O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 16
Evaluating offensive line play regarding its effect on fantasy football output has been a stone unturned throughout the course of 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. Beginning this week and moving forward, aFPA will reflect the current season since we believe the three weeks of information begins to show reliable numbers and patterns.
Let’s begin by diving into the passing game to see what o-line/defense matchups we can exploit.
Favorable Quarterback Matchups
Basically, what we’re looking for here is a tall bar (a team ranked low in aFPA) towards the left of the graph (a team ranked high in offensive line play) for a positive correlation to offense and a small bar towards the right to a positive correlation for a defense. Here are the plays that stick out to me:
If you’re in your fantasy championships and you have Lamar Jackson, I couldn’t pay you enough to bench him, so this blurb isn’t really going to pertain to you. Priced all the way up at $8,000 on DraftKings, I’m not sure I could even talk you out of playing him in cash games this week. With a playoff bye still on the line, and a very real shot at an MVP trophy, there is no reason for Baltimore to throttle Jackson down against a Browns defense ranked 25th in aFPA to quarterbacks over the last ten weeks of the season.
The matchup also correlates well to Jackson’s number one option, Mark Andrews. After exiting Week 14’s game with some knee issues, Andrews came back strong last week, garnering seven targets, 50+ yards and his eighth score of the season. The Browns are very susceptible to tight end production, ranking a lowly 28th in aFPA to tight ends.
The New York Jets defense looked adequate through the month of November and even into the first couple of weeks of December, but upon closer inspection, we start to understand why. In a seven-game stretch before playing the Ravens last week, the Jets played Jacksonville (24th ranked offensive line), Miami (32nd), the Giants (13th), Washington (28th), Oakland (14th), Cincinnati (30th), and finally Miami (32nd) again. In the process, they handed the Dolphins and the Bengals their first wins of the season. This is exactly why we love using aFPA; even with the passable statistical run through this stretch, their rolling ten-week sample still has them ranked 26th against quarterbacks and 28th against wide receivers.
It will be difficult to plug Devlin Hodges into your Championship lineups, but the matchup sets up well enough that he makes for a what-the-heck floor play in 2QB leagues. A much more exciting piece —especially if Juju Smith-Schuster isn’t able to suit up— is James Washington, who is finding much better chemistry with hunting buddy Duck Hodges than he did with college teammate Mason Rudolph. In Hodges’ four starts on the year (Weeks 6, 13, 14 and 15), James Washington is third in the league with a 17.5 aDOT (minimum 10 targets) and is second in the league with a 49% market share of air yards. Those are remarkable numbers for someone who only ranks 33rd in fantasy points over that timeframe. Washington is priced down at $5,300 on DraftKings this week, coming off of an 11-target performance. His second career 100+ yard game is very much in play.
During the second half of Week 15’s Washington-Philadelphia game, Carson Wentz gave us a glimpse at an MVP-calibre player that we haven’t seen in quite some time. Wentz went 18-of-21 for 141 yards and three touchdowns in thirty minutes of play, very likely his best stretch of the season. Leading the way for receivers was Greg Ward, who turned nine targets into a 7-61-1 statline, including four catches for 40 yards on the final drive of the game. JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to deliver in an expanded role yet again, turning 150 snaps over the last two games into two catches and 29 yards. From here on out the passing game is going to funnel through the running backs, tight ends and….Greg Ward. Just like the Eagles drew up during the preseason.
Carson Wentz has a plethora of crisp underneath targets and a plus offensive line to keep him off his back, but a severe lack of downfield targets. If you need an upside play this week, you may want to look elsewhere.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Though Seattle hasn’t had the type of pass rush that we grew accustomed to during the early Pete Carroll era, they’ve still found a way to force the third-most turnovers in the league this season. Pair that with an Arizona offensive line that has a tendency to fall apart when the offense can’t do whatever they want, and we have a recipe for a difficult Kyler Murray game.
