Week 17 Rushing Matchups

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

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

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

Joe Mixon and the Bengals offense continues to keep fighting regardless of not having anything to play for this season. While Mixon struggled last week against the Dolphins as he had just 50 yards, he did have 21 carries which is now three straight games with 21 carries or more for the third-year running back. The offensive line, particularly at the guard position in Billy Price and Michael Jordan, remains an issue which has led to some of the inconsistency. The good news is that the Bengals will get back John Miller at right guard which will push Billy Price back to the bench as Price was a big reason the Bengals struggled last week against the run.

The Browns rushing defense continues to be a mess. On the year, the Browns are allowing 4.9 yards-per-carry, and last week they allowed 130 yards to Baltimore which marks the third straight game in which they have allowed 130 yards or more rushing. The Browns have had significant change on their defense this season, whether it being players kicked off the team in safety Jermaine Whitehead, injury to linebacker Christian Kirksey, safety Morgan Burnett, and defensive end Olivier Vernon, and suspension to Myles Garrett this is a defense that is running out a bunch of guys who either lack experience or talent. The Browns may also be without Sheldon Richardson this week who has been the lone bright spot on the defensive line. At the linebacker position, Joe Schobert has made plays in the passing game but is a poor run defender. Alongside Schobert are two rookies who have struggled in Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson. This should be a big opportunity for the Bengals to have a big game similar to the one that Mixon had three weeks ago when he ran for 146 yards and a touchdown.

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

Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

One week removed from getting embarrassed by the Saints, the Colts offense bounced back in a big way by putting up 38 points on the heels of a strong ground game against the Panthers. The Colts will look to close out the season with a top-5 rushing offense, currently ranked fourth with an average of 133.2 rushing yards per game. Marlon Mack has put together a nice season with just over 1,000 rushing yards despite missing a couple of weeks due to injury. He has been the workhorse running back of this offense and should continue that role into this week against a reeling Jaguars defense. Mack did struggle in his first two games returning from injury, but he had a productive outing last week with 16 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Wilkins also worked in for nine carries last week--his highest volume of the season in a game with Mack starting. His workload was primarily attributed to resting Mack once the game was out of hand, but Wilkins still showed he can be a productive contributor in this Mack-led backfield. Even Nyhiem Hines got in on the fun with a rushing touchdown last week, but still expect for Mack to lead the charge behind one of the league’s top offensive lines in this week’s juicy matchup. However, this offensive line may be without starting All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson this week, as he was sidelined with a concussion and remains at risk of missing this game. The loss of Nelson would be a huge blow to this otherwise elite offensive line and should make it tougher on Mack in Week 17.

The Jaguars defense has been flat out terrible against the run over the back half of this season, allowing a league-leading average of 152 rushing yards and 33.2 fantasy points (non-PPR) per game to opposing running backs since Week 9. They have allowed at least 115 rushing yards and multiple touchdowns to running backs in five of their last seven games and now square off against a Colts offense that hung 264 rushing yards on them back in Week 11. That last meeting was the game in which Marlon Mack suffered a hand injury in the third quarter, after which Jonathan Williams took charge and still racked up over 100 yards of his own against this group. The Jaguars defensive line lacks the depth to reliably compete with most offensive lines, and this week they face one of the league’s top units in Indianapolis. The second level consists of a rag-tag group of backup linebackers trying their best to keep things together after the Jaguars lost five linebackers to injury over the course of this season. All in all, this should be a great spot for Marlon Mack to repeat what he did the last time these teams met, including upside for triple-digit yards (minus the hand injury).

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

New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Sony Michel for two weeks in a row looks more like the player we saw in his rookie season compared to the player that we have seen this season. Over the last two games, Michel has averaged 20 carries for 93.5 yards rushing. Michel still runs the risk any time that the Patriots fall behind that he will see his snap counts reduced significantly as he is limited as a receiving back and is limited as a big-play running back as he is mostly a between the tackles runner. The good news for the Patriots is that the offensive line is also starting to come together after a season of significant injuries. The guards, Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney both are playing at a high level which is critical for Michel to have success as that is where most of his running lanes come from.

The Dolphins on the season are allowing the second-most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs at 121 yards per game. This is a unit that while they have faced significant volume due to game script and falling behind, has major flaws on their defense particularly at the linebacker and safety position as Jerome Baker and rookie Sam Eguavoen have both struggled mightily trying to fill the gap left by Raekwon McMillan. At the safety position, there is significant inexperience as rookie Montre Hartage and Adrian Colbert both have struggled mightily particularly at preventing big plays as Saquon Barkley evidenced two weeks ago with his 112 yards and 2 touchdown performance. This is a unit that has allowed seven 100 yard or more running backs on the season and expect a heavy dosage of Michel this week who had 85 yards back in Week 2 when the Dolphins had a full complement of players.

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

New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Alvin Kamara continues to look healthy and dynamic, but his volume has dipped from his late-2018 and early-2019 levels. He’s taken on 46 snaps a game since returning from injury, but just 58% of team rushes. The Saints clearly prefer for Kamara to be spelled liberally, which gives Latavius Murray some fantasy flex value of his own. The Saints can still improve their playoff seeding, so there’s no reason to expect either to give up many snaps. They’ll operate behind an elite front line - ranked atop the league by Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti - that can withstand the absences of guards Andrus Peat and Larry Warford. And runners across the league have found great success against the Panthers’ porous defense with all degrees of volume. When these teams played in Week 12, Kamara and Murray combined to produce 6.6 yards a carry. Similar (or better) results can be safely expected in the season finale.

The Carolina defense has collapsed on all levels, but most glaringly against the run. They now serve as one of fantasy’s most attractive matchups on the ground, having allowed a league-worst 5.7 yards per rush and 163 a game over the past 9 weeks. During that span, they’ve let a whopping 13 runners top 60 yards, with 5 of them clearing 95. When these teams faced off back in Week 12, Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray combined to produce 118 and a touchdown at 6.6 per attempt. Needless to say, both Saints runners project beautifully again for the finale. The problems start up front, where nose tackle Kyle Love has proven a weak replacement for the injured Dontari Poe. That’s left the linebackers to sort through traffic more often, which is no longer a strong suit for Luke Kuechly, and Shaq Thompson remains inconsistent next to him. There’s not much help from the secondary, leaving plenty of wide lanes on the second level. That allows runners to turn two yards into five, and five into game-breaking chunk runs, far too often. Kamara finally looked spry and explosive again last week, and he’s set up nicely to exploit this shaky unit.

