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Offensive Line Champs and Chumps - Fantasy Football Matchups To Target, Avoid (Week 8)

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What more can be said about the continued lack of explosive offense in the NFL during the 2022 season? Scoring (real and fantasy) is down across the board as offenses struggle to find their footing this year.

That is also true for offensive line units across the league. Just 10 teams had a combined PFF grade above 65.0 in Week 7. Also, we once again saw some significant injuries among key players across the league once again. The Giants will be without rookie right tackle Evan Neal for the foreseeable future thanks to a knee injury. The Jets lost another lineman for the season (Alijah Vera-Tucker) with a torn triceps.

There are only two teams on bye this week, but they will have a significant impact on fantasy managers. Both Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers will get Week 8 off, leaving numerous fantasy managers missing a quarterback, multiple running backs and receivers, and a tight end. This article will examine the offensive lines to find an edge in replacing the production of these players.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


Champ of the Week

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears shocked NFL fans everywhere on Monday Night Football in Week 7, blasting the New England Patriots 33-14 on the road. Much of the focus has (rightfully) been on the performance of Justin Fields, but some props need to be given to the Bears' offensive line.

The Bears shifted their offensive line around before Week 7’s game against New England, starting Michael Schofield III at left guard and Lucas Patrick at center. Unfortunately for the Bears, Patrick exited after 10 plays due to a toe injury. The absence didn’t matter much.

Only right tackle Larry Borom finished with a pass-blocking grade below 68.0, a run-blocking grade below 73.0, and an overall PFF grade below 76.0. Borom struggled against NFL sack leader Matthew Judon, surrendering one sack and four pressures on the game.

The rest of the unit played extremely well, finishing with a combined five pressures. The Bears' offensive line will have another big challenge in Week 8 (more on that later), but for at least one week, they hold the title of the best offensive line performance in the NFL.


Chump of the Week

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts keep shifting around their offensive line, but things just aren’t improving for the unit. Dennis Kelly drew the start at left tackle this week after a strong performance in Week 6 but gave up seven of the team’s 15 pressures against the Titans. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, he wasn’t the only player to struggle.

No Colts offensive lineman finished with an overall PFF grade above 65.0 or a run blocking grade above 60.0 in Week 7’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. The combination of Dennis Kelly (43.5 PFF grade) and right guard Matt Pryor (42.4) continue to struggle as the team works to replace the players they let walk in free agency.

The Colts will look to help their offensive line going forward by utilizing a more mobile quarterback (Sam Ehlinger) to try and move the pocket to help the offensive line. Time will tell if that is enough to offset the abysmal performance of this unit to start the 2022 season.


Matchups to Target in Week 8

Minnesota Vikings vs Arizona Cardinals

The Vikings went into their Week 7 bye clicking along the offensive line. According to PFF, Minnesota ranks as the fourth-best run-blocking unit (73.0) and 18th-best pass-blocking unit (62.6) in the NFL. The interior offensive line has struggled (46 combined pressures, seven sacks), but the tackle play has been stellar.

The combination of left tackle Christian Darrisaw and right tackle Brian O’Neill are playing at an extremely high level. The duo has given up just 18 pressures and two sacks (both by O’Neill).

The Vikings should continue to have an advantage up front coming out of their bye week when they play the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona is PFF’s 29th-ranked pass-rushing defense and 22nd-ranked run defense. The Cardinals have generated 107 pressures that have resulted in just 12 sacks.

Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and Justin Jefferson remain weekly must-starts in fantasy lineups. Fantasy managers feeling squeezed by the bye weeks should also feel comfortable taking shots on Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr.

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

The Titans' offensive line has struggled this season, especially when Taylor Lewan was lost for the season due to a season-ending knee injury. Tennessee’s average PFF pass-blocking grade ranks 31st in the league (55.0), but 11th in run-blocking (62.5). Plays like this are still pretty routine despite the turnover across the unit.

The effectiveness of the offensive line might be irrelevant this week. Houston comes into their Week 8 game against the Titans as PFF’s 32nd-ranked run defense (36.9) and 30th-ranked pass rush. Houston has just 89 pressures and 15 sacks on the season, but a majority of those are coming from Rasheem Green (11 pressures, five sacks) and Jerry Hughes (17 pressures, four sacks).

Derrick Henry is a slam dunk play this week (as always), but fantasy managers in need of a streaming matchup should look to Robert Woods or Austin Hooper in a pinch. Dontrell Hilliard could factor in as well (for fantasy managers desperate for a streamer) given his 27% snap share and the advantageous matchup.


Matchups to Avoid in Week 8

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys

The Bears' offensive line is coming off their best game of the season. However, they have a whole different challenge coming their way in Week 8.

The Cowboys head into this game with five different players who have generated at least 14 pressures, led by Micah Parsons (36). The team has 154 total pressures and 28 sacks on the season, most of which come off the edges.

The Bears' young tackles have struggled at times throughout the season and will now face a rotation of edge rushers that can win with speed or power on any given rep. Justin Fields will be under consistent pressure and it’s hard to trust any of their pass catchers in this matchup.

David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert can still be started but temper your expectations heading into a tough matchup.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Philadelphia Eagles

The Steelers' offensive line has played better this season (it would be hard to play worse than in 2021), but they will face one of the deepest defensive line rotations in the NFL in Week 8.

Four different players on the Eagles' defensive line have a PFF pass-rushing grade of 67 or better. The Eagles also have four defensive linemen with a run defense grade of at least 73.0. In total, five different players for the Eagles have at least 15 pressures. Four players have 4.0 sacks.

The Steelers' offensive line has allowed 55 pressures this season, 27 of which have come from the two tackle positions (Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor). Expect Najee Harris to continue to struggle to find space to run and another underwhelming performance from Kenny Pickett and the Steelers pass catchers unless a quick negative game script forces them into a huge negative game script.

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