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 17. The objective is to project QB pressure through film study, injuries, scheme, coaching and talent.
Biggest Week 17 DL > OL Mismatches
1. Chiefs DL (13th in Brandon Thorn’s latest rankings for pressure) vs. Chargers OL (29th in offensive line rating)
2. Eagles DL (9th) vs. Giants OL (15th)
3. Packers DL (5th) vs. Lions OL (11th)
4. 49ers DL (1st) vs. Seahawks OL (19th)
5. Cowboys DL (12th) vs. Redskins OL (21st)
6. Broncos DL (23rd) vs. Raiders OL (5th)
Biggest Week 17 OL > DL Mismatches
1. Packers OL (4th) vs. Lions DL (21st)
2. Cowboys OL (3rd) vs. Redskins DL (22nd)
3. Eagles OL (2nd) vs. Giants DL (29th)
DL > OL
1. Chiefs DL vs. Chargers OL
Key matchups: DT Chris Jones vs. LG Dan Feeney, DE Frank Clark vs. LT Trey Pipkins
Notes: Kansas City’s DL ranks 11th in adjusted sack rate (7.7%), 21st in team pass rush win rate, 11th in QB knockdown percentage, and 10th in sacks per pass attempt. Head coach Andy Reid has said no starters will rest. DT Chris Jones is tied for 2nd among DTs (with Aaron Donald) in QB hits (13) despite only playing in 12 games. The Chargers OL ranks 10th in adjusted sack rate (6.3%), 16th in team pass block win rate, and has given up the 2nd most QB hits in the NFL per PFF with 48. LT Russell Okung didn’t practice Wednesday, missed last week, and is doubtful to play this week.
The Chargers are one of the five worst units in the NFL this season and are particularly bad whenever Russell Okung is out of the lineup which is likely this week. Against Frank Clark this spells serious trouble as Okung’s replacement Trey Pipkins is a dramatic downgrade and mismatch vs. Clark’s speed and power combination off the edge.
Chris Jones has his pick in terms of mismatches across the Chargers’ interior front, with length, power, and quickness that none of their three starters come close to matching. With playoff seeding to play for and a much better roster up front, there is no reason to expect this Chiefs group of rushers to not dominate at home.
2. Eagles DL vs. Giants OL
Key matchups: DE Brandon Graham vs. RT Nick Gates, DT Fletcher Cox vs. C Jon Halapio
Notes: The Eagles DL ranks 18th in adjusted sack rate (6.9%), tied for 4th in team pass rush win rate, and 5th in QB knockdown percentage. Brandon Graham is tied for 9th (with Nick Bosa) in QB hurries and Fletcher Cox is tied for 5th among DTs in QB pressures with 52. The Giants OL ranks 17th in adjusted sack rate (7.0%), 10th in team pass block win rate, and has given up the 3rd most QB hits with 109. RT Mike Remmers is out with a concussion.
The Eagles can win their division this week with a win and have several advantageous matchups up front starting with Brandon Graham going against Nick Gates at right tackle. Gates stepped into the lineup last week late in the second quarter after Mike Remmers suffered a concussion and played admirably albeit against a marginal set of Washington pass-rushers without Ryan Kerrigan.
Graham’s natural leverage, lateral quickness, and power will be a tough matchup for him and with Fletcher Cox to the inside occupying RG Kevin Zeitler will force him into some isolated situations that could prove fatal to the integrity of the pocket. If Cox can get isolated against Jon Halapio at center he’ll absolutely dominate, opening up more opportunities for the likes of Graham, Tim Jernigan, Derek Barnett, and Josh Sweat.
On the other side Nate Solder has been below average at best this season and will face a three-man rotation of Barnett, Sweat, and Vinny Curry. Each of them has a very good chance at beating Solder’s slow strike timing and limited athletic ability, so there are several matchups from all sides for a hungry Eagles front to get home against.
3. Packers DL vs. Lions OL
Key matchups: OLB Za’Darius Smith vs. LT Taylor Decker, DT Kenny Clark vs. Detroit’s interior OL
Notes: Green Bay’s DL ranks 10th in adjusted sack rate (7.7%), tied for 9th in team pass rush win rate, and 10th in QB knockdown percentage. Za’Darius Smith is 2nd in the NFL in QB pressures (87) and QB hits (20). DT Kenny Clark is 2nd among DTs in QB pressures (62) and 1st in QB hurries (52). The Lions OL ranks 20th in adjusted sack rate (7.4%), 15th in team pass block win rate, 21st in sacks per pass attempt, and is giving up the 11st most pressures in the NFL. LT Taylor Decker was limited in Wednesday’s practice with an ankle and RT Rick Wagner missed practice with a knee.
The Lions are banged up at offensive tackle with Taylor Decker questionable but likely to play and RT Rick Wagner having less of a chance after missing the last two weeks due to his knee injury.
Green Bay is