Charch's Week 1 Running Back Rankings

RankPlayer
1

Last season in a shared role, Alvin Kamara was able to torch Tampa Bay's defense in their two matchups to a tune of a nearly unfathomable 280 total yards and four touchdowns. Mark Ingram is kicked to the curb for four games, leaving Alvin in charge of the backfield. This is welcome news to Kamara fans as he led the Saints in rush attempts only once last year. Higher volume numbers will help offset the inevitable drop in per touch efficiency. Of course, playing the hapless Bucs defense helps too. Last season they allowed ten running backs to eclipse 90 or more yards from scrimmage. Half of these had five or more receptions which was an area Tampa Bay struggled with, allowing the ninth-most receiving yards from running backs. The Saints' churn of No. 2 runners in the days leading up to this game (Jonathan Williams -> Boston Scott -> Mike Gillislee) further cements a big role for Kamara. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 10.00/10

2
LAR @OAK

Let’s take one last look back and bask in the glory that was Todd Gurley’s 2017 season. Many championships were won on the back of his 276 yards and two touchdown performance in week 16. He’s back for more against a team that just traded quite possibly the best defender in football. The loss of Khalil Mack will significantly hurt an Oakland defense that allowed the 10th-most rushing yards and 13th-most fantasy points to runners in 2017. Offensive coordinators clearly felt attacking the Raiders with the running back was a successful strategy as eight different backs had twenty or more touches against them. This group included LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon and Kareem Hunt, all similar dual-threat backs to Gurley. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 10.00/10

3
BUF @BAL

Despite running behind the most-injured offensive line last year, Alex Collins still converted a 50% success rate on rushing attempts, ranking fourth among backs with at least 150 carries. All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda is now healthy, which gives Baltimore's offensive line a tremendous boost. Buffalo trots out a new defensive line, anchored by Star Lotulelei, who's run stop percentage decreased for each of his four seasons. His signing was Buffalo's response after surrendering more fantasy points to running backs than any other team last year. Baltimore is deeply favored in this home game and Collins will benefit as the most used player when the Ravens are ahead. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 10.00/10

4
WAS @ARI

In case you need a reminder of the greatness of David Johnson, he has 100+ total yards in 19 of his last 22 starts. He is third in touchdowns since joining the league in 2015 despite not finishing a game last year. Fantasy analysts have pointed to last season's Cardinals offensive line as a cause of concern but fail to realize the entire five-man group is different for Week 1 and could end up being an upgrade from last year's version. Washington's defense is a great opportunity for Johnson. They allowed the most rushing yards in the league, an average of 134 per game. In his one career game against Washington, Johnson went for 175 total yards and two touchdowns. I'll note that the Redskins held pass-catching runners in check last year. Only Alvin Kamara topped 48 receiving yards, and he's the only one who scored a receiving touchdown in the second half of the season.
Charch's Rating: 9.75/10

5

[UPDATE: IT APPEARS THAT ONLY ONE LINEMAN, TRAVIS FREDRICK, WILL MISS THIS GAME] For as much praise as Ezekiel Elliott deserves, the Dallas offensive line has been the dominant force in fantasy for the better part of the last four seasons. Injuries to Pro Bowl stalwarts Travis Frederick and Zack Martin have left many questioning the potential impact to Elliott's season numbers. Volume, however, will never be in question. Only Le'Veon Bell has averaged more touches per game than Elliott over the last two seasons. Carolina presents a tough challenge as they allowed the fifth-fewest total yards to running backs last year. Only Mark Ingram crossed the 100-yard rushing plateau. The Panthers finished 2017 extremely strong allowing an average of 55 yards on the ground over their final three games. They enter this season missing star linebacker Thomas Davis but should remain strong in his absence. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 9.75/10

6

Volume is the name of the game for Melvin Gordon. He's a sure bet to get the lion's share of work, despite deficiencies in the Chargers run game. Gordon is one of two running backs to get over 200 carries and have a success rate of only 40%. Yet, he is still a solid start against a shaky Chiefs defense. Gordon scored in both Chiefs matchups last year, and in his single matchup the year before that. In his most recent game against them, he posted a massive 189 total yards and a score. The Kansas City defensive line ranked 26th in adjusted line yards, Football Outsider's metric that isolates the yards on running back carries for which the line was responsible. The linebacker corps struggled as well, not ranking better than 30th over the past two seasons in second level yards, which accounts for yards earned by running backs between five and ten yards past the line of scrimmage. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 9.75/10

