NFL Playoff Predictions: Running Backs Who Will Dominate Divisional Round

Tim KeeneyContributor IJanuary 7, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:   Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks tries to avoid the tackle of  Perry Riley #56 and  Jordan Pugh #32 of the Washington Redskins in the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Can we have a moment of silence for Adrian Peterson?

Joe Webb was forced to become the first quarterback ever to start a playoff game without throwing a single regular-season pass this weekend when Christian Ponder suffered one of the worst-timed injuries of all time, and it didn't go well.

Webb looked more like Joe Tebow—low blow. I'm sorry. Don't hurt me—against the Green Bay Packers, Peterson "only" racked up 99 yards against stacked fronts and the Vikings were eliminated.

No more All Day. No more 50-yard runs. No more defenders getting run over like this poor kid:

Yup. That's pretty much what Peterson looked like this year during his magical 2,200-yard season, but unfortunately we'll have to wait eight months to see more of it.

Nonetheless, plenty of running backs during this weekend's (or is next weekend? Relevant) divisional matchups will at least help fill the void. 


Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks

The Atlanta Falcons may have gone 13-3 during the regular season, but it certainly wasn't because of their run defense. They gave up an anemic 4.8 yards per carry (29th in the NFL) and ranked just 20th in DVOA.  

Against most teams, that would be a problem. Against Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks, it's cause for panic.

Lynch just reeled off 132 yards on 20 carries against a stout Washington Redskins defense. He racked up nearly 1,800 total yards during the regular season. He never goes down on the first hit and usually doesn't go down on the second or third, either. He causes earthquakes

There's a reason Lynch's nickname is "Beast Mode," and with Russell Wilson playing better every week and spreading defenses out, the Falcons could be in for a long Sunday. 


Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

How do you beat the Green Bay Packers?

You keep Aaron Rodgers on that sideline like he's Jay Cutler in the 2011 NFC Championship Game. 

OK, second low blow, but nonetheless, the Niners, despite having one of the most intimidating defenses in the NFL, are going to want to slow this game down, make it ugly and win the possession battle. That means pounding the ball with Frank Gore. 

The veteran running back, who has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in six of his last seven seasons and is the epitome of a workhorse, is the perfect man for the job. 

Green Bay is 26th in the NFL against the run, often struggles with physical, hard-nosed running games and let Gore rack up 112 yards on 7.0 per carry in a Week 1 loss.

Don't be surprised if San Francisco looks to repeat that success, and with Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree adding a new dimension the Packers will have to worry about, don't be surprised if it works.


Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots

As far as running back battles go, this will be one of the best of the playoffs.

Ridley has quietly gained 1,263 yards at 4.4 yards per clip on the ground this season. Arian Foster has out-gained him (1,424 yards), but it has taken more carries (4.1 ypc). 

The defenses are just as similar. New England gives up 3.9 yards per carry. Houston allows 4.0. New England is ranked sixth in DVOA. Houston is ranked fifth. 

This difference here will be in the passing game.

The Patriots have what seems like infinite more weapons than the Texans, and as they proved a month ago, they will use those weapons to build a big lead.

As a result, the Texans will be forced to abandon the run-run-run-and-run-some-more mentality that they love, while the Pats will be able to pound the ball away with Ridley.

Both ball-carriers are in line for productive games, like always, but if you're going to—legally of course—bet on one of them, go with the one who is part of a much more balanced offense and is a member of the team favored by 10 points.