that span. Ballage should lead the way easily going forward, and he’ll do his best to maximize a poor offensive line and an anemic pass game that won’t draw many defenders out of the box. The situation isn’t ideal, and Ballage was a frustrating college prospect. But if last week was any indication, he certainly boasts the explosiveness to do so.

The Jacksonville run defense has been an up-and-down unit all year, characterized by extreme highs and lows. With an imposing front led by Calais Campbell, they’ve stifled a few strong runners, including Kareem Hunt, Derrick Henry, and Marlon Mack. But the lows have been devastating, none worse than Henry’s revenge game 2 weeks ago (238 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 17 carries). Henry’s outburst highlighted several flaws at play, including bad pursuit angles and even worse downfield tackling. Last week, they held Adrian Peterson in check for 57 minutes, only to crumble on the final, game-winning drive (5 for 31). In general, it’s easy to see signs of the Jaguars’ overall collapse manifested in this unit. Once a fairly prohibitive fantasy matchup, there’s no reason to specifically avoid the Jaguars in fantasy terms right now as you can never be sure what team will show up.

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

New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Sony Michel isn’t exactly a fantasy darling - he cedes a lot of snaps and touches to others, and he hasn’t found the end zone as often as we’re used to seeing in New England. But he’s at least been an extremely consistent lead runner for the Patriots, something they’ve lacked since Stevan Ridley’s brief heyday. Michel has averaged a solid 4.3 yards per carry on the year, using an impressive speed/power blend to help make up for a mediocre blocking front (currently graded C+ by our Matt Bitonti). He’s racked up 57 yards or more in each of his last 4 games, and 7 of his last 8, thanks to solid volume and efficiency. Of course, as a niche back, he’s always subject to game flow. He ran well last Sunday (4.5 per rush) against a decent Steelers unit, but was limited to just 13 attempts. He’s worked his way into a solid fantasy floor, but is fairly team-dependent for his overall production. When the Patriots aren’t dominating a game, Michel’s ceiling is always dinged by their deep backfield and variety of offensive looks. Neither Rex Burkhead nor James White is consistent in the run game, but they’ll always see a handful of opportunities and occasionally vulture production from Michel.

The Buffalo run defense is a bit of an enigma, and isn’t easy to project from week to week. The Bills are giving up just 105 total ground yards per game, good for tenth-best league-wide, and have only allowed 4 individual runners to top 60 yards. But they’ve been very fortunate in terms of schedule, and that number has been padded by dominant showings against the Jets, Dolphins, and Sony Michel-less Patriots. On the whole, this has been a rather inconsistent unit for much of the year. Quick-footed runners like Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, and Theo Riddick have found plenty of wiggle room against it. There are definite positives here, especially up front, where Kyle Williams remains a space-eating force inside. And edge man Lorenzo Alexander is enjoying a great season in terms of pursuit and playmaking. Still, with breakout linebacker Matt Milano on injured reserve, there’s not much to fear on the second level. Rookie Tremaine Edmunds, in particular, continues to struggle with down-to-down consistency. Michel is healthy for this rematch, and his explosiveness through a crease is exactly what’s given these Bills fits throughout the year. They may win this battle in the trenches, but still face a fairly tall task in the open field.

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

New York Jets Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

With Isaiah Crowell moved to injured reserve, Elijah McGuire has moved into the Jets #1 running back spot and will see enough volume over the last two weeks to put him squarely in the conversation as a weekly flex option. The biggest problem is that McGuire has not been able to make anything happen with the opportunities he’s been given. Over the last four weeks, McGuire has rushed 47 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. McGuire has been able to punch the ball in the end zone though, including the game-winning touchdown against the Bills two weeks ago. Trenton Cannon has a firm grip on the #2 job behind McGuire and the two have split the passing down work. Cannon has not fared better though, as he is averaging 2.1 yards per carry on 16 rushes over the last three weeks. The Jets offensive line is just not getting it done in the run game, and they have a very tough matchup against a Packers defensive front that has been shutting down the run cold as of late.

The Packers run defense continued its solid play against the Bears this past, limiting Jordan Howard to 60 yards on 19 carries, and containing Tarik Cohen, who finished with five carries for 21 yards. The Packers linebackers also did a great job of spying Mitchell Trubisky, keeping him in the middle of the field and holding him to 16 yards on three carries, which was his third-lowest rushing total of the season. The Packers rank 22nd in the NFL, averaging 124.1 rushing yards allowed, but have played much better over the last three weeks, limiting their opponents to only 97 rushing yards per game. The Packers will be able to continue their stellar play up front this week against a Jets rushing offense that is missing Isaiah Crowell. The Jets offensive line has graded out as one of the least talented units in the NFL, while the Packers defensive line, anchored by Kenny Clark, has started to hit its stride.

