Start: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
@ Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are still in the early part of rebuilding their defense. Their front seven doesn’t have the type of bulk needed to consistently shut down the running game. They also lack experience at linebacker which should work in Joe Mixon’s favor.
Mixon is heading into the season trying to establish himself as the Bengals lead running back. He’s a versatile playmaker who can make plays as a runner and pass catcher.
During the preseason, he showed flashes of how much of an impact he can make for the Bengals. Mixon will still split some time with Gio Bernard, but the touches should lean more towards Mixon this year.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
@ Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles defense is fully healthy and loaded with established veterans. Their defensive line is especially deep. Fletcher Cox and Haloti Ngata are the projected starting defensive tackles and both excel at slowing the run game.
Philadelphia can also afford to put some extra defenders in the box because of their underrated secondary. They won’t hesitate to match Ronald Darby or Jalen Mills one on one with Julio Jones.
Freeman has been a very productive back throughout the years, but he has been heavily worked. Last year, he started to show some signs that that workload was taking a toll. The running back position is a tricky thing as we have seen player’s production just completely fall off.