Week 1 Rushing Matchups

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

Jump to Passing Matchups

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


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.


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Over the final 7 games of 2018, the Ravens ran the ball at the highest level of the NFL’s past couple of decades, averaging 45 carries for 229 yards. That would extrapolate to 722 for 3,664 over a full season. While those marks seem unlikely to hit, the Ravens will almost certainly pace the NFL on the ground. They’ve assembled a four-man team of runners to do it, and even if their distribution isn’t yet clear, all four have paths to success. Quarterback Lamar Jackson remains far more runner than thrower, and he could conceivably lead the team in carries. Over his 7 rookie starts, he turned 121 attempts into 556 yards. That usage should scale down noticeably, but Jackson’s speed and instinctiveness are a huge part of the Ravens’ approach. Ex-Saint Mark Ingram slots in as the starter behind him, but he’ll rotate liberally with Gus Edwards and rookie scatback Justice Hill. But the 29-year-old Ingram has long been a committee back, and the Ravens saw a lot of success down the 2018 stretch on the legs of Edwards. The 240-pound road-grader proved one of the toughest tackles in football as a rookie – he lost yardage on just a single one of his 137 attempts. He was also one of the league’s most effective short-yardage runners, so goal-line duties could be his as well. Hill is lightning-fast, and there’s a role for him in an offense that should run the ball 40 times a week. He’ll be used to test the edges and make plays outside. All will run behind an above-average line built to clear holes. All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda returns, and there’s plenty of veteran depth to fill the guard hole on the left.

The Dolphins’ full-on overhaul extended to its run defense, where half of 2018’s line and strong-side starter Kiko Alonso have been shipped away. In their place are a few foundational pieces that the team will count on for an immediate turnaround. Last year’s Dolphins gave up the league’s second-most yards per game and seventh-most per attempt. Alonso will be replaced primarily by undrafted rookie Sam Eguavoen, with Raekwon McMillan returning to the middle. McMillian proved a mediocre run defender in what was essentially his rookie season, and he’ll be the anchor for a shallow group. The play of the linebackers will largely hinge upon how quickly first-round tackle Christian Wilkins acclimates to the NFL. Wilkins will team with promising young Devon Godchaux, who’s sturdy against the run, to clog the interior. Still, without much playmaking ability on the second level, this has the look of a leaky unit.

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


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense vs New York Giants Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Dallas Cowboys have finally reached an agreement to make Ezekiel Elliott the highest-paid running back in the NFL, subsequently ending his holdout. Since being selected by the Cowboys with the fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Elliott has been one of the league’s most efficient runners, averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry throughout his young career. This should continue throughout the 2019 season, but in week one, Ezekiel Elliott keep an eye on reports of Elliott’s usage as NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported that he may be limited to “20 to 25 reps,”. Rookie Tony Pollard will serve as the primary option to spell Elliott after an impressive training camp. Pollard followed up an efficient collegiate career (7.1 yards-per-carry in 2018 at Memphis) with a strong first preseason in the NFL, registering 5.0 yards-per-carry against NFL competition. In 2018, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line was shakier than usual, yet they still produced a 100-yard rusher on 7 separate occasions. This season, the unit should be far more consistent as Travis Frederick is back in the fold after missing all of the 2018 season due to an autoimmune disease. Frederick, when healthy, has consistently produced at a Pro Bowl level, and FootballGuys' offensive line analyst, Matt Bitonti, expects much of the same in 2019. Frederick will battle in the trenches alongside Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, who combine for 11 Pro Bowl appearances themselves. This unit, as a whole, receives a well-earned A+ grade from Matt Bitoni, which will help ease Ezekiel Elliott back into action after missing all of training camp.

The New York Giants dealt Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions during week eight of the 2018 season. Harrison is notably one of the league's best run-stopping defensive tackles. With Harrison, the Giants allowed a 100-yard rusher in just 1 out of 7 games. Without Harrison, that number jumped up to 4 out of 9 games. Now, in 2019, the Giants will turn towards a rookie, Dexter Lawrence, to disrupt backfields. Lawrence was undeniably productive throughout his collegiate career at Clemson, but his prospects of immediately making a positive impact at the NFL level are bleak. The linebacker corps of New York's defense has typically struggled to stop the run. This unit completely lacks an established starter that has proven to have the ability to stifle the opposition's rushing attack. Lastly, in the secondary, safety Landon Collins has departed for the Washington Redskins. Collins was New York's top safety throughout 2018, especially against the run. In 2019, the Giants will attempt to fill this hole in the defense with defensive coordinator James Bettcher's shiny new toy, Jabrill Peppers. Peppers, acquired in the offseason trade that sent Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Cleveland Browns, is a dynamic defensive playmaker capable of making an impact against the run or pass. Aside from Peppers, the New York Giants lack the requisite playmakers on defense capable of competing with a dominant offensive line in the trenches.

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


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense at Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Matt Patricia clearly intends to win football games by physically dominating opponents in the trenches. The Lions enter week one with Kerryon Johnson alone atop the depth chart for the first time. Johnson posted an impressive 5.43 yards-per-carry during his rookie season, but in a crowded backfield, he only eclipsed 15 carries on 3 occasions. Johnson managed no fewer than 87 yards in any of the 3 games he bolstered a significant workload. Spelling Kerryon Johnson on occasion will be C.J. Anderson. Anderson proved that he is still capable of contributing to an NFL offense when he filled in for Todd Gurley midseason for the Los Angeles Rams. The Lions' offensive line enters week one as one of the league's better run-blocking units, sporting a B+ run-blocking grade from Matt Bitonti. The volume in this backfield will almost certainly be the driving factor behind the overall fantasy success of the running backs, but this ground game will likely be one of the more efficient units in the NFL in week one.

In 2018, the Arizona Cardinals had the worst run defense in the league by almost every measure imaginable. Arizona ranked 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns allowed in 2018. On the defensive line, Corey Peters returns as the team's top run defender from 2018. This season, Peters will shift to the nose tackle position in Vance Joseph's new 3-4 system. The impact of this shift on Peters' productivity is unknown at the time, but the general lack of a supporting cast does not bode well for Peters. Elsewhere on the defense, the most impactful addition to the team's defense is former-Eagle Jordan Hicks. Hicks signed with Arizona in free agency following an injury-riddled start to his career. Hicks, when on the field, will be Arizona's top run-stopping linebacker. In the secondary, safety Budda Baker has impressed in run support throughout his first two years in the NFL. While this defense features a few standout run-stoppers, there is very little depth in this regard. This lack of depth, coupled with an expectedly steep learning curve in Vance Joseph’s new defensive system will leave the Cardinals defense susceptible against the run to start the season.

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


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

In 2018, the Seahawks rediscovered their ground-game roots. Only the Ravens ran the ball more often, and few ran more effectively – they look ready to go back to the run-dominant attack that made them Super Bowl winners. Former seventh-round pick Chris Carson continues to outplay his 2017 draft status; he’s the clear-cut lead dog in this backfield. Carson is nimble and creative for a big back, and he doesn’t produce many negative runs. Rashaad Penny was inconsistent as a rookie runner, struggling with his conditioning and burst, and didn’t show much improvement in the preseason. He’s flashed chunk-run potential, though, and makes for a dynamic second option. Quarterback Russell Wilson remains dangerously mobile and instinctive, and though he hasn’t run as much lately, he’s always a threat to take off. The Seattle line remains among the league’s worst at pass-blocking, but an upper-tier group in the run game. Guards Mike Iupati and D.J. Fluker are road graders on the interior, while Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi are above-average on the outside. As a group, they’re plenty qualified to spring holes for Carson and Penny to explode through.

