Matchup of NFL's Best Run Games is Two-On-One

Tennessee relies heavily on Derrick Henry while Cleveland splits the load between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
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Derrick Henry gets enough praise.

He runs for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns again? Everyone talks about Henry. He throws a pulverizing stiff arm again? Everyone talks about Henry. He leads the league in rushing? Everyone talks about Henry.

But the Tennessee Titans running back also has been one to balance the adoration by giving out some of his own. When he turns in another explosive performance, the credit always goes to his teammates and coaches for making it easy for him to execute.

The same can be said for when Henry faces off against elite running backs. That will be the case this week when the Titans host the Cleveland Browns, and Henry did not hesitate to call the Browns’ running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt what it is: arguably the best in the league.

“Chubb is averaging like six yards per carry and 100 yards per game since he’s been back. I think that just speaks for itself,” Henry said. “Kareem, he’s a great back. He comes out of the back field receiving. That’s one of the best duos in the game, if not the best. Those guys are ballers.”

Both Cleveland running backs currently rank in the top 10 in rushing yards and have combined for 1,425 on the season to help make the Browns the No. 1 rushing offense in the league.

Chubb has rushed for 719 yards and six touchdowns on 115 carries this season, good for seventh among running backs. He leads all qualifying running backs in yards per carry at 6.3.

He’s done all of it despite missing four games with an MCL sprain earlier this season. At the time of his injury, Chubb was among the rushing leaders in the league with 335 yards.

Hunt, on the other hand, is ninth with 706 yards on 157 attempts. He has four rushing touchdowns this season and averages 4.5 yards per carry.

“If (Chubb) didn’t get hurt, he would probably be in the top two or three in rushing yards,” Henry said. “Those guys are doing a great job. They are great runners, great athletes. It’s going to be a good matchup going against those guys.”

The respect is mutual for Henry, who leads the league in rushing yards with 1,257 yards on 256 attempts. Henry has rushed for 100 yards or more seven times this season and 13 times in his last 19 contests dating back to last season.

Henry and Chubb were neck and neck for the rushing title in the final weeks of the season. Chubb entered Week 17 with a slim advantage over Henry, but ultimately finished in second after Henry exploded for more than 200 rushing yards in Week 17 against the Houston Texans.

Since Week 15 of last season, Henry leads the league in rushing attempts (392), rushing yards (2,000), rushing touchdowns (17) and yards per game (125.0). Chubb is third behind Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings with 160 attempts, 932 yards, seven touchdowns and 93.2 yards per game.

“I have checked him out a couple of times,” Chubb said of Henry this week. “He is a big, physical runner. He has great speed. He has great vision. He wears you down. He never stops. He runs very hard.”

History indicates that the matchup between the two running backs will be a good one.

Chubb and Henry faced off once in college (2015). Chubb was a sophomore at Georgia, while Henry was a senior at Alabama. In the game, which Alabama won, Chubb ran for 146 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while Henry amassed 148 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

The Browns and the Titans met in Week 1 last season. In a 43-13 victory, Henry ran 19 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. Chubb collected 75 yards on 17 carries.

While the running back matchup this week makes for a nice subplot, the two will ultimately try to lead their teams to an important victory. The Browns and the Titans both currently sit at 8-3, well positioned to make the postseason.

Right now, team victories are most important.

“We’re facing their defense,” Henry said. “I am not facing Nick Chubb. I am going against their defense. He has to do what he has to do with his team, I have to do what I have to do with mine. It’s not really me looking at what he does. I am focused on what we need to do to win the game.”