Week 5 Rushing Matchups

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

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


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 New York Giants Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Christian McCaffrey’s 184-yard eruption before the bye came as a shock to many. But it shouldn’t have. McCaffrey isn’t a bruiser, of course, but he was a truly superb inside runner throughout his career at Stanford. Often facing stacked eight- and nine-man boxes, McCaffrey was routinely ridden hard by the Cardinal, and he responded with overwhelming success. The NFL finally saw that in Week 3, when McCaffrey was finally given a rhythm (a career-high 28 attempts), strong blocking, and an opportunity to run roughshod over a defense. McCaffrey is stoutly built and far from an easy tackle, and he’s perfectly capable of spearheading an NFL ground game. If the Panthers are serious about scaling back the “big back” role of C.J. Anderson to almost nothing, McCaffrey has a brilliant outlook as a workhorse. Cam Newton still adds his own fearless, assertive dimension to the offense. He’s dynamic on both scrambles and called runs, and his presence is enough to freeze defenders on option runs.

Perhaps Lamar Miller has just lost it. After all, through 4 weeks, he’s been the only lead back not to average more than 4.5 yards per carry against this porous Giants run defense. The other 3 (Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott, and Alvin Kamara) have combined to run 45 times for 253 yards (a 5.62 average) and score 4 touchdowns. Of course, those are all elite backs, and they didn’t crawl out of nothingness to run over the Giants. And the Giants do boast an All-Pro caliber run defender in tackle Damon Harrison, who both ties up blockers and makes plays in penetration. But the linebackers remain a sore spot, often out of position to finish plays in the gaps. Too often, safety Landon Collins is the unit’s saving grace several yards upfield. Harrison and Collins are studs, but aren’t enough to keep this group from being targeted well in fantasy.

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


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Green Bay’s rushing offense at the moment is at a turning point of the season as Aaron Jones is in position to potentially take a lead running back role depending on this week. The team had tremendous praise for Aaron Jones after last week’s win and has looked like the clear-cut most talented back on this team. From a snap count perspective, however, the team has not fully bought in as Jones saw just 39% of the team’s snaps which was tied with Jamaal Williams while Ty Montgomery saw 26% of the snaps. The biggest question for Jones is whether the Packers can trust him enough pass blocking as they love Williams in that role. If Jones can get 50%+ of the snaps this week, he is in line for a potentially big season this year. The Packers offensive line remains strong led by David Bahktiari and should continue to get better as Bryan Bulaga continues to get healthier as he is recovering from a back injury.

The Lions defense has been a funnel defense in which teams have avoided throwing against the secondary and have just run the ball against this porous run defense. The Lions have allowed 156 total yards rushing to running backs this season and have allowed over 100 yards rushing in three of their four games this year. This is a situation where the team’s weakness is at their linebacking group as Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones, and Devon Kennard have struggled and their safeties are significantly better pass defenders than run stoppers. The Packers should have their way with this defense and could put up another 100-yard rushing performance this week.

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


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Jaguars will once again be without Leonard Fournette this week who left last week’s game with a hamstring injury. T.J. Yeldon will once again get a majority of the carries as he did last week when he had 18 carries while Corey Grant will fill in and play a change of pace role. Complicating matters, Yeldon appears to be less than 100% this week as he has been limited with an ankle injury, and while it does not appear to be serious he will likely be less than 100% this week. The Jaguars offensive line has been a somewhat disappointing group after heading into the season with high expectations and a big reason for that is that Andrew Norwell really hasn’t played at the level that he historically has played at and the loss of Cam Robinson.

The Chiefs defense as a whole has really struggled and against the run has been no different as last week the Chiefs allowed 141 yards and two touchdowns to the Broncos. Over the last two weeks, the Chiefs have now allowed 149 yards rushing to opposing running backs and three touchdowns. The biggest issue for the Chiefs is the linebacking group which Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens have been playing very poorly this season. This is a game where Jacksonville should be able to move the ball whether it is through the air or on the ground, but Yeldon and Grant should continue to have a big day this week.

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


Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Melvin Gordon is off to a career year so far in 2018 as he is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Gordon seems to be thriving off of the decrease in carries as he is averaging just 13.5 carries so far this season after seeing 17.5 carries last season. The biggest concern for Gordon and the Chargers is whether they can keep producing at this level in particular with Austin Ekeler who at the moment is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. For as good as the Chargers rushing offense has been, at some point the Chargers offensive line injuries are going to catch up to them as both Joe Barksdale and Russell Okung are likely out this week which is never a great sign for both tackles to potentially miss a game.

The Raiders rushing defense that looked like they were improving after shutting down the Dolphins in Week 3. However, the Raiders once again allowed a 100+ yard running back in Week 4 as Nick Chubb was able to run for 105 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries while Carlos Hyde added 82 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. This continues to be a unit that has very little on the front seven with the exception of rookie Maurice Hurst who has far exceeded his 5th round draft selection. The linebackers for the Raiders continue to be a problem as evidenced by Chubb’s two long touchdown runs last week and the team appears to be phasing middle linebacker veteran Derrick Johnson out of the rotation as he had just 35 snaps the last two weeks.

