After three weeks of the regular season, there is only one performance based upgrade. In addition, there are several notable downgrades due to injury, the weekly matchups of note, a look back on how these predictions have fared, and the ever nebulous "other news." Let’s get right to it.
Oakland plus seven.
The Raiders’ offensive line has really come together in recent weeks, exhibiting dominance in both the running game and the passing attack. An example of the former can be seen in Latavious Murray’s 54 yard run last week against Cleveland, which featured a hole wide enough to drive a truck through. There is no staffing reason for this upgrade, in other words, the team didn’t add any additional players. It’s simply a case where everyone is healthy, and the line is executing at a high level. The addition of Rodney Hudson at center was a transformative move for this unit. The Raiders can be considered a top-tier line going forward. Look for the success to continue this week when the Raiders travel to Chicago, to face the Bears’ 29th ranked defensive front seven. The Raiders are currently slotted at 5th overall in the latest offensive line rankings.
Chicago minus 13.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod left the game against Seattle with a concussion. The team has not provided an update on his status, which is usually a sign that the player is not moving through the protocol quick enough to make the next game. Another troubling aspect of the line is their propensity toward penalties, particularly right guard Vladimir Ducasse being called for holding. There were also several pre-snap penatlies involving Kyle Long. In place of Bushrod, the team would put Charles Leno into the lineup. Leno is barely a replacement level player. Without their starting left tackle, and in light of all the penalties, the line goes from mid-tier to low-tier. The Bears check in at 28th in the latest offensive line rankings.
Washington minus 10.
UPDATE 10/1: Spencer Long appears to have the lead on starting in Lauvao's place. LeRibeus' status is in doubt for this weekend.
Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao left the game against the Giants with an ankle injury. Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton replaced Lauvao during the game. This week, Lauvao was placed on the injured reserve and his year is finished. In addition, right tackle Morgan Moses suffered a MCL sprain and a hyperextended elbow but showed great toughness in not leaving the game. Moses missed Monday’s practice and there is an MRI pending on Moses’ condition. Forced to predict, Moses might not play next week, and if he does, his effectiveness could be limited. If Moses misses time, Tom Compton would slide out to right tackle. Josh LeRibeus also missed practice with a calf sprain, and if he can’t go, rookie Arie Kouandjio or second year player Spencer Long could get the start. All of this uncertainty adds up to a ten slot drop, and the Washington offensive line checks in at 15th in the latest rankings.
San Diego minus 6.
Quarterback Phillip Rivers suffered 8 hits last week, 4 for sacks. The line was so injured, they couldn’t protect this player, and the backup Kellen Clemens played at the end. Down only two scores, the team pulled Rivers for his own safety. There’s no good way to spin the Chargers’ current injury situation. The team suffered injuries to all five of their starters, and only two finished the game. Left tackle King Dunlap left with a concussion. Left guard Orlando Franklin was carted off with an ankle injury. Center Chris Watt left with a groin injury. Right guard D.J. Fluker was in and out of the game, but finished, despite being barely able to walk by the end. Chris Hairston was also dinged up but played through it. Fluker and Hairston should play this week but not much is known about the other starters. The team put Johnnie Troutman on the injured reserve and signed J.D. Walton off the street. The team also signed tackle Tyreek Burwell from the practice squad, and one of those players could get the start this week. The projected lineup in the graphic is a wild guess at this point. All of this adds up to a six slot drop to 32nd the worst offensive line in football. Congrats to the Rams who rise out of the cellar by default.
Indianapolis minus 1.
The Colts have announced several major changes to their starting lineup. In what can only be called a massive shuffle, the team moves Jack Mewhort to left guard (his position from last season). Joe Reitz takes his place at right tackle. Right guard Todd Herremans has been benched in favor of Hugh Thornton. Lance Louis also moves to the bench. While this is technically a downgrade but it could end up improving the line in the long term. The Colts currently rank 24th in the latest offensive line rankings, a low-tier unit.
New York (A) minus 1.
Right guard Willie Colon was forced from the game against the Eagles with what the team is calling a "multi-week knee injury." In his place Brian Winters entered the game. Winters is good in run blocking but an extremely shaky pass protector and could be in serious trouble against Ndamukong Suh this week against the Dolphins in London. The team will look to run first and get a lead, to avoid that scenario. Without Colon, the Jets fall from the top-tier to the mid-tier, currently 12th in the latest offensive line rankings.