The Cincinnati run defense spent most of 2018 as one of football’s weakest units. They allowed the league’s eighth-most yards per rush and fourth-most per game, with 9 lead backs topping 80 yards. And little has changed personnel-wise entering 2019, with the front seven still severely undermanned. Nose tackle Andrew Billings has come on as a space-eater, and Nick Vigil is dependable on the strong side. But there’s little playmaking dynamism on the second level to take advantage. Middle linebacker Preston Brown remains a stiff, one-dimensional tackler who makes few impact stops. Ultimately, the Bengals rely heavily upon safeties Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates to make plays in the box, which isn’t ideal for stopping chunk runs.

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


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Rams Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

For all of their talk about keeping Christian McCaffrey’s workload under control, the team brought in virtually no ground-game competition. Thus, they’ll enter Week 1 with no obvious plan to scale back McCaffrey’s 14 rushes a game. In the short term, that’s a great thing: McCaffrey is an explosive runner both inside and outside, and he’s averaged 4.9 yards per carry over his last 24 games. Still, the team would love for Reggie Bonnafon and/or rookie Jordan Scarlett to take on some of that load. Neither offers much dynamism, but they only need one to emerge as a change-up power component behind McCaffrey. If nothing else, at least the front line has come together nicely over the past two years. Former All-Pro left tackle Daryl Williams is back to full health and leads one of football’s best run-blocking units. Quarterback Cam Newton remains a dangerous runner, though he’s taking off noticeably less often than he did earlier in his career – especially on the goal line. Newly 30 years old, his days of threatening 600 yards and 8 touchdowns look to be over.

The Rams run defense remained exceptionally shaky in 2018, giving up a league-high 5.1 yards per rush overall. Amazingly, none of the four 100-yard rushers they allowed needed even 20 attempts to hit the mark. This again looks like a unit designed to penetrate at the line, but without much strong backing on the second level. Cory Littleton emerged as a dependable defensive leader last year, but pass-rush specialists Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews won’t provide much help against the run. It’s never ideal for a team’s safeties to be such critical pieces in run defense, but Josh Johnson and Eric Weddle will spend ample time both in the box and chasing runs through it. Of course, so many deficiencies are papered over with a talent like Aaron Donald up front. For all of this unit’s issue last season, it did manage to lock down Ezekiel Elliott (20 carries for 47 yards), Alvin Kamara (8 for 15), and Mark Ingram (9 for 31) in the postseason.

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


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bears backfield was shaken up this offseason with the departure of Jordan Howard to the Eagles, the addition of veteran Mike Davis from Seattle, and the third-round draft selection of David Montgomery. Tarik Cohen is the only consistent piece of this backfield from 2018, and his usage should not be expected to change much. The usage split between Davis and Montgomery will likely evolve throughout the season, but Davis should be the incumbent starter coming into Week 1 with Montgomery working in on multiple drives. Montgomery has more upside but will need some time to develop in pass protection and learn the offense before the Bears coaching staff will be comfortable with him shouldering more of a load. The Bears offensive line is an above-average unit, particularly on the left side anchored by a couple of Pro-Bowl players in Charles Leno Jr. and Cody Whitehair. With a healthy Kyle Long on the other side, this line is more than capable of holding their own.

The Packers will look a bit different up front this season as they lost long-time defensive end Mike Daniels to the Lions. Daniels had a rough 2018, but he was still an effective player particularly against the run--so his loss is an impactful one for this run defense. Nose tackle Kenny Clark will return and anchor this run defense, as he is one of the better run-defending nose tackles in the league. Behind him at linebacker, the Packers will return Blake Martinez--who was serviceable against the run in 2018. They also added Adrian Amos at safety, who has been known for his ability to contribute against the run while with Chicago’s top-ranked run defense last season. Beyond those key guys, however, this run defense has some question marks. Injuries have plagued the Packers already as one of their starting linebackers, Oren Burks, suffered a torn pectoral muscle and is out indefinitely. Behind Burks, rookie Curtis Bolton suffered a knee injury and was seen on crutches. Rookie first-round defensive lineman Rashan Gary then was also injured during the preseason with his status in the air for Week 1. Needless to say, the Packers may be patching together a shoddy group to square off against a very solid Bears offensive line in this week’s opener.

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


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Joe Mixon enters his third season fully healthy, and fresh off a breakout that saw him average 4.9 yards per carry and 83 per game. Considering the Bengals’ low-tempo, low-volume offense – Mixon took on less than 17 carries a game – that qualified as a full-on eruption. Mixon is just two and a half years removed from posting one of the best speed scores in combine history, and his burst was on full display throughout 2018. Giovani Bernard returns as a dynamic change-of-pace runner, and the team brought in Samaje Perine off waivers to serve as the No. 3, but neither will see much work on the ground. As usual, the Bengals’ real questions are found along the offensive line. First-round left tackle Jonah Williams won’t play in 2019, moving the team’s best run-blocker, Cordy Glenn, outside. And Glenn, who’s in the concussion protocol, is no sure thing for Week 1. Last year’s first-rounder, center Billy Price, can’t get onto the field, and the right side of this line is one of football’s weakest. Ultimately, the line is weak enough to cast some degree of doubt on Mixon’s ceiling. His talent is considerable, but he’ll need to tap all of it just to stay upright and produce.

The Seahawks finished 2018 ranked 13th in raw rush defense, but it was a fairly hollow number. They faced just 23 attempts per game, giving up the league’s third-most yards per attempt (4.9). It was unfortunate for them to face so many strong runners down the stretch, but they did, and those backs (Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey, Damien Williams, Ezekiel Elliott) all produced majorly with little resistance. The problems lie mostly up front, where the days of deep, dominant Seattle lines have dried up. They’ll enter 2019 with Al Woods on the nose and Poona Ford next to him on the interior; both are replacement-level players, with little depth behind them. The team desperately needs new edge men Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah to help contain outside and chase plays down inside. Otherwise, life will be harder than usual for the strong linebacking corps, and this will again be a targetable unit for fantasy players.

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 (Good Matchup)

The Broncos backfield consists of a trio of running backs, all of whom will be expected to contribute in one way or another. Both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman return to lead the backfield with Devontae Booker serving as the third wheel providing limited support. Lindsay rushed for over 1,000 yards in his rookie season and showed he can be dangerous both between the tackles and through the air. Lindsay did suffer a late-season injury, but he has appeared fully recovered throughout camp and is ready to go for Week 1. Royce Freeman also had his rookie season derailed with an early ankle injury, so while he was productive in 2018, it was far short of expectations. This year, Freeman looks to benefit from the switch to a zone running scheme under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. This will be the same system in which Freeman flourished at Oregon, where he amassed 60 rushing touchdowns in four seasons while averaging over 110 rushing yards per game. Theo Riddick was also added to the Broncos roster this offseason, but he suffered a fractured shoulder and will miss at least the first four games. From an offensive line perspective, the Broncos will be looking for left tackle Garrett Bolles to make a leap in his third year. New positional coach Mike Munchak is widely believed to be one of the best in the game as he joined the staff this offseason. The Broncos also added left guard Dalton Risner via the draft and right tackle Ja’Wuan James from Miami in free agency. They are currently ranked below average by Footballguys offensive line guru Matt Bitonti, but this line has the potential for rapid improvement if Munchak can pull things together quickly.

The Raiders spent the fourth pick in this year’s draft on bolstering their defensive line via the addition of surprise pick Clelin Ferrell at defensive end. The Raiders hope Ferrell can fill in for what they were missing since letting go of Khalil Mack. They were certainly missing a lot in the run defense department last year as this group allowed the third-most rushing yards per game (140.6). Both Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall are new faces at linebacker this season, but neither was particularly effective against the run in 2018. The Raiders did make a late preseason addition of defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who was with the Chargers last season. Liuget underwhelmed in Los Angeles despite signing a big contract with them a few seasons prior, so he will hope to return to pre-2017 form when he put up solid numbers as a run defender. This mixture of veterans and youngsters for the Raiders will have a lot to prove coming off a terrible 2018 season.

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


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

Leonard Fournette will hope for a bounceback this season after a disappointing 2018 campaign riddled with injuries and not a single 100+ rushing yard performance. He remains the unquestioned starter in a Jaguars backfield lacking much depth behind him with only rookie Ryquell Armstead competing for playing time. Fournette has looked good in preseason and, by all accounts, is at 100% health to start the year. The Jaguars offensive line looks improved from 2018 after all five starters ended the season on injured reserve. This unit excels at run-blocking with every player on this line grading out higher against the run than the pass. The left side is their strong side led by Cam Robinson, and the right side has improved this offseason with the second-round draft selection of right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Taylor will immediately start and looked good in limited time during Week 3 of the preseason, although he could use a few games to get up to speed--so they have room to improve as he gains some experience.

The Chiefs finished 2018 with one of the league’s worst rushing defenses, giving up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs and a total of 114 rushing yards per game to the position (fourth-worst). Then now enter 2018 with a very different defense under new leadership from coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The biggest addition for this run defense was defensive end Frank Clark, a talented veteran from Seattle who excels in rushing the passer but is also proficient against the run. Chris Jones is still here on the interior and represents a strong force against the run, but again was much more known for his pass-rushing abilities in 2018. Linebacker remains a weak spot for the Chiefs. They return Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland but also brought in Darron Lee and Damien Wilson to compete at the position. Nobody in this group is particularly known as a top run-defender, but one new addition who is particularly effective against the run is safety Tyrann Mathieu. While Mathieu is small, he can make a big contribution in the middle of the field to help support that weak linebacker group. All in all, it looks like the Chiefs may be slightly improved from 2018--but this is still shaping up to be an average, at best, run defense squaring off against a Jaguars team that will be more than happy to give them a challenge with their run-heavy offense.

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


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Entering Week 15 of last season, the Vikings moved Kevin Stefanski into the coordinator role and immediately became a more run-rooted team. With Dalvin Cook on board, the team is banking heavily on the ground game. Cook lost most of his rookie 2017 to an ACL tear, then the first half of 2018 to a nagging hamstring issue. When healthy, though, he’s been one of football’s most effective runners, averaging 4.7 yards over 207 attempts. After the team switched coordinators last year, Cook averaged 15 carries for 83 yards a game. There’s no reason to doubt his health entering the year, and he looked truly explosive in the preseason, highlighted by an 85-yard cut-and-go touchdown. The Vikings seem comfortable with just two backs in the rotation, so rookie Alexander Mattison will serve as a change of pace. Mattison is a powerful runner who will take some of the interior load – and maybe goal-line work – from Cook’s shoulders. It’s worth noting that our Matt Bitonti isn’t a fan of the Vikings’ front line, ranking it 23rd due to a shaky right side.

The Falcons run defense plummeted to near the bottom of the league in 2018, allowing the league’s eight-most yards per game (124.9) and fifth-most per attempt (4.9). Some of that can be attributed to Deion Jones’ and Keanu Neal’s injuries, which cost both most of the season and forced a handful of shaky reserves into action. Jones is known more for his pass-game skills, but his return brings a marked ground-game upgrade over the likes of Duke Riley and Foye Oluokun. Neal’s loss was nearly as devastating; he’s proven himself an elite box safety, and his replacements also fell well short. Both are back to full strength and in the Week 1 lineup. Still, the biggest and best news for this unit came in July, when star tackle Grady Jarrett re-signed to anchor the middle. Jarrett was thoroughly dominant in 2018, both engulfing blockers and making run stops of his own. His presence means the world for Jones, who’s more effective in clean pursuit than when forced to sift through blocks. This is a unit that while it is not perfect, has an opportunity to rebound from last year's dismal performance.

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


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have virtually always taken a bell-cow approach to the run game, feeding the top back relentlessly and treating the others like reserves. That puts the smart money on James Conner to take the bulk of the groundwork, with Jaylen Samuels in a change-up role. Conner is much more rugged and suited to the lead role; he averaged 4.5 yards per rush in 2018, and he ran exceptionally well in short yardage. Samuels should serve as a dynamic backup, and he gave a glimpse of his abilities with a few big fill-in games down the stretch. He looked especially impressive against New England, turning 19 carries into 142 yards. But his main contributions should come in the passing game, while Conner dominates the early downs. Both will run behind one of the league’s best lines, which remains loaded on talent and experience. Our Matt Bitonti ranks it the fourth-best unit in football, thanks in no small part to the years these components have played together. The interior duo of Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, in particular, is arguably the best in football.

The New England run defense was a rather weak unit in 2018. They didn’t allow many huge games, but not for lack of trying: opponents averaged 4.9 yards per rush, fourth-most in the league. Whenever offenses can keep their run games relevant, there’s always the opportunity for success against this shaky group. Last year, 12 different opposing runners averaged 4.9 yards or better on 6 or more attempts – including Jaylen Samuels in this very matchup. It should be noted that this group tightened up in the postseason, but it didn’t wash away the week-to-week inconsistency. The Patriots didn’t change up the personnel much this offseason, so they’re hoping the issues are scheme-based. They’ll need more from space-eating nose Danny Shelton, who held his ground in 2018 but saw just 25 snaps a game. He’ll be needed to shield linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower from blockers. Jamie Collins was brought back but looks like no more than a depth piece. He’s largely flamed out of starting relevance due to injuries and inconsistency.

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


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

One common theme emerged in the San Francisco backfield throughout 2018: nobody could stay healthy. Beginning in the preseason when Jerrick McKinnon tore his ACL and carrying on with Matt Brieda throughout the regular season, the injury bug bit this unit especially hard. The 49ers made an effort to acquire more depth at running back entering the 2019 season. Tevin Coleman signed as a free agent from Atlanta, and he will enter week one as the team's starting running back. Kyle Shannahan has called highly-efficient offenses at every stop throughout his career, and this season will likely be no different. Matt Bitonti gives San Francisco's offensive line a B+ grade for run blocking, which ranks them in the top 50 percent of the NFL. San Francisco's running game should benefit from both a clean bill of health as well as an improved passing game to keep defenses honest in 2019. The 49ers running backs will likely establish themselves as one of the league's most efficient rushing attacks this season, as they look to improve upon last year's mark of 4.5 yards-per-carry.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended the 2018 season as one of the league's most porous run defenses. Opposing running backs managed an impressive 4.7 yards-per-carry against the Buccaneers, and it's likely going to take far more than a coaching change to fix this defense. Todd Bowles will be calling the plays for Tampa Bay in 2019, but he will not have much defensive talent to work with. The defensive front-seven, aside from Ndamukong Suh and, potentially, rookie Devin White all rank as below-average run defenders. Three players stand out as exceptionally weak run defenders: defensive tackle Beau Allen, defensive end William Gholston, and linebacker Deone Bucannon. These three all rank amongst the league's worst starters at their respective positions against the run. There are no particularly strong run defenders in the secondary to help compensate for the weakness of Tampa Bay's front seven, which creates the perfect storm for Tampa Bay to struggle against the run when the 2019 season kicks off.

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


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Browns rushing offense is all set to start this season with their bell-cow running back Nick Chubb. With the preseason trade of Duke Johnson Jr. to the Texans, Chubb is the clear lead back with very little competition until Kareem Hunt returns from suspension in Week 9. Chubb has had a solid preseason and showed he can handle a heavy workload with success throughout his rookie campaign in 2018 as he finished just four yards short of the 1,000 rushing yard mark while starting for effectively just two-thirds of the season. The Browns offensive line introduces the primary cause for question for this rushing offense. Left tackle Greg Robinson showed promise in 2018 and will have high expectations this season. The departure of starting right guard Kevin Zeitler has had cause for concern though, as current projected starter Eric Kush is certainly a downgrade while the 2018 second-round draft pick Austin Corbett continues to struggle with his move to guard as he starts in a backup role to Kush. This unit will be tested early against the Titans, who return most of what was one of the better run defenses in football from 2018.

The Titans run defense is a relatively middling unit with upside coming into 2019. The core of this defense is defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who is one of the best run-stoppers in the NFL . Casey suffered a late-season MCL injury but appears to be on track with his recovery to start in Week 1. Linebacker is where things could be a problem for the Titans, as they expect to roll out the young duo of Jayon Brown and Rashaad Evans with veteran Wesley Woodyard working in intermittently--particularly against the run. Neither Brown nor Evans played particularly well against the run last season, but both have shown strong development during the preseason while Woodyard is a strong option when used on clear rushing downs. With question marks on the Browns offensive line, Nick Chubb could have some tighter gaps to run through this week. The performance of these Titans linebackers will ultimately be key to this group’s effectiveness against the run.

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


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Marlon Mack will lead the Colts backfield with Nyhiem Hines working in on passing downs in a similar fashion from the 2018 season. Mack finished 2018 with 908 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing four games with a hamstring injury. He is a powerful runner capable of producing on all three downs and now has limited competition for touches in Week 1 with Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Williams nursing injuries. Charcandrick West was recently added to the roster but presents little threat to Mack’s Week 1 workload. The Colts offensive line looks primed to pick up where they left off in 2018, grading out as a consensus top tier unit led by Pro Bowl left guard Quenton Nelson. The subtraction of Andrew Luck from this offense may lower the floor for this unit as a whole, but their strong offensive line and a healthy Marlon Mack should keep this rushing offense on the map in Week 1 at least.

The Chargers defensive front remains intact from 2018 with the primary change being the addition of veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, who should help with run defense. They also spent a first-round draft pick on defensive tackle Jerry Tillery to help on the interior, but he may need a few weeks to get fully up to speed. Tillery is known more so for his pass-rushing abilities rather than stopping the run, but he is a talented body who can provide some depth to what otherwise is a mediocre defensive tackle position group. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram round out this defensive line, but neither are noted as particularly dangerous against the run. From a run-blocking perspective, the Colts offensive line should have a slight advantage here.

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


Los Angeles Rams Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Todd Gurley remains arguably the NFL’s best back, but there’s not much clarity as to how much he’ll be utilized to open the year. Gurley’s arthritic knee has its good weeks and its bad, and he all but vanished during the Rams’ postseason run. Fantasy players are even further in the dark for Week 1. Gurley’s preseason was uneventful, but it’s still not clear how his knee feels at the moment. When on the field, though, he can still be viewed and trusted as one of football’s most dynamic runners. He’s averaged 4.8 yards per carry over the past 2 seasons, topping 100 yards in 13 of 29 games. He’s one of the league’s best short-yardage runners and a true touchdown machine, amassing 30 ground touchdowns over that span. And he’ll continue to run behind a strong front line; there will be new starters at center and left guard, but line coach Aaron Kromer is exceptional at gelling lines quickly. The team has prioritized playmaking depth behind Gurley, with electric rookie Darrell Henderson and veteran Malcolm Brown rounding out the backfield. Both will see scattered opportunity even when Gurley is healthy but face unclear roles for this Sunday. Most likely, Gurley will dominate the ball for as long as he’s able to.

The Carolina run defense tumbled in 2018 from one of the league’s best to a decisively subpar unit. They allowed 4.7 yards per rush, tenth-worst in football. And they saved their worst for last, closing the season with four straight miserable performances. Still, there’s reason for optimism after a crucial, unexpected tweak that came in June. Longtime Tampa Bay disruptor Gerald McCoy was brought in to join an already-stacked front line, one that’s built to penetrate and chase down runs at the point of attack. Dontari Poe is strong on the nose, which will allow McCoy and Kawann Short to make plays. The unit may be unrecognizable without 14-year Panther Thomas Davis, but there shouldn’t be much drop-off on the second level. Luke Kuechly remains an All-Pro presence inside, and Shaq Thompson looks ready for a starting role.

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 (Neutral Matchup)

First-round draft pick Josh Jacobs is shaping up to be a bell-cow running back for the Raiders this season. Jacobs has the size and speed to handle a heavy workload, and all signs are pointing to just that with coach Jon Gruden expected to lean heavily on Jacobs. The roster construction also lends to Jacobs owning a huge role in this offense, as the team parted ways with Doug Martin and only held on to change of pace backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington--both of whom will only contribute in clear passing situations. The Raiders made some changes on the offensive line this offseason with the additions of right tackle Trent Brown and left guard Ritchie Incognito. They will be without both starting guards to start the season though as Incognito serves a two-game suspension while Gabe Jackson is out with a knee injury. Rodney Hudson is a solid center to anchor this line, but two backup guards could make for a rough start to the season for the Josh Jacobs against a stout Broncos run defense.

The Broncos have a dangerous front four consisting of some solid run-defenders. Shelby Harris is an underrated defensive tackle who has proven capable of overwhelming opposing offensive linemen. Derek Wolfe is no slouch either, while Von Miller and Bradley Chubb represent an elite pair of defensive ends, excelling in both running and passing situations. Linebacker Brandon Marshall departed this offseason, but Todd Davis remains and will hope to build upon his breakout season with a team-leading 114 tackles in 2018. This is a mediocre group that is better on paper than their production as they allowed 119.6 yards per game in 2018 which was 21st in the NFL last season. This is a group that should rebound and have a better year than last year with new coach Vic Fangio at the helm.

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


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense vs Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Eagles used a second-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to select Miles Sanders, a running back from Penn State University. Sanders averaged 5.8 yards-per-carry in his lone season as a starter for the Nittany Lions before departing for the NFL. Throughout training camp, Sanders has impressed coaches, teammates, and beat writers alike with his performance throughout training camp, but he will likely be a part of a timeshare in the Eagles' backfield. Head coach Doug Pederson has long been a believer in a running-back-by-committee approach which utilizes multiple running backs of varying skillsets for different roles. Jordan Howard, another offseason acquisition, will likely see playing time in Philadelphia's backfield following a three-year stint with Chicago to start his career. Howard's profile as a primarily-north-and-south running back will likely get him on the field in short-yardage situations for the Eagles this season. The Eagles' offensive line is looking to get back on track this season with their run-blocking following a season in which Philadelphia only ran for 3.9 yards-per-carry. Entering the 2019 season fully healthy with additional depth (the team drafted offensive tackle Andre Dillard in the first round of the NFL draft,) is a fantastic starting point for a bounceback campaign. Look for the Eagles' rushing attack to rebound as one of the league's more efficient ground-games.

The Washington Redskins run defense allowed a middling 4.5 yards-per-carry on the ground in 2018, good enough for 16th in the NFL. In large part, the team's defensive line is to thank for the team's ability to contain opposing rushing attacks. Young linemen DaRon Payne and Jonathan Allen have both proven to be capable of clogging up the middle of the defense early in their respective careers. Both are still in the outset of their careers and expected to continue to develop and improve in coming years, which may mean trouble for opposing running backs. At the second level of the defense, Washington lost their top linebacker Zach Brown to free agency. Brown was one of the league's best run defenders last season, and replacing him is no small task. The Redskins have turned to Jon Bostic to fill this hole in the defense, but his production pales in comparison to what Brown provided the team. In week one, as well as throughout the entire 2019 season, the Redskins will turn towards the development of young starters to offset the loss of impact players elsewhere. To start the season, this defense profiles as neither one to attack nor avoid.

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


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense vs Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Cardinals will shift to a spread offensive attack under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury in 2019. The difference between the 2018 offensive scheme, which primarily utilized David Johnson between the tackles, and the 2019 scheme focused on maximizing space on the field will be massive. For that reason, David Johnson's atrocious 3.6 yards-per-carry mark from 2018 should be ignored. The up-tempo philosophy behind Kliff Kingsbury's offense will also increase the number of opportunities for the team's running backs. Arizona's offensive line features very talented run blockers when they're healthy. Unfortunately, this unit's greatest weakness is the inability to stay healthy. Following a full offseason to rest and heal up, week one will provide a great look into the potential of this offensive line for the new season.

The Detroit Lions acquired one of the NFL's best run-stoppers, Damon Harrison, in a midseason trade with the New York Giants. The Lions allowed just 2 100-yard rushers over the 10 games following the deal. In 2019, A'Shawn Robinson will start at defensive tackle alongside Damon Harrison. Robinson has quickly developed into another one of the NFL's top run-stoppers under the tutelage of Damon Harrison. The Lions also added Mike Daniels in the offseason who is a formiddable run-stopping tackle to rotate through with Harrison and Robinson. The Lions' top-end defensive tackles, flanked by sharp defensive ends, come together for one of the NFL's best defensive lines at defending the run. The lone weakness of this Detroit defense is the linebacker corps. The Lions linebackers defend neither the run nor the pass particularly well. Fortunately, the linebackers are supported by Quandre Diggs and Tracy Walker, two of the NFL's best run-stopping safeties. Detroit's defense, as a whole, should stop the run as well as any defense in the league.

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


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Devonta Freeman returns to lead a rushing attack that’s been among the league’s best for several years running. With a smart, determined Freeman working behind a road-grading line, this unit routinely puts up efficient production. They’re strong both inside and out, and they’re particularly effective in short yardage. Still, it’s unlikely Freeman will dominate the backfield any more than when Tevin Coleman was on board. The 27-year-old has battled a number of lower-body injuries, and he may not be up to a 250-touch season. The Falcons won’t want to strain him; they’ll spell him with some combination of Ito Smith and Brian Hill. Smith took on big snaps last year behind Coleman, but looked like an average talent, posting just 3.5 yards per carry. Hill, for his part, has flashed big-play ability. Up front, the Falcons bring back two Pro Bowlers (left tackle Jake Matthews and center Alex Mack) and a pair of new starting guards. It’s a line built to run-block, but it’s in transition, and the backfield’s success will hinge upon the play of the new interior starters.

The Vikings return nearly the same run defense that finished eighth in per-carry yardage (4.1) in 2018. The only big departure was tackle Sheldon Richardson, though that’s an impact that will indeed be felt. Richardson was utterly dominant in his only season as a Viking, while replacement Shamar Stephen is a one-dimensional gap-plugger. A bit more will be asked of linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, and they seem up to the task. Kendricks isn’t a special player, but he’s a reliable tackler in the middle. And Barr is a dynamic playmaker fully capable of pursuing inside the box. Behind them, star strong safety Harrison Smith looms as one of football’s best third-level tacklers. If the Vikings can get enough out of Stephen this season, this will once again be a top-level unit.

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


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

The Chiefs will again look to have one of the top offenses in the league this season, but their ground game will certainly look different from 2018. Andy Reid has been quoted mentioning he would like to take a committee approach at running back, and until last week it had appeared that committee would consist of Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, and Carlos Hyde. Now, Hyde has since been traded and LeSean McCoy has been introduced into the fold. It remains to be seen how both Williams and McCoy will be used from a time split perspective, but it does appear Darwin Thompson’s opportunities to shine early will be limited. Williams should still be the starter, but if McCoy plays well, this very much could become a true committee situation. Regardless of who the back is, they should be set up for success by a dynamic quarterback and top-tier offensive line led by a pair of elite tackles.

The Jaguars defense remains loaded with talent this season, including a few new faces they added through the draft. Defensive end Josh Allen is living up to his first-round pedigree based on what he has displayed during the preseason, and he should be a nice boost for this already elite defensive line. Calais Campbell and Marcel Dareus represent an elite pair of defensive tackles that will make it tough on any opposing offensive lineman--especially this week since the guards are a relative weakness for this Chiefs offensive line. The Jaguars lost linebacker Telvin Smith to retirement this year, and they were expecting another rookie, Quincy Williams, to start in his place until Williams suffered a torn meniscus in training camp that will sideline him for the first few weeks of the season. Najee Goode will start in his place and has never been known for his effectiveness against the run. Both Myles Jack and Leon Jacobs are talented and effective players to round out this linebacker group though, so they should remain an effective unit that will get even better once Williams can make his debut. The Chiefs will have all they can handle against this unit in their season-opener.

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


Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chargers rushing offense has been the center of attention for most of the offseason with the ongoing contract situation of Melvin Gordon. With no deal in sight, the Chargers will look to move forward without Gordon in Week 1. This will cede rushing duties to the combination of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Jackson performed reasonably well in three games without Melvin Gordon last season, averaging 4.3 rushing yards per attempt with two rushing touchdowns from Weeks 13-15. Austin Ekeler had a great season both with and without Gordon in 2018 as he averaged over five yards per carry for 554 rushing yards while finishing with over 50 receptions and 404 receiving yards. Ekeler should be expected to play the lead role until Gordon returns while Jackson will mix in on first and second downs. Their offensive line is anchored by a Pro Bowl center in Mike Pouncey and young talented guard Forrest Lamp. They will be without left tackle Russell Okung for the foreseeable future though as he battles blood clots that could sideline him for at least six weeks, if not indefinitely. With their current squad, this offensive line ranks average at best.

The Colts return most pieces of what made them an above-average run defense in 2018, allowing just 85 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs (9th-fewest). Second-year linebacker Darius Leonard was a big part of that success as he anchors this linebacker group. Margus Hunt and Denico Autry are both proficient defensive tackles returning on the interior. The Colts actually bolstered their defensive end position with the big addition of Justin Houston to help opposite Jabaal Sheard on the edge. Sheard has actually been dealing with an injury throughout the preseason though, and his status for Week 1 is in question. The lack of Sheard will bump down this run defense slightly, but in assessing them from 2018, this still looks to be an improved group overall.

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


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

As usual, the Patriots enter the season with a host of viable bodies in the backfield. James White’s talents are mostly reserved for the passing game, but the team now boasts two young, talented, ex-SEC runners in the early-down role – either (or both) of whom could be in line for big Week 1 success. Sony Michel has shown both power and elusiveness on the NFL level, and his rookie production (794 yards over 9 starts) was stout. But Michel did struggle in a few phases of the game, particularly short yardage, making rookie Damien Harris relevant. Harris didn’t see much preseason action and likely slots in solidly behind Michel. Still, he’s a powerful runner who averaged 6.8 yards per carry as a starter at Alabama. Michel is the lead dog as the season kicks off, but Harris will likely get a few opportunities to assert himself into a role. White will see some change-of-pace work, and Rex Burkhead should claim a few snaps as well. Up front, the New England line stays relatively static after paving the way for a mediocre 4.3 yards per rush in 2018. The big loss was center David Andrews, who looks unlikely to play this year, though Ted Karras is a capable fill-in.

On the whole, the Steelers boasted one of football’s stoutest run defenses in 2018. They allowed opponents just 4.2 yards per carry and 96 per game, both top-10 marks. Still, those numbers were deflated a bit by the easier chunks of their schedule. They struggled noticeably in matchups with quick-footed runners, such as Christian McCaffrey (5.5 yards per rush), Phillip Lindsay (7.9), and Joe Mixon (7.0 over 2 meetings). Ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt continued to head an elite front line, occupying blockers and penetrating to make plays of their own. But linebacker Ryan Shazier’s absence was definitely felt, as Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett simply couldn’t make the same plays in pursuit. As a result, fast runners were able to feast whenever they could reach the second level. The team expects big things early from first-rounder Devin Bush, who will start immediately on the inside. Bush shredded the combine’s speed and explosiveness drills, then made an on-field impression with 10 first-half tackles in the Steelers’ preseason opener. With a line capable of keeping him clean, Bush should be far more productive than the plodding Bostic and Burnett were last year. He could singlehandedly tie up this unit’s loose ends, making it a potentially dominant group as early as Week 1.

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


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Alvin Kamara will remain a cornerstone of this Saints rushing offense after finishing the 2018 season with 883 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Kamara showed his versatility in 2018 as he not only contributed through the air but held up through multiple games with heavy rushing workloads while Mark Ingram was sidelined with an injury. Ingram has now departed for Baltimore and been replaced with Latavius Murray to fill the bruiser role. Murray will be the go-to option in short-yardage situations and clear rushing downs as he spells Kamara. Murray missed much of training camp and the preseason with an injury though, so it could take a couple of weeks for him to be fully integrated with his new team. Both of these backs will be running behind one of the best offensive lines in football, ranked right near the top in the league by Matt Bitonti of Footballguys. They return all starting guards and tackles, three of whom were on the Pro Bowl team last season. Pro Bowl center Max Unger retired this offseason, but the Saints spent a first-round pick on center Erik McCoy to fill the void. McCoy has looked spectacular in the preseason as he is catching on very quickly under the tutelage of Dan Roushar, one of the top offensive line coaches in the game.

The Texans run defense was top-notch in 2018, giving up just 82.7 rushing yards per game and eight rushing touchdowns--third-best in the league. Repeating that performance will be much more difficult in 2019 though, as they have now lost their most dominant run-stopping defensive end Jadeveon Clowney via trade to the Seahawks. While Whitney Mercilus is developing into quite the player, he is far from a one-for-one replacement of what Clowney brought to the table. J.J. Watt remains a force to be reckoned with on the other side of this line while D.J. Reader returns as a big body on the interior who has proven his worth against the run over the past four seasons. With strong linebackers also returning, the Texans will remain strong against the run despite the departure of Clowney--they just may not be the top-3 form we saw from the 2018 season. The elite Saints offensive line and running backs will give the Texans all they can handle this week.

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


New York Giants Rushing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The New York Giants' offense in 2018 ran through then-rookie running back Saquon Barkley, as he tallied 2028 yards from scrimmage. Of those 2028 yards, Barkley provided 1307 yards on the ground behind a mediocre offensive line. General manager David Gettleman's desire to build an offense centered around running the football was evident once again this offseason when he brought in two new starters in the trenches. At right guard, Kevin Zeitler will open the season as the starter following an offseason trade that brought him into New York in the same deal that shipped Odell Beckham, Jr. to Cleveland which should provide a significant upgrade to the running game. At right tackle, the Giants signed Mike Remmers away from the Minnesota Vikings. Remmers has been approximately a league-average run-blocker over the course of his career, which is an upgrade for this offensive line unit that struggled last season. Barkley was an undeniably exciting and explosive runner in his rookie season. His sophomore campaign should provide more consistency behind a more formidable group of bruisers on the offensive line.

Dallas' defensive front will return almost every producer from a unit that allowed just 3.8 yards-per-carry in 2018. Opposing running backs eclipsed 100-yards rushing on only 3 occasions last season. This front-seven projects to be equally stingy in 2019, as they return every starter. Additionally, the Cowboys added depth on the defensive line in the 2019 NFL Draft with the selection of Trysten Hill in the 2nd round. At linebacker, the Cowboys enter the season with a fully-healthy unit that makes a legitimate case to be the best in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch far exceeded all expectations for his rookie year, as he finished the season 3rd in the NFL with 140 total tackles. Jaylon Smith also emerged as one of the NFL's best linebackers during the 2018 season, when his tally of 121 total tackles was good enough for 13th in the NFL. Rounding out the second level of Dallas' defense is veteran Sean Lee. When healthy, Lee has been one of the league's most impactful linebackers, but he has struggled to stay on the field in recent years. Following a full offseason of rest, Lee is expected to be operating at 100 percent when the 2019 season kicks off, which certainly does not bode well for opposing rushing attacks. Should the Dallas secondary be called upon to contribute in defending the run, they are more than capable of holding their own. Byron Jones registered more run-defense snaps than any other player on the Cowboys roster in 2018 and performed as one of the team's most-effective run stoppers. Dallas excelled at every level of the defense against the run in 2018, and they are only healthier and deeper headed into the 2019 season.

