O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 7
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.
Lions @ Falcons
Kenny Golladay is one of only 12 players averaging at least seven targets per game with an average depth of target of 11 yards or higher. Babytron has only seen the field for three games due to some hamstring issues and has yet to see a true ceiling game in 2020, but with Atlanta’s anemic pass rush and poor secondary, that is about to change. Thanks in part to a paltry 1.3 sacks per game (29th) and further exasperated by a litany of defensive injuries, the Falcons have allowed an average of 335 passing yards a game, allowing the opposition to find the end zone 18 times in six games.
Browns @ Bengals
The matchup is certainly here, but is Baker Mayfield up for the challenge? Despite an offensive line that has climbed more than twenty spots in my rankings over the course of a year, a new offensive coordinator confusing defenses on the regular, a new tight end weapon, and one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league, Mayfield is fantasy’s QB32. The good news is, Cincinnati’s pass rush is mediocre —or much worse if defensive end Sam Hubbard is forced to miss a second straight game— and Odell Beckham (4-74-1) has already had his way with this defense once this year. The best-case scenario here for Baker Mayfield managers would be for a blow-up spot that would open a window to sell him.
Chiefs @ Broncos
When it comes to the Chiefs —especially the Chiefs in a good matchup— it tends to be a waste of breath (or digital ink) to talk about starting the main three of Mahomes, Tyreek, and Kelce. Let’s instead focus on ancillary pieces. In the first game without Sammy Watkins (hamstring), it was clear who was going to get an immediate boost in workload. Working as the team’s WR2, Demarcus Robinson notched a 95% snap rate, more than double Mecole Harman’s 40%, who was simply rotating in-and-out with Byron Pringle (38%). Barring any mid-week switch-ups, Robinson will go to work against a Denver team that has allowed Jeff Smith (7-81-0), Scotty Miller (3-83-0), Chase Claypool (3-88-1), and Corey Davis (7-101-0) to become fantasy relevant as their team’s number two wide receiver option.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Patriots vs. 49ers
The lowest point total of the week (44.5), this game is unlikely to have very many fireworks despite the chisel-chinned return of Jimmy Garoppolo to the city where he spent many moons riding the pine behind Tom Brady. San Francisco’s offensive line play has been slipping further and further away from a strength, and much closer to a weakness, largely due to continued injury woes. Center Ben Garland is going on IR, Weston Richburg’s return has been pushed back, and Trent Williams —the only thing keeping the line from dipping even deeper— is having ankle issues. In a game that will likely be a slog anyways, expect Bill Belichick to dial pressure and force the 49ers to play a safe low-aDOT game.
Cowboys @ Football Team
Dallas and newly appointed quarterback Andy Dalton were reminded of what life is like outside of the NFC East as the Arizona Cardinals ran up 38 points on them in Week 6, the fifth game in a row an opponent has scored more than 30 points. Help is on the way in the form of a Washington team that boasts a league-worst 9.2% adjusted sack rate. The Cowboys’ top-10 pressure percentage should come through repeatedly, presenting a prime opportunity for Kyle Allen/Alex Smith/Dwayne Haskins/Colt McCoy/Josh Johnson turnovers. Washington has scored over 20 points only once through their first six games, so even if we don’t get the bevy of turnovers and sacks we’re expecting, this can still make a perfectly acceptable floor play.
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. Panthers
While already a run-funnel defense (seventh in opponent passing yards per game, 18th in rushing yards per game), things get vexatious when you consider that Carolina is also allowing the most receptions to the running back position to boot. Alvin Kamara goes from a top-five option to our half-PPR RB1 in a game that could end up as a shoot-out. Latavius Murray becomes the play that you may have to flip back and forth over; his 10-15 touches could equate to an RB2 play considering the game environment could see him with multiple goal line touches and a little work out of the backfield.
Packers @ Texans
Green Bay will be looking for a bounceback week after Tom Brady and the Bucs took Aaron Rodgers behind the woodshed for a whoopin’ after his rude “triple thrust” shenanigans. The easiest course through the Houston defense will be through the ground game, where the Texans’ 5.22 defensive adjusted line yards ranks dead last in the NFL. It may have taken overtime to get there, but it doesn’t change the fact that Derrick Henry and Jeremy McNichols racked up 326 total yards in Week 6, an act that Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams would be more than happy to reenact. The availability of left tackle David Bakhtiari —one of the best tackles in football— will be coming into question as he missed Wednesday’s practice, but in a glass-half-full outlook, Rick Wagner is a very capable backup and if Bakhtiari were to only miss one game, this would be the one where it would be the least noticeable.
Steelers @ Titans
After what appeared on the surface to be a Week 1 benching, James Conner has quietly been the RB16 in half-PPR points per game despite that eight-touch performance to kick the year off. Conner has scored in four straight games now and his streak will be tested against a Titans defense that has allowed 137 yards per game on the ground (26th) via 5.1 yards per carry (30th). With center Maurkice Pouncey off the injury report and rookie right guard Kevin Dotson filling in admirably for the injured David DeCastro, this Pittsburgh offensive line is going to have no problems opening holes in this Tennessee defensive front.
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 ASR/ALY come from Football Outsiders