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

San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Matt Breida returned to the field from his ankle injury to handily lead the 49ers backfield with more than twice the carries of Jeff Wilson. It was not pretty for Breida during most of last week’s game though as he had a long run of just eight yards while averaging below three yards per carry. Breida also re-aggravated his ankle injury in the fourth quarter and was unable to return to the game. He has dealt with injuries all season, and it is tough to say how much more his body can hold up to as his status will be worth monitoring. Wilson had a tough outing last week as he was a secondary option to Breida while dropping a pass and fumbling. Wilson has shown some explosiveness in the past four games he has appeared in though, averaging just over four yards per carry with a few long runs of note. However, if Breida is on the field, it is clear that this coaching staff wants Wilson to remain in that secondary role.

The Bears have smothered opposing ground games this season, holding offenses to the second-fewest rushing yards per game while allowing just five rushing touchdowns this season--fewest in the league. Running backs are averaging just 71 rushing yards per game when facing Chicago, leading to the position scoring just the third-fewest fantasy points per game against the Bears. Loaded with talent, this Bears defensive front should have no problem lining up against what has been an above average 49ers offensive line. Akiem Hicks has dominated matchups all season while Khalil Mack coming off the edge will be a tough assignment for Joe Staley. With both Mack and Hicks worthy of double-teaming, the 49ers simply do not have the manpower to keep up with the pressure this Bears defensive front will apply to them while trying to make space for their running backs. The only negative for this Bears defense is the loss of top safety Eddie Jackson who, while not critical to their run defense, has still been a key playmaker for this defense and will be missed with a downgrade to Deon Bush as his replacement.

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

Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense at Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Lamar Jackson has likely (not definitely) locked down the final two weeks in the starter role, and it certainly hasn’t been due to his arm. Rather, he’s averaged a rushing line of 85 yards on 17 rushes over his 5 starts, heading a college-style Baltimore run game that’s come a field goal shy of a 5-0 record. Jackson and fellow rookie Gus Edwards (averaging 19 for 97) have simply ground down all comers - it’s been a remarkably weak schedule, but an impressive stretch nonetheless. Change-of-pace back Kenneth Dixon has excelled in his own right, posting 4.7 yards per rush and scoring twice in relief. Running behind an elite line that’s anchored by still-dominant guard Marshal Yanda, Edwards projects just fine in his first rough matchup as the starter. He’s showcased good power as a north-south hammer and meshes with the power-blocking scheme the Ravens love. Jackson’s high-volume role looks secure as long as he starts, though Joe Flacco’s health of course muddies the water. The diversity and efficiency of this whole unit are strong, but it’s hard to pin it down with such uncertainty at quarterback, of all spots.

The Chargers run defense has been an up-and-down unit throughout 2018, mixing dominant performances with truly shaky ones. In general, it’s been a tough matchup from a fantasy perspective. They’ve allowed only 4 opposing backs to top 65 yards, and there’s no shame in giving up big days to Todd Gurley and Joe Mixon. But they’ve definitely struggled, especially with quicker backs, up and down the schedule. Injuries have played a part, with top linebacker Denzel Perryman and key down lineman Corey Liuget on injured reserve. Joey Bosa’s return has brought a solid edge presence, but this is a front seven built more to defend the pass than the run. The remaining linebackers are relatively light up the middle and susceptible to explosive backs with wide lanes. The Ravens’ down-blocking power attack could easily sweep this group aside.

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

Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

It’s looking more and more likely the 5-8 Lions will shut down impressive rookie runner Kerryon Johnson for the final 2 weeks. It’s the smart play but leaves this backfield mired in a full-on committee. LeGarrette Blount continues to plod along as the starter, managing just 2.9 yards per rush on the year. For most backs, last week’s 7-carry, 9-yard game would be a low point, but it was actually Blount’s seventh game of the year with fewer than 15 yards. He’s been drastically outplayed by Zach Zenner, who’s taken over as lead runner in each of the last 2 weeks, racking up 99 yards (4.5 per rush) and 2 touchdowns. For chunks of the last three years now, Zenner has served as a savior of sorts for the Lions, frequently plugging in when injury and/or ineffectiveness have sapped their usual run game. A SPARQ superstar who essentially broke the 2015 combine, Zenner is clearly the ideal choice to lead this attack. Blount simply looks done, and Theo Riddick, while explosive, isn’t built to take on more than six to eight carries a game. Zenner is again on the rise, though he and the Lions’ mediocre line will have their Week 16 work cut out against the Vikings’ dominant front.

