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 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.
Saints vs. Falcons
Losing your future Hall-of-Famer for an unknown amount of time with broken ribs and a collapsed lung is never good news, a sliver of a silver lining here is New Orleans’ Week 11 Matchup is against a very giving pass defense. In fact, the Saints are my No. 1 ranked offensive line at the moment and the Falcons are ranked dead last in aFPA to both quarterbacks and tight ends, while ranking 27th in aFPA to wide receivers. We know from years of evidence with Tampa Bay that Jameis Winston is a fantasy goldmine when he’s playing in possible shootouts. Hell, some of the shootouts get to the point they do because Winston is the one providing the other team with great field positions.
In the limited playing time (13 dropbacks) that the former Buccaneer got after Drew Brees went down last Sunday, he maintained the type of dink-and-dunk aDOT that the Saints have relied on for years, so it will be interesting to see if they allow him to let the ball fly more often against this flimsy secondary. All-in-all, I wouldn’t downgrade the pieces of the Saints offense too terribly much, but wait to see if the offensive playcalling outsmarts itself by allowing too much Taysom Hill time before pushing all of your chips into the Winston basket.
Browns vs. Eagles
After playing in two straight Lake Erie hurricanes, the Cleveland Browns will close out their three-game homestand against an Eagles team that you can attack through the air. Philadelphia can still get after the quarterback, but I believe a lot of the pass rush can be negated by a Browns offensive line that continues its surge up the rankings with the return of mauling right guard Wyatt Teller. Also returning with Teller last week were Austin Hooper and Nick Chubb, and Cleveland did what the offensive gameplan and the whipping winds dictated they do; run the ball. Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for a hefty 41 touches, sneaking out a win in an ugly game, but considering the strengths (and weaknesses) of the Eagles defense, it is probably in their best interest to demand a little bit more input from Baker Mayfield’s arm into the offense.
Philly has allowed the third-most aFPA to the tight end position, setting Austin Hooper up for high-volume potential if Mayfield attempts say, 30+ passes as opposed to the lowly 20 he had in last week’s contest.
Steelers @ Jaguars
The Pittsburgh Steelers bring arguably the best pass-blocking offensive line unit in the league into Jacksonville Sunday, to take on a defense that pressures the quarterback at the second-lowest rate behind only Cleveland. With the run game falling into disarray, Pittsburgh has turned to move the ball through the air with more regularity, with 169 pass attempts through the last four games. This type of passing game work has made viable options out of Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron making them all startable either because of volume (Smith-Schuster), yards (Johnson), touchdowns (Claypool), or a general lack of options at the position (Ebron). Roethlisberger himself has a very strong possibility of finishing the week as a top-three option at the quarterback position.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Patriots @ Texans
We can discount some of New England’s defensive performance from Sunday night since they were playing in the tail-end of the storm that began its day in Cleveland, but give credit where it’s due; they pressured Lamar Jackson on 19 of his 40 dropbacks and completely stifled the run game of an offense predicated on running the ball. This week they’ll have their hands full with a similarly athletic, All-Pro quarterback in DeShaun Watson. The difference being, this Houston offensive line is much worse than that of the Baltimore Ravens. Recency bias will (rightfully) have fantasy owners off of New England’s defense because they haven’t scored more than 7.0 points since way back in Week 3, but I’m certain that this will be a multi-sack game, with the possibility of turnovers always looming when you have a poor offensive line. 4for4’s rankings have the Patriots as this week’s No. 9 D/ST.
Washington vs. Bengals
When you’ve got the option to pick on the Bengals and their league-worst offensive line, you do it. Though this is far from the best overall defense, when they have all of their pass rushers healthy they are in the running for one of the best defensive lines, having recorded five or more sacks in three games this season. They’ll be up against a patchwork Cincinnati offensive line that will need one (or both) of sixth-rounder Hakeem Adeniji and/or journeyman Quinton Spain to consistently win their matchups against edge rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Even if incumbent starters Jonah Williams and Bobby Hart return from various injuries to protect the edges, there’s a great chance they will have just as hard of a time with the young Football Team tandem.
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 vs. Packers
As has been a problem on more than one occasion this season; the Colts offer up a great matchup for their running back room but it’s hard to be certain what type of usage we’re going to see out of Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Taylor, and/or Jordan Wilkins. If last week is to be any indication, Indianapolis’ coaching staff is really quite fed up with the rookie Taylor’s inefficiency, deciding to let him see the field for a lowly 24% of the snaps while Hines had true bellcow-type usage, eating up 70 yards on the ground via 12 carries, and an additional 45 more yards through the air on five receptions.
The Packers rush defense has been a roller coaster ride all season long, smushing the Texans and 49ers in recent weeks, but also allowing 155 yards on 28 carries to Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a 23-109 showing to James Robinson, and a whopping 30-163-3 line to Dalvin Cook in the weeks surrounding their strong performances. With the unpredictability of both the defense and the running backs in question here, it’s well worth a shot to use Hines or Jonathan Taylor in your flex spot. Someone could absolutely erupt here.
Raiders vs. Chiefs
In one of the more shocking outcomes of the 2020 season thus far, the Raiders went into Arrowhead stadium way back in Week 5 and not only beat the then-undefeated Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, but they did so by running up 40 points through a balanced offensive attack. Derek Carr racked up nearly 350 yards passing, Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker combined for 139 yards on the ground, and a ridiculous 10 different players caught at least one pass. Despite evidence from that Week 5 game that allowing Carr to fling the ball over the field is the best chance for a season sweep of the Chiefs, it’s important to note that Kansas City’s defense is top-10 in passing yards allowed (eighth) and yards per attempt (seventh) but are bottom-five in rushing yards (29th) and yards per carry (27th).
The Las Vegas offensive line has been strong despite innumerable injuries to their fortifications, which should be a reflection of the job o-line coach Tom Cable has done after years of work with a terrible Seattle Seahawks group left many scratching their heads when he was then hired by the Raiders. With the return of Kolton Miller all but assured (he almost started last week), and the imminent (but timetable-less) return of Trent Brown and Richie Incognito, the strength of this team should become even stronger moving forward. But this week against a giving Kansas City team, they will be tasked with opening up lanes for 20-25 Josh Jacobs carries.
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:
- Todd Gurley, Falcons
- Frank Gore/Lamical Perine, Jets
- Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Rams
*All “pressure” info comes from Sports Info Solutions, pace and ASR/ALY come from Football Outsiders