FIND THE GAP – WEEK 4
In this regular feature, we give you three NFL teams who could find that rushing success in their upcoming Week 4 matches.
A Look Back at Week 3
Before we look at the Week 4 predictions, how did our Week 3 selections get on? The three teams chosen were the Tennessee Titans, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals. Like last week, all these games happened during the Sunday games. We begin with the Titans…
Tennessee Titans – 35 carries, 134 yards, 2 TDs
The King is Back! This was a games for the rushing enthusiast, as both teams resorted to using their ground weapons for the majority of the game. The close nature and scoreline meant that neither team could rest on their laurels. And it gave both the Titans and the Vikings time to feast on the floor.
It was a case of third time lucky for Derrick Henry. After two scoreless first weeks, he finally found the endzone with a blunt force run in the third quarter. His second wasn’t too far behind, this time with a graceful leap into an unfortunately positioned goal life defender. The site of that impact will be sore in the morning!
The return of Darrynton Evans made sure there was a backup in the backfield. But the rookie hardly troubled both the Vikings run defense or the King’s carry share. And 119 of those Titan’s yards can be attributed to Henry’s feet.
Philadelphia Eagles – 36 carries, 175 yards, 1 TD
Another rollercoaster ride for the Bengals, and another rushing touchdown conceded in the fourth quarter. This time, it came from a scrambling Quarterback. Carson Wentz evaded tackles and swooped around the right end to dive in by the pylon, bringing the Eagles back into the game – and eventually to overtime. Although the game length may skew the numbers slightly in terms of the length of the game, the claim is still legit. A lot of that ground yardage came in regular time.
Miles Sanders was several yards off three figures and, even without his touchdown run, Carson Wentz was over 50 yards for the day. There was a weakness there to exploit and that’s exactly what the Eagles did. As for the Bengals, they want to try and end this unfortunate streak sooner rather than later.
Arizona Cardinals – 27 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD
I don’t think the Cardinals read last week’s Find The Gap. If they had, they would know that the answer to success against the Lions was the ground game. Instead, Kyler Murray decided to go the air route and throw 3 interceptions. However, he did make up for the errors by bagging himself a beautiful running touchdown. A shimmy feint threw the defender off guard, allowing him to continue his scoring streak.
Besides, Kenyan Drake also got in on the rushing action with a healthy 73 yards on the ground. And there were several long rushes that penetrated the defence so you can’t say they didn’t make the effort. The Cardinals move onto the Panthers next week, who could have been considered for an easy option. However, they played their socks off against the Chargers…
So, who are going to be the Week 4 picks? I’m going a little out there with one of them but I will save that for last. The first of the three have been notorious for their air passing in the opening weeks…
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (@ MIA)
After Russell has been cooking, why am I putting the Seahawks in here? Well, there are several reasons. The first is the injury that Chris Carson suffered in this last week’s game against the Cowboys. Although it has turned out to be less serious than thought, this could hinder Carson (or at least his performances) for the next few weeks. His role as a pass-catcher has been crucial in making the yards and scoring some key touchdowns at the opening of the season. However, with his potential omission from the team, the Running Back stable may become a little more ‘traditional’ in its usage. Travis Homer and Carlos Hyde have barely been targeted but have been given some of the carries. They are more than capable of taking on Carson’s load between them, and they could well need to use it again this week.
The team they face, the Dolphins, have had mixed fortunes in their first three weeks. After struggling mightily against the Patriots – conceding 217 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns – they have managed to patch up the gaps slightly. Last week’s performance against the Jaguars yielded the smallest ground distance yet – only 72 yards conceded.
But even though they only conceded their smallest yardage total on the ground yet, there are still underlying factors that led us to this final figure. The Jaguars only ran the ball 17 times over the course of the game – the lowest number the Dolphins have faced yet. And, of those runs, only 1 was stopped at or before the line of scrimmage. And they still ended up conceding two rushing touchdowns courtesy of James Robinson.
RUSS CAN COOK ON THE RUN TOO!
Not only that, the Seattle Seahawks are an entirely different animal. Their Quarterback has been on fire with the passing game. And its only right that the Dolphins need to worry about that. But this is the perfect opportunity for Seattle. Those marauding Wide Receivers will provide the distraction and the space for Running Backs to unleash a powerful ground game.
And let’s not forget that Wilson can also use his feet as well. The Quarterback has already bagged himself 90 yards on the ground this season. Last year, he got 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. So Carson’s loss could well be Russ’ gain. Either way, there could well be opportunities in game script here. After using his passing skills to come away with three hard-fought victories against tough opponents, the Dolphins are where Russ and his runners could really find their feet.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (@ HOU)
Speaking of letting someone Cook, Dalvin has been doing just that.
Although the Vikings have lost their last three games, those games have been getting closer and closer each time. Kirk Cousins’ disastrous start to the season has settled down slightly, and the Vikings are finally coming to their senses and getting Dalvin out there on the ground. His performance against the Titans was as strong as you will ever see him. 181 yards off 22 attempts, and bagging himself a 39 yard touchdown too. And he could well continue this hot streak when facing a Houston Texans defense who have been through the ringer three weeks straight.
First, the Texans were sliced apart by Clyde Edwards-Helaire for 138 yards on his NFL debut. Then they got hit by the Ravens backfield committee for a combined 230 yards. And then James Connor continued his bounce back for the Steelers, putting a further 109 yards on them.
IN THE ZONE
This could well be to do with the amount of carries that Houston are having to face in certain areas of the defensive line. After three weeks, they are one of only nine teams who have faced over 50 carries through the middle zones. The 62 carries they have faced through the middle zones actually puts them second highest in the NFL, after Cincinnati’s 75.
But, of those nine teams, they are also second highest in yards conceded through this area – stopping carries after an average of 4.07 yards. The highest? The Dolphins at 4.43. And I’ve already written about them!
And Houston have trouble with runs past the left hand side of the offensive line as well. They have faced 13 carries on that side. And they have conceded an average of over 9 yards a carry (9.46 ypc, 123 yards in total).
Interestingly enough, Dalvin Cook peeled off four runs against the Titans last week. One was for four yards, the others measured 12, 12 and 39 yards. And that last run wasn’t even his touchdown. If he plays to his strengths, and into Houston’s weak zones, I’m expecting huge things from Cook when he faces the Texans.
This game is looking like it will be postponed for later in the game week due to coronavirus restrictions. But, whenever it happens, keep eyes open for the Vikings pillaging yards from the Texans defense.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (@ CIN)
That’s right! The Jaguars are on the list!
Talk about a shot in the dark! Or is it? Like the fantasy football world, I have been very impressed with how James Robinson has handled himself since arriving at the Jaguars. As an undrafted free agent, Robinson will have been given very limited time to prove himself in the offseason. So to not only make the squad, and not only be an active player – but to be performing the way that he is…it’s a real feel good story of the season.
And those performances have been stellar. 100 rushing yards in his second ever NFL game? Followed by over 100 scrimmage yards in the next? Rookies would normally dream of those numbers. So why have I put faith in him and the Jaguars this week?
Well, the Jaguars are playing the Bengals. As I discussed last week, Cincinnati are struggling against the ground game. And they continued to do so again in Week 3. Miles Sanders was close to making 100 rushing yards, but it was Carson Wentz who did the damage late on.
And that meant 3 straight Cincy games conceding a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. For me, the Bengals’ only hope is game script. Can the offense get them far enough ahead to make sure that they don’t have to deal with the rush as much? Up until now, that answer has been no. And, if it happens again this week, then Robinson and the Jaguars are going to pounce.
Join me next week to see how these games turn out!
Until next time,