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!
OFFENSIVE LINE MATCHUPS TO TRUST
Atlanta @ New York (A) - Sunday 1 PM ET
JM: It's no surprise that the New York Jets aren't generating much of a pass-rush. The Jets have needed a premier pass-rusher since they drafted Quinton Coples in the first-round in 2012. They've missed on him and every swing since. The big worry in New York is the performance of Muhammad Wilkerson. There was a time when Sheldon Richardson, Damon "Snacks" Harrison, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson all played on the same defensive line, and you could have made the case that Wilkerson was the top lineman there. Snacks is now playing for the Giants, while Richardson was shipped to Seattle this summer. From 2011 to 2016, Wilkerson's lowest amount of tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage in a season was 16. Halfway into 2017, he's only posted 3. Until that is fixed, the Jets' hands are tied.
BIT: Thunderstorms are forecast for Sunday in New Jersey. Assuming it rains hard but lightning doesn't delay the game, this could favor a low scoring result where both offenses are forced to rely on the ground game for the majority of the afternoon. The Falcons bookend tackles of Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are rounding into form and should find favorable matchups against mediocre edge players such as David Bass and Jordan Jenkins. The interior of Andy Levitre, Alex Mack and Wes Schweizter should have tougher matchups against Leonard Williams and Steve McClendon. But the Falcons have the speed to get to the edge of this Jets' defensive front. Like the Daniel Day-Lewis movie about milkshakes, there will be points.
Chicago @ New Orleans - Sunday 1 PM ET
JM: Cameron Jordan made Detroit's backup offensive linemen look like backup offensive linemen a few weeks ago, but he's still a bit of a one-man band in New Orleans. Alex Okafor has risen to the second-best defensive lineman on the team, almost out of nowhere, but no one is calling for him to sign a long-term extension in NOLA. First-round defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is having a bit of a sophomore slump after flashing, when healthy, as a rookie and in the preseason. Losing Nick Fairley to a heart condition wasn't a great start to the Saints' 2017 season, either. The good news is that New Orleans' defense is baseline average now. The bad news is their defensive line isn't necessarily the reason for the improvement.
BIT: This week Bears' right guard Kyle Long was featured in my favorite weekly video, Geoff Schwartz's "Disrespectful Blocks of the Week." It's a short watch, but violent and gives a good sense for what the Bears' offensive line has been up to lately. The interior of Long, Cody Whitehair at center and Josh Sitton at left guard are downright nasty together. The tackles of Charles Leno and Bobbie Massie are underrated; they did not allow a pressure last week against Baltimore. If Chicago can run away from Cameron Jordan, they should find success this weekend.
DEFENSIVE FRONT MATCHUPS TO TRUST
Minnesota @ Cleveland *Neutral Site: LONDON, UK* - Sunday 9:30 AM ET
JM: While Demarcus Lawrence and Calais Campbell are stealing the headlines, Everson Griffen could push himself to the leading spot in the sack title race after this weekend. He's having a career year opposite of Danielle Hunter, a first-time, full-time starter. Hunter is still being felt opposite of Griffen, even if Griffen is the one recorded sacks at this point in the season. Nose tackle Linval Joseph gives the team strength in the interior. There may not be a case of a stronger #1 pass-rusher, #2 pass-rusher and starting nose tackle around the league.
BIT: Last week, the Cleveland Browns offensive line lost left tackle Joe Thomas to a torn triceps. Thomas is a 10-time Pro Bowler who had a streak of over 10,000 consecutive snaps. His replacement, Spencer Drango, started 6 games at left guard last season. The Browns line has talent, especially along the interior (left guard Joel Bitonio, center J.C. Tretter and right guard Kevin Zeitler are all legit). But it's fair to expect some near term pain as the entire Browns franchise adjusts to life without their best player.
