The Bengals have fallen in love with rookie running back Jeremy Hill. The former LSU Tigers standout has become the team's No. 1 back, and during Cincinnati's 27-10 win over the New Orleans Saints, Hill rushed for 152 yards on 27 carries.
Now, with the team more committed to running the ball and Hill being the primary benefactor of that, he's a legitimate threat to win the NFL Rookie of the Year award. He leads all NFL rookies with 556 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He has two of the top-10 rushing performances overall in the NFL this season. He joined Paul Robinson as the only Bengals rookies with a pair of 150-yard games.
He's got some ground to make up though with the likes of Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin, Bills WR Sammy Watkins and Bucs WR Mike Evans, all of whom have been making an impact for their respective teams longer than Hill has. It was only because of the injury to Giovani Bernard that Hill is now getting the amount of touches he needs to become a contender for the award.
With ground to make up, Hill we need to come up big in most, if not all of Cincinnati's remaining games to even be in the discussion for the award when the regular season ends. The good news is he has the benefit of a soft schedule in terms of run defense coming up.
The Bengals will face the Texans in Week 12, and they ranked 21st in run defense coming into Week 11, though they held Cleveland to 58 rushing yards.
Next up will be the Buccaneers in Week 13, and they rank 18th in run defense after allowing Washington to run for 155 yards in Week 11.
Then comes the first of two matchups with the Steelers, who rank 22nd in rushing yards per attempt allowed (4.4), so there's two opportunities for big games.
The only hard game for Hill coming up is the Broncos in Week 16 on Monday Night Football. They're No. 1 in run defense, as well as rushing yards per attempt (3.2). The good news is the Rams, who ranked 21st in rushing offense heading into Week 11, rushed for 131 yards in their win over Denver, so it's not like the Broncos are impossible to run on.
In the end, the opportunity is there for Hill to make a strong push for the award, and at the very least, be one of the finalists for the award when the season ends.