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Fantasy Football Offenses to Succeed, Bust – Targets and Avoids

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Now that Week 14 is over, we can forget about bye weeks and start focusing on the fantasy football playoffs. Unfortunately, a lot of NFL teams didn’t get the memo that fantasy players’ playoff livelihoods were riding on their Week 14 performances. While there were some big point totals in Week 14 (six games over 50 combined points), plenty of teams disappointed as well (14 teams under 28 points). Making matters worse, COVID outbreaks are starting to majorly affect teams this week, leaving fantasy managers scrambling to the waiver wire for their first playoff game.

From an offensive line standpoint, 23 of 28 teams came into Week 14 missing at least one offensive lineman from the start of the NFL season. 11 teams were missing multiple offensive linemen, and it showed in this week’s results. Nine teams failed to finish the week with an average offensive line blocking grade above 60, according to PFF. As the season pushes forward, health becomes even more crucial for teams looking to make a run in the playoffs. That is especially important across the offensive line, where one injury can throw an entire unit of five players out of whack.

Now that the fantasy playoffs are here, it is as important as ever to target offenses that can have success to make that final push for seeding or a playoff appearance. The point of this article is to help break down offensive line matchups that can lead to the fantasy points you need to get that all-important late-season win.  

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Champ of the Week

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers’ offense continues to play at an excellent level even without starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Their Week 14 opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, had done a great job generating pressure with their defensive line throughout this season. Coming into Week 14, Cincinnati generated 221 pressures, 39 sacks, 35 quarterback hits, and 147 hurries. On Sunday, the 49ers’ offensive line held them in check.

According to PFF, the average pass blocking grade for the 49ers’ offensive line against the Bengals was 70.74. Additionally, their average offensive line grade was 74.4, which was tied for the best mark of any team in Week 14 (Denver Broncos). The 49ers allowed two sacks, two hits, 11 hurries, and 15 pressures against Cincinnati. Left tackle Trent Williams (90 overall blocking grade), center Alex Mack (76), and backup right tackle Tom Compton (74.1) combined to give up one sack, one quarterback hit, four hurries, and six pressures on the day. The strong offensive line play led the 49ers to 296 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, and an essential overtime victory to keep them in the playoff race.

 

Chump of the Week

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona’s offensive line was demolished by the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night in a crucial divisional game. The Cardinals lost the game by just a touchdown and had a chance to tie at the end, but their offense was consistently disrupted by pressure from the Rams’ defensive front. Aaron Donald will rightfully get credit for his fantastic performance (14 pressures, three sacks, and 11 hurries), but it was a total effort across the board.

In total, the Rams generated two sacks, one quarterback hit, 24 hurries, and 27 pressures against the Cardinals’ offensive line. The guard combination of Sean Harlow and Max Garcia struggled the most, combining to average a 23.75 pass-blocking grade and a 29.8 overall blocking grade against Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, and A’Shawn Robinson. The tackles didn’t fare much better against Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, giving up a combined 13 hurries and 14 pressures. Arizona finished the game with an average pass-blocking grade of 48.7 and an average overall blocking grade of 44.2, according to PFF. Both of these were the lowest of any team that played in Week 14.

 

Matchups to Target

San Francisco 49ers vs Atlanta Falcons

The stellar play of the 49ers’ offensive line has already been covered in this article, so I’ll focus more on their upcoming matchup this week. The Falcons have remained entrenched in the NFC playoff race thanks to a 2-1 record over the past three games. However, those victories have come because of their performances against abysmal offenses. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they’ll be facing a whole different test against San Francisco this week.

Atlanta’s defense has struggled in all phases of the game this season. They are the 32nd-ranked pass-rushing defense (54.6 grade) and the 21st-ranked run defense (49.9 grade) in 2021, according to PFF. Only two Falcons (Grady Jarrett and Dante Fowler Jr.) have generated more than 20 total pressures on the season and have a run defense grade above 65 on the season. Additionally, Fowler is the only player on the defense with five sacks on the season. The 49ers’ offense features the top run blocking (69) and overall blocking (68.9) offensive line, according to PFF this season. Deebo Samuel and George Kittle are locked in top options while Brandon Aiyuk is a solid WR2 option. If Elijah Mitchell is healthy, he’s shown the ability to be a bell-cow back and should be in the top-10 conversation in Week 15. Jimmy Garoppolo remains a solid QB2 with the ability to enter the QB1 conversation depending on how many big plays his receivers can make after the catch.

Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos

The Bengals’ offensive line collectively struggled against the 49ers’ pass rush in Week 14. Cincinnati allowed one sack, three hits, 16 hurries, and 20 pressures against a motivated 49ers defense. The combination of Joey Bosa, Samson Ebukam, and Arik Armstead did most of the damage, generating 17 pressures, three sacks, one quarterback hit, and 13 hurries in the overtime victory. It was overall a bad day for a Cincinnati offensive line that had shown flashes of improved play in recent weeks.