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


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Matt Breida has slowly but surely overtaken Alfred Morris in the 49ers backfield, gaining snaps on him week over week as Breida saw a season-high 63 percent of the snaps compared to only 23 percent for Morris in last week’s game. Breida cooled off in terms of productivity though, rushing nine times for 39 yards after amassing 90 and 138 rushing yards in his last two outings. While Morris and fullback Kyle Juszczyk may be ahead of Breida for goal-line work, it still appears to be Breida’s backfield to lose at this point. C.J. Beathard showed some mobility last week as he added 19 rushing yards. He logged three rushing touchdowns and a couple outings with 30 or more rushing yards in six starts last season, making Beathard at least an option for this rushing attack. Left tackle Joe Staley was forced to exit last week’s game early with a knee injury. A serious injury was ruled out, but Staley is still questionable for Week 5. If he misses time, the previously above-average 49ers offensive line would certainly drop a few ranks with Staley being their best lineman.

The Cardinals run defense has now put together four straight poor performances to start the season after allowing a mediocre Seahawks offensive line to block their way to fourth-string running back Mike Davis gaining over 100 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Arizona is right around league average on rushing yards per attempt, but they are far from it on rushing yards per game, allowing the second-most in the league (141.3). In terms of fantasy production, the Cardinals are second only to the Chiefs in fantasy points allowed to running backs, fueled primarily by the league-leading seven rushing touchdowns given up through four games. This unit has talent on the defensive line, but they simply have not performed this season in addition to falling victim to tough game scripts. While the yards per rush attempt signals the yards per game may regress slightly, we will need to see improved play both from the defensive line and Cardinals offense to upgrade this rushing defense. The average 49ers offensive line, should Joe Staley suit up, should have the advantage here.

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


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

Alex Collins isn’t finding any room to run thus far, even with the offense more open than last year. It’s puzzling, considering the Ravens now boast a somewhat dynamic passing game and All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda, who missed all of last season, is back in place. Collins has only topped 42 yards once this season, which was also the only game in which he was given more than 11 carries to establish a rhythm. Still, he hasn’t shown anything on the ground, averaging just 3.51 yards per rush, so he hasn’t been begging for the opportunity. Javorius Allen, owner of a career 3.70 average, is even less effective. Allen handles most of the duo’s short-yardage work, and he could take on a bigger role altogether if Collins can’t stop losing fumbles. But that wouldn’t add any juice whatsoever to this attack, which looks stuck in neutral at the moment. Some creativity wouldn’t hurt – Collins was electric last year when given room, but is being slammed into the line quite a bit here in 2018.

The Cleveland run defense has taken a noticeable step back from its outstanding 2017. Through 4 games, they’re the league’s ninth-worst unit in terms of raw yardage, and they’ve been gashed by three different runners thus far. Tackles Larry Ogunjobi and Trevon Conley simply don’t occupy blockers up front, and the team’s good-not-great linebackers don’t get much free reign to patrol. As a result, even chuggers James Conner (31 carries for 135 yards and 1 touchdown) and Marshawn Lynch (20 for 130) have excelled against them, and Bilal Powell averaged 5.21 yards per rush in Week 3. It’s clear the Browns are focusing more on impact pass defense than keeping up last year’s ground dominance. That may lead to more wins, but it’s also making this unit one to target in fantasy.

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


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bills saw LeSean McCoy return last week, but it did not help this struggling backfield as McCoy saw only five carries for 24 yards. In three starts, McCoy has yet to top 40 rushing yards or 10 carries in a single game. Chris Ivory actually saw one more carry than McCoy last week, but he was highly ineffective with only 15 yards on six attempts. Ivory is averaging just 2.6 rushing yards per attempt this season and did basically nothing with 20 rushing attempts and a positive game script in Week 3. With McCoy healthy, Ivory simply will not see enough snaps to have a chance at being a factor here. This offense as a whole has shown on multiple occasions how dysfunctional it can be, and with a bottom tier offensive line providing mediocre blocking services, the outlook is bleak for McCoy.

The Titans defensive line has played well overall this season, but they have been more effective against the pass than in run defense. Jurrell Casey can only do so much despite his spectacular play, as both Austin Johnson and Bennie Logan have been the weak links here. It didn’t help this unit to see starting linebacker Wesley Woodyard exit last week’s game with a shoulder injury. Woodyard missed most of the game as his injury happened early, and we saw the Eagles run to the tune of 117 rushing yards and over five yards per carry. It appears Woodyard’s injury is not serious, but he still may miss this week which would open the door for increased playing time for rookie Rashaan Evans, who played over 75% of the snaps due to Woodyard’s early exit last week. Evans is far from an equal to Woodyard in the run defense category, as the rookie is still a bit raw against opposing rushers. The Bills offensive line is not one to put up a challenge for many defensive fronts, but the Titans have yet to come close to the elite run defense they had in 2017. With Woodyard out, the Bills get the nod here.

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


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense vs Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bengals boast a deep backfield, one that’s taking advantage of the rebuilt and improved offensive line. The team will probably get back Joe Mixon, who’s missed the last two games, this week, which will only bring more dynamism to the table. Mixon has slimmed down and looked downright explosive on the young season, racking up 179 yards over 38 rushes (4.71 per) after running in quicksand as a rookie. In-game health may always be a question for him, but he’s excelled as a bell cow thus far, especially behind the left side of the line. When he needs a breather, Giovani Bernard serves as an excellent caddy. Bernard remains explosive on the edges and capable on the interior, and the running game doesn’t lose too much when Mixon sits. All told, this is becoming one of the league’s better all-around units, and Mixon looks like a must-play fantasy workhorse. He’s capable of both opening up games with splash runs and grinding them down inside.

