O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 11
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
Cowboys @ Chiefs
The excitement surrounding Michael Gallup’s return seemed to be well-warranted last week as Dak Prescott cruised to a 296-2-0 finish and he didn’t even have to put a helmet on for the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons. The final quarter was mostly predicated on running the clock out with Corey Clement, and Prescott’s final play of the third quarter was a four-yard scamper for a touchdown so the receivers’ numbers don’t look as fantastic as they could have in a 43-3 win, but CeeDee Lamb did finish the week as the overall WR3. This felt a lot like how we figured things would go this season before Michael Gallup went down in Week 1; it is likely to be wide receiver roulette, with Lamb and Amari Cooper trading WR1 weeks and Gallup acting as a consistent WR3 who could pop up for top-12 weeks from time to time.
This week, the Cowboys will be facing a similar pass rush unit to the one they faced last week, which is to say, they should have an easy time. While the Kansas City Chiefs don’t have the league’s worst pressure% that the Falcons have, they are 30th in the league in adjusted sack rate (4.7%) and most of their success is dependant on whether or not Chris Jones can get to the quarterback. Things will be even tougher on him and the rest of the Chiefs’ pass rush if stud left tackle Tyron Smith is cleared to play, and it seems things are veering in that direction.
The entire Cowboys offense should be in play for Week 11, though it’s interesting to note that upon the return of Gallup, tight end Dalton Schultz caught one pass for 14 yards on two targets, playing on a season-low 66% of snaps.
Panthers vs. Football Team
Despite beating one of the best teams in the NFC last week, Washington still has a susceptible defense. While already harnessing one of the worst coverage units in the league, they now have a sizable problem on their hands with their pass rush after it was announced that Chase Young will be missing the rest of the season because of a torn ACL. Though the team still has Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat to anchor their pass rush, the team enters Week 11 ranked 19th in pressure% (38.5%), and that was of course with Young in the lineup to help booster that stat.
The Panthers are in a prime spot to make this a comfortable first start for Cam Newton and maybe if he can keep defenses honest, fantasy managers can bank on some usable weeks from D.J. Moore like we haven’t seen in almost two months. It’s hard to tell exactly who the quarterback change will benefit at the moment, as Newton attempted only four passes last week, going for all of eight yards. For those willing to buy into the offense while everything still appears in flux, this will be a good matchup to do it.
49ers @ Jaguars
With the 49ers’ offense back to (mostly) full health for what feels like the first time this season, Jimmy Garoppolo was able to complete 79% of his 19 pass attempts while the running game pounded the Rams into submission with 44 rush attempts. The target tree was exactly how we had hoped it would be back in draft season as George Kittle (37% target share), Deebo Samuel (26%), and Brandon Aiyuk (21%) were the focal points of the offense, as the game plan was just those three and a relentless run game.
The pass-catchers may need to be leaned on a little more this week, as the Jaguars keep opposing running backs to 3.8 yards per attempt between-the-20s (second in the NFL behind only the Saints) while opposing quarterbacks have racked up a 73.3% completion rate (31st) and 8.4 yards per pass attempt (23rd). With George Kittle back on the field as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, he can help bolster the right side of the line opposite left tackle, Trent Williams, lessening the downgrade since the injury to right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Chargers vs. Steelers
The Pittsburgh offensive line was just beginning to coalesce and string some positive performances together before last week struck. Amidst the disappointment of tying with a winless Detroit Lions team were the injuries to both of their guards, Kevin Dotson and Trai Turner. While Turner can practice this week and give it a shot to play against Los Angeles, Dotson has a high-ankle sprain which will likely keep him out for a month or longer. If the Steelers are unable to get push up the middle of the Chargers’ defense, Najee Harris is going to have some issues stringing together successful runs. According to Sports Info Solutions’ numbers, Harris’ 3.7 YPA on rushes to the outside ranks 43rd out of 56 qualifying running backs.
Cardinals @ Seahawks
A Seattle offensive line that was already in the midst of a struggle is now dealing with a hip strain to left tackle Duane Brown who missed most of the second half in the Seahawks shutout 0-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 10. Now the line and their 31st-ranked adjusted sack rate (9.6%) will take on the Cardinals’ sixth-ranked defensive adjusted sack rate (7.0%) with fourth-year backup Jamarco Jones possibly manning left tackle, a position he had 62 career snaps at before last week. Russell Wilson will be in a difficult situation to bounce back from his 39.7 passer rating outing against this Arizona pass rush.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Buccaneers vs. Giants
The Buccaneers and their league-best 5.09 adjusted line yards will look to end their two-game losing streak at home on Monday Night Football as current 11-point favorites. The Giants, who currently rank 27th in aFPA to the running back position, could be in for a hurting. New York’s defensive line ranks 30th in stuff% against running backs, stopping the run for zero or negative yards on only 13.1% of rushing plays, which is sure to give Tampa Bay all the volition they need behind this stout offensive line. Leonard Fournette should be considered a high-floor option this week, with the possibility of a top-six overall finish depending on whether or not he finds the end zone.
Patriots @ Falcons
Right tackle Trent Brown returned to the lineup after an extended eight-week absence and the offensive line responded aggressively. The fully healthy line, playing together for the first time, dominated the Cleveland Browns’ front seven, limiting the defense to a 20% pressure rate, and opening holes for their running backs to accrue 143 yards on 29 carries. Rhamondre Stevenson has a great opportunity ahead of him to build upon his 24-touch, 114-yard coming-out party against a Falcons defense that ranks 31st in points allowed.
With the other side of the ball very likely to keep the Falcons’ offense in check, Stevenson should have a field day in positive game script on Thursday Night Football as it seems he finally has the full grasp of the Pats’ RB1 designation.
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:
- Phillip Lindsay/David Johnson, Texans
- Michael Carter/Ty Johnson, Jets
- Devontae Booker (if Saquon Barkley is out), Giants
- Mike Davis, Falcons
*All “pressure” info comes from Sports Info Solutions, pace and adjusted sack rate/adjusted line yards come from Football Outsiders