O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 4
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. Falcons
Being an Atlanta Falcons fan has to be some special type of misery these last four years, but they sure are a bunch of fun to watch as a fantasy player! The “defensive-minded” Dan Quinn squad has allowed the highest aFPA to quarterbacks and now they get to travel to Lambeau Field to take on Angry Aaron Rodgers and his squad of cheese heads. Though we’re still awaiting final word on WR1 Davante Adams, his absence didn’t seem to affect Rodgers much in Week 3 when he had a nearly flawless 283 yards and three scores against an equally sketchy Saints secondary.
Allen Lazard had a bit of a coming-out party last week, but if you’re looking for a deeper dig consider tight end Robert Tonyan, specifically in TE-starved leagues. Now playing in 60%+ of snaps consistently, he gets a matchup against the Falcons who have allowed the second-most scheduled-adjusted points to the position.
Steelers @ Titans
Pittsburgh’s offense has returned to the glory some of us were hoping for last year when we loaded up on Steelers stacks just to burn those best-ball teams to the ground after Ben Roethlisberger went down for the season. Though JuJu Smith-Schuster still leads the team in yards (160) and receptions (17), things are already becoming increasingly spread out to the tertiary pieces of the offense. Pair that with his unsustainable TD-rate and we may start needing to look elsewhere. We can put those worries on the backburner if Diontae Johnson —who currently leads the team in targets— remains in concussion protocol and misses this juicy matchup.
(10/3/2020 Update: With this game officially postponed for another month, we’ll have to wait a while to act on the lopsided affair. Unless Pittsburgh’s o-line hits some health-hiccups, we’ll likely be ready to attack it in the future.)
Patriots @ Chiefs
In all likelihood, it’s not the best idea for New England to get into a shootout with the best offense in the league but that doesn’t mean we can’t bank on production from Cam Newton. Despite playing with the lead through most of the first three weeks of the season, the Chiefs have still managed to allow the sixth-highest rushing yards per game because of a leaky front-seven. As long as Cam is healthy, it seems as if the Patriots want to run the offense through his legs, giving him one of the safest floors in the league.
(10/3/2020 Update: “As long as Cam is healthy” was more prophetic than I meant it to be. This game has officially been postponed to Tuesday and with Cam Newton being the player who has been afflicted with the COVID virus, he will not be an option as a play anymore. Whether New England plugs in Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham, the running game efficiency is sure to take a hit, though there’s an argument to be made that keeping the ball with the running backs would help slow down the opposing Chiefs’ offense. Either way, Hoyer or Stidham are a steep drop-off from Newton)
Raiders vs. Bills (10/3/2020 Update)
Considering two of the passing offenses I wanted to attack have either been postponed to another week or have been kicked off the main slate and are now sans their quarterback, I wanted to come back and present a "bonus" quarterback to consider. Though Derek Carr doesn't often provide much fantasy upside on a week-to-week basis (just two games of 25+ fantasy points, just one of 300+ yards since the beginning of 2019), there are some weeks that he can be used as a stop-gap streamer, and this game could turn out to be one of those weeks. If you don't feel like Carr is in consideration with both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards set to miss the game, give a hard look to Hunter Renfrow instead. As pointed out by John Paulsen in his Sneaky Starts article, the Bills have been hemorrhaging points to the slot position thus far in 2020. Through three weeks, Cooper Kupp, Isaiah Ford, and Jamison Crowder have combined for 23 catches, 298 yards, and two scores on this defense.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Rams vs. Giants
In one of the more unbelievable plot twists of the 2020 season, the Los Angeles Rams suddenly have a decent offensive line and a return to a fearsome pass rush with minimal changes in the off-season. Maybe it’s a mirage but we’re unlikely to find out this week against a Giants line that has been weak in the pass and run game. Daniel Jones has six turnovers through three games after leading the league in fumbles during his rookie season (13 games).
Buccaneers vs. Chargers
Justin Herbert will be up against it this Sunday after making an iffy Carolina defense look passable in Week 3. In his second career start, Herbert had 49 attempts to get some offense going but racked up only 141 air yards, checking down and never threatening the young Panthers group. This week he gets a much more formidable Tampa Bay team that ranks eighth in pressure rate. Some more growing pains are likely in store.
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.
Cardinals @ Panthers
The Arizona backfield gets to take on a Carolina defense that has allowed a league-high seven touchdowns on the ground this season. Though Chase Edmonds has been seeing an increasing workload, Kenyan Drake is still on the field for 65-70% of the snaps, leaving him to reap the benefits of what is likely the worst rush defense in the league.
Colts @ Bears
In the two games since Marlon Mack went down, Jonathan Taylor has 42 touches and the game script for Week 4 could see a lot of clock grinding and not so much use for third-down specialist Nyheim Hines. The Colts have allowed a league-low 45 total points through three weeks of the season, keeping the likelihood of this staying in a positive or “neutral” script for the majority —if not all— of the game.
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