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

Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Like most of the Bears offense, David Montgomery has had a disappointing season. Montgomery has had a difficult time with consistency and while he has shown bursts of what he can do, he just has not been able to consistently put it all together to have week-to-week production. Part of the problem has been on the offensive line as the Bears have struggled with health on the right side of their line as Bobby Massie and Kyle Long both have missed significant time. One of the biggest issues has been the lack of big plays from Montgomery who has just one run longer than 25 yards on the year, and only two runs longer than 20 yards.

The Vikings run defense has been a unit that started the season as an elite unit, but in two of the last four weeks have been exposed as a potentially major problem heading into the playoffs. Aaron Jones had a major second-half last week rushing for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns and back in Week 13, the combination of Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson ran for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns. The issue for the Vikings is that Anthony Barr has been a liability and the cornerbacks are non-existent in stopping the run. Eric Kendricks was also injured in the second half of the Packers game last week and a big reason why Aaron Jones was able to have such success as Kendricks has been arguably the best linebacker in football. With the Vikings having nothing to play for, Kendricks almost assuredly will not play this week, along with likely some of the other defensive starters which could leave this team incredibly short-handed heading into Week 17.

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

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

The Browns smartly have seemingly reduced Nick Chubb’s volume as he only has an average of 15.75 carries per game over his last four games after having six straight 20+ carry games before this recent reduction in volume. As the Browns wind down their disappointing season, it remains to be seen how much Chubb will play in this final game of 2019. The only thing that this rushing offense is playing for is to keep Chubb’s rushing lead which as it stands today is 92 yards ahead of the next closest threat in Christian McCaffrey. What Chubb has been able to do in 2019 with a team that has struggled offensively, and that has had offensive line issues on the right side of the line, has been remarkable considering he is averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry and has been the backbone of this Browns team this season. If there is a criticism of Chubb, it has been his inability to finish inside the five-yard line as he is by far the worst running back in the league inside the five-yard line as he has 15 carries for negative 14 yards inside of the five.

Over the second half of the season, the Bengals run defense has been much improved compared to where it was at the beginning of the year. Since Week 9, the Bengals have allowed 4.45 yards-per-carry compared to 4.92 yards-per-carry from weeks 1 through 8. A big reason for this improvement has been the development of Sam Hubbard and the improvement of Andrew Billings as earlier in the season this had been a unit that as long as you ran away from Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, you would have success, but now the defensive line is strong across all four positions. The problem for the Bengals is that their linebacking group remains one of the worst in football as Germaine Pratt, Nick Vigil, and Shawn Williams all struggle at stopping the run and the safeties don’t provide much run-stopping support. This is still a weak unit that if you can get past the defensive line there are plenty of yards to be gained, but this is no longer a defense that is in contention for the worst unit in football as it was for quite some time.

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

Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense vs Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Dallas Cowboys' backfield headlined by Ezekiel Elliott should expect to see its typical high-volume in a must-win Week 17 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Ezekiel Elliott has played at least 77-percent of offensive snaps for the Dallas Cowboys in every non-blowout game since Week 1. Last week, on one of backup Tony Pollard's two carries, he fumbled the ball away on what ended up being one of the biggest plays of Dallas' pivotal loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, significantly damaging his case for increased playing time down the stretch this season. Throughout the season, Ezekiel Elliott has tallied 7 20-carry games and 6 100-yard games. Week 17 projects to be a fantastic opportunity for Elliott to add to each total, as the Cowboys' motivation to win their final game of the 2019 season will be as high as any team in the league, as they must win this game to have an outside shot at making the playoffs this season.

The Washington Redskins run defense grades as one of the weakest in the NFL, especially in recent weeks, facing exceptionally high volume on the run while allowing over 4.6 yards per carry, which ranks 25th in the league this season. The Redskins have allowed 3 consecutive running backs to surpass 100 yards rushing, and on the season, they have allowed the 3rd-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Along the defensive line, DaRon Payne and Montez Sweat are the two lone above-average run-stoppers in the team's entire front-seven. Both players have regressed from their incredible early-season levels, but they still grade as strong run-defenders on the whole. At linebacker, Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb both struggle against the run, but in different ways. Holcomb has missed 13 tackles this season, proving that even when he is in the right position to make a play against the run, he is frequently unable to finish the job. Bostic, on the other hand, while a sure tackler, is mostly unable to put himself in a position to stuff opposing rushing attacks. At the back-end of the defense, the best run-stopper on this defense is safety Landon Collins. Collins has always been an exceptional run defender, and while his coverage numbers have dropped off during his time in Washington, his run-stopping numbers remain elite. Unfortunately, Collins, too, has struggled to finish tackles this season, totaling 15 missed tackles on the year. Overall, the Cowboys are primed to dominate the Redskins in the trenches this weekend, leading to another likely high-volume and high-efficiency day for Ezekiel Elliott.

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 (Good Matchup)

This Packers rushing offense has been in good shape in recent weeks with Aaron Jones on an absolute heater. Jones has five rushing touchdowns in the past three weeks with two games of 130 or more yards over that span. He did struggle with just 51 rushing yards in Week 15 against Chicago, but he still found the end zone twice and looks to now be the relatively undisputed goal-line option for Green Bay. This week could afford Jones even more of an opportunity as Jamaal Wiliams was forced from last week’s game with a shoulder injury that has him questionable coming into this game. Williams has maintained a steady role in this rushing offense, but he has had nowhere near the level of production as Jones for most of the season. Williams did have his best game of the year in Week 6 against the Lions, but his banged-up shoulder and a hot hand in Jones should make it tough for Williams to repeat that outing if he even suits up.

The Lions run defense has been playing better over the second half of the season, but last week’s game against the Broncos reminded the league that this can be a bottom-tier unit on any given week as they have shown for most of the season. The Lions gave up two rushing touchdowns to the Broncos while allowing Phillip Lindsay to have one of his best games of the season with 109 rushing yards. A big weakness for this Lions defense has been at the linebacker position, as they haven’t been consistent against the run there all season while injuries have now taken out three starters after the loss of Jahlini Tavai last week. Damon Harrison remains a force against the run on the defensive line, but he has limited support around him and will certainly have a lack of talent behind him this week. Aaron Jones should have plenty of room for success this week with a top-tier offensive line against this struggling Lions run defense.

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

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

The Los Angeles Rams enter Week 17 on the heels of a gut-wrenching Week 16 loss that eliminated the team from playoff contention this season. However, the Rams do not appear ready to rest any key starters on the offensive side of the ball, as the pride of a winning 9-7 campaign appears enough for head coach Sean McVay to rally the troops for one final game this season. On the season, the Rams' rushing attack ranks as a below-average unit across the board, aside from rushing touchdowns. Los Angeles has attempted the 21st-most rushes of any team in the league this season while mustering only 3.8 yards per carry, good for 26th in the NFL. Lead running back Todd Gurley has seen an increase in volume recently, with 2 20-carry games in his last 6 outings. Gurley has yet to surpass the century mark on the ground in any game this season, but a soft matchup with the Arizona Cardinals here in Week 17 offers a great opportunity to change that.

