Here are my top ten run defenses to target this week.
- New Orleans Saints. Don’t be fooled by the result last week, the victory had much more to do with Cam Newton throwing to guys in the wrong jersey and the pass rush getting home once ahead. It’s an interesting spot for the Saints this week, they face a tough runner in Jay Ajayi but he was just shut down by the Jets. That was a product of the Dolphins trailing, however they might be trailing early here as well. Throw on top of all that the game is in London and anything could happen.
- LA Chargers. They shouldn’t be this high, but here we are. Granted they’ve faced three straight bruising backs, but they just aren’t tackling. They’ve given up the most rushing yards and rushing TDs will start to come against them. The Eagles don’t attempt that many rushes, but on the road they may up their percentage.
- San Francisco 49ers. With the Niners it’s possibly more a matter of volume, but teams have attempted the third most rushes against them for good reason. Guessing the Cardinal back that benefits is a three horse race, but I’m intrigued with Andre Ellington’s efficiency from last game. Chris Johnson looks done and the staff seems to have seen enough of Kerwynn Williams.
- Detroit Lions. This was their weak spot last season, so I’ve had an eye peeled toward their 2017 performance. They hadn’t faced a real challenge until last week with the Falcons in town and they failed it. Both Atlanta backs averaged 5+ YPA. Enter Dalvin Cook who’s second only to Kareem Hunt in forcing missed tackles and yards after contact.
- New England Patriots. This defense is broken. Player turnover and injury may be the cause, but the time to overcome is here. Even if they start a game well opponents will be going into comeback mode and gashing fantasy scoring. If you don’t get right at home against the Panthers, you might be in trouble.
- New York Jets. Game flow was not a problem last weekend and they were able to play with an effective attacking style. The Jekyll and Hyde Jaguars visit Sunday (who just smashed a tough Ravens D in London, but looked like the old Jaguars against the Titans the week before, but manhandled the Texans top unit the week before that). My feeling is the Jags stay committed to the run and don’t fall behind like the Dolphins did. Of course that could change if Bad Bortles comes out and gives his defense a short field. Leonard Fournette is the real deal, though.
- Los Angeles Rams. This makes sense as the Rams have a great pass rush and some plus players in the secondary. Why let them utilize their strengths? Until they show they can stop rushing attacks it’s going to be the way coaches attack them. Did I mention they play at Dallas? Say hello to the chalk, Ezekiel Elliot.
- Pittsburgh Steelers. Woof. That was a depressing loss to the Bears who targeted wide receivers 4 times (4?!?). They visit division rival Baltimore who’ve decided to run whenever possible with a wounded Joe Flacco quarterbacking. I’d expect this to be a much more fierce contest, but that might also mean more rushing attempts.
- Cleveland Browns. The Browns are becoming a true Greg Williams defense: aggressive, cocky, and giving up chunk plays. It’s shaping up to be a chippy game when they face a Bengals team that’s pretty similar in those regards. Cincy seems to be committing to Joe Mixon more and I can see him having a good game.
- Jacksonville Jaguars. Numberfire’s Brandon Gdula ranks RB success rate and the Jags top his list. The Titans battered them in week two, but they dominated their opponents weeks 1 and 3, so this is a bit of a head scratcher. Perhaps the Ravens feeding Alex Collins fourth quarter carries in a blowout, wanting to simply be done with the London experience, accounts for a good portion. They’re on my radar as a team to run on, though.
Follow Mike on Twitter @Roto_Wan.