In The Trenches: Matchups for Week 7

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!


ATL + 28


JM: Based on NFL averages this season, the New England Patriots have 16 fewer tackles in the backfield than the average NFL team. That is by far the worst mark in the NFL. That number is almost twice as bad as the third-worst team, the Detroit Lions. Specifically, making backfield tackles in the run game has been an issue for New England for two years. Three weeks into the season, the team only has one player (defensive tackle Malcom Brown, three tackles) who has more than just two tackles at the line of scrimmage or better in 2017. The Patriots' defensive issue is as much a defensive line talent issue as anything else. I wrote about New England's loss of defensive line talent over the years for Bleacher Report earlier this month.

BIT: The Falcons' line had a rough outing last week against the Miami Dolphins. Cameron Wake victimized right tackle Ryan Schraeder for two sacks. Schraeder had been making his debut after three weeks in the league concussion protocol. Also, left tackle Jake Matthews was called for a holding penalty that negated a big gain. Last week's mistakes aside, the Falcons' line remains one of the best in football and the reason is because of the interior. Center Alex Mack is a stud and right guard Wes Schweitzer has been quietly playing at a very high level. The Falcons' offensive line have a favorable matchup this week at New England. 

SF + 15


JM: Unlike New England, Dallas is a one-man show. While the team is still playing well below average football on the line of scrimmage, Demarcus Lawrence is pulling his weight for the Cowboys. According to Pro Football Reference, only two players in Dallas have more than either two sacks or two run tackles of a yard or less this season. Linebacker Sean Lee has four such run tackles and "D-Law" has four run tackles to go along with his nine sacks. If the Cowboys win this matchup, we know who shouldered the load. A tip for Kyle Shanahan: Run to the middle or left. I also wrote about Lawrence's emergence after a suspension year for Bleacher Report last month.

BIT: This game actually favors the offensive line from both perspectives. Dallas offensive line is plus 22 and San Francisco's is plus 15. We've spoken at length in past articles about the Cowboys line (the only real situation to watch is at left guard, where Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper continue to trade off). So, what about the Niners' line? As a group they have improved, especially in pass protection, where tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown are two of the best pass blockers in football. The interior of the unit has been spotty since guard Josh Garnett went to IR. Daniel Kilgore especially has had lapses at center. But overall the 49ers offensive line are an underrated unit and could find success this weekend against a depleted Cowboys defensive front. 


SEA +28

SEATTLE @ NEW YORK - Sunday 4:25 PM ET 

JM: Losing Cliff Avril is huge for the Seattle Seahawks, and as bad as it sounds, they are one of the few teams that could have afforded to lose a pass-rusher of his caliber. While Michael Bennett has been banged up recently, it would appear that he's going to be playing this week. That will make defensive end Frank Clark's life much easier. Seattle's defense hasn't looked right this season, but I'm still holding out after their Week 6 bye week. As of right now, Bennett and Clark combine for 16 backfield tackles, but Sheldon Richardson, who everyone had high expectations for after his trade to Seattle, has only posted three. If he can't get it going this week, we need to reevaluate.

BIT: The Giants' offensive line had a bounce-back effort in last week's win at Denver. The addition of D.J. Fluker to the lineup at right guard has created a push in the run game. Fluker is good at trap blocking, he and the new right tackle Justin Pugh (Bobby Hart appears to have been benched) are a power running duo. John Jerry looks better at left guard than he did at right but center remains a concern with Weston Richburg still in the concussion protocol and Brett Jones going in his stead. Overall this Giants' line is trending in the right direction but they still grade out as one of the worst in the league. Perhaps they aren't this bad and they just needed a new playcaller and a new right guard. This week against Seattle's top ranked defensive front should be very informative in evaluating this unit.  

PIT +26


JM: The Steelers have made 56 stops at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield this season. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt (eight tackles), defensive end Cameron Heyward (eight tackles), defensive end Stephon Tuitt (six tackles) and outside linebacker Bud Dupree (five tackles) are the main perps up front. When your two defensive ends and two outside linebackers, who were all picked in the first two rounds and are 28 years old or younger, are all having career years... you're in a good spot. These disrupting players are why Pittsburgh beat Kansas City last week. In Week 6 alone, the team had eight tackles at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield against the Chiefs, including three sacks.

BIT: The Bengals are the only offensive line with a three man rotation at tackle: veteran Andre Smith plays both right and left side and the majority of the snaps. The youth players in Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher take the rest of the reps. The rotation has improved the play of the line in recent weeks but as the coaches have noted, it's far from a perfect solution.  T.J. Johnson had been taking guard reps while Trey Hopkins recovered, and the team expects Hopkins to start coming off the bye week. Even with Hopkins in the lineup, the Bengals' line is among the weaker in the league and they should have a tough matchup at Pittsburgh. 


Team                   Unit                  Rank   Team                 Unit                     Rank Favors Diff             NOTES                                    
Atlanta offensive line 3 @ New England defensive front 31 OL ATL +28  
Cleveland offensive line 2 vs Tennessee defensive front 29 OL CLE +27  
Dallas offensive line 1 @ San Francisco defensive front 23 OL DAL +22  
Los Angeles (N) offensive line 11 vs Arizona defensive front 27 OL LAR +16  
San Francisco offensive line 13 vs Dallas defensive front 28 OL SF +15  
Philadelphia offensive line 6 vs Washington defensive front 21 OL PHI +15  
Chicago offensive line 7 vs Carolina defensive front 16 OL CHI +9  
Tennessee offensive line 8 @ Cleveland defensive front 15 OL TEN +7  
New Orleans offensive line 9 @ Green Bay defensive front 14 OL NO +5  
Oakland offensive line 4 vs Kansas City defensive front 6 OL OAK +2  
Pittsburgh offensive line 10 vs Cincinnati defensive front 11 OL PIT +1  
Carolina offensive line 19 @ Chicago defensive front 18 OL CHI +1  
Miami offensive line 31 vs New York (A) defensive front 30 OL NYJ +1 MIA +13 if Pouncey plays.


Team                    Unit                      Rank   Team                    Unit                  Rank Favors Diff             NOTES                               
Seattle defensive front 3 @ New York (N) offensive line 31 DEF SEA +28  
Pittsburgh defensive front 1 vs Cincinnati offensive line 27 DEF PIT +26  
Minnesota defensive front 10 vs Baltimore offensive line 28 DEF MIN +18  
Denver defensive front 8 @ Los Angeles (A) offensive line 23 DEF DEN +15  
Buffalo defensive front 2 @ Tampa Bay offensive line 16 DEF BUF +14  
Jacksonville defensive front 4 @ Indianapolis offensive line 17 DEF JAX +13  
New York (N) defensive front 19 vs Seattle offensive line 32 DEF NYG +13  
Los Angeles (A) defensive front 9 vs Denver offensive line 21 DEF LAC +12  
Miami defensive front 13 vs New York (A) offensive line 22 DEF MIA +9  
Los Angeles (N) defensive front 7 vs Arizona offensive line 15 DEF LAR +7  
Tampa Bay defensive front 20 vs Buffalo offensive line 26 DEF TB +6  
New Orleans defensive front 26 @ Green Bay offensive line 30 DEF NO +4  
Oakland defensive front 22 vs Kansas City offensive line 24 DEF OAK +2  
Baltimore defensive front 17 @ Minnesota offensive line 18 DEF BAL +1 MIN +5 if Easton plays. 
Philadelphia defensive front 5 vs Washington offensive line 5 EVEN EVEN  
Atlanta defensive front 12 @ New England offensive line 12 EVEN EVEN  
Indianapolis defensive front 25 vs Jacksonville offensive line 25 EVEN EVEN IND +6 if Linder misses.


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

Looking for the Offensive Line Rankings? Click Here: Week 7 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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