The Arizona Cardinals run defense ranks in the bottom third of the NFL in nearly every metric aside from rushing touchdowns allowed this season. The Cardinals had their playoff aspirations dashed early in the year, and their motivation level for Week 17 should be no different than the latter half of the 2019 season. On the year, the Cardinals have allowed 4 100-yard rushers, and they have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Along the defensive line, Corey Peters and Chandler Jones grade as the Cardinals' only two above-average run-stoppers in the team's entire front seven. At linebacker, Arizona's three-man rotation of Jordan Hicks, Joe Walker, and Haason Reddick make up one of the league's worst linebacking corps. Hicks, while the best linebacker of the bunch in terms of identifying run plays and putting himself in a position to make a play, struggles to finish tackles with 20 missed tackles on the season, the most on the team. In the secondary, Budda Baker stands out as one of the league's premier run-stopping safeties. Baker's 96 total tackles this season are the most on the team and the 2nd-most in the entire NFL. Elsewhere, however, Baker gets little support aside from Jones and Peters in the trenches. Overall, the Los Angeles Rams should have a strong advantage over the Cardinals in the trenches here in Week 17. This season-ending NFC West battle offers a fantastic opportunity for Todd Gurley to register his first (and only) 100-yard rushing game of the 2019 season.

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

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

Rookie of the Year frontrunner Josh Jacobs sat out Week 16, and with a leg infection that required surgery on Wednesday, it will be difficult for him to suit up against the Broncos. The Raiders remain technically alive in the playoff race, but their slim probability shouldn’t be enough to risk Jacobs’ banged-up shoulder. Most likely, DeAndre Washington will close things out as the lead runner, and he’s a fantasy consideration if only on volume. In 2 games relieving Jacobs, Washington has averaged just 3.7 yards per rush, but taken on 37 of 49 team attempts. There’s not much ceiling there, but an acceptable fantasy floor in a pinch. Jalen Richard mixes into the lineup as well, but he’s confined mostly to passing downs. Any and all Raiders runners would benefit from guard Richie Incognito’s return, but he also looks unlikely for Sunday, and he’s not the only up-front starter the team would be missing.

The Denver run defense has spiked up and down throughout the season, mixing in weak performances with dominant ones. Of late, though, this group is on a bit of a downturn. Over the past 8 weeks, they’ve allowed 6 different runners to top 65 yards, averaging 4.4 per rush in the process. The strength of this unit typically lies up front, but is unrecognizable with Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, Dre’mont Jones, and DeMarcus Walker all on the shelf. The linebacking crew is average at best, with Todd Davis leading the way but struggling to hold up to blocking. As a result, recent opponents have found success when clearing the patchwork line and reaching the second level. The Raiders’ Week 17 backfield is up in the air, but projects to solid efficiency however it shakes out.

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

San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense at Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The San Francisco 49ers' rushing attack is one of the highest-volume units in the NFL, ranking first or second in the NFL in rushing attempts, yardage, and touchdowns this season. Head coach Kyle Shannahan's schematic genius has enabled the 49ers to move the ball efficiently on the ground, regardless of who lines up in the backfield. Recently, Raheem Mostert has seized the number-one running back job for San Francisco. Mostert has played at least 53-percent of offensive snaps for the 49ers in each of his last 4 games, surpassing 10 carries in each game. Tevin Coleman has been relegated to the number-2 role for the team, playing no-more-than 42-percent of offensive snaps in any of the team's last 4 games, while also topping-out at 5-carries during that span. In a high-leverage game that will ultimately decide the winner of the NFC West, expect the 49ers' top-tier rushing attack to be called upon early and often once again.

Seattle's run defense has defended the 8th-fewest rushing attempts of any team in the league this season; however, they have allowed 4.8 yards per carry, which ranks 28th in the league this season. The volume and efficiency totals seemingly counteract each other, as Seattle's defense is only 14th-worst in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs in 2019. Personnel-wise, Seattle's run defense features one of the top front-sevens in the NFL, but they lack run-stopping talent in the secondary. Along the defensive line, Jadeveon Clowney stands out as one of the league's best all-around defenders in the trenches this season. Clowney is also flanked by a trio of above-average interior linemen against the run, as Quinton Jefferson, Poona Ford, and Jarran Reed are all capable run-stuffers. At linebacker, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are top-end run defenders year after year. Wagner is arguably the best run defender in the NFL at the linebacker position this season, and Wright still grades as an above-average player in this regard. At the back-end, the lone defensive back that grades as even an average run defender is cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who is questionable due to a hamstring injury. Overall, the Seahawks have played a tough schedule loaded with above-average run offenses this season, which has damaged their season-long run-stopping totals. In the front-seven, there is no shortage of run-defending talent for Seattle, but a disappointing secondary may leave this unit susceptible. San Francisco's high-volume and high-efficiency rushing attack should push Seattle's run defense to its limits here in a high-leverage Week 17 matchup that grades as a neutral-to-slightly-favorable situation for the 49ers.

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

Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Titans shut down their workhorse running back, Derrick Henry, for last week's game in preparation for having him as healthy as possible for this week's contest against Houston. Henry has been dealing with a hamstring injury for the past few weeks, but he has played well through the injury with no apparent limitations--seeing at least 18 carries in each of his last five games while averaging 137 rushing yards per game with seven touchdowns over that span. Dion Lewis played relatively well in relief of Henry, but he has struggled running the ball for most of the season and will immediately revert back to his passing-down role with Henry back on the field. The coaching staff for Tennessee has found creative ways to get other players involved in this rushing offense as well, seeing both A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith bust big plays on the ground in the past two weeks. Ryan Tannehill also adds some upside with his legs as he is almost certain to tuck it and run a couple of times per game. The Titans offensive line must be given some credit for the overall success of this rushing offense, as this group has blocked very well on running downs with strong play from their tackles and center Ben Jones. This is a must-win game for the Titans, and they should continue to lean heavily on their rushing offense with Derrick Henry this week.

The Texans run defense has been friendly to opposing running backs over the second half of the season, allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to the position since Week 9. While many of those fantasy points have come via receiving touchdowns from running backs, they still have allowed production on the ground as even Ronald Jones from Tampa Bay’s bottom-tier rushing offense managed to average 5.5 yards per carry for 77 yards and a touchdown last week--arguably his best game of the season. This week, the Texans have little to play for given the division is already locked up. With linebacker Bernardrick McKinney recovering from a concussion, it could be likely for him to be held out of this game. Zach Cunningham is a solid run defender, but the depth behind McKinney is quite suspect and would leave this second level vulnerable. D.J. Reader is the top interior lineman on this team and does a great job plugging his side of the line, but the rest of this line hasn’t made much of an impact this season and should present winnable matchups for the Titans in the trenches.

