O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 3
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.
Colts vs. Jets
Take a glance at Philip Rivers’ 7.1 average intended air yards (24th) and you can surmise that the Indianapolis Colts didn’t bring him aboard to revert to the Rivers of five-years ago; chucking the ball down the field with reckless abandon to Tyrell Williams, Malcolm Floyd or a young Keenan Allen. No, this version of Rivers throws at or before the sticks, and not too often beyond them. That should work agreeably this Sunday against a Jets teams that is one of the worst group of tacklers the NFL has to offer. Yards after catch will be the name of the game in Week 3, and with the absence of Parris Campbell (PCL, out indefinitely) that should open things up for T.Y. Hilton, Jonathan Taylor, and, apparently, Mo Alie-Cox, who exploded for 111 yards on six targets after never eclipsing 40-yards in his career. Even with the favorable matchup, the volume likely isn’t there to dabble with Zach Pascal or Michael Pittman.
Packers @ Saints
As long as Cameron Jordan is sliding on a New Orleans uniform and pinning his ears back, the Saints are going to have chances to get after the quarterback, but they’ll have their hands full against a Packers team that has allowed the second-lowest adjusted sack rate through two games. When you see any team allow a 282-3-0 stat line to Derek Carr it’s worth a bit of an eyebrow-raise, especially if that same team has to take on Angry Aaron Rodgers the next week. Right tackle Lane Taylor was put on (three-week) IR after their Week 2 game against Detroit but former Lions’ Rick Wagner filled in admirably in his steed. The line should be a strength again as Rodgers attempts to pick apart the NFL in what could be his last season as a Packers quarterback.
Bears @ Falcons
This is the third time Mitch Trubisky has been featured in this article and it’s only Week 3. But, what can I say, Chicago has an easy go of it for the first month of the season. Atlanta had a cumbersome Week 2, blowing a monster lead to slip away after safety Ricardo Allen, linebacker Foye Oluokun and defensive end Takk McKinley were all forced out of action, clearing a path for the Cowboys to win 40-39 at the buzzer. Through two weeks, the Falcons are on pace to allow 5,600+ yards passing and 48 total TDs to the quarterback position. Trubisky is a tier (or three or four) below the likes of Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson, but his offensive line should create a mismatch against a defense that has forced pressure on only 30.0% of passing plays (24th), and that includes Takk’s nine pressures (seventh-most in the league).
Not surprisingly with the rate teams are moving the ball through the air against them, Atlanta has allowed four different receivers to rack up 90+ yards through these first two weeks, outwardly creating a great floor for Allen Robinson, which should come as a relief for those owners who were burned by a 3-33 performance last week. Anthony Miller on the other hand may be currently residing in Matt Nagy’s doghouse after an end-zone drop seemingly translated into some time on the sidelines. Miller’s Week 2 offensive snap count (40%) ranked fourth on the team behind Robinson (82%), Darnell Mooney (60%), and Javon Wims (45%). Mooney in particular is someone to keep an eye on; 20% of his snaps have come from the slot. Miller spent 69.6% of his time on the field out of the slot in 2019.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Steelers vs. Texans
It’s just been an absolutely brutal start for the Texans, who have been outscored 67-36 by the Chiefs and the Ravens, likely the two best teams in the AFC. Now they get the luxury of traveling to Pittsburgh to take on who is in all likelihood the third or fourth-best team in the conference. Houston sports the highest adjusted sack rate in the league through the first two games (11.2%) and they happen to be going up against the defense with the highest pressure percentage (58.5%). Incredibly, Bud Dupree (14), T.J. Watt (10), and Cameron Heyward (8) are currently in the top-10 of pressures this season, with Dupree leading the entire league. This presents a difficult afternoon across the line as a whole, but second-year right tackle Tytus Howard, in particular, is going to have to clean up pass protection issues real quick if he wants to avoid having Watt eat his lunch.
Eagles vs. Bengals
Philadelphia has a questionable secondary and an offensive line of diminishing returns of their own, but this could still end up being a lucrative play with an interior defensive line that should wreak havoc on Cincinnati’s trio of Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, and Fred Johnson. Not to mention whichever speed edge-rusher they want to put on the outside of right tackle Bobby Hart. Of 177 qualifying offensive linemen (minimum 50 snaps), Jonah Williams (138th), Bobby Hart (139th), and Fred Johnson (176th) all rank in the bottom-quartile in Sports Info Solutions’ Blown Block%. With defenders rushing free versus a rookie quarterback, I would be taking the over on whatever the sack total is.
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.
Browns vs. Football Team
I wavered back and forth between Cleveland as a team whose defense we wanted to be targeting or whether we wanted to load up on their two stellar running backs. Either way you want to go, I wouldn’t be able to talk you out of it, as on paper this seems like a game in which the Browns’ defense will smother Washington’s poor offensive line and will simply be looking to run the clock out. Jack Conklin —one of the league’s best run-blocking tackles— will be returning and will try to help duplicate a Week 2 in which Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 210 rushing yards and four combined total touchdowns. Five-step, nine-yard drops are not likely to be a consistent theme in Baker Mayfield’s repertoire against the likes of Ryan Kerrigan and pass-rushing phenoms Chase Young and Montez Sweat.
With a play-action, run-heavy approach the most likely scenario, it’s not out of the question that Hunt and Chubb combine for another 35-40 touches.
49ers @ Giants
The Meadowlands injury bug is alive and well, especially when it comes to a San Francisco team that must not be big fans of their current Big Apple vacation. Injuries to both the “1a”/“1b” of Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman makes Jerick McKinnon the de facto number one with Jeffery Wilson as a short-yardage/goalline banger. It’s worth keeping in mind that McKinnon has six carries and six targets through two weeks despite all of these injuries, but anyone who caught his 55-yard gain on 3rd and 31 last week can see that he still possesses some of that “Jet” moniker he earned with his jaw-dropping measurables coming out of school. McKinnon is currently ranked as our RB14 in Half-PPR scoring.
Vikings vs. Titans
Dalvin Cook finds himself in a great spot despite being on an offense that lowers his ceiling by running the nut-lowest plays in the league, thanks in large part to their 32.09 seconds per play (28th) in situation neutral scenarios. Regardless, Tennessee offers marginal resistance to a Minnesota team that would love nothing more than to run the ball on 60% of their snaps; the Titans’ defensive adjusted line yards of 4.73 ranks 22nd in the league, and the Vikings are a much better rush-blocking than pass-blocking team. Cook’s snap percentage rose from 58% to 80% last week, and the team would do well to continue growing that pie if they want to avoid an 0-3 start to the season.
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 ASR/ALY come from Football Outsiders