O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 17
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
Rams @ Ravens
Even without the services of right tackle Joe Noteboom (COVID-19 list), the Rams were poised to have their way with the Minnesota Vikings defense in Week 16. That is, until Matthew Stafford threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions, limiting fantasy production in what could have been much longer drives. The Rams won and still maintained value for fantasy managers of Cooper Kupp (10-109), Odell Beckham (4-37-1), and Tyler Higbee (5-41).
Heading into Baltimore this week, Los Angeles will have Noteboom back in the lineup to roll out a fully healthy offensive line unit, taking on a Ravens team that has been getting torched through the air —most notably allowing 525 passing yards to Joe Burrow and the Bengals last week. The Ravens are now on a four-game losing streak, allowing 29.25 points per game, and are being forced to rely on three cornerbacks who had been on their practice squad. Despite the usual suspects of Stafford/Kupp/Beckham being worthwhile of a start this week, I also expect a bounceback from Van Jefferson, who had six targets last week but was only able to haul in one of them for six yards.
Eagles @ Football Team
The Philadelphia Eagles have done well to make the most of a soft stretch of their schedule; rattling off five wins in their last six games, and have placed themselves firmly in playoff contention, depending on how they perform in their last two games. For Week 17 at least, they will be able to match strength against weakness, as their offensive line has returned to be a dominant force, while a promising Washington defensive line has been unable to harass opposing quarterbacks since their star edge rusher Chase Young tore his ACL back in Week 10. Washington ranks 27th (34.1) in pressure% since Young went down, and the embarrassment of allowing 56 points to their archrival Dallas Cowboys last week boiled over on the sidelines when two of their defensive linemen got into an altercation.
It’s no secret that the Eagles love to run the ball, but Jalen Hurts should have plenty of time in the pocket this week to distribute some fantasy points to the likes of DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Washington ranks 26th and 22nd respectively in aFPA to the wide receiver and tight end positions, and we currently have them ranked as the WR22 (Smith) and TE5 (Goedert), while Hurts has one of the highest quarterback floors on the week with his rushing ability.
Patriots vs. Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had an abundance of opportunities to show that they could handle dysfunctional, fledgling offenses over the last month, and instead, they have simply continued to pile on to their current seven-game losing streak. Taking on the 27th and 30th ranked scoring offenses over the last two weeks, they allowed the Texans (30) and Jets (26) to score 56 points while mustering two sacks against two of the lowest-ranked offensive lines in the league. Now they’ll be gifted a New England Patriots offensive line that has allowed the third-lowest pressure% (26.3%) since Isaiah Wynn came back to the starting lineup in Week 7.
This matchup points to a Jakobi Meyers week, though what that means is admittedly still a fairly low ceiling. Disregarding the blizzard-bowl Monday Night Football game from a few weeks back, Meyers is sneakily averaging 8.5 targets per game, though he is averaging only 7.1 yards per target, giving us an idea of where he is being targeted on the field, which is very often near the hash marks, not far from the line of scrimmage. Meyers should be considered a high-floor WR2/WR3 play for Championship Week.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Giants @ Bears
At this point in the season, it’s fair to consider any defense playing the Chicago Bears because of the scoring floor they give D/STs. The Bears allow the third-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to defenses, and after allowing four sacks in their win against the Seattle Seahawks, they have now allowed three or more sacks in eight of their last ten games, regardless of who is starting at quarterback. The New York Giants don’t have an intimidating defensive front by any means, but they do rank 11th in defensive adjusted sack rate, and the Bears have proven to provide a floor for all defenses, while they also rank 27th in giveaways.
This may be a deeper play than you will need in your Championship Week, but if that’s the case, they also make a great option for DFS this weekend.
Browns @ Steelers
In the final game of Week 17, the Cleveland Browns will need to knock the big brother Steelers out of the way if they want to remain an outside-shot AFC playoff contender. The best way to do that will be to get to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as often as possible, and it’s not far-fetched to assume they will succeed. Among 32 qualifying players, Roethlisberger is possibly the worst quarterback in the league while operating from a muddy pocket this year; he ranks 31st in sack% (26.1), 31st in ANY/A (0.4), 29th in TD% (2.0), and 30th in INT% (5.1). What this means, is he is one of the most likely quarterbacks to take a sack while under pressure, and when he doesn’t take a sack he’s one of the most likely to simply check it down or throw an interception.
The Browns will have every reason to bring the heat early and often, and that makes them an intriguing defense for Week 17.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
49ers vs. Texans
It’s difficult to evaluate the 49ers’ offense with (if) Trey Lance as the starter, as we haven’t seen him take meaningful snaps since back in Week 4, but the matchup with the Houston Texans should make things a little easier. The Texans rank 29th in aFPA to the running back position, while their rushing DVOA ranks 26th, which both point towards how San Francisco should attack them, regardless of who is starting at quarterback. The offense is more than likely going to be running through Jeff Wilson and hybrid-back Deebo Samuel in a must-win game against an inferior opponent. We currently have Wilson ranked as the RB23 and Samuel as the WR3.
Lions @ Seahawks
The Detroit Lions represent a great leverage spot in the running back landscape if you can figure out what is going on in that backfield ahead of their Week 17 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. While most fantasy managers will likely ignore the backfield, Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds will be running against a Seahawks team that ranks 30th in aFPA to the position, coming off a game in which David Montgomery accrued 106 total yards and 20.1 half-PPR points against them.
If D’Andre Swift remains out this week —and why rush him back to a meaningless game— I think Jamaal Williams would be the way to go, as he led the backfield touches 19-to-14 in his first game back and will have more practice time this week ahead of the Seahawks game. We currently have Williams/Reynolds ranked back-to-back as RB34/RB35 but I think I like Williams just a tad bit more than that.
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:
- Myles Gaskin/Duke Johnson, Dolphins
- Chuba Hubbard/Ameer Abdullah, Panthers
- D’Onta Foreman, Titans
- Tevin Coleman, Jets
*All “pressure” info comes from Sports Info Solutions, pace and adjusted sack rate/adjusted line yards come from Football Outsiders