7
CIN @IND

After a lackluster rookie season, it's easy to imagine Joe Mixon belting out the bars to the late Aretha Franklin classic "Respect." He'll earn this respect against a Colts defense that allowed the sixth-most yards (120 yards per game) and touchdowns to running backs (12) in 2017. Confoundingly, Indy invested almost no resources this offseason in a defensive line that missed 10% of tackles on runs plays, sixth most, according to Pro Football Focus. A new defensive coordinator has further decided to implement a scheme that uses four linemen, instead of the three they've used in the past. This puts the run-stopping emphasis on the linemen and forces the team to find depth on a shallow roster. In Mixon's game against the Colts last year, he was explosive in the receiving game with three catches for 91 yards, two of which were converted into gains of over 15 yards. If preseason play is any indication, this could be Week 1's most lopsided matchup and Mixon could be looking at a workhorse game. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 9.75/10

In this matchup between two highly-touted young running backs, Leonard Fournette isn't going to let the fantasy community cast him aside for the shiny new toy in the Giants backfield. The Jaguars are committed to this as well. They ran the ball on 49% of offensive plays, more than any other team in 2017. Then this offseason they signed the best available free agent guard, Andrew Norwell. Last year, Fournette thrived in the Jaguars' system, ranking fifth in average rushing yards-per-game. He also scored the sixth-most red zone touchdowns. He comes face-to-face with a defense that allowed only six touchdowns in 54 red zone rushing attempts, sixth least. Although the Giants return Pro Football Focus' best run-stopper, "Snacks" Harrison, they are the same group that allowed the 7th-most rushing yards last season. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 9.50/10

9
KC @LAC

The Chargers have a formidable defense overall, but their run defense has question marks. They tied the Bills for the most rushing yards allowed. This was most apparent on the right side of their defensive line, where they gave up six yards-per-carry. Further weakening this side, they will be without suspended starting defensive-tackle Corey Liuget. Last year Kareem Hunt ran the ball at this Achilles heel more than any other direction, besides over center. This lead to him gaining 183 and 206 total yards in his two games against the Chargers. In fact, Hunt gained five yards-per-attempt, which was higher than any other running back with 200 or more carries. The Bolts limited running backs to only two receiving touchdowns and the 11th-fewest receiving yards.
Charch's Rating: 9.50/10

Carolina coach-speak had the fantasy community abuzz with projections of 25 to 30 touches per game for Christian McCaffrey. While that number may be unrealistic, his volume is due for a significant increase. His 222 touches from last year could easily push to 300 in 2018, a number that only six running backs exceeded in 2017. Dallas struggled against pass-catching backs allowing 21% of their entire defensive passing total to the position, 3rd-most in the league. Similar pass-catching backs such as Todd Gurley, Chris Thompson, and Shane Vereen were able to exploit the Cowboys linebackers. McCaffrey led all running backs in targets a year ago. Expect Carolina to try and exploit this advantage. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 9.25/10

11

The Jacksonville Jaguars aren't the ideal starting point for the young fantasy darling, but talent sometimes overcomes difficult situations. The Jaguars defensive is more impressive when you consider 14% of their rushing yards allowed came in one random game against the Jets. Only three non-Jets running backs were able to crack 100 total yards of offense (Todd Gurley, Austin Ekeler, and Derrick Henry). The Giants overhauled the left side of their offensive line with the signing of Nate Solder and drafting Will Hernandez, which should help. New head coach Pat Shurmur has a history of leaning on one running back. Steven Jackson and Trent Richardson were given over 70% of their team's backfield touches under Shurmur. Expect the same from a true three-down back in Barkley. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 9.00/10

12

The hiring of Matt Nagy as the Bears head coach and offensive play-caller should be viewed as phenomenal news for Jordan Howard. His creativity played a large role in Kareem Hunt leading the league in rushing in 2017. Nagy has repeatedly stressed that Howard is a three-down back. This will reverse John Fox's offense that only gave Howard 14 third-down targets over the last two seasons combined. The Packers were susceptible to running back production through the air allowing the 12th-most passing yards to the position. Volume is key for Howard. In games where he has 20 touches or more, he averages 124 total yards. This plays well this week against the Packers who allowed twelve different running backs to reach the twenty-touch number last season. Green Bay has had success against Howard. In his four career matchups, he has only managed 3.8 yards per carry. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 9.00/10