The Minnesota run defense, which has looked unbeatable for much of 2018, has taken a step back over the last 2 weeks. Over their first 12 games, the Vikings allowed just 3.8 yards per carry to running backs, with only Todd Gurley topping 75 in a game. But Chris Carson (22 for 90 and 1 touchdown) and Kalen Ballage (12 for 123 and 1) have erupted in the last two, despite both matchups drastically favoring the Minnesota front. Armed with dominant run-stoppers Sheldon Richardson and Linval Joseph, as well as tough matchups on the edges, the Vikings typically control games in the trenches. But the play of the linebackers has been spotty all year; it’s a subpar group against the run, often washed away by linemen who get to the second level. Eric Kendricks and company pile up tackles but don’t make enough of a difference when there are open lanes. That was made obvious last week on Ballage’s too-easy 75-yard touchdown. All told, though, this remains one of the league’s more suffocating units. It doesn’t look as dominant as it did three weeks ago, but boasts the same strong personnel up front and looks to carry a big advantage into Week 15.

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

Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Melvin Gordon looks likely to return from his three-game absence, though his immediate workload is an unknown. Gordon has taken 15 carries or more in 8 of his 9 full games, but this is an exceptionally deep backfield, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his usage relaxed off the bat. Justin Jackson (4.6) should see some volume this week as Austin Ekeler looks like he will miss this week. The duo will continue to run behind one of football’s best run-blocking lines, anchored by center Mike Pouncey and left tackle Russell Okung. It’s not easy to project the usage yet, but it’s safe to expect dynamism, with Gordon boasting the best rushing ceiling. Maligned for 3 years for his 3.8 average, Gordon has consistently broken off chunk runs which have led to a 5.2 average this season, and he’s kept up his penchant for huge touchdown production (9 in 9.5 games). If he does take the lion’s share of Week 16 snaps, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to poke holes in the Ravens’ stout front.

The Baltimore run defense, impenetrable for most of the year, has looked human and almost vulnerable over the last two weeks. They’ve allowed back-to-back efficient ground days to Spencer Ware (15 carries for 75 yards) and Peyton Barber (19 for 85 and 1 touchdown), just the third and fourth backs to top 65 in this matchup. On most weeks, down linemen Brandon Williams and Brent Urban anchor a stout, punishing group that’s hard to clear from the middle. Linebacker C.J. Mosley does it all on the inside; he’s not a blazing athlete, but a sure tackler who does fine cleanup work behind them. They’re clearly not unbeatable, but typically work through double-teams and power running better than they did last Sunday. The Chargers’ much-improved line poses a challenge, but their rushing floor is low. This is a deep, talented, and often neutralizing unit.

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

New York Giants Rushing Offense at Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Coming off four consecutive 100+ rushing games from weeks 11-14, Saquon Barkley had his worst game of the season against a Titans defensive front that had yielded only 100 yard game on the season. Barkley finished with 31 yards on 14 carries, including just 12 yards on seven carries after halftime. The conditions in New York were less than ideal, as it rained heavily for much of the game, but this was still a surprising effort from Barkley considering how well he had fared against even the toughest of matchups this season. It is fair to wonder whether Barkley is starting to wear down after averaging 16 carries and 5.8 receptions per game this year, but his success from weeks 11-14 should keep that discussion in check. The Giants offensive line came into the year as a bottom 10 unit, despite making Nate Solder the highest paid tackle in the NFL, and drafting Will Hernandez in the second round. Despite Barkley’s success, this unit has not graded out much higher than they entered the season and will have their hands full with a talented Colts defensive front.

The Colts rushing defense currently ranks eighth in the NFL, allowing just 103.6 rushing yards per game. They also rank sixth in the league, giving up a mere 3.9 yards per carry. The Colts have been especially stingy over the last three weeks, holding opponents to 93.3 rushing yards per game. In those three games, the Colts have faced off against Ezekiel Elliot, Lamar Miller (when the Texans had a hot streaking running the ball) and Carlos Hyde/TJ Yeldon. The Colts have found a star in rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, and the defensive line is anchored by Denico Autry. The Colts will have their work cut out for them this week though, as they face off against rookie sensation Saquon Barkley. The Colts have allowed only two running backs over 90 rushing yards on the season (Joe Mixon, 95 yards on 17 carries and Sony Michel, 98 yards on 18 carries). The Giants may struggle on the ground and instead turn to Barkley in the passing game this week.

