Find the Gap – Week 5
In this regular feature, we give you three NFL teams who could find that rushing success in their upcoming matches. This time we look back at week 4, and look forward to Week 5.
A look back at Week 4
As always, let’s have a look at the selections from the previous week. The three teams chosen were the Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings. All games went ahead during Sunday’s schedule. So how did they do?
Seattle Seahawks – 26 carries, 98 yards, 2 TDs
Without Carlos Hyde, rookie Deejay Dallas made an appearance alongside Travis Homer. But the backup Running Backs weren’t able to hold a candle to Chris Carson. The lead back shook off the injury from last week to play. Although he had some time out in the game for fear of concussion, number 32 rolled for 80 yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins attempted a strong front, but ultimately the Seahawks finished up too strong. However, the ground yardage isn’t quite what I was expecting.
Jacksonville Jaguars – 20 carries, 89 yards, 0 TDs
Well, this one was a little bit of a gamble. And it didn’t pay off. James Robinson managed to get 75 yards off his 17 carries, but the game script went against the Jaguars in this one. Aside from Robinson, Gardner Minshew and Laviska Shenault featured in the running game. But they didn’t make the early game impact to turn the momentum in their direction. I feel, although it was a risky one to pick, this result can be considered a busted prediction.
Minnesota Vikings – 40 carries, 162 yards, 3 TDs
This was the big one. And certainly not a busted pick. Dalvin Cooked all night! 27 carries for 130 yards and two rushing touchdowns. And when he was out being checked by medical officials, Alexander Mattison finally got his shot in the redzone. And he made the most of it, getting his own mark on the scoresheet. Altogether the most successful pick of Week 4.
Looking forward to Week 5
This week heralds the start of the bye weeks, so the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are out of the picture. Which, considering that the Lions have conceded amongst the highest number of big runs, is a bit of a shame. So here are the picks for Week 5…
BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs. CIN)
Another week of choosing the team facing the Bengals. But, although the Cincy defence managed to break their unlucky streak of conceding a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, they have still got a lot to do. Their game script meant that the Bengals were far enough in front to ensure that the Jaguars had to throw the ball. But James Robinson still cut swathes through the Bengals defensive unit. He managed 75 yards of 17 carries, and was only stopped twice. The Bengals are ranked in the bottom third of teams to stop players at the line of scrimmage (24th of 32 teams).
This time, the Bengals come up against a committee of backs rather than just the one. This group mean business – and it’s another reason why I’m favouring the Baltimore running personnel to get it done.
Aside from their containment against the Chiefs, the Ravens have looked impressive. They dealt very well with a formidable Washington front 7, picking up 144 yards and two rushing touchdowns. They have also been top in rushes of 11 yards and over – with 19 of their carries passing that distance.
And the scariest thing of all about this group is that the runs can come from anywhere. At last count, there have been four different runners to get at a run of over 11 yards (Ingram, Edwards, Jackson and Dobbins). So it will be interesting to see how the Cincinatti DC deals with this quadruple running threat. One thing’s for sure, the Bengals have got a job on their hands.
SAN FRANSISCO 49ERS (vs. MIA)
In another repeat of last week, we have another team facing Miami. This time, it’s the 49ers.
As covered previously, the Seattle Seahawks gave the Dolphins defence a torrid time on Sunday. Not only did they dominate on the ground, but they managed to beat them in the air as well.
And this is one major difference between the Niners and the Seahawks at the moment – the ability of their Quarterbacks. Nick Mullens struggled mightily against the Eagles, and was eventually benched for oft-forgotten C.J. Beatherd. On the other hand, Russell Wilson has been making waves with his arm and his legs.
But I digress…it’s just that the status of the Niners Quarterback gives me cause for concern, and this might be why San Francisco shift tact to more ground-based offense this week. Using spritely Jerick McKinnon and their gadget Wide Receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk can bring them success. Aiyuk has already found the endzone on an backward pass play this season, and Samuel has been familiar with scoring on rushing attempts.
These kind of plays fall well against Miami’s rush defense. The Dolphins have faced only 10 rushes around the left end of the offensive line this season – but have conceded nearly 71 yards on those plays.
There is some hope that Raheem Mostert will return to practice this week. But the real concern is whether Jimmy Garoppolo will be back. And, if he’s not, then the run game will need to help push the Niners away from the bottom of the NFC West.
Cleveland Browns (vs. IND)
What a difference a year makes. The Browns finally have a winning record for what seems like a long time. Everything seems to be clicking and coming together. A superbly talented duo of Running Backs bossing the field.
And then disaster strikes. Lead back Nick Chubb goes down with a knee injury. On that takes him onto IR and out for six weeks.
But rather than wallow, the Browns came out all legs blazing. And Chubb’s replacements more than made up for his loss. D’Ernest Johnson piled on 95 yards off just 13 carries. Dontrell Hilliard added 19 yards more from 5 attempts. And Kareem Hunt ended the day with 71 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns in total. Could there have been any better replacements?
This is clearly a team on a hot streak. Not just in the ground game, but in the air as well. And they come up against a Colts team whose efficiency is not leading to point scoring. The Indy defensive stats tell a story on the surface, but these have to come with some context. They have done a superb job in dealing with…a struggling Jets offense, and a slow-to-start Vikings who found their feet after the game.
But now they face a different animal in the Browns. One that has taken no prisoners when gaining a lead. And this is where we could see the weakness that have yet to show in the Colts defensive unit.
With the amount of offensive issues and injuries that the Colts face, I’m expecting another low points return on the blue side of the ball. This should give Cleveland plenty of opportunities to carry that rock, and there are many players to share it with. That increased exposure may cause issues for a defense who could tire towards the end of the second half. And this is where the big ground plays have come from for the Browns. Think of that Week 2 drive against the Bengals – where every play was a rush, and led to a touchdown. It could be a case of history repeating.
In short, I believe Cleveland could have best chance of rushing success of these three teams.
Join me next week to see what the results are.