Rushing Stats Analysis – Find the Gap, Week 16
Well, looks like we made it. Week 16, the championship Week. The final hand is about to be dealt, and there’s no other option but all-in. But are there any tells that we can pick up from analysis of the rushing stats that can help us win big?
First, we look at the choices for Week 15. How did the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens do?
BALTIMORE RAVENS – 37 carries, 159 yards, 2 TDs
The trifecta of Jackson, Dobbins and Edwards went to town on the Jacksonville defensive unit. Jackson picked up yet another rushing touchdown, to go with his 3 passing TDs. And it was Dobbins who picked up a touchdown on a goal line carry. Running around the offensive line, the rookie Running Back cut into the endzone for his fourth touchdown in as many starts. The Ravens even got so far ahead of the Jaguars that they brought in Tyler Huntley to take over. The rookie QB managed 18 yards from just 4 carries. He even showed some shifty skill akin to their starting Quarterback.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – 23 carries, 127 yards, 1 TDs
Jonathon Taylor has now been favored in the last two games, potentially starting a trend for the end of the regular season and the playoffs. The rookie Running Back got 16 of the Colts’ 23 carries, as well as 83 of the 127 yards and the touchdown. Nyheim Hines continued in the backup role, getting an effective 43 yards off just 5 carries. And, after a reduced role last week, there was no sign of Jordan Wilkins, who was a healthy scratch.
Jacoby Brissett did feature, but thankfully didn’t vulture any touchdowns from the Running Back group. A sigh of relief for Taylor fans everywhere.
Rushing Stats Analysis – Week 16 picks
So here we go, readers. The championship week. Which teams stand a good chance of finding you that rushing success?
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (at DAL)
This is a big one. Divisional rivals coming head to head. Both in with a chance of making the playoffs in one of the most open divisions. In fact, anyone in this league can make it. And, although the Eagles sit bottom of the four teams in the NFC East, they could still be in with a shot by winning this game against the Cowboys.
And the key to this game could well come down to Miles Sanders and his new Quarterback Jalen Hurts. The rookie QB has already been understandably announced as the starter for the Eagles next week. This was much to the ire of Carson Wentz, who is looking at another match on the bench. But, after two incredible weeks from the rookie, it was expected. No interceptions, four touchdowns – and a 100-yard rushing week on his full debut. Those yards came against a team that hadn’t conceded that many yards from a single rusher in multiple seasons.
IT HURTS TO RUN SANDERS
A noticable difference since Hurts arrival is how much pressure seems to have been taken off Miles Sanders. The change of QB has applied more pressure on opposing defenders. Do they concentrate on the shifty Quarterback with the fresh legs? Or do they focus on the Running Back? It’s the same conundrum that many defenses have against Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson.
This quandary may have caught out Philly a few times. But it has certainly helped an uptick in production from Miles Sanders. He may not have contributed to touchdowns last week but, like Hurts, he too went for over 100 yards rushing against the Saints. And it looks like the reduction in coverage has helped the Running Back to recover just in time for Championship Week.
It might make many Philly players irrelevant in terms of pass-catching fantasy, but he and Jalen should really help kickstart the Eagles offense this week as well.
COWBOYS NOT ROUNDING UP THE RUN
What makes THIS matchup with Dallas particularly juicy is that the Cowboys have conceded a lot of yards on the ground. Analysis of the rushing stats show they have conceded the second-most yards on the ground – behind the Jaguars. They are just one yard ahead of the Texans, but that’s still a top-two spot.
And, when broken down into run direction, it’s easy to see why they top the list. As it stands, the Boys have conceded the third-most yards to outside runs this season. They rank behind Jacksonville (…and Philly…) in that regard. But they also rank third in yards conceded to inside runs as well, behind Houston and Arizona. So whichever way the run goes, the Eagles rushing offense will be facing a bottom three team in yards conceded.