Surprisingly stout through the first three weeks, the Miami run defense was gashed last Sunday by a hard-charging Patriots attack finally able to find its footing. Rookie Sony Michel racked up 112 yards on 25 rushes, powering through the line and the Dolphins’ linebackers with ease. Middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan is struggling, and Kiko Alonso hasn’t been nearly as effective as his tackle numbers suggest. Both are failing to fill gaps consistently, leading to open creases that Michel took advantage of Sunday. McMillan would be on the verge of a benching if the team weren’t so thin at the position. With safety Reshad Jones still hobbled, this has the look of a targetable fantasy unit.

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


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

There’s still little use for the Colts to even roster running backs, or try to establish a ground game of any kind. Andrew Luck and Frank Reich are working diligently to hide this anemic unit, and their best “ground” attack thus far has been a diet of check-down passes to rookie Nyheim Hines. Fellow rookie runner Jordan Wilkins has yet to display much; through 4 appearances, he’s topped 3.17 yards per carry just once. The Colts line has actually improved markedly as a run-blocking unit, thanks largely to center Ryan Kelly and right guard Matt Slauson, but neither Wilkins nor Hines has yet to capitalize much. Robert Turbin re-enters the fray this Thursday but offers next to nothing as a plodder (a career 3.83 average) and no glimpse of hope for this unit. The New England run defense is among the league’s worst, but if any group of runners can underwhelm against them, it’s this one.

The New England run defense remains a lower-tier unit, one that consistently allows success to opposing runners. Dating back to last season, only 4 teams have allowed more yards per carry, and 15 of the last 22 lead backs they’ve faced have averaged more than 4.50. It’s fairly easy to identify the culprits here. Despite investing in two free agent nose tackles, the Patriots still lack a strong line rotation, thanks largely to the ends failing to hold the edge. Built to make splash plays against the pass, the linebackers lack sturdiness and discipline inside and too often find themselves chasing runners into daylight. Stretch and bounce runs can easily beat this group outside, where safety Patrick Chung often becomes the unit’s most crucial defender. There’s little hope on the horizon, as this thin, weak front seven is actually at full health. The Patriots tend to game-script opposing teams out of their running games, but it’s always fair to project maximum efficiency against them.

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


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

Todd Gurley continues to put up consistent numbers as the focal point of this Rams rushing offense. He ran for 83 yards, averaging nearly five yards per attempt, against a tough Vikings defensive front last week. Gurley has four rushing touchdowns and surpassed 100 rushing yards in half of his games now as he remains one of the top running backs in football. Malcolm Brown saw an uptick in snaps for a couple weeks, but it was back to nearly 100 percent Gurley last week as Brown was on the field for only two snaps. With health on the side of both Gurley and this elite Rams offensive line, the Rams rushing offense remains one of the best in the league.

The Seahawks run defense has been on a gauntlet in recent weeks, drawing matchups against Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and now Todd Gurley. While this unit did well to shut down Jordan Howard in Week 2, they were gashed by Elliott and allowed 71 rushing yards to three different running backs in their two other contests. Bobby Wagner has been the core of this rushing defense when healthy while interior defender Jarran Reed has been their most effective lineman against the run. With safety Earl Thomas gone for the season and linebacker Mychal Kendricks now officially been suspended, the Seahawks suddenly have lost two of their better players with average-at-best depth to fill in those holes. Considering their mediocre performance thus far, this unit can’t be expected to improve, especially against one of the league’s top offensive lines.

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


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

It’s hard to tell what the Dolphins are trying to build as a running game. Adam Gase’s staff clearly doesn’t care for Kenyan Drake’s finesse approach, even though it generated 4.84 yards per carry and 68.8 per start last season. Drake remains glued to the sideline for much of the game; he’s a gifted runner, but Gase prefers the grinding ability of the 35-year-old Frank Gore in most situations. Gore still has life in his legs – he’s averaging a respectable 3.97 yards per carry in this toothless offense – but frightens no one on the second level. For this unit to offer any dynamism, Gase will simply need to trust Drake more. Whoever gets the ball will operate behind a tattered line, one that lost center Daniel Kilgore (injury) and right tackle JuWuan James (benching) in Week 4. Since an impressive Week 1, Dolphins backs have combined for a pitiful 140 yards over 46 attempts (3.04 per). With the line imploding and the pass game looking shellshocked, it’s hard to find a reason for optimism going forward.

The Bengals run defense remains a so-so unit, hampered by the lack of Vontaze Burfict on the second level. The line is generally stout, with nose tackle Andrew Billings ascending as a run plugger and the rest of the rotation solid at absorbing blocks. But without Burfict, the linebackers lack talent and explosiveness in a major way. Preston Brown is stiff and one-gear in the middle, and the outside men struggle in pursuit as well. Burfict could suit up this week, and the team sorely needs his playmaking to make use of that strong line play.

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


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

James Conner continues to look wholly ordinary as a runner. Since a big Week 1, Conner has managed just 97 yards on 32 attempts (3.03 per) – a 3-game stretch that included a pair of the league’s softest run defenses (Kansas City and Tampa Bay). Last Sunday, he was suffocated by both game script and a tough Ravens defense, recording just 19 yards over 9 rushes. (That one may not be his fault. Late last season, once the Ravens run defense had gotten healthy, Bell was held to just 48 yards on 13 carries in this matchup.) In any event, Conner clearly lacks the quickness and agility LeVeon Bell brings to the table. With the stellar offensive line getting back to full health – right guard David DeCastro and tackle Marcus Gilbert returned to action last week – the Steelers run game is looking handcuffed by Conner’s ho-hum speed and athleticism. Bell’s return would go a long way toward adding this dimension to the offense, but that’s not on the horizon, so Conner will continue to plod along with game flow.