13
PIT @CLE

[UPDATE 1: SEVERE WEATHER IS POSSIBLE FOR THIS GAME, BUT THE RUNNING GAME WOULD LIKELY BE AFFECTED LESS THAN THE PASSING GAME.] [UPDATE 2: LE'VEON BELL WILL DEFINITELY NOT PLAY IN THIS GAME.] Second-year back James Conner will replace Le'Veon Bell in Cleveland for the opener. He has taken most, if not all, the first-team reps this offseason and has built on his poor rookie year with a 100-rushing yard, 61 receiving yard stat-line this preseason. Needless to say, Conner isn't as good as Bell, and you can't expect that he'll automatically put up Bell's numbers. The Browns were a sneaky-good run defense last year, allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, second-best. Linebacker Joe Schobert made the first contact with the runner on 66 plays, more than any other defensive player according to Pro Football Focus. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.75/10

14
SEA @DEN

After originally listing Devontae Booker as the starter, it seems like the medically-prescribed natural remedies are finally wearing off around Mile High Stadium. Denver wisely anointed their best back, Royce Freeman, the starter on Tuesday. He and Booker split time with first-team, but Freeman was by far the more effective back in preseason, and he'll get all the tough yardage carries. In August he averaged 5.6 yards-per-carry and scored three touchdowns. Seattle is no longer a defense that needs to be avoided. Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett, their two-best run-stuffers, are no longer on the team. For that matter, eight of last year's 11 starters won't play in this game for one reason or another (eight, assuming Earl Thomas doesn't play). He's more likely to be limited by Denver's crappy offensive line than Seattle's front four. The Broncos really could salt away the game early and run Freeman copiously. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.75/10

15
TEN @MIA

Last year, in seven games Miami allowed an average of only 64 rushing yards-per-game. But in the remaining nine games, the opposing teams averaged 146 yards-per-game. This was before the team cut All-Pro run-stopper Ndamukong Suh. Derrick Henry will have the advantage of facing this defense with the support of an offensive line that returns all five starters, including two offensive tackles that have been graded in the top-16 of the position for two straight years. This strong line, combined with Henry's physical style of running, led him to convert 76% of his runs in 2017 into positive yardage. Similar power back, Marshawn Lynch, had his most successful fantasy game of 2017 against this defense. It's easy to see a scenario where Tennessee gets ahead and pounds Henry. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.75/10

16
SF @MIN

A Week 4 injury left an unfulfilled taste of what might have been for Dalvin Cook last year. The rookie shot onto the scene like a firework averaging 111 yards per game. At the time of his injury, he trailed only Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley in total yards from scrimmage. A simple rule of thumb for the first half of the 2017 season was to play your running backs against the 49ers no matter what. The first 11 weeks of the season saw them give up nearly 130 yards per game on the ground. In the final five, with Jimmy Garoppolo starting, it dropped dramatically to 87 yards per game, as opponents were frequently playing from behind. Goal line carries are expected to go to Latavius Murray. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 8.50/10

17
TEN @MIA

Much like Smash Mouth's 1999 hit "All-Star," Tennessee's "exotic smashmouth" has been faded to the recesses of one-hit wonders. Now we'll see a more dynamic scheme created by Matt LaFleur. Last year, Lewis showed his versatility gaining three yards-per-carry after contact and grading out as the most elusive running back according to Pro Football Focus. This will cause fits for Miami's linebackers who finished in the bottom five for allowing second-level yards (five to ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage) and open field yards (more than ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage) to running backs. This defense also allowed the fourth-most catches to running backs, which appeared to be one of Lewis' roles this preseason after out-snapping Derrick Henry eight to two on third downs in the preseason. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.50/10

