O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Expoit: Week 13
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. Eagles
Despite a relatively low-output of four catches and 23 yards, Allen Lazard did manage to score on a 21.4% target share against the Bears on Sunday night. With Lazard being eased back into the larger role he had earlier in the season, Davante Adams had his second-straight non-double digit target game after a streak of five such occurrences. Adams still has a massive ceiling but with a true number two in the offseason, Rodgers has more to choose from.
Center Corey Linsley is likely to miss 3-6 weeks after sustaining an MCL sprain, but with the strength of the rest of the line, they have only fallen a couple of slots in my rankings, with sixth-round rookie Jon Runyan Jr. and second-year Elgton Jenkins helping to fill in the hole and keep the ball moving with minimal hiccups.
Colts @ Texans
Back-to-back blurbs in which a major piece of an offensive line unit has suffered an MCL sprain in the last week. This time it’s left tackle Anthony Castonzo —which is a much larger hit than Green Bay’s Jenkins— that will miss upwards of a month and leave a big gap between him and back-up Le’Raven Clark. Houston’s pass rush is improving, but still ranks as a mediocre 20th in Pressure% (forces pressure on 35.9% of dropbacks) and the Colts’ adjusted sack rate ranks in at seventh (5.1%).
Le’Raven Clark will be tested, but there should be plenty of time for Rivers to find his new WR1 in Michael Pittman Jr., who has accumulated 27 targets over their last four games.
Browns @ Titans
If you went back and told me in September that the highest Vegas game total in Week 13 was going to be the Cleveland Browns heading to Tennessee for a battle of two rush-heavy teams I would not have believed you. But here we are, and these two highly efficient run teams will take advantage of giving defenses on the other side of the ball. The Titans in particular rank in the bottom-five in aFPA to the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions. Instead of buying the pancakes in this Cleveland offense, just take the syrup of Baker Mayfield and plug him into a solid QB2 week in which he’ll have to chase the potent Titans offense.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Dolphins vs. Bengals
The Cincinnati offensive line has some moving pieces coming back to health, with left tackle Jonah Williams’ third-straight game back from injury, and free-agent addition Xavier Su’a-Filo set to return to action for the first time since Week 1. Just in time to fill in for Alex Redmond who remains in concussion protocol. Moving pieces or not, the Bengals are a deeply struggling offense and will have their hands full against a Miami team that gets pressure on the quarterback at the second-highest rate in the NFL. Both Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah are in the top-10 in raw pressures and will try their hand against the weak Bengals’ offensive edges.
Raiders @ Jets
The Las Vegas Raiders pass rush has been historically poor for several years now, but their ineptitude will be tested against a New York Jets o-line that would likely be the worst in the league if not for rookie stud left tackle Mekhi Becton. The Raiders rank in the top-12 of D/ST in our rankings (11th) for the first time in what I would assume has been a very long time, and much of that has to do with the Jets’ 28th-ranked adjusted sack rate and league-worst 13.8 points scored per game, including six games that they have scored 10 or fewer points. If there were ever a time for edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell to prove they are the future of this defensive line, finishing this season strong would go a long way.
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.
Patriots @ Chargers
The ever-confusing Patriots backfield gets a soft matchup this weekend when they take on a Chargers team that ranks 25th in aFPA to the running back position. With Rex Burkhead out of the picture, Damien Harris didn’t get a lot of relief from backfield-mates when Sony Michel returned, though Michel only logged a single snap. It won’t be fun, but Harris is the play again this week and we’ll just have to hope for a touchdown against a Chargers team that has allowed the third-highest yards per carry (4.8) on the season while ranking 10th in yards per pass attempt (6.2). New England ranks fourth in adjusted line yards (4.83), so they are very capable of moving the defensive line against their will. Damien Harris ranks as our RB26 because of his touchdown upside.
Vikings vs. Jaguars
Minnesota presents an interesting predicament when they invite the Jaguars this weekend as 10-point favorites. This coincides with recent talk that head coach Mike Zimmer admits that they need to be “smart” with Dalvin Cook’s usage after his heavy work over the last five games. Cook has had 127 rushing attempts and 17 receptions over that span, averaging 28.8 touches. So, while Cook is an absolute lock to play in any season-long leagues, I think he’s a fade in DFS because of the blowout potential. Alexander Mattison has two games this year with double-digit touches while playing second fiddle to Dalvin Cook; Week 5 (23 touches, 136 total yards) and Week 9 (12 touches, 69 yards). Mattison could be a sneaky play for RB-bereft teams.
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 Adjusted Sack Rate/Adjusted Line Yards come from Football Outsiders