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. For the remainder of the season, 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.
Colts vs Texans
T.Y. Hilton is….ressurected? Over the course of 19 games dating back to the beginning of 2019, T.Y. Hilton averaged 3.9 receptions, 43.6 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns. In the last three games, Hilton has averaged 5.7 receptions, 92.3 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns. This week Indianapolis gets a Houston team that ranks 30th in aFPA to the quarterback position, 31st to running backs, and 30th to wide receivers.
The Colts should be able to move the ball in any manner they would like, and that will likely benefit the aforementioned Hilton, rookie Michael Pittman Jr., and pass-catching back Nyheim Hines. Over this three-game resurgent stretch from Hilton, he leads the team with a 22% target share, while Pittman (18%) and Hines (16%) are the only other players with a target share in the double-digits. Six other players have five or more targets, meaning the target tree is very top-heavy, with many spindly, unusable roots below.
Rams vs. Jets
The tanking(?) Fighting Adam Gases travel to the West Coast in Week 15 to presumably be humiliated by the surging Los Angeles Rams, and we as fantasy players will hope to squeeze every bit of fantasy goodness we can out of the matchup before the Rams run out the clock and turn the lights off. Amidst their current 13-game losing streak, the New York Jets have allowed the second-most passing yards to opposing quarterbacks, including a seven-game stretch that has seen them allow an average of 417 yards through the air.
Sadly, the conflicting usage of Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Josh Reynolds, and Van Jefferson make them unplayable in all but the deepest, most desperate leagues, and hey, you probably aren’t that desperate if you’re reading a fantasy article in Week 15.
Titans vs. Lions
The Titans offensive line has struggled to find a consistent replacement at left tackle since Taylor Lewan went down for the season, but the rest of the lineup has been strong, maintaining 4.88 adjusted line yards, which ranks third in the NFL. Their nearly unstoppable run game opens up a strong play-action passing attack, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill currently leads the league with 10.1 yards per attempt and 1,464 of his passing yards coming from play action. Detroit’s 27th rank in aFPA to quarterbacks and 26th rank against wide receivers should further open things up for Tannehill and his two main targets; A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. All three should be confident starts this week.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Football Team vs. Seahawks
Russ returned to the kitchen last week to “cook” up the New York Jets with four touchdowns, but Russell Wilson is going to have a harder time making a roux this week against a potent Washington defense. As has been the case throughout much of Wilson’s career, the Seahawks offensive line allows pressure at one of the highest rates in the NFL. Seattle’s 8.7% adjusted sack rate ranks 30th in the league while the Football Team’s pass rush has melded into a downright terrifying unit, averaging 19 pressures a game over the last month of play.
The Seattle Seahawks offensive firepower could rightfully scare you off of Washington, but with Wilson having five games of four or more sacks taken, I really believe there is a floor to be had, especially if you’re in a league where people are hoarding defenses.
Steelers @ Bengals
I fully expect this to be the blood bath that the current Vegas line of -13.0 implies. With absolutely no running game to speak of and the worst offensive line in the NFL, Cincinnati is going to have a very difficult time moving the ball, both on the ground and through the air. Pittsburgh has had the highest Pressure% throughout the entire season and this week they’ll get a Bengals team that ranks 27th in adjusted sack rate (8.0%).
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.
Saints vs. Chiefs
The availability of Drew Brees is still up in the air at the time of this writing (Wednesday afternoon), but it shouldn’t affect the analysis of the run game too terribly much, except that Alvin Kamara’s current ranking of ninth in half-PPR leagues would presumably shoot up to the top-three/top-five range, and Latavius Murray’s ranking would likely rise from its latest position at RB36. With a current over/under sitting at 51.5, this game is projected as the second-highest scoring game for the week, and being that New Orleans presently leads the league with 21 rushing touchdowns, it all adds up to high-ceiling opportunities for the running backs. With left guard Andrus Peat and left tackle Terron Armstead back and healthy, Latavius Murray has the kind of end zone propensity to capitalize behind one of the best offensive lines in the game.
Bills @ Broncos
With John Brown (possibly) returning this week, one would assume that an already potent passing attack would continue to take off, especially against a suspect Denver Broncos defense. While that is a distinct possibility, this is also a good spot for the rushing “attack” of the Buffalo Bills. Denver ranks in the bottom-five in rushing yards allowed (27th), rushing touchdowns allowed (27th), and yards per carry allowed (28th). As full seven-point favorites, Buffalo is likely to have some cushy game script for much of the game. After receiving a season-high in snaps last week (44), rookie Zack Moss may have a great opportunity to completely usurp Devin Singletary for the alpha running back spot on this team heading into the playoffs. Our rankings currently have Moss and Singletary back-to-back at RB32/33, but I believe Moss’s upside is far greater than that.
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:
- Ty Johnson/Frank Gore, Jets
- Gio Bernard/Samaje Perine/Trayveon Williams, Bengals
- Todd Gurley/Ito Smith, Falcons
*All “pressure” info comes from Sports Info Solutions, pace and Adjusted Sack Rate/Adjusted Line Yards come from Football Outsiders