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.
Editor's note: Check out the complete set of Week 17 rankings here.
Let’s begin by diving into the passing game to see what o-line/defense match-ups we can exploit.
Favorable Quarterback Matchups
49ers @ Raiders
The 49ers offensive line further solidified their standing as one of the best units in the league in Week 16, keeping the Commanders' defense at bay despite the return of Chase Young. This week they’ll take on a Raiders defense that doesn’t generate much pressure outside of Maxx Crosby, giving the o-line an opportunity to get an extra pair of hands on him whenever he lines up across Mike McGlinchey. The ceiling is capped on Brock Purdy as the team continues to run an ultra-efficient, run-first offense, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple of pieces in this offense that can be useful in Championship Week.
Over the last three weeks, George Kittle (26.1%) and Brandon Aiyuk (20.3%) have taken advantage of the shrinking target tree. They have a great chance to win your league this weekend as they take on a defense that ranks 30th in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. Brock Purdy should be in 2QB championship lineups as well.
Cowboys @ Titans
Tyron Smith was back in full during Week 16 after being rotated in at right tackle with Jason Peters the week prior. If he gets back to full speed, he will undoubtedly improve this entire offensive line, but we may need a couple of weeks before everyone can gel, including Smith, who had never played right tackle before these two games. He will have a much easier task this weekend against a Tennessee Titans defensive line that is on the other end of the spectrum than the Eagles team he was forced to take on during his first complete game at right tackle; Tennessee ranks 24th in adjusted sack rate and is coming out of a week in which the one-win Texans used Jeff Driskel and Davis Mills to beat them.
A mediocre performance from Tyron Smith and/or the entire offensive line should still be enough against a Titans defense that ranks in the bottom 10 in aFPA to the quarterback (23rd), wide receiver (24th), and tight end (26th) positions. Fire up all of your Cowboys pieces this week, all the way down to Michael Gallup, who is a good Flex option this week.
Lions vs. Bears
The Lions’ tackle tandem of Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell has been fantastic all season, but the line's interior still has some catching up to do if this unit is going to be an elite one. Out of 90 qualifying guards this season, Dan Skipper (85th) and Logan Sternberg (86th) are the only teammates in the bottom-10 in Sports Info Solutions’ pass-blocking blown block%, continually whiffing on pressure up the middle. This week’s matchup should be a walk in the park, though, as the Bears rank dead last in pressure rate (24.2%) and only have a single interior defensive lineman with double-digit pressures on the year; Justin Jones with 25.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Falcons vs. Cardinals
The Atlanta Falcons haven’t found themselves in this article often this season, but that’s what the Arizona Cardinals offense can do for you. Things weren’t going splendidly, even with Kyler Murray, so you can only imagine how things have gone since then. The Cardinals rank 31st in EPA per play and 32nd in passing EPA per play over the last month, failing to eclipse 210 yards passing in any of those four games, committing multiple turnovers in each of them. On the year, Arizona allows the sixth-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to opposing defenses. It presents an opportunity for Atlanta to come through as a sneaky-good DFS play this week.
Jets @ Seahawks
The Seahawks have been an up-and-down unit this season, gradually progressing their young players into a mid-season crescendo before falling on some more difficult times as the season winds down. They now sit at 24th in adjusted sack rate (7.9%) and have broken 100 yards rushing in only one of their past six games. This week they’ll get a Jets defense that ranks top-10 in both adjusted sack rate (7.7%) and adjusted line yards (4.11), with Quinnen Williams in two, who has a sack in seven of his last eight games, including logging two of them in only 12 pass rush snaps in Week 14.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Browns @ Commanders
While the Commanders’ pass rush had been improving even before the return of Chase Young, their rushing defense isn’t exactly their calling card. They have surrendered a middling 13th-most rushing yards and 19th-most yards per attempt on the season. Still, they have been much more susceptible on the ground over the last month, ranking 25th in yards per game and rushing EPA per play while allowing an explosive rush (a gain of 10+ yards) at the fourth-highest rate. This should play directly into the Cleveland Browns game plan, as their offense ranks top-seven in each of those categories, with Nick Chubb leading the league in explosive runs.
Chargers vs. Rams
With the Chargers coming into Week 17 vying for a better playoff seed, the Rams are 5-10 and scored enough points on Christmas to get Nathaniel Hackett fired in his first season as Denver’s head coach. Though the Chargers aren’t known for their mauling front line, they’ll have a chance to create some space for Austin Ekeler against a Rams defense that ranks 22nd in running back aFPA and has been much less formidable in the trenches without Aaron Donald, ranking 21st in rushing yards per game and 26th in rushing EPA per play in the four weeks since he went down. Austin Ekeler has a true overall number-one RB potential this week.
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/or the strong defensive fronts they will be facing: