NFL RB Index, Week 14: Top three running back duos right now

Between Week 3 and Week 5, De’Von Achane went on a dazzling early-season heater, rushing for 455 yards and five touchdowns (while grabbing an additional two receiving scores). And then he was sidelined by a knee injury, and I had to wait — not so patiently — for two months for him to get back on the field.

On Sunday, Achane returned to action in the Dolphins’ romp over Washington logging a pair of touchdown runs and once again bringing a Miami rushing attack back to full force, just in time for the stretch run of the 2023 season.

With the rookie rejoining Raheem Mostert in the Dolphins’ backfield, I’m looking at rushing duos this week. Below are my top three running back tandems in the league heading into Week 14.

This decision was fairly easy. Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane are two of the fastest players in the NFL, with the veteran Mostert reaching 21 miles per hour on two rushes this season and Achane hitting the mark on three, per Next Gen Stats. It’s not just speed that makes them so dangerous, though. They are explosive out of the backfield and can take it to the house from anywhere on the field. Through 13 weeks, Mostert ranks third in the NFL in rush yards (828) and first in rushing touchdowns (14), while Achane is averaging an insane 9.5 yards per carry and 89.0 rush yards per game (both league highs, minimum 50 carries).

As a team, Miami is pacing the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry this season, and in the four games where Achane has played at least 40 percent of the offensive snaps, the Dolphins have rushed for a whopping 7.0 yards per pop. They boast arguably the best offense in the NFL, but it’s not all Tua Tagovailoa and all-world receiver Tyreek Hill. A lot of what Mike McDaniel likes to do downfield in the pass game wouldn’t happen as seamlessly without an elite rushing attack.

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The Lions have a very conventional two-back system, with David Montgomery as the workhorse and Jahmyr Gibbs as the big-time playmaker — providing that thunder-and-lightning dynamic. Montgomery is the hammer who runs with power and possesses the ability to break tackles, having forced 35 missed tackles on runs, per Pro Football Focus. He’s received a ton of work in the red zone as well; Montgomery has scored a touchdown on eight of his 42 attempts inside the 20-yard line, according to Next Gen Stats. Meanwhile, Gibbs is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and is quickly closing in on 1,000 scrimmage yards. Detroit has done a fantastic job utilizing his speed on the outside and getting him into space. It’s no surprise that the Lions boast the fourth-best rushing attack league-wide, with these two at the center of it. 

Though this might not be the sexiest pick, the Steelers join the Lions as the only teams with two running backs ranking in the top 25 in rushing yards through Week 13. Najee Harris has amassed a team-leading 661, and Jaylen Warren doesn’t sit far behind, with 601. Pittsburgh leans on its rushing attack, featuring a true two-back system, with Harris and Warren often swapped in and out by the series. Harris’ numbers aren’t spectacular this season, but he’s the one wearing down the defense for Warren, the more explosive of the two, to feast later on in games. The Steelers still currently hold a wild-card spot, but there’s little room for error. With Mitch Trubisky replacing an injured Kenny Pickett at quarterback, expect Pittsburgh to look to Harris and Warren frequently. 

Top 15 running backs

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2023 season. His rankings are primarily based on this season’s efforts. Here is MJD’s list in Week 14.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from Week 13’s rankings.

2023 stats: 12 games | 210 att | 1,032 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 12 rush TD | 51 rec | 429 rec yds | 5 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

Christian McCaffrey was once again one of the stars for the 49ers, finishing with 133 scrimmage yards and a TD run in San Francisco’s 42-19 dismantling of the Eagles on Sunday. McCaffrey became the third 49ers player with 1,400-plus scrimmage yards and 16-plus scrimmage TDs in a season, joining Hall of Famers Terrell Owens (2001) and Jerry Rice (four times). He just keeps getting better and better under Kyle Shanahan.

2023 stats: 12 games | 162 att | 828 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 14 rush TD | 21 rec | 166 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

With all three of Miami’s top running backs being healthy in Sunday’s win over Washington, Raheem Mostert logged his lowest carry total (11) since Week 7. And yet, Mostert recorded his 14th TD run of the season on a 1-yard plunge and finished with 43 yards.

2023 stats: 12 games | 197 att | 841 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 8 rush TD | 22 rec | 185 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Derrick Henry got off to a strong start, with 89 yards and a pair of touchdown runs — of 22 and 5 yards — on 17 first-half carries. Unfortunately, Henry exited the game, which ended up being an overtime loss for Tennessee, to be evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter, short-circuiting what was shaping up to be a season-best performance. He finished with 102 yards on 21 carries (4.9 yards per tote), marking his third 100-yard rushing game of the 2023 season. Thankfully, Mike Vrabel said Monday that Henry is not in concussion protocol, so he should be good to go for Monday’s clash with the Dolphins.

2023 stats: 12 games | 220 att | 771 rush yds | 3.5 ypc | 6 rush TD | 35 rec | 280 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Josh Jacobs leads the league with 220 attempts and 225 touches this season — and he finished second and first in those categories, respectively, in 2022. Jacobs has put a ton of miles on the tires. But if the Raiders hope to finish on a high note, he’ll have to get the rock at least 20 times per game down the stretch. Next up, he faces a much-improved Vikings defense under Brian Flores that ranks seventh against the run and has only allowed seven rushing touchdowns in 2023.

