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In The Trenches: Matchups for Week 15

Co-written by Matt Bitonti and Justis Mosqueda. Comparing offensive and defensive lines to find the best matchups for the week.

Welcome back to another week in the trenches.

The recipe is take Bitonti's offensive line rankings and compare them to Mosqueda's defensive front rankings.

The goal is to isolate and discuss the choicest matchups of the slate, from a "three-point stance" perspective.

All of the matchups are listed at the bottom of the article.

Let's get after it!

 

OFFENSIVE LINES TO TRUST 

PIT +27 

Pittsburgh vs. New England - Sunday 4:25 PM ET 

JM: In terms of tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage, both in the passing game and the running game, the New England Patriots are by far the worst team in the sport. They are about 25.5 tackles behind the NFL average in that aspect. Only three other teams (Washington, Oakland and Detroit) are even half as bad as them on the year. Trey Flowers has six sacks on the season, but there's virtually no one else on that defensive line that Pittsburgh will have to worry about. Rookie Deatrich Wise Jr has three sacks on the year, good for a tie for 95th-112nd in the league, while Eric Lee, who has played three professional games in his career, is third on the defensive line in sacks with 2.5 on the season.

BIT: Whether he stays with the Steelers or tries his luck in free agency, right tackle Chris Hubbard has boosted his future earnings. With Marcus Gilbert out four games with a suspension, Hubbard was forced into action. The offense has been proficient in recent weeks and Hubbard is currently playing as an above average starter.  This choice matchup assumes center Maurkice Pouncey, who has been limited with a hip problem, is healthy enough to play this weekend against New England. Pouncey is a tough player and is usually a safe bet to play through an injury. 

JAX +23

Jacksonville vs. Houston - Sunday 1PM ET  

JM: Since the injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, the Houston Texans have taken a drastic step back in line of scrimmage play. Since Week 6, here's how many tackles Houston line of scrimmage defenders have recorded:

Texans defensive linemen should all have nameplates that read "OTHER" across their backs. Clowney might be having a defensive player of the year type of season, but he's not getting much help along the way.
 
BIT: Rookie left tackle Cam Robinson has been playing through a back ailment. Robinson missed Wednesday's practice but was officially "limited" in Thursday's session. Assuming Robinson is a go for this weekend, it should be another choice matchup for the Jaguars' offensive line this weekend against Houston. Right tackle Jermey Parnell and left guard Patrick Omameh are both healthy again, and having both veterans in the lineup is extremely good news for the power rushing attack. Parnell especially is among the league's better players at his position, when healthy. 
 
(Also Note that Atlanta and Chicago have "green light" matchups this week, but unlike the two matchups above, Atlanta and Chicago face divisional foes on the road)

 

DEFENSIVE FRONTS TO TRUST

JAX +30

Jacksonville vs. Houston - Sunday 1PM ET 

JM: Momentum is slowing down for Calais Campbell's Defensive MVP campaign, but the combined 61 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage by Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler and Marcell Dareus for the Jacksonville Jaguars this season is still an amazing team effort. While just average at stuffing the run, though they are getting better with the addition of Dareus, the team is elite at getting after the quarterback. On any given down, you have to worry about a combination of five different defensive linemen who could get in the game and win one-on-one matchups. That's just not fair against modern offensive lines. 

BIT: All season long this article has avoided commenting on both sides of the same game in the article. But this week the matchup in Jacksonville was just too tempting, on both sides of the football. While the Jaguars' offensive line is almost fully healthy, the Texans' line is ridiculously injured. Two possible left tackles are injured (Chris Clark, Kendall Lamm) and Jeff Allen (the usual right guard) has been manning the blind side. Julie'n Davenport is returning from a shoulder injury and could be a play for the coaching staff, but overall things have turned desperate for the Texans' offensive line as the season winds down. Quarterback T.J. Yates will likely face pressure on the road against Mosqueda's number one ranked defensive front.    

PHI +26

Philadelphia @ New York (N) - Sunday 1PM ET 

JM: The Philadelphia Eagles are the second-best team at stopping runs for 0 yards or a loss this season. Why: Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan and Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett and Chris Long and Beau Allen. It's within reason that the Eagles could lose three players who will start for another team in free agency and still have a top-five defensive line going into 2018. In short yardage situations, when it takes two or fewer yards to move the chains, teams have simply elected not to run the ball on this front. Only two teams in the NFL have been run on fewer than 50% of short yardage situations: Carolina (39/80, 48.8%) and Philadelphia (23/61, 37.7%.) 

