In The Trenches: Matchups for Week 11

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."

Every week we will take Bitonti's offensive line rankings and compare them to Mosqueda's defensive front rankings, and combine the two with the goal of isolating and discussing the choicest matchups. All of the matchups are listed at the bottom of the article.

Let's get after it!



OAK +30

New England *@ Oakland - Sunday 4:25 PM ET - *Neutral Site - Mexico City, Mexico* 

JM: By now, you should know that the New England Patriots struggle on their defensive line. After two offseasons of letting pass-rushers walk away, it has finally caught up to them. While they are 7-2, all of their current success is tied to Tom Brady playing hero ball. For the 2017 season, the Patriots are about 25 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage behind the NFL average, the worst mark in the league. Only two other defenses in the league can even match half of that number. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is finally practicing with the Patriots after missing back-to-back games, but I'm certainly not sure that's going to boost their line play.

BIT: This game takes place in Mexico City, which should provide a strong showing of both Raiders and Patriots fans. The city also sits at an elevation of 7,382 feet. The Raiders' offensive line are huge maulers but also not the most svelte of humans. The Patriots hope to counter mass with stamina, as they are training at the Air Force Academy this week (7,258 feet). Still, this #offensiveline heavy matchup at plus +30 is among the juiciest of the season to date and it's mainly because of talent. The Raiders' offensve line is comprised of four studs and Marshall Newhouse. Assuming the right tackle can keep his feet on the ground, the offense should find daylight against a sparsely populated Patriots' defensive front. 

CHI +23

Chicago vs. Detroit - Sunday 1 PM ET

JM: In terms of backfield penetration, the Lions are the fourth-worst team in the league. They are both below average in sacks and TFLs. Breakout defensive end Anthony Zettel has 11 tackles at or behind the line, though Ezekiel Ansah and A'Shawn Robinson combine for nine total. It's really a one-man show in Detroit now in terms of above-average line play, and Ansah, in a contract year, is losing more money than the public realizes. Here are his tackles at or behind the line by year:
2013: 12.5
2014: 19.5
2015: 19.5
2016: 8
2017: 5
He's clearly declining, and so is the Lions' line.

BIT: From all accounts, third year center Hroniss Grasu had a rough start last week in the loss versus Green Bay. Grasu was in the lineup because usual right guard Kyle Long has been battling left shoulder and finger injuries and Long was deemed too hurt to play last week. But even if that happens again, the Bears' offensive line still has a favorable matchup against Detroit this week. Grasu has 11 career starts and usually is passable. Asuming below average form from Grasu, there's still enough horsepower along the rest of the front to overpower the Lions' defensive front. Guards Josh Sitton and Cody Whitehair are aggressive and Charles Leno Jr. is underrated at left tackle. Quarterback issues may affect the outcome of the game but the line should get the job done this weekend. 

Defensive Fronts to trust


JAX +30

Cleveland vs Jacksonville - Sunday 1 PM ET

JM: This is largely correlation and not causation, but Jacksonville's run defense has drastically improved since Marcell Dareus, the former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle, was traded for. Before the trade, they already had the best defensive line and cornerback tandem in the league. At almost 14 sacks ahead of an NFL average defenses' sack production, they're more than twice as good as any team at getting sack other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. When a Dareus, a former top-five pick who met expectations, or a Dante Fowler, a former top-five pick having a career year, is your fifth-best defensive lineman, it's hard to move the ball against your defense. If the Jaguars really did fix their run problem (when they did allow positive runs, it has been for longer runs than the NFL average), then the defense truly has no flaws. That's scary.

BIT: The Cleveland offensive line is actually coming off their most productive quarter of the season, that would be the third quarter last week in the loss against Detroit (see above regarding the qualty of the Detroit defensive front). That mirage side, the Cleveland line without Joe Thomas is like Harold Melvin without the Bluenotes. They were an underrated power run blocking unit with their Hall of Famer in the lineup. Left guard Joel Bitonio is still mauling but he has to help Spencer Drango with his assignments. The backs and tight ends have to stay in more for max protect. The offense as a whole is out of sorts. It's to be expected. But there will be no mercy when the Browns' line travels to Sacksonville to face the best front in football. Plus 30 is about as bad as it gets for this model.   


DEN +25

Cincinnati @ Denver - Sunday 4:25 PM ET

JM: Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe was visibly upset in a locker room video from the Denver Broncos' most recent loss. Historically, there is a tremendous advantage in the Broncos playing at home in the first two weeks of the year, which is when they built a 2-0 start to the season. Since then, the team has gone 1-6 with every single one of those losses coming by multiple scores. They currently lead the NFL in losses of multiple scores and have the worst point differential in the league since Week 3.
One reason why Wolfe may be upset is because his unit, the line of scrimmage defenders in Denver, are not at fault for this record. In terms of penetration value, the Broncos rank fourth in the NFL. In terms of TFL value, the Broncos rank second in the NFL. This is a defensive front that is making plenty of splash plays in the backfield, but the rest of the team is just not showing up on Sundays. If Cincinnati builds a two-score lead, expect the Broncos to make plenty of TFLs that don't matter because of awful quarterback and overall offensive play. That's been the story all 2017.

BIT: The Bengals' offensive line actually played well in the loss to the Titans. Right tackle Jake Fisher underwent emergency heart surgery prior to the game last week and was placed on injured reserve. The unfortunate discovery of a condition in Fisher's heart put an end to the tackle rotation, allowing Andre Smith to start and play all snaps at right tackle. Smith is a veteran and the unit looked better with him in the starting lineup. While the line is trending upward in general, they are still a low-tier unit. Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi has struggled and the line as a whole face a tough matchup against Denver's talented defensive front.  



Team                Unit                    Rank   Team                   Unit                     Rank Favors Diff           NOTES               
Oakland offensive line 2 vs New England defensive front 32 OL OAK +30 NEUTRAL SITE - MEXICO CITY
Pittsburgh offensive line 6 vs Tennessee defensive front 29 OL PIT + 23  
Chicago offensive line 7 vs Detroit defensive front 30 OL CHI +23  
Arizona offensive line 15 @ Houston defensive front 28 OL ARZ +13  
New Orleans offensive line 5 vs Washington defensive front 18 OL NO +13  
Miami offensive line 23 vs Tampa Bay defensive front 31 OL MIA +8  
New England offensive line 16 @ Oakland defensive front 21 OL NE +5 NEUTRAL SITE - MEXICO CITY
Kansas City offensive line 12 @ New York (N) defensive front 16 OL KC +4  
Seattle offensive line 11 vs Atlanta defensive front 14 OL SEA +3  
Baltimore offensive line 20 @ Green Bay defensive front 22 OL BAL +2  
Washington  offensive line 3 @ New Orleans defensive front 5 OL DEN +2  
Philadelphia offensive line 22 @ Dallas defensive front 24 OL PHI +2  
Houston offensive line 26 vs Arizona defensive front 27 OL HOU +1  
Jacksonville offensive line 14 @ Cleveland defensive front 15 OL JAX +1  
Atlanta offensive line 1 @ Seattle defensive front 2 OL ATL +1  


Team                        Unit                      Rank   Team                      Unit                     Rank Favors Diff               NOTES
Cleveland offensive line 31 vs Jacksonville defensive front 1 DEF JAX +30  
Cincinnati offensive line 30 @ Denver defensive front 5 DEF DEN +25  
Green Bay offensive line 25 vs Baltimore defensive front 6 DEF BAL +19  
Denver offensive line 29 vs Cincinnati defensive front 11 DEF CIN +18  
Minnesota offensive line 19 vs Los Angeles (N) defensive front 9 DEF LAR +10  
New York (N) offensive line 28 vs Kansas City defensive front 19 DEF KC +9  
Los Angeles (A) offensive line 32 vs Buffalo defensive front 25 DEF BUF +7  
Buffalo offensive line 13 @ Los Angeles (A) defensive front 7 DEF LAC +6  
Tennessee offensive line 8 @ Pittsburgh defensive front 3 DEF PIT +5  
Tampa Bay offensive line 17 @ Miami defensive front 12 DEF MIA +5  
Detroit offensive line 23 @ Chicago defensive front 23 EVEN EVEN  
Los Angeles (N) offensive line 10 @ Minnesota defensive front 10 EVEN EVEN  
Dallas offensive line 4 vs Philadelphia defensive front 4 EVEN EVEN  


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

Looking for the Offensive Line Rankings? Click Here: Week 11 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.

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