O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 11

Nov 14, 2019
O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 11

Evaluating offensive line play regarding its effect on fantasy football output has been a stone unturned throughout the course of our game within a game. Here at 4for4, we’re dedicated to looking at fantasy pieces from all angles, and that includes the positive and negative impact an offensive line has on that team’s fantasy assets.

Below I’m going to be digging into specific weekly matchups between offensive lines and the opposing defense's aFPA —one of the many useful tools available to us here at 4for4. Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. Beginning this week and moving forward, aFPA will reflect the current season since we believe the three weeks of information begins to show reliable numbers and patterns.

Let’s begin by diving into the passing game to see what o-line/defense matchups we can exploit.

Favorable Quarterback Matchups

Basically, what we’re looking for here is a tall bar (a team ranked low in aFPA) towards the left of the graph (a team ranked high in offensive line play) for a positive correlation to offense and a small bar towards the right to a positive correlation for a defense. Here are the plays that stick out to me:

Saints @ Buccaneers

To begin this write-up, we need to point out two glaring negatives about this Saints offense and their line in particular. First of all, they just had a 310-yard, nine-point output against a porous Atlanta Falcons defense. Second - and more importantly - it was revealed after I set my rankings that a very important piece of this coveted offensive line is going to be missing some time.

This revelation would have pushed them out of my number one slot but still would have kept them in top-five considerations, which still makes this a matchup to exploit. As for the Atlanta game, I’m just considering that an aberration.

Outside of the Carolina Panthers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the biggest discrepancy between rush defense DVOA (1st) and pass defense DVOA (27th), making them a prime pass-funnel defense. The rest of the league has obliged thus far, as Tampa Bay has seen the seventh-fewest rushes attempted against them while allowing the most pass attempts, and subsequently have allowed the most yards (2,558). This is a clear spot to fade a talented backfield and focus instead on passing game pieces. While Alvin Kamara could have a heavily targeted game, I’m not afraid of the Bucs pass rush enough to believe Brees will have to continually check down to Kamara.

Tampa Bay’s biggest threat up front is edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, who will spend most of his time dealing with tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, not second-year man Will Clapp who is filling in for the injured Andrus Peat. Playing Latavius Murray here is also no fun, as you’ll be praying for a touchdown on a high-scoring team against one of the best run-stuffing lines in the league.

As for the passing game of the Saints, it’s all the usual suspects. Michael Thomas is a sure bet to get his typical double-digit targets, Jared Cook will face off against a team ranked 31st in aFPA to tight ends and Ted Ginn makes for a nice desperation play for teams looking for ceiling.

After some midweek line movement, this game has lowered from the second-highest total on the week to the third-highest total. If cornerback Marshon Lattimore is forced to miss time, there could be even more pressure put on this offense to keep up with the Bucs.

Panthers vs. Falcons

Much like New Orleans, the Carolina Panthers also have a very narrow distribution of targets. Since Kyle Allen took over as quarterback in Week 3, here is how the market share of air yards and the target share of the offense has shaken out:

Panthers Air Yard and Target Share


MS Air Yards

Target Share

D.J. Moore



Curtis Samuel



Christian McCaffrey



Greg Olsen



Nobody else on the team has higher than either a 10% market share of air yards or 10% of the target share. If the Panthers are throwing the ball down the field it’s clear they’d prefer it to be Moore, Samuel or Olsen, while CMC is clearly the king of the dump-off. Curtis Samuel has yet to break the century mark on receiving yards despite his large lead in air yards over the rest of his teammates. A big game has to happen eventually and I’m willing to take a stab at saying it will be Week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons.

As I mentioned in the above write-up, I believe the Falcons’ Week 10 defensive performance was an aberration, though I can respect the talent they have along the front line, they are still tied for last place (Bengals, Dolphins) in Adjusted Sack Rate even after factoring the six sack performance from last week. There are weak links along the front line and they are not being helped by the men playing in the defensive backfield. Atlanta has four qualifying cornerbacks (minimum 10 targets while in coverage) and none of them rank in the top half of the league in QBR allowed. According to Sports Info Solutions, there are 127 such cornerbacks and Atlanta’s group ranks 117th (Isaiah Oliver), 88th (Blidi Wreh-Wilson), 78th (Desmond Trufant) and 69th (Kendall Sheffield).

I certainly don’t believe the Panthers offensive line is more stout than the Saints unit, but I feel comfortable going back to attacking the Falcons defense, especially in this Curtis Samuel breakout week.

49ers vs. Cardinals

San Francisco hobbles into this matchup and it will take some digging to find out if the possible absence of their two biggest offensive weapons will either open up value somewhere else, or if it will simply collapse the offense. George Kittle is in all probability out for this game, while Emmanuel Sanders is still day-to-day at the time of this writing. Taking advantage of the situation on Monday Night Football was Deebo Samuel, who went 8-112 on 11 targets while Dante Pettis turned his three targets into a big fat goose egg and his playing himself to a benching, and very possibly a cutting. Kendrick Bourne was on his way to a good game (4-42-1) before alligator-arming a pass that led to a Seahawks interception in the third quarter. Regardless, he’s the favorite dart throw on this offense with Marquise Goodwin’s inconsistent usage leading to being held catchless since Week 6.

After a tough go of it against the Seahawks defense, excuse me, against Jadeveon Clowney, the 49ers offensive line will look to bounce back against a Cardinals team that doesn’t have a single player ranked in the top-50 of SIS’s Pressure %. This will be a much easier matchup for tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey who were both recovering from injuries during their Week 10 return. Despite the six weeks without All-World left tackle, Joe Staley, this line still ranks highly in each of; Adjusted Sack Rate (8th), QB Hits Allowed (6th), Offensive Line Penalties (5th), and Blown Blocks (6th). It’s not often that drives are stopped because of the offensive line and that sets up nicely against an Arizona team that runs plays at the highest rate in the league and allows the fifth-highest rate of play. San Francisco should be able to garner an extra drive or two to put up fantasy points.

Favorable Defensive Matchups

Bills @ Dolphins

Miami may not be as much as a laughing stock as they were a few weeks ago but that doesn’t preclude the poor pass-blocking offensive line from a very difficult matchup against a terrorizing Buffalo defensive line. The Bills have five players inside of SIS’s top-100 players in terms of Pressure %, with Shaq Lawson leading the way as the NFL’s seventh-best defensive end at putting pressure on the quarterback. This should bode well against an offensive line with the 30th ranked Adjusted Sack Rate and 32nd ranking in QB Hits Allowed (76).

The ceiling on the Dolphins offense is also severely capped against the only defense remaining that hasn’t allowed a single pass-catcher to go over 100 yards in a game. The high floor of the Bills defense makes them my favored cash game play in DFS, depending on lineup construction.

Ravens vs. Texans

The Baltimore defense is coming off an easy game against a lackluster Bengals team who had just thrust Ryan Finley into his first start but now face a much different predicament against Deshaun Watson and the explosive Texans offense. Though Houston has improved by leaps and bounds along the offensive front since the offseason, they are still a bottom-ten unit and the prospect of left tackle Laremy Tunsil missing another game should be enough in itself to give Baltimore a look.

Since acquiring Marcus Peters ahead of their Week 7 game in Seattle, the Ravens have allowed yardage totals of 347, 342 and 307 while forcing seven takeaways, five sacks and a ridiculous five defensive scores. We should absolutely be expecting those touchdowns to regress but the opportunities for sacks and interceptions will be there against a Texans team that allows 2.8 sacks per game (21st) in a contest with a 51.5 over/under. This makes for a good DFS tourney play.

Favorable Running Back Matchups

The above rushing aFPA graph will work exactly the same way as the QB aFPA graph worked; tall lines on the left are areas we want to attack and short lines on the right should make you second guess the fantasy pieces associated with those offenses.

Raiders vs. Bengals

This one just sort of speaks for itself. The Raiders rank fourth in Adjusted Line Yards (4.89) and they’re taking on a Bengals team that has been run on the most times in the NFL (302 attempts) while giving up the most yards (1,557), en route to allowing the second-most touchdowns on the ground (12). Oakland is the sixth-heaviest rushing offense (45.69%) and according to 4for4’s Player Touches App Josh Jacobs’ 20.2 touches per game makes him the ninth-most used running back in the league. Don’t overthink this one.

Cowboys @ Lions

Referencing that same Player Touches App as above, we see that Ezekiel Elliot has the fifth-highest usage in the league, and that will be on display Sunday against a Detroit team that has been run on at the seventh-highest rate (28.1 attempts per game). With Matthew Stafford likely out for the game, it should script very much in favor of the Cowboys backfield as they’ll look to control the game against a Lions team quarterbacked by longtime Bengals third-stringer Jeff Driskel. Zeke has a 20-touch floor with a 30+ touch ceiling against a defensive line allowing 4.76 Adjusted Line Yards per carry, the fourth-worst mark in the league. Lock him in.

Running Backs with Bad Matchups

As opposed to breaking down every bad match-up through the rest of the slate, here are some running backs I’m looking to avoid because of their poor offensive line and the strong defensive fronts they will be facing:

That’s all I’ve got for this week, everyone. If there’s something you’d like me to dig into specifically with regards to offensive line vs. defensive lines please give me a shout! For further reading regarding our aFPA statistic and how to use it in your favor, give John Paulsen’s Sneaky Starts series a read!

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