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 Week 10. The objective is to project QB pressure through film study, injuries, scheme, coaching and talent.
Biggest Week 13 DL > OL Mismatches
1. Eagles DL (9th in Brandon Thorn’s latest rankings for pressure) vs. Dolphins OL (32nd in offensive line rating)
2. Packers DL (5th) vs. Giants OL (15th)
3. Chargers DL (14th) vs. Broncos OL (25th)
4. Steelers DL (15th) vs. Browns OL (27th)
5. Vikings DL (4th) vs. Seahawks OL (19th)
Biggest Week 13 OL > DL Mismatches
1. Eagles OL (2nd) vs. Dolphins DL (32nd)
2. Steelers OL (6th) vs. Browns DL (8th)
3. Chiefs OL (12th) vs. Raiders DL (30th)
DL > OL
1. Eagles DL vs. Dolphins OL
Key matchups: DT Fletcher Cox vs. RG Deion Calhoun, DE Brandon Graham vs. RT Jesse Davis
Notes: The Eagles DL ranks 12th in adjusted sack rate, 6th in team pass rush win rate, 4th in QB knockdown percentage (via PFR), 12th in pressure percentage (QB pressures per dropback via PFR), and 9th in sacks per pass attempt. The Dolphins OL rank 32nd in pressures given up (169 via PFF), 29th in adjusted sack rate, 31st in team pass block win rate, 30th in sacks per pass attempt, and 31st in QB hits given up.
The Eagles were able to notch 15 pressures and 6 sacks last week against an adequate Seahawks OL and now face the worst OL in the league. Fletcher Cox dominated Seahawks center Joey Hunt and now faces a similarly weak center in Daniel Kilgore plus a significantly worse player at right guard compared to last week in Deion Calhoun, who Cox predominantly will line up across from.
This will be the primary mismatch up front for the Eagles to exploit but Brandon Graham should have his way from his traditional alignment over RT Jesse Davis while being able to feast as an inside rusher against the likes of Calhoun and Michael Deiter. This is the no-brainer top mismatch of the week.
2. Packers DL vs. Giants OL
Key matchups: DT Kenny Clark vs. C Jon Hilapio, OLB Za’Darius Smith vs. LT Nate Solder
Notes: The Packers DL ranks 6th in adjusted sack rate, 8th in team pass rush win rate, 6th in QB knockdown percentage (via PFR), and 13th in sacks per pass attempt. The Giants OL ranks 23rd in adjusted sack rate, 27th in most pressures given up (142 via PFF), 14th in team pass block win rate, 21st in sacks per pass attempt, and QB Daniel Jones has been hit more than any QB in the NFL (49x via PFR).
Green Bay was able to generate a decent amount of pressure on the 49ers last week despite another brilliant game-plan from Kyle Shanahan that took a lot of pressure off of their OL and now face a significantly worse offense and OL with the Giants.
Za’Darius Smith continues to be one of the most disruptive rushers in the NFL ranking 2nd in total pressures (62) and 3rd in QB hits (13) and gets to face off against the near washed Nate Solder at LT. The Giants OL is also coming off a game where they gave up 14 pressures against a Bears front that relies heavily on one player, albeit a superstar in Khalil Mack.
With more pass-rushing threats coming from multiple alignments, this Packers front should be able to produce at an even higher rate this week.
3. Chargers DL vs. Broncos OL
Key matchups: DEs Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram vs. OTs Garett Bolles & Elijah Wilkinson or Ja’Wuan James
Notes: The Chargers DL ranks 18th in adjusted sack rate, 19th in team pass rush win rate, 7th in QB hurry percentage, 10th in pressure rate, and 12th in sacks per pass attempt. DE Joey Bosa ranks 9th in pressures (54) and 6th in QB hits (12). Denver’s OL ranks 28th in adjusted sack rate, 27th in team pass block win rate, and 28th in sacks per pass attempt. RT Ja’Wuan James has a chance of playing but has been cleared for multiple weeks and not active so it is a toss-up.
The Chargers DL isn’t a great all-around group but they have two legit stars in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram who feed off one another and are capable of taking over games. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley does a nice job of shifting each guy around the line of scrimmage so they remain unpredictable and difficult to account for.
For an OL like Denver’s with two marginal tackles and a solid interior this is an overmatched group that will struggle to find ways to hold off these two versatile forces. Bosa has been playing at an extraordinarily high level as of late demonstrating an elite level bull-rush and inside spin to complement his potent overall technique. Whether Ja’Wuan James or Elijah Wilkinson plays, the trio of them and Bolles simply don’t have the pass-blocking skills or ability to handle either Bosa or Ingram without significant help.
Denvers’ guards can be taken advantage of when Bosa and Ingram slide inside as well so there are numerous avenues for this Chargers pass rush to control a struggling Broncos offense.
4. Steelers DL vs. Browns OL
Key matchups: OLBs T.J. Watt & Bud Dupree vs. OTs Greg Robinson & Chris Hubbard, DT Cameron Heyward vs. LG Joel Bitonio
Notes: Pittsburgh’s DL ranks 2nd in adjusted sack rate, 5th in team pass rush win rate, 2nd in pressure rate (PFR), 3rd in QB knockdown percentage, and 3rd in sacks per pass attempt. OLB T.J. Watt is 4th in total pressures (59) and 2nd in sacks (11.5). The Browns OL ranks 13th in adjusted sack rate, 10th in team pass block win rate, 18th in sacks per pass attempt, and Baker Mayfield has been hurried more than any QB in the NFL (52 via PFR).
The Browns are on a three game winning streak including a 21-7 victory over the Steelers just two weeks ago but now travel to Pittsburgh having to hold off a ferocious pass-rush that they gave up 17 pressures to in their Week 11 matchup.
Making this a particularly glaring mismatch is the fact that the Browns worst starter on their OL is RT Chris Hubbard and the Steelers best rusher (T.J. Watt) lines up on that side 98.6 percent of the time. Watt will again be able to generate five or more pressure fairly easily and could double that if Cleveland doesn’t provide enough help and/or if Baker Mayfield is forced to hold onto the ball longer than anticipated.
Bud Dupree isn’t much more than an above average player despite the production spike and career best season but he is a threat to notch a handful of pressures facing the below average Greg Robinson. The best matchup is on the interior with Cameron Heyward against Joel Bitonio, with Heyward having a significant strength advantage.
There are enough weapons on this DL to present major problems for a Browns OL that is paperthin on the outside and solid on the interior.
5. Vikings DL vs. Seahawks OL
Key matchups: DE Danielle Hunter vs. RT Germain Ifedi
Notes: The Vikings DL ranks 8th in adjusted sack rate, 24th in team pass rush win rate, and 15th in sacks per pass attempt. DEs Everson Griffen & Danielle Hunter each rank in the top 10 in total pressures, hurries, and QB hits. Seattle’s OL is 24th in adjusted sack rate, 28th in team pass block win rate, 26th in sacks per pass attempt, and 24th in pressures given up (130 via PFF). Russell Wilson has been hurried (44) and hit (35) the 6th most in the NFL per PFR. Linval Joseph returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the last couple of weeks due to a knee procedure.
Minnesota hasn’t had Linval Joseph the last couple of weeks and have missed the interior push he provides so his possible return would be a big boost this week against the hulking Seahawks interior OL. On the edges Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter provide the league’s best duo and Hunter in particular should be able to feast on Germain Ifedi in 1-on-1 situations.
Seattle’s OL is a much better run-blocking than pass-blocking unit and they give up a ton of pressure and hurries with Russell Wilson getting hit at one of the league’s highest rates. There really isn’t much reason to expect that to drop-off against this elite Vikings’ pass rush. Wilson overcomes pressure better than any QB in the league so it may not secure a victory for Minnesota, but he will need to continue his brilliance in the face of pressure from both sides of the line for that to happen.