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 14 DL > OL Mismatches
1. Steelers DL (15th in Brandon Thorn’s latest rankings for pressure) vs. Cardinals OL (28th in offensive line rating)
2. Packers DL (5th) vs. Redskins OL (21st)
3. Eagles DL (9th) vs. Giants OL (15th)
4. Chargers DL (14th) vs. Jaguars OL (18th)
5. Vikings DL (4th) vs. Lions OL (11th)
Biggest Week 14 OL > DL Mismatches
1. Eagles OL (2nd) vs. Giants DL (29th)
2. Packers OL (4th) vs. Redskins DL (22nd)
DL > OL
1. Steelers DL vs. Cardinals OL
Key matchups: OLB T.J. Watt vs. RT Justin Murray, DT Cam Heyward vs. LG Justin Pugh
Notes: Pittsburgh’s DL ranks 2nd in adjusted sack rate, 6th in team pass rush win rate, 3rd in sacks per pass attempt, 4th in QB knockdown percentage, and 2nd in pressure percentage. T.J. Watt is 4th in the NFL in pressures (66) and 5th in QB hits (14). The Cardinals OL ranks 26th in adjusted sack rate, 10th in team pass block win rate, and 27th in sacks per pass attempt. J.R. Sweezy sat out Wednesday’s practice with an illness.
Pittsburgh has won five of their last six games and has been more reliant on their defensive line to win games than any other unit on the team.
Led by T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward, the former being in the running for defensive player of the year, this is a group that puts an exorbitant amount of pressure on the QB both from their DL and blitzing (7th in blitz percentage). The Cardinals OL is one of the worst five units in football and has a massive hole at right tackle where Watt lines up 99% of the time.
Justin Pugh will have the task of slowing down Heyward and his marginal anchoring ability is another key factor in their inclusion in my mismatches this week. Heyward’s bull-rush is arguably the best in the NFL so he will be able to collapse the interior of the pocket with relative ease, earning the entire DL more opportunities but especially Bud Dupree who lines up to his outside. Pressure will be coming from all angles against a Cardinals offense that is giving up the 5th most sacks in the NFL this season.
2. Packers DL vs. Redskins OL
Key matchups: OLBs Za’Darius Smith & Preston Smith vs. OTs Donald Penn & Morgan Moses
Notes: The Packers DL ranks 12th in adjusted sack rate, 11th in team pass rush win rate, 19th in sacks per pass attempt, and 5th in QB knockdown percentage. Za’Darius Smith is 3rd in pressures (70) and 2nd in QB hits (18). Kenny Clark is 4th in pressures out of DTs with 46 and 1st in QB hurries with 41. Washington’s OL ranks 31st in adjusted sack rate, 11th in team pass block win rate, 30th in sacks per pass attempt, and is 10th in QB hits given up per NFL.com with 73. RT Morgan Moses exited the game in the 2nd half in Week 13 with a back injury but has said he’ll play this week.
Green Bay’s DL is coming off a game against the Giants with 16 pressures largely from their two best players; Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith. Smith had his way with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez last week and faces about the same caliber of players this week in Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers so he should continue to rack up pressures and hurries this week.
Clark has a similar pathway to success this week against Chase Roullier and Flowers while Preston Smith can do some damage against a banged up Morgan Moses off the right side. There are too many avenues for this pass rush to get home this week for them not to be high up on this list.
3. Eagles DL vs. Giants OL
Key matchups: DT Fletcher Cox vs. RG Kevin Zeitler/C Jon Halapio, DE Brandon Graham vs. RT Mike Remmers
Notes: The Eagles DL ranks 16th in adjusted sack rate, 4th in team pass rush win rate, 11th in sacks per pass attempt, and 2nd in QB knockdown percentage. Fletcher Cox is 2nd out of DTs in pressures with 48 and Brandon Graham is tied for 8th out of edge-rushers in pressures (57) and hurries (39). New York’s OL ranks 19th in adjusted sack rate, 14th in team pass block win rate, 18th in sacks per pass attempt, and has given up the 4th most QB hits (107) and 7th most pressures (156).
The Giants OL has progressively gotten worse as the second half of the season has unfolded and it stems from Nate Solder’s consistent decline to the point of being a liability, Jon Halapio’s regression as the season has gone on, and QB Daniel Jones’ lack of awareness in the pocket.
Against a front with a dominant interior force in Fletcher Cox with an end in Brandon Graham that can win from outside or inside, the Giants’ struggles as a unit should continue this week on the road against a team in Philadelphia desperate for a win. I thought Derek Barnett could have a break out game in the past such as Week 11 against the Patriots and it didn’t happen, but this might be his best chance of the season against Solder. That gives this Eagles front a third promising option they can take advantage of this week after Cox and Graham’s favorable matchups.
4. Chargers DL vs. Jaguars OL
Key matchups: DEs Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram vs. OTs Cam Robinson & Jawaan Taylor
Notes: The Chargers DL ranks 25th in adjusted sack rate, 18th in team pass rush win rate, 17th in sacks per pass attempt, 5th in QB hurry percentage, and 10th in pressure percentage. Jacksonville’s OL ranks 14th in adjusted sack rate, 21st in team pass block win rate, 15th in sacks per pass attempt, is giving up the 2nd most QB hurries (121) and 8th most pressures (153).
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have great matchups up and down the line of scrimmage in this game but particularly at the tackle spots with Bosa having a massive advantage over Jawaan Taylor due to the disparity in overall technique between the two. Bosa is a master craftsman with his hands and can win going outside, down the middle, or inside, which will be an extremely difficult matchup for the talented but raw rookie.
The Chargers rank 32nd in blitz percentage so they are getting home with hurries and pressures at an exceptionally rate considering that and it stems from Bosa and Ingram.
You could flip this around due to the Jaguars DL having a big advantage over the Chargers OL, but the mismatches that Bosa and Ingram have plus being due for a big game together gave them the nod.
5. Vikings DL vs. Lions OL
Key matchups: DEs Everson Griffen & Danielle Hunter vs. OTs Taylor Decker & Rick Wagner
Notes: Minnesota’s DL ranks 11th in adjusted sack rate, 24th in team pass rush win rate, and 15th in sacks per pass attempt. Everson Griffen ranks 6th in QB pressures (59), 8th in QB hurries (39), and 6th in QB hits (12). Danielle Hunter ranks 1st in QB pressures (76), 1st in QB hurries (55), and 10th in QB hits. The Lions OL ranks 15th in adjusted sack rate, 17th in team pass block win rate, 16th in sacks per pass attempt, and 10th in pressures given up with 138.
When these two teams last met in Week 7 the Lions gave up an astounding 29 pressures while Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter combined for 18 of those with 15 hurries and 2 sacks. Griffen and Hunter have not slowed down all year and are easily the best edge-rushing duo in the NFL. Each should have their way in this game plus Linval Joseph will be back for the second week in a row after a two-game hiatus so his presence will require additional attention, helping to open up the outside rush lanes.
Playing at home in a must-win game will help raise the intensity level a notch while slowing down the Lions’ OL out of their stances periodically, especially on obvious passing downs. Taylor Decker and Rick Wagner are each overmatched against Griffen and Hunter so any additional edge they have only increases their chances of taking over this game.