FIND THE GAP
In this regular feature, we give you three teams who could find rushing success in their upcoming Week 2 match.
A LOOK BACK AT WEEK 1
Before we dig into the choices for the Week 2 predictions, let’s have a look at how our previous three choices fared. The three teams chosen were the Indianapolis Colts, the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans. Let’s start with the team that played in the Thursday Night game.
HOUSTON TEXANS – 22 team carries, 118 yards, 2 TDs
The Texans managed to put three figures on the ground past the Chiefs. This included the opening score of the game, which was a 17 yard rush by David Johnson. A perfect way to introduce yourself to your new team. Johnson racked up 77 yards from just 11 carries – averaging 7 yards a play. DeShaun Watson also continued his involvement in the redzone rushing game by getting the other touchdown. Sadly for Duke Johnson, the backup RB picked up an injury mid game and only managed 5 carries for 14 yards.
The Chiefs also continued their unwanted record of not being able to stop a rusher before the line of scrimmage. The only Texans play for 0 yards or less was the DeShaun Watson kneel to end the game.
BALTIMORE RAVENS – 30 carries, 107 yards, 2 TDs
Although the number of touchdowns is the same as the Houston return, the Ravens’ carries proved not as effective as their Texan counterparts. While Lamar Jackson still managed to produce two runs of over 11 yards, he was unsuccessful in finding the endzone. That honour went to rookie J.K. Dobbins, who hammered in from short range.
While the Browns did get drubbed by the Ravens, the Baltimore rushing offense was stifled more than I expected. Instead it was the air attack that caught the Cleveland defense off guard – and this is something to be wary of in future weeks.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – 22 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD
This game had the most unexpected performance of the lot, and sadly it was not from the team I expected. The Jaguars did a brilliant job in keeping the Colts back – keeping an entire backfield to under 100 yards rushing. The outcome looked inevitable after Nyheim Hines sparked the game to life with an opening rush TD. But the Jags held on, and battered the Indy offense back. Marlon Mack’s early exit from the game with a suspected torn Achilles heralded the long awaited arrival of Jonathon Taylor. But even then, the Jags D held strong.
Even after all the departures from the defensive unit, the Jags still looked very difficult to beat. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the following weeks.
WEEK 2 PREDICTIONS
With some 2020 games behind them, we can now look at those second rounds of games with a little more clarity. Without further ado, here are the three teams for Week 2’s matches.
DETROIT LIONS (vs. GB)
What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The Lions’ backfield pecking order immediately changed with the addition of Adrian Peterson. And he made a huge impact to justify why the team brought him in. Of the 14 carries that Peterson made in Week 1 against a strong Bears defence, 5 of them made over 10 yards. And they all came through different areas of the offensive line.
Their opponents this time are Green Bay – who found it difficult to deal with the combination of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Cook managed to score two touchdowns on the evening. Mattison managed to get an average of 8.3 yards per carry but, like last season, missed out on the goal line work. The Packers managed to stop 2 of 22 rushing attempts at the line of scrimmage, and found themselves stopping runs through the centre after an average of 6.13 yards. This amount was amongst the worst recorded in Week 1.
This porous form in that area continued over from last season. In Week 17, the Green Bay defense conceded 7 yards per carry through the centre. They struggled mightily in several other areas. During that game, the Packers conceded 6 carries over 11 yards, including 40 yard and 20 yard runs. The team they were facing? The Detroit Lions.
With Peterson barrelling through the line (and capable backups behind him) it could be a torrid time for the Packers defense on Sunday.
THE BUFFALO BILLS (vs. MIA)
The second choice is another divisional match-up, this time in the AFC East. The Bills come out fresh from a dominant display against the Jets; the Dolphins reeling from a muted outing against the Patriots.
Buffalo found it tricky to get rushing against the notoriously tight Jets rush defense in Week 1. Understandable as, in 2019, the New York defence were 2nd in restricting rush distance up the middle of the line, where the average was just 2.76 yards per carry. That solid number was only bested by Tampa Bay’s stingy 2.21 yards/carry.
So it should have come as no surprise to see the Bills restricted to under 100 rushing yards. Quarterback Josh Allen ended up as the top rushing contributor in front of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.
Instead, the Bills found the weaknesses in the pass defense. Allen came away with his biggest passing haul in an NFL jersey, the most yards for a Bills Quarterback in over three years.
But Buffalo’s rushing fortunes could change against their next opponents – the Dolphins. Cam Newton and the Patriot’s rushing personnel put 217 yards and 3 touchdowns past the sorry Dolphins. Newton made the most his debut by contributing two of those touchdowns and 75 of those yards.
The Patriots were especially spicy when using routes outside the offensive line. The Dolphins conceded an average of 8.8 yards against left end runs; and 9.4 yards against right end runs – amongst the worst area stats in Week 1. Defending right end runs was also an issue in 2019 (conceding 7.31 yards per carry).
This could be something for the Bills to exploit. After all, Buffalo were 2nd in right end rushing effectiveness in 2019. They already have an average of 8.67 yards per carry in that area this year. And, like the Patriots, it just so happens that the Bills have a mobile Quarterback as well. Could we see a repeat of a QB rushing brace on Sunday? It could be very likely.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at CAR)
A third divisional match-up!
Admittedly, Tampa had a tough time in Week 1. Their rushing defense found it hard coming up against an effective Saints front line. Runs to the left hand side produced an average of 0 yards per carry. Their output only produced 86 yards and one touchdown – and that score was from their evergreen Quarterback TB12.
However, their runs through the middle of the line did prove fruitful. Ronald Jones pulled off two impressive runs over 10 yards, and the Saints defense did not stop any runs through that central area before the line of scrimmage. This bodes well for the future, especially if Bruce Arians keeps the faith in using RoJo to his full potential.
Another team that struggled to defend this central area are the Buccs opponents this week. Another divisional rival, and one that is reeling from their exposure last week. Ordinarily, a road game to the Panthers would seem a little more daunting. But Week 1 saw the Las Vegas Raiders churned through Carolina’s soft defensive centre on the way to 133 rushing yards. Josh Jacobs ended up as the RB1 for the week’s matches, and his touchdowns have never looked so easy.
The Bucs have history in slicing through this area. Even last season, the corresponding game found Peyton Barber carving up the Carolina centre. Although the 20 runs through the centre produced 78 yards, four of them went for over 10 yards. This central area is still a problem for the Panthers, so I would expect the same thing to happen again. With RoJo, and prolific Leonard Fournette backing him up, this could be another unlocking of the Carolina rush defense.
Join me next time to see if these team found that rushing success.
Until next time,