O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 9
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
Colts vs. Jets
A rejuvenated Indianapolis Colts offensive line shoots back up the rankings this week as the unit is back to full health, and has a (good) problem brewing at right guard. Chris Reed —who performed admirably in Quenton Nelson’s absence at left guard— is looking to maintain his starting status on the right side of the line, effectively pushing Mark Glowinski to the bench. Glowinski has a team-low mark of allowing a pressure once every 11.5 pass-blocking snaps, something that is typically reserved for a team’s offensive tackle as outside pressure is more common.
The new-look crew will have a chance to continue gelling against a Robert Salah defense that ranks in the bottom half of both pressure rate (38.%, 18th) and adjusted sack rate (6.3%, 17th). When under duress this season, Carson Wentz has predictably checked it down, as Nyheim Hines and Mo Alie-Cox are second and third, respectively, on the team in targets from a muddy pocket. In contrast, Wentz heavily favors Zach Pascal and Jonathan Taylor when he has time to allow routes to develop, as these two are second and third in targets when he faces no pressure.
Bills @ Jaguars
The Buffalo Bills offense will go from one presumed blow-up spot in Week 8 into another one in Jacksonville for Week 9. Josh Allen and the boys eventually got there against a less-than Miami Dolphins defense but it was looking iffy for a while as the team was still sitting on a 3-3 tie deep into the third quarter. Allen eventually produced enough in the subsequent quarter and a half to be fantasy’s QB1 on the week and will look to do the same against a Jaguars defense that sports a league-low 3.7% adjusted sack rate. Due in part to the lack of pressure, the Jaguars rank in the bottom-10 in aFPA to quarterbacks (27th), wide receivers (23rd), and tight ends (30th).
As such, our rankings have Allen (QB1), Zack Moss (RB17), Stefon Diggs (WR5), Emmanuel Sanders (WR25), and Cole Beasley (WR27) as viable plays in season-long leagues, and this certainly opens up possibilities for stacking in DFS as well.
Cardinals @ 49ers
The Arizona Cardinals will be coming off a sputtering offensive performance (for them) in Week 8 to take on a 49ers team that has not been getting after the quarterback as they have in years past. Though San Francisco still has an incredible outside-rushing tandem of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, they are getting absolutely no push up the middle. According to Sports Info Solutions numbers, the 49ers rank dead last in pressure% (6.4%) when we isolate only techniques 0-3. For the uninitiated, this can be defined as everything from the outside shoulder of the left guard through the outside shoulder of the right guard. The NFL average for pressure% occurring from this area of the offensive line is around the 10.5% mark.
From a clean pocket this season, Kyler Murray is second in the NFL in both yards per attempt (9.4) and on-target% (87.4%). This week he will be facing the 31st-ranked defense against the quarterback position, according to aFPA.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Steelers vs. Bears
Simply put, the Chicago Bears are dead last in the league with a 12.2% adjusted sack rate and they will be looking across the line at a Steelers front that ranks 10th in pressure rate (40.3%). Jason Peters is holding up as well as you could hope for a nearly 40-year-old left tackle, but the right tackle position has been musical chairs all season long. Germain Ifedi, Elijah Wilkinson, Lachavious Simmons, and Larry Borom have each had a start at RT in the last four games. It’s difficult to even remember what “string” of linemen we’re currently at.
This week the right tackle (presumably Larry Borom?) will have the luxury of lining up across T.J. Watt, arguably a top-five talent as an edge rusher. Justin Fields showed what he could do with his legs last week, but he still absorbed four sacks and threw an interception.
Rams vs. Titans
The biggest question in fantasy-land this week has been; how much priority (FAAB) should we be spending to add a 36-year-old Adrian Peterson to our fake clubs when the question probably should’ve been; should we even consider him as a fantasy asset? I’m on team “probably not”, but the bigger takeaway from the situation is how much different the Tennessee Titans are going to have to look without Derrick Henry. We have a scenario this week in which a scorching hot Rams offense is set to take on a bottom-10 defense and the Titans —and their 31st-ranked 52% neutral pass rate— are going to have to lean more on their pass game, something they haven't been prone to do in the Mike Vrabel era.
The Rams and their second-best 45.6% pressure rate will welcome a passing attack that will leave Ryan Tannehill exposed behind the league’s 29th-ranked offensive line in terms of adjusted sack rate (8.7%). Los Angeles has a floor as a fantasy D/ST regardless of game script, but if they start to pull away on the scoreboard, we could be in for a nice ceiling game.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Saints vs. Falcons
We’ve got Alvin Kamara touchdown equity being sucked out from both new-old addition Mark Ingram and tight end Taysom Hill, who is expected to start this game as a quarterback. Nonetheless, Kamara is an absolute delight both on and off the field and will overcome this obstacle like he has so many times in his five seasons with the Saints. This week he gets a Falcons team that ranks 29th in aFPA to the running back position as he totes the rock behind an offensive line that in which all members played 100% of the snaps last week for only the second time in the 2021 season. New Orleans would be smart to run the offense through their biggest strengths; a healthy line and Alvin Mentian Kamara.
Browns @ Bengals
The chickens came home to roost last weekend for a Bengals defense that seemed competent heading into battle against the New York Jets and someone named Mike White. The Jets proceeded to score 34 points and accrue over 500 yards of offense, putting to rest the idea that Cincinnati had a top-half of the league unit. The week a healthy Nick Chubb and D’Ernest Johnson are coming into town and will test a defensive front that currently ranks third in adjusted line yards (3.36). Regardless, the Browns will still likely turn to their run game heavily as the wide receivers and passing game, in general, continue to spiral down the drain.
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