O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 7
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 7 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
Packers @ Commanders
The Packers' passing offense has been dismal through the first quarter of the season, but have a chance at a reprieve, starting in Week 7 against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. The Commanders currently rank 32nd in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, having surrendered a 96-1,112-8 stat line to the position through six games. This is all while having the highest pressure% in the league (43.6%), essentially operating as a data point in the age-old question of, “what’s more important, pass rush or back-end coverage?”
Things could become exasperated this Sunday, as the Washington pass rush —which is still missing Chase Young— will take on the first decent offensive line they’ve faced off against since they played Philadelphia in Week 3. In that game, the Eagles were able to hold Montez Sweat to zero pressures, and Jalen Hurts was sacked only once on his way to a 340-yard, three-touchdown, QB2 performance. That type of ceiling is not likely in play for Aaron Rodgers, no matter the lack of pressure, but it does offer him an opportunity to have a “true” QB1 week in a season in which he hasn’t topped 16 fantasy points yet.
Allen Lazard should also be started with confidence, as he has returned to operating as an integral part of the offense, including ranking third in the league in air yards over the last three games, on the back of 25 targets.
Bengals vs. Falcons
It’s not a great sign that the revamped Cincinnati Bengals offensive line is still having issues gelling this deep into the season, but they have a perfect opportunity to shift things in the right direction in Week 7. The Falcons' defense has mustered the fourth-lowest pressure% (25.7%) and sports the league’s worst adjusted sack rate (4.1%). This bodes well for a Bengals offense that would prefer to run everything out of 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back) and operates best when they don’t need to leave someone in-line to help chip explosive pass rushers. That shouldn’t be an issue, as Atlanta’s only above-average pass rusher comes in the form of Grady Jarrett, who has lined up on the outside on only 15% of his 2022 snaps.
We saw flashes of the catch-and-run prowess between Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase last week against the Saints, and most of that came from a clean pocket. All seven catches and 132 Ja’Marr Chase receiving yards came from Burrow facing no pressure —including the huge 60-yard game-winner— while 273 of the quarterback’s 300 yards passing came from a clean pocket.
It’s hard to say if the Bengals' offensive line is fixed now or if they just faced a poor Saints pass rush. Cincinnati’s communication is taking a huge step forward, and they’ll get a Falcons defensive front that blitzes at the fifth-lowest rate against 11 personnel, giving them an “easy” week against a below-average pass rush. Wheels up for every single Cincinnati Bengal you have in your fantasy lineup.
Browns @ Ravens
The Cleveland Browns are often praised for their incredible run blocking —and for good reason— but their pass protection is top-tier, no matter what metric you use; adjusted sack rate, PFF grade, ESPN pass-block win rate, pressure% allowed, blown block%; they’re in the top-10 in each of those, ranking in the top-three in three of the five. It hasn’t always translated into fantasy points in the passing game because they’re now rolling out some pretty “meh” options. Still, the team has a chance to shimmer against a Ravens pass rush that is pressuring the quarterback at a 28.2% clip, the seventh-lowest in the league.
Outside of Amari Cooper and the running backs, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, it’s hard to find a ton of other options who will benefit from a great matchup, but one shining star is tight end David Njoku, who will take on a defense that ranks 26th in aFPA to the tight end position. Njoku has operated as fantasy’s TE5 over the last four weeks, with the team basically eliminating his pass-blocking duties in favor of splitting him out wide at the highest rate of his career. After staying in to block on 17% of his pass-play snaps over the first two weeks, that rate has dropped to 7% since then, with his slot-plus-wide percentage sitting at 47% on the season, a number even higher than the career-high 43% he saw in 2021.
Njoku’s heightened usage meets up against a Ravens' defense that is fresh off allowing two top-six tight end performances to the likes of Hayden Hurst and Daniel Bellinger. Fire the Browns tight end up wherever you have him, and give some consideration to Jacoby Brissett in 2QB leagues.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Jaguars vs. Giants
Though rookie Evan Neal made some big strides in his Week 6 matchup against the Ravens, the Giants' right tackle still has some growing to do and is going to get all he can handle against the Jaguars’ pass rush, namely, Josh Allen. Allen currently ranks tenth in QB pressures amongst edge rushers and is a big reason the defense ranks tenth in pressure rate. On the flip side, New York ranks 29th in pressure% allowed and 31st in adjusted sack rate on the year.
While all eyes will be on Giants’ DC Wink Martindale and how he will use blitzes and disguises on Trevor Lawrence, maybe we should be paying attention to a Jaguars defense that stifled another young quarterback in Justin Herbert during Week 3. Herbert was pressured on 42% of his dropbacks, leading to a season-low 55% completion rate; all while the team was held to 10 points on the scoreboard. Josh Allen racked up 10 pressures in that game and has an opportunity to cause mayhem against another young quarterback in Daniel Jones, this Sunday.
Colts @ Titans
In what has been a mostly disappointing season, the Colts can now hang their hat on a winning record, a possibility that seemed farfetched through the first month of the season. They’ll travel to Tennessee in a quick-turnaround rematch against a division rival that they lost to in Week 4. That loss can’t be put on their defense, though, as they held the Titans to 243 total yards while limiting Ryan Tannehill to 137 yards on a miserable 4.7 average depth of target. Even in this dink-and-dunk offensive game plan, the Colts could cash in on three sacks, continuously beating tackles Dennis Daley and Nicholas Petit-Frere while blitzing twice over the course of the entire game.
Though the Colts will be without edge rusher Kwity Paye, Tyquan Lewis is making the most of his heightened opportunity, as highlighted in this week’s IDP waiver wire targets.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Raiders vs. Texans
The Raiders' offensive line has been a pleasant surprise up to this point in the season, as they’ve made the highest jump from my preseason offensive line rankings, where they were in the bottom five, up to where they sit after six weeks of action,18th. Much of that is predicated on a run-blocking unit that ranks first in adjusted line yards, and a career resurgence from Josh Jacobs, who is averaging 4.20 yards after contact per attempt, the fourth-highest mark in the league. This sets up as a huge Jacobs game, as the Texans rank 31st in aFPA to the running back position, allowing 157 yards on the ground to Khalil Herbert back in Week 3, which was the last time they faced a rushing offense that used a power-running scheme. Only Saquon Barkley and Leonard Fournette have more rush attempts on gap runs than Josh Jacobs does.
49ers vs. Chiefs
The game of football is simply a better sport when Trent Williams is on the field, and I’m certain the 49ers agree with me. While Williams has been little more than a coach since going down with an ankle sprain in Week 3, he is set to return this Sunday, barring any setbacks. Though the team has been good in pass blocking during his absence, allowing two sacks across three games, they have not been moving the pile in the run game like we’re accustomed to seeing when the all-world left tackle is out on the field.
The Chiefs have historically been more “giving” to opposing rushing attacks and currently rank 24th in RB aFPA. This mirrors their 23rd ranking in defensive adjusted line yards, and they remain one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL, ranking 30th in Sports Info Solutions broken-plus-missed tackle metric.
Jeff Wilson makes a good RB2 play regardless of injury reports, but I would picture him closer to the RB1/2 bubble if Trent Williams is in the lineup.
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:
- Raheem Mostert, Dolphins
- Eno Benjamin, Cardinals
- Commanders Running Backs