O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 15
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 vs. Saints
Thanks to their league-leading 64% pass rate in neutral game scripts or while playing with the lead, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are leading the league in passing attempts, yardage, and touchdowns. This fact doesn’t come as a surprise for any fantasy managers who have Tom Brady, Mike Evans, or Chris Godwin on their teams, and there should be no hesitation to fire them up this week against a Saints team that ranks 27th in aFPA to opposing quarterbacks and 16th to the wide receiver position.
The Saints will welcome the return of Cameron Jordan, but their defensive line is still going to have a difficult time getting after Brady behind the league’s first-ranked o-line in adjusted sack rate. Even with Jordan’s talent in the lineup, New Orleans ranks 29th in pressure% (35.4) on the season, which is likely to put a heightened constraint on the coverage team with the Bucs’ talented wide receiver unit. Though it will be difficult to pull the trigger on one of the WR3 options on this team, both Breshad Perriman and Tyler Johnson make for interesting players to sprinkle into Sunday Night Football showdown slates if you’re into that sort of thing.
Eagles vs. Football Team
Despite what you may think about the quarterback position —or the offensive pieces for the Eagles in general— the offensive line has (knock on wood) been healthy for an extended period and continue to be the true centerpiece of this offense. Though the team likely feels more comfortable moving the ball on the ground, they have an interesting conundrum this week with Washington’s pass-funnel defense; the team is seventh in rushing DVOA according to Football Outsiders, but a lowly 27th in passing DVOA.
So while the idea on paper would be to move the ball through the air, it’s interesting to note that the Football Team has allowed the third-most rushing yards to quarterbacks (332), so Jalen Hurts could either take advantage of them with his feet or incorporate RPOs and read-option passes. Even after missing Week 13, he still ranks seventh in the league in passing yards off of those two dropback types. Hurts could be a top-five option at the position this week, but the nature of the game may particularly affect Miles Sanders, who may be nothing more than a top-30 running back this week due to volume concerns.
Vikings @ Bears
The Chicago Bears will try to bounce back from an up-and-down Monday Night Football affair in Green Bay against one of the league’s most efficient passing attacks. Though the Vikings had an easy time running up and down the field against the Steelers last week, pushing the ball through the air may be the easiest mode of attack in Week 15 as the Bears rank 30th in yards per attempt allowed (7.9) and 31st in QBR against (108.4). Pair those numbers with Chicago’s 30th-ranked pressure% (34.2) and Kirk Cousins should have plenty of time to progress through his reads.
Those reads as of late have been Justin Jefferson or K.J. Osborn, the latter of whom has turned into a bonafide WR2 since Adam Thielen’s high ankle sprain. While Jefferson’s usage continues to rival Cooper Kupp-type heights, Osborn has garnered a 21.4% target share of his own over the last two weeks, and there’s no reason to think that will change as long as Thielen is sidelined. Our rankings currently have Jefferson as the WR2, Osborn as the WR32, and Tyler Conklin is worth a plug-and-pray at tight end, as he could score just as easily as any other back-end TE1 option available on the waiver wire.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Jaguars vs. Texans
It feels out of place to be playing a two-win defense for a team that feels like it is near a collapse, but if there was ever a week to do it, it’s against another near-collapse franchise. The Texans have allowed 11 sacks over the last three games, adding to their already-high 8.3% adjusted sack rate (27th) while Davis Mills ranks 29th out of 31 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF’s turnover-worthy play% (4.3%). This opens the door for fantasy D/ST scoring and is part of why the Houston Texans have allowed opposing defenses to score at the sixth-highest rate when playing them.
This all points to the Jaguars as a usable fantasy commodity this week, no matter how gross it may feel.
Bills vs. Panthers
Though I’m sure the Cam Newton story is heart-warming for fans around Carolina, it certainly doesn’t make too much sense from the outside looking in. The team is 0-3 since he took over, failing to reach 300 yards of total offense in two of those games, while Newton’s 69.0 on-target% is a not-nice 41st out of 42 qualifying quarterbacks. The Bills —who are fifth in pressure%— rank second in aFPA to each of the quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end positions which should make things hairy in a hurry. Regardless of when P.J. Walker takes his first snap this Sunday, Buffalo will have already put this game away.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Rams vs. Seahawks
As Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson can attest to; running behind this Los Angeles Rams offensive line, who currently ranks fourth with their 4.81 adjusted line yards, is a lucrative situation to be in. Last week Michel handled 100% of the Rams’ backfield touches, so even if Henderson can return in Week 15, I believe Sean McVay will keep Michel in the lead back role. At the time of writing Henderson is still on the COVID reserve list, along with an innumerable amount of other players the last couple of days.
If Michel has the backfield all to himself for another game, he will be an RB1 option against this Seahawks team that has allowed the league’s most scrimmage yards through 14 weeks.
Chiefs @ Chargers
Whether the Chiefs offensive has fully rounded back into form, or they simply came out to stomp the Raiders as they typically do is still to be determined, but at least for one more week, they could take advantage of a plus matchup. Though the Chargers have an imposing pass rush and rank ninth in passing DVOA, they rank 32nd in rushing DVOA and 31st in defensive adjusted line yards. In part, because they rarely stop running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage (13.3 stuff% ranks 31st) the Chargers allow a league-worst 4.7 yards per attempt and have allowed the fifth-most aFPA to the running back position.
If the last two weeks have been any indication, it would seem as if Clyde Edwards-Helaire has settled into the lead-back role, with Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore rotating in on passing downs. The hope would be that the Chargers keep this game close as Edwards-Helaire is sure to get more touches in neutral game script. With the Chiefs as three-point favorites, odds are that’s the case. CEH is a borderline RB1 this week while Williams could make for a desperation flex.
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