This is a very exciting week, as the Rush Rating is undergoing a transformation into a new phase. So far, Rush Rating has been a measure of Running Back efficiency. Now, it is also measuring how a defense defends the run to the seven different run directions.
You will see the “RR”, which indicates the Rush Rating of a Running Back, and that is their average percentile across the seven different run directions. The “vsRR” is the Defensive version of the same metric – the average percentile of how good a Defense does defending a run by direction.
High numbers are good. Low numbers are bad. Being able to highlight a RB vs the Defense they are playing will allow me to provide week-to-week matchup information, helping you make accurate and informed decisions before setting your lineup each week.
So, let’s get to it. 4 Running Backs I think are Good plays this week. And 4 Running Backs I think are Bad plays.
– at New Orleans Saints [vsRR] 50.02
Jones has looked very, very good to start the season, and he’s securing a firm grip on the backfield touches in Tampa Bay. He out-carried Peyton Barber 19-9 last weekend against the Rams. He’s winning the trust of head coach Bruce Arians, and his efficiency has been truly elite. His Rush Rating of 67.90 is good for sixth-best in the NFL through four weeks. The Saints have been around the middle of the pack against the run, giving up 112 rushing yards per game, but Jones is earning my trust. I see him as a good RB2 play this week.
– at Pittsburgh Steelers [vsRR] 46.62
Mark Ingram is just straight up balling out. He’s the RB6 on the season, looks like a game-changing back, is laying down punishing runs on a weekly basis, and is the engine that keeps the Baltimore offense chugging. I couldn’t be happier to see him getting it done. The Steelers let Mixon, in a really bad offense, run for 4.1 yards per carry last week, and let the Niners RBs run for 165 rushing yards the week before. The Steelers haven’t faced an offense as dynamic as this Ravens team, and they won’t be able to sell out to stop Ingram. All the signs point to Ingram being a must start, and I’d go as far as to say that he will finish as an RB1 this week.
– at Kansas City Chiefs [vsRR] 25.43
Boy have the Chiefs been atrocious against the run this year. They are dead last in vsRR, and this week they get the Colts and Marlon Mack. Mack has been a bit iffy this year so far – he was a monster in week 1, disappeared completely in week 2, was solid week 3, then fell off the map again in week 4. The yo-yoing of his performance has been frustrating, to say the least, but the matchup with the Chiefs is as good as it gets. Mack is a must-start as a high-end RB2, with a return to RB1 land possible.
– at Cincinnati Bengals [vsRR] 30.71
Johnson’s usage in the run game has been a bit inconsistent – he’s only averaging 11.75 carries per game – but his activity in the passing game gives him a safe floor. The Bengals are second-to-last in vsRR this season, getting torched every single game so far this year. If the Cardinals are going to get their first win of the season with Kyler Murray under center, they would be wise to feed Johnson early in this game. This is Johnson’s best opportunity of the year to return the RB1 value that he was drafted at. He should manage to finish inside the top-12 at the position this week.
– vs New York Jets [vsRR] 65.31
“But Jon, did you see how nuts Howard went against the Packers last week?!” Yeah, I did. He did amazing, but that defensive front looked completely overmatched by the Philly O-line. There isn’t a RB in the league that wouldn’t have been able to find some running room in that game. The Jets, on the other hand, have been much better against the run than the Packers have, holding opponents to 88.7 rushing yards per game. Don’t forget, Miles Sanders isn’t going anywhere in that offense either. Howard was fortunate to cash in three TDs, which you certainly can’t count on every week. Sanders and Howard should continue to split touches, and if Howard isn’t able to find the end zone, he could wind up with a very underwhelming stat line this week. He’s a Flex play at best, but is probably better left on the bench.
– at San Francisco 49ers [vsRR] 69.86
Just like Howard, Chubb had a career day last week – against the Ravens, no less. By no means am I saying you should bench Chubb (please don’t do that), but against the Niners, who have been third-best in the league against the run against some good competition, Chubb’s expectations should certainly be tempered. The Niners have yet to allow a top-25 RB on the season… that’s scary. Your weekly RB1 might be held in check this weekend. Consider Chubb an RB2 or less, and he might land outside the top-25 if the trend continues.
– at Philadelphia Eagles [vsRR] 63.29
When Bell signed with the Jets, there were many people that expressed concerns about his ability to be productive in a worse offense and with a substantially lesser O-line than what he had in Pittsburgh. So far, that’s proven to be true. His efficiency has been atrocious, although his usage is remaining incredibly high (which is huge). This offense is going to continue to try and run through him, but just like my dislike of Howard on the opposite side of the ball in this game, I’m not a fan of Bell at all. As of today, it’s not sure if Darnold will be back for this game. If he’s not, it’s going to be a very long day for the Jets offense. Even if Darnold plays, I don’t like Bell any more than a Flex play.
– vs Chicago Bears [vsRR] 75.14
(Finally, I get to talk about a rookie!)
Jacobs has been the most impressive from this year’s rookie class, so far, and looks to be every bit the franchise runner that the Raiders thought they were drafting. He’s the 16th-ranked back in the Rush Rating metric so far this year, which about lines up with his RB21 ranking on the season. While he has been a solid RB2/Flex play so far this year, playing a game in London against Khalil Mack (REVENGE!) and the Bears, I don’t like him in my starting lineup this week. Let Jacobs rest on your bench and pull him back to your lineup after his Week 6 bye.