The Falcons run defense can’t be categorized as a bad unit when it’s healthy. In fact, they’ve overachieved in the wake of linebacker Deion Jones’ and Keanu Neal’s season-ending injuries. No opposing runner has topped 69 yards against them thus far. But they’ll hit Sunday without nose tackle Grady Jarrett, who has quietly put together an All-Pro start to his fourth season. Without Jarrett consistently shooting gaps and tying up blockers, things look dicey for all of these fill-ins. The linebacking corps has been suspect on the second level, though there’s been a bit of improvement from Jones’ replacement, Duke Riley. Riley is often out of position, but also blazing fast in pursuit, resulting in a few nice stops. All in all, this is solid unit that took a massive hit when Jarrett’s injury news broke. Jack Crawford should see an uptick in run-down snaps, and he’s a noticeable downgrade.

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


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

While David Johnson’s fantasy numbers may not have spiked last week, his usage on the ground certainly did as the Cardinals finally fed him 22 carries compared to a previous season-high of 13 rushing attempts. Johnson was not extremely efficient with only 71 rushing yards, but he did find the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the season while flashing with couple big runs. The offensive line continued without right tackle Andre Smith last week despite Smith practicing on Friday. Look for Smith to have a good chance of returning this week, which should provide a slight boost to this bottom-tier offensive line. With improved quarterback play and an increased workload for David Johnson, this rushing offense could have a chance at success in Week 5.

The 49ers run defense should be a challenging one for the Cardinals offense this week. By no means is this an elite unit, but they do have a formidable interior defensive line led by the strong play of Deforest Buckner. Reuben Foster has also been coming on strong as he gets up to speed in the NFL while Fred Warner had a nice 10-tackle outing last week. This secondary has not made much of an impact at all in run defense though. This group had decent success in their first three games, but they did give up some big plays and over 100 yards on the ground to Melvin Gordon last week, notably missing some tackles and allowing him to right for yardage. The 49ers offensive line has the disadvantage in this matchup, but if Johnson can get some pitches to the outside, he can certainly make quick work of the 49ers defensive backs--especially considering they will again be without Richard Sherman and may miss Jaquiski Tartt at safety.

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


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Few rushing units have disappointed thus far as much as that of the Falcons. They’ve missed Devonta Freeman, of course, but that’s not the whole story. The entire group has been less consistent and dynamic than usual, and speedy Tevin Coleman has been given little room to break long runs. This is a cohesive line that’s been almost entirely static for several years, but has underperformed to open the season. It’s a relatively small line, designed to spring Freeman and Coleman into a crease with cut blocking, but hasn’t been very effective thus far. The big, quick lines of the Eagles and Bengals have contained them well, and even the Saints were able to manhandle them up front. Freeman’s return can bring back a grinding element to this attack, one that can maximize its blocking and offer some degree of versatility. Even so, this is starting to look like a matchup-dependent group that could struggle against Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward.

The Pittsburgh run defense remains a stout unit, one capable of thoroughly shutting down even solid run games. It can be beaten, especially by quick, one-cut runners, but has been outstanding thus far. Opposing lead backs are averaging just 3.51 yards per rush against them on the young season. Ends Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward are explosive and blow up their share of running lanes. running lanes. The real surprise thus far has been inside linebacker Jon Bostic, a journeyman widely expected to be the unit’s weak spot in place of Ryan Shazier. Bostic has been sturdy in the gaps and solid in pursuit, tying together another fantastic start for this group. These Steelers aren’t impenetrable, as several backs showed last season.

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


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at New York Jets Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

That’s quite the one-two punch the Broncos just picked up this offseason. Between Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, they boast explosiveness both inside and out, and the duo has combined to rack up 5.46 yards per carry thus far. Freeman is proving far more than just a grinder, with a decisive burst through the hole and a powerful head of steam. Since the preseason, Freeman has been turning second-level runs into long touchdowns, and he’s found the end zone in each of the last three weeks. But Lindsay has been the backfield’s slight leader, and his 5.93 per-carry average isn’t overly inflated. The pair has been great, evading tackles in each their own way, but they’ll face a bit of a downgrade up front if right tackle Jared Veldheer is seriously hurt. Replacement Billy Turner has been replacement-level on the NFL level, though he’s actually been strong over his few 2018 snaps thus far.

The Jets continue to look subpar against the run. From far away, they seem to do a fine job of limiting workhorse backs to good-not-great production. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 1 of last season (LeSean McCoy). Still, there have been performances of 86, 82, 81, 93, and 98 along the way. Both Kenyan Drake and Carlos Hyde have posted their best games of the year against them, in fact. The loss of linebacker Demario Davis has certainly been felt. Davis broke out as an active, pursuing run-stuffer last year, but this group isn’t nearly as dynamic. All-Pro caliber end Leonard Williams is a force up front, but can’t do it alone and gets insufficient help from the playmakers.

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


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

After a big week on Sunday Night football where it looked like Kerryon Johnson may emerge as a lead back out of this backfield, the Lions went back to their old ways of splitting snaps and limiting upside of all of their running backs. Kerryon Johnson led the way with nine carries, but Theo Riddick who had just one carry led the way in snaps with 46% of the snaps. The offensive line for the Lions continues to be strong however the one concern here is that right guard T.J. Lang has missed practice and is questionable for this week which would be a big loss if he were to miss this week.

