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 16. The objective is to project QB pressure through film study, injuries, scheme, coaching and talent.
Biggest Week 16 DL > OL Mismatches
1. Steelers DL (15th in Brandon Thorn’s latest rankings for pressure) vs. Jets OL (30th in offensive line rating)
2. Packers DL (5th) vs. Vikings OL (17th)
3. Chiefs DL (13th) vs. Bears OL (24th)
4. Jaguars DL (2nd) vs. Falcons OL (26th)
5. Chargers DL (14th) vs. Raiders OL (5th)
Biggest Week 16 OL > DL Mismatches
1. Ravens OL (8th) vs. Browns DL (8th)
DL > OL
1. Steelers DL vs. Jets OL
Key matchups: OLB T.J. Watt vs. RT Chuma Edoga, DT Cameron Heyward vs. LG Alex Lewis & C Jonotthan Harrison
Notes: Pittsburgh’s DL ranks 2nd in adjusted sack rate (9.7%), 5th in team pass rush win rate, 1st in pressure rate, and 4th in QB knockdown percentage. T.J. Watt is 4th in pressures (73) and tied for 3rd in QB hits (16). The Jets OL ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate (9.7%), 15th in team pass block win rate, 28th in QB hits given up per NFL.com (96), and have given up the 8th most pressures (169) in the NFL.
Easily the biggest mismatch of the week, Pittsburgh has massive advantages with their best players in T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward facing marginal starters at best in Brandon Shell and Alex Lewis.
Shell struggles getting to his set points vs. good or better speed off the edge and even more so when they can string together moves to knock his hands down. Watt has been doing exactly that all year plus can win inside with a couple different speed counters. Heyward is a bull in a china shop on the interior and Lewis is more of a zone-oriented athletic type of blocker that doesn’t have the anchor to hold up against the best bull-rush in football, which Heyward possesses.
Add in the fact that Javon Hargrave has a favorable matchup opposite of Heyward and you’re looking at the shoe-in for top mismatch of the week in the trenches.
2. Packers DL vs. Vikings OL
Key matchups: OLB Za’Darius Smith vs. LT Riley Reiff & LG Pat Elflein, DT Kenny Clark vs. C Garrett Bradbury
Notes: Green Bay’s DL ranks 14th in adjusted sack rate (7.3%), 10th in team pass rush win rate, and 6th in QB knockdown percentage. OLB Za’Darius Smith is 2nd in pressures (78), QB hits (19), and tied for 9th in sacks with 10. DT Kenny Clark ranks 1st among DTs in QB hurries (49) and 2nd in pressures with 58. Minnesota’s OL ranks 11th in adjusted sack rate, and 20th in team pass block win rate. RB Dalvin Cook is doubtful to play with a shoulder injury.
This is where things get interesting as the Vikings are 7-0 this season when playing indoors, 9-1 on turf, and the only team in the NFL that is undefeated at home (6-0). Minnesota will also be attempting to avenge their 21-16 Week 2 loss to the Packers while needing a win to have a shot at winning the division, but at 10-4 a trip to the playoffs is pretty much secure regardless, so I’d expect Dalvin Cook to sit to ensure he’s 100% for the playoffs.
The Vikings’ defense goes up another level playing at home (giving up 14.2 points per game as opposed to 21.8 on the road) and should be able to keep this game close, but their offensive line is outmatched nearly across the board, primarily against the likes of Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark.
Smith and Clark account for 136 pressures between them, good for the most in the NFL among any edge-interior rusher pairing (Aaron Donald & Dante Fowler Jr. are 2nd at 128) and both Za’Darius and Preston Smith move around the front, presenting a lot of problems to protection schemes with their length, power, and refined pass-rush moves.
Clark has destroyed the interior of this OL many times over the last few seasons and that was without the Smiths to draw attention away from him. Even with Garrett Bradbury and Pat Elflein playing much better than early on in the season, neither of them or RG Josh Kline can hold up in pass-protection against this group of rushers, particularly if the running game gets stalled due to Cook’s likely absence.
