- New York Giants tailback Saquon Barkley favored to finish season as leading rusher and team’s change of starting QB might just help him
- Seemingly at full health for the first time in his NFL career, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has been the team’s rudder through the first two games of the season
- Despite missing training camp and preseason, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t missed a beat
The NFL season is still very much in its infancy, but some of the usual suspects have already started to stake their claims to the NFL rushing title.
The biggest mover so far has been Vikings star Dalvin Cook, who has seen his odds move from +650 following Week 1 to +375 after another 100-yard game in Week 2’s loss to the Packers. As a result, he has moved past Ezekiel Elliott and is now the second favorite behind Saquon Barkley to be the NFL’s leading rusher.
One of the biggest reasons for that is Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins’s continued struggles under center, giving Cook a solid platform to show he is one of the most reliable runners in the NFL when healthy.
Who Will Be The NFL’s Leading Rusher?
|Player||2019 Rushing Yards||Odds|
|Saquon Barkley (Giants)||227||+300|
|Dalvin Cook (Vikings)||265||+375|
|Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys)||164||+500|
|Marlon Mack (Colts)||225||+750|
|Nick Chubb (Browns)||137||+1200|
|Christian McCaffrey (Panthers)||165||+1400|
|Derrick Henry (Titans)||166||+1600|
|Josh Jacobs (Raiders)||184||+1600|
|Todd Gurley (Rams)||160||+1800|
|Mark Ingram (Ravens)||154||+2200|
*Odds taken on 09/19/19
Barkley Carrying Giants Load
It’s fair to say that even the most novice football fans wouldn’t have a hard time noticing Barkley’s impact on a game. With nine plays of 50 or more yards in just 18 career games, the 2018 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is quite simply a game changer.
Why he only has 29 rushing attempts through the first two games of the season is harder to fathom. That number of carries puts him joint 16th in the NFL among running backs, which seems like a massive oversight for someone who is averaging 7.8 yards per carry, easily putting him top of the class amongst workhorse tailbacks.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 17, 2019
With a new starting quarterback this coming weekend, with Daniel Jones replacing two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning, there’s a good chance the rookie QB will be leaning on the Giants running game while he gets used to the team’s system. That should only help Barkley’s chances of ending the season as the NFL’s leading rusher.
Cooking Up A Storm
After two injury-plagued seasons to begin his NFL career, it’s fair to say that Dalvin Cook is finally starting to look every bit the running back who set the college game on fire while at Florida State.
With three rushing touchdowns so far in 2019, the former Seminole has already set a career high in that department, and as the current league leader in rushing yards, has shown himself to be the dependable runner that a team like Minnesota currently needs.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 15, 2019
Case in point, the Vikings run game averaged more yards per rush (7.24) than per pass attempt (7.18) in Week 2’s loss at Green Bay. In an NFL landscape currently obsessed with going vertical through the air, that certainly ranks as an anomaly. Twinned with Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins’s current struggles and it seems as though Cook’s breakout season is set to run and run, providing he can stay healthy.
Zeke Needs More Feeding
Who needs training camp and preseason snaps? Not Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, apparently. After signing the richest contract for a running back in NFL history just four days before the Cowboys’ first game, he could have been forgiven for taking a few days to find his feet.
But that’s just not Zeke’s style. Instead, the former Ohio State star is off to the hottest start of his young career, with his 164 yards off of 36 carries through two games putting him ahead of last year’s 147 yards at the same point.
The Cowboys are 17-3 when Ezekiel Elliott rushes for at least 100 yards.
Most 100-yard rushing games in Cowboys history:
Emmitt Smith: 76
Tony Dorsett: 43
Ezekiel Elliott: 20
DeMarco Murray: 19
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 17, 2019
Week 2’s 111 yards against the Redskins last weekend saw Elliott move past DeMarco Murray in the Cowboys’ all-time 100-yard rushing game list, and he doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down just yet.
Best of The Rest
After a monster Week 1, where he rushed for 174 yards in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack cooled off somewhat in Week 2, gaining just 51 rushing yards.
Since the beginning of last season, here are the leading rushers in the NFL (including playoffs):
— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) September 13, 2019
While the Colts are showing a dedicated commitment to the running game, somewhat predictably after quarterback Andrew Luck threw them one of the biggest curveballs of all-time during the preseason, it remains to be seen how much Mack fits into this over the long term. And that’s despite having a league-high 45 carries through two weeks.
Backup Jordan Wilkins had 82 yards in Week 2’s win over the Titans, and could see more action going forward, particularly as Mack was held out of practice on Wednesday with a calf injury.
The Final Yard
While Elliott has come out of the starting blocks like a gazelle, the shorter odds on both Barkley and Cook reflect two teams with their own struggles at quarterback who are only too happy to lean on their running games. If Giants head coach Pat Shurmur can give his team’s running game the platform it deserves in his offense, then look for Barkley to take off.
But at +375, and with little else going right in the Vikings offense, Cook looks like a value bet to claim the rushing title if he can only stay healthy.
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