Matchup Meter: Rams offer Steelers, Mendenhall, perfect gift
It's been a rough holiday season for St. Louis. The NFL's worst-ranked run defense has given up six rushing scores over the past five games, and during that stretch the opposing team's leading rusher has averaged 116 yards on 24 carries.
This week the Rams will serve as a Christmas gift for a Steelers rushing attack that is gaining just 112.4 yards a game and has yet to reach double-digit touchdowns.
Preseason Top 10 pick Rashard Mendenhall could be the Least Valuable Fantasy Player of 2011. Regardless, the Steelers back should do well in this contest. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still hobbled with a bum ankle and Pittsburgh would like nothing more than to give the running game some extra work before heading into the postseason.
Leslie Frazier can't be pleased with how poorly his secondary has performed this year (31 touchdowns allowed and an opposing QB Rating of 110.8). Passers have exploited Minnesota's injuries to complete 69.1 percent of their attempts.
The Chiefs have given up an average of 130.4 rushing yards per game, and only three defenses have permitted more carries (436) this season. Those numbers should sound like an alarm to Michael Bush's fantasy owners.
In a battle for bragging rights in the Big Apple, the Jets will take advantage of a weakened Giants pass defense allowing 257.5 yards per game. Plus, more than half of the passing scores New York has given up this season (25) have come in the past month alone.
By now, fantasy owners know the routine -- San Francisco doesn't give up fantasy points to running backs. No touchdowns, few yards. And consider this fact: opponents have run the ball on San Francisco just 302 times this season, or 21.5 times a game.
When these AFC North foes last met, Baltimore managed just 158 yards on 10 of 23 passing. No receiver caught more than three balls or found the end zone. It's similar to what the Browns secondary has done to a number of teams this year. The unit has allowed the third fewest passing yards and touchdowns.
Should Cincinnati earn the AFC's final wild card spot it will be due in large part to a run defense that has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry this season (fifth best in the league). In recent weeks the unit has shut down some of the game's top backs: Steven Jackson (18 carries for 71 yards), Arian Foster (15 for 41) and Rashard Mendenhall (16 for 60).