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In The Trenches: Matchups for Week 16

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 to 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, through 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

 

MIN +24

Minnesota @ Green Bay - Sunday 1PM ET

BIT: After being limited in practice this week, left tackle Riley Reiff appears likely to make the start this weekend at Green Bay. Reiff had been forced from last week's contest with an ankle injury and actually had not been included in this week's offensive line rankings. Including Reiff could make this already good matchup into a great one. The rest of the line is also in good health, as rookie center Pat Elfein and right tackle Mike Remmers made their returns to the lineup last weekend and appear to have made it through without set back. While other lines are breaking down as the season comes to a close, the Vikings' line is getting stronger. 

JM: On the surface, a Green Bay Packers defensive front with Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the line of scrimmage appears solid. Daniels, Matthews and Perry are among the top-75 line of scrimmage defenders this season in tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. For a single defense, that is well above average. The problem is that behind those talents, especially on the edge, there is little to no depth. When Ahmad Brooks and Kyler Fackrell come in the game as outside linebackers, expect Case Keenum to have all day to throw the ball.

ATL +23

Atlanta @ New Orleans - Sunday 1PM ET

BIT: Left guard Andy Levitre had missed the last two contests with a partially torn triceps muscle, and had been replaced by Ben Garland in the lineup. Levitre has been back at practice this week and will likely rejoin the starting lineup for this weekend divisional clash against New Orleans. The Falcons' offensive line is actually the top line in all of football this week according to our rankings. A big part of that ranking is other teams getting hurt while the Falcons' offensive line has remained relatively healthy. 

JM: One of the bigger surprises of this season was the breakout of Alex Okafor opposite of Cameron Jordan. Now on injured reserve, Okafor's reps have been split by many. Pre-game last week, Al-Quadin Muhammad, a sixth-round rookie who didn't play a snap for the University of Miami last season, was warming up with the first team defense. That's where the Saints are now up front. Jordan is still a monster, but he's going to have to do a lot alone.

 

RE: PIT +26

This is a very favorable matchup for Pittsburgh's offensive line. Please note this is almost the same favorable matchup Jacksonville faced when they played Houston last week.

However, for the sake of writing new content, here is a link to last week's article, which discusses both the Steelers' offensive front (who is getting right Marcus Gilbert back this weekend) and the Texans' defensive front (beat up pretty badly).   

DEFENSIVE FRONTS TO TRUST

 

PIT +29

Pittsburgh @ Houston - Sunday 4:30PM ET

JM: If the Jacksonville Jaguars were not the face of defensive line play this season, the top defensive front in the NFL would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cameron Heyward might be the second-best "big end" in the NFL behind Jacksonville's Calais Campbell, all while lining up next to Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and the quietly significant Tyson Alualu on the Steelers' defensive line. On the edge, the hyper-athletic combo of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are great compliments. If the Steelers play against a weak offensive line in the playoffs, like the Kansas City Chiefs, assume the worst.

BIT: With left guard turned left tackle Jeff Allen not practicing this week with a concussion, and Kendall Lamm still in the protocol from several weeks ago, it's not entirely clear who will be the starting left tackle against a tough Steelers' offensive front this weekend. Julie'n Davenport seems the most likely candidate and Greg Mancz will likely get Allen's left guard spot again, but we are talking about potentially the sixth starting left tackle for the Texans' line this season. That's just awful. 

CIN +24

Cincinnati vs. Detroit - Sunday 1PM ET

JM: The edge defender combo of Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis is about as good of a 1-2-3-4 asyou're going to get in the league. Inside, Geno Atkins is still king, though Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow flash the potential to be long-term starters in the future. This is by far the best unit on the sub-.500 team. Bonus: Drink every time that the 266-pound Chris Smith lines up a yard of the ball at defensive tackle.
 

BIT: Right tackle Rick Wagner was spotted at Lions' practice for the first time in two weeks. This is good news on several fronts, as Wagner has been a good player when healthy; Overall this unit has been brutalized with injury this season. However even with Wagner's return, the Lions' offensive line is still undermanned, as right guard T.J. Lang and center Travis Swanson will both likely miss the game this weekend at Cincinnati. Interior protection could be a problem for quarterback Matthew Stafford

OFFENSIVE LINE MATCHUPS

Team                     Unit                   Rank   Team                     Unit                     Rank Favors Diff          NOTES
Pittsburgh offensive line 2 @ Houston defensive front 28 OL PIT +26  
Minnesota offensive line 5 @ Green Bay defensive front 29 OL MIN +24  
Atlanta offensive line 1 @ New Orleans defensive front 24 OL ATL +23  
Buffalo offensive line 13 @ New England defensive front 31 OL BUF +18  
Los Angeles (N) offensive line 6 @ Tennessee defensive front 21 OL LAR +15  
New England offensive line 15 vs Buffalo defensive front 29 OL NEP +14  
Los Angeles (A) offensive line 14 @ New York (A)  defensive front 26 OL LAC + 12  
Baltimore offensive line 12 vs Indianapolis defensive front 23 OL BAL +11  
Jacksonville offensive line 4 @ San Francisco defensive front 15 OL JAC +11  
Seattle offensive line 9 @ Dallas defensive front 20 OL SEA +11  
Carolina offensive line 18 vs Tampa Bay defensive front 27 OL CAR +9  
Philadelphia offensive line 8 vs Oakland defensive front 16 OL PHI +8  
Cincinnati offensive line 25 vs Detroit defensive front 32 OL CIN +7  
Tennessee offensive line 7 vs Los Angeles (N) defensive front 10 OL LAC + 3  
Cleveland offensive line 27 @ Chicago defensive front 30 OL CLE +3  
Dallas offensive line 3 vs Seattle defensive front 6 OL DAL +3  
Miami offensive line 21 @ Kansas City defensive front 22 OL MIA +1  

DEFENSIVE FRONT MATCHUPS

Team                   Unit                        Rank   Team                 Unit                  Rank Favors Diff           NOTES           
Pittsburgh defensive front 2 @ Houston offensive line 31 DEF PIT +29  
Cincinnati defensive front 8 vs Detroit offensive line 32 DEF CIN +24  
Minnesota defensive front 7 @ Green Bay offensive line 26 DEF MIN +19  
Denver defensive front 4 @ Washington offensive line 23 DEF DEN +19  
Carolina defensive front 11 vs Tampa Bay offensive line 29 DEF CAR +18  
Jacksonville defensive front 1 @ San Francisco offensive line 16 DEF JAC +15  
New York (N) defensive front 13 @ Arizona offensive line 28 DEF NYG +15  
Los Angeles (A) defensive front 5 @ New York (A) offensive line 17 DEF LAC +12  
Baltimore defensive front 12 vs Indianapolis offensive line 20 DEF BAL +8  
Miami defensive front 17 @ Kansas City offensive line 24 DEF MIA +7  
Philadelphia defensive front 3 vs Oakland offensive line 10 DEF PHI +7  
Washington defensive front 14 vs Denver offensive line 19 DEF WAS +5  
Arizona defensive front 25 vs New York (N) offensive line 30 DEF LAC +5  
Cleveland defensive front 18 @ Chicago offensive line 22 DEF CLE +4  
Atlanta defensive front 9 @ New Orleans offensive line 11 DEF ATL +2  

FULL DEFENSIVE FRONT RANKINGS

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

Looking for the Offensive Line Rankings? Click Here: Week 16 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.