Week 2 Rushing Matchups

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

Jump to Passing Matchups

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


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.


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

As great as the Patriots were through the air against the Steelers, they struggled on the ground. Sony Michel had a hard time getting going as he had just 15 yards on 14 carries and there was seemingly little room for the second-year running back to get going. Backup running back, Rex Burkhead was the sole bright spot for the Patriots rushing attack this week as he was able to rush for 44 yards on just 8 carries albeit most of which was when the game was out of hand. Along the offensive line, the Patriots are a bit of a mess, the team is missing center David Andrews who was placed on IR with blood clots, and right tackle Marcus Cannon left the game with a shoulder injury that is expected to keep him out for a while. offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia likely has his hands full with this unit, but he is the best in the business and it remains to be seen how the team will replace Cannon as last week they moved left guard Joe Thuney to right tackle and Jermaine Eluemunor moved to left guard who had been with the team for just 11 days. The other option would be to keep Thuney at guard and start Korey Cunningham who was inactive last week as he did start six games last season with the Cardinals. Either way, it’s not a great situation in New England along the offensive line.

Miami’s defense looks like it has given up before the season has even started. The Ravens essentially did whatever they wanted last week and the Dolphins had no resistance to the Ravens attack. Baltimore ran the ball 46 times for 265 yards in the blowout win last week, and the linebacker concerns that we had before the season rang true as Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan, and Sam Eguavoen all struggled. The team’s highest-paid player, Reshad Jones appears to have fallen out of favor in Miami as he played just 44% of the team’s snaps and was taken out on several key plays in this game. Along the defensive line, Christian Wilkins was the lone bright spot as he anchored the defensive line and showing his quickness off the ball which is why the Dolphins selected him in the first round. Brian Flores has a significant challenge heading into this game facing his former team in the Patriots that are looking to establish the offensive line and their running game after struggling in Week 1.

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


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bills rushing attack likely is going to see a changing of the guard sooner rather than later. Frank Gore ran for just 20 yards on 11 carries, while rookie Devin Singletary had just four carries but looked explosive rushing for 70 yards with every carry being longer than 12 yards. Singletary scored 66 touchdowns in his three seasons at Florida Atlantic rushing for 6.0 yards per carry. The Bills offensive line did struggle, particularly up the middle as there was very little room for Frank Gore to get through and he was met with a defender almost immediately when running between the tackles. Josh Allen continues to be a threat on the ground as he ran the ball 10 times and was able to score a touchdown on the ground as he adds a factor to this offense that can more than make up for the lack of talent on the offensive line.

The Giants rushing defense looks to be an improved unit at least in Week 1 after last season having one of the worst rushing attacks in football after they traded Damon Harrison. The Giants held the Cowboys tandem of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott to just 2.96 yards per carry. Jabrill Peppers seems to be the biggest addition to this defense as the run-stopping specialist had seven tackles this past week and was all over the place against the run. B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson both who have been inconsistent throughout their career were able to put together a solid game in this one and keep the elite Cowboys offensive line from creating big holes for Elliott and Pollard to run through in this game. In what could have been a game script that created a lack of motivation leading to big runs, this is a unit that fought up until the final whistle which was encouraging to see and while it is still an incredibly flawed unit at the linebacker position with Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis, it got off to an encouraging start week one.

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


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Once considered a scatback who couldn’t handle an early-down load, Christian McCaffrey has left any running-game doubts in the dust. After averaging 2.4 yards per rush over his first 8 NFL games, he’s produced 5.0 over his last 25. He was unstoppable last Sunday, gashing the Rams for 6.7 en route to 128 on the day. He broke off runs of 23, 18, 17, and 12 yards among his 19 attempts, simply erupting through holes and shaking would-be tacklers in the open field. McCaffrey has fine-tuned his body for the rigors of the NFL, and he’s proven himself a playmaker running both inside and outside. Quarterback Cam Newton doesn’t run as often as he used to but remains difficult to square up with defensively. And both will continue to benefit from running behind a strong run-blocking line. Led by center Matt Paradis and right guard Trai Turner, this is a group adept at both mauling in the trenches and clearing paths on the second level. Promising young nose tackle Vita Vea will provide a challenge Sunday, but the unit did a fine job against the game’s best, Aaron Donald, in Week 1.

For the most part, the Tampa Bay run defense impressed in Week 1. Led by a dominant front line, the team stifled Kyle Shanahan’s three-headed attack - Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert totaled just 100 yards over 30 attempts. There were a few chunk plays, but beyond their 3 longest runs, the 49ers averaged just 1.9 per carry. Second-year tackle Vita Vea was a terror, consistently tying up blockers on the interior and allowing the linebackers to roam. Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett were especially active on the second level, and safety Jordan Whitehead (seven solo tackles) was helpful in the box Combined with rookie Devin White, there’s plenty of playmaking in this unit. One week doesn’t quite wash away the rough memories of 2018 where they allowed 4.7 yards-per-carry, but it was an eye-opening start to the season.

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


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

Ezekiel Elliott ended his holdout from Cowboys training camp in time to return and play in Dallas' week one matchup against the New York Giants. Having not practiced with the team all summer, Elliott was not quite in football shape for week one, and he may not reach that point for a few more weeks. Even in his less-than-ideal physical state, Elliott still played 54 percent of snaps and carried the ball 13 times. Backup Tony Pollard also carried the ball 13 times in the opened, but for only 24 yards compared to Elliott's 53. In week two and beyond, Elliott's snap count and touch count will ascend while Pollard's declines, as the Cowboys, will undoubtedly want to get their money's worth after making Ezekiel Elliott the league's highest-paid running back. Elliott will run behind one of the NFL's most reliable offensive lines once again in week two. After playing just over half of Dallas' offensive snaps in week one, expect Ezekiel Elliott to climb closer to the bell-cow status in week two. While he will not quite reach the usage levels of previous seasons, his near-bell-cow role will likely produce impressive numbers thanks to the remarkable group of run-blockers Elliott will run behind.

Washington was expected to field a serviceable run defense in 2019, but unfortunately, the unit was dealt a major blow right out of the gates in week one. Defense tackle Jonathan Allen was lost to a knee injury after just seven snaps against Philadelphia. Allen is expected to miss a few weeks, but filling his shoes is a tall task. On the defensive line, without Allen, Matt Ioannidis turned in one of the worst performances of his career in week one, Daron Payne struggled to stifle the run, and the rotation of defensive linemen filling in for Jonathan Allen was serviceable at best. At linebacker, Jon Bostic failed to replace the production of the recently-departed Zach Brown. Historically, Bostic's impact in run defense has been markedly negative, which shows that this is a trend that is likely to continue. Bostic's running-mates in the linebacking corps were unable to pick up the slack. Washington ultimately allowed Philadelphia's running backs to run for 116 yards on 4.5 yards-per-carry in week one, and this defense is primed to struggle once again in week two.

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


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense at Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Kansas City entered the season with little clarity at the running back position. Damien Williams emerged as a capable NFL running back late in the 2018 season, but his role in the 2019 offense was unclear. Williams entered the season as the team's starter, and he played 45 snaps (66 percent of potential offensive snaps) in week one. Williams produced just 26 yards on 13 carries throughout the Chiefs' week one domination of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Behind Williams on the depth chart was the newly-acquired LeSean McCoy. In McCoy's debut for Kansas City, he played just 20 offensive snaps but carried the ball 10 times for 81 yards over those snaps. Williams will likely continue as Kansas City's starter for the near future, but should he falter McCoy will be waiting in the wings to assume the starting role. Kansas City's offensive line ranks as one of the league's best, and they proved why in week one with an impressive display of run-blocking against Jacksonville.

Over the offseason, the Oakland Raiders made a clear investment in its defense, both via free agency and the NFL Draft. The Raiders signed linebacker Vontaze Burfict away from the Cincinnati Bengals and reaped immediate rewards in run defense thanks to this signing. Burfict jumped off the screen as the team's top run-defender in week one by making three run stops against the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, aside from Burfict, there was not much to be excited about defensively for Oakland. The Raiders lost rookie safety Jonathan Abram to a torn rotator cuff following week one, and he will likely miss the entire season. Curtis Riley will likely step into the starting lineup at safety in Abram's absence. Riley's erratic performance throughout his career has left him unable to secure a position in any team's long-term plan over recent years. The Denver Broncos' running backs ran for over 4.7 yards-per-carry against Oakland in week one. Losing a starting safety that doubles as one of the team's most physical defenders does not bode well for the Raiders' chances of improving against the run. Oakland's run defense was already below-average entering the season, and this unit can ill afford any more losses to injury.

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


Los Angeles Rams Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

After barely playing down the stretch in 2018, Todd Gurley opened the 2019 season by playing 71 percent of offensive snaps for the Los Angeles Rams. Throughout week one against the Carolina Panthers, Gurley carried the ball 14 times for 97 yards. Gurley's involvement in the offense increased from the levels he stooped to late in 2018, but still, do not quite match his early-2018 numbers. Gurley's backup, Malcolm Brown, also carried the ball 11 times in the season opener, including 2 carries inside the 5-yard line, which he converted into touchdowns. The Rams' offensive line has undoubtedly regressed since last season following critical departures on the interior of the unit in Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. The tackles remain two of the best in the NFL in Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein who will be relied upon to anchor the offensive line to continue to drive this rushing attack forward.

In week one, the New Orleans Saints allowed the Houston Texans to run for 7.8 yards-per-carry, the 2nd-worst mark in the entire NFL. To add insult to injury, the running back that primarily did the damage was Carlos Hyde, a man most had thought was washed up after fizzling out in Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Kansas City over the last 12 months. Hyde carried the ball 10 times for 83 yards on the night himself, while Duke Johnson contributed with 57 yards on just 9 carries. Coming off a season in which the New Orleans run defense ranked second in the NFL in yards-per-carry allowed, this type of performance was stunning. All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan turned in the only notably-strong performance of the week in run-support. Behind him, however, there was little cause for optimism. Starting linebacker Demario Davis turned in his worst run-stopping performance since joining the New Orleans Saints. Also, Von Bell finished the 2018 season as one of the league's best safeties in run support. This performance was undeniably critical to New Orleans' success defending the run, and he, too, played one of his worst games in run support in recent memory. Following such a strong season, overreacting to one single game of weak run defense would be a critical error in evaluating this matchup. Expect New Orleans' run defense to correct itself shortly and return to form as one of the league's best units.

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


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Los Angeles Rams Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Mark Ingram's departure from the New Orleans backfield proved to be impactful in week one, not from an efficiency standpoint, but a personnel standpoint. Alvin Kamara played 61 percent of offensive snaps throughout 2018 when Mark Ingram was active for the New Orleans Saints. In week one of 2019, Alvin Kamara was on the field for 76 percent of New Orleans' offensive snaps. Kamara carried the ball 13 times for 97 yards in the season opener, while backup Latavius Murray carried the ball just 6 times. In 2019, Kamara's role will undoubtedly expand beyond his 2018 involvement in the Saints' offense. New Orleans' offensive line is one of the league's best units, especially at run blocking. In week two and beyond, Alvin Kamara will dominate the carries running behind one of the NFL's best offensive line. This combination of running back and offensive line talent will make New Orleans one of the league's most productive rushing attacks.

Los Angeles struggled defensively to stop the run in week one, as Christian McCaffrey gashed them for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries. Carolina's fullback Alex Armah also contributed a one-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. As expected, Aaron Donald was the Rams' top performer against the run, but the Panthers game planned to stop Donald as they frequently double teamed and ran away from the All-Pro. The Rams' linebackers were surprisingly ineffective in containing Christian McCaffrey in the season opener. Most notably, Cory Littleton, Los Angeles' leading tackler in 2018, was entirely unable to disrupt Carolina's rushing attack last week. The Carolina Panthers nearly mounted a second-half comeback thanks to the success of the team's rushing attack, which is extremely rare in the modern NFL. Los Angeles lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to free agency over the summer, and the void he left next to Aaron Donald on the defensive line is evident after just one game. Sebastian Joseph-Day and Michael Brockers failed to rise to the occasion without Suh, allowing McCaffrey to have a field day against this run defense. Unless a defensive lineman other than Aaron Donald steps up in week two, Los Angeles' struggles defending the run will likely continue once again here against New Orleans in week two.

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


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Doug Pederson has long been a supporter of a "running back by committee" approach to the running game, and the start to 2019 has proven no different. The Philadelphia Eagles played three different running backs for at least 23 percent of offensive snaps in week one against the Washington Redskins. Jordan Howard carried the ball 6 times for 44 yards, Darren Sproles carried the ball 9 times for 47 yards, and Miles Sanders carried the ball 11 times for 25 yards in week one. The surprising number here is certainly Darren Sproles registering 9 carries in his return from an injury sustained in week 1 of the 2018 season. Overall, the efficiency of Philadelphia's rushing attack was impressive, in large part thanks to the team's strength at offensive line. Philadelphia's offense will continue to distribute carries broadly across multiple players throughout the season, depending on whose strengths best fit each individual scenario. One constant, however, will likely be a high level of efficiency on the ground thanks to more-optimized personnel groupings and a highly-effective run blocking.