The Packers run defense has been an up and down unit so far this season as they have allowed 108 yards per game rushing, however in two of those four games they allowed 150 yards per game while the other two games they have allowed just 66 yards rushing including last week where the Packers shut down the Bills defense allowing just 58 yards to the Bills last week. The Packers continue to be strong up the middle as Kenny Clark at nose tackle is playing at an All-Pro level. The Packers have played a significant amount of Jermaine Whitehead as a linebacker this year alongside Blake Martinez. Whitehead is really a safety who is playing in the Nickel/Dime packages which has led to power backs such as Jordan Howard and Adrian Peterson having success against this defense.

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


Houston Texans Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Lamar Miller continued his quiet season last week with only 49 rushing yards on 15 attempts. Despite strong volume of nearly 15 rushed per game, Miller is managing only 3.8 rushing yards per attempt behind one of the worst run-blocking offensive lines in the league. Miller did get banged up in the game last week, ceding nearly half of the snaps to Alfred Blue who managed only 31 yards on 13 carries. The Texans coaching staff does expect Miller to suit up this week, relegating Blue back to his normal secondary role. Deshaun Watson continues to be the highlight of this rushing offense as he rushed for 41 yards and a rushing touchdown last week, marking his fourth straight game with at least 36 rushing yards. Watson definitely adds another dimension to this offense with his talent on the ground--something opposing defenses have shown to struggle with containing thus far.

The Cowboys may certainly struggle to contain Deshaun Watson if linebacker Sean Lee misses another week. Lee re-injured his hamstring in Week 3 and was inactive for last week’s game. As one of the top defensive players for Dallas, Lee’s presence is critically important to their rushing defense. Leighton Vander Esch has played very well in replacement of Lee though, as he had another solid game last week in Lee’s absence. Jaylon Smith, on the other hand, struggled last week after looking decent against the run in his first three outings. The Cowboys defensive line has won most of their matchups in the trenches this season, albeit all came against offensive lines ranking in the bottom half of the league according to our own Matt Bitonti of Footballguys. This week, however, is no different as the Texans have quite possibly the worst run blocking offensive line in the league. While Deshaun Watson retains his rushing upside, Lamar Miller’s outlook continues to be average at best.

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


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Sony Michel might just be the runner that solves Bill Belichick’s mysterious backfield. Since before – and even during – LeGarrette Blount’s tenure, Belichick and Josh McDaniels have craved a powerful, ball-control back capable of grinding out games once Tom Brady builds a lead. Blount was always a one-speed and surprisingly soft runner, and Rex Burkhead lacks many of the traits of a bell cow back. But last week, Michel looked both elusive and bruising, rolling over the Dolphins for 112 yards on 25 carries. Seven of those runs went for 7 yards or more, including a 10-yard score that both showcased his vision and hinted at a devastatingly fast cutback. He looked much better as the featured runner than he did as a sporadic, rotational cog over his first two weeks. Michel will always be a product of game script, of course, and there are still question marks all over the Patriots’ less-than-optimal offensive line. But Michel has proven capable of being a ball-dominant grinder, one that McDaniels can revolve a successful scheme around in the right situations.

The Colts run defense is climbing into respectability, but it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The big step forward came last year when the team allowed the NFL’s seventh-most raw ground yardage but ninth-fewest per carry. This year, their numbers have been dinged by a great Joe Mixon showing in Week 1, but they’ve been quite stout otherwise. Adrian Peterson and Lamar Miller combined for just 69 yards over 25 attempts in their meetings. Down linemen Denico Autry and Al Woods have been solid at eating space, but they’ll be needed more than ever if impressive rookie linebacker Darius Leonard can’t suit up Thursday. The unit relies heavily on Autry and Woods since there are so few bodies and such sparse talent on the second level.

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


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Marshawn Lynch was in vintage form last week as he was very difficult to tackle often dragging defensive players along with him as he ran for 130 yards on 20 carries. While he didn’t practice on Wednesday it appears he will be fine and should be good to go this week. The biggest issue for Oakland is that Donald Penn is looking like he will miss the rest of the season with a groin injury which is a big blow to the Raiders as Brandon Parker who is a third-round rookie will fill in for the injured Penn. This type of disruption to lose the leader of the offensive line could have a significant impact to the cohesion of this team.

The Chargers run defense is one of the most improved units in 2018 after really struggling in 2017. While it is not an elite unit by any means, they are only allowing 4.2 yards per carry on the season compared to 4.9 yards per carry last season. The defensive line is expected to get even better this week as they are going to get Corey Liuget back from suspension who along with Brandon Mebane and Melvin Ingram will still be one of the best defensive lines in football even without Joey Bosa who will continue to miss the game this week. The issue for the Chargers has been the linebacker group as Adrian Phillips and strong safety Jahleel Addae both have struggled in run coverage this season. Rookie Derwin James has been a nice addition to the run defense as he has been all over the field making plays this season.