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


New York Jets Rushing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Jets have thoroughly revamped their run game this offseason, and early reviews have been positive. The new-look like, at least, should prove a noticeable upgrade over 2018’s subpar unit. With an eye on clearing more room on the interior, the team added two former All-Pros: guard Kelechi Osemele and center Ryan Kalil. Both are likely past their best days, but serve as major on-paper upgrades entering 2019. Still, the prime component of this rebuild – running back LeVeon Bell – remains a general unknown entering Week 1. Bell is 27, with 2,290 touches on his football resume, yet he hasn’t played full-speed football in 20 months. It’s fair to wonder how effective he’ll be off the bat, especially without Ben Roethlisberger and company threatening defenses. Surprisingly, the Jets will enter the season with just 30-year-old Bilal Powell and two scatbacks as depth. Ty Montgomery operated as the lead back with Bell sitting the preseason, so it appears he’s the next man up, though his role next to Bell is unclear. Perhaps new signee Josh Adams, a bruiser who ran for 511 yards in Philadelphia last season, will make an appearance as Bell’s backup.

The Buffalo run defense was solid, if inconsistent in 2018, allowing just 4.2 yards per rush (10th-best in football) and only three 90-yard rushers. There were a few notable lapses, but on the whole, this was a stout unit. And they didn’t rock the boat this offseason, bringing back virtually the same run-stuffing crew. The X-factor is linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, last year’s No. 16 pick and immediate defensive captain. Edmunds is more playmaker than gap-filler; his best days should come tracking and pursuing across the field. At the moment, he can be a vulnerability when reached by blockers. He’ll benefit from the return of strongside starter Matt Milano, who was quietly the team’s best linebacker before going down to injury in Week 14. And both will enjoy another year behind nose tackle Star Lotulelei, who’s adept at tying up blocks on the interior. It’s worth noting that the team visited with ex-Packer Josh Jones, a linebacker/safety hybrid, on Monday. If he signs before the weekend, he could plug in for immediate snaps as run reinforcement in the box.

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


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense vs San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tampa Bay has been searching for an answer at running back for years. The team used a second-round pick in last year's NFL Draft on Ronald Jones, Jr. hoping that he would establish himself as an NFL starter. Unfortunately, Jones, Jr. has failed to seize the starting job for the second straight season. Peyton Barber enters the 2019 season as the team's starting running back, but his career 3.8 yards-per-carry leaves much to be desired. The team's offensive line will be doing Barber and company very few favors in 2019. Matt Bitonti ranks Tampa Bay as one of the league's low-tier offensive lines with uncertainty everywhere except left guard and center. Even under new direction, the outlook is bleak for the Buccaneers' rushing attack. Bruce Arians' offensive genius is in scheming an advanced passing game, not running game. When Arians coached the Cardinals for five years before a brief retirement, the team consistently posted average-to-below-average numbers on the ground. Tampa Bay will likely struggle on the ground in 2019 barring an unexpected breakout.

Where the 49ers lack in talent defending the pass, they make up for it defending the run. The team's front four ranks as one of the most disruptive units in the NFL, as represented by its impressive tally of 81 tackles for loss in 2018. While the group of linebackers struggles to defend the run, the run-oriented safety unit helps compensate for their shortcomings. Jaquiski Tartt is one of the league's best run-stopping safeties, and his deployment within the 49ers defense helps maximize his talent. K'Waun Williams also chips in as a productive run-stopping cornerback in nickel packages. It will undoubtedly be challenging to improve upon last season when the 49ers allowed just 4.1 yards-per-carry, good for 8th-best in the NFL, but significant improvement in the trenches with Dee Ford and Nick Bosa makes this a legitimate possibility.

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


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Redskins lost Derrius Guice to a torn ACL in the preseason last year, which led to a rushing attack spearheaded by Adrian Peterson throughout the year. Peterson led the Redskins in rushing in 2018 with 1,042 yards on 4.2 yards-per-carry, and while head coach Jay Gruden has made it clear that Peterson will still be a factor in the team's 2019 ground game, Guice is expected to be the top-dog in this backfield. Washington's offensive line has shifted around a few pieces entering week one. Ereck Flowers has been inserted at left guard, where FootballGuys' offensive line analyst Matt Bitonti has noted he looks much more comfortable. Most notably, 36-year-old Donald Penn will be starting at left tackle in place of holdout Trent Williams. Penn's run blocking is slightly weaker than his pass blocking, but it is still serviceable. Washington's success on the ground will be heavily dependent upon the chemistry of this offensive line. The team will be introducing two brand new starters into the fold this season while they also reintegrate Brandon Scherff into the offense following a torn pectoral that forced him to miss half of the 2018 season. For Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson to establish the run in week one, this offensive line will need to play well above expectation.

The Philadelphia Eagles run defense, led by Fletcher Cox, allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game in 2018. In 2019, they will be without several key contributors from last season, but the replacements brought in can certainly hold their own. The addition of Malik Jackson to an already impressive defensive line should provide the Eagles with one of the league's most impressive defensive tackle duos. At linebacker, Jordan Hicks left in free agency to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, but his replacement Zach Brown was one of the few linebackers in the NFL to outshine Hicks in run support last season. In the secondary, the Eagles bring back Malcolm Jenkins, the team's co-leading tackler from last season with 97 total tackles. Jenkins has historically been one of the league's best safeties in run support, and there is no reason to expect that to change this season. Philadelphia sports a well-rounded defense with depth and talent at critical positions necessary to smother opposing rushing attacks.

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


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense at New York Jets Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Buffalo ground game was fairly punchless in 2018, and its arrow hasn’t pointed upward since. Losing LeSean McCoy may be addition by subtraction, but not much talent has been left in his wake. It doesn’t help that the line looks like one of the league’s worst – our Matt Bitonti ranked it 31st during the preseason. Rookie Devin Singletary looks like the closest thing to a lead back. He was wildly productive at Florida Atlantic, posting three 1,000-yard seasons and running for 66 touchdowns. Still, he didn’t test well athletically during draft season, with a 4.66 40-yard dash and slow shuttle times. Running behind a subpar front line, and in such a shaky offense, Singletary isn’t set up for early success. Expect Singletary to rotate with 36-year-old Frank Gore, who was effective last year in Miami, but has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry since 2015. Ex-Jaguar T.J. Yeldon is also in the mix, but he’ll likely focus on (occasional) passing downs. All told, none of these runners look capable of maximizing this situation. It’s likely their most impactful runner will again be quarterback Josh Allen, who’s both athletic and a massive body to bring down. Over 12 rookie appearances, Allen averaged 7 rushes for 52 yards, topping 95 four times. That usage – and that 7.1 yards per rush – may scale back, but Allen’s legs will remain a prominent part of this ho-hum backfield.

The Jets run defense was a better-than-average unit in 2018, and they’ve only improved things – on paper, at least – going forward. With No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams at tackle and prized free agent C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker, the talent infusion has been ambitious and expensive. Williams is a penetrator at heart, blessed with remarkable speed and quickness for his size (6-foot-3 and 303 pounds). He’ll be asked to both shoot gaps and tie up blockers, and preseason reviews were generally strong. He’ll team with end Leonard Williams to form one of football’s most athletically imposing front-line duos. Avery Williamson was stout in the middle last season, calling the defense’s plays and providing elite run support. Mosley may not bring a huge improvement on such a great year, but he’s an upper-tier run-stuffer in his own right. Williamson was expected to kick over to accommodate him, but tore his ACL in camp, leaving a big hole. The team would love to see rookie athletic rookie Blake Cashman take that spot, though Week 1 might be a big ask. That should be an exploitable matchup for Josh Allen and the Bills, but behind them all, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye make for a dynamic young safety duo. Adams, in particular, has grown into an elite contributor in the box.