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)

The Lions welcomed starting running back Kerryon Johnson back on to the field last week after he had missed the past eight weeks with a knee injury. While Johnson did not start last week, he did lead the backfield with 10 carries for 42 yards and looked healthy in the process. Bo Scarbrough got the start and saw eight carries for just 34 yards as he continues to underwhelm in this backfield. With Johnson still getting back into game shape, it would be likely to see a similar workload split for this week’s game against Green Bay. The Lions have no need to rush Johnson back into a full workload and risk re-injury, as they are playing for absolutely nothing this week. In addition, the Lions offensive line has been banged up and provided shaky run blocking in last week’s game. Given the uninspiring play from this offensive line, the ineffectiveness of Bo Scarbrough, and the limitations on Kerryon Johnson, this rushing offense looks to be challenged yet again in Week 17.

The Packers defense has been susceptible to the run this season, giving up the 10th-most rushing yards per game (116.7) and an above-average 4.5 rushing yards per attempt. They have seen the luxury of some terrible rushing offenses in recent weeks though, as they limited a banged-up Lions backfield to just 55 rushing yards last week and held the Bears running backs to just 67 rushing yards the week prior. The Lions backfield is certainly not one to be afraid of, but having Kerryon Johnson back will help. However, a healthy Johnson managed just 34 yards on 13 carries in his last game against the Packers in Week 6. Nose tackle Kenny Clark is a stalwart in the center of this run defense, but his help on the interior has been relatively limited for most of the season while Packers linebackers are just mediocre in run defense. The Lions offensive line should not pose much of a challenge for this Packers front though, which should keep the outlook for Johnson pretty grim headed into this matchup.

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

Houston Texans Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Texans offense was stifled last week against Tampa Bay as they struggled to move the ball in any productive manner. On the season, however, this has been a solid rushing offense led by Carlos Hyde as their lead back. Hyde cracked the 100-yard mark with a touchdown in his last game two weeks ago against the Titans. He has since been dealing with an ankle injury though, actually coming down to near a game-time decision last week. Despite reports indicating the Texans do not plan to rest any starters, keep an eye on Hyde’s status coming into the game as he certainly could be a candidate for some workload management headed into the playoffs. The offensive line for Houston has been lackluster all season long, Left tackle Laremy Tunsil has looked better over the back half of the season, but the right side of this line continues to struggle to the point where they are rotating between guys at the right tackle position--which is terrible for overall chemistry in the trenches. Even with the struggles of this line, however, Houston still has an above-average rushing offense with a mobile quarterback that can also do some damage on the ground.

The Titans have had a tough time stopping the run in recent weeks despite a defense full of personnel fully capable of challenging opposing running backs. Since Week 9, this team is allowing an average of 99 rushing yards per game to running backs and has given up at least one touchdown to the position in six of seven games with multiple touchdowns allowed in three of those contests. Carlos Hyde ran for 104 yards and a touchdown in their last meeting as well, but it did take him a season-high 26 carries to achieve that level of production. Even with some rough outings in recent weeks, this Titans defense is still limiting teams to an average of just 4.0 yards per carry (6th-fewest) and has given up only six runs of 20 or more yards (T-4th fewest). For this week, the Titans will hope to have a fully healthy group up front, including Jeffery Simmons, who was held out of last week’s game with a knee injury. If Simmons is healthy enough to suit up, his presence alongside Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones should pose a challenge for the mediocre Texans offensive line. Titans linebackers have also done a decent job against the run and should put up a good fight against a Texans offense with little to play for and a banged-up starting running back in Carlos Hyde.

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

Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Jaguars rushing offense has been rather lackluster for most of this season as they rank around the middle of the league with 109.4 rushing yards per game but have scored only three rushing touchdowns all season--by far the lowest in the league. Lead running back Leonard Fournette will look to cap off the first 16-game season of his career this week as he meets a Colts defense that held him to just 23 yards on eight attempts back in Week 11. Fournette has seen a steady workload this season and has rushed exactly 15 times in each of his last three games. His per-game production, however, has been hit or miss as he has averaged 3.6 or fewer yards per carry in seven games with 50 or fewer rushing yards in five of his last seven games over the back half of this season. Despite seeing consistently heavy workloads, Fournette has scored just three times and exceeded 80 rushing yards only once since Week 7. The offensive line has played reasonably well this season, but this entire offense has simply been on the struggle bus over the past month and looks nowhere near close to figuring it out as they close out the season this week.

Indianapolis looks to finish this season with an above-average run defense that has held opponents to an average of right at 100 rushing yards per game--tied for 10th-fewest in the league. With the exception of a big game from Derrick Henry in Week 13, the Colts have now allowed a lead running back into the end zone or above 75 rushing yards since Week 8. They have looked particularly impressive against the run over the past two weeks, holding Christian McCaffrey to 54 rushing yards last week and Alvin Kamara to 66 rushing yards the week prior. The last time out against Jacksonville, this Colts defense shut down Leonard Fournette to the tune of just 23 rushing yards as he averaged fewer than three yards per carry. The defensive line for the Colts has been a solid unit all season, but interior lineman Denico Autry has been dealing with a concussion suffered in Week 15 and remains questionable coming into this week. The continued absence of Autry would mean more snaps for Trevon Coley, who is a steep downgrade at the position. Linebackers Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke can help make up for an absence of Autry though, as they have been top-notch run defenders and should help the Colts defense win in this matchup.

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

Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Chiefs ground game has been relatively disappointing this season when stacked up against their passing offense. Ranking 23rd with just 93 rushing yards per game while averaging 4.0 yards per rush, this rushing offense has struggled to find any level of consistency. They have taken a committee approach all season and seen mixed results, but that committee appears that it will be reduced from four to two this week. LeSean McCoy is expected to remain sidelined as the Chiefs preserve him for the playoffs, and Spencer Ware suffered a shoulder injury last week that very well could keep him on the bench. This would leave Damien Williams as the clear-cut leader of the backfield this week, with Darwin Thompson likely to mix in behind Williams. Last week was the first game since Week 11 for Williams, who had been sidelined with a rib injury. He wasn’t spectacular last week, but he appeared to be healthy and handled 16 carries--his second-highest workload of the season. Thompson should see an increase in playing time if Ware is indeed sidelined, but it is tough to expect much from the rookie who is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry in limited attempts this season.