18

Many expected Ronald Jones to start this game, but he looked completely lost, so it's the third-year pro, Peyton Barber, getting the nod. It's a continuation of the end of 2017 for Barber who started the final five games for Tampa Bay and looked strong in the process averaging 4.3 yards per carry during the stretch. He finished last season playing this exact opponent, and performed well with 89 yards and one touchdown against the Saints. New Orleans struggled to stop anyone on the ground in 2017 giving up 4.4 yards per carry, fifth-most in the league. Opposing running backs rushed for over seventy yards in five of the Saints final six games. With Jameis Winston on the shelf, the Bucs would love to establish the run with Barber. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 8.25/10

19
ATL @PHI

Who was the only player to top 74 rushing yards against the Atlanta Falcons last year? The answer is Jay Ajayi, the Miami Dolphins version. But it took him 26 attempts to get there. Volume is a tricky prediction for the Philadelphia backfield. LeGarrette Blount's leaves 181 touches ready for someone to swipe up. Jay Ajayi is first in line to take on the lion's share. His final six games of last year saw him average over 15 touches per game. Touchdowns have been elusive during Ajayi's career with just 11 scores on 575 touches. Last year, he didn't get a single carry from inside the five-yard line from either of his teams. Atlanta was a good run defense last year, finishing sixth in yards allowed. And Ajayi only netted 3.6 yards per carry in the playoff game last year. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 8.25/10

20

Jump in the DeLorean and hit 88 mph, because Marshawn Lynch is poised to turn back time. The Rams have constructed a stout defense, yet they need to shore up a run defense that ranked fifth-worst in yards allowed, despite only seeing the 19th-most attempts. As noted by Pro Football Focus, only three of their front-seven players rank positively in run defense. One of those three, Aaron Donald, has missed all training camp. The addition of Ndamukong Suh should help. Lynch is accustomed to facing a team that stacks the line of scrimmage. Los Angeles blitzed the fourth-most in 2017; after seeing eight-men boxes on 33% of runs, Lynch still ran efficiently, wasting little time gaining positive yards. Other North-South power backs with a similar efficiency rate in 2017, such as Zeke Elliot and Leonard Fournette, each gained over 85 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.25/10

21
HOU @NE

New England's starting running back position is the holy grail of fantasy production. Rex Burkhead was sidelined during training camp with a slight tear in his knee, but it's merely a flesh wound, and he should take hold against Houston. This is especially true given that Dion Lewis is gone and Sony Michel's knee injury has his availability in doubt, leaving Burkhead as the team's runner with the highest red zone success rate (56%). Houston is formidable, however, when healthy. J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney combine for two top-seven run stoppers according to Pro Football Focus. In last years meeting, Houston flexed their run-stopping prowess, holding New England to only 59 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards to the Patriots running backs. Burkhead wasn't healthy for that game. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.25/10

22

He spent August getting another month further from last year's leg injury, and it paid off. A couple days ago, Jay Gruden said Thompson "looks fantastic" and he's not on the injury report in any capacity. Arizona allowed the 7th-most RB receptions last year, and in the Week 15 matchup between these teams, Thompson's replacement, Kapri Bibbs caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Remember, Thompson was roughly RB12 when his injury struck in 2017.
Charch's Rating: 8.25/10

23
PIT @CLE

Conspicuously absent from Hard Knocks, Carlos Hyde shouldn't go as unnoticed against Pittsburgh. The Steelers finished 16th in adjusted-line-yards and were a middling defense against the run in 2017. Running backs gained 4.4 yards-per-carry against them, which was fifth most. The team also ceded an average of 147 rushing yards in the last three games. New defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar, could surprise Cleveland's run game. In his previous defensive line coaching stints, he helped Minnesota allow the fewest rushing yards over a six-year span. As the 14th-most consistent fantasy running back over the past two seasons, Hyde will need help in his debut. The Browns rebuilt offensive line looked awfully shaky in the preseason, particularly at left tackle. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.00/10

24
TEN @MIA

Kenyan Drake took over as the starter in the latter half of 2017, averaging 20 touches per game. Furthermore, when it counted most, the coaching staff turned to Drake giving him 80% of the team's rushing attempts inside the five-yard line. That's the positive part of this matchup. Tennessee's front-seven gave up the least number of rushing touchdowns and ranked 7th in rushing DVOA, meaning only six defenses were more efficient on a per-play basis compared to the league average. The one weakness was preventing running back receptions. Tennessee allowed the most receiving yards to the position, and Drake averaged 30 receiving yards-per-game in the five weeks he served as the starter. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 8.00/10

