Rushing Stats Analysis – Find the Gap, Week 17
With the majority of leagues finished and championships won, there might not be as much demand for analysis of rushing stats. But there are some leagues out there that take the action all the way to the last week of the season. And there are things still to play for across the NFL as well. Playoff positions can be decided in Week 17.
And so there could still be some teams who can put up the rushing yards and deliver some last-minute fantasy championships.
Rushing Stats Analysis – Week 16 recap
As normal, let’s have a look at how last week’s teams did in many leagues’ championship weeks. The choices? New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Eagles – 29 carries, 151 yards, 1TD
As predicted, the Cowboys found it very difficult to deal with the runs of Hurts and Sanders. Between them, they managed to peel off 4 carries of over 10 yards, and the Dallas rush defense only managed to stop the run twice before the line of scrimmage. It looked likely that Hurts had scored with a beautiful cut run to the right-hand side, only to have stepped slightly out of bounds during the run. Sanders made up for the discretion by scoring on the next snap.
It was the Philadelphia defense that struggled and, had they been sturdier, then perhaps we could have seen more of this effective running. As it stands, the Cowboys ended up eliminating the Eagles from contention with a runaway victory.
Saints – 45 carries, 264 yards, 7TDs
As well as choosing the Saints for the Week 16 choice, I had planted my flag with (on? in?) Alvin Kamara for a surefire start on the 5 Yard Rush Christmas Special. The matchup, combined with the return of Drew Brees would provide Kamara with plenty of upside.
And Alvin provided a real Christmas treat for his many fantasy owners. His 6 rushing touchdowns in one game tied an all-time record. Furthermore, were it not for Taysom Hill coming in and vulturing a seventh, he could have broken it. A lot of opposition owners will probably felt like throwing in the towel seeing the points total that Kamara alone delivered teams in the final.
As it stands, this could have been the pick of the season. The Saints waltzed through the Vikings rush defense. Aside from Brees’ three kneels at the end of the game, the New Orleans rush offense did not lose yards on any runs. They went for 7 runs over 10 yards, including four from Kamara himself.
RUSHING STATS ANALYSIS – WEEK 17 PICKS
Week 17 is going to be done a little differently. While there will be teams out there that face weaker rush defenses, some of them will be resting players for the playoffs. The choices come down to those teams who have not yet clinched the post-season, but can still make it. They’ve got it all to play for, and so should need to use their best players to make sure they’re in the dance. And this is where the analysis of rushing stats can really come in handy.
So, who are those select teams, and who could have the best chance of rushing success?
TENESSEE TITANS – at TEXANS
The Titans fell to a potentially costly defeat against Green Bay in Week 16 but they are still within a chance of clinching the division. Thanks to the Steelers’ comeback win against their rivals Indianapolis, it comes down to Week 17. And they play the Texans, who have been setting the standards for conceding runs.
The Texans did very poorly against the Bengals last week, who haven’t been exactly known for their rushing prowess this season. 169 yards and two rushing touchdowns later, and Houston had been given another loss.
As it happens, Houston is tied with the Cowboys for conceding the most runs in the league – 2256 yards each. They love letting those runs through in Texas! However, one area where the Texans stand apart is the yards conceded from runs through the middle of the offensive line. They are nearly 200 yards ahead of the Cardinals, who lie in second.
And, with Derrick Henry looking to stretch out his rushing record before the post-season, they could have a lot more added to this total. The Titans will need to use his talents of smashing through defenses if they want to win the game and make the playoffs.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – vs. Jacksonville
Unfortunately for the Titans, their rivals the Colts also have a favourable matchup in week 17. This race could go to the wire. And what makes it slightly worse for the Titans is that the Colts’ opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, has all but secured the first overall pick in the 2021 draft.
And there is a reason why they have found themselves in that situation. The offense has spluttered throughout the season. As a result, the defense has faced the most rushing attempts of any team in the NFL. Not only that, but they have really struggled with stopping runs to the outside of the offensive line. They are the only team to have conceded over 1000 yards through those channels – not exactly an admirable precedent to set.
And now the backfield situation seems to have sorted itself out at Indianapolis. So, if the game stays close, there could be scope here for Jonathon Taylor to expand on his strong run performances in the last month or so. And, considering that the Jaguars have wrapped up that pick, they may want to try and keep the game close and play for some form of pride.
And, if they don’t, then at least the Colts backfield can grind out those plays and run the clock down with some strong rushing offense. This could be a win-win for fantasy owners who hold any Colts RBs.
LOS ANGELES RAMS – vs Cardinals
News has already broken out that Jared Goff has been sidelined for the last game of the regular season, due to a hand injury. With that, the Rams will be fielding a replacement Quarterback.
But it could also be the case on the other side of the matchup as well. Kyler Murray, a key component of the Cardinals’ offense, is struggling with a leg injury. So this could be the battle of the backups – John Woolford and Chris Streveler. However, with that comes the potential return of Cam Akers. The rookie Running Back finally got the keys to the backfield before his injury, and the Rams have struggled since.
Akers’ return couldn’t be better timing with both Goff’s injury and that of Darrell Henderson. And this matchup could be the perfect match to return to. The Cardinals’ rush defense has not performed well this season. They have conceded the second-most runs through the middle of the offensive line, and have seen the most opposition runs for between 8 and 10 yards.
With the Rams rush defense performing much better in their match against the Seahawks, they could do a good job against a Murray-less Cardinals. The former number 1 pick’s potential exclusion could take an entire dimension away from the Cards offense. And, if the Rams can slow down and stop their rivals, this could give more opportunities for their offense. And with that – more chances for Akers to find the acres.
ALSO FOR CONSIDERATION…
BALTIMORE RAVENS vs BENGALS
The Ravens piled up the yards in last week’s victory, and they face a Bengals team that conceded two runs of 38 and 48 yards to David Johnson, as well as two runs of over 10 yards to Quarterback DeShaun Watson. Facing a better defense this week should slow down the Bengals, and this will give a solid advantage to the Ravens.
MIAMI DOLPHINS at Bills
Another divisional matchup – and we know that the Bills have clinched the division. Because of this, they could be inclined to rest their best players on both sides of the ball. In turn, this could give the Dolphins a chance to solidify a wild card spot. It also helps that the Dolphins have now got Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin working well together. They face a Bills team that, even with first team players, have struggled to slow down the run. So, even if those players aren’t rested, the Dolphins could find their groove on the ground.
Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on the article series over the year. It’s been a real learning experience with the analysis of rushing stats, and allowed me to develop an understanding of what I can do with the data.
Until next time,