O-Line Rankings and Matchups to Exploit: Week 6
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:
Panthers @ Buccaneers
A big reason for Tampa Bay’s less than stellar ranking in our adjusted fantasy points against metric is the types of games they’ve allowed to pretty mediocre quarterbacks over the last three weeks. Teddy Bridgewater, Jared Goff and Daniel Jones have finished top-eight in fantasy points scored, combining for a staggering 1,147 passing yards. This week they’ll welcome in Kyle Allen who has hung up a very reasonable 674-5-0 passing line in his three starts since Cam Newton hit the bench with his Lisfranc injury.
It may be time to wake Greg Olsen up from his two-week slumber (2-5 on four targets over the last two games) and plug him into your lineup as Tampa Bay is ranked 31st in aFPA to tight ends this season. As frustrating as it’s been to fire Olsen up he is still ranked fourth in tight end air yards and is one of only six tight ends who have been on the field for 90%+ of their team’s snaps.
The Eagles absolutely obliterated a New York Jets team fronted by future-XFL star Luke Falk who was allotted exactly one day of practice to compete against a team two years removed from winning a Super Bowl. The situation will be much different this week as Philadelphia will travel into Minnesota to take on Kirk Cousins and his pair of talented (albeit disgruntled) pair of wide receivers. If we factor out the Jets game entirely, we see a matchup that isn’t as dogged as you may predict on paper.
While the Eagles have allowed less than 90 yards rushing per team on the season, they have also allowed QB6 (Case Keenum), QB5 (Matt Ryan), and QB3 (Aaron Rodgers) finishes through the first quarter of the season. Assuming Philly continues to stymie the run game (currently ranked fourth in rushing defense DVOA) Cousins will be forced into the air where Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen may finally be in line to beat their season-high eight targets. If the Vikings line can stay stout against the Eagles 19th-ranked adjusted sack rate, this passing offense has the opportunity to take flight.
The problem with the San Francisco passing attack doesn’t have anything to do with the opposing defense; it’s the members of its own backfield devouring all the yardage before Jimmy Garoppolo feels the need to let the ball loose. The 49ers are currently leading the league with an unbelievable 200 yards per game on the ground while only needing to pass the ball 28.5 times per game, the third-least amount. Their +70 point differential during this 4-0 campaign has been much of the reasoning and game script may not be so lenient when they face their biggest challenge in the division-rival Los Angeles Rams Sunday afternoon.
49ers/Rams is now slated for the third-highest total of the weekend (50.5) per Vegas, and the books likely don’t envision a Matt Brieda versus Todd Gurley showdown. For what it’s worth, neither do I. The Rams have one of the highest differentials between DVOA rush defense and DVOA pass defense (15 spots, third-highest). Much of this has to do with a susceptible secondary headed by cornerback Marcus Peters who has allowed 12.57 yards per attempt in the 14 times he’s been targeted, fourth-worst amongst any corner or safety targeted 10+ times. Aaron Donald is sure to get his, but this offensive line has been playing out of its mind lately and I expect them to handle the rest of the line enough to give Jimmy G time in the pocket.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Replacing Bradley Chubb is going to be no easy task but rookie Malik Reed was up for the challenge against the Chargers in Week 5. Reed made his presence known early and often, notching seven pressures on Philip Rivers while flip-flopping from the left to the right side of the line with teammate Von Miller playing wherever he wasn’t. The daunting edge rush duo will now face off against tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan who just had a seven-point outing against the Buffalo Bills and their vaunted defensive line.
Besides being ranking 31st in Adjusted Sack Rate, Tennessee also ranks 29th in Sports Info Solutions’ Blown Block Percentage. While center Ben Jones has zero blown blocks through five games teammates Jack Conklin (4.17%), Rodger Saffold (4.76%) and Jamil Douglas (5.41%) all come in well-below average (2.42%) in the passing game. Denver should be one of the best floor plays on the week.
As we touched on above, Denver edge rushers had a booming afternoon against Los Angeles last week and the schedule doesn’t get easier from here. Enter the Steelers and their 10.1% Adjusted Sack Rate which ranks behind only the New England Patriots. What worries me most about this matchup is the quarterback Devlin Hodges who will be starting in place of Mason Rudolph, making it nearly impossible to predict any sort of game script. The best bet is that the Steelers will want to slow the game down when they have the ball which will really throttle the ceiling of the Pittsburgh defense. This makes the Steelers play the complete opposite of Denver; questionable floor with an unknown ceiling. They would be an intriguing play in the all day Sunday slate for sure.
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.
There haven’t been many positives to take out of the 2019 Cincinnati Bengals, least of all their linebacker play, and especially the tackling at the second level. If an offensive line has the ability to open up a lane against the Bengals you’re pretty much guaranteed that any reasonable running back is bound to gain 10+ yards. They are currently ranked 31st in aFPA to the running back position and a large part of that is due to the 27 explosive run plays they have allowed. Lest you think that number is simply because they have been ran on an exceeding amount (they have), they are also ranked 30th in the number of runs that go for an explosive play.
This all sets up well for a Mark Ingram game but let’s see if we can’t dig a little deeper. The following are some of the usable fantasy weeks Cincinnati has already allotted to running backs down the depth chart:
* David Johnson left the game but did have 20 touches prior.
For those feeling adventurous, Gus Edwards garnered 21 snaps in the Ravens Week 1 blowout against the Dolphins. In this game where Baltimore is again favored by double digits, they may want to give Ingram a little time to rest his aging bones. *David Johnson did leave the game but had 20 touches prior
With Jamaal Williams still in the concussion protocol, it’s become obvious that the Packers have no interest in giving running back snaps to anyone not named Aaron Jones. Tra Carson matched his career snaps against the Cowboys in Week 5, and they were his only non-fullback snaps in two years. Rookie Dexter Williams was a healthy scratch. Had we taken all that information in before the game we would have never been surprised to see him tear off a 100-yard rushing day while setting a career-high with seven catches.
What may have come as a surprise were the four rushing touchdowns he scored. His red-zone usage has been steady without a true number two chomping at his heels; his 11 attempts from inside the 10-yard line are tied for third in the league behind Sony Michel and Mark Ingram. That’s nearly as many as the 12 he attempted in 2017 and 2018 combined. After the Horizontal Air Raid Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Lions allowed five rushing touchdowns in Weeks 2-4. Go check those Aaron Jones TD props.
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!