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

Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Raiders rushing offense hasn’t been good, averaging just 99.1 yards per game (26th best). However, things have gone from bad to worse in recent weeks with injuries destroying Oakland’s lone point of strength, which has been the play of the interior line. Center Rodney Hudson is a Pro Bowl alternate and the last man standing inside. Starting guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson both missed last week with injuries and look to be doubtful to return in Week 16. Top backup lineman Jon Feliciano also recently landed on injured reserve, which has forced Oakland to turn to journeymen Denzelle Good and Chaz Green as starters. The unit didn’t fare well last week, rushing for just 68 yards against a mediocre at best Cincinnati run defense. The offensive line injuries are especially harmful to the offense because veteran Doug Martin hasn’t been making many people miss. Martin hasn’t topped 61 rushing yards in a game since back in Week 8 and will again face tough sledding against a tough Denver defensive line.

The Broncos run defense has steadily improved throughout the season and now ranks middle of the pack in most major categories. Denver allows 120.2 yards per game to rank 20th in the league and is also 20th-best in yards per carry at 4.6. Nick Chubb broke off a long run in the final minutes of the game last week to get to 100 rushing yards, becoming the first back to do so against the Broncos since Todd Gurley in Week 6. Denver kept Chubb out of the end zone and the defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown to an opposing back since Week 6. The Broncos are stout in the trenches with Adam Gotsis, Domata Peko, and Derek Wolfe making it tough for opposing offenses to get any push. Linebacker Todd Davis has been an elite run-stopper as well. Against an overmatched Oakland offensive line, Denver has a good chance to extend their streak of strong play against the run.

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

Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

James Conner looks unlikely to return to action this week, but it may not be that big of an impact due to the emergence of Jaylen Samuels. Prior to his injury, Conner had taken his second big efficiency downturn of the season, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and 46 per game from Weeks 11-13. Last Sunday in his place, rookie Jaylen Samuels racked up 142 on just 19 attempts in a massive win over the Patriots. Samuels showed an explosiveness and consistency last week and while it was a good matchup, looked like a much more competent back in his second start compared to his first. The good news is that Samuels will continue to run behind one of football’s best front lines: Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti currently assigns them one of the league’s three A+ grades in run blocking. Center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro form an exceptionally strong duo, capable of both winning inside and kicking out to seal off creases on the edge.

The Saints continue to boast one of the NFL’s most improved - and actually, most dominant - units on run defense. A punchline for years, this group is allowing the league’s second-fewest yards per rush (3.7) and fewest per game (79). They’ve run the gamut lately, a brutal stretch of Todd Gurley, Joe Mixon, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey over the last two months, but managed to hold each under 80 yards. With Sheldon Rankins excelling on the nose and linebacker Demario Davis enjoying a fine season in run support, there’s actually a strong core in place that routinely dominates the trenches. Typically, the only room to be found in this matchup is on the edges, but even that’s been pinched off more and more lately. Seemingly overnight, this Saints run defense is one no fantasy player wants to face, even with an elite rushing attack like that of the Steelers.

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Peyton Barber has been the unquestioned starter throughout the season, leading the backfield in snaps each game. However, the Buccaneers are middle of the road in rushing volume and 30th in the NFL in yards-per-carry and one of seven teams to average less than 100 yards-per-game as a team. Tampa Bay is also dead last in rushes of 20 or more yards with just five such runs all season. Peyton Barber has yet to rush 20 or more times in a game this season but has found the end zone in four-of-five most recent contests.

The Cowboys have been stingy against the run this season until uncharacteristically allowing a monster game to Marlon Mack (27-139-2) last week in the blowout loss. This remains a very solid unit led by Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith in which it has actually pushed veteran Sean Lee to a backup role as the Dallas defense has primarily played a nickel defense with just two linebackers on the field. Dallas’ defense allowed wide running lanes and missed tackles in bunches for one of the first times all season. Previously, Dallas had not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 3 and only five running back rushing touchdowns all season. Dallas also has prevented big plays on the ground, ranking in the top-10 for fewest rushes of 20 or more yards allowed and not a single gain of 40 or more yards on the season.

