Ground Index

RB Index, Week 12: How Gus Edwards can be Ravens' rivalry-game hero

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was published prior to the rescheduling of the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game. With the contest now scheduled for 3:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Ravens running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, who were on the reserve/COVID-19 list, will be eligible to play.

Originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night, this week's Baltimore-Pittsburgh game has been moved to Tuesday as the Ravens deal with multiple positive COVID-19 tests. Even with the postponement, Baltimore will have to face the undefeated Steelers without two of its top running backs, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, who tested positive earlier in the week.

That means the Ravens' No. 1 rushing attack will be led by Gus Edwards and Justice Hill -- as well as Lamar Jackson, of course. Per usual, the reigning MVP must play well as the focal point of Greg Roman's offense, but in this space today, I'm going to focus on the backs, specifically Edwards. (UPDATE: Jackson tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play Tuesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.)

This is a huge opportunity for the third-year RB who suddenly finds himself in a bright spotlight. Not only is Baltimore-Pittsburgh as fierce a rivalry as you'll find in the NFL today, but the scuffling Ravens suddenly sit outside of the playoff field. With three losses in the past four weeks, Baltimore (6-4) could really use a marquee win over the current AFC king (10-0 Pittsburgh holds the No. 1 seed) to get back in the postseason race. There's a lot at stake, and Edwards has the goods to get it done.

Although the Ravens lost their first meeting to the Steelers back in Week 8, 28-24, Baltimore ran the ball extremely well, racking up a season-high 265 rushing yards (third-most in a game by any team this season). And Edwards recorded season highs in carries (16) and yards (87), hitting paydirt once. In order for the "Gus Bus" to post new bests this Sunday, Baltimore needs to get its 6-foot-1, 238-pounder running downhill between the tackles with square shoulders early and often. Edwards' big frame and bruising rushing style have allowed him to rack up 66.7 percent of his rushing yards after contact -- the highest percentage of any Ravens rusher this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

If the Ravens feed the big back like they should with 25-to-30 carries, Edwards' production could catapult far past his current career single-game highs of 23 carries (Week 6, 2018) and 130 rush yards (Week 16, 2019). All of the pressure isn't just on Edwards, though: Baltimore must start playing better overall football. Focusing on fundamentals and doing the little things right will allow the Ravens to shorten the game with the rushing attack and give them the best chance for success against this vaunted Steelers defense.

The Ravens are going to have some decisions to make this offseason when it comes to the running back position, and this is Gus Edwards' biggest chance to solidify his place in the backfield and earn himself some well-deserved loot.

Top 10 Running Backs

Former NFL rushing leader and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 10 each week of the 2020 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 12.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

Rank
1
1
Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings · Year 4

2020 stats: 9 games | 201 att | 1,069 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 25 rec | 234 rec yds | 1 rec TD


While Cook had another big performance for the Vikings (160 scrimmage yards), the defense struggled to limit Andy Dalton and the Cowboys' talented offense. Cook has now recorded 746 scrimmage yards over his last four games, a franchise record. While that's downright impressive, the Vikings have dug themselves a hole they might not be able to climb out of this late in the season.

Rank
2
1
Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 5

2020 stats: 10 games | 229 att | 1,079 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 12 rec | 86 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


With a 133-yard rushing performance against the Ravens that was punctuated by a 29-yard game-winning touchdown run in overtime, Henry surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the third consecutive season. The fact that he's already there and it's not even December -- when he has really taken off in past years -- is a scary thought.

Rank
3
2
Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 4

2020 stats: 10 games | 117 att | 531 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 67 rec | 648 rec yds | 4 rec TDs


You would think the Saints suffered a loss after seeing that Kamara failed to record a catch for the first time in his career, but Sean Payton is so good at adjusting his play-calling to the personnel on the field. At this point in his career, Drew Brees needs a viable pass catcher out of the backfield, while Taysom Hill provides a much more versatile skill set with his mobility. But just because Kamara may not get the same amount of touches with Hill under center doesn't mean his value is diminished. 

Rank
4
Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 2

2020 stats: 10 games | 199 att | 755 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 24 rec | 158 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


The Raiders' opening drive against Kansas City was a thing of beauty, as they executed four run plays and two pass plays, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run from Jacobs. The drive set the tone for the rest of the game, a back-and-forth match that left the rising Raiders on the losing end for the fourth time this season. Jacobs has four rushing TDs over the last three games and should get his second feast of Thanksgiving Week on Sunday against a poor Falcons D.

Rank
5
1
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 1

2020 stats: 10 games | 140 att | 655 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 29 rec | 232 rec yds | 1 rec TD


The Raiders' defense took away parts of the Chiefs' versatile passing attack on Sunday, so naturally, Andy Reid looked to the run game. What he got was a trio of touchdowns (two from Edwards-Helaire and one from Le'Veon Bell), the most in a game this season for Kansas City. This team can win a million ways; leaning the run game could become a focal point in colder weather.

Rank
6
NR
Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 3

2020 stats: 6 games | 96 att | 575 rush yds | 6.0 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 3 rec | 17 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


The Browns' offense is so much more physical with Chubb on the field, and his production since returning from injury (240 rush yards in two games) has helped make up for a struggling passing attack. With Cleveland currently second in the division and holding the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture, Chubb will be absolutely critical to this team's success down the stretch.

Rank
7
2
James Robinson
James Robinson
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 1

2020 stats: 10 games | 172 att | 762 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 31 rec | 249 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


Robinson was once again one of the few bright spots for the Jaguars in Week 11, with 73 yards on 17 carries (4.3 yards per carry) while the Steelers' defense forced Jake Luton into four picks. In fact, Robinson became the fifth undrafted rookie in the common draft era to top 1,000 scrimmage yards, solidifying his place in Jacksonville's backfield beyond this forgettable year for the franchise.

Rank
8
Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2020 stats: 10 games | 147 att | 644 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 22 rec | 151 rec yds | 4 rec TDs


Though Hunt had his worst statistical output of the season against the Eagles (13 carries for 11 yards), he came up with a leaping, 5-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter for the Browns' lone offensive TD of the game. Hunt's highlight-reel effort put the Browns up by two scores and ultimately helped them stay perfect since the bye.

Rank
9
1
Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 4

2020 stats: 8 games | 113 att | 534 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 32 rec | 261 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


While Jones did have the lone rushing touchdown of Sunday's loss at Indianapolis, the Colts' stout defense held the Packers to just 66 yards on the ground, a season-low for Matt LaFleur's squad. No matter how good Aaron Rodgers is, the Packers are best riding a balanced attack with Jones -- who got just 10 carries Sunday, but averaged 4.1 a pop -- leading the way.

Rank
10
3
Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley
Atlanta Falcons · Year 6

2020 stats: 10 games | 167 att | 610 rush yds | 3.7 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 16 rec | 82 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


The entire Falcons offense just disappeared against the ferocious Saints' defense on Sunday, when Atlanta suffered a 24-9 defeat. That includes Todd Gurley who had just 26 rush yards and was held without a rushing touchdown for the first time since Week 6. The Falcons are too talented on offense to lay an egg this big against a division opponent. 

DROPPED OUT: Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (previously No. 9).

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Ground NFL Players of the Week andcast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.

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