25

To say Devonta Freeman starts seasons slowly is an understatement. His Week 1 rushing yardage numbers for his career are as follows: 15, 18, 20 and 37. Playing last season's stingiest rushing defense is hardly the situation to break the trend. Last year, Philadelphia gave up less than 80 yards per game on the ground and a mere seven rushing touchdowns. Freeman has faced the Eagles in three consecutive years and rushed for 7, 49, and 18 yards. And continued frustration seems likely as Philadelphia chose not to rest on their laurels this offseason with the signing of two former Pro Bowl run stoppers in Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 8.00/10

26

Jamaal Williams didn't exactly electrify anyone during his rookie campaign but due to Aaron Jones' legal issues, he gets a second chance to lead the Green Bay backfield. Williams started the final eight games but had only one finish with four or more yards per carry. However, nearly all of his work came with Brett Hundley at quarterback. Now he gets the multi-multi-million-dollar man, Aaron Rodgers, distracting the defense. Last season at Soldier Field, Williams in his first professional start, had 74 total yards on 21 touches. The Bears' addition of Khalil Mack will improve an already tenacious defense. Chicago allowed one 100-yard rusher, Latavius Murray, and seven times held their opponent to under 100 team rushing yards. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 8.00/10

27

The 2017 Jets were an equal opportunity giver allowing eleven different running backs to gain 75 or more total yards against them. They were horrific on the road in 2017, giving up over 126 yards per game. And the 2018 version could be worse with the loss of Muhammad Wilkerson and Demario Davis. Kerryon Johnson needs Detroit to commit to a run game to have success. Jim Bob Cooter's Lions offense have ranked 32nd, 30th, and 32nd in total rushing yards over the last three seasons. The Lions offensive line should be improved with the addition of first-round pick Frank Ragnow. Ragnow takes over at left guard. In 2017 the Lions ran for a dismal 2.8 yards per carry towards the left guard gap. Clouding the waters for Johnson, LeGarrette Blount looms for goal line work and Theo Riddick for receptions. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

28
PIT @CLE

It's a mixed bag of trends for Duke Johnson as he faces the Steelers. The biggest positive is Duke's Week 17 matchup from last year against this defense. He posted 95 total yards and scored a rushing touchdown. He did that with DeShone Kizer at the helm. Now he gets a massive upgrade to Tyrod Taylor. Working against Johnson is that the Steelers were generally very good against receiving runners, allowing a league-best ONE receiving touchdown to runners. Johnson is expected to be used more as a slot receiver this year and that could start this week.
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

29
HOU @NE

The only thing more anticipated than Lamar Miller's breakout season is the last Game of Thrones book. I have no faith in George R.R. Martin (do not put Sanza on the throne, George!), but I do have faith in Miller. Houston will be forced to chase points, or at least keep pace with an explosive New England offense. They ran the ball on 39% of plays when trailing, with Miller seeing more snaps than any other back. Last season, he ran behind the worst graded offensive line, and they remain so based on PFF's preseason grading. New England's defensive line play is not much better. They all yielded 4.7 yards-per-attempt, 2nd highest. This allowed ten teams to run for over 100 yards, four of these century marks were accomplished by the lead running back on each team. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

30

Isaiah Crowell is the jelly bean flavor you pull out of a bag and end up being pleased with only because it's not licorice. Last season, he was among 12 running backs with over 200 carries who had a higher-than-average number of runs that went for one yard or less. Yet, he was also among a group of only 13 running backs who remained even with the league average in runs over 20 yards. Whether Crowell is a boom or bust depends on which Detroit run defense shows up. In the first five weeks of 2017, they held opponents to 75 rushing yards per game, but after Haloti Ngata's injury, that averaged jumped to 130. Ngata was not re-signed, leaving the door open. New coach, Matt Patricia, understands the value of a good run defense, however. While calling plays in New England, Patricia's run defense only dropped outside the top-ten once. Bilal Powell lurks, and could certainly muck up the works for Crowell. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