The Minnesota Vikings ran the ball early, often, and efficiently against the Atlanta Falcons in week one. Vikings running backs ran the ball 32 times for 168 yards, and 2 scores in their 2019 opener against Atlanta. The Falcons offered little resistance to whichever running back lined up in Minnesota's backfield in week one, whether it be Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, or Ameer Abdullah. Atlanta's interior defensive linemen posted impressive numbers on the day. Grady Jarrett and Jack Crawford were two of the only Falcons defenders that consistently disrupted Minnesota's rushing attack, but unfortunately, their supporting cast was unable to match their production. On the edges, both Vic Beasley, Jr. and Takkarist McKinley were rendered ineffective by Minnesota's offensive tackles. Aside from Deion Jones, there was little support elsewhere in the defense. Previously-strong run-supporting safeties struggled greatly against the run in week one. A week two matchup with Philadelphia will certainly offer Atlanta some reprieve from the run-dominant offense they faced in week one. It is difficult to make a definite conclusion following such an extreme one-game sample. However, following a weak showing throughout 2018, there is reason to believe Atlanta's run defense may be a long-term issue once again in 2019.

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


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Mark Ingram started and led the committee early, and he didn’t disappoint in his team debut, racking up 107 yards on 14 carries and scoring twice. Ingram ran with purpose and power, particularly on a bruising, 49-yard scamper on the game’s first play. Gus Edwards sprinkled in liberally with power of his own, running 17 times for 56 yards, though most of his usage came late and well behind Ingram. It looks clear that, on most weeks, there will be plenty of volume and offensive support for any (or all) to post big weeks on the ground. The way this dominant front is opening holes, both are always on the brink of a huge gain and a solid RB2 fantasy day. Marshal Yanda leads a powerful group that’s built to run-block, sometimes mauling at the point of attack and sometimes pulling to spring holes on the move. Quarterback Lamar Jackson and explosive rookie Justice Hill remain game-to-game wild cards, but both also carry the same week-winning upsides. Simply put: no fantasy backfield boasts a stronger blend of opportunity and efficiency than this one.

Just one year removed from being football’s worst run defense, the Cardinals offered a glimmer of hope on Sunday. Despite facing electric young runner Kerryon Johnson, the longest gain they allowed all day was a 12-yard keeper by Matthew Stafford. All told, they held Lions running backs to just 90 yards over 28 attempts, thanks in large part to the aggressive play of linebackers Jordan Hicks and Terrell Suggs. Hicks recorded 14 total tackles, including 2 for losses, while Suggs chimed in a pair of lost-yardage stuffs of his own. Suggs has long been underrated as a run-game playmaker, and his presence could make a huge impact on the Cardinals. With nose tackle Corey Peters occupying blockers to keep them free, there’s a reason to believe this unit won’t be quite as terrible as last years unit

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


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Bears offense put forth a poor showing in their season opener against the Packers last week. As the entire offense struggled, so did their rushing game as Bears running backs combined for just 37 rushing yards on 11 attempts. With Tarik Cohen lining up on 70% of the snaps and Mitchell Trubisky attempting 46 passes, there was no room to establish much of a ground game. Mike Davis out-snapped rookie David Montgomery 41-to-28, but Montgomery saw six carries to the five allotted to Davis. While Montgomery may be poised to take over this backfield eventually based on his talent profile, this will continue to be a committee between Montgomery and Davis as game script permits. The Bears offensive line also had a poor showing as they were thrown around in the trenches by the Packers, which certainly did not help the ground game get rolling.

The Broncos defense had a tough time with Josh Jacobs and the Raiders in their season opener, allowing Jacobs to rush for 85 yards and two touchdowns. While the interior of their defensive line played well, it was the absence of Todd Davis at linebacker that hurt the Broncos as they could have used Davis as one of their top run-stoppers on defense. Davis remains questionable with a calf injury, so his status will be worth monitoring this week. The Broncos edge defenders Bradley Chubb and Von Miller both turned in a subpar Week 1 performance as they struggled in their matchups against what should have been beatable offensive tackles from the Raiders. It is tough to over-react based on one week, but this Broncos defensive line will need to step up in what should, again, be a winnable matchup for them against a Chicago defensive line that was tossed around by the Packers last week.

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


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense at New York Jets Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Browns were forced to scramble alongside the offensive line as Greg Robinson was ejected and an injury to his backup Kendall Lamm forced Chris Hubbard to move from right tackle to left tackle, and Justin McCray who had been with the team for just a week after being acquired by Green Bay to slide to right tackle. Even with the struggles, Nick Chubb was able to have a solid day rushing for 75 yards on 17 carries and was one of the lone bright spots for this Browns team in a blow-out disappointing loss. Chubb continues to be electric with the ball consistently picking up solid gains. The problem for the Browns last week was penalties that killed a lot of their drives as they second-most penalties in franchise history with 18 penalties including six personal fouls and four holding penalties. This is a unit that still has a lot of promise and Chubb should continue to be productive each week.

The Jets run defense was one that was up and down in this game. They did a tremendous job shutting down veteran Frank Gore holding him to just 20 yards on 11 carries but struggled with the change of pace speed in Devin Singletary allowing 70 yards on just 4 carries and all 4 of those carries went for 12 yards or more. A big part of Singletary’s production was the injuries that were suffered during this game primarily to linebacker and signal-caller C.J. Mosley who played a major role in shutting down the Bills in the first half. If he is unable to go, which it looks likely, this is a defense that will look at Harvey Langi as his replacement who has just one career tackle and did not have a tackle in 25 snaps last week. Another injury that the Jets are dealing with is third-overall pick defensive tackle Quinnen Williams who is dealing with an ankle injury. While Williams is still acclimating himself to the NFL, he did see 35% of the snaps and is a depth player as he learns behind veteran run-stuffer Steve McClendon. This defense completely depends on the health of Mosley as without him it is a unit that is going to put a significant amount of pressure on elite safety Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye defending the run which is never a great thing to rely on your safeties as a primary defense against the run.

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


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Lions running backs had an uninspiring first game as Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson combined for 84 yards on 27 carries in five quarters of play, averaging just over three yards per carry. This performance was particularly disappointing given the second-half game script with the Lions protecting their lead in the third and early fourth quarters. Johnson got the start and saw most of the snaps (50 snaps to Anderson’s 26) due to his involvement in the passing game. However, the split between Johnson and Blount was surprising even at 16-11 in favor of Johnson. Anderson has basically filled the exact role vacated by LeGarrette Blount from last season as he was often seen plodding along for short gains, offering little inspiration on the ground as he looks to serve primarily as a short-yardage and goal-line threat.

