The goal of a real-life NFL defense is to prevent the other team from scoring points. When we select a defense to roster, we’re trying to score the most fantasy points. It’s a subtle shift in thinking, but an important one.
The optimal way to select a defense in DFS is to think in terms of big events, not points allowed. Just 2.3% of games last season ended in a shutout and only 9.7% ended with one team being held to six points or fewer. In other words, targeting the “points allowed” category is a fool’s errand.
The real fantasy points come from sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions and defense touchdowns. These events are by far the most likely to happen when a quarterback is under pressure. The best possible outcome on a single play for our defense is a strip sack which results in a defensive touchdown as we get one DraftKings point for the sack, two for the fumble recovery and six for the touchdown.
With that in mind, below you’ll find the biggest mismatches between defensive and offensive lines for the Divisional Round. The objective is to project QB pressure through film study, injuries, scheme, coaching and talent.
Biggest Divisional Round Mismatches
- Packers DL vs. Seahawks OL
- 49ers DL vs. Vikings OL
- Chiefs DL vs. Texans OL
- Packers OL vs. Seahawks DL
- Ravens OL vs. Titans DL
1. Packers DL vs Seahawks OL
Key matchups: OLBs Za’Darius Smith & Preston Smith vs. OTs Duane Brown/George Fant & Germain Ifedi, DT Kenny Clark vs. C Joey Hunt
Notes: The Packers DL finished the season 12th in adjusted sack rate, 9th in team pass rush win rate, and 13th in sacks per pass attempt. Za’Darius Smith was 1st in total pressures with 93. Smith, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark finished with 210 total pressures, the most of any trio in the NFL. Seattle’s OL finished 24th in adjusted sack rate, 28th in team pass block win rate, 28th in sacks per pass attempt, and gave up the 4th most QB hits in the NFL with 111. LT Duane Brown and LG Mike Iupati missed the Wildcard round and are questionable to play this week.
Green Bay has an elite defensive line that has been one of the disruptive groups in the NFL this season thanks in large part to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s penchant for dialing up unique alignments and stunts that isolate them against the weak spots of opposing offensive lines to maximize their skill-sets.
Their play is the backbone of the defense and along with their running game offensively, the team. Creating as much pressure as they do allowed them to blitz at one of the lowest rates in the NFL (22.6%, 28th lowest) and that will likely carry over this week against a banged up offensive line that was already a below average unit when healthy.
Duane Brown and Mike Iupati are the team’s best two linemen so getting them back this week would be a big boost, particularly to the running game, however, Joey Hunt will get exposed vs. Kenny Clark similarly to how he was last week vs. Fletcher Cox and the guards won’t fare much better as pass-protectors considering their skill-sets are significantly bent towards creating movement as run-blockers.
The Seahawks need Brown and Iupati back in a bad way so that their running game can have a chance at slowing down the Packers’ pass-rush, but even with them back in the fold the middle of the pocket is set to be a saive with multiple glaring mismatches across the line of scrimmage.
2. 49ers DL vs. Vikings OL
Key matchups: DE Dee Ford vs. LT Riley Reiff, DE Nick Bosa vs. both Reiff and RT Brian O’Neill, DL DeForest Buckner vs. LG Pat Elflein
Notes: The 49ers’ DL finished 2nd in adjusted sack rate, 13th in team pass rush win rate, 3rd in sacks per pass attempt, 1st in QB hurry percentage, and 2nd in pressure percentage. DE Nick Bosa is the expected defensive rookie of the year. Minnesota’s OL finished 14th in adjusted sack rate, 23rd in team pass block win rate, and 8th in sacks per pass attempt.
The Vikings OL was a below average overall unit this season and are much better run-blockers than pass-protectors. The offense ranked 4th highest in rush attempts with 133 yards per game (6th highest) and extensive play-action usage (5th most) which helped cover their warts and accentuate their strengths as an offensive line. The 49ers finished with the 11th best run defense per DVOA and will receive a boost with the return of LB Kwon Alexander this week as well, which should help them create more obvious passing downs, putting this Minnesota OL in untenable situations.
Along with the Packers DL, the 49ers DL was another elite unit this season and one of the most productive despite Dee Ford only appearing in 11 games and playing a total of 226 snaps. Nick Bosa was one of the most impressive and refined rookies you’ll ever see as a rookie pass-rusher and combined with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner’s uniquely enormous, long, athletic frames offer an overwhelming trio of differing skill-sets to deal with.
Ford is set to return this week and will provide a significant boost to an already very good pass-rush in multiple ways.
First, game-planning becomes increasingly difficult for the Vikings having to account for Ford because of what the 49ers can do rotating him with Bosa and Armstead at each defensive end spot.
Also, Ford’s speed off the edge adds another dimension that this 49ers’ DL lacked in his absence, which is a direct threat to LT Riley Reiff in particular. RT Brian O’Neill is a phenomenal athlete so I would expect Bosa to get his fair share of reps aligning over him due to the power element of his game being more of a threat to his lean build and average anchoring ability while Ford’s stock car get-off poses a threat from either side, but especially to Reiff’s aging body and below average range on an island.
These two teams are looking in the mirror in many ways offensively, but the 49ers have a deeper group of pass-rushers and the Vikings have a lesser offensive line. When you add in the 49ers having home-field advantage with a week’s rest that allows multiple key defensive starters to return, you have one of the week’s biggest mismatches.
3. Chiefs DL vs. Texans OL
Key matchups: DE Frank Clark vs. RT Chris Clark or Roderick Johnson, DT Chris Jones vs. OGs Max Scharping & Zach Fulton
Notes: Kansas City’s DL finished 10th in adjusted sack rate, 19th in team pass rush win rate, 11th in sacks per pass attempt, and 9th in QB knockdown percentage. DT Chris Jones finished 4th among DTs in pressures (58) and 2nd in QB hits (14). The Texans’ OL finished 27th in adjusted sack rate, 8th in team pass block win rate, and 27th in sacks per pass attempt. RT Chris Clark exited the Wildcard game with a concussion and is questionable to play this week.
Houston’s offensive line struggled last week vs. the Bills’ front and now face a significantly more dangerous group of pass-rushers this week led by Frank Clark and Chris Jones. With right tackles Chris Clark and Roderick Johnson both being bad options QB Deshaun Watson has to be overly aware of frontside pressure while Chris Jones requires extra attention on the interior, putting this OL in no-win situations on passing downs.
Jerry Hughes had a productive day last week vs. Laremy Tunsil and Clark is on another level explosiveness-wise, so there really isn’t much solace Watson can take anywhere up front which will force him to have to be as extraordinary as ever for the offense to have a chance at sustaining drives.
With multiple star rushers, Arrowhead’s crowd at their backs, and a week of rest, this front presents a bad matchup for a below-average Texans OL.
4. Packers OL vs. Seahawks DL
Key matchups: LT David Bakhtiari & Bryan Bulaga vs. DE Jadeveon Clowney, DT Jarran Reed vs. RG Billy Turner
Notes: Green Bay’s OL finished 10th in adjusted sack rate, 1st in team pass block win rate, and 12th in sacks per pass attempt. Seattle’s DL finished 30th in adjusted sack rate, 30th in sacks per pass attempt, 16th in team pass rush win rate, 28th in pressure percentage, and 28th in QB knockdown percentage. DE Ezekiel Ansah is questionable with a neck stinger suffered in the Wildcard round.
The Packers have an elite offensive line with superb pass-blocking tackles and a good interior group with diverse skill-sets. Seattle has a couple solid interior pass-rushers in Quinton Jefferson and Jarran Reed with one very good player in Jadeveon Clowney, leaving them outclassed without enough firepower to pose much of a threat.
Clowney can always explode and create disruption at a moment’s notice, but it will most likely have to come on the interior against either guard as opposed to these tackles, resulting in very little possibility of pressure being created off the edges.
RG Billy Turner is the one spot where Seattle can pinpoint and attack with some success, but when a line has two elite tackles and strong, stout guards with a very dependable center in Corey Linsley, there are few avenues for success as pass-rushers.
5. Ravens OL vs. Titans DL
Key matchups: LT Ronnie Stanley vs. DE Harold Landry, LG Bradley Bozeman vs. DT Jurrell Casey
Notes: The Ravens OL finished 8th in adjusted sack rate, 2nd in team pass rush win rate, and 13th in sacks per pass attempt. Tennessee’s DL finished 14th in adjusted sack rate, 20th in team pass rush win rate, 17th in sacks per pass attempt, 32nd in QB knockdown percentage, and 25th in pressure percentage.
Baltimore runs the ball more than any team in the NFL and had more success than any team in NFL history this season, so naturally there are less opportunities for the pass-rush to get home vs. them than anyone else.
On top of taking away chances for pass-rushers, they have a very good group led by two elite players in LT Ronnie Stanley and RG Marshal Yanda, followed by a good RT in Orlando Brown Jr. Their weaknesses are LG Bradley Bozeman and C Patrick Mekari but they fit into the scheme well and Bozeman in particular has improved as the season has progressed.
The Titans have a very good run-defending DL and a couple good rushers led by DT Jurrell Casey with Harold Landry on the outside, but don’t have a bonafide star or a particularly deep group. They overcome this with a robust defensive scheme, but in a vacuum don’t have enough impact rushers to pose a major threat to this offensive line in the pass game.