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


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Packers backfield that averaged a mediocre 104.2 rushing yards per game remains relatively unchanged from the 2018 season with both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams set to serve as their primary running backs. They did part ways with Ty Montgomery and add right guard Billy Turner, but both are less significant changes. What will be most significant for this rushing offense is the change in coaching staff with Matt LaFleur at the helm. It is no secret that the previous coaching regime made some questionable decisions on how they utilized Aaron Jones, who averaged a staggering 5.5 yards per carry despite being afforded fewer than 10 carries per game. LaFleur recognizes Jones’ talent, and despite LaFleur’s comments of an expected timeshare between Jones and Williams, it can be expected that Jones will shoulder most of the load for this backfield. This offensive line remains a top-tier unit and Jones has the talent to put up great numbers running behind them--but this week, in particular, looks to be a rough start to the season.

The Bears run defense returns all key players from a stellar 2018 season in which they allowed a league-low 80 rushing yards per game and a league-low 13.3 fantasy points per game to running backs. Guys like Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks on the interior with Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd on the outside can make it tough for even the best of offensive lines to make space for their runners. The Bears linebackers are solid and they also have some of the league’s top run-defending safeties to crowd the box when needed. This was the elite run defense last year, and there is no reason to believe they will take any steps back this week or this season.

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


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

With Lamar Miller likely sidelined for 2019 from a preseason knee injury, the Texans will turn to recently acquired running backs Duke Johnson Jr. and Carlos Hyde to lead their backfield this season. Johnson has historically been known as a pass-catching back based on his usage in Cleveland, but he will take on an expanded role in Houston as their lead running back with Carlos Hyde expected to serve more of a backup role. Johnson actually was a prolific rusher in his college days with Miami, so he is capable of running between the tackles despite his lack of usage in that capacity with the Browns. The Texans made a huge move to end the preseason with the trade for a franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil to bolster their offensive line. Tackle was a glaring weakness ever since the departure of Duane Brown, and while Tunsil is no direct replacement to Brown, he is certainly a massive upgrade for this otherwise lower-tier unit. Matt Kalil was another big offseason addition, and he will shift over to right tackle to make space for Tunsil. In addition to the two veterans added at tackle, the Texans plan to start two rookies at guard to combine with Nick Martin at center--the only player on this line who was with the team in 2018. From a cohesiveness perspective, it may take a few games for the Texans to pull this group together--so expect some struggles for the first few weeks.

The Saints are coming off a great year against the run in 2018 as they were the second-best allowing just 80.2 yards per game and return much of their talent up front. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is coming off a career year in 2018, but he will still be recovering from an early-year Achilles injury likely to keep him sidelined in Week 1. The Saints did add Malcolm Brown from the Patriots to further solidify the interior of this defensive line, which should be helpful in the absence of Rankins. All-Pro Cameron Jordan and 2018 first-round pick Marcus Davenport round out what should be a very effective defensive line when healthy. The recent addition of Kiko Alonso is an improvement at linebacker as Alonso excelled in run defense when with Miami. While the health of Rankins is an issue this week, the Saints still offer a strong front seven for any opposing offense entering into this season. Duke Johnson and the Texans should have a tough time this week as they piece together their new offensive line.

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


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Dolphins enter 2019 with a clear one-two punch on the ground, with Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake the only clear-cut options to run the ball. Ballage saw 66 snaps over the final 3 games of his rookie year, turning 25 carries into 172 yards. It’s worth noting, though, that 44% of that yardage came on one run. Ballage offers big-time speed (a 4.46-second 40 at 228 pounds) but was never a consistent ground-gainer at Arizona State. He’ll likely split carries evenly with Drake, who’s always been long on dynamism (a career 4.7-yard average). Like Ballage, Drake has also never been entrusted with a workhorse role, nor anything close – he’s yet to top 133 rushes in a season, college or pro. The team will seek to mix-and-match their skill sets, riding the hottest hand and making for unpredictable production. Both runners will operate behind quite possibly the league’s worst front line. Our Matt Bitonti ranked it dead-last in the preseason, even before the team dealt away left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Dolphins will likely start two rookie guards, and while both offer strong run-blocking potential, they’re very much in transition here. And there’s now uncertainty at left tackle, where Tunsil had been a building block. Drake and Ballage will have to rely almost entirely on their speed and athleticism to generate anything positive – especially against stout defensive fronts like Baltimore’s.

The Baltimore run defense, which was so dominant last year (third-best in yards allowed per carry), finds itself in transition to open 2019. The group lost not only stalwart linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs, but also 70% of its defensive end rotation. Mosley’s loss will certainly be felt: Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young will vie for snaps in the middle, though neither has ever been more than a part-timer. The good news is that both interior-line starters, Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams, remain in place. The 340-pound Pierce is one of the game’s best space-eating noses, and Williams remains a difficult block in his own right. They should anchor the front nicely and give the inexperienced linebackers room to roam. Tony Jefferson will step into the strong safety role with Eric Weddle gone, playing mostly in the box, and was actually the better run defender last year. This is still a unit that is one of the best in the league on paper, it will just be a matter of can they come together as quickly to be as dominant as they were last season.

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


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Derrick Henry will lead the Titans backfield with limited competition for touches after his spectacular finish to the 2018 season. He has been sidelined for most of the preseason with a calf injury, but Henry returned to practice last week and is on track to start in Week 1. Henry underwhelmed for most of the 2018 season, failing to exceed 60 rushing yards in a game until his breakout performances in Weeks 15 and 16 where he combined for 408 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Henry closed the season with four weeks of solid performances that far surpassed anything he had done until that point, and the Titans coaching staff will hope to continue with that strong focus on the running game. Dion Lewis is Henry’s top competition for touches. Lewis did work with the first team all throughout the preseason, but he never looked sharp running the ball and has always been known more so for his pass-catching and blocking skillset. The offensive line is where things will be tricky for this rushing offense. Both starting guards from 2018 are no longer with the team, and while free-agent addition Rodger Saffold should be a talent upgrade at left guard, he has looked subpar in the preseason. The tackle position is more stable, however, the Titans will be without starting left tackle Taylor Lewan until Week 5 as he serves a suspension. Dennis Kelly is a fine backup and Jack Conklin has put together a solid preseason on the other side at right tackle, but this group has looked far from impressive in their dress rehearsals during the preseason.

The Browns front four makes for one of the most dynamic and exciting defensive lines coming into this 2019 season, thanks in part to a few key offseason acquisitions. Sheldon Richardson comes over from the Vikings to really anchor the interior of this defensive line. Richardson helped make the Vikings on of the most feared run defenses in football last season. Defensive end Olivier Vernon is the other key addition to this group, coming from the Giants. While Vernon may not stack up to the pass-rushing ability of Myles Garrett, his skillset and experience should allow him to excel in run defense as he is a perfect fit for the Browns scheme. Linebacker is not exactly a strong suit for the Browns, but Joe Schobert has played well in the preseason and should be a very serviceable option in the middle of the field. This week should be a challenge for the Titans offensive line based on the lack of cohesion we have seen through the preseason along with the absence of Taylor Lewan.

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