The Lions could have a great opportunity to get right if this Chargers run defense repeats their Week 1 performance against the Colts. Marlon Mack racked up 174 rushing yards and a touchdown against this group as he had his way throughout the entire game. The interior of this Chargers defensive line let them down as rookie Jerry Tillery had a poor debut on limited snaps while starters Brandon Mebane and Justin Jones were being easily bossed around in the trenches. The Chargers linebackers did not help much either as both Kyzir White or veteran Thomas Davis struggled to stop Marlon Mack. It is worth noting, however, that the Chargers were without one of their top run-defenders in middle linebacker Denzel Perryman as he was on the verge of recovering from offseason injuries. If Perryman can suit up this week, it will be a big boost as he was one of their top run-stoppers last season. Both Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram played fairly well last week and will also remain strengths for this unit. The Lions offensive line is a step down from the Colts, so it will be interesting to see how they hold up to what should be an improved Chargers defense if Perryman can suit up.

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


Houston Texans Rushing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Houston’s ground game is off to a hot start as they amassed a combined 180 rushing yards against the Saints. It was actually Carlos Hyde who led the team both in carries and rushing yards, rushing 10 times for 83 yards. Duke Johnson was right behind him with nine carries for 57 yards--also a respectable stat line as this Texans offensive line actually overproduced in the run-blocking department. Hyde was the one to receive the start and gained most early-down carries while Johnson slotted in more on passing downs, assuming the role as when he was with the Browns. Both backs were impressive on the ground, but it was Hyde who looked the best. If this truly does end up being a committee, both roles may become game-script dependent with Johnson slotting on when the Texans are playing catch-up. Don’t sleep on Deshaun Watson as a rusher either. Given the constant pressure he was under, Watson managed to rush for 40 yards--including a 21-yard touchdown run to start off the game. That run did cause a back injury that Watson played through for the rest of the game, but he should still be expected to start this week.

The Jaguars defense had a poor showing against the top offense in the league, but their run defense actually did a decent job on most snaps as they held Chiefs starter Damien Williams to just 26 yards on 13 carries. It was actually LeSean McCoy who gashed the Jaguars on a few plays as McCoy ran for 81 yards on just 10 attempts. Defensive captain and top linebacker Miles Jack was ejected after throwing a punch in the second quarter--so that certainly did not help this defense. Jack should be available this week and can be an impact player when on the field. Both Abry Jones and Calais Campbell should have advantages on the interior while Josh Allen should have a good chance to shine against a very weak right side of the Texans offensive line. Right defensive end Marcell Darius remains week to week with an elbow injury, so keep an eye on his status. If he does suit up, it is an even further downgrade for the Texans backfield.

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


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Marlon Mack saw the heaviest workload of any running back in Week 1, finishing with 25 carries and a league-leading 174 rushing yards with one rushing touchdown. With no Andrew Luck, the Colts gameplan centered around Mack--particularly in the second half where he picked up 153 of those 174 rushing yards. The offensive line looked as good as advertised, picking up where they left off last season as a top-tier unit that easily opened massive running lanes for Mack. Nyheim Hines, as expected, saw a light workload on the ground with just four carries. Jacoby Brissett has shown flashes of mobility throughout his career, so keep an eye on him for minor contributions in the rushing department.

The Titans run defense was good, but not great, in last week’s game against the Browns. They held Nick Chubb to 75 rushing yards on 17 carries, averaging a decent 4.4 yards per attempt. The game script had the Browns playing from behind from much of the second half while penalties put them in too many passing situations to get going on the ground--otherwise, that stat line for Chubb could have been better. Jurrell Casey didn’t play up to his normal level as he may still be slowed by that late-season knee injury from 2018. DaQuan Jones played a solid game at nose tackle, but the Titans linebackers struggled against the run with Rashaan Evans. The Browns offensive line was ranked in the lower half of the league by Footballguys specialist Matt Bitonti, whereas the Colts are an elite unit ranked near the top-five. This Titans front seven will need to play much better to stop Marlon Mack after what he and this offensive line did last week.

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


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Jaguars had a rough outing against the Chiefs, but Leonard Fournette was a relative bright spot as he found some success both on the ground and through the air while finishing the game injury-free. Fournette looked noticeably more agile after dropping weight in the offseason. He finished averaging just over five yards per carry as he amassed 66 rushing yards from 13 attempts. As expected, Fournette had no competition for touches as Ryquell Armstead saw just one carry on eight snaps compared to the 50 snaps played by Fournette. Fournette did fumble for the first time in his career last week, but his track record of ball security should cause no concern of that becoming a worry in the future. The Jaguars offensive line actually played very well considering they had to start a third-string left tackle with both Cam Robinson and his backup sidelined. Rookie right tackle Jawaan Taylor played well and helped carry this group to give them a strong right side to lean on. Robinson is expected to be out again this week, meaning that the left side of this line will continue to be vulnerable.

The Texans were lit up by the elite Saints offensive line and ground game, allowing 148 rushing yards and an average of over seven yards per attempt to Saints running backs--third-worst in that category amongst defenses in Week 1. The entire defensive line, with the exception of Whitney Mercilus, had a tough time last week. D.J. Reader has to be a leader on the interior for this team to be effective against the run. It would have definitely helped had the linebacker group also lived up to their potential, but they too were subpar in the season debut with Bernardrick McKinney having a particularly poor game against the run. Even Texans safeties missed plays in run defense, with Justin Reid making a few blunders in the tackling department. The Saints offense is on another level from the Jaguars, though. With Cam Robinson potentially still out, the Texans defense should have a decent chance at a performance closer to their preseason expectations this week.

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


Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Chargers running backs made a convincing case that they can be just fine without Melvin Gordon in last week’s season opener. Austin Ekeler saw 75 percent of the snaps last week as he rushed 12 times for 58 yards and a touchdown while adding even more yards and touchdowns as a heavily utilized receiver. Justin Jackson saw just 25 percent of the snaps but averaged 9.5 yards per carry as he finished with 57 rushing yards from six attempts after his first run of the game went for 26 yards. Ekeler appeared to be the clear lead back and is very capable of assuming that role until the potential return of Gordon. Justin Jackson is more of a true rusher with limited upside in the passing game, but he will continue to serve in a secondary capacity with Ekeler leading the way here. The Chargers offensive line performed relatively well in run protection last week despite their obvious struggles against edge rushers on passing downs. Their strengths on the interior at center and guard were on full display while the glaring weakness will remain at the tackle position until left tackle Russell Okung can make it back on the field.