WEEK 4 MATCHUPS OF NOTE:
POSITIVE MATCHUPS TO LEAN UPON:
- 5th OAK O-Line vs 29th CHI defensive front seven (+24).
- 3rd GB O-Line @ 24th SF defensive front seven (+21).
- 8th BAL O-Line @ 21st PIT defensive front seven (+13).
POSITIVE MATCHUP BUT SHAKY QB:
- 1st DAL O-Line @ 32nd NO defensive front seven (+31).
- 2nd CLE O-Line @ 30th SD defensive front seven (+28).
- 6th HOU O-Line vs 27th ATL defensive front seven (+21).
- 4th NO O-Line vs 25th DAL defensive front seven (+21).
NEGATIVE MATCHUPS BUT QUALITY QB:
- 30th NYG O-Line @ 4th BUF defensive front seven (-26).
- 16th DET O-Line @ 2nd SEA defensive front seven (-14).
NEGATIVE MATCHUPS TO AVOID:
- 29th MIN O-Line @ 12th DEN defensive front seven (-17).
- 27th MIA O-Line vs 11th NYJ defensive front seven (-16).
- 15th WAS O-Line vs 5th PHI defensive front seven (-10).
A LOOK BACK AT PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS:
Week 3 was quite successful, with 10 good predictions and only 4 bad ones. On a personal note (ahem) I went 13-3 ATS last week so it was steak dinners in the Bit household. In the first three weeks, the Weekly Matchups of Note have produced 20 useful predictions and 11 wrong ones. Early and a small sample size, but this experiment is at least trending in a positive direction.
PHI - Andrew Garnder placed on IR.
Matt Tobin replaced Gardner in the game against the Jets, after Gardner went down with what would turn out to be a season ending foot injury. Tobin is a decent player in the run game but is naturally disposed to playing on the left side. There is no downgrade to this unit for now, currently 9th in the latest offensive line rankings.
DET - Left guard Larry Warford left the game against Denver
Warford's injury occurred in the first quarter, when he sprained his ankle pretty badly. The usual shuffle commenced, with Manny Ramirez and Laken Tomlinson manning the guard spots. There was a split at right tackle where Cornelius Lucas and LaAdrian Waddle split time. This is interesting but no downgrade to the Lions’ line at this time, currently ranked 17th in the latest offensive line rankings.
HOU- Duane Brown didn't play vs Tampa Bay.
Brown's hand is reportedly healed and he is likely to return against Atlanta.
JAX - Luke Joeckel didn't play vs New England.
He has an ankle sprain and is likely still out this week against Indianapolis.
BAL - Eugene Monroe didn't play vs Cincinnati.
Somewhat of a surprise, but Monroe is back in practice and on track to start Thursday night against the Steelers.
KC - Eric Fisher started at right tackle vs Green Bay.
Jah Reid was sent to to bench. The line had a tough night at Green Bay. No change in rankings at this time.
TEN - Taylor Lewan left game with shoulder injury.
Lewan toughed it out and returned to the game. He is one of the better young left tackles in the league, but has been plagued with minor injuries.
TB - Donovan Smith didn't practice on Wednesday.
Rookie left tackle Donovan Smith is dealing with a knee injury but could still play against Carolina. The coaches say that Smith had his best game of the year last week against Houston. The team signed Reid Fragel off the practice squad, should they need the depth.
DEN - Ty Sambrailo didn't practice on Wednesday.
Sambrailo played through an injured shoulder last week and should be on track to do it again this week.
As usual, if you have a question about a team not specifically talked about in this article, please feel free to contact me via twitter or in the Shark Pool.
WEEK 4 OFFENSIVE LINE RANKINGS
|MID TIER||12||NYJ||11||-1||29.35||B||B+||B-||Colon multi-week injury.|
|15||WAS||5||-10||29.15||B-||B-||B-||Lauvao, Moses left game.|
|21||TEN||27||6||28.1||C+||C+||C||Warmack to return after bye.|
Lost 3 starters last game.