We’re only three weeks into the new 18-week NFL regular season with 14 regular-season games left for each team. When you use a lot of numbers, it’s important to understand the variables leading to those numbers outside of skill and scheme. 

For example, the Carolina Panthers have the top defense in the NFL. Is it legit for NFL Week 4? Carolina was an underrated defense coming into this season. The hype has surpassed the talent at this point as people will react to what has already happened in the first three weeks. That’s a reactive strategy and a losing one at that. In fantasy, as is the case in business, being proactive and knowing what’s to come is far more valuable.

The Panthers’ defense still has playmakers on it and by no means is it a bad defense. They have been hit with costly injuries recently that will alter the defensive chemistry and coverage ability. Carolina has also benefitted from facing two rookie quarterbacks, both in their first NFL starts. In their other game, they faced Jameis Winston who has yet to pass for 150 yards in any of his three games this season.

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RBs Average Yards Per Carry

Several years ago, I started taking out running back’s top carry from their season totals, early in the season and average out their remaining yards per carry without the one exceptional run that boosted up averages. It’s not an exact science, but it does give me an idea of how each back is consistently running and what could lay on the horizon for the remainder of the season.

I’ve taken the top 10 RBs in rushing yards this season and have worked this exercise below. Their results are listed by ypc after the removal of each back’s longest run.

As you can see from the list, I believe Derrick Henry is a fugazi, this season. He’s faced the Indy, Arizona, and Seattle run defenses. They rank 28th, 29th, and 30th against the run. Henry has three touchdowns on the year, they all came in Week 2 with none in Week 1 or 3. He has 80 carries this year, while Joe Mixon is next closest with 66, followed by the injured McCaffrey with 51.

Antonio Gibson’s numbers don’t look great but he averaged 4.8 ypc while rushing 33 times for 159 yards against the Chargers (32nd ranked run defense) and the Giants (13th ranked run defense). His numbers took a hit when he faced a top-five, complete defense in the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo is loaded on defense and I wouldn’t hold the 2.6 ypc against Gibson with a backup quarterback starting. 

Montgomery has failed to average 3.5 ypc in his last two games after rushing 16 times for 108 yards (6.8 ypc) and a touchdown against the Rams in Week 1. To be fair, his Week 1 performance was against a Rams team that is 18th in rush yards per play, while his last two games were against two teams in the Browns and Bengals that are both top five in rushing yards per play. Montgomery will need to have an advantageous matchup, going forward, for him to have big weeks as he can’t overcome this current Bears’ offense.

Melvin Gordon just isn’t a good runner. The rookie, Javonte Williams has seen Gordon’s carries increase each week as his carries have declined by one week-over-week. Williams hasn’t flourished early on but he will eventually take over the lead-back role as he has the potential to be good on the ground, where Gordon failed to reach 4.0 ypc in four of his first five NFL seasons. Williams did catch 3-of-4 targets for 33 yards last week, seeing two more targets in this last game than Gordon.