Week seventeen, that's last call. As they say, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here.
Let's get after it!
Philadelphia plus 8
With right tackle Lane Johnson back from a ten game suspension, the Eagles' offense really opened up last Thursday night against the Giants. Johnson was a beast blocking in space and locked down as a pass protector. It's not all great news as guard Allen Barbre could miss this final game. Isaac Seumalo would get the start in his place. Overall, it's a big boost to get Lane Johnson back. He and Jason Peters are in great form and could be considered the best tackle duo in the league at this time. With Johnson, the Eagles offensive line once again becomes a top-tier option.
Detroit plus 5
Center Travis Swanson returned to practice this week, allowing breakout player Graham Glascow to move back to his more natural guard position. Swanson is the leader for this unit and his return sends Laken Tomlinson back to the bench. This swap not only improves the starting lineup but it also helps the depth of the unit. The Lions' line are getting healthy while other teams drop due to injury. The Lions' offensive line currently grade out 12th, at the cusp of the top tier going into the last game of the season.
Chicago plus 8
The Bears' passing attack is in trouble as Matt Barkley threw 5 interceptions last week against Washington. However, the rushing attack remains healthy and a big part of the Bears' success is due to Josh Sitton's return to full health. This grade keeps going up as Jordan Howard keeps producing, the holes have been giant at the point of attack. This is an example of a line that is playing better as the year goes on but the injury at the quarterback position holds back the skill positions other than running back. Currently, the Bears' line grades out in the mid-tier, about average overall.
Tampa Bay plus 4
The Bucs have really missed right tackle Demar Dotson the last two games. Gosder Cherilus started in his place and was dreadful. Cherilus played so badly that the coaches bumped Kevin Pamphile out to tackle just to try something new. On Thursday of this week, Demar Dotson cleared the league's concussion protocol. Dotson's return puts Pamphile back at his natural left guard and mercifully sends Cherilus back to the bench. All of it adds up to a four slot upgrade for the Buccaneers' line, who now carry a mid-tier grade.
Houston plus 4
Right guard Jeff Allen cleared the league's concussion protocol just prior to last week's contest and he was able to start against Bengals. Although Allen was beaten by Geno Atkins for a sack, the model grades Allen just slightly better than his replacement Oday Aboushi. There has been a vibrant debate among Texans fans about the guards this season. None have been as good in comparison to last year's starter Brandon Brooks, who departed via free agency. Still, Allen isn't the first player to be beaten by the sack-master Atkins and his return represents a nominal upgrade to the line's grade, currently on the cusp between mid-tier and low-tier.
Oakland minus 3
Right guard Kelechi Osemele has been battling several injuries down the stretch. Earlier in December, Osemele missed the Thursday night KC game with kidney stones. He returned after the long layoff but immediately injured his ankle. Osemele has not been practicing this week. If he cannot go, rookie Vadal Alexander and Jon Feliciano would likely split reps. As a veteran, Feliciano is the better technician but the coaches also want Alexander to develop. Look for Osemele to sit this week out as the team prepares for the playoffs. Regardless, the Raiders' offensive line remains top-tier.
Baltimore minus 10
Right tackle Rick Wagner is in the league's concussion protocol and appears unlikely to start this weekend. In Wagner's place James Hurst seems mot likely to get the nod. However don't count out rookie Alex Lewis, whom the coaches could see as a possible emergency tackle for the future. Most updates about Baltimore mention guard Marshal Yanda, who has been playing with a shoulder injury all season. Yanda appears to be just fine since switching sides, and he is practicing fully. Without the starting right tackle, the Ravens' line drops from top-tier to mid-tier, due to a ten slot plunge in the rankings.
Cincinnati minus 11
Left guard Clint Boling was placed on the injured reserve list this week and the team slid left tackle Andrew Whitworth inside in his place. The politics of this move are tricky, as Whitworth is a pending free agent and has said publicly that he would only return if he could start at left tackle. Meanwhile, the team hopes that right tackle Cedric Ogbouhi, who has struggled at the position this year, will play better at the left side. Ogbuehi is a natural left-hander, and the team needs to know if he is a complete bust. Jake Fisher would likely get the start at right tackle in Ogbuehi's place, and he is another former high draft pick who the team wants to get reps. While the need for evaluation is understandable, all this moving around of players in different positions and the resulting loss of cohesion drops the Bengals' line eleven spots, from the top-tier to the mid-tier.
San Diego minus 7
Injuries are starting to mount on the Chargers' offensive line, and the shuffle monster was in full effect last weekend at Cleveland. Right guard D.J. Fluker left the game first but left tackle King Dunlap and center Matt Slauson were not far behind. In their place, it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. Fluker is currently not on the injury report but Dunlap and Slauson seem like long shots to play this weekend in a very dicey matchup against the top-ranked Kansas City defensive front seven (see Trust and Fade section, below). Swing tackle Chris Hairston (for Dunlap) and Spencer Pulley (who saw his first career center snaps last week for Slauson) seem like the players who would get the nod if the starters can't go. Down two starters, the Chargers' line falls from mid-tier to low-tier.
CLE - C Erving moved to RT
Cameron Erving is 6'5" and that's tall for an NFL center. The team is trying him at tackle this weekend, and will likely bump current right tackle Austin Pasztor inside to guard and give Anthony Fabiano the start at center.
MIN - LG Boone likely out
Alex Boone is not practicing this week and it's not clear if he will play. The Vikings' line remains a low-tier option either way.
Week 17 Matchups of Note
- 5th PIT offensive line vs. 32nd CLE defensive front seven (+27)
- 4th PHI offensive line vs. 22nd DAL defensive front seven (+18)
- 6th TEN offensive line vs. 24th HOU defensive front seven (+18)
- 10th NO offensive line vs. 28th ATL defensive front seven (+18)
- 32nd SF offensive line vs 3rd SEA defensive front seven (-29)
- 26th SD offensive line vs. 1st KC defensive front seven (-25)
- 31st MIN offensive line vs. 8th CHI defensive front seven (-23)
- 27th AZ offensive line @ 7th LA defensive front seven (-20)
- 21st TB offensive line vs. 2nd CAR defensive front seven (-19)
Week 17 Offensive Line Rankings
|4||PHI||12||8||30.98||A-||A-||A||Johnson returned from susp.|
|7||OAK||4||-3||30.03||B+||B+||B||Osemele likely out.|
|MID TIER||12||DET||17||5||29.23||B||B||B||Swanson likely to return.|
|16||BAL||6||-10||28.9||B||B||B||Wagner likely out.|
|LOW TIER||22||HOU||26||4||28.35||C||C+||C-||Allen returns.|
|25||CIN||14||-11||27.65||C||C||C-||Boling to IR.|
|26||SD||19||-7||27.65||C||C-||C-||Dunlap, Slauson likely out.|
Week 17 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|15||New York (A)|
|16||New York (N)|
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.