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 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:
The New York Giants and quarterback Daniel Jones head into a Week 7 contest against the Arizona Cardinals with key offensive pieces Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram in line to return to action. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is also on the mend, as he has been rolling through non-contact practices all week as he continues through the concussion protocol. The addition of Shepard would clearly be a plus for Jones and the offense as a whole but the pace-up spot in which Arizona provides should help buoy the offense regardless. Both New York (eighth - 26.49) and Arizona (first - 24.01) rank top-ten in seconds per play according to Football Outsiders, and pairing that with both teams’ weak secondaries, we can begin to understand why line-setters have this game with a 50.5 total - second highest of the week.
Although all quarterbacks have a harder time completing passes under pressure than they do with a clean pocket, it’s been shown that Daniel Jones, in particular, has one of the league’s biggest discrepancies in clean vs. dirty pockets. Pressure (or lack thereof) becomes important to higher statistical output. The key matchup in this game will be the Giants’ tackles against edge rushers Chandler Jones and a revitalized Terrell Suggs. If they can keep them to minimal backfield disruptions, Daniel Jones will have no problem picking apart this Arizona secondary.
Packers vs Raiders
The Green Bay receiving group is decimated at the moment but this week’s opposition should instill at least a little bit of confidence in otherwise scary names. Enter: Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow and Darrius Shepherd. Being that Lazard finished Week 6’s game with a 4-65-1 line after Aaron Rodgers begged to get him into the game, I believe that’s the name we can target whether or not Geronimo Allison is ruled out (which we should find out by Friday afternoon). In his limited playing time, Lazard took an equal amount of snaps out wide and out of the slot, meaning he’ll likely get time on the field opposite two of Oakland’s worst defensive coverage players; Gareon Conley and Lamarcus Joyner. According to Sports Info Solutions, Conley (fourth-highest) and Joyner (25th-highest) have allowed some of the highest Quarterback Ratings in the league. Allen Lazard makes for a very interesting “punt play” this week in DFS.
It’s almost incredulous that I have San Francisco ranked so highly after losing not one, but both tackles. Alas, the numbers and the play don’t lie; they’re still chugging right along. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the 49ers have perhaps the best run-blocking tight end in the league.
Ridiculous how much movement Kittle creates in the run game pic.twitter.com/SZx2m1vc5u
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 15, 2019
While the offensive line play may eventually deteriorate without Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, it’s not likely to happen this week against the Washington front seven. SIS doesn’t have a single Washington Redskins player in the top-50 of their Pressure% metric, and only Ryan Kerrigan (52nd-best) has a pressure percentage in the double-digits. On the back-end, former stud cornerback Josh Norman is allowing a 134.2 NFL passer rating when targeted, while receivers have scored a league-high five touchdowns while in his coverage. If Deebo Samuel is removed from the injury report and is good to go Sunday, this could be the breakout game we’ve been waiting for from the rookie.
Favorable Defensive Matchups
Bills vs Dolphins
All things considered, the Dolphins offensive line looks pretty decent. They’ve used four different starting combinations in five games, with their greatest talent - Laremy Tunsil - exiting the team directly before the season started in a trade with the Houston Texans. Dave DeGuglielmo, who helped turn the Indianapolis Colts offensive line into a behemoth last season, has done what he can with a hodgepodge of pieces in Miami, but the fact remains that this team is actively tanking. While I remain optimistic that the Dolphins can build something in the future, they are an easily beatable group at the moment.
On the other side of the ball, we have a Buffalo Bills defense that has racked up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but haven’t quite gotten the sack numbers we would expect from a team breaking down the pocket as often as they do. Again referencing the amazing work that SIS does, they have five defenders - nearly half of their starters - with a Pressure% in the top-85 with Lorenzo Alexander (20th), Shaq Lawson (32nd) and Jordan Phillips (44th) leading the way. Regression to the mean is coming the Bills’ way and this matchup is just icing on the cake.
We already laid into the Washington football team once in this article, so I won’t pontificate a lot further here. As 9.5 point underdogs at home, they should be playing from behind nearly the entire game with one of the worst offensive lines in the league. No matter if it’s Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith or Joe Theismann playing quarterback Sunday afternoon, they’re going to be up against a 49ers defense that has already forced 12 takeaways in only five games. San Francisco currently ranks first in the NFL with a 10.8% Adjusted Sack Rate, so even if we can’t lean on interceptions in this game, there should be a relatively safe floor with some sacks. Can’t ask for much more out of our fantasy defense.
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.
Philadelphia’s offensive line may be admittedly reeling while all-world left tackle Jason Peters comes in and out of the lineup seemingly week-in and week-out but they did an amazing job of diagnosing this problem before the season even started. The Eagles spent a high-equity pick on a back-up offensive tackle in this year’s draft which is nearly unheard of. Andre Dillard has had some growing pains in his rookie season but he has been thrown in and out of five separate contests, making it difficult to judge him adequately. That will change this Sunday as he gets the nod at left tackle and will anchor the weak side of one of the best power running offensive lines in the league.
As exciting as Miles Sanders’ 86 yards receiving were in Week 6, his usage in this offense has waned back and forth (info courtesy of 4for4's Snaps App) as Jordan Howard’s touches have been 11, 18, 13, and 13 over the past four games, with his six carries from inside the five-yard line ranking him tied for third most in the NFL. Even with this exceptional matchup, the two main Eagles backs vulture the other’s usage enough to sink them both into flex considerations and nothing more.
It was an amazing Week 6 for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense, as they somewhat surprisingly attacked the weakness of the Philadelphia Eagles (the secondary) by allowing Cousins to throw the ball 29 times to Dalvin Cook’s 14 carries. Expect the script to flip back to Minnesota’s bread and butter as Detroit ranks 12th in aFPA to both quarterbacks and wide receivers while ranking down at 25th against the running back position. Detroit has surprisingly only allowed a single 100-yard rusher during the 2019 season (Jamaal Williams, 104 yards) but when we dig into the 133 yards per game they allow on the ground (sixth most) we see that they have faced some of the most notorious running back by committees in the league. Teams like the Chargers, Eagles, Chiefs and Packers have used a two-headed attack to gash Detroit on the ground and with their backs out of the backfield. Dalvin Cook’s 21.8 touches per game should put him squarely in a top-five finish yet again 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 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!