Rushing Stat Analysis Week 11 – Find The Gap
In this regular feature, we go through our Week 10 predictions and make choices for success using our Rushing Stat Analysis for the Week 11 schedule.
Week 10 Recap
We only had two teams in the article last week. The Cleveland Browns were a lock in the article, although it was a tough decision who to go with between the Arizona Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, in the end we went with the Cards as our second choice. So how did they get on?
Cleveland Browns – 41 carries, 231 yards, 1TD
A heroic return for Nick Chubb. Like I said in last week’s article, this was a perfect situation for his comeback game. And not only did he end up with a stonking stat line, but he elevated his fellow Running Back as well. Kareem Hunt put down returns that he’s not been able to achieve in Chubb’s absence. Both got an even split of 19 carries each. From those possessions, Chubb ended up with 126 yards and the touchdown; Hunt into three figures as well, with 104 yards.
And we also saw the return of the Browns battering the opposition’s rush defense into submission at the end of the game. Baker Mayfield got to sit back and let his two Running Backs go to town in the fourth quarter. And the Chubb run at the end of the game meant that Cleveland sealed out another win, but we missed out on another touchdown. Considering this is an article about finding rushing success for fantasy owners, this was certainly one of those dreaded moments. Where real-life gets in the way of a fantasy matchup victory. Hopefully that Cleveland decision didn’t cost people a vital W.
Arizona Cardinals – 35 carries, 217 yards, 2TD
Going into this game, there were stats that suggested that either side could find some rushing success in this match. But, with news that the Bills lost some defensive players to COVID just before the weekend, the pendulum started to swing more towards the Cards getting opportunities to pound the ground.
It’s likely that people are going to talk about DHop ‘Mossing’ three covering defenders for the final-second catch when they think of this game. But this isn’t Hail Murray Analysis, this is Rushing Stat Analysis. And the Cards hammered the Bills into the ground.
Kenyan Drake returned to a healthy three figure game on the ground, with 100 yards for 16 carries. and his backup Chase Edmonds still managed 56 yards off just 8 carries – 7 yards per attempt. But Kyler Murray, continually a problem for opposing defences this year, made sure he left his mark on this game. 11 carries for 61 yards and two rushing touchdowns, and a big headache for the Bills defensive coordinator.
As predicted, the Bills just couldn’t slow down runs through the middle. Only two of twenty runs were stopped at the line. A further 10 for between four and seven yards. And four went over the 10 yard mark. This now puts the Bills as the worst team for conceding runs of 4 yards and over – with 150 at present.
On a side note, special mention goes out here to the choice I didn’t pick for last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Ronald Jones 98 yard touchdown run helped the Buccs put up 210 rushing yards off 37 carries, with two rushing touchdowns. And, as was speculated to happen in the last article, both Tom Brady and Kyler Murray got their touchdowns. So it would have been rushing success either way.
RUSHING STAT ANALYSIS – WEEK 11 SELECTIONS
So who will be under the spot light this week? Who can help their team on the ground for the next batch of fixtures? It’s a shame that the Bills are now on their scheduled bye week, as they could have been a likely candidate to concede more runs. But I’m going to go in a different direction this week…
New Orleans Saints (vs. Falcons)
A lot of people would probably think this choice a little odd. The Falcons don’t often face rush attempts. They faced their highest number of carries all the way back in Week 2 when they played the Cowboys. That was a wild game, with so much back and forth…and the unforgettable collapse to the onside kick.
In that match, Dallas ran 31 attempts against them. Since then, the Falcons have faced fewer carries from opponents. Only two teams since Week 2 have seen over 25 carries. In fact, Atlanta have faced the second fewest carries so far this year – just 207 attempts. So you’d be wondering why I’ve gone against a side that has seen such low volume.
Well, that’s because they are facing the team who have seen the fewest. And granted, there is only one carry difference (the Saints have faced just 206). But the stats provide the reason why I’ve opted for the Saints to come out strongly in this game. Their defensive unit are the reason why New Orleans will find that rushing success this week – the game script will be very much in their favour.
So, let’s look at the stats so see why. On examination, there are certain factors that jump out at you. For example, how those runs divide up by length of carry. Of the 207 carry attempts that Atlanta has faced, they have kept 114 of them at three yards and below – 55% of total. In comparison, the Saints have kept 129 of their 206 carries at the same length, equivalent to 62.6% of total – the best in the league.