The Los Angeles run defense held up relatively well last week against a Raiders offense sans Josh Jacobs, holding them to just 99 rushing yards with an average of 3.4 yards per carry despite giving up two rushing touchdowns. The Chargers have decent metrics against the run this season, allowing 4.0 yards per carry 109.5 rushing yards per game--right around the league-average mark. This team has played much better down the stretch though, as last week’s 85 rushing yards from DeAndre Washington marked the first time since Week 8 that a running back has exceeded 71 yards against them. Having a pair of elite defensive lineman in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram certainly helps any run defense, even if the Chargers lack that strong playmaker on the interior. The strength of Kansas City’s offensive line lies at their tackle position, which should be thoroughly challenged this week. The Chiefs haven’t had much success running on the inside this season, and that shouldn’t change much this week against a Chargers defense that held their running backs to a meager 71 rushing yards back in Week 11.

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

Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Last week was one of the worst rushing performances of the season by any team in football as the Chargers amassed all of 19 yards on the ground against the Raiders. This Chargers rushing offense has had some up and down games, but nothing as bad as what was on display last week as the entire offense floundered in trying to move the ball against a beat-able Raiders defense. Melvin Gordon’s volume has been down in recent weeks with just 12 carries in Week 14, seven in Week 15 after his fumbling problems, and nine last week. He did find the end zone twice last week from two goal-line plunges, but Gordon’s opportunities will be tied to how well (or not well) this offense is moving the ball. Austin Ekeler is in the same position but remains guaranteed a reduced workload on the ground compared to that of Gordon. Ekeler remains heavily targeted through the air, but he cannot be relied upon to produce on the ground. The offensive line for Log Angeles also remains a problem when playing without star left tackle Russell Okung, who remains sidelined with a groin injury. With nothing to play for in this last game of the season, it would be unlikely for Okung to suit up, leading to yet another low upside outing likely to come for this rushing offense behind a bottom-tier offensive line.

The Chiefs defense started the season as one of the worst in football against the run, allowing the third-most rushing yards per game (122) and fourth-most fantasy points per game (25.6) to opposing running backs through their first eight games. Since Week 9, however, this defense has improved to the point of allowing the 13th-most rushing yards per game (94) and 17th-most fantasy points per game (18.2) to opposing running backs. While some of that improvement has to be attributed to a more relaxed level of competition, the Chiefs have dealt relatively well with the injuries that have plagued this front seven over the back half of the season. They added Terrell Suggs to fill the gap from Alex Okafor’s season-ending injury, and Suggs played relatively well on his 16 snaps last week--albeit with little impact on the run game. Chris Jones remains a force on the interior of that line, but the real weakness remains at linebacker as the Chiefs have yet to find consistency at that position. This group did a decent job limiting Chargers running backs in their last meeting, and the Chiefs should match up well again against a reeling Chargers offense as that has struggled to get anything going in recent weeks.

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

Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

With the Vikings seemingly having nothing to play for this week, it appears we might see the combination of Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah once again as both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison remain limited in practice this week. Boone had high expectations last week but struggled to get anything going last week against the Packers as he had just 28 yards rushing on 11 carries as he was unable to break loose. The Vikings may be without a large number of their starters as Kirk Cousins indicated as of Thursday that he is unsure if he would play on Sunday which if the starting quarterback is indicating that he’s unsure if he will play it seems more likely than not that the starters will miss this week.

The Bears run defense has been an above-average unit for most of the year, but they have suffered some big injuries this past week. Big nose tackle Eddie Goldman is dealing with a concussion and it seems unlikely he will play this week and Akiem Hicks who has been the backbone of their defense suffered an elbow injury after returning from the injured reserve last week. These injuries ultimately forced the Bears to go with a modified 3-4 in which they had three defensive ends playing the position which ultimately led to some success from Damien Williams who had 65 yards on 16 carries as without the space-eating lineman in Goldman and Hicks it put tremendous pressure on the linebackers who have struggled block shedding most of the year.

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

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

With nothing to play for, the Jets the last two weeks are still fighting and doing everything they can to win games. In a win that significantly damaged the Steelers' chances at the playoffs, the Jets focused on Le’Veon Bell feeding him with 25 carries. Bell who has been a disappointment for most of the season does have 46 carries in his last two games but is averaging just 3.5 yards-per-carry with the increase in volume. This has largely been a season to forget for the Jets rushing attack as Bell is averaging just 3.3 yards-per-carry on the season and has not been able to get anything consistent going this year. Still, it is a positive sign that the Jets are committed to him this week as he has been on the field for 86% and 92% of the plays the last two games.

The Bills are one of those teams this week that have very little to play for as they are locked into the fifth seed and will play Houston next week. Sean McDermott is holding it a little close to the vest when it comes to starting or sitting players, but they will likely play this game similar to a preseason game where their starters play a quarter or a half, and then the backups start coming in. This could be a good sign for the Jets as the one area that the Bills have been vulnerable against is the running back position. Last week, Sony Michel shredded the Patriots rushing for 96 yards on 21 carries as the Patriots ran the ball a total of 29 times in their victory. Where the Bills are vulnerable is up the middle which is why downhill running backs can have success as the defensive tackles Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips have struggled, and linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds both have struggled at stopping the run. They do have two tremendous safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde who have done a great job preventing big runs, but with those two potentially sitting at some point in this game, the Bills defense looks much worse than they typically would.

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

Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Once again, the Steelers enter the weekend uncertain to have James Conner’s lead-back services. Conner injured his thigh last Sunday and couldn’t return to action, though the do-or-die nature of this game could push him to suit up. If he can, the Steelers will continue to ride him heavily in hopes of backing into the playoffs. Mike Tomlin knows that, to do so, he’ll need to hide shaky passer Devlin Hodges as much as possible. Conner has taken on 72% of snaps in his last 2 full games, and 31 of 42 team rushes. He isn’t a dynamic back, but he’s powerful and capable of efficiency behind the Steelers’ strong run-blocking line. Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, and Kerrith Whyte all get the same bump, but only if Conner can’t go Sunday. Otherwise, they’ll share little more than a change-up role on running downs.

The Ravens have surged to the top of the league by most measures, but their run defense remains something of a liability. Over the past 7 weeks, they’ve allowed opposing backs a robust 4.4 yards per rush, with 4 of them topping 85 on the day. The unit remains stout up front, where down linemen Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams control the trenches as well as anyone. But there’s been a lot of turnover behind them, and the new-look linebacking corps can be leaky. New starter Josh Bynes has been strong against the run, but Patrick Onwuasor has struggled; they’re a far cry from C.J. Mosley’s heyday. The safeties don’t offer much support - they’re pass defenders first and foremost - leaving vulnerable gaps all over the second level. Several backs have posted slump-busting or season-best performances in this matchup, so if the Steelers enter Sunday with a clear lead runner, he’ll boast a strong outlook.

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ronald Jones’ sophomore campaign can be viewed as a mild success, though that’s mostly an indictment of his awful rookie year. He’s struggled to distance himself from the plodding Peyton Barber, averaging just 3.8 yards per rush and 41 a game. Jones ran hard and effectively last week, racking up 77 on his 14 attempts, but it wasn’t a very projectable performance. After all, 64% of those yards came on a single run. At least he (currently) holds the hot hand over Barber, who’s averaged just 3.1 himself and lost a costly fumble last week. But there’s just not much ceiling in this attack, and therefore little reason in fantasy to risk his low floor. Coach Bruce Arians is an unabashed passing demon, and he’s never put much stock into his ground game. Even as the lead dog - which is far from a guarantee - Jones’ realistic upside would top out around 60-70 yards. And with Arians a proponent of throwing heavily near the goal line, there isn’t even much touchdown upside at play here.

The Falcons run defense has improved noticeably over the course of 2019; it’s a far cry from the doormat it once was. Over 7 games since their bye, they’ve allowed only 2 runners (Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette) to reach 70 yards. Still, those low numbers have come largely from a lack of volume as the Falcons have drawn opponents into shootouts. McCaffrey (4.9 per rush), Fournette (4.7), and Alvin Kamara (5.7) could’ve produced much more if given more opportunity. The Falcons do boast a run-stuffing star in tackle Grady Jarrett, while linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell have been solid on the second level. But there are typically enough vulnerabilities here for gifted runners to exploit on a per-play basis. The Buccaneers’ plodding runners managed to find modest success in this matchup back in Week 12, after all.

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

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

The Arizona Cardinals, left without any incentive other than pride this season, have dramatically increased their rushing volume in recent weeks. Kenyan Drake, a midseason acquisition from the Miami Dolphins, immediately became the team's number-one running back upon his arrival. In each of the last two games, Drake has posted at least 22 carries, 137 rushing yards, and 2 scores on the ground en route to back-to-back upsets over potential playoff teams. Head coach and play-caller Kliff Kingsbury has designed an elite rushing attack down the stretch this season, tallying over 5.1 yards per carry, the best total in the NFL, while the passing attack has faltered. Kenyan Drake will have an uphill battle ahead of himself in Week 17, attempting to string together a third consecutive monstrous performance against the Rams' talented run defense.

The Los Angeles Rams run defense is one of the most imposing and talented units in the NFL. While they face exceptionally-high volume on the ground (6th-most rush attempts defended in the league,) their ability to keep opposing running backs out of the end zone and limit efficiency on a per-play basis has helped the Rams salvage respectable run-stopping numbers overall this year. The Rams' defensive line is loaded with run-stopping talent, as Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald rank amongst the league's best interior run defenders this season. Then, at the second-level, Cory Littleton has grown into his role as the team's number-one linebacker. Littleton has missed only 1 tackle this season while simultaneously leading the team with 75 total tackles, which ranks 17th in the league. In the secondary, Taylor Rapp and Eric Weddle both grade as above-average run-stopping safeties, and they do a tremendous job of limiting chunk plays on the ground. Overall, the Rams defense has little motivation to come out and perform at their best this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals' highly-efficient rushing attack. Expect this battle of strength-against-strength to even out as a neutral matchup for the Cardinals on the ground, in part thanks to an expected general lack of motivation for the Rams, as they are only playing for pride here in Week 17.

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

Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

There’s still no answer out there to consistently slow down Christian McCaffrey. The dynamic weapon is close to rarified air, just 67 receiving yards shy of joining Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig in the 1,000/1,000 Club. Chasing that should lock him in for a full complement of Week 17 snaps despite the game meaning nothing to the Panthers. McCaffrey is in the midst of (his version of) a cold spell at the moment - he hasn’t reached 90 yards on the ground since Week 10. But he’s still running efficiently, at 4.5 per rush over his last 3 games, and he still draws most of the team’s short-yardage use. Even in the pits of the Panthers’ Will Grier-led offense, McCaffrey boasts fantasy’s best blend of volume, efficiency, and touchdown opportunity, week after week.

Thanks to a mix of talent, scheme, and positive game flow, the Saints continue to dominate against the run. They’ve held 11 of their 15 opponents below 4.0 yards per rush, with just a single runner (Carlos Hyde in the season opener) cresting 80 on the day. They’ve stifled a handful of elite backs along the way - including this week’s target, Christian McCaffrey, who managed just 64 yards on 22 carries back in Week 12. Simply put: trying to grind things out against the Saints rarely produces much fruit. The deep, versatile line is adept at controlling the line of scrimmage, while a few key contributors on the second level have enjoyed big 2019 breakouts. Linebacker Demario Davis leads the way, though enough can’t be said about the play of strong safety Vonn Bell, who continues to excel in the box. Altogether, this makes for a dicey matchup even for McCaffrey. He’ll see enough all-purpose touches to make his usual impact, but projects to struggle for efficiency and touchdown opportunity in this nightmare matchup.

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

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

Last week, Phillip Lindsay broke up an extended cold streak by gashing the Lions for 109 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. He now sits just 42 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season, and he should see plenty of opportunity to hit the mark Sunday. Dating back to the Week 10 bye, he’s taken on 69% of team rushes, good for an average of 15 a game. Royce Freeman lurks as a change-of-pace runner, but the role hasn’t provided him nearly enough volume to make fantasy noise. Even in the Broncos’ run-heavy attack, he hasn’t taken on double-digit carries since Week 8, averaging just 23 yards a game over that span. Freeman scored from a yard out last week, but has ceded much of his goal-line work to Lindsay of late, sapping all of his week-to-week fantasy value.

The Oakland defense remains very much a work in progress, but it’s at least shown major improvement against the run. Despite an ever-shuffling linebacking crew, they sit ninth league-wide in raw yardage allowed (100 per game) and sixth on a per-carry basis (4.0). Last Sunday brought their second dominant performance in a row, holding Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to just 26 combined yards. And the week before, they allowed Leonard Fournette just 42 on his 15 rushes. The Raiders have assembled a fine interior up front, where tackles Jonathan Hankins and P.J. Hall are custom-fit to stifle inside running lanes. There’s not much talent behind them, but Tahir Whitehead is a smart, seasoned playmaker on his own. This still isn’t some dominant, matchup-busting unit that scares away fantasy players, but has proven its mettle as a solid group. Phillip Lindsay will likely find tougher sledding here than in last week’s romp over the Lions.

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

New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The New York Giants' rushing attack has been one of the lowest-volume units in the league, as they have played from behind throughout the majority of their 4-11 2019 campaign. Recently, however, Saquon Barkley has gotten back on track with back-to-back performances of at least 22 carries, 112 yards, and 1 touchdown. This pair of 20-carry games are his only 2 of the season, and the 100-yard rushing days are his first 2 since Weeks 1 and 2 of the season. Barkley is undoubtedly one of the most talented running backs in the league. However, a lackluster offensive line, coupled and consistently-bad game scripts, has limited his volume and efficiency this season. This weekend, in a tough matchup against Philadelphia's top-end run defense, Barkley will have his work cut out for himself attempting to close his 2019 season on a high note.

