O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 10
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. These numbers will continue to strengthen through more data points as the season progresses and when compared to a team’s advantages within the trenches will expose fantasy pieces we may not have otherwise considered.
Let’s begin by diving into the passing game to see what o-line/defense match-ups we can exploit.
Favorable Quarterback Matchups
Buccaneers @ Football Team
I likely don’t need to tell you to play Tampa Bay offensive pieces but this matchup shines. Washington currently ranks 32nd in aFPA to both the quarterback and wide receiver positions, aligning the stars for the typical pieces of Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans. If we dig a little deeper and look for an ancillary piece to play as a desperation flex or a dart-throw in DFS, Tyler Johnson makes a lot of sense. A 2020 fifth-round pick out of Minnesota, Johnson had run 82 routes in six games this season before Antonio Brown went down with ankle issues. In the two proceeding games, he ran 54 routes, catching seven passes for 81 yards.
With Brown (and Rob Gronkowski) still not practicing with the team coming out of their bye week, Tyler Johnson could have a chance to expand on that role, despite the recent signing of Breshad Perriman, who will spend some time on the practice squad before joining the active roster.
Colts vs. Jaguars
Although Jacksonville’s defense just stymied one of the best offenses in the league, they still rank in the bottom-10 in nearly every defensive metric when we look at the season as a whole. The Jaguars had a good showing in Week 9, but we can either take that one-game sample size to judge their validity or we can look at the seven games prior and come to the conclusion that another performance like that has a low probability of hitting.
With an offensive line back to full health, Carson Wentz was pressured at the third-lowest rate last week (21.2%) while the Colts led the league with their 8.7 yards per attempt on 30 rushes. Outside of the obvious targets in the offense of Michael Pittman, Jonathan Taylor, and Nyheim Hines in PPR leagues, Zach Pascal continues to perform in games that Wentz has time to sit back in the pocket and scan the field. This should be one of those scenarios, earmarking Pascal as a flex option.
Patriots vs. Browns
This is a tricky matchup as on paper, Cleveland has an outstanding pass rush yet they allow the sixth-most aFPA to the quarterback position (20.3) on the season. On the other side of the ball, the New England offensive line has rounded into form. Over the last three weeks, only one team has allowed a lower pressure% than the Patriots have (Buccaneers), as Mac Jones has only had 21 dropbacks in a muddied pocket over that period, less than 27 other quarterbacks.
It will be strength versus strength in this Week 10 matchup, and it could be worthwhile putting a higher emphasis on New England options in DFS this week as people may presume that Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney will have a field day against the rookie quarterback. While that’s certainly a possibility, I wouldn’t be so quick to write off the chance of a strong Patriots offensive showing.
(Note: at the time of writing, players outside of the Browns’ running back room are also being placed on the COVID list, which could potentially affect more than just their offense)
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Ravens @ Dolphins
The Dolphins have accomplished the rare feat of representing the top three slots in pressures allowed by an offensive lineman; each of Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson, and Jesse Davis are tied atop the leaderboard, having allowed 27 pressures apiece to this point in the season. Granted, Miami has yet to come across their bye week, but impressive nonetheless. There have been continued talks of positional changes along the line all season, but they’ve already made two moves in that vein; moving Jackson inside to left guard and doing the same thing on the other side with Robert Hunt.
Miami traded a future third-round pick to move up in the second round to snag the aforementioned Eichenberg but it was presumed that he would ease into the starting right tackle role, possibly behind veteran Greg Little who the team had recently acquired. Instead, the rookie has gone from left tackle-to-right tackle and back to left tackle, playing alongside three different starting guards while Little hasn’t suited up for a game yet.
This is all to say that we should be picking on the Dolphins’ offensive line with any mediocre-or-better defenses until they can find a solution to their woes.
Eagles @ Broncos
The last time the numbers popped for the Eagles defense, I touted them, they scored 1.0 fantasy points and then followed that up with a 21-point performance, so let’s hope this play equates to the latter and not the former. Philadelphia will try their hand this Sunday against a Denver Broncos team that is in the middle of overhauling their offensive line due to several injuries that range in severity. With right tackle Bobby Massie leaving the game because of knee issues and right guard Graham Glasgow following suit after a season-ending broken leg, Denver finished Week 9 with only one starting lineman; center Lloyd Cushenberry.
As it stands at the time of writing, Cushenberry and left guard Dalton Risner —who was pulled out at the end of last week due to a shoulder injury— will be the only two starters available against a talented Eagles front-four.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Steelers vs. Lions
The Detroit Lions rank 31st in aFPA to the running back position and at least part of that could be due to poor tackling; the team is 30th in Sports Info Solutions’ BT+MT% (15.8%), which measures how often opposing ballcarriers can evade potential tackle attempts. This week they will be up against an imperfect, yet improving offensive line in Pittsburgh. The left side of the line with tackle Dan Moore and guard Kevin Dotson, in particular, has looked much better over the trailing month of games. On runs that are directed either left outside, left off-tackle, or left inside, Najee Harris has bumped his yards per attempt a full yard, from 3.6 in Weeks 1-4, to 4.6 in Weeks 5-9.
Harris should continue his post-bye rookie bump this week against a weak Lions defensive front and behind an offensive line that continues to progress.
Cowboys vs. Falcons
The Dallas offense looked out of sorts in Week 9 against the Denver Broncos, putting all 16 of their points on the board within the last five minutes of the contest. The Cowboys had accrued all of 114 yards by halftime and were sitting on 16 yards of offense through three drives in the second half before those final two garbage-time scoring drives. It was a rough look but they’ll look to bounce back this week against a Falcons team that ranks 29th in aFPA to the running back position and 19th in adjusted line yards.
Stud left tackle Tyron Smith is “making progress” according to coach Mike McCarthy but if he were to miss this game, it is not a scenario that Dallas is unfamiliar with; Smith has missed 23 games since the 2016 season, including the debacle last week. I think the offensive line is less likely to be a factor than Dak Prescott simply shaking off the rust. Dak missed the Vikings game in Week 8 and returned last week to —by far— his worst outing of the season. He completed a near career-low 48.7% of his passes, the lowest mark since his rookie season of 2016. An easy way to get well would be to lean on Ezekiel Elliot and pepper him with targets.
Elliot had a season-low in rushes (10) during last week’s blowout loss and this game environment as 9.5-point home favorites presents an exemplary scenario to bounce back in.
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