The reformed Lions defensive line had a solid showing as both Damon Harrison and Mike Daniels debuted with the Lions. Harrison did not quite live up to expectations as a run stopper as he played only 27 defensive snaps, showing signs of fatigue later in the game after missing most of the preseason. The rest of this line did a great job though, appearing to be in full control until the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter in which the Cardinals were able to reel off significant runs and it continued into overtime allowing David Johnson to finish with 82 yards after just 25 yards at halftime. A’Shawn Robinson, in particular, surprised with a great performance on the interior while Mike Daniels put up the same kind of solid performance we saw from him during his time with the Packers. Middle linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin also had a nice game in run defense despite his missteps in pass coverage. The strength of the Chargers offensive line is on the interior, but the Lions defensive line should still have the upper hand if Harrison can perform up to his usual standard.

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


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kyle Shanahan’s offense boasts a stout reputation for its effects on runners. And for the time being, that efficiency should concentrate mostly within a clear-cut lead back. With Tevin Coleman out of commission, Matt Breida will spearhead the attack. Breida never found his footing last week, but he’s been one of the league’s most dynamic runners since last season, with a 5.1-yard average over 15 games. He won’t flat-out dominate the backfield, though he’ll likely take on 60% or better of the rushing opportunities. The team will rotate in journeyman Raheem Mostert, who has established himself as an explosive rotational back in Shanahan’s system. He’s generated 7.0 yards per rush dating back to last year. Both backs will work behind a solid line, and within a scheme that’s long brought success to its runners. As such, both offer some degree of standalone flex value against the Bengals’ weak run defense.

Surprisingly, the Bengals opened the year by thoroughly stifling the Seahawks’ imposing run game. Seattle runners totaled just 72 yards on their 25 rushes, with 29% of that production coming on a single play. Last season was disastrous for this unit, but there are pieces in place that could make it less attractive to face in fantasy matchups. On running downs, nose Andrew Billings does a solid job of occupying blockers at the line. And linebacker Nick Vigil, who racked up seven tackles on opening day, tends to capitalize nicely; he’s one of football’s more dependable tacklers in the box. A solid safety duo is in place to help when runners do crack the second level. There will likely be inconsistency all year, as this probably hasn’t become a shutdown unit overnight. But Week 1 did represent a noticeable step forward.

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


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Bruce Arians isn’t a run-centric coach by any stretch; he’s gone on the record about his dislike of the ground game before. Still, it’ll have to happen sometimes. And in Week 1, Ronald Jones II showed his first signs of life as an NFL runner, bringing far more explosiveness and consistency than the plodding Peyton Barber. Jones was fantastic behind a surgical run-blocking line, ripping off chunk runs throughout the second half en route to 75 yards. It was only one game, but probably all Jones needed to do to prompt a change. A productive workhorse at USC, he simply brings more dynamism to the role than Barber and his career 3.8-yard average. Barber still has a role here, as the team trusts his steadiness and pass-game value. But Jones is much more capable of maximizing the Buccaneers’ strong front line, and he’ll likely lead the way in opportunity for the foreseeable future. Of course, he’ll be largely dependent on the front line, which is shaky but impressed in Week 1. The interior, led by left guard Ali Marpet and center Ryan Jensen, is adept at opening holes for Jones to exploit.

The Panthers looked dominant against the Rams’ stout front for much of Week 1: throughout the first half, they allowed Rams running backs just 37 yards on 10 carries. Eventually, though, Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown began to find room to spring big runs. Overall, this Panthers unit looks similar to the 2018 version, which made for a fairly juicy fantasy target week-to-week. Over their last 9 games, they’ve now allowed 11 different runners to top 50 yards, with 8 ground touchdowns along the way. The front line is strong, led by a trio of big-name stars still performing at a high level, but there are issues down the field. Linebacker Luke Kuechly remains solid but isn’t an impenetrable force up the middle, and missed tackles continue to plague the group as a whole. Ronald Jones II has yet to prove himself on the NFL level, but if he’s given the holes he was in Week 1, he could produce another big day against the Panthers’ second level.

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


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Derrick Henry is off to a hot start in 2019 as he was the clear cut lead running back for the Titans, finishing with 19 carries for 84 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Titans went to Henry in the red zone and on the goal line last week as he punched in that touchdown from the 1-yard line. Dion Lewis was an afterthought, receiving just three carries that went for nowhere. The Titans offensive line was down two starters last week with left tackle Taylor Lewan serving his four-game suspension while right guard Kevin Pamphile was inactive due to a knee injury. While the offensive line noticeably struggled in pass protection, they held together reasonably well when blocking for Derrick Henry, allowing him to average 4.4 yards per attempt. Right tackle Jack Conklin, in particular, looked great as he appears back to good form with health on his side. While Lewan will remain out this week and Pamphile’s status is questionable, it looks like this line can hold their own even when short-staffed.

The Colts front seven had a tough time containing Chargers rushers last week as they allowed an average of 6.4 rushing yards per attempt with long runs of 19 and 24 yards. Linebacker Darius Leonard had a mediocre start coming off his impressive rookie season, so his performance will be something to watch since he plays a critical role in the effectiveness of this run defense. The left side of this defensive line also struggled in run defense last week, which poses an opportunity for the Titans as their strong side is currently on the right with Jack Conklin. Justin Houston, on the other hand, was solid in his Colts debut and should present a matchup challenge for backup left tackle Dennis Kelly. If defensive end Jabaal Sheard can make it back on the field this week, it will dampen the outlook for the Titans as Sheard is a talent upgrade opposite Houston and would be a tougher matchup for Conklin to handle.

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


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Even in his best moments, David Johnson has never been very efficient as a ground-game bell cow. That’s why it was so encouraging to see him generate a handful of chunk runs against the Lions’ solid run defense in Week 1. Johnson averaged 4.6 yards over his 18 carries, a mark he’d only reached twice over his previous 21 appearances. The Cardinals’ new spread attack affords Johnson more opportunity to win in space, after years spent slamming too often into the line. With him and Kyler Murray sharing a backfield, open-field running should put a ton of pressure on any opposing defense. Of course, a line is still needed to create that space, and this group is still very much in flux. There are solid run-blocking pieces in place, but injuries and inconsistency have already reared their heads. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed Week 1 and looks questionable at best for Sunday, and Justin Murray was shaky Sunday in his place. The team could try and work second-year man Mason Cole, who played all five positions at Michigan, into that role. He’d likely bring a big upgrade over Murray in both phases of the offense.

