In The Trenches: Matchups for Week 14

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! 

Defensive Fronts to Trust


NYJ +19

New York (A) @ Denver - Sunday 4:05 PM ET

JM: Chaos. That's you explain who the New York Jets are this season. Leonard Williams is the elite defensive lineman that no one talks about and Muhammad Wilkerson is on the same pedestal as Williams when he wants to be. The problem is that it's up to Wilkerson, who seems to change his effort level on a down-to-down basis. Wilkerson was invisible to start the year, then he had a massive breakout stretch which included a nationally televised game against the Buffalo Bills. Then he got quiet again. Then he was late to a meeting last week, which led to a one-quarter suspension. Now it's alleged that Wilkerson may be gone in 2018, no matter how he finishes the season. Wilkerson, who currently has the highest average salary of any defensive end in the sport, may force the Jets to eat $9 million this offseason, only saving them $11 million in 2018 cap space, to get out of the remaining portion of his five-year, $86 million deal. When Wilkerson wants to be good, he is. We'll know what kind of day it is for Mo halfway into the first quarter.
BIT: The Jets defense is surprisingly decent but this matchup is more about how the Broncos' offensive line is currently ranked 32nd in the latest offensive line rankings (see link below). Right guard Ronald Leary has been their best player, and he is out of action with a back injury, replaced by Connor McGovern. McGovern made his first NFL start last week against Ndamukong Suh. Left tackle Garrett Bolles has been above average as a rookie starter but he has been a holding penalty machine. Right tackle Menelik Watson didn't make it through the year, and his replacement Allen Barbre was recently benched for performance reasons, leaving Donald Stephenson to start the right side. Stephenson defines the term upgradeable. Look for the Broncos' offense to be stuck in neutral this weekend.  

SF +15

San Francisco @ Houston - Sunday 1 PM ET

JM: DeForest Buckner isn't making a ton of tackles at or behind the line this year (his stats there are fairly comparable to Arik Armstead, who has been out for months, there.) With that being said, it's nearly impossible to ignore the impact he has as a pressure player. Many of those players are being cleaned up by Solomon Thomas, who along with Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt are the most productive EDGE rookies in the 2017 class, and a rotation of other pass-rushers. Outside of nose tackle, despite having a potential hidden gem in D.J. Jones, the team has had a big turn around from 2016. Last year, anyone could run at San Francisco at will. Now, they've been respectable at a minimum.

BIT: Houston is on their fifth starting left tackle this season, as the usual right guard Jeff Allen started at left tackle last week against Tennessee. Allen had a mostly quiet game until he committed three straight false starts as the game wound down. Allen is a versatile player who is punching way above his weight at left tackle. Allen will likely get the start again this week, as options for the Texans' offensive line have dwindled. Greg Mancz is starting in Allen's right guard spot, but Mancz has been limited in practice, dealing with shoulder injuries this week.  The Texans' line has some decent young talent in center Nick Martin but the rest of the line is mediocre (or worse).



TEN +23

Tennessee @ Arizona - Sunday 4:05 PM ET 

JM: The recent extension of defensive tackle Corey Peters should not be surprising. The lineman has 10 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage, an incredible number for a nose tackle. Up to the point of his extension, he should have been considered as one of the top five linemen scheduled to hit the free agency market in 2018. Along with Peters, outside linebacker Chandler Jones is having an amazing season, posting 22 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage in a dark horse defensive player of the year season. Since the loss of Markus Golden, though, the team has not looked great on the line of scrimmage outside of those two players. Frostee Rucker, Olsen, Pierre and Xavier Williams just aren't cutting it. Haason Reddick, who was originally drafted as a 3-4 outside linebacker, has had to play at 3-4 inside linebacker in his rookie season. Robert Nkemdiche, a 2016 first-round pick, has flashed but still isn't seeing enough playing time.
BIT: If you only watched the first quarter of Titans' games this year, you'd question their offensive line's high ranking. The runs are short and the offense often looks stale at first. But these little runs are like body blows in boxing. They add up and the line keeps grinding. The defense grows weary and by the second half of games, huge holes start opening up. Like the open field blocking that Derrick Henry exploited for his 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter last week. Yes that's right tackle Jack Conklin leading the convoy.The Arizona defense might keep it close at first but the body blows should eventually create offensive fireworks in the second half. 


OAK +20 

Oakland @ Kansas City - Sunday 1 PM ET 

JM: Between Week 6 and Week 12, the only team making fewer tackles at or behind the line than the Kansas City Chiefs were the Cincinnati Bengals. Last week against the New York, Jets quarterback Josh McCown was virtually untouched as he had a nearly flawless game through the air and run for two touchdowns. Chris Jones isn't making as many plays as he was in the first month of the season. Justin Houston can't be Superman every game. Allen Bailey is now a splash play-only lineman. When Houston drops into coverage (often), Derek Carr is going to have a lot of time to throw the ball.

BIT: The Raiders' offense has only run power blocking with Marshawn Lynch seven times this season. But Lynch averages 11 yards-per-carry when they go power run blocking (as defined as pull trap man scheme). The offense has run more power of late, taking advantage of their extremely talented line and the offense was clicking last week against the New York Giants. It's hard to pick just one Raiders' offensive lineman to praise. Donald Penn is extremely nimble and Rodney Hudson is a technician. The guards of Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele are churning through defenders recently. "KO" particularly is putting together another All-Pro campaign. All of this adds up to a potentially unfortunate matchup for the Chiefs defense at home. 


Team                   Unit                      Rank   Team                    Unit                  Rank Favors Diff         
New York (A) defensive front 13 @ Denver offensive line 32 DEF NYJ +19
Denver defensive front 5 vs New York (A) offensive line 21 DEF DEN +16
San Francisco defensive front 16 @ Houston offensive line 31 DEF SF +15
Pittsburgh defensive front 2 vs Baltimore offensive line 15 DEF PIT +13
Oakland defensive front 17 @ Kansas City offensive line 27 DEF OAK +10
Cincinnati defensive front 8 vs Chicago offensive line 17 DEF CIN +9
Green Bay defensive front 20 @ Cleveland offensive line 29 DEF GB +9
Jacksonville defensive front 1 vs Seattle offensive line 9 DEF JAX +8
Seattle defensive front 3 @ Jacksonville offensive line 11 DEF SEA +8
Los Angeles (A) defensive front 6 vs Washington offensive line 13 DEF LAC +7
Cleveland defensive front 19 vs Green Bay offensive line 25 DEF CLE +6
Atlanta defensive front 9 vs New Orleans offensive line 14 DEF ATL +5
Dallas defensive front 21 @ New York (N) offensive line 26 DEF DAL +5
Philadelphia defensive front 4 @ Los Angeles (N) offensive line 8 DEF PHI +4
Minnesota defensive front 7 @ Carolina offensive line 10 DEF MIN +3
Los Angeles (N) defensive front 10 vs Philadelphia offensive line 12 DEF LAR +2
Miami defensive front 18 vs New England offensive line 20 DEF MIA +2



Team                   Unit                  Rank   Team                Unit                     Rank Favors Diff         
San Francisco offensive line 5 @ Houston defensive front 28 OL SF +23
Tennessee offensive line 3 @ Arizona defensive front 26 OL TEN +23
Oakland offensive line 2 @ Kansas City defensive front 22 OL OAK +20
Atlanta offensive line 7 vs New Orleans defensive front 25 OL ATL +18
Dallas offensive line 1 @ New York (N) defensive front 12 OL DAL +11
Minnesota offensive line 6 @ Carolina defensive front 14 OL MIN +8
Buffalo offensive line 16 vs Indianapolis defensive front 23 OL BUF +7
Los Angeles (A) offensive line 8 vs Washington defensive front 15 OL LAC +7
Pittsburgh offensive line 4 vs Baltimore defensive front 11 OL PIT +7
Miami offensive line 24 vs New England defensive front 31 OL MIA +7
Detroit offensive line 23 @ Tampa Bay defensive front 29 OL DET +6
Arizona offensive line 18 vs Tennessee defensive front 24 OL ARI +6
Indianapolis offensive line 23 @ Buffalo defensive front 27 OL IND +4
Tampa Bay offensive line 30 vs Detroit defensive front 32 OL TB +2
Cincinnati offensive line 28 vs Chicago defensive front 30 OL CIN +2



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 New York (A)
14 Carolina
15 Washington
16 San Francisco
17 Oakland
18 Miami
19 Cleveland
20 Green Bay
21 Dallas
22 Kansas City
23 Indianapolis
24 Tennessee
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 14 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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