The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the league's strongest and most-consistent run defenses this season. Philadelphia's run-stopping prowess (coupled with their inability to defend the pass) has led to the unit defending the third-fewest rush attempts of any team in the league while also allowing the seventh-fewest yards per carry. The Eagles' defensive line is a strong unit, headlined by Pro Bowl and All-Pro candidates Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Elsewhere, however, Philadelphia lacks top-end run-stopping talent. At linebacker, Nigel Bradham and Nathan Gerry both grade as mediocre run-stoppers. Then, in the secondary, aside from Malcolm Jenkins, who leads the team in tackles with 55 on the year, they lack defensive backs that are capable or willing to play close to the line-of-scrimmage and make an impact in run-support. Philadelphia's strength against the run is almost certainly a product of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defensive philosophy. The Philadelphia Eagles' run defense is playing far above its talent level once again in 2019 under the guidance of Schwartz, and they figure to provide a tough matchup for the Giants here in Week 17. Expect Saquon Barkley and the Giants to struggle on the ground in their season finale, as the Eagles run defense has passed almost every test it has faced this season.

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

Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

In a near-must-win game for Philadelphia, the Eagles will likely turn to their high-volume rushing attack that ranks as a middle-of-the-pack unit efficiency-wise, to close out a likely victory over the New York Giants. Jordan Howard, originally Philadelphia's lead-back, has been sidelined for about two months with a "shoulder stinger," and he has yet to be cleared for contact. It appears Howard will likely miss Week 17 as well, and in his absence Miles Sanders has led the way in Philadelphia's backfield, tallying at least 15 carries in each of his last 4 games and at least 79 rushing yards in 3 of those games. Boston Scott has emerged as the team's number-two back, but his involvement in the rushing attack is inconsistent. Overall, behind a top-tier offensive line, Miles Sanders is primed for another high-volume rushing day in Week 17's high-leverage matchup with the New York Giants and their impressive run defense.

The New York Giants' run defense is one of the most underrated units in the NFL this season. Although this has largely been a lost season for New York, with their playoff dreams effectively dashed early on, their defensive front has been a shining bright spot for this team. While they have defended the 3rd-most rush attempts of any team in the league, the Giants have only allowed 3.9 yards per carry, the 5th-best mark in the league. Overall, factoring in the volume and efficiency, the Giants grade as a middle-of-the-road unit defending running backs, fielding the 14th-best defense in the league in fantasy points allowed to the position. Along the defensive line, the Giants field a deep rotation of above-average run-stoppers, including Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill, and Dalvin Tomlinson. At linebacker, David Mayo is an exceptional run defender, as he ranks amongst the league's best run-stoppers at the position. Lastly, in the secondary, Antoine Bethea's continued commitment to being a physical safety is admirable. Bethea, who is wrapping up his 13th season in the NFL, is an elite run-stopper, and his 76 total tackles rank 15th in the NFL. From top to bottom, the Giants field a talented unit of run defenders. Miles Sanders and the Philadelphia Eagles' rushing attack will likely struggle to move the ball efficiently against the New York Giants here in Week 17.

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

Washington Redskins Rushing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Washington Redskins enter Week 17 with little motivation for the final game of the season and a mediocre rushing attack to go along with that. The Redskins have attempted the third-fewest rushes of any team in the league while tallying 4.4 yards per carry, good for 14th in the NFL. Since Derrius Guice went down for the season with a knee injury, Adrian Peterson's playing time has increased, and he is playing approximately 50-percent of Washington's offensive snaps recently. Peterson primarily plays in rushing situations, with Chris Thompson spelling him on passing downs. Peterson typically carries the football on about half of his total offensive snaps, averaging 17 carries per game across his last 3 games. Thompson also posted a season-high 8 carries last weekend, and he is not to be forgotten in this backfield. In total, running behind a mediocre offensive line, Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson will have a long day ahead of themselves on the ground in Week 17 against Dallas' well-rounded run defense.

The Dallas Cowboys' strong all-around defense has only allowed 2 100-yard rushers this season, and they grade as approximately a league-average unit across the board against the run. The Cowboys have defended medial rushing volume this year, allowing the 13th-fewest rushing yards on the 10th-lowest yards per carry of any team in the NFL. The unit's personnel represents that of a top-tier run-stopping unit, and they will likely dominate in the trenches in this weekend's must-win game against the Washington Redskins. In the trenches, Demarcus Lawrence, Michael Bennett, and Antwaun Woods all grade as top-tier run stoppers for the Cowboys. Then, at the second-level, Jaylon Smith is one of the league's best young linebackers, especially against the run. Smith's unbelievable 2019 campaign has helped to compensate for the loss of Leighton Vander Esch, who is dealing with a chronic neck injury that has required surgery to hopefully fix. Then, at the back-end of the defense, all of Dallas' regular cornerbacks, Byron Jones, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie, grade as above-average run supporters, and they do a great job of limiting big plays on the ground. In total, Adrian Peterson and the Washington Redskins will likely be in for a long day at the office on the ground, as they face off with a highly-talented and highly-motivated Dallas Cowboys run defense in their 2019 season finale.

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

Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Devonta Freeman has to be thrilled to see 2019 come to a close. The 27-year-old workhorse has bottomed out with a career-low 3.6 yards per rush, and he’s only topped 50 ground yards in 5 of his 13 games. Freeman has looked short on explosiveness and wiggle, and he appears to have ceded goal-line work to rookie Qadree Ollison, sapping most of his week-to-week ceiling appeal. Ollison and Brian Hill offer decent depth, but neither has impressed enough to seize much work from Freeman. All told, this is one of the few ground attacks that benefits from high offensive volume, but doesn’t inspire much fantasy confidence. And of late, it can’t even be trusted to pound in short touchdowns predictably.

After a brief midseason hiccup, the Tampa Bay run defense has bounced back to its elite ways. They’ve simply shut off the run over the past 5 weeks, allowing a total of 169 yards to running backs over that span at just 2.1 per carry. On the year, they’ve been the league’s best run defense by yards a game. This unit simply dominates on the interior, with tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh clearing the way nicely for linebacker Lavonte David and company. Rookie Devin White has been shaky all-around, but manages to make plays with his speed and instinctiveness. Simply put: there’s no reason to project much for the Atlanta runners in this shutdown matchup. The Falcons’ banged-up line will have its hands full keeping all of these playmakers off of its plodding, low-impact backs.