Thankfully for the Bengals, they should have a much stronger matchup heading into Week 15. The Broncos have one of the best secondaries in football but have struggled to replicate that success along the defensive front. According to PFF, Denver ranks 29th in pass-rushing grade (64.4) and 14th in run defense (56.1) this season. Despite dominating Detroit on the scoreboard, the Broncos had just two sacks, one quarterback hit, six hurries, and nine pressures in Week 14. Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins remain excellent fantasy options coming into this game given the matchup in the trenches.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Tennessee Titans

The Steelers’ offensive line had a day to forget against the Vikings on Thursday night. Pittsburgh gave up three sacks, one quarterback hit, eight hurries, and 12 pressures against Minnesota as their comeback bid from a 29-point deficit ultimately fell short. While there were some bad performances (left guard John Leglue and center Kendrick Green each finished with a pass-blocking grade under 34 and an overall blocking grade under 45), there were some positive takeaways for the Steelers. Left tackle Dan Moore Jr., right guard Trai Turner, and right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor all finished with pass blocking grades above 70. That trio combined to allow two sacks, three hurries, and five pressures on the day and had a significant role in the Steelers’ comeback in the fourth quarter.

The Steelers will have a great game to get their offensive line back on track against the Tennessee Titans in Week 15. The Titans come into this game as PFF’s 16th-ranked run defense (54.6) and 26th-ranked pass-rushing defense (65.1) this season. The combination of Harold Landry, Jeffery Simmons, and Denico Autry have carried the Titans’ pass rush (160 pressures, 30 sacks, 24 quarterback hits, 106 hurries), but few other players have been able to provide consistent play. Additionally, Simmons is the only defensive lineman with a run defense grade above 64. Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson are no doubt starters, but Chase Claypool has WR2/FLEX upside and Ben Roethlisberger should have the passing volume to provide high-upside QB2 play this week. Pat Freiermuth remains a solid tight-end option given his role in the red zone this season.

 

Matchups to Avoid 

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams

Seattle’s offense has come back to life in the last two weeks, scoring 30 points against the 49ers and 33 points against Houston as they fight to stay involved in the NFC playoff race. However, most of that credit goes to Russell Wilson’s passing ability while under duress. In Weeks 13 and 14, Seattle’s offensive line has surrendered four sacks, three quarterback hits, 17 hurries, and 24 pressures. The Seahawks’ offensive line combined to average a 48.7 pass-blocking grade against a bad Texans defensive line, according to PFF. While Seattle’s linemen showed up in the running game (29 carries for 193 yards and two touchdowns) last week, they will need more in the passing game in a pivotal matchup against the Rams.

Los Angeles comes into Week 15 featuring the top pass-rushing (83.8) and run defense (90.1) units in the NFL this season, according to PFF. The combination of Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd (117 pressures, 23 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 82 hurries) has been terrorizing quarterbacks all season. Add Von Miller into the equation (17 pressures, one hit, 16 hurries in four games) and you have one of the best defenses in the league. It will be hard to trust Russell Wilson, Rashaad Penny, and D.K. Metcalf this week in an extremely difficult matchup. Slot receiver Tyler Lockett is also tough to trust but may have a high-volume role thanks to quick passes out of the slot, making him the safest play of the Seattle offensive weapons.

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills

The Carolina Panthers offense is a mess and the offensive line certainly isn’t helping matters. Carolina allowed the worst defensive line in the NFL (Atlanta) to generate one sack, two quarterback hits, five hurries, and eight pressures in their Week 14 loss. The Panthers finished the game with an average overall blocking grade of 54.6 and had just one offensive lineman (right tackle Taylor Moton) finish the day with an overall blocking grade above 62. Things were especially bad up the middle against Atlanta. The combination of left guard Dennis Dailey, center Pat Elflein, and right guard Brady Christensen averaged a 42 pass-blocking grade, a 50 run-blocking grade, and a 46.3 overall blocking grade. That trio allowed two quarterback hits, four hurries, and six pressures during the game.

That doesn’t bode well with an upcoming matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Carolina hasn’t gotten consistent quarterback play and will come into this week with their top receiving option (D.J. Moore) banged up. According to PFF, Buffalo ranks 14th in pass-rushing grades (73.5) and 13th in run defense (56.8) this season. Buffalo has four players with at least 20 pressures and 15 hurries on the season. It will be hard to trust any Carolina offensive player this week unless D.J. Moore is cleared to play.

Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns

The Raiders’ offensive line continued their abysmal play in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders finished Week 14 with a 51 average pass-blocking grade, a 60 average run-blocking grade, and a 52 average overall blocking grade. Three offensive linemen finished with a pass-blocking grade under a 50. Right guard Alex Leatherwood continued his rough rookie season, finishing this week’s game with a zero pass-blocking grade and a 29.9 overall blocking grade, according to PFF. In total, Kansas City allowed four sacks, four quarterback hits, 16 hurries, and 24 pressures against a revitalized Kansas City defense.

The Browns are dealing with COVID struggles on a short week, but unfortunately for the Raiders, it has largely affected the offensive side of the ball. Cleveland is coming off a game where they were able to generate 24 pressures, five sacks, three quarterback hits, and 16 pressures against a solid Baltimore offensive line. The combination of Tak McKinley, Jadeveon Clowney, and Myles Garrett combined for 16 pressures, four sacks, two quarterback hits, and 10 hurries on the day. Josh Jacobs is a solid value play at running back this week thanks to his newfound role in the passing game. If Darren Waller can suit up, he’s also worth a start at tight end. Outside of that, Las Vegas’ offensive skill players should be avoided heading into the first week of the fantasy playoffs. 

Win Big With RotoBaller

Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you draft those winning teams, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

https://www.rotoballer.com/fantasy-football-champs-and-chumps-offensive-line-analysis-for-week-15/975225 Fantasy Football Offenses to Succeed, Bust – Targets and Avoids

Britta Zeltmann

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