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


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Titans continued to struggle on the ground last week with only 24 rushing yards from their running backs, all of which came from Derrick Henry. The matchup was terrible against one of the league’s top run defenses, so the Titans allotting only 12 carries in total to their running backs made sense from a game planning perspective. The game flow overall has played a significant role in dictating usage in the Titans backfield this season. Henry had back-to-back games with 18 rushes in each coming into last week but only rushed eight times with no more than two touches on a single drive as the rushing offense simply never found a rhythm with their pass-heavy approach. Dion Lewis has seen his role as a rusher diminish week over week, down to only four carries last week after opening the season with 16 and 14 rushes in the first two games. Marcus Mariota has been impressive in back to back games now though, rushing for a total of 97 yards with his first rushing touchdown last week. The rushing total for Mariota made sense in Week 2 due to his injured arm, but he was both running and throwing all over the field last week, reiterating the rushing upside Mariota has displayed throughout his career. The Titans offensive line was finally back to full health last week with the return of right tackle Jack Conklin. With one game under his belt, this line should be improved this week as it has been a rough start to the season from a run blocking perspective with Titans running backs averaging just over 3.1 rushing yards per attempt. Statistically, it would appear that the Bills defensive line has done a decent job against the run considering some of the run-heavy game scripts they have been in, allowing only 95.3 rushing yards per game and just under the league average in yards per rush. However, their stats are certainly padded by the unexpected blowout win against the Vikings--a game in which the Vikings running backs managed only 12 rushing yards as they beat themselves more so than the Bills playing well against the run.

The interior defenders for the Bills are decent while veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has played well at linebacker against the run, but other than that the Bills lack playmaking talent to stop opposing rushers when it matters--especially as shown by the five rushing touchdowns (2nd-most) they have given up to opposing running backs. The healthy Titans offensive line will have the advantage on this one, signaling a game in which Derrick Henry could finally find some room to run.

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


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Cowboys ground game was full steam ahead for the second straight week as Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 152 yards on a whopping 25 attempts. After a relatively slow start to the season for Elliott’s standards, he has now rushed for 279 yards over the past two weeks and leads the league in rushing yards on the season. It was recently reported, however, that Elliott has been playing through both a knee and ankle injury. This would help explain why Rod Smith saw the field for nearly 20% of the snaps last week as Elliott was seen limping on multiple occasions. While Elliott is still expected to play this week, a surprise absence would immediately vault Rod Smith into consideration for most fantasy leagues. Keep an eye on the Cowboys to see if they promote any running backs on Friday off the practice squad. This will be a good indicator on how they feel with Elliott as they are one of the few teams that only carries two running backs on their active roster outside of fullback Jamize Olawale. The Cowboys offensive line is not the dominant unit they were last year, but they have played very well this season, especially in the last two games with Tyron Smith overpowering any and all opposing defenders.

The Texans enter Week 5 coming off a dominant performance against the run, holding the Colts to only 41 rushing yards as no single player amassed more than 16 yards on the ground with no rush longer than seven yards. They have given up just one rushing touchdown on the season while allowing the fifth-fewest rushing yards per attempt (3.5). The big strength here is of course on the defensive line with their two powerful edge rushers making plays against the run while D.J. Reader bounced back with a solid game on the interior last week. The Texans linebackers continue to be a question against the run, but their defensive line and solid run-defending secondary have been strong enough to carry this team thus far. The Cowboys have one of the better offensive lines the Texans will have faced this season while Ezekiel Elliott is certainly the best individual runner they have squared off against. With Elliott’s strength as a runner after contact, the weaknesses at linebacker may expose the Texans in this one.

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


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chiefs finally got their running game going last week against a good Denver run defense after struggling for most of the season. Hunt had a 45 yard run for a touchdown which was his first carry of the season longer than 16 yards and just his fourth carry longer than 10 yards which has limited the big play running backs production so far this year. The success of Patrick Mahomes should continue to have an impact into the running game as teams are going to be forced to stop the prolific pass defense more than what they already have been leaving plenty of room for Hunt. He will still be a volatile running back but behind this offensive line which Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti has as the 5th best offensive line should produce for Hunt and the running game.

The Jaguars running defense is once again a top unit in terms of limiting running back production as they have allowed just one touchdown on the season and just 72 yards per game to opposing running backs. This is really has been a changed unit since the acquisition of Marcell Dareus last season. If there is one hole so far this season it is at the linebacker position as while Myles Jack continues to develop and improve in his third year, Telvin Smith is not playing at the same level he played at last season where he was one of the top linebackers in football. This has left the Jaguars susceptible to the long play as we saw in Week 1 where Saquon Barkley who was bottled up for most of the game was able to break a 68 yard carry for a touchdown. If Kareem Hunt is going to have any success this week it is going to need to be on this type of play.

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


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Many consider Alvin Kamara miscast as a lead back, too small to run inside and unable to shake tacklers with his body. But Week 4 hopefully continued to reduce the number of people who think that as Kamara is plenty capable at sifting through traffic on the interior. And when he finds even a small crease, he becomes an open-field fireball the likes of which the NFL rarely sees. There’s little east-west dancing to Kamara’s game, and he erupts onto the second level in a flash. Lead runner Mark Ingram will return next week, but it’s hard to see him cutting too far into the gameplan. Kamara is simply too explosive to sit down for long; his presence on the field keeps the Saints offense wide open and opposing defenses on their toes. Kamara will likely remain the offensive engine whenever he’s on the field, and both he and Ingram will continue to run behind an upper-crust front line. The left side remains a bit light, but center Max Unger and tackle Ryan Ramczyk are blowing back lines on the right. With the Saints offense humming along, both runners should find tons of room and opportunity for chunk gains going forward.

Washington’s run defense continues to look solid on a per-game basis, allowing just 272 yards through 3 games, ninth-best in the league. But it’s not nearly as strong when the games are broken down, and on the year this group sits 31st in run-defense DVoA. Opposing running backs are averaging a hefty 4.81 yards per attempt – when game flow allows it, they can easily wear down this unit. Colts rookie Jordan Wilkins consistently found holes and iced Week 2, while Packers runners Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combined for 71 yards on 11 carries in Week 3. The linebacking corps, led by Zach Brown, is quick-footed but lacks in discipline, and holes open up quickly without a dominant nose tackle up front. Washington has been able to control game flow enough to paper over this unit, but a powerful run game will blow this matchup wide open soon.