2023 stats: 12 games | 205 att | 771 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 8 rush TD | 40 rec | 346 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Travis Etienne had a pedestrian performance by his standards on Monday night, logging 45 rush yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and making three catches for 34 receiving yards. With 4.1 yards per tote, Etienne did, however, break a career-long six-game streak with under 4.0 yards per carry. He’ll have to step up, with Trevor Lawrence sustaining a significant ankle sprain and Christian Kirk’s core muscle injury requiring surgery.

2023 stats: 12 games | 167 att | 783 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 4 rush TD | 36 rec | 208 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

D’Andre Swift was nowhere to be seen in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco, as he finished with a putrid 13 yards on six carries — his lowest output since Week 1. He was also a non-factor in the pass game, recording two receptions for 7 yards on six targets. There is no time for the Eagles (who were held to just 46 rush yards Sunday) and Swift to sulk, with another heavyweight contest against the Cowboys on deck. Swift (and the Eagles) must be a goldfish.

2023 stats: 9 games | 151 att | 704 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 10 rush TD | 9 rec | 87 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

David Montgomery was given the majority of the backfield work in Sunday’s win over New Orleans, rushing for 56 yards on a game-high 18 carries. His biggest play of the day was his 2-yard touchdown run — the first of three TDs in the first seven minutes of the game — which gave him his fourth rushing touchdown in as many games.

2023 stats: 9 games | 165 att | 697 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 1 rush TD | 28 rec | 168 rec yds | 4 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

Saquon Barkley comes out of the Giants’ bye week to face a date with Green Bay. The Packers have won four of their last five games, but the good news for Barkley is that they have allowed at least 140 rush yards to the opposing team four times in that five-game span. 

2023 stats: 12 games | 176 att | 779 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 6 rush TD | 33 rec | 209 rec yds | 1 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

In Sunday’s heartbreaker in Green Bay, Isiah Pacheco had his best outing since Week 4, putting up 110 rush yards and a touchdown on 18 carries for an impressive 6.1 yards per attempt. With the Chiefs’ passing attack leaving much to be desired of late, Pacheco has become a focal point. His ejection in the fourth quarter for throwing a punch wasn’t ideal for a team playing catch-up. Here’s hoping he can control his emotions moving forward. 

2023 stats: 12 games | 153 att | 731 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 1 rush TD | 33 rec | 308 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

The Bills have dug themselves a hole by falling to 6-6. Their steep climb for a playoff spot continues Sunday against the Chiefs — and James Cook has an opportunity to do some damage in the run game. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed 100-plus rush yards in every game but two this season. With Cook averaging nearly 5.0 yards per carry, he could be the key to Buffalo winning the always crucial time-of-possession battle.

2023 stats: 12 games | 159 att | 756 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 3 rush TD | 35 rec | 266 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 2 fumbles lost

Bijan Robinson has emerged as the Falcons’ lead back over the past few weeks — but against a stout Jets defense, the rookie rushed for just 53 yards on 18 carries (2.9 yards per attempt), adding 26 yards on three catches in the pass game. The Atlanta offense is hard to predict, going off one minute (usually at home) and becoming stale the next. With a huge matchup with the Bucs on tap, Robinson must get back to averaging nearly 5.0 yards a pop, like he did over the four games prior to Sunday’s sluggish but winning performance.

2023 stats: 12 games | 180 att | 737 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 5 rush TD | 42 rec | 248 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

After struggling to get into the end zone in the first half of the season, Tony Pollard scored in his third straight contest in Thursday’s win over the Seahawks. His TD came on a 6-yard run late in the third quarter to cut Seattle’s lead to 1. Pollard is going to be a key component in the Week 14 clash with the Eagles, as he’ll need to help move the chains to ensure the Cowboys control the clock and keep the ball out of Jalen Hurts’ hands. 

2023 stats: 8 games | 134 att | 687 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 7 rush TD | 22 rec | 190 rec yds | 3 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Kyren Williams came up big in the Rams’ final two drives against the Browns to help lift them to their third straight win. The second-year back punched in the game-sealing touchdown to round out his day with 88 rush yards on 21 carries for 4.2 yards a pop. He added 24 receiving yards to notch his third consecutive game with at least 100 scrimmage yards. This offense is gelling at a great time, with a trip to Baltimore to face the nine-win Ravens next on the schedule. This will be a huge test.

2023 stats: 6 games | 56 att | 534 rush yds | 9.5 ypc | 7 rush TD | 13 rec | 101 rec yds | 2 rec TD | 1 fumble lost

In his first full game back since Week 5, the rookie recorded 73 yards on 17 carries, including a pair of touchdowns in the second half, for 4.3 yards per pop in Sunday’s lopsided win. As I mentioned above, this Dolphins team is so dynamic when both Achane and Raheem Mostert are active. I like their chances to make a big splash down the stretch if these two can stay healthy.

2023 stats: 12 games | 141 att | 590 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 10 rush TD | 10 rec | 130 rec yds | 0 rec TD | 0 fumbles lost

Gus Edwards hangs onto this last spot not because he’s racked up big yardage but because of his ability to get into the end zone. He has yet to break 100 rush yards in a game, and he’s had just one game with at least 100 scrimmage yards (a Week 7 win over Detroit). The hourglass on Edwards’ time in the RB Index is running out, unless he can be productive coming out of the Ravens’ Week 13 bye.

DROPPED OUT: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts (previously No. 8).

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

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