3. Chiefs DL vs. Bears OL
Key matchups: DE Frank Clark vs. OTs Charles Leno Jr. & Cornelius Lucas, DT Chris Jones vs. LG Cody Whitehair
Notes: The Chiefs DL ranks 10th in adjusted sack rate (7.7%), 24th in team pass rush win rate, 10th in QB knockdown percentage, and 11th in team sacks with 39. Among DTs, Chris Jones ranks 3rd in QB hits (13) and 6th in pressures with 49. The Bears OL is 20th in adjusted sack rate (7.1%), 10th in team pass block win rate, 22nd in QB hits given up per PFF (24), and 20th in pressures given up with 148.
The Bears OL are coming off a game in which they struggled mightily to pass-protect against the Packers dynamic front and now take on a very talented DL that just added Terrell Suggs to the mix.
Chris Jones has been great all season and his blend of size, athletic ability, and power is a terrible matchup for the undersized, quickness-based skill-set of Cody Whitehair. Frank Clark has been heating up lately after dealing with a neck injury most of the year and brings elite-level explosiveness to the Windy City with a huge mismatch against RT Cornelius Lucas.
Suggs will add much-needed depth to the position as well as one of the most savvy minds at the position. Offensive tackles revere Suggs ability to find weaknesses in their game and exploit them even to this day, so while his physical abilities are fading with age, his ability to put stress on opposing tackles has not. This is an extremely difficult test for even an improved Bears OL as of late that I would expect to not go well for them as pass-protectors.
4. Jaguars DL vs. Falcons OL
Key matchups: DEs Yannick Ngakoue & Josh Allen vs. OTs Jake Matthews & Kaleb McGary, DL Calais Campbell vs. OGs Wes Schweitzer & Chris Lindstrom.
Notes: Jacksonville’s DL ranks 4th in adjusted sack rate (8.4%), 7th in team pass rush win rate, 6th in pressure rate, 1st in QB knockdown percentage, and 5th in total sacks with 43. Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Josh Allen each have 40+ pressures. Atlanta’s OL is 15th in adjusted sack rate (6.8%), 29th in team pass block win rate, 29th in QB pressures given up (181), and 31st in QB hits given up per NFL.com with 113.
Atlanta’s OL has been depleted with injuries this season, particularly on the interior and despite getting rookie 1st rounder Chris Lindstrom back from injury in Week 14 are not equipped continuity or experience-wise to handle this Jacksonville front. Calais Campbell continues to be one of the most difficult players to prepare for in terms of alignment because he plays everywhere and has such a unique skill-set. Yannick Ngakoue had a monster day last week and paired with Josh Allen are lopsided matchups for RT Kaleb McGary, who struggles most with speed off the edge, something each of these two has in spades.
Playing on the turf in Atlanta should only speed up an already fast set of rushers while Campbell has his pick of litter in terms of matchups to exploit. This has potential to be a vintage ‘Sacksonville’ performance on Sunday.
5. Chargers DL vs. Raiders OL
Key matchups: DE Joey Bosa vs. RT Brandon Parker, DE Melvin Ingram vs. LT Kolton Miller
Notes: The Chargers DL ranks 24th in adjusted sack rate (6.1%), 13th in team pass rush win rate, 10th in pressure rate, and 4th in QB hurry percentage. Oakland’s OL ranks 6th in adjusted sack rate and 4th in team pass block win rate. RT Trent Brown is out for the season with a pectoral injury.
The Raiders have been one of the five or six best units in the NFL this season and the data doesn’t suggest a mismatch but in recent weeks Oakland has lost starting RT Trent Brown for the season, inserting Brandon Parker into the lineup. Parker is an extremely physically talented player but is below average in his technique, especially using his hands on an island. Facing one of the league’s truly great technicians in Joey Bosa this week is a glaring mismatch that deserves recognition on this list.
Apart from this is the fact that Melvin Ingram’s speed off the edge can give fits to LT Kolton Miller, a blocker that succeeds mostly against power-rushers and has reverted to some bad habits as of late. Ingram can also do damage when he and Bosa line up on the same side with Ingram over RG Gabe Jackson, another mauling type of guy that struggles with speed.
The Raiders as a whole have lost four in a row and look discombobulated offensively despite having an elite pairing on the interior in Richie Incognito and Rodney Hudson, making them ripe for a bad day up front against one of the most dangerous pass-rushing duos in the NFL.