BIT: The Giants' best offensive lineman, right tackle Justin Pugh, went on injured reserve this week. Undrafted rookie Chad Wheeler again will the nod at right tackle. Wheeler should have his hands full against Bobby Graham while Bobby Hart will likely be needed at right guard.  Fletcher Cox will have be drooling over this matchup. The Giants' offensive line has been shuffled as it has been depleted by injuries. Besides Pugh, Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker are also done for the year. 

 

OFFENSIVE LINE MATCHUPS

Team                        Unit                   Rank   Team                   Unit                     Rank Favors Diff           NOTES
Pittsburgh offensive line 4 vs New England defensive front 31 OL PIT +27  
Jacksonville offensive line 5 vs Houston defensive front 28 OL JAX +23  
Atlanta offensive line 7 @ Tampa Bay defensive front 29 OL ATL +22  
Chicago offensive line 11 @ Detroit defensive front 32 OL CHI +21  
Oakland offensive line 2 vs Dallas defensive front 20 OL OAK +18  
Dallas offensive line 1 @ Oakland defensive front 16 OL DAL +15  
Tennessee offensive line 3 @ San Francisco defensive front 15 OL TEN +12  
New Orleans offensive line 12 vs New York (A) defensive front 22 OL NO +10  
Detroit offensive line 21 vs Chicago defensive front 30 OL DET +9  
Washington offensive line 17 vs Arizona defensive front 26 OL WAS +9  
Los Angeles (A) offensive line 15 @ Kansas City defensive front 23 OL LAC +8  
New York (A) offensive line 19 @ New Orleans defensive front 25 OL NYJ +6  
Baltimore offensive line 13 @ Cleveland defensive front 18 OL BAL +5  
Miami offensive line 23 @ Buffalo defensive front 27 OL MIA +4  
Buffalo offensive line 14 vs Miami defensive front 17 OL BUF +3  
San Francisco offensive line 18 vs Tennessee defensive front 21 OL SF +3  
Philadelphia offensive line 10 @ New York (N) defensive front 12 OL PHI +2  
Minnesota offensive line 6 vs Cincinnati defensive front 8 OL MIN +2  
Seattle offensive line 9 vs Los Angeles (N) defensive front 10 OL SEA +1  

DEFENSIVE FRONT MATCHUPS

Team                      Unit                      Rank   Team                   Unit                   Rank Favors Diff           NOTES
Jacksonville defensive front 1 vs Houston offensive line 31 DEF JAX +30  
Philadelphia defensive front 4 @ New York (N) offensive line 30 DEF PHI +26  
Atlanta defensive front 9 @ Tampa Bay offensive line 29 DEF ATL +20   
Los Angeles (A)  defensive front 6 @ Kansas City offensive line 25 DEF LAC +19  
Minnesota defensive front 7 vs Cincinnati offensive line 26 DEF MIN +19  
Denver defensive front 5 @ Indianapolis offensive line 22 DEF DEN +17  
Baltimore defensive front 11 @ Cleveland offensive line 27 DEF BAL +16  
Washington defensive front 14 vs Arizona offensive line 28 DEF WAS +14  
Pittsburgh defensive front 2 vs New England offensive line 16 DEF PIT +14  
Carolina defensive front 13 vs Green Bay offensive line 24 DEF CAR +11  
Indianapolis defensive front 24 vs Denver offensive line 32 DEF IND +8  
Seattle defensive front 3 vs Los Angeles (N) offensive line 8 DEF SEA +5  
Green Bay defensive front 19 @ Carolina offensive line 20 DEF GB +1  

FULL DEFENSIVE FRONT RANKINGS

RANK TEAM                          
1 Jacksonville
2 Pittsburgh
3 Seattle
4 Philadelphia
5 Denver
6 Los Angeles (A) 
7 Minnesota
8 Cincinnati
9 Atlanta
10 Los Angeles (N) 
11 Baltimore
12 New York (N)
13 Carolina
14 Washington
15 San Francisco
16 Oakland
17 Miami
18 Cleveland
19 Green Bay
20 Dallas
21 Tennessee
22 New York (A)
23 Kansas City
24 Indianapolis
25 New Orleans
26 Arizona
27 Buffalo
28 Houston
29 Tampa Bay
30 Chicago
31 New England
32 Detroit

Looking for the Offensive Line Rankings? Click Here: Week 15 Offensive Line news and full rankings

If you have a question about a player, team or matchup not specifically talked about in this article, please feel free to contact us via Twitter.