O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 16
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. Titans
Green Bay is the only team in the league with four players ranking inside the top-40 of Sports Info Solutions’ Blown Block%. While center Corey Linsley (second-place, 0.0 BB%) was just activated this week from IR and could miss this Sunday’s game, the Packers still have left tackle David Bakhtiari (20th, 0.77 BB%), utility man Elgton Jenkins (21st, 0.78 BB%) and right tackle Rick Wagner (39th, 1.07 BB%) to lean on while keeping a weak Tennessee pass rush at bay. The Titans are tied for dead-last (Bengals) in Pressure%, forcing one on only 30.4% of opponents’ dropbacks.
The matchup sets up well for the big two of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones (especially if Jamaal Williams is out), but Marques Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard are both in line for positive fantasy scripts as well. Lazard, in particular, has emerged as the safe floor WR2 on this team, logging snaps of 69%, 69% and 77% over the last three weeks, including out-snapping Valdes-Scantling in Week 15. With the current highest total of the week (56.0) and tantalizing implied team total (30.5), Aaron Rodgers should support quite a few pieces.
49ers @ Cardinals
What a jumbled mess this offense is. Nevertheless, the matchup is there if we can just dig through it and find out who will benefit from Arizona’s mediocre-at-best pass rush. Like much of the NFL this season, San Francisco has dealt with a lot of flipping around on their offensive line due to injuries, yet they rank 10th in adjusted sack rate, with only two sacks assigned to an offensive lineman over their last four games (both right tackle Mike McGlinchey).
With the 49ers officially shutting down Deebo Samuel, it would be prudent to look at who in the receiver room was used last week in a mixture of Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard against the Dallas Cowboys; Brandon Aiyuk led the way at 47 routes run, with Kendrick Bourne (33), Richie James (32) and River Cracraft (11) trailing behind. Though Aiyuk’s 8.9 aDOT (92nd/131 qualifying receivers) could induce some hair-pulling on the fantasy landscape, the fact is, he is practically the only option. Unless, of course, we remember that healthy Jordan Reed is still very good. As Jennifer Eakins mentioned in this week’s tight end streaming article, Reed should hold tight as a starter over these final two weeks, and his five average targets per game over the last month are nothing to sneeze at.
Buccaneers @ Lions
In a must(ish) win game in Detroit this Saturday, Tampa Bay will have every reason to take it to the Lions in an attempt to usurp New Orleans —who is currently riding a two-game losing streak— from the top of the NFC South. This does set up as a situation in which the Buccaneers could presumably move the ball in any manner they would like, but it’s worth noting that Ronald Jones is not expected to be available for Week 16, and de facto RB1 Leonard Fournette has not rushed the ball more than 15 times this season. Without Jones last week, Tom Brady missed matching his season-high in dropbacks (49) by one.
Tampa Bay will see the return of left tackle Donovan Smith (COVID) after he missed Week 15, and he bolsters an offensive line that may already have the best interior in the league. Passing game volume and a lack of defensive pressure make Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown all playable this week as respective WR1/WR2/WR3’s.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Saints vs. Vikings
New Orleans has been a tad unlucky turning pressures into sacks as of late, recording a decent six sacks on a whopping 72 pressures against the Falcons, Eagles, and Chiefs. This week they get a Vikings offensive line that ranks 24th in adjusted sack rate, while Kirk Cousins has absorbed 14 sacks over that same three-week window. Of 189 qualifying offensive linemen, the Vikings only have one player in the top-100 of SIS’ Blown Block% (center Garrett Bradbury, 89th) while the Saints are currently third in Pressure% (49.2).
This should be a good game regardless for the D/ST, but if Drew Brees can get out of his rut, the pass rush could really tee-off for a majority of the afternoon.
Rams @ Seahawks
Russ has left the kitchen. Starting back in Week 10 against this Los Angeles Rams team, Russell Wilson has thrown for more than one touchdown only twice, thrown five interceptions, had three games with three or more sacks and averaged 211 yards across six games. Having to resort to the likes of journeymen Cedric Ogbuehi, Chad Wheeler, and Kyle Fuller to fill-in at right tackle in recent weeks hasn’t helped anything, and the pass blocking as a whole has fallen off since, well, Week 10 against the Rams.
Russ has a chance to stir up this offense in this pivotal division game, but it seems unlikely with the way Seattle’s pass-rush ratio has begun to slink towards the usage of years past.
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.
Steelers vs. Colts
Pittsburgh will have a chance to right a ship that is quickly nose-diving under the surface against an Indianapolis team that ranks 23rd in aFPA to the running back position. Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that each of; running back James Conner (quad) and guard Kevin Dotson (shoulder) is on track to return this week, breathing some relief into an offense that has been instrumental in each of their three straight losses. It would be next to impossible to start Conner (or Benny Snell Jr. if he were to miss again) over most options on a Championship-calibre team, but it would be worth a thought in one-week or DFS leagues. The Colts have allowed David Johnson 133 total yards (11 receptions), the Josh Jacobs/Jalen Richard/Devontae Booker trio 134 total yards (10 receptions), and Derrick Henry/D’Onta Foreman 213 total yards (two receptions) over the last month.
When healthy, Conner is in the mix for 80-90% of the running back touches and this presents itself as a positive week.
Bears @ Jaguars
Through the first nine weeks of the season, David Montgomery averaged 10.6 half-PPR fantasy points per game, putting him somewhere in the range of RB30. That stretch culminated with a dismal performance in Tennessee in which he turned 14 carries and three catches into 42 yards, or, 3.0 yards per touch. Montgomery would end up missing Week 10 with a concussion sustained in that Titans game, the Chicago Bears would go on a bye in Week 11 and things set up for David Montgomery to head into a Week 12 game against the Packers splitting a lot of reps with Cordarrelle Patterson. Instead, his 143 total yards would catapult a four-game stretch in which he has averaged 24.9 Half-PPR fantasy points per game, a number that rivals overall RB1 Dalvin Cook’s 23.1 over the course of the entire season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 29th-ranked aFPA to running backs sets up as a great opportunity to make it five powerful performances in a row.
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