31
SEA @DEN

Denver was a team running backs wanted to avoid in 2017. They allowed the third-fewest total yards to running backs and completely shut down the likes of Melvin Gordon, Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott. Gordon's 54 yards rushing led that group. Expect more of the same as Denver improved along the defensive line with the selection of first-round rookie defensive end Bradley Chubb. Seattle would love to establish a running game with Chris Carson to keep Von Miller and Chubb honest, but its shotty offensive line is very unlikely to win that battle. This is a tall task for an offense that ranked dead last in non-QB rushing yards and yards per carry. For context, the Seahawks runners averaged less than 3.3 yards per carry. Gross. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

32
BUF @BAL

In 2017, LeSean McCoy was top ten in rushing attempts, yards, targets, and receiving yards. But everything around McCoy has degraded since then. Buffalo lost their best three starters from their offensive line. Functional quarterback Tyrod Taylor is gone, replaced by a player who threw five interceptions in the first half of his only start. Last year, Baltimore's run defense was awesome once defensive tackle Brandon Williams returned, allowing a meager 79 rushing yards per game. There's just no part of this situation to like. I can't even recommend McCoy as a receiver because of the success Baltimore had against running back via the air last year, allowing the 8th-fewest yards and the 10th-fewest receptions to backs. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

33
ATL @PHI

Tevin Coleman has had 18 or more rush attempts in only five career games. The talent is there but so is Devonta Freeman. Volume and thus predictability will always be an issue for Coleman. The one position for Philadelphia with true question marks is at linebacker. Jordan Hicks returns from a torn Achilles, Mychal Kendricks was released and newly signed Paul Worrilow tore his ACL on the same day. Putting Coleman in situations that exploit his straight-line speed against the new linebacker group could be beneficial to the Falcons. For what it's worth (hint: not much) Charch believes that Coleman will get more work in 2018 as the team grinds him up before he heads to free agency in the offseason. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

34

You don't have to be the best, you just have to be better than your competition. Marlon Mack won't play in this game and Nyheim Hines fumbled four times in the preseason. Voila, Jordan Wilkins is the new starter for the Colts. Wilkins has seen more work each week of the preseason playing 26%, 30%, 45% of snaps. He is a strong runner with a nose for the end zone, scoring in 39% of his collegiate games and never averaging below 5.3 yards-per-carry. Last season, Cincinnati fell in the bottom ten of tackles for loss and yards-per-carry to opposing running backs. In this game, they will be without one of their best run-stopper, Vontaze Burfict. According to Pro Football Focus, no other linebacker on the Bengals roster graded above a 50 in run defense. Additions were made this offseason to help, but they may not provide the dividends a player like Burfict can. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

35

The Arizona Cardinals defense has allowed two running backs to top 100 rushing yards in their last 32 games. Last season they gave up 3.5 yards per carry, third-lowest in the league. The Cardinals defensive personnel remains fairly unchanged under new head coach Steve Wilks. This does not bode well for the newly signed Adrian Peterson. Although Peterson has been declared the starter, Chris Thompson's role is well established as the pass-catching specialist, leaving Peterson to fight for rushing attempts and goal-line work. He will need a Redskins departure from 2017 when they had nine total rushing attempts from their running backs inside the five-yard line, seventh fewest in the league. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

36

Gio Bernard remains a constant in Cincinnati's backfield. In the last four games of 2017, after Joe Mixon suffered a concussion, Bernard showed he's more than a change-of-pace back. He averaged nearly 14 carries and 5 receptions, which allowed him to finish as a top-30 fantasy running back. His real strength that will be on display against Indianapolis is his pass-catching ability. He's caught at least 39 balls every year. The Colts' linebackers assigned to cover the running back in open space failed last season. They averaged 46 receiving yards-per-game to runners and the team did little to improve that groups. Also, they let their top-ranked run-defender walk in free agency. This does not bode well for a team seeking to improve on its 26th-ranked run defense. This might be Gio's best opportunity of the year. -Josh Stanley (@stanleyjosh)
Charch's Rating: 7.75/10

37
DAL @CAR

Don't be fooled by the year-over-year rushing numbers for Carolina. Excluding Cam Newton gives you a more accurate representation. Last season without Cam, the Panthers gained the 3rd-fewest yards on the ground and averaged under four yards per carry. Jonathan Stewart did have two 100-yard rushing performances last season and many expect C.J. Anderson to pick up his role in the offense. Anderson had a monster game last year against the Cowboys rushing 25 times for 118 yards and a touchdown. Dallas could struggle in the interior defensive line. David Irving once again starts the season on the suspension list and Maliek Collins is recovering from a broken foot. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.50/10

38
HOU @NE
39

While Alfred Morris may not be the most talented back in the 49ers backfield, he certainly is the most comfortable with Kyle Shanahan's system. In the two seasons, Morris had Shanahan as his offensive coordinator he averaged over 90 yards rushing per game. Granted, he was younger and better at the time, but it's still a positive in a brutal matchup. The Minnesota Vikings were stellar against the rush in 2017, allowing 83 rushing yards per game, second-fewest in the league. They allowed less than 100 total team rushing yards in eleven of the eighteen games they played in 2017. Bigger backs like Jonathan Stewart, Le'Veon Bell, Jordan Howard, and Isaiah Crowell similar to Morris in stature did present the most damage to the Vikings. Matt Breida will compete for carries and fullback Kyle Juszczyk will get receptions. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.50/10

40
ATL @PHI

Did you remember that Clement led the Eagles in receiving yards in the Super Bowl win? He’s got a nice chance to be a PPR helper, because the Falcons allowed the most receptions to running backs last year, almost 7 per game. Add in Ajayi’s mystery injury, and Clement becomes worth watching…although Darren Sproles lurks to catch passes too. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.25/10

41
HOU @NE
42
PIT @CLE

[UPDATE: It doesn’t look like Bell will play, and obviously, you’ll bench him in that situation. But just in case he surprises us, this ranking reflects his value as a timeshare back with James Conner.] The third B in Pittsburgh's Killer Bs, Le'Veon Bell, has missed all training camp and preseason. Last season, we experienced the same uneasiness with Bell holding out. Yet, it feels foolish to bet against him. Over six career games against his divisional foes in Cleveland, he averages 20 rushing attempts for 90 yards and four receptions for 34 yards-per-game. The road woes of the Steelers are well-documented, but Bell averages 16 yards-per-game more on the road. Cleveland's defense may have been the one thing fan were proud of in 2017. They were among the top-ten at preventing successful run plays. This success was largely without Myles Garrett, who comes into this game healthy. Additionally, it cannot be forgotten that Bell opened the 2017 season against Cleveland and massively disappointed with 47 scoreless yards.
Charch's Rating: 7.50/10

43

The Chicago defense struggled against pass receiving running backs in 2017. Jerick McKinnon, Giovani Bernard, and Duke Johnson each had six or more receptions and at least 50 yards receiving. Ty Montgomery filled this role nicely for Green Bay at the start of last season racking up 18 receptions in his first three games before getting injured. Montgomery has had huge success against the Bears defense averaging over eight yards per touch for his career, including his 162 rushing-yard performance in a bitter cold game in 2016. -Adam Spinks (@theRBScout)
Charch's Rating: 7.25/10

44
CHI @GB
45
SF @MIN
46
NYJ @DET
47
48
TEN @MIA
49
HOU @NE
50

As a member of the running-back-by-committee in Denver, Devontae Booker will face the tattered remains of the Legion of Boom. The proverbial "boom" of this defense has gone missing in recent years, ranking 27th in run stuffed percentage last season, which incorporates all runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. They also struggled on the road, allowing over 100 rushing yards in four of their eight road games. Yet, as a smaller running back, the Broncos have been hesitant to give the diminutive back a full workload, especially near the end zone. In his career, he averages nine rushing attempts per game and has seen a total of 15 attempts inside the ten-yard line. Comparatively, his old backfield partner, C.J. Anderson, who is similar in size to Royce Freeman, averaged 15 carries-per-game and saw 24 attempts inside the ten-yard line over the same time.
Charch's Rating: 6.75/10

51
JAC @NYG
53
NYJ @DET
54
KC @LAC
55
LAR @OAK
56
PIT @CLE
58
WAS @ARI
59
CIN @IND
60
LAR @OAK
61
62
WAS @ARI
64
JAC @NYG
65
TEN @MIA
66
SEA @DEN
67
BUF @BAL
68
JAC @NYG
69
BUF @BAL
70
71
DAL @CAR
72
73
74
CIN @IND
75
76
SEA @DEN
77
78
CHI @GB
79
LAR @OAK
80