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Offensive line vs. Defensive line: Trench warfare; Week 3

The 2019 NFL season has kicked off with a bang. Through the first two weeks of the season, we have already had 107 passing touchdowns and 49 rushing touchdowns. In 2018, there were 1,286 total offensive touchdowns scored, highest in NFL history. 2019 is moving so fast that we are already on pace to shatter those numbers. There are a lot of reasons as to why this may happen. For starters, the NFL rules are significantly higher against defenders. A player can no longer hit the QB or touch the receiver without getting a flag. But with the changes to the game, came the way coaches and GMs are building their teams. Starting with the battle between the offensive line vs. defensive line.

There are very few instances of great pass rushers in the NFL. Sure you can name the guys like Watt or Donald or Miller etc. But when you really sit down and look at the numbers they just don’t line up. In fact, there were only 27 different players with 10 plus sacks last season. That’s not even one per team. Six teams had at least two pass rushers with at least 10 sacks last year. However, there were 12 teams that didn’t have a single double-digit sacker.

Of linemen with at least 10 games last year 75 of them were credited with two or fewer sacks. Playcalling has changed, the game has changed, the way teams have built their rosters to protect the QB has changed. And all of it is very drastic. The fight between the offensive line vs. defensive line has become some of the most important in the game. How a left tackle can handle – usually in one-on-one situations – the opposing teams best pass rushers is incredible. How the interior linemen can fight consistently with 320-pound nose tackles while 260-pound linebackers are blitzing behind them is incredible.

When it comes to fantasy football understanding where this advantage is can be a great tool in redraft and DFS.

Week 3 Injury Concerns

Ja’Wuan James T; Denver Broncos: James went down with a knee sprain in the middle of the Broncos first-round contest and has now been ruled out for both week 2 and 3. Of linemen with at least 12 games played last year, James was the 49th best pass blocker according to PFF.com. However, James ranked 12th at run-blocking last year. The Broncos run game takes a big hit by losing James. They have already seen some effects as 4th round fantasy pick Philip Lindsay is only gaining 3.3 yards per carry. Royce Freeman has over five yards per carry so far. But nearly 20% of his yards have come on one big play.

Lane Taylor G; Green Bay Packers: Taylor has been the starting left guard for the Packers through the first two weeks of the season after beating out Elgton Jenkins for the spot. He has had a tough week going from full participant to limited to out during the week. Taylor wasn’t all that impressive last year ranking 51st when run-blocking and 58th when pass-blocking. So a boost to the Packers blocking isn’t out of the question with Elgton.

Taylor Decker T; Detroit Lions: Decker is a bit of a concern for the Lions. Last year, Decker was superb when pass blocking ranking as the 14th best tackle. During the Lions week 1 contest, however, that was a bit different. Decker rated great when run-blocking against the Cardinals. But gave up seven pressures, four hurries and two sacks in the contest. Decker missed all of week 2 with a good chance to miss week 3 as well. If Decker is in the lineup he could give a big boost to the Lions passing game. But if he isn’t on the field it could get ugly for Stafford pretty quickly.

Eric Fisher T; Kansas City Chiefs: This is one could be big. Fisher is a former #1 overall pick and is expected to miss the next four to six weeks. Of Tackles with at least 12 games played, Fisher ranked 12th on run plays and 35th on passing plays. His replacement, Cam Erving isn’t a very good blocker despite rating really well after Fisher went down. In 963 snaps last season, Erving had a 57.7 pass-block rating and a 44.9 run-block rating.

Bengals Offensive Tackles: Cordy Glenn (concussion) has already been ruled out for Sunday’s week 3 contest against the Bills. Andre Smith who is battling a groin injury of his own may also get sidelined. If both Glenn and Smith miss the game, 3rd string John Jerry will get the bid.

Raiders Interior Linemen: Guard Gabe Jackson is likely to miss the first four to six weeks of the season for the black and white. Jackson suffered the injury in August in a joint practice with the Rams. Jackson was the 33rd best pass blocking Guard and the 25th best run-blocker last season so this loss is significant. Denzel Good may also miss the game with an ankle injury.

The entire Jets offensive line: I wish this was sarcastic. Well, maybe it is just a little bit. T Kelvin Beachum, G Brian Winters, and G Kelechi Osemele are all on the injury report this week. All are listed as questionable following Friday’s slate of practices so that is optimistic. The Jets offensive line isn’t very good, to begin with, so the loss of any of them could be bad. Even for a team that is +22 underdogs this week.

Marcus Cannon T; New England Patriots: Cannon has been fighting a shoulder injury since week 1 that sidelined him completely last week. The Pats played the Dolphins last week and could easily have deactivated their entire offensive line and still won. This week isn’t much different as a 22-point favorite over the divisional rival New York Jets. Cannon will probably be ready to suit up but honestly, the team doesn’t need to rush it. Knowing who they are playing this won’t have a ton of effect if he isn’t able to go.

Houston Texans Left Side: Guard Senio Kelemete is questionable after missing week 2 with a wrist issue. Senio was a pretty big loss for an offensive line that already has some pretty serious issues. During the Texans week 1 nail-biter, Senio blocked really well. However, the same can’t be said for his replacement Tytus Howard last week. Howard received a pff.com offensive rating of 40.3 in the 1-point victory over the Texans. Newly acquired Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil is also on the injury report this week. Tunsil hurt his ankle last week but did return to the field after leaving to check on it. He was a limited participant all week in practice so that’s good news. But vs. a team with a very good pass rush losing either of these guys could have serious implications.

