O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 2
Evaluating offensive line play regarding its effect on fantasy football output has been a stone unturned throughout 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 now, the aFPA numbers are from the 2019 season as we allow the 2020 season to shape into form. Once we have some reliable numbers and patterns the aFPA stats will begin to reflect this season (starting Week 4).
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.
Bears vs. Giants
Mitch Trubisky lengthened what is assuredly a short leash by taking care of an easy matchup in Detroit for Week 1, going 20/36 for 242 yards and three touchdowns, adding 26 yards on the ground. This week he’s gifted another on-paper pushover in the New York Giants who allowed a similarly efficient game to Ben Roethlisberger on Monday night; 21/32 for 229 yards and three scores. The stars seem to be aligning for an easy QB2 streaming play with Trubisky, but keep an eye on his number one target as we lead up to game day; Allen Robinson reportedly wants to be traded, and though it’s unlikely to happen before game time, any sort of holdout on behalf of Robinson would shoot his quarterback’s fantasy value in the foot.
Cowboys vs. Falcons
Atlanta’s Takkarist McKinley had somewhat of a resurgence in his Week 1 matchup against Seattle’s offensive line, logging a sack on five pressures after accumulating only 3.5 and 34, respectively, throughout the entirety of the 2019 season. Being that McKinley lines up all over the place, it will be interesting to see how the Falcons use him against a Dallas offensive line that is incredibly strong in some spots but struggling with injuries in others. The best bet would be to attack right tackle UDFA Terence Steele who surprisingly won the job from Cam Erving (who would later sprain his MCL against the Rams).
The Cowboys offensive line in general had a difficult time with Aaron Donald and the rest of the Los Angeles defense, but they will look to bounce back against a much less-imposing secondary, which will lighten the load in the trenches. Another week next to all-world right guard Zack Martin will help Steele gel, lightening the impact against McKinley and teammate Grady Jarrett. Our half-PPR rankings currently have Amari Cooper (7th), Michael Gallup (16th), and CeeDee Lamb (25th) within the top-25 receivers heading into Week 2, bolstered slightly by the unfortunate end to tight end Blake Jarwin’s season (ACL).
Browns vs. Bengals
Even with improved pass blocking across the line, Cleveland’s passing attack didn’t look any less dysfunctional to kick off this season than it did throughout the 2019 season. Odell Beckham, in particular, was woefully ineffective in Week 1, managing a 3-22 stat line with his 10 targets. Beckham and company can keep their collective heads up heading into Thursday Night Football with soft competition coming into First Energy Stadium in the form of a Bengals team ranked bottom-seven in aFPA against quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.
What’s more, Cincinnati will be without safety Shawn Williams, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and Atkins’ backup, Mike Daniels. The Browns have a chance to quickly turn around their fortunes after an embarrassing performance versus the Ravens on Sunday.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
49ers @ Jets
Sam Darnold was pressured on a league-high 42.1% of dropbacks last year, per @SharpFootball.
Sam Darnold was pressured a league-high 44.7% in Week 1 behind the new Jets offensive line, per @NextGenStats
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) September 16, 2020
It makes sense that a team completely bereft of continuity was going to take a few weeks to become a cohesive unit, and now one of the new faces, rookie Mekhi Becton, will be tasked with going one-on-one with Nick Bosa in the left tackle’s second career start. With Darnold’s propensity to keep the ball in the short and intermediate parts of the field and a lack of playmakers surrounding him, the 49ers defense doesn’t have a lot of paths to failure.
Ravens @ Texans
To kick off the 2020 regular season, the Texans traveled to Kansas City and were throttled by a pass rush that accumulated an incredible 22 pressures and kept Houston to seven points until 7:21 in the fourth quarter. This week the task at hand is a Baltimore team that made a much improved Browns offensive line look just as bad as ever. As six-point favorites in a game with the highest over/under on the week (54.5), the Ravens could be in a ripe spot for sacks and turnovers this Sunday afternoon.
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 @ Raiders
Nobody needs to be told to start Alvin Kamara; especially not you, the person who drafted him with a top-five pick just a few weeks ago. Instead, we’ll focus on Latavius Murray in this matchup blurb. In the second half of Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans was up 17-7 and that’s when they started turning towards their between-the-tackles grinder. Murray out-touched Alvin Kamara 10-8 after the Saints went up big, and that was with Michael Thomas on the field. With Thomas set to miss Week 2, Kamara would likely be spending more time on the perimeter as a wide receiver, leaving even more time in the backfield for Latavius Murray.
If Michael Thomas does miss time and the game script is favorable, you could bank on another 15-18 touches for Murray in your flex position.
Packers vs. Lions
After an off-season of jeering Green Bay’s NFL Draft selections, the Packers came out in Week 1 and immediately dumped a week-high 43 points on the Vikings (through no help from those draft picks, let it be noted). The Saints and Packers’ backfield usage is similar to a point, but not concentrated enough that I would be super confident in starting Jamal Williams in your flex spot; let us not forget that A.J. Dillon was taken in the second round and will likely be worked in sooner or later. Instead, just load up on as much Aaron Jones as you can against a defense that just allowed 124 rushing yards to the three-headed backfield of David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Buccaneers vs. Panthers
There’s a reason Carolina used all seven NFL Draft picks on defense, and one must look no further than the 191 total yards that running backs Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker were able to accumulate against them in Week 1. After hemming and hawing over Leonard Fournette’s immediate usage with the team, Ronald Jones was able to out-touch him 19-6 and out-produce him in yardage by an 82-19 gap. Fournette is sure to become more involved with the offense as the season moves along, but even if he is more integrated into Week 2, the matchup here is much too good to pass on starting Jones. Our rankings have him as the RB16.
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:
- Chris Carson, Seahawks
- David Johnson, Texans
- Antonio Gibson, Football Team
- Frank Gore/Kalen Ballage, Jets
*All “pressure” info comes from Sports Info Solutions