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


New York Giants Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Coming into the NFL, Saquon Barkley looked like sheer electricity who probably needed strong line play to run well as a rookie. He’s big, but not very powerful, and a line like this sieve-like Giants unit was thought to be his undoing. In some ways, he’s overcome that thus far. Barkley’s an experienced, fundamental back who runs with an edge and finishes forward, making up for his lack of power. And more importantly, his otherworldly burst and foot-speed at over 230 pounds has translated nicely into the NFL. Still, week-to-week efficiency may always be a stretch with such poor blocking up front. Even with right tackle Ereck Flowers mercifully benched, the holes aren’t opening up for Barkley on conventional runs. Through 56 early rushes, just 22 (39%) have produced 4 yards or more. And with the Giants usually trailing, there’s never much chance to establish a bell cow type of rhythm as the lead runner. Barkley isn’t a one-trick speedster, but that’s really his only upside right now, the dynamic possibility of hitting the edge and turning a 15-yard run into a touchdown scamper. It’s a real, palpable upside, but it’s a hard one to just project.

Oddly, the Panthers have taken a noticeable step back in run defense here in 2018. After a truly dominant 2017 that saw them allow the league’s third-fewest yards, they’ve allowed strong efficiency to each of the first five runners they’ve faced. Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith, and Giovani Bernard have combined to average 5.49 yards per carry. There were two key losses this offseason – tackle Star Lotulelei (free agency) and linebacker Thomas Davis (four-game suspension) – that have contributed to the decline. New nose Dontari Poe is so-so as a run plugger, and without Davis, the linebackers are lacking in the fundamentals. Even star middleman Luke Kuechly has been uncharacteristically down thus far, missing more tackles than he’s used to. Still, this unit is best regarded as a tough matchup. Their size, athleticism, and aggressiveness in the front seven is always an imposing group, and the Giants offensive line looks like a fine slump-buster.

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


New York Jets Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Isaiah Crowell is looking like a washout. He doesn’t show much power or urgency on his runs, often waiting for the open field to come to him, and he’s not a good fit for this ho-hum offensive line. The outside-zone game isn’t working right now, with the tackles often overwhelmed when Crowell and Bilal Powell look outside, negating the backs’ strengths. At least Powell is generating a little room of his own. He’s posted a pair of strong lines (12 for 60 and 14 for 73) and looks like the far more dependable runner. Still, both these backs are generally hands-off in fantasy purposes. There’s just not much upside in an offense that’s not blocked well and handcuffed through the air.

The Denver run defense remains a strong unit, one that’s held 16 of the last 20 lead backs it’s faced to less than 70 ground yards. But they’re not impeccable, and they’ve grown somewhat prone to allowing sudden bursts of production. Kareem Hunt gashed them for 121 yards on 19 carries last week, consistently winning on stretch runs. Hunt went off left tackle 3 times Monday night, racking up 45, 13, and 4 yards (a touchdown). That’s Adam Gotsis’ side, and he’s not nearly as strong as left end Derek Wolfe. It doesn’t help that inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis, the beating heart of the unit, lack athleticism and foot-speed in pursuit. All told, though, it’s hard to argue with the (typical) results. Fantasy players are advised to hedge carefully against Wolfe’s stout front seven.

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


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Both Jay Ajayi and the Eagles’ upper-crust offensive line look rejuvenated after shaky, injury-ridden starts. Ajayi returned in Week 4 from a multi-week absence and consistently found room against the Titans, churning out 70 yards on 15 carries, 7 of which went for 6 or more. The stout interior, led by left guard Stefan Wisnewski and center Jason Kelce, is back to opening creases for Ajayi to succeed on the second level. Ajayi is always capable of creating yards through both power and agility; it’s just never easy to gauge his in-game health and condition. He isn’t always given a rhythm, but he’s generally efficient when he does. He’ll continue to dominate the backfield from a ground-game perspective, and when game flow is in his favor, he tends to maximize his opportunity.

While the pass defense continues to struggle, Minnesota’s run unit remains fairly dominant from week to week. Dating back to last season, only 5 runners have topped 74 yards against them over 20 games, and they generally have to work to get it. This year, only Todd Gurley has run for more than 4.2 yards per carry in this matchup. With a suffocating line led by tackles Sheldon Richardson and Linval Joseph, both of whom have been All-Pro caliber thus far, the Vikings excel both in pursuit and on the interior.

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


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

At age 33, Adrian Peterson still looks as rugged and explosive as he did at 28. He’s not quite the same breakaway threat, but behind Washington’s dominant front line, he’s fully capable of grinding out impactful yardage. Guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Morgan Moses have been dominant on the right side, and Peterson has had plenty of blocking help from the team’s rotation of tight ends and lead blockers. And he still has juice, as evidenced by his tackle-breaking, 41-yard jaunt off right tackle against the Packers. Peterson may be limited a bit in Week 5 by a sprained ankle that likely would’ve kept him out last Sunday if not for the bye. But when his line is as stout as it’s looked thus far, he should keep seeing enough green grass to generate typical workhorse numbers. Chris Thompson adds an explosive element out of the shotgun, making this one of the NFL’s more productive running games.

