Projecting line play — or the line’s impact on fantasy scoring — is one of the more challenging tasks in all of DFS.
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. From Week 5 on, I will be basing these selections almost entirely on Football Outsiders data, including pressure rate and adjusted line yards.
For the playoffs, we’ll be switching things up a bit. With less teams in play, we’ll focus on the top run blocking matchup, top pass blocking matchup, and best overall defensive spot to help with the core of your DFS lineups. DraftKings is treating the three games on Sunday as the “main slate” but we’ll be considering all six games for the purpose of this article. There’s full-round contests as well.
Below is a table featuring every playoff offense’s combined adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate combined with the opposing defensive units. Adjusted line yards are a Football Outsiders 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 vise-versa for quarterbacks.
Starting in Week 5, these numbers became matchup adjusted, which should make them far more efficient. Each week, they become slightly more predictive. However, they don’t take injuries into account, so keeping up on those are important. Also, keep in mind that adjusted sack rate takes into account sacks, not pressures.
Therefore quarterback play heavily influences the offensive side of the statistic.
Strong Offensive Line Matchups
San Francisco 49ers OL (#1 in Combined Line Yards, #6 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Seattle Seahawks DL
As if you needed more reasons to play Christian McCaffrey ($8,900). CMC has seen a reduced workload the past three or so weeks as the 49ers cruised comfortably into the playoffs. Expect that to change this week against a Seahawks team that ranks 25th in adjusted line yards and 25th against the run by DVOA.
McCaffrey handled 26 carries and eight targets in the last meeting with Seattle, a reasonably close 49ers win. He should see similar overall usage this time regardless of game script, with a heavier pass game role if the 49ers fall behind.
It’s also a much better run-blocking matchup for San Francisco than pass-blocking. That should tilt things more heavily to McCaffrey as well. He’s a borderline must-play for contests involving the games on Saturday.
Los Angeles Chargers OL (#11 in Combined Line Yards, #1 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars DL
This is the heaviest split I can recall seeing this season, with this matchup projecting as terrible for the Chargers’ running game, but excellent in pass protection. The Chargers pass block much better than they run block, and Jacksonville is better defensively against the run, so it works out on both sides.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Austin Ekeler ($8,300) is out of the question this weekend. He does his best work through the air anyway, so he could still have a productive day. Still, I’d downgrade him below McCaffrey.
The bigger takeaway here is that Mike Williams ($6,200) is the Chargers’ wideout to play, assuming he’s healthy. Keenan Allen ($7,000) has a much lower aDOT than Williams, which is where pass blocking comes into play. Deeper routes need more time to develop, and Justin Herbert ($6,600) should have plenty of time to push it downfield to Williams.
The entire Chargers passing attack is worth considering here, though, with Jacksonville checking in at 30th against the pass and 11th against the run by DVOA.
Strong Defensive Line Matchups
Baltimore Ravens DL (#1 in Combined Sack Rate) vs. Cincinnati Bengals OL
Baltimore ($2,500) is a sneaky option this week at defense. While San Francisco ($3,600) and Minnesota ($3,200) have similarly strong matchups, those teams should be way more popular as favorites than the underdog Ravens.
The Bengals offense is explosive, but defenses don’t help you win GPPs by preventing points. They do so with big plays, which come from quarterback pressure. The Ravens rank sixth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate this season, while the Bengals are 28th in adjusted sacks allowed.
Since we want to avoid the most heavily owned defenses in GPPs, Baltimore is worth a sprinkle.