O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 15
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:
Giants vs. Dolphins
Despite not playing in either of Eli Manning’s first two 2019 starts, Darius Slayton built an immediate rapport last week, turning eight targets into a 5-154-2 line and was fantasy’s seventh-highest scoring player in Week 14. Though the output may have been surprising, it certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. During weeks 10, 12 and 13 (the Giants previous three games), Slayton was firmly inside the top-20 pass catchers in terms of air yards and team target share —the third-highest target% in the last month as a matter of fact. Darius and Eli will try to keep things going against a Miami defense that ranks 28th in aFPA to quarterbacks and 31st in aFPA to wide receivers.
Buoyed by great guard play and a semi-resurgent year from right tackle Mike Remmers, the Giants don’t have the best offensive line in the league, but they have thoroughly improved on their lackluster 2018 performance. The Dolphins pass rush is sure to make them look even stronger. Per Sports Info Solutions, the Dolphins only have a single player in the top-75 of Pressure% (Taco Charlton, 68th) and Miami as a whole is ranked 29th in sacks with 31 on the year. Eli Manning has been a notoriously bad quarterback when throwing under pressure in the last few seasons of his career, and this matchup would set him up with the perfect scenario to ice his legacy if this is indeed his final game.
Cowboys vs. Rams
The Cowboys’ —and seemingly the entire NFC East— playoff hopes hang on a thread as they welcome the Rams into Jerry World on Sunday Afternoon. The game currently boasts a 49.0 over/under, good enough for the second-highest total behind the Texans at Titans. Fantasy football’s overall QB3 takes the field behind an offensive line featuring healthy versions of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La’el Collins and Travis Frederick, a sight unseen for the better part of their careers. Amari Cooper is also one more week removed from his ankle problem that kept him down at a 55% snap rate back in Week 11, further boosting the ceiling of this passing offense.
Even with a scary matchup on paper, there are enough positives to feel comfortable starting Dallas in your fantasy playoffs, and with Amari priced down at WR16 on Draftkings this week, he’s well worth the $6,500 price tag in tournaments.
Patriots @ Bengals
The struggling New England offense will be looking for a reprieve this weekend after a tough stretch of four games in which they averaged an uncharacteristically low 17 points. Brady and the boys will roll into Cincinnati to face off against a defense that has honestly shown a little backbone since Lamar Jackson literally ran over them on the way to totaling 49 points back in Week 10. Even with a few good showings (and a win!), the Bengals are still the least efficient defense in the league, allowing the third-highest yards per rush and the most net yards per pass attempt (7.7) according to Pro Football Reference. If there’s one thing Tom Brady can still do effectively against a below-average defense, it’s moving the ball efficiently.
With the injury-riddled offensive line, comes negativity that even the greatest offensive line coach in the game can’t entirely overcome. Dante Scarnecchia has created a formidable group of guys up front in the face of the revolving doors at center and left tackle, but their run game has suffered the most, as evidenced by their 19th-ranked Adjusted Line Yards. The Patriots clearly recognize this problem and ran plays out of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) on 42% of their plays against Kansas City, more than three times their 2019 average of 12%.
Without an effective ground game against a Bengals defense that is soft over the middle and in the short-to-middle depths of the field, the Brady/Julian Edelman connection should be alive and well once again. Edelman has eight straight games of double-digit targets and has scored double-digit fantasy points in 11/13 games this season. It would be hard to argue against starting your cash game builds this week by clicking Edelman. If you’re looking for a deep WR5 play or a tournament dart, I’d take a look at Mohamed Sanu. In Week 9, before the bye, he turned 67/67 snaps into 14 targets and 10-81-1. He came out of the bye, injured his ankle and missed Week 12. In the last two weeks, his snap share has increased as he returns to health, from 21.8%-to-58.2%. As another receiver who has historically won over the middle of the field, he’s worth consideration.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Eagles @ Redskins
This will be some straightforward analysis here; the Washington offense is very bad and the Eagles defense is plenty adequate enough to take advantage. The Redskins have averaged the fewest yards per drive and the second-fewest points per drive, heavily influenced by their stubborn reliance on the run game regardless of game script. With Derrius Guice out for the game, it looks like it will be 2004 football all over again with Adrian Peterson toting the rock. That may not bode well against this Eagles defense which has allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the 2019 season. When Washington does inevitably pass the ball, Dwayne Haskins will be operating behind an offensive line with a 31st-ranked 10.7% Adjusted Sack Rate.
49ers vs. Falcons
San Francisco’s defense showed vulnerability in a playoff setting last Sunday in the most thrilling game of the season. The cracks shown by the Saints offense in a pace-up game aren’t likely to be recreated in Week 15’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. San Francisco ditched their 25th-ranked pace and Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball 35 times, a far cry from their 2019 pace of 50.1% rush play percentage. With more of a grind-the-clock approach and a top-10 aFPA ranking against every opposing position (yes, even kicker), the 49ers look prone to mute the Atlanta offense. The Falcons’ league-high 67.4% pass rate opens up the ceiling possibilities behind sacks and turnovers as well.
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.
Packers vs. Bears
As confusing as the running back usage between Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams has been over the past couple of seasons, things have really worked out concisely as the season carries on; Jones leads this 60/40 timeshare, 58%/42% to be exact. Both get usage in the pass and run game while Jones has out-touched Williams 12-2 inside the five-yard line, and also has the requisite explosiveness to turn his touches into something special more often. Because the likely nature of this game —40.5 over/under, the first meeting in Week 1 ended 10-3— it would behoove us to focus on only one back in this contest as it will be nearly impossible for both backs to “get there” in all of the most likely scenarios.
Jamaal Williams could stay in deep-league flex play if you’re desperate, but hopefully, you have better options in your fantasy playoffs.
Raiders vs. Jaguars
The Raiders will hope to lick their wounds after three straight devastating defeats as they welcome this Jacksonville team that ranks 31st in rush defense DVOA and look to be completely disinterested on the field. The Jaguars are going through one of the worst defensive stretches in football history, allowing an average of 37 points and 188 rushing yards per game over their last four contests. The lingering question here is whether Jacobs will play, though it looks positive at the moment.
#Raiders RB Josh Jacobs underwent an MRI on his ailing shoulder after not playing on Sunday. But the scans checked out very positively, sources say, and Jacobs is expected to return to the field this week. Barring a setback, should be just a one-week absence.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 11, 2019
If he cannot go, DeAndre Washington becomes the obvious cash game play at $4,700 and his pass game usage locks him into an RB2 role for your season-long leagues. He was targeted seven times in Jacobs’ Week 14 absence and racked up 20 total touches. Oakland’s 4.7 Adjusted Line Yards (third-highest) make any Raiders running back a viable one, even with the talent drop from Jacobs to Washington.
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!