They’ve also conceded 136 carries that have gone for between 4 and 7 yards. One or two of those, and that’s another first down. In fact, the Cowboys have conceded the highest percentage of carries that have gone for 4 yards or more – at 50.56%. So, opposing rushers have been slightly more likely to get a run over that distance than below it.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER…
What could also be good about this game is that the Cowboys seem to have stabilized slightly under Andy Dalton. The Quarterback’s presence in the team has meant that the Boys have stayed competitive in games. So that in turn could mean that Hurts has to be creative with his plays. And that should spread the Cowboys defense out more to deal with the pass and the run, rather than just one of them. Those gaps could give Hurts and Sanders the space they need to make big strides.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (vs. MIN)
After a particularly dismal start to his return from injury, it looked like Drew Brees would struggle to make it to the end of the game. A few big hits by oncoming Chiefs defenders were tough to watch, and Saints fans will be pleased to see him still standing by the end of the game. The result might not have gone their way, but at least they have Drew back.
This week sees the Saints move onto the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is a team that has been prone to several comebacks this year. They have also struggled to catch up in games where they have slipped behind. This is promising for the New Orleans Saints in another divisional match.
It should be important to note that the Falcons did not do too well in defending the run during the reverse fixture. In Brees’ absence, Taysom Hill made his move at Quarterback in more way than one – getting two of three rushing touchdowns. Alvin Kamara, who suffered when Hill held the reins, got the third.
GUESS DREW’S BACK – BACK AGAIN
Hill’s involvement in the game saw the Quarterback get 10 carries for 49 yards and those two touchdowns. Behind him, Kamara and Latavius Murray both got over double figures in carries. But, aside from Kamara’s touchdown, neither were very fantasy relevant.
But, now that Brees has returned to the side, this could see a significant shift in the fantasy relevance for both Running Backs – but particularly Kamara. A lot of Alvin’s owners have been pulling their hair out at how much he dropped off the radar during Taysom’s time on the Hill. However, this favorable match-up could offer hope.
The Vikings have been a middling team in defending the run, but last week’s showing was not one to be admired. The game stayed close all the way through, with Dalvin Cook continuing solid abilities to move the chains and keep the Vikings within touching distance. But, ultimately, David Montgomery helped the Bears to 199 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 15’s match. This is the same sort of stat-line that I would expect to see from the New Orleans rushing attack.
As usual, it is likely that this will be shared between the members of the Saints rushing attack. But, with Taysom likely reduced to a smaller role, that group should largely consist of just two members.
BREAKING THROUGH THE SHIELD WALL
Those two members should find that they can steadily add up the yards by exploiting Minnesota’s main weakness. That can be found in the number of carries that have gone for effective yardage.
The Vikings secondary have a premier run-stopper in Harrison Smith. The safety is likely the reason why the Vikings have seen amongst the 4th lowest percentage of runs that have gone for over 10 yards. That’s only below the Bucs, the Rams and the Chiefs.
But the Vikings have seen the highest percentage in another area, and this is where the Saints could find the answer. That area is for runs that have gone for between 4 and 7 yards. Minnesota have conceded 137 of these carries, which is 34% of the total they have faced. Get one of those? The offense instantly looks more dangerous. Get a couple of those? You’re moving the chains. And, with Michael Thomas now on IR, this approach will be vital to keep the Saints’ offense from stalling.
Run direction could be the key as well. Analysis of the rushing stats show that the Vikings are not particularly bad for conceding runs through the center of the offensive line. But they do rank fourth in conceding yards around the outside of the line. With that in mind, perhaps the answer for the Saints is not to go through the Viking’s defensive wall…but to go around it?
With the majority of fantasy seasons finishing at the end of this week, this could be the last Find the Gap of the 2020 season. It’s been a wild and windy time, with all the current circumstances. But (hopefully) I’ve managed to help you at least once this season!
With all the improvements made to the data collection and analysis of rushing stats I believe i’ve made this year, we will be looking to hit the ground with a bang in 2021.
Keep washing hands, keep wearing the mask – keep finding the gaps.
And keep rushing!