O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 11
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, including an offensive line's positive and negative impact 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 matchups we can exploit.
Favorable Quarterback Matchups
Chiefs vs. Eagles
There’s so much going on in the NFL world right now that it was almost easy to forget there is a Super Bowl rematch going on here in Week 11. The teams look very similar to what they lined up with back in February, with the Eagles still sporting a top-three scoring offense backed by an aggressive rushing game and monster performances from their A.J. Brown-DeVonta Smith tandem. Sadly, for fantasy purposes, the Chiefs are also very similar to their 2022 version, struggling to find a wide receiver option they can consistently rely on.
Rookie Rashee Rice has been trying to make his case throughout the season, and with a post-bye rookie bump here on the docket, facing an Eagles defense ranked 31st in WR aFPA, we could have ourselves a WR2/3 Week 11 option. While the Philadelphia pass rush is still a positive part of their defense, the back end hasn’t been as formidable as in years past.
When opposing quarterbacks are operating out of an empty pocket, the Eagles' secondary has allowed a league-high 108.8 QB rating, with the ninth-highest completion percentage (72.8%). It would surprise no one to discover Patrick Mahomes works quite well with no pressure, as he has the second-highest QB rating (116.9) and fourth-highest completion percentage (76.1%) from a clean pocket. If the Chiefs' offensive line—who currently ranks No. 1 in adjusted sack rate at 4.67%—can fend off the Eagles' pass rush this week, we could see a voluminous week from Rice that solidifies him above his gadget-player teammates.
Vikings @ Broncos
The Broncos have admittedly picked things up on defense as of late, and some resurgent performances have heavily impacted their current three-game winning streak. Despite this, their season-long adjusted fantasy points allowed rank is 30th against opposing offenses and 20th against quarterbacks, and while their pass rush has recently picked up steam, they still rank 22nd in both pressure rate (33.3%) and adjusted sack rate (7.0%).
While this game pits two teams climbing out of the NFL middle ground on the backs of improbable success, it still feels like the Vikings are more sustainable, particularly in fantasyland. This is due to an offensive line that has finally gelled into one of the best units in the league after the team spent more draft capital on the unit than nearly any other franchise. Brian O’Neill (first), Dalton Risner (ninth), and Garrett Bradbury (20th) all rank in the top 20 of their respective positions in ESPN’s pass block win rate, while backup interior lineman Austin Schlottmann ranks fifth from his time filling in for center Garrett Bradbury (back) earlier in the season.
That type of infrastructure has allowed Joshua Dobbs to walk onto the field from Arizona to throw for 426 yards, rush for 110 more, and score five total touchdowns despite not playing in the first quarter of Week 9. Dobbs will now face off against a defense ranked 31st in yards per attempt (8.1) and dead last in missed tackle rate (15.5%), which boosts his floor both on the ground and through the air. He is a fringe QB1 option this week and should easily support Jordan Addison as a Week 11 WR2.
Packers vs. Chargers
The Green Bay Packers' offense has not been an exciting watch to this point in the season, and that is reflected in their fantasy standings across all positions. Jordan Love technically ranks the highest among his positional counterparts (QB18), but when we move to the skill position players, Luke Musgrave (TE22) has the current highest standing in half-PPR points per game. No wide receiver is even cracking the top 36, with the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, Christian Watson, sitting all the way down at WR66.
It’s been a tough slog for the Packers, but they find themselves in a get-right spot against a Chargers team that has been bleeding yards and points through the air all season long. The general ineptitude of Jordan Love should be counterbalanced nicely by a defense that has given up the most passing yards per game (317.2) and ranks 32nd in QB aFPA.
While Joey Bosa’s pass rush should never be dismissed, he hasn’t been his usual terrorizing self this season as he continues to deal with hamstring and toe issues, and he managed only one pressure last week against a stout Detroit Lions tackle tandem. In fact, Bosa only has two games with five or more pressures on the season, each coming against teams that rank in the bottom five of pressure rate allowed (Jets and Bears). Compare that to the 2021 season, when he had eight such games. Even with David Bakhtiari logging only 55 snaps this season, the Packers' O-Line currently ranks first in pressure rate allowed (28.0%).
This muted Chargers pass rush has contributed to the defense ranking 27th in DVOA and has allowed a QB7, QB2, and QB1 fantasy performance to quarterbacks not named Zach Wilson or Tyson Bagent since the team’s Week 5 bye.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Jaguars vs. Titans
The Titans' offensive line is one to attack weekly, as they now rank in the bottom three of both adjusted sack rate (10.48% - 30th) and QB pressure rate allowed (43.2% - 31st). Their biggest issue at the moment is at left tackle and, in turn, the left side of the line. While their drop from 4.5 yards per attempt (11th) to 4.3 yards per attempt (17th) while running the ball on the left side could just be simple variance, the fact that the left side of the line has allowed 61.5% of their total pressures likely isn’t.
The last thing the Titans have needed are injuries to exasperate the problem further, and that’s exactly what happened in Week 10. With left guard Daniel Brunskill already out, left tackle Andre Dillard left the game with a concussion, causing further shuffling that may continue into this matchup against the Jaguars. EDGE Josh Allen lines up outside the left tackle on approximately 85% of his defensive snaps and is currently tenth in the league with his 44 pressures.
This week, Jacksonville is priced as the DEF8 on DraftKings and DEF6 on FanDuel.
Browns vs. Steelers
The Browns D/ST, who have caused multiple turnovers or multiple sacks in every game this year, has been an easy click all season, and this week will be no different. In a game with the lowest total of the week (34!), this is likely to be a tough watch as Kenny Pickett and Dorian Thompson-Robinson battle it out in Cleveland.
Though rookie Broderick Jones has played well enough to push Chukwuma Okorafor out of his job, we’ll have to see how he handles Myles Garrett, assuming the team lines him up on that side of the line more often against this first-year player. Garrett has lined up as the outside left end for a season-high 13 snaps on two different occasions: Week 7 and Week 8. Week 7 was to take advantage of Colts fourth-round rookie Blake Freeland, and Week 8 was to attack the Seahawks rotation of Stone Forsythe and Jason Peters. Garrett left those games with ten combined pressures and three sacks.
The Steelers likely won’t have to take to the air too often in this defensive battle, but that shouldn’t keep the Browns defense from scoring some fantasy points.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
Cowboys @ Panthers
Fantasy managers have been pining for an explosive performance from Tony Pollard all season long, and he has begun to be outshined by Rico Dowdle. Nevertheless, this matchup pins him against a Panthers defense ranked dead last in adjusted line yards (4.85), 28th in missed tackle percentage (11.8%), and 31st in RB aFPA.
With the Cowboys looking to string together games with a fully healthy line, Pollard could be in line for a bona fide RB1 week, which has been sparse this year.
Dolphins vs. Raiders
There is only one team in the NFL with a running back yards before contact mark above 2.0, and that’s the Miami Dolphins (2.99). This is due in large part to a number of breakaway runs in which spacing enabled the back to literally never be touched, but it feels foolish to discount long runs that could win you your week. The possibility of multiple instances of breakaway runs is very real against a Raiders defense that ranks 31st in adjusted line yards (4.81) and 29th in explosive run rate.
Running Backs with Bad Matchups
As opposed to breaking down every bad matchup 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: