At this point in the fantasy season you’re either solidly in the playoffs, just hanging on, or looking to play spoiler. Whatever the case there’s a number of key games where the ability of a team’s offensive line to get the run game moving and give the quarterback that precious extra tick of the clock will make the difference in your fantasy team’s fortune. Let’s look at week 11!
Offensive Lines That Should Dominate
Detroit Lions (vs Chicago Bears) – You wouldn’t know it by their 5 and 4 record but Detroit has one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL. In the 1st half of the season this was mostly due to Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, and Marvin Jones Jr. The Lions were playing from behind and mounted furious comeback after furious comeback scoring a ton of points through the air usually to fall just short of gaining the W. Their promising O line which was bolstered with the free agent acquisitions of T.J Lang, (returning from injury this week), & Ricky Wagner has struggled in both phases, failing to open holes for Ameer Abdullah & giving up too much pressure on Stafford, especially off the edge. In their more recent games they’ve improved in both phases, (though only marginally in pass protection), particularly in the short yardage run game which is quite possibly the most critical blocking assignment in all of football. Chicago’s run defense has been trending in the opposite direction in recent weeks hence my prediction. A rising unit versus a falling one should equal a good game for Abdullah and open up the whole playbook for Stafford.
Atlanta Falcons (vs Seattle Seahawks) – The three and out is one of the most important achievements for a defensive unit in all of football. It is transcendent because it usually results in more points for the team that benefits. It is as close as a defense can get to scoring without actually crossing the goal line. Both the Seahawks and the Falcons excel at the three and out. In this week’s game though I’m giving the edge to Atlanta. With the absence of Devonta Freeman the Falcons will be forced to turn to their passing attack to score. Alex Mack and the rest of Atlanta’s line do not allow much pressure on Matt Ryan. With Seattle missing the great Richard Sherman, Julio Jones & Mohamed Sanu will have too much room and time to operate allowing for sustained drives that will put the game out of reach late.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Tennessee Titans) – Very quietly the Pittsburgh offense has begun to resemble the powerhouse of season’s past. They’ve now climbed into the top ten in points scored per game and yards per game. Fully healthy Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villaneueva, and Ramon Foster have played extremely well over the past four games. It is true that the Tennessee defense is currently the top-ranked run D in the NFL and this is one of the main reasons they are 6 and 3 on the season. But they do not defend the pass well, nor do they pressure the QB. Look for Antonio Brown, the emerging JuJu Smith Schuster , and maybe even sulking speedster Martavis Bryant to have big games.
Offensive Lines That Should Struggle
Los Angeles Rams (vs Minnesota Vikings) – One of the most interesting games on the week 11 schedule is the contest between this pair of 7 and 2 division leaders. Most in the media are hesitant to buy in on the Rams and are pointing to this game as their stiffest test. Remember though this is a Los Angeles team that beat the #1 defense in the NFL a few weeks back so this is likely to be a close game. The Rams offense lives off the big play, whether it’s a bomb to Robert Woods or a breakaway run from Todd Gurley they can stun opposing teams in seconds. The Vikings defense simply doesn’t give up those types of plays. I expect the Rams fine front five to be unable to open holes to run through and keep the Vikes off of Jared Goff enough for them to be able to continue the success they’ve enjoyed so far. I don’t expect a thrashing but believe the big plays will go to the Vikes D.
Dallas Cowboys (vs Philadelphia Eagles) – Methinks the Falcons exposed how much weaker Dallas is without left tackle Tyron Smith. Replacement Chaz Green was simply not up to the task and Dak Prescott couldn’t deliver any accurate deep shots down the field. Add to that the subtraction of Ezekiel Elliot and where do Dallas’ points come from? I am certain that Jason Garret will give Green tight end help and also scheme away from the left side with quick passes and screens but once the Eagles outstanding defense makes the adjustment it will be lights out in the bunkhouse for the boys.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs Miami Dolphins) – Nobody gained fewer yards per play over the last three games than Tampa Bay and almost nobody gave up more yards than Miami. Which horrible unit comes out on top? I think the Dolphins D has consistently flashed big-play ability with their down lineman this season and Tampa simply can’t move the football. The Dolphins will dominate the Bucs at the line of scrimmage rendering Doug Martin useless, (as he has been most of the season, not his fault at all btw…). Having reduced Tampa to a one-dimensional team they will tee off on Ryan Fitzpatrick forcing multiple turnovers and getting them the win.