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

Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Ravens will face the Steelers without Mark Ingram and quarterback Lamar Jackson, but their approach isn’t likely to change. Coordinator Greg Roman will continue to pound the ball as much as possible - five of the seven offenses he’s led has finished top-three in rushes. This week, he’ll lean heavily on power back Gus Edwards and speedy rookie Justice Hill. (And, to a lesser extent, backup quarterback Robert Griffin III.) Edwards is a single-gear runner, but an awfully efficient one, boasting a career 5.2-yard average. Down the 2018 stretch, he averaged 16 carries and 85 yards a game, and was one of the league’s most effective short-yardage runners. Hill will rotate in some, and he looked electric last week on a darting 19-yard touchdown run. But Edwards should lead the way handily. He stands as one of Week 17’s surest bets for usage and volume across the league. It’s worth noting that top blocker Marshal Yanda is also scheduled to sit for Sunday, but that doesn’t move the needle much for this deep, dedicated attack.

The Pittsburgh run defense remains one of football’s strongest. They sit third league-wide on a per-carry basis, and they’ve only allowed 4 opposing runners to top 80 in a game. That’s included stifling matchups against the likes of Nick Chubb (16 for 58), Kenyan Drake (11 for 37), and Le’Veon Bell’s revenge narrative (25 for 72). The Steelers dominate the trenches like few others, with Cameron Heyward and Javon Hargrave still an underappreciated yet dominant tandem in the gaps. Where they tend to struggle is on the second level, when quick runners like Marlon Mack (21 for 89), Devin Singletary (21 for 87), and Kareem Hunt (7 for 46) are able to exploit a small crease. Linebackers Mark Barron and Devin Bush still find themselves out of position - and the running lane - far too often, and both can be overwhelmed when run directly at. Still, this week, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this unit impose its will and keep the Ravens somewhat contained. Heyward, Hargrave, and company will face a Baltimore attack without Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, or top blocker Marshal Yanda.

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

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

Week 17 is always a difficult week to project how running backs are going to perform and how much they are going to play. The Bills are in a situation where they do not need to play this game as they are locked into the 5th seed, but at the same time, they want to continue to develop and get game reps for rookie Devin Singletary. Singletary has taken over as the primary ball carrier in Buffalo averaging 17 carries per game over the last six games and last week Frank Gore was on the field for just two plays against a Patriots team that he had previously rushed for over 100 yards this season. If there is a concern for the Bills it is the offensive line as if there is a group that they might sit it might be on the line as center Mitch Morse is dealing with an ankle injury.

The Jets run defense continues to be one of the top units in the league, especially in the second half as they have allowed just one running back to top 50 yards since Week 9 and have only allowed one running back to top 100 yards all year. This is a unit that many feared would struggle after trading Leonard Williams, but since Week 9 the Jets have allowed just 3.0 yards-per-carry, as rookie Quinnen Williams along with Steve McLendon have been tremendous on the defensive line keeping blockers off of the safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who are outstanding in run support. With it being expected that the Bills will bench their starters at some point in this game, expect the running game to have a difficult time finding anything against a Jets team that is still motivated as we saw last week against Pittsburgh.

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

Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

In his first game as an NFL lead back, Myles Gaskin looked good, but unfortunately, the woes continue for the Dolphins rushing attack as Gaskin was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. This will force the Dolphins to go back to Patrick Laird who has struggled mightily being able to consistently run the ball and has been primarily utilized as a wide receiver. Laird is averaging just 2.9 yards-per-carry which led the Dolphins to sign Samaje Perine off of the Bengals practice squad this week who will serve as the backup along with De’Lance Turner who saw four carries last week and was able to only gain six yards. This is just an overall bad combination as the offensive line lacks talent particularly at the guard position and the Dolphins have very little talent at the running back position which has ultimately led to them being last in the league in rushing this season.

The Patriots run defense has continued to be borderline dominant all year. While they do give up about league average in yards-per-carry at 4.2, the few times opponents have had success is when the Patriots have gotten a lead and played in their conservative dime defense. When the Patriots want to stop the run, they have shown that they are one of the best in football as they have allowed just one rushing touchdown all season and the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Upfront, the Patriots rotate Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler at the defensive tackle position. When they are in the dime defense, Shelton and Guy come out which does leave them vulnerable against the run, but this is done smartly whether it is when the Patriots have a big lead or on an obvious passing down. Simply put, you aren’t going to beat this team running the ball when they think you are going to run the only way to do it is when they think you are going to throw as evidenced by Joe Mixon, Frank Gore, and Nick Chubb all topping 100 yards in games in which they fell behind by multiple scores.

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

Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense vs San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Seattle Seahawks' backfield is as banged-up as they come in the NFL. The Seahawks' first, second, and third-string running backs are all out for the season with various injuries. Subsequently, Seattle has signed back both Thomas Rawls and Marshawn Lynch off the street to add depth. However, when asked how Lynch and/or Rawls would factor into the team's rushing attack in Week 17, head coach Pete Carroll responded that "Travis [Homer] is ready to go." Homer, a rookie sixth-round pick out of Miami, has played sparingly throughout the season, registering only eight carries on the year. Last week, after Chris Carson went down with a fractured hip, Homer played 49-percent of Seattle's offensive snaps, carrying the ball 5 times for 16 yards. Going back to his college days, Homer split work in Miami's backfield throughout his collegiate career. In his final season with the Hurricanes, Homer posted 985 rushing yards on 6.0 yards per carry, proving to be an efficient ball-carrier when called-upon. Expect Homer to lead the way in Seattle's run-heavy offense against the San Francisco 49ers in a game that will decide who comes out on top of the NFC West.

San Francisco's run defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs of any team in the league this season. This stout performance is a product of a low volume faced on the ground, coupled with an impressive ability to keep opposing running backs out of the end zone; however, on a per-play basis, the 49ers have allowed 4.5 yards per carry, which ranks 25th in the NFL this year. Their defensive line, featuring Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa, three above-average run-stoppers, is one of the league's best. However, the second level of the defense is a definite weakness. Fred Warner, the team's number-one linebacker, has always struggled against the run, and this season he has missed a whopping 19 tackles. San Francisco's secondary unit is filled with willing run-supporters, as Jimmie Ward, Richard Sherman, and K'Waun Williams all grade as above-average players in this regard. If safety Jaquiski Tartt, the 49ers' most versatile defensive player, is available to play (he is currently listed as questionable,) he will bolster an already-strong unit. Overall, the talent of San Francisco's run defense resembles that of a top-tier unit, and their poor efficiency totals may be a product of low volume faced. Unless Travis Homer surpasses all expectations, this projects to be a tough matchup for a running back to make his debut in his respective offense's starting lineup, and the Seahawks will be in for a long day at the office on the ground.

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