In the latest edition of this regular feature, we run down through our Week 9 predictions and our choices for rushing success using our Rushing Stat Analysis for the Week 10 schedule.
WEEK 9 RECAP
First of all, let’s have a quick look back on the three teams from last week – the San Francisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Arizona Cardinals. The Niners played their game on Thursday Night Football, so let’s cover them first. Or rather, get it out of the way…
San Francisco 49ers – 17 carries, 55 yards, 1TD
Even though the Niners got the touchdown in this game, I still can’t consider this a win.
For one thing, Aaron Jones’ impact on the match can not be understated. He was deemed touch and go up until the day of the game. But he was good to go. Even then, the Green Bay management insisted he would be on a snap count to help him recover from that injury. But Jones still ended up with one of his highest offensive snap counts of the season – and ended up with more yards than the Niners rushing personnel combined.
Which is surprising considering that last week’s article outlined how weak the Green Bay rushing defense is at stopping the run. They are especially weak against the consistent ground game approach.
But, rather than take advantage of the huge weakness, the Niners resorted to using their backup passing personnel. The longest drive that the Niners had in the first half was their 11-play drive that ended up with a field goal. 5 of those plays were carries which picked up three first downs and got them into field goal range. The other four in the first half averaged four plays, contained mainly passing plays, and accounted for three punts and an interception. So by the half they were 21-3 down and chasing the game. The Niners’ plan to go against the trends failed – unfortunately, I went with the trends and picked them. So I have to count this as a loss on my part.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 18 carries, 46 yards, 0TD
Of all the teams that this could happen to, the Steelers were nowhere near the top of the list. This went against all the experts’ predictions and the analyst’s numbers. Nobody could have seen this coming.
There was data to back this up. Numbers crunched over the last 8 weeks that would point solidly at the Steelers keeping a firm hold of the Cowboys. Analysts would have told you that this was a cert for the Steelers. The game would be theirs and they could run the clock down.
And there was also the Cowboys starting their latest backup QB and the huge amount of trouble they have had from worse offenses. The lack of touchdowns and the struggle on the ground.
But, despite all that, the Cowboys managed to flip the game script enough to cause a huge disruption to everyone’s prediction. And it was only through the power of the passing offense that the Steelers came through in the end to keep their streak alive. Although the result went as intended way, the way they got there was not expected at all. A surprise loss on mine (and everyone else’s) part!
Arizona Cardinals – 37 carries, 178 yards, 1TD
At least one of the results went as I predicted! The Cardinals, particularly their roving Quarterback Kyler Murray, got the job done on the ground. Chase Edmonds, primarily used up the middle, saw a huge 25 carries over the course of this game.
And this was the perfect foil for Murray and, to an extent, Edmonds. They spread plenty of rushes to the edge of the lines to hit the Dolphins with extreme effect. Seven of Kyler’s carries went outside the offensive line, with four going for 10 yards or over. One of these resulted in a touchdown for the carrying Quarterback.
Although the Cards didn’t win the game, they stuck to their ground game throughout the match due to how close it was – and that paid off for my prediction.
So, this week is a double feature for the double figures. So, which two teams are getting picked in Week 10?
CLEVELAND BROWNS (vs. TEXANS)
The Browns have to be my first choice this week after crunching some Rushing Stat Analysis Week 10 numbers . Several weeks ago, I chose Kareem Hunt as my Friday Fade on the Fast Action Friday podcast. Hunt was selected because the Browns tend to follow the trends when it comes to playing defensive teams. They do well against teams with weak rush defence, and struggle against teams who are solid in those areas.
That week, Hunt was playing the Steelers who, at the time, had one of the meanest rush defence in the league. As expected, the Browns couldn’t break down the Pittsburgh wall and Hunt ended up a bust that week.
This post-bye week matchup brings something different. After sustaining an injury earlier on in the season, the Browns expect Nick Chubb to return to the side. With his elevation from IR, Cleveland have a key offensive piece back in the fold. And it stands as quite a relief for Hunt, who has shouldered the lead back responsibility in his absence. The Running Back has seen a slight increase in volume since Chubb went out injured in Week 4, but his average yards has dropped since that game against the Cowboys. Nor has he scored a rushing touchdown – a distinct difference to the three scored in his first four games while Chubb was still in the side.
It seems to have been something missing from the Browns’ offensive plans. While the backups served a purpose, it wasn’t quite the one-two punch from previous games. Chubb’s reintroduction in the side can surely provide a bright spark – and kick-start the rushing touchdowns once again.
HIT THE MIDDLE
And this could be the perfect week to do it. The Texans are fresh off a tightly fought game with the Jaguars, who had James Robinson go for 99 yards and a touchdown against them. Most of Robinson’s runs used the central channels of the offensive line. Could this have been to do with Houston’s rush defence conceding the highest yard average to runs through that area in the entire NFL? The average carry through that zone against the Texans is 5.33ypc.
Funnily enough, the majority of Nick Chubb’s runs also use this central area. Of the 57 runs that Chubb managed in his first four games, 39 went through the middle of the offensive line. In comparison, Kareem Hunt’s runs are more spread out towards using the offensive tackle channels, with just under half of his runs going through the middle.
But this could be the perfect combination of runners needed to face this game. Keeping the Houston rush defence on their toes could be vitally important, especially when they are liable to concede big runs. The Texans still have the unfortunate honour of giving away the most carries that went over 10 yards – with 35 in the 8 games played so far. That’s nearly as many times as the number of stops they’ve made at the line of scrimmage (44).
Still, the Cleveland defence have to hold off DeShaun Watson’s passing attack in order to keep their offense in the game. Watson seems to have been allowed to fly with Bill O’Brien’s departure. So, as always, the first half will be crucial in keeping this game (and the ball) in the hands of Chubb and Hunt.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (vs. BILLS)
I had been battling back and forth between the Cardinals playing the Bills, and the Buccaneers playing the Panthers.
There is one similar reason why either of those sides could find rushing success against their opponents. Both the Panthers and the Bills have struggled in keeping out Quarterbacks from scoring a rushing touchdown. The Bills have seen Russell Wilson and Cam Newton score against them, while Drew Brees and Matt Ryan have scored against the Panthers. Both Tom Brady and Kyler Murray are fans of trying to score with their feet as well. So there could be a possibility that we see both of them scoring around the goal line this week.
The difference comes when facing the Running Backs.
HOLDING THEM BACKS
The Panthers are currently sitting towards the top of the board for fantasy points conceded against Running Backs. At present, they have conceded nine rushing touchdowns to the position. However, six of those came in the first two weeks. Since then, they have only conceded 3 in their last seven. Two of those have been scored by Todd Gurley in two separate contests. They are no doubt giving away a lot of yards but seem to be holding up reasonably well against allowing rushing Running Backs.
On the other hand, the Bills have struggled to keep Running Backs from finding the end-zone. They have allowed an RB to score at least one touchdown in the last five games. Not only that, but the Bills have also found it difficult to stop runners from making effective runs. 52% of runs went over 4 yards against the Buffalo rush defence – the third worst in the league.
On a side note, this game could swing either way due to a difficulty that both defences find in the same area. Arizona and Buffalo have seen the worst rates for runs that go between 4 and 7 yards – and the Cardinals actually have a worse rate than the Bills. However, the stats in other areas are worse for the Bills, which is why I’ve opted for Cardinal rushing success.
Join me next time to see what happens with these two teams after we put them through our Rushing Stat Analysis Week 10 clothes wringer!