Last year, the Saints’ perennially awful pass defense took a massive leap forward and turned in a truly great season. This year, it’s the run unit’s turn. A doormat for years, the New Orleans run defense has been one of the league’s best through four games. They’ve yet to allow an opposing runner to top 69 yards, and even the one that hit that number (Peyton Barber) needed 19 grinding carries to do so. Since then, they’ve thoroughly shut down Carlos Hyde, Tevin Coleman, and Saquon Barkley (a combined 120 yards over 41 rushes). The biggest boost has come from Sheldon Rankins, who’s looked more explosive and dominant here in his third season. Rankins has anchored a front that’s kept the Saints’ ho-hum linebackers clean and able to pursue. Demario Davis has been a bright spot on the second level, making plays at the line and in space. There’s a feeling the bottom could drop out at any time for this group, but as it stands, it’s a semi-smothering force that has been tough for a handful of good runners to find room against.

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


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

Carlos Hyde, by virtue of $5 million in guarantees, is clearly the Browns’ backfield king for the time being. Apart from passing-down specialist Duke Johnson, Hyde has dominated snaps (92%) and carries (89%) thus far, and he’s the team’s go-to option near the goal line. But at just 3.43 yards per rush, he hasn’t blown the doors off Cleveland from an efficiency standpoint. Hyde is a decent runner, but after a myriad of early-career injuries, he lacks the power/speed combination that once made him so attractive as a prospect. Now, he gains little more than what’s blocked and doesn’t add much dimension to this burgeoning offense. It’s probably too early to call for a changing of the guard, but rookie Nick Chubb simply erupted onto the scene last Sunday and looks far more dynamic. Stuck in a clear backup role, Chubb has averaged a stunning 14.6 yards over just 10 attempts thus far. Last week he ripped off 63- and 41-yard touchdown runs, both powerful, tackle-breaking jaunts that Hyde doesn’t look particularly capable of. It’s fair to expect him to work more and more into the offense over the near future, and stands as the ultimate high-risk, high-reward fantasy play, thanks to that high-impact running style.

The Baltimore run defense hasn’t looked quite as dominant as it did in 2017, but remains a top-tier unit when healthy. Dating back to Week 8 of last year, no NFL defense has allowed fewer ground yards, and only a single runner (Joe Mixon) has topped 72 in this matchup. Few down linemen are as good under the radar as Brandon Williams, who routinely does an excellent job of tying up blockers and clogging gaps. And with the return of middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, there’s a real presence on the second level in terms of both pursuit and reliable tackling. Runners consistently struggle to generate usable fantasy days against this defense, and with Mosley back at full strength, there’s no reason to tempt it.

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


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Dalvin Cook has yet to produce anything of note as a runner here in 2018. Through roughly 2.5 games, he’s managed just 98 yards over 36 touchdown-less carries, ceding lots of snaps and touches to Latavius Murray. Still, it’s too early to tag him with any sort of label. He’s yet to run fully healthy or unleashed, and the Vikings keep finding themselves in pass-heavy game scripts that limit his opportunity. As he builds to health, expectations should be raised accordingly – Cook blistered out of the gates for 4.78 yards per rush in a three-down role as a rookie. But fantasy players need to exercise plenty of caution with this backfield for the time being. The line has been torn apart by injury, and neither Cook nor Murray (just 64 yards on 19 carries) has been able to find any room behind them. And without any grinding rhythm to the attack, there’s no telling how well they’ll maximize their opportunities. Until roles are clearer and order is restored to Vikings games in general, this looks like a hands-off unit.

The Eagles run defense remains stout, thanks mostly to arguably the league’s most assertive front line. Fletcher Cox has developed into an elite run-stuffing tackle, routinely clogging the middle and making impact stops. Haloti Ngata remains solid as a part-timer, and the ends play low and strong in keeping the edge sealed. Behind them, the linebackers are somewhat ordinary, but effective when protected. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are more pass defenders than run pluggers, but with such a dominant line keeping them clean, their lapses aren’t big issues. Both are speedy enough to fill gaps and pursue when runs are kicked out wide.

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


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

Just one week after the first Seahawks 100-yard rusher in over a season, this offense does it again--but with an unlikely candidate in Mike Davis. Chris Carson was inactive last week with a hip, leading to what many thought would be a big day from the rookie Rashaad Penny. However, it was Mike Davis who saw 71 percent of the snaps and rushed 21 times for two touchdowns while Rashaad Penny played just 24 percent of the snaps with nine rushes for 49 yards. Davis came into last week fourth on the depth chart with only 17 snaps to his name through Week 3. Penny had his best game of the season last week, but his limited usage makes it impossible to rely on any level of consistent production. With Chris Carson expected to return this week, this backfield will be one of the most difficult ones in the league to predict.

The Rams defense shut down the Vikings last week, giving up just 54 rushing yards with Dalvin Cook finding only 2.0 yards per attempt. Game script again played a part in the Rams’ success against the run as they jumped out to a big lead at halftime and continued to maintain control of the game throughout the second half. Despite the game script though, the Rams defensive line played very well. Highlighted by Aaron Donald, this group was consistently winning matchups against a weak Vikings offensive line. The Seahawks offensive line ranks close to where the Vikings are according to Footballguys specialist Matt Bitonti, so it is safe to expect this talented duo of interior defensive lineman to have the upper hand again here. Where the Seahawks rotation of running backs can excel is if they make it to the second level, as the Rams do have some vulnerability at the linebacker and safety positions.

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