That leaves only 77 carries (37.3% of total) that have gone over that distance. Both stats are the smallest, and therefore best, in the league. And, not only that, but they’re going to be a pain for Matt Ryan to deal with in the air as well. The Saints have intercepted wayward passes six times in the last three games, as well as 10 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Those percentages and figures make this defensive unit a formidable opponent for the Falcons to face this week.
And, if they do as expected, then New Orleans will have plenty of opportunities to rack up that carry count – and churn up those ground yards.
EATING A W
Sadly, it looks like the Saints will be doing it without the help of their veteran QB Drew Brees. Jameis Winston took his place for the remainder of last week’s game due to his injury. And it seems like he could be out for at least several matches. But with that comes another threat. Winston is well-versed in using his feet to escape from situations – as was seen in his time at Tampa.
Atlanta already had to contend with Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara, and a Taysom Hill who has seen 20 carries in his last three games. Now they’ve got to take a Quarterback who rushed 59 times for 250 yards last year.
And, believe it or not, this could actually benefit New Orleans. 54% of their runs go through the central channels of the offensive line. As it stands, they rank in the bottom 10 of teams for yards per carry through this area. And Atlanta rank in the top 10 of dealing with runs through this area. So it would seem like this could be a difficult area to focus on.
But now add Hill, who had only 3 of his last 20 runs go through those channels, and a scrambling Jameis Winston. Those extra dimensions create a little more uncertainty about which direction that potential carries could come from. And this could free up those central channels a little more for Kamara and Murray.
This match could well turn out like the Buccaneers and Packers match, where the lack of offensive movement exposed a Green Bay ripe for the plucking. And this time next week, we could be having a Falcon defence getting roasted by the Saints run game. Lock in that black and gold rushing personnel.
New England Patriots (at Texans)
Another bold claim for this one as well. The Texans have looked OK on offense since Bill O’Brien left. So this one could well come down to the game script as well. However, there are some stats that make me lean towards the Patriots being my second choice for the week.
The Pats are fresh from a victory over the Baltimore Ravens, and actually seem to sticking with one Running Back for the first time in a long time. Damien Harris has been the leader in carries for the last four weeks. That period started with a heavy loss to the 49ers, and has finished with a gritty, hard fought win against the Ravens.
And it was certainly a bold statement to go up against one of the most unforgiving defences with a run-first offense. The Ravens had one of the best rush defences, in terms of keeping teams’ runs to ineffective length. However, the Pats approach paid off. Harris ended up with 121 yards on the day – likely the best output against the Ravens so far this year.
That makes it his third 100-yard game this year. He started out his season with three figures against the Chiefs, and also put up 102 yards on the Bills. These are two teams that I have previously gone against in these articles. They have struggled with various aspects of defending the run, and it was clear that Damien Harris has taken advantage of that. Which makes his performance against a defence like the Ravens stand out even more.
EARLY DOWN DAMIEN
Now the Patriots come up against the Texans, who have just been torn a new one by the relentless force of Chubb and Hunt. This week proves to be another challenge for the Houston defence – in the form of Damien Harris. One thing that was noticeable about Harris is that he is very difficult to stop at the line. In his last three games, the young runner has only been stuffed 6 out of 52 times. And four of those were against Baltimore last week.
In my eyes, that carry number, particularly against the Ravens, is significant. The Patriots have found their man to replace Sony Michel. No more uncertainty about who the lead back is – it’s Harris. And he is rewarding that faith. But, just like the Browns in Week 10, something that works in Harris’ favour is the other Running personnel who can ease the pressure. Rex Burkhead is still getting carries, as is Cam Newton. So any respite will help keep their lead back fresh to hit again. And any continued yards added to the total is good for this article!
HOUSTON HAS A PROBLEM
And the match against the Texans may also give Damien a chance to push the envelope even further. Fourteen of Harris’ 22 runs against the Ravens went through the middle of the offensive line – with four going over 10 yards. As has been covered many times already, the Texans are so very fragile against those kinds of central runs. They are getting bombarded week in, week out. And they are finding it very difficult to do anything about it.
Analysis shows they have faced the most carries through that zone, conceded the highest yards per carry of any team, and have seen 19 carries in that area go for over 10 yards. In fact, just the last three weeks has seen that central zone face an average of 21 carries. If Harris gets that volume of opportunity, this could spell real trouble for the Texans.
The key for New England is for their defensive unit to continue stepping up and get the Houston offense off the field. With David Johnson on Injured Reserve for the next couple of weeks, this may prove a little easier. And, as long as DeShaun Watson is kept quiet, this could well be another victory for the Patriots. And one that is delivered on the ground.