Joe Staley T; San Francisco 49ers: Staley will be missing a chunk of the season with a fractured fibula he suffered last week. This is a big loss to a 49ers team that seems to be moving well. The Steelers pass rush is already tough. But losing your left tackle for an extended period of time can only make matters worse.

Austin Blythe G; Los Angeles Rams: Blythe missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but was limited Friday. Blythe ranked as a top run-blocking guard from a year ago. If Blythe can’t go a slight downgrade to Gurley and company will happen against a tough Browns defense.

Chris Hubbard T; Cleveland Browns: Hubbard is one of the better pass-blockers on the Browns and they are going to need him against the NFCs champion Rams. Hubbard is questionable with a foot issue. The injury may keep him out of this one. Kendall Lamm has already been ruled out. Forcing the Browns to go with their 3rd option on the right side if Hubbard can’t go.

Top Pass Blocking Options For Week 3:

New Orleans Saints: The Saints lost Drew Brees for up to eight weeks due to poor blocking. Nonetheless, the Saints have been the 7th best unit when blocking for Brees so far this season. The Saints take on the Seattle Seahawks this week. The Seahawks are ranked 22nd when rushing the passer according to pff.com. The Saints offensive line has only allowed a sack on 12% of their allowed pressures so far this year. The Seahawks have only produced pressure on the QB 9% of the time and have converted 15% of those pressures into sacks. Teddy Bridgewater’s mobility should keep him cleaner than normal so that should bode well for the Saints offense. When grading the offensive line vs. defensive line, the Saints have a 38% advantage over the Seahawks this week.

New England Patriots: The Jets are just a bad unit with several defensive players missing or questionable. Free Agent acquisition CJ Moseley and first-round pick Quinnen Williams are already ruled out. Steve McClendon and Brian Poole are listed as questionable. Despite potentially missing Marcus Cannon on the line the Pats should have no issues in this contest. The Pats offensive line currently sits with a 33% advantage over a Jets pass rush. The Jets have only converted 10% of their pressures into sacks.

Chicago Bears: The Bears are taking on a Redskins team that seems to have forgotten how to rush the passer. The Skins finished the 2018 season as the 14th best pass-rushing unit but find themselves at 31 after two games. The Bears were the 4th best pass-blocking unit last year and have been the 14th best unit so far this year. The Bears offensive line has only yielded a pressure on Trubisky on 5% of passing snaps so far this year. PFF gives them a 33% advantage in pass-blocking over the Redskins.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns offensive line have only given up pressure on 4% of their snaps so far this year. Despite the Browns offense not working as efficiently as they were expected to the line has been holding up. The loss of tackle Chris Hubbard could have some serious issues. Yet, PFF grades them with a 24% advantage of the Rams stout defensive line. The Rams, on the other hand, have only converted 16% of their QB pressures into sacks. That ranks the Rams at 18th when rushing the passer.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are in a weird moment right now. Due to Big Ben’s injury, backup Mason Rudolph is being thrown into the action. Despite the change at QB, the Steelers have been one of the best pass-blocking teams in the game ranking 2nd. They take on a 49ers team that played really well against the Bengals a week ago. The 9ers are currently ranked as the 14th best pass-rushing unit in the game right now. The Steelers offensive line could get a boost if #2 overall pick Nick Bossa continues to miss time.

Top Run Block Options For Week 3:

Indianapolis Colts: Marlon Mack has been on a tear through the first two games. His 225 yards rushing is 3rd in the league behind only Austin Ekeler and Saquon Barkley. Mack has scored the 11th most fantasy points so far this year despite only scoring once. But don’t let that fool you, because the Colts offensive line has been blocking their tail off. Currently ranked as the 3rd best run-blocking offensive line in the game they have a 26% advantage over the Falcons. The Atlanta Falcons have given up a touchdown inside the 5-yard line 44% of the time.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys offensive line has ranked as the 11th best run-blocking unit through the first two weeks. However, and somewhat shockingly, the Dolphins have been one of the best teams fighting the run. Ranked as the 6th best run defense, PFF.com has given them a 76.1 rating so far this year. When a run defense is as good as it is but can’t stop the pass they often get into trouble. The wheels are coming off Zeke this week according to The Dallas News. This could be a long day for the Miami Dolphins.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints are the only team on here twice. Having an advantage over their opponent in both the pass and the run. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Saints are the #1 team when blocking for the run. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are a respectable 11th when defending the run. With the loss of Brees, the Saints are going to need to rely on the legs of both Bridgewater, Kamara, and Murray. Having this advantage can only help their chances in a tough road matchup.

Philadelphia Eagles: There were expectations that the Eagles had an advantage over their week 2 opponent Falcons at the run. However, those expectations didn’t pan out as they ran the ball 21 times for only 49 yards. They get the advantage again this week as they take on the Lions at home. The Eagles have been the 10th best team when blocking for the run so far this season with a PFF rating of 63. The Lions haven’t defended the run very well so far this season giving up the 11th most yards per game so far. The Detroit Lions have given up 31.9 fantasy points per game to opposing HBs so far this year. Miles Sanders & Jordan Howard could be in for a big chunk of production.

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams defense may have the disadvantage against the Browns pass-blocking unit. But it’s the complete opposite when it comes to the run. The Rams offensive line has actually graded poorly when running the ball so far. However, they have been given a 79.2 grade when running the ball, which is 5th in the league. The Browns run-defense has been slightly below average sitting at 19th on the year. There are some questions as to whether Austin Blythe will suit up and if he doesn’t it’s going to hurt but Todd Gurley is an excellent running back and should continue to eat.

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