Kansas City vs. Denver - Monday 8:30 PM ET
JM: After the first half against the New England Patriots, there were very few pass-rushers who started their season off faster than the Kansas City Chiefs' Justin Houston. Since his sophomore season in the NFL, the former third-round pick essentially has averaged a sack a game. That's one of the most dominant stats in the NFL right now. He's slowed down a bit after the first few weeks in the season, but he, sophomore defensive end Chris Jones and defensive end Allen Bailey have made plenty of penetration plays this season. Against a weak Denver offensive line, you might see one of the more dominant front five performances from this team in a while. The Broncos are not close to the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Oakland Raiders in the trenches.
BIT: The Denver offensive line will have right tackle Menelik Watson back in the lineup, which is normally good news. But Watson has not lived up to his free agency contract price so far and it's hard to upgrade the line based on that news. Left tackle Garett Bolles has been penalty prone in recent weeks and maybe hitting a rookie wall. This young offensive line will not have an easy matchup on the road in the loud and unfriendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium.
OFFENSIVE LINE MATCHUPS
|Atlanta||offensive line||2||@||New York (A)||defensive front||30||OL||ATL +28|
|Chicago||offensive line||4||@||New Orleans||defensive front||26||OL||CHI +22|
|Washington||offensive line||7||vs||Dallas||defensive front||28||OL||WAS +21||Monitor LT Williams.|
|Dallas||offensive line||1||@||Washington||defensive front||21||OL||DAL +20|
|Buffalo||offensive line||6||vs||Oakland||defensive front||22||OL||BUF +16|
|Pittsburgh||offensive line||8||@||Detroit||defensive front||24||OL||PIT +16|
|Seattle||offensive line||23||vs||Houston||defensive front||32||OL||SEA +9|
|New Orleans||offensive line||10||vs||Chicago||defensive front||18||OL||NO +8|
|Minnesota||offensive line||11||@||Cleveland||defensive front||15||OL||MIN +4|
|Los Angeles (A)||offensive line||28||@||New England||defensive front||31||OL||LAC +3|
|Carolina||offensive line||19||@||Tampa Bay||defensive front||20||OL||CAR +1|
|Philadelphia||offensive line||22||vs||San Francisco||defensive front||23||OL||PHI +1|
DEFENSIVE FRONT MATCHUPS
|Minnesota||defensive front||10||@||Cleveland||offensive line||31||DEF||MIN +21|
|Kansas City||defensive front||6||vs||Denver||offensive line||27||DEF||KC +21|
|Pittsburgh||defensive front||3||@||Detroit||offensive line||21||DEF||PIT +18|
|Miami||defensive front||13||@||Baltimore||offensive line||30||DEF||MIA +17|
|Philadelphia||defensive front||5||vs||San Francisco||offensive line||20||DEF||PHI +15|
|Atlanta||defensive front||12||@||New York (A)||offensive line||25||DEF||ATL +14|
|Seattle||defensive front||1||vs||Houston||offensive line||12||DEF||SEA +12|
|Cincinnati||defensive front||25||vs||Indianapolis||offensive line||32||DEF||CIN +7|
|Denver||defensive front||8||@||Kansas City||offensive line||14||DEF||DEN +6|
|Indianapolis||defensive front||25||@||Cincinnati||offensive line||29||DEF||IND +4|
|Los Angeles (A)||defensive front||9||@||New England||offensive line||13||DEF||LAC +4|
|Baltimore||defensive front||17||vs||Miami||offensive line||18||DEF||BAL +1|
|Carolina||defensive front||16||@||Tampa Bay||offensive line||17||DEF||CAR +1|
|Buffalo||defensive front||3||vs||Oakland||offensive line||3||EVEN||EVEN|
FULL DEFENSIVE FRONT RANKINGS
|7||Los Angeles (N)|
|9||Los Angeles (A)|
|19||New York (N)||Olivier Vernon.|
|23||San Francisco||Arik Armstead.|
|30||New York (A)|
Looking for the Offensive Line Rankings? Click Here: Week 8 Offensive Line news and full rankings
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