O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 10
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 match-ups we can exploit.
Favorable Quarterback Matchups
By comparing a team’s offensive line ranking to the aFPA of their opponent for the week, we can look for beneficial discrepancies to attack for offensive and defensive players. The higher the “Difference” column, the better the matchup for a quarterback; the lower the difference, the better the matchup for the defense.
Packers vs. Jaguars
As is the case for most teams in the NFL this season, Green Bay has been forced to roll with the punches when it comes to injuries, dealing with COVID and general shake-ups across their offensive line. Applaud the Packers coaching staff and particularly second-year offensive line coach Adam Stenavich for fielding a top-five unit even after allowing right tackle Bryan Bulaga to walk in free agency. Nine different players have seen significant time along the line, with five of those players forced into multiple positions to deal with in-game injuries.
Despite the shuffling, Green Bay’s makeshift unit ranks fourth in adjusted sack rate and welcome in a Jacksonville team that ranks just 29th in Pressure%. Aaron Rodgers should have ample time yet again to pick apart a questionable secondary. Davante Adams doesn’t need to be talked about, he can go off in any matchup (and is currently ranked first in our half-PPR FLEX rankings), so let’s instead focus on Allen Lazard, who was having a breakout year before core muscle surgery sidelined him. Practicing in full this week, he should be set to return after posting a 13-254-2 stat line through the first three games of the season. Just in time to face the team that allowed the Packers to pluck him from the practice squad two years ago.
Browns vs Texans
There was a chance that Cleveland would be limping into this game, but they received a smorgasbord of positive injury news this week, including; Nick Chubb coming off IR, Baker Mayfield being activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and Austin Hopper progressing through the concussion protocol. Two (mostly) healthy Browns and Texans teams doing battle should make for a whole heap of fantasy goodness, and with a far superior Cleveland offensive line winning in the trenches, the Browns' pieces should be the beneficiaries.
Jarvis Landry has yet to exceed 100 yards in a game this season but has also been averaging his customary 50ish yards per game - the story of his entire seven-year career. His first game without Odell Beckham was widely considered a disappointment, but what isn’t being referenced was his ridiculous 44% target share. It would be silly to lock him into that type of usage but it’s not out of the question that he gets another double-digit target performance in a game that could turn into a shootout.
Raiders vs. Broncos
The Las Vegas Raiders have several great matchups in this part of their schedule, facing off against bottom-eight defenses four times between Weeks 8-12 according to aFPA. But as it pertains to multiple start-worthy players, this is still a difficult team to target. Derek Carr is going to provide you a solid floor and Darren Waller is the defacto TE2 now that George Kittle is out for at least the rest of the fantasy regular season. Nelson Agholor has some scoring under his belt, but his five touchdowns on 17 catches are going to regress sooner rather than later. Hunter Renfrow is purely a slot guy who sees the field on 50% of the snaps, and Carr seemingly wants nothing to do with speedster rookie Henry Ruggs, who has combined for 43 yards on 10 targets over the last three games.
Given the option, I would look the other way and just start Carr if you’ve got him this week. Looking ahead, the Raiders get the Atlanta Falcons defense in Week 12. Maybe we can see Ruggs carve out a better role over the next couple of games ahead of that matchup.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Steelers vs. Bengals
Pittsburgh has this week’s largest gap between defensive adjusted sack rate (second in NFL) and their opponents’ offensive adjusted sack rate (Bengals, 27th). The Steelers will be in Cincinnati’s backfield early and often. Left tackle Jonah Williams and center Trey Hopkins do look as if they’re on track to return this week, but regardless, the team still has —at best— a bottom-three unit. According to Sports Info Solutions’ numbers, the Steelers have remained in first place in Pressure% (55.4%) all season long, thanks in large part to the duo of T.J. Watt (first) and Bud Dupree (eighth) who both rank top-10 in raw pressures on the year. Joe Burrow is a lot of fun to watch and has spun some rookie magic in difficult games thus far, but even if he has a good fantasy outing, Pittsburgh’s defense is going to get theirs.
Lions vs. Football Team
Even though the Football Team allowed three sacks in Week 9, it was probably the best performance of their season to this point. The eight pressures they allowed were surprisingly a season-low and seventh-year journeyman left tackle Cornelius Lucas kept Kyler Fackrell and the rest of the Giants’ edge rushers at bay while right guard Brandon Scherff definitely looks like he has hit his stride again since returning from a knee injury in Week 6. Scherff is great when he’s on the field, but this will be the fourth straight season he will fail to play in more than 14 games. If he were to go down again the entire unit plummets back to the bottom-two in my rankings.
Moving forward, the left tackle is a huge question mark and in all likelihood will return to being a liability as early as this week against a good-not-great pass-rushing Detroit Lions team headed by Trey Flowers. Despite the decent performance last week, Washington still ranks 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate (8.3%) and ranks t-29th in giveaways through eight games (15 - seven INTs, eight fumbles). Detroit presents a good play for streamers this week.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
The RB table will work just the same as the above QB table; high “Difference” numbers mean an offense has a favorable matchup, the lower the number, the least favorable.
Colts @ Titans
Jonathan Taylor is in the doghouse of Indianapolis fans, fantasy players, and most importantly, Colts coaches. After a month of middling-to-poor play, Taylor coughed up a fumble in the second quarter of Week 9’s game against the Ravens and didn’t return until there were only a few minutes left of the final quarter. The stay in the doghouse comes at a poor time, as the Colts are traveling to Tennessee to face a Titans team that ranks 27th in aFPA to the running back position. If the trend in touches is to be believed, the player most likely to take advantage of the running lanes behind this stout offensive line is none other than Jordan Wilkins who has out-snapped Taylor 43%-to-32% and out-touched him 34-to-21 over the last two weeks.
The rookie still has a shot at fantasy relevance, as his target share will likely still be there on a team with no true WR1 and a quarterback who has to be relieved by Jacoby Brissett on deep balls. Not a sentence I thought I’d be typing back in August, but Jordan Wilkins is very much in play as a Flex option this week.
Buccaneers @ Panthers
Much like Jonathan Taylor in Week 9, it was Ronald Jones who was told to hit the bench back in Week 8 after an early-game fumble and he ended up ceding most of the workload to fellow running mate Leonard Fournette. The truth is, that was likely going to happen anyways depending on what type of game script that, or any other game, was to present. Roles are becoming more defined between Jones and Fournette since the latter returned from injury in Week 7, and though both will play all over the field at any given time, Fournette is more of the passing-down back with Jones acting as the early-down back.
Carolina’s run-funnel, 26th ranked aFPA rushing defense will provide a great bounce-back spot for Ronald Jones (and the offensive line, for that matter), who proved during a 330-yard stretch between Weeks 4-6 that he can move the ball on the ground when given the opportunity.
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:
*All “pressure” info comes from Sports Info Solutions, pace and ASR/ALY come from Football Outsiders