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

Washington Redskins Rushing Offense at Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

While Peterson has seen high volume at times this season, he has done little with that volume in recent weeks with fewer than four yards per rush attempt in six of his last seven games despite averaging just over 13 carries per game over that span. Last week was more of the same as Peterson had 19 carries but just 2.7 yards per carry as he was largely bottled up against the Jaguars. Game flow has influenced a high variability in the workload allotted to Peterson, as he has seen single-digit carries in games where the Redskins are losing, while Peterson has approached 20 carries in game scripts more favorable to relying on the ground game. Quarterback Josh Johnson is Peterson’s only competition for carries as he has now rushed for at least 45 yards in both games he has played. The Redskins offensive line continues to be a weakness for the run game. Their starting lineup has been different nearly every week due to constant injury woes and a lack of standout, healthy talent at any position as they grade out as a below average unit.

The Redskins patchwork offensive line should have trouble against this Titans defensive front that has defended very well against the run this season. The Titans are coming off back-to-back impressive outings in which they held both Saquon Barkley and Leonard Fournette to below 40 rushing yards and fewer than 2.6 yards per rush attempt. This unit has allowed just three running backs to exceed 70 rushing yards through 14 games this season, however, committee backfields have still found some success to bring their ranking down to 12th-fewest rushing yards allowed per game. This group still has exhibited an unwillingness to allow big plays on the ground while their red zone defense has been superb, especially against running backs as they are tied for third-fewest rushing touchdowns allowed this season. The defensive line is healthy with Jurrell Casey playing at a Pro Bowl level while rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans and second-year linebacker Jayon Brown have shown spectacular development as the season has progressed. Overall, the Titans should present a challenge for this high volume Redskins rushing attack led by both Adrian Peterson and Josh Johnson.

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

Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

It appears Dalvin Cook has shaken off the cobwebs. Cook struggled mightily through injury early on, but since his Week 9 return has averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and breakaway runs are looking like his specialty. Winning with the same speed and elusiveness he showed as a rookie, Cook again looks like one of football’s most dynamic young runners. His 21-yard touchdown last week was a sight to behold as he spun through traffic and easily beat the Dolphins’ linebackers to the outside. Simply put, the Vikings run game is far more diverse and explosive when he’s leading the charge over Latavius Murray. It helps that the blocking unit, beaten up and undermanned for much of the year, is playing much better of late. Left tackle Riley Reiff was one of Week 15’s team MVPs, consistently sealing off creases for Cook to exploit, and the fullbacks and tight ends are doing a great job in space. There’s a renewed focus on the run in Minnesota - they iced Week 15 with a 40/21 run/pass split - and Cook is taking full advantage. He looks poised to be one of football’s most dynamic ground weapons down the stretch.

The Detroit run defense continues to excel; its second-half turnaround has been one of the starkest of any unit in the NFL here in 2018. Since adding run-stuffer Damon Harrison via trade prior to Week 9, the Lions have allowed just 2 backs (Todd Gurley and Dalvin Cook) to top 55 yards. Over that span, apart from a single 80-yard scamper by Cook, runners are averaging just 3.5 yards per rush. Harrison and the team’s deep line rotation are dominating inside, but the bigger story has been the development of second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis. A liability for his first season and a half, Davis has turned the corner in pursuit and tackling, and has slowed the flow of wide-open lanes on the second level. Cook comes into this rematch red-hot, but likely won’t find nearly as much room in this matchup as he has of late. The Lions are fast becoming one of fantasy’s stingiest opponents.

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

Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Eagles are a middle-of-the-road rushing offense in terms of volume, but are among the worst in the NFL on a per-carry basis for efficiency. The rotation of running backs has changed on a near-weekly basis based on availability. Josh Adams was the clear lead back until two weeks ago when Darren Sproles returned to a full complement of snaps and Wendell Smallwood boosted back up in Week 15. All three have been used in the red zone and Adams has been a touchdown-or-bust option since rising in prominence midseason.

The Texans have been the most stingy run defense in the NFL on a per-carry basis and just 88 yards-per-game overall. Houston has also allowed only three rushes of 20 or more yards on the season, the fewest in the NFL and no runs of at least 40 yards. Houston has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher and only Saquon Barkley back in Week 3 has surpassed even 75 yards in a game (17-82-1). The Texans have been even more difficult on running backs of late with Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Marlon Mack, and Elijah McGuire all failing to hit 50 rushing yards over the past month. Led by J.J. Watt and middle linebacker Bernardrick McKinney, this is one of the top units in football.

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