FIND THE GAP – WEEK 3
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 2
Before we look at the Week 3 predictions, let’s have a look at how our three choices for Week 2 got on. The three teams chosen were the Detroit Lions, the Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Bucs. All of them went ahead during the first round of Sunday games, but let’s start with the Lions.
Detroit Lions – 21 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD
The Lions attempted to prove my prediction right straight from the off. Aside from a 29-yard pass, the opening drive was virtually all on the ground. Kerryon Johnson capped up a brilliant push by rushing in his first touchdown of the season. The next drive had 40 yards rushing in it, although that one ended with a passing touchdown.
Sadly, game script was to go against them at this point. The Packers, and particularly Aaron Jones, had something to say about how the game was going. Soon the Lions were behind and resorting to their pass game. Those first two drives of the night made up 60 of the 89 ground yards that the Lions would eventually get. Incidentally, the Packers were only able to stop the Lions rushing personnel three times on or before the line of scrimmage – which was a particular weakness of theirs from Week 1. Had the game script stayed a little closer, then we could have seen more returns in the Detroit rushing game.
Buffalo Bills – 23 carries, 111 yards, 0 TD
After last week’s colossal passing performance by Josh Allen, it was unexpected to have the same happen again. But no, Josh Allen had other plans. He smashed his passing record for the second time in two weeks. Which, when Miami had one of the weakest rushing defences, put my prediction to the sword. None of the 23 carries were directed towards the right end. That’s not to say that their running offense was ineffective. Not at all. Most of the work went through the middle, where the Dolphins only stopped the runners once at the line. Singletary, Moss and Allen each got a run of over 10 yards in that central area. If they’d have continued with the run, no doubt they would have found paydirt.
Sadly, Josh Allen’s monumental passing game put a stop to any rushing touchdowns. His pass to Gabriel Davis was particularly delightful.
Tampa Bay Bucs – 22 carries, 122 yards, 3 TDs
A more successful prediction here, as Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette found the endzone with their feet in this game. Although it was not through the lack of Carolina being determined to turn over the ball in their own territory. This explains the low amount of yardage. But Fournette’s break through the defensive line and sprint to the endzone really epitomized how weak Carolina are through the middle. If I were to be repetitive, I would put their opponent on here for this week’s predictions.
However, I have decided to look at three different teams for the third round of matches. Starting with the team sitting atop the AFC South.
TENNESSEE TITANS (@ MIN)
There are two factors in me choosing the Titans for this week’s match. The first is the fact that they have the second highest rusher in the NFL after two weeks. Derrick Henry has run for 200 yards exactly against the Jaguars and the Broncos. Yet he has not been able to find the end zone with his runs. I feel that could change this week against the Vikings defence.
The Minnesota defence are themselves the second factor in me choosing the Titans to succeed on the ground. The Vikings have found it very difficult to stop opposing rushing personnel. This was apparent with both Aaron Jones and Jonathan Taylor finding the end zone in their last two matches. Jones was also stopped at the line twice in 16 runs; Taylor three in 26 runs. There is scope here for a behemoth of a man to keep rumbling forwards and tally up the yards.
Plus, if we look at the game script that the Vikings have faced both weeks, they have been playing from behind. This was the case against the Packers and then against the Colts. So, if the Titans can take the lead by continuing their passing form from the first two games, then they can keep using Henry to defend that lead and pound the clock down. Adding on those garbage time fantasy points could really help a Henry owner out!
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (vs. CIN)
The Bengals have been rejuvenated in their offensive game. Joe Burrow looks like the future of the franchise. He has been unfortunate to have been on the losing side two times. The second loss could ultimately come down to the defensive unit.
Cincinnati’s defence has taken a battering in the last few games – not just in scoreline but for depth in personnel. And this level of fatigue has been telling towards the end of games. The Bengal’s defence has already shipped three rushing touchdowns in the second half of regulation time (2 vs. CLE; 1 vs. LAC). In fact, last week’s match against the Browns saw an entire fourth-quarter drive of Cleveland ground offense on the way to a Kareem Hunt rushing TD.
There were plenty of examples of rushing personnel continuing to make yards after contact – which is something that could very easily be repeated in this week’s game against the Eagles. Last week, Miles Sanders returned to the Philly backfield. He promptly put up 95 yards and a touchdown against a normally unyielding Rams defence. What is also interesting to know is that he didn’t get stopped once at the line in that game. If he can stay healthy, there is no reason he and his backfield guys can’t do the same against the Bengals.
If the Eagles can take (and hold) the lead in this game, then it is a good omen to face a tiring Bengals defence in the third and fourth quarter. This is where the yardage can really lie.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (vs. DET)
What a difference a week makes for Detroit. They were one of my picks last week – and now they figure to be on the end of a Cardinal drubbing.
So far, Arizona have ripped opponents apart with their dual threat running style. First, they took on one of the best 2019 defenses – the at-the-time robust San Francisco DST – and put 180 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns past them. Then they faced the Washington defense – one that gave Carson Wentz a torrid time in Week 1. They too felt the power of the Cards run game – 160 yards and 2 touchdowns of it.
The arrival of Kyler Murray, and later Kenyan Drake, have revitalised this team’s ground offense. Both players combined responsible for four rushing touchdowns after two games. And where better to continue that streak than the banged up Lions at home?
As covered, Detroit have got more than their fair share of injury issues at the moment, and it is showing. With big players missing, they have already had 409 rushing yards put past them. The most notable area of weakness is through the middle of the defensive line, where they have seen an average of 6.53 yards a play. This ranks as second worst in the league so far. They have also conceded the second most runs of over 10 yards after two games – with 10. So their form is certainly in line to be on a heavy loss.
Murray, Drake and Chase Edmonds should be a solid shout to continue their destructive form and tame the Lions.
Join me next time to see if these team found that rushing success.