The Baltimore run defense, like the rest of the team, came out in smothering fashion against the hapless Dolphins in Week 1. As a team, Miami mustered all of 21 yards on its 12 attempts. The opportunity was scarce, but neither Dolphin lead back made a dent in the Ravens’ lock-down front. It was an encouraging sight as this unit enters the year in such transition. The loss of middle linebacker C.J. Mosley will be felt, as will those of Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. But their replacements certainly looked well-groomed on Sunday. Patrick Onwuasor led an impressive linebacker rotation, and Matt Judon continued to dazzle as one of football’s lesser-known playmaking stars. As always, they were freed to roam and make plays on the ball by a thoroughly dominant line, led by Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams, that both penetrate and soak up blocking. This remains one of fantasy’s most imposing matchups; David Johnson will need to find his way into space to generate yardage Sunday.

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


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense vs San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Lead back Joe Mixon has been diagnosed with an ankle sprain, and while the severity isn’t yet known, he’ll likely sit this game out. It’s a blow to the Bengals, for sure, though they’re fairly comfortable with Giovani Bernard in the driver’s seat for a few games at a time. Bernard isn’t built for a bell-cow role; when Mixon went down last week, the team quickly shifted to pass-first mode despite holding a second-half lead. But he’s still a quick, instinctive runner who’s efficient when given usage. Over the past 2+ seasons, he’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 49 per game when starting in relief. Like Mixon’s, his nimble feet are capable of mitigating the Bengals’ shaky offensive line. Even with Cordy Glenn in the lineup, there’s a startling lack of run-blocking talent upfront. The Bengals will look to get Bernard into space and evading open-field tacklers as much as possible. Mixon is more talented and will be missed, but history tells us it can be done.

Throughout a miserable 2018, the 49ers’ primary strength was a stout run defense that finished seventh on a per-carry basis. But the unit struggled on opening day, allowing several chunk runs to the Buccaneers’ ho-hum attack. Ronald Jones II, who averaged just 1.9 yards per rush as a rookie, picked up 5 yards or more on 8 of his 13 attempts. Still, it’s too early to conclude this strong, talented unit. DeForest Buckner is a true building block along the line, while rookie Nick Bosa announced his NFL presence with a few notable plays in run defense. Their pressure upfront - along with help from run-stuffing safety Jaquiski Tartt - goes a long way in making up for a mediocre group of linebackers. There will be better days ahead for this crew, and the Bengals’ shaky, the beaten-up line makes for a great opportunity to get on track.

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


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Packers predictably struggled in their season-opener against the elite Chicago Bears defense. Aaron Jones led the backfield with 13 carries for 39 yards. While Jones was the clear lead back, the snap split was still pretty close with Jones seeing just 59% of snaps compared to 41% from Jamaal Williams. Williams was alotted five carries but did basically nothing with them, netting out to zero rushing yards. Jones did head to the sideline briefly with what appeared to be a hand injury, but he returned to the field on the following drive and is not listed on the injury report. The Packers offensive line had a tough time against one of the top defensive lines in football, and things will not improve much this week as they draw another difficult matchup against the Vikings.

The Vikings allowed just 50 rushing yards to Falcons running backs last week as their defensive line commanded the trenches combined with a game script that forced the Falcons to go pass-heavy. Devonta Freeman was held to only 19 yards on eight carries. The Vikings interior defensive line appeared to pick up right where they left off last season as a top-tier unit. Despite the loss of Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen played very well against the run. Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr also did well picking up the slack while Harrison Smith made some great tackles from the third level--leading the team with eight solo tackles. The Packers offensive line may not have looked great last week against the Bears, but this is still a talented unit that should match up well even against this stout Vikings defensive front. Even if the Packers do win in the trenches, the Vikings have solid playmakers on the second and third level to chip in--a trait that continues to make them a top-tier run defense.

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


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense at Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Dalvin Cook looked spectacular in his season debut for the Vikings, rushing 21 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns against a soft Falcons run defense. Cook showed both quickness and power as he made nice cuts through wide-open holes while even carrying defenders into the end zone for his second touchdown. Backup Alexander Mattison also got in on the fun with nine carries for 49 yards as he showed great acceleration while making some nice moves downfield. The Vikings offensive line certainly out-performed their bottom-tier ranking coming into Week 1, but that doesn’t mean they have no concerns with rookie center Garrett Bradbury having a forgettable debut as he had a hard time getting off the ball to his blocks. This offensive line will be worth watching moving forward, as not even matchup will be as fruitful as the Falcons were.

The Packers front seven looked formidable against the Bears in Week 1. Preston Smith had a spectacular debut with the Packers, showing how effective he can be both against the run and the pass. Za’Darius Smith showed improvement over last season as well, while Kenny Clark turned in another solid showing familiar to what he did all of last season. New safety Adrian Amos also had a great first game as he hauled in an interception while also making a few stops against the run. Vikings center Garrett Bradbury will have his hands full against this Packers defensive front as the Vikings offensive line will be tested in this one. Dalvin Cook will need to be just as powerful after contact as he was in Week 1 to have anywhere near that level of success on the ground.

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


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

Even in a game script that did not favor the Giants rushing attack, Saquon Barkley was dominant rushing for 120 yards on just 11 carries. While the offensive line is still a below-average unit, this is likely the best offensive line that the Giants have had in several seasons as the trade for Kevin Zeitler is already paying dividends, and second-year offensive guard Will Hernandez looks much improved from last season as well. Barkley is their best player by far and the team needs to remain committed to the run regardless of the score especially in the first half as the Giants were only down no more than a touchdown until 1 minute left in the first half. Barkley had just five carries for 73 yards in the first half which has to change if the Giants want any resemblance of a balanced offense.

The Bills have spent a lot on their front seven over the past several seasons and after a league-average defense last season, it appears that the Bills rushing defense is beginning to become elite. Ed Oliver who at one time was in consideration for the number one overall pick slid to the Bills as the 9th overall pick and played tremendously out snapping veteran Star Lotulelei. Oliver did a great job eating space and keeping offensive lineman off of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano alongside the elite safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. If this defensive line can continue to keep the offensive line from getting to the second level, this rushing defense could be a force all season. However, with Oliver being a rookie and playing 69% of the snaps at defensive tackle expect some inconsistency from week-to-week, but they are off to a great start.

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


New York Jets Rushing Offense vs Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Le’Veon Bell’s first game was one that left some things to be desired as a running back. Bell averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and found little running room for most of the game as it appears that Bell and his new offensive line will take some time to get used to the timing that Bell relies on to hit the open holes. This is still a very talented unit led by former Pro Bowlers on the interior in Ryan Kalil and Kelechi Osemele. This was the first time the starting unit had ever played together due to injuries in the preseason and Kalil took the blame for this as he said their communication needs to improve and that falls on him as the center. He vowed to be more commanding to the offensive line as the team looks to continue to work together to have consistency in the rushing attack.

The Browns run defense underwhelmed after coming into the season with high expectations. Derrick Henry ran for 84 yards and a touchdown in this game on 19 carries (4.4 YPC). This is a unit that came into the season with some of the biggest expectations in the NFL with the offseason acquisitions of Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson to pair with Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Garrett. Consistency was the key for the Browns as they did hold 11 of the 28 rush attempts to 2 yards or fewer, but there was very little middle ground as the Titans either ran for 7 or more yards or ran for nothing. Linebackers Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey have a lot of pressure on them as the Browns primarily played in the Nickel defense as their base defense. This is still an incredibly talented group but will need to improve their play going up against Le’Veon Bell.

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


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Oakland Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft with the explicit intention of utilizing him as a bell-cow running back for the foreseeable future. In Jacobs' NFL debut, he mustered 85 yards on 23 carries, good for just 3.7 yards-per-carry. Throughout week one, no other player on Oakland's roster carried the ball more than once. Jacobs is the clear bell-cow, and head coach Jon Gruden has made it clear, he will continue in that role. Jacobs flashed the talent that made him a first-round draft choice throughout the night, but only when the offensive line gave him opportunities. Oakland's offensive line turned in one of the league's worst run-blocking performances of week one against Denver. The lone bright spot on the offensive line was right tackle Trent Brown, who did an adequate job while the rest of the line struggled. The Raiders' success running the football in week two will almost certainly be in spite of the offensive line, not because of it.

Kansas City stopped any Jacksonville attempt at establishing the run before it could even get going in week one by jumping out to an early lead. Playing catch-up, Jacksonville was forced to abandon the run and focus almost exclusively on passing the football to mount a comeback. Jacksonville's running backs only carried the football 14 times in week one, and while Leonard Fournette totaled 66 yards on his 13 attempts, 7 of his attempts went for 3 or fewer yards. Kansas City's defense as a whole did an exceptional job stifling the Jaguars' rushing attack. The most notable performer from the Chiefs’ defense in the season opener was linebacker Damien Wilson, who registered four run stops on the day. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnandi, who recorded two-run stops of his own, was also impressive on the defensive line. Kansas City's secondary surprisingly played a significant role in containing Jacksonville's ground game. Safeties Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu both impressed in run support in their respective debuts for the Kansas City. The Chiefs' new-look defense impressed in week one and will be expected to keep the momentum going here in week two. Establishing the run against the Kansas City Chiefs is shaping up to be a far more onerous task in 2019 than it has been in recent memory.

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


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

In their blowout Week 1 loss, the Steelers never had the opportunity to get their running game going. Even while the game was competitive, their runners showed little in the face of a swarming Patriots defense. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels combined for just 25 yards over their 12 carries, and both were swept out of the game plan by late-second quarter. Conner took the clear lead role, though, and he looks likely to bounce back once game script comes back the Steelers’ way. He looked outstanding in the preseason, racking up 6.3 yards per rush, and he still runs behind one of football’s best lines. Center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro spring big holes, both inside and out, for the relatively slow-footed Conner. Samuels serves as the change-of-pace back, and his weekly usage will always be hard to project. But he’s shown, with a 4.5 average over his young career, an explosiveness that nicely complements Conner’s decisive power.

The Seattle run defense certainly fired out of the gates in Week 1. The Bengals’ makeshift line wasn’t much of a challenge, but the Seahawks impressed by holding their quick-footed backs to just 31 yards on 13 carries. With Jarran Reed suspended, the team is using a four-man rotation at tackle to keep blocks off their playmakers. It was effective Sunday, with the entire front seven swarming Joe Mixon and making big stops (seven tackles for loss as a team). Linebacker Bobby Wagner was his typical active self but may have been upstaged by a breakout game from end Quinton Jefferson (six tackles, two for loss). And, as he acclimates to his new digs, Jadeveon Clowney should add even more playmaking punch to this unit. Clowney has long been a dynamic force against the run, and he made his presence known over 48 Week 1 snap. Altogether, the team has retooled nicely after its 2018 letdown. One game isn’t much of sample size, but this unit looks poised to return to its status as one of fantasy’s tougher matchups.

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


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

As expected, the Seahawks opened the year following 2018’s run-dominant blueprint. The game was close throughout, but Seattle kept the ball on the ground for 25 of its 45 snaps. There wasn’t much success to be found - those 25 rushes netted just 72 yards - but better days should be ahead. The front line has its issues in pass protection, but all five starters are strong run blockers, earning the unit an A+ run grade from Footballguys’ Matt Bitonti. Chris Carson remains the clear-cut lead back, and despite the rough opener, his arrow is pointing up in this scheme. His emergence as an explosive runner has made a novelty item of the disappointing Rashaad Penny, who managed just 18 yards in the opener. Since the offseason, Penny hasn’t looked dynamic in either phase of the offense; he’s well behind Carson in the pecking order. Russell Wilson remains a threat to run, though he’s far less aggressive than some of his peers. He’s more valued for his ability to extend pass plays than as a high-volume rusher.

The Steelers boast one of the league’s better run defenses, and for the most part, it showed up in Week 1. Patriots power back Sony Michel was completely neutralized, putting up just 14 yards on his 15 attempts, with a long gain of 5. But their performance followed a familiar Steelers trend: winning the power game, but flailing badly against speedy, one-cut runners. Michel may have been bottled up, but scatbacks Rex Burkhead and James White combined to post 12 for 70. It’s a long-standing problem, and the team hopes top pick Devin Bush will pick up big slack in those matchups. Bush looked a bit lost in his debut but showed off dazzling speed and a nose for the play (11 total tackles). His rookie success will hinge on the line’s ability to keep him clean, and luckily for Bush, the Steelers are stacked upfront. Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward are elite space-eaters, which should keep Bush and company free to make plays. Any step forward from safety Terrell Edmunds, who was drafted first in 2018 but has struggled in the lineup, would be a bonus for this generally-stout unit.

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


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

The Washington Redskins will once again be forced to field an offense without running back Derrius Guice following another knee injury (not the same knee he tore his ACL in last year) in week one. Following the injury, Adrian Peterson will be called upon to man the backfield on 1st and 2nd down. Peterson was a healthy scratch in week one because head coach Jay Gruden believes Guice can do everything Peterson can, and then more. Gruden's hand was forced, however, following Guice's injury, and Peterson will be re-inserted into Washington's offense. In 2018, Peterson managed an unimpressive 4.2 yards-per-carry, and without his 90-yard rushing touchdown from week 13, that mark would have been a meager 3.81 yards-per-carry. Washington's average offensive line is still missing left tackle Trent Williams who many thought there was a chance he would report this week. Chris Thompson will come onto the field in third-down situations, but these are typically passing-downs, and his contributions on the ground will be few and far between.

In week one, Dallas faced off with one of the NFL's most talented running backs in Saquon Barkley. Barkley ran for 120 yards on 11 carries, including a 59-yard carry on the first drive of the game. The productive day on the ground can be blamed, in part, on weak performances from two critical Cowboys defenders: Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Both players have established themselves in the NFL as strong run-stopping linebackers, which means these poor showings were likely outlier performances in the grand scheme of things. Aside from Smith and Vander Esch, the Cowboys' run defense met all preseason expectation set for them. The defensive line was impressive across the board, and it showcased of the depth that has many believing they have what it takes to be one of the league's best defensive-fronts. Demarcus Lawrence, the team's top defensive lineman, will see increased playing time in week two after the team eased him into action in week one. Similarly, Byron Jones, one of the league's best cornerbacks in run-support, will play more in week two following a 27-snap limit in week one as he recovered from offseason hip surgery. A bounce-back performance from the linebacking corps, coupled with consistency in the trenches and in the secondary will make the Dallas run defense one of the league's toughest to beat once again in week two following a flukey week one performance.

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


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Atlanta played from behind for almost the entire season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, which prevented Atlanta from attempting to run the football whatsoever. Throughout the game, Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith split snaps precisely down the middle with 50% going to each player. Freeman carried the ball 8 times for just 19 yards while Ito Smith carried the ball 6 times for 31 yards. Devonta Freeman saw the bulk of action early, while the game was still close, while Ito Smith entered the game later and saw the bulk of his work in the second half. The distribution of snaps in Atlanta's backfield is not causing for concern at this point because of the extreme circumstances of the Falcons' week one game. Atlanta's poor performance at offensive line, however, may be cause for concern. The Falcons struggled at both tackle positions, and while Jake Matthews' week one struggles are likely an anomaly, the struggles elsewhere may signal long-term issues for Atlanta. The right side of Atlanta's offensive line, specifically, is plagued with problems after just one game. Rookie right guard Chris Lindstrom broke his foot in week one and has since been placed on the injured reserve. Fellow rookie Kaleb McGary also started at right tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, and while healthy, McGary struggled mightily in all facets of the game during his NFL debut. As a whole, the Falcons running game will go as far as their offensive line will take them, and the outlook for Atlanta's offensive line is bleak, at best, in the immediate future.

Philadelphia's run defense held the Washington Redskins to just 2.2 yards-per-carry in 2019's season opener, the 3rd-best mark in the entire NFL. The Eagles as a whole turned in a stellar performance against the run in week one despite notably weak games from the likes of Fletcher Cox and Zach Brown, two players who are expected to anchor the team's run defense throughout 2019. Brown, a free agent acquisition, finished the 2018 season as one of the league's best linebackers in run support, but he failed to make an impact in his Eagles debut. In week one, the longest run allowed by Philadelphia was just seven yards, which serves to show how all three levels of the defense were involved in shutting down Washington's rushing attack, even when Washington jumped out to an early 17-0 lead in the game. It is important to note that Philadelphia lost offseason acquisition Malik Jackson for the season due to a Lisfranc (foot) injury he sustained in his first game as a member of the Eagles. Jackson was expected to be a significant contributor against the run as a running-mate with Fletcher Cox on the interior of the team's defensive line. In his absence, the team will turn back to Timmy Jernigan, who has also struggled to stay healthy while a member of the Eagles. Philadelphia's run defense was as impressive as there was in week one of the 2019 season, but Washington is not exactly a juggernaut at this point. Shutting down the Redskins' rushing attack is a positive signal that the Eagles' run defense will be stronger in 2019 than it was in 2018, but refrain from placing them amongst the league's best until this performance is replicated against better opposition.

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


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Broncos backfield was led by almost a dead-even split between Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Lindsay saw one more carry and just four more snaps than Freeman, but Lindsay was the less effective back as he noticeably struggled with vision and burst through what were relatively tiny running lanes. Lindsay had just 14 yards going into halftime and simply never got the momentum going throughout that game. Freeman, on the other hand, looked much better as he averaged 5.6 yards per attempt and had an impressive 26-yard run. Rookie left guard Dalton Risner also had a great start to his NFL career as he played as the best lineman in that group alongside Todd Bolles, making for a strong left side. Broncos right tackle Ja’Wuan James exited last week’s game after just 10 snaps with a knee injury though, so depending on his status, this unit could be downgraded overall as their right side was noticeably weaker without him.

The Bears run defense performed admirably in Week 1, holding the Packers to just 47 rushing yards with lead running back Aaron Jones averaging a meager 3.0 yards per carry. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was constantly clogging lanes in the middle while Khalil Mack was his usual MVP-caliber self as he made plays all night. Alongside Goldman and Mack, Akiem Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris rotated throughout the night and both were disruptive forces against the run. While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is no direct replacement for Adrian Amos, Clinton-Dix actually performed very well against the run as he was their top defensive back contributor. Where the Bears can improve will be the play from their linebackers, as neither Danny Trevathan nor Roquan Smith played up to their potential. With decent, but not spectacular, play from the Broncos offensive line, the Bears remain as a clear favorite in this matchup.

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


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

The Dolphins rushing offense never had a chance last week against the Ravens as they went down 21-0 after they had run just 9 total plays on offense. Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake combined for nine total carries this week in a game that the Dolphins just failed to get anything going on either side of the ball. Do not expect things to get significantly better in the short-term as a combination of game scripts and a poor offensive line will likely lead to struggles for this rushing offense for most of the year. Even before the Laremy Tunsil trade, offensive line expert, Matt Bitonti, had this ranked as the worst offensive line in football with Tunsil being their best player on the offensive line. Jesse Davis moved over to the left tackle while the right side of the line is made up of players who have been with the team for less than three weeks in Julie’n Davenport who consistently is one of the worst tackles in football, and right guard Danny Isidora who the Vikings (who have their own offensive line issues) were willing to trade away for a 7th round pick.

Even before the game got out of hand which forced the Steelers to abandon the run, the Patriots contained James Conner. Conner struggled for most of the night as averaged just 2.1 yards per carry and did not have a carry longer than 5 yards. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins led the linebacking group and played outstanding as Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy and Michael Bennett kept the Steelers offensive line from getting upfield. The Patriots looked fantastic, and get back one of their best defensive players in stalwart Kyle Van Noy who missed the game due to the birth of his child. For a unit that struggled last season allowing 4.9 yards-per-carry, it looked much improved after one week and will likely be untested this week in a game script that does not favor the Dolphins running the ball much.

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