With six of eight teams rushing for more than 100 yards in the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs, it's clear that running backs are one of the most, if not the most, important aspects to a successful offense.
Three of the NFL's top-seven leading rushers during the regular season will take the field on Sunday as each one attempts to advance his team to the championship game of its respective conference.
Who gets it done on Sunday?
Here are my predictions/projections for the best running back performances for Sunday's divisional games.
3. Stevan Ridley
A running game could be what the New England Patriots have lacked in their past two trips to the Super Bowl, as Stevan Ridley had an outstanding season in New England.
Ridley rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 12 TD while playing in all 16 games for the Patriots.
He rushed for at least 70 yards in 11 games, including 72 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Week 14 slaughtering of the Houston Texans.
Houston ranks seventh against the run but has been exploited by backs like Chris Johnson, Vick Ballard and Adrian Peterson this season.
With the second-year man averaging roughly 18 attempts per game, he'll undoubtedly have the opportunity to make his mark on this game.
Prediction: 18 attempts, 90 yards and one touchdown; one reception for five yards
2. Arian Foster
The key to the Houston Texans advancing to the AFC Championship Game is feeding Arian Foster the ball (which I outlined here), meaning he should have plenty of opportunities to compile the stats on Sunday.
Foster led the league in attempts (351) and rushing touchdowns (15) during the regular season and enters Sunday coming off a 140-yard day against the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round.
New England's defense ranks ninth against the rush, but Foster has proven he can run against nearly any defense, as evident by his solid days against Chicago, Denver and Baltimore.
Foster had just 46 yards and one TD the first time these two met on Dec. 10 due to New England jumping out to a 28-0 lead.
As long as the Texans don't fall behind too much early in the game, you can expect a heavy dose of Foster in Houston's offense on Sunday.
Prediction: 27 attempts, 125 yards and one touchdown; four receptions for 50 yards
Unfortunately for the Atlanta Falcons' 21st-ranked rush defense, the NFL's second-leading rusher during the regular season comes to the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
Lynch has compiled 11 100-yard rushing games this season—including 132 yards against the Washington Redskins last weekend—and his violent running style spells trouble for a weak Falcons rush defense.
Atlanta's rush defense has been abused this season, surrendering more than 1,900 yards and 16 scores.
To go with 11 rushing touchdowns on the season, Lynch racked up nearly 1,600 yards on the ground while averaging an even five yards per carry.
He gashed the San Francisco 49ers' staunch defense—just think of what he can do against Atlanta.
With the three-time Pro Bowler seeing almost 20 carries a game, Lynch is destined to have the best day of any RB on Sunday.
Prediction: 21 attempts, 130 yards and two touchdowns; two receptions for 20 yards
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