The Cardinals have shown that they have a ton of promise to be a consistently exciting offense as Kliff Kingsbury gets accustomed to NFL life, but they have also shown the propensity to let the bottom fall out. Arizona has racked up 400+ total yards in four games this season, all against mediocre or terrible defenses (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Cleveland). On the flip side, they have totaled less than 300 yards in six games this season. Kyler Murray’s up-tempo offense was impressively turnover-averse before these five most recent games in which he has six interceptions, and the team as a whole has committed nine turnovers.
Between Leonard Fournette filing a $100,000 grievance against the team, Tom Coughlin being fired and a quarterback controversy between an ironic mustache and an $88-million middle-of-the-road 30-year-old, it’s safe to say Jacksonville is ready to end 2019. Even with a Week 15 win, the Jaguars have a -111 (!!) point differential since Week 9, allowing nearly nine fantasy points to opposing defenses and boasting two separate four turnover games.
In steps the Atlanta Falcons defense, who has quietly been a top-five fantasy commodity in the same time period that the Jags have been crapping the bed. Jacksonville’s offensive line will be tested throughout the game, specifically rookie second-round pick Jawaan Taylor, who will be lining up across Vic Beasley for much of the game. 4for4’s IDP maven Mike Woellert had this to say on the subject;
“He's (Beasley) producing a pressure rate just under 10%, but still has seven sacks - including three in the last two weeks. Taylor has allowed seven sacks and 36 total pressures on Jacksonville QBs this season.”
Atlanta makes for a priority play in Week 16 and I would start them with confidence over all but the top echelon of defenses.
Favorable Running Back Matchups
The above rushing aFPA graph will work exactly the same way as the QB aFPA graph worked; tall lines on the left are areas we want to attack and short lines on the right should make you second guess the fantasy pieces associated with those offenses.
Coming off of four straight losses and being officially eliminated from playoff contention in a 34-7 thrashing by the Saints, Indianapolis will have a chance to wash away their humiliation against a rookie making his first career start. The Carolina Panthers come into Lucas Oil Stadium after a string of humiliating losses of their own, and they’ll hand the ball over to third-round pick Will Grier. Vegas doesn’t seem to think the Colts will have too much of a problem getting back on track, as they are currently a seven-point home favorite in a game with a decent 46.0 over/under.
With game script on his side, early-down back extraordinaire Marlon Mack should be able to overcome his abysmal recent two games and gash DVOA’s 32nd ranked rush defense. Carolina has allowed the third-most rushing yards this season and teams have run for 118, 248, 159 and 154 yards over the previous four games. Mack is John Paulsen’s RB11 in half PPR scoring and has very real multi-TD upside for a team that has had trouble through the air for most of the year.
What a situation we’ve got here. Green Bay ranks 25th in rush defense DVOA, 20th in aFPA to running backs and 24th in each of; rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and yards per carry. The only problem is, how are we supposed to know who to play here? Dalvin Cook? Alexander Mattison? Mike Boone? Ameer Abdullah? CJ Ham? Jerick McKinnon? Adrian Peterson? Every time I think I’ve fleshed it out more news comes out and I’m back at square one. So let’s try to parse this out.
Next, Alexander Mattison. According to Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin, head coach Mike Zimmer said he’s got a “good chance” to play but is limited in practice once again. Being that his last word on Cook was similar and he said nearly the identical thing about Adam Thielen before he missed his last game, I’m not putting too much emphasis on this.
If the first two options are out we would be left with UDFA Mike Boone who has logged double-digit snaps in 100% of the games this year, though mostly on special teams. Last week Boone turned his 21 offensive snaps into 13 touches, 56 yards and two scores. If we don’t get any more news coming out of the organization before Saturday’s games kick off I would feel pretty good about plugging Boone into your Flex spot, especially if you have another player from that Monday Night Football game to replace him if bad news comes out.
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:
That’s all I’ve got for this week, everyone. If there’s something you’d like me to dig into specifically with regards to offensive line vs. defensive lines please give me a shout! For further reading regarding our aFPA statistic and how to use it in your favor, give John Paulsen’s Sneaky Starts series a read!