BOTTOM 5 RUSHING MATCHUPS WEEK 17
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Atlanta at Tampa Bay
This has been a tough season for the Atlanta Falcons rushing offense as it ranks near the bottom of the league with just 93.7 rushing yards per game (4th-fewest). The Todd Gurley experiment has not panned out as Gurley averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and surpassed 80 rushing yards in just one game. Amidst injury concerns and poor play, Gurley has now gone five straight games with fewer than 10 carries and no touchdowns as Ito Smith and Brian Hill work in to round out the full committee approach here. Smith has led the team in carries in their past four games and appears to now be the top runner, but Hill is also seeing consistent works while Gurley should remain involved in what could be his last game as a Falcon. The offensive line certainly contributes to the dreary outlook of this rushing offense as injuries at the center and guard positions make it tough to trust this unit overall. If Alex Mack suits up at center, it helps--but even then this will still be a mediocre group leading an even more mediocre set of running backs to close out the season.
The Buccaneers will likely close out the season as the league’s top rushing defense, going into Week 17 having allowed a league-low of only 77.5 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per rush attempt. Only one running back has exceeded the 60-yard mark against this group, and the last time these two teams met, Falcons running backs combined for only 21 rushing yards with no touchdowns in sight. This Tampa Bay defensive line already has the edge even against a fully healthy Falcons offensive line, but if the Falcons are again without their starting center and left guard, it will hardly be a contest in the trenches. Continued outstanding play from linebacker Lavonte David will also make it very much an uphill battle for the Falcons rushing offense this week. It seems likely that the Buccaneers will not be resting anyone as Bruce Arians came out and said that they are playing to win and not rest starters making this matchup even more difficult than what it could have been.