Projecting line play — or the line’s impact on fantasy scoring — is one of the more challenging tasks in all of DFS. It can also be one of the most valuable.
While quantitative measures exist, they can be lacking to an extent. On the player level, grading services like Pro Football Focus are notoriously challenged with offensive line play. It’s difficult to know which member of a line blew an assignment, for example.
Things are a bit easier on the team level, as assessing the unit’s overall success is more practical. As the season rolls in, metrics like adjusted line yard and adjusted sack rate are a good way to judge a team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Into the middle third of the season, we can feel fairly confident about the data powering the table below. The one caveat is injuries, as we still need to be aware of when teams are missing key players on either side of the ball.
However, we’ll still be taking a glance at qualitative sources. Including Action Network’s Brandon Anderson ranking all 32 NFL offensive lines. On the defensive side, PFF’s defensive line rankings will be the main source.
We also have projected sacks in our NFL Player Models.
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Below is a table featuring every offense’s combined adjusted line yards and pressure rate combined with the opposing defensive units. Adjusted line yards are a Football Outsiders (now at FTN) statistic that quantifies how much of a team’s rushing yards gained/allowed are attributable to the offensive or defensive lines. Adjusted sack rate measures sacks against down-and-distance rates to quantify how many more or fewer sacks on average a team is recording/allowing.
With adjusted line yards, higher numbers are better for the offensive unit. With adjusted sack rate, lower numbers are better. Both factors should be considered, though. For example, a running back will score more fantasy points on average when his team’s passing attack is functioning well, and vice versa for quarterbacks.
The trade deadline threw us some curveballs — mainly notable Commanders pass rushers being shipped to other teams — so we’ll make sure to highlight when the numbers may be off when applicable.
Strong Offensive Line Matchups
Cleveland Browns OL (#1 in Combined Line Yards, #16 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Arizona Cardinals DL
This entry is more about the poor play of the Cardinals defensive front than anything positive coming from the Browns. Cleveland ranks 21st in adjusted line yards on offense, but the Cardinals come into the week at 31st — and didn’t do anything to change that at the deadline.
Had we not lost Nick Chubb for the season, he’d be an obvious play in Week 9. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, with the Browns rolling out a committee backfield in his absence. All of Kareem Hunt ($5,500), Jerome Ford ($5,300), and Pierre Strong ($4,400) are likely to see touches this week.
Which keeps all of them out of consideration for cash games and smaller GPPs. However, with Cleveland as the slate’s biggest favorite, there’s a chance one of the trio emerge with a strong score. It’s worth sprinkling in a bit of Ford and Hunt in larger GPPs, as either one could pay off their salary even in a timeshare. Plus, ownership will be suppressed due to the split backfield.
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Minnesota Vikings OL (#5 in Combined Line Yards, #2 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Atlanta Falcons DL
Whoever steps in for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota will at least have a clean pocket to work with. With their franchise quarterback out for the season, Minnesota has Jaren Hall ($4,300) and the newly acquired Josh Dobbs (not yet added to the player pool) as options at quarterback.
Neither are great choices, with Hall, a fifth-round rookie, and Dobbs having just a few days to learn the playbook in Minnesota. However, both should be cheap, contrarian options. The solid matchup in the trenches might give them some cash game utility, depending on who starts and Dobbs’ salary if it’s him.
Minnesota is also the only team in the top five in both run and pass blocking, so it’s a good matchup for Alexander Mattison ($5,400) and Cam Akers ($4,800). Unfortunately, the touches have been split nearly evenly between them, but they should have a run-heavy approach this week.
That keeps both on the fringes of consideration, with Akers being the more effective runner in recent weeks.
New Orleans Saints OL (#17 in Combined Line Yards, #1 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Chicago Bears DL
The last-place Bears inexplicably traded for star pass rusher Montez Sweat at the deadline, despite their 2-6 record and Sweat’s expiring contract. Sweat will obviously boost their pass rush, which ranks 29th in adjusted sack rate through eight weeks. However, one player is unlikely to make them even an above-average unit.
Saints quarterback Derek Carr ($5,700) has played well in recent weeks, topping 300 yards and 20 DraftKings points in each of the last three games. That correlates heavily with the return of Alvin Kamara ($8,100), but he also has a trio of talented wideouts in Chris Olave ($6,300), Michael Thomas ($4,700), and Rashid Shaheed ($4,500).
Olave can get their on volume and big play ability, with Thomas a solid PPR option and Shaheed a boom-or-bust speedster. The solid pass-blocking matchup raises the odds of another ceiling game for Shaheed, as Carr should have enough time to let the downfield routes develop.
It’s not a great game environment for the passing attack, with New Orleans tied with Cleveland for the largest points spread on the slate. Still, they’ll need to pass the ball for at least some of the game. They’re also at home on the Superdome turf, another boost to the offensive environment.
I’ll be considering Carr for cash games, as he has a strong floor relative to his price. I also have some outside interest in the passing attack for GPPs.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
Las Vegas Raiders DL (#1 in Adjusted Sack Rate) vs. New York Giants OL
The Raiders are in turmoil, having fired their head coach and general manager on Tuesday. Unfortunately, that robbed them of the ability to sell off key pieces at the deadline, despite being in a clear rebuilding situation.
Still, that might be a good thing for DFS, as their defense still has Maxx Crosby. Crosby is the No. 3 ranked edge rusher by PFF on the season and leads the team with 6.5 sacks. The Raiders’ 16 sacks as a team ranks 17th in the league.
However, they draw a wonderful matchup with the Giants, who are tied with the commanders for the most sacks allowed on the season. On top of that, they could be down to their third-string quarterback if Daniel Jones isn’t ready to return from injury this week.
I probably won’t be paying up for Las Vegas ($3,600) if Jones is healthy, but were he to miss the game, they’re a tremendous value, even as one of the more expensive units on the week.
New England Patriots DL (#2 in Combined Pressure Rate) vs. Washington Commanders OL
As mentioned above, Washington is tied for the league lead in sacks allowed this season, with quarterback Sam Howell ($5,800) on pace to challenge for the all-time record (New York has used multiple quarterbacks, so neither one is likely to get there individually).
They also traded away their two best defensive players, which in theory, should lead to more negative game scripts for their offense.
All of which sets up well for New England ($2,900), who check in just behind the Raiders with 15 sacks on the season. Assuming Jones goes for the Giants, I prefer to save the $700 and take the Patriots defense in this matchup.