Welcome back! In this article, I will be diving into the top 12 running back plays for Week 1 of the NFL season. I will be looking at talent and matchup. Let’s get started.
1. Dalvin Cook, Min at Cincinnati
Dalvin Cook finished the 2020 season with 1,557 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. The Cincinnati Bengals were not great last year against running backs. Cook sits atop my list due to his ability to catch the ball. With the Vikings losing tight end Irv Smith Jr for the season, we can expect Cook to be the third option in the passing game and improve on his 44 receptions, 361 receiving yards, and 1 score from 2020.
2. Christian McCaffrey, Car vs New York Jets
Christian McCaffrey was hurt for most of last season. In 2019, however, he had 116 receptions, 19 total touchdowns, and just under 2,400 total yards rushing and receiving. CMC and the Panthers will host the New York Jets on Sunday. The only concern for McCaffrey is the fact that Sam Darnold will be the fourth Panthers quarterback in 3 years, and how well he can get the offense to gel together.
3. Alvin Kamara, NO vs Green Bay
Alvin Kamara finished the 2020 NFL season with 83 receptions, 21 total touchdowns, and 1,688 total yards from the line of scrimmage. Drew Brees has retired from the NFL, the Saints are turning to Jameis Winston, and they could rely more on Kamara this season. The Saints host a stout Green Bay run defense in Jacksonville this Sunday.
4. Derrick Henry, Ten vs Arizona
Derrick Henry has led the NFL in carries, rushing yards, rushing yards per game, and rushing touchdowns the past 2 years. Henry is hard to tackle and fights for extra yards. Tennessee added Julio Jones this offseason to help prevent defenses from stacking the box against Henry. The two concerns about Henry would be the number of carries he has received the last couple of years and the lack of targets Henry will see in the passing game.
5. Najee Harris, Pit at Buffalo
Najee Harris is a rookie from Alabama that the Steelers drafted in the first round. He has great hands, speed, and size. Buffalo’s run defense is tough, but if he can find a hole or two, Harris could make some big plays. Roethlisberger could end up using Harris more in the passing game if Diontae Johnson’s drops continue to be an issue.
6. Nick Chubb, Cle at Kansas City
Nick Chubb finished last season with 1,067 rushing yards and 12 scores. He also only had 16 receptions for 150 yards. Chubb splits time with Kareem Hunt, but Chubb is the running back that the Browns try to get going early and often in their games. The Browns travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs and their poor run defense on Sunday.
7. Miles Sanders, Phi at Atlanta
Miles Sanders and the Eagles will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons on Sunday. In 2020, Sanders rushed for 867 yards and 6 touchdowns in 12 games. This will be Jalen Hurts’ first season as the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, and the Eagles might rely more on the running game.
8. Jonathan Taylor, Ind vs Seattle
Jonathan Taylor finished his rookie season with 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was also able to add 36 receptions for 299 yards and 1 score. The Colts are without TY Hilton to start the season and might need to rely on Taylor and the running backs more than injury-prone Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman, and the passing game.
9. James Robinson, Jax at Houston
There is a new number 1 quarterback in Jacksonville, and there was a new running back in Travis Etienne as well. Etienne was hurt in the preseason and will miss the entire regular season. James Robinson finished with 10 total touchdowns and 1,414 total yards from scrimmage. The Jaguars could depend on Robinson more early to help Trevor Lawrence adjust to the NFL. Jacksonville is headed to Houston to play a rebuilding Texans team.
10. Leonard Fournette, TB vs Dallas
Fournette had only 97 rushing attempts for 367 rushing yards and 6 scores last season. During the playoffs, he had 300 rushing yards, 18 receptions, and 4 total touchdowns. Fournette possibly gained the trust of Tom Brady and he should lead the running back group in Tampa Bay against a suspect Dallas defense.
11. Joe Mixon, Cin vs Minnesota
Joe Mixon was hurt for most of 2020, as he played in only 6 games and ran for 428 yards and 4 total touchdowns. Mixon is a 3-down running back that can contribute in the passing game. Sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow is returning from an injury as well, and the Bengals could need to depend on Mixon and the running game more as they face the Vikings.
12. Josh Jacobs, LV vs Baltimore
Josh Jacobs finished the 2020 season with 1,303 total yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He ran for over 1,000 yards each of his first 2 seasons. Even though he is facing the Ravens in Week 1 and the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake in the offseason, he is on this list based on his history with Week 1 games. Jacobs scored 2 touchdowns and ran for 85 yards in Week 1 in 2019. He followed that up with 3 touchdowns in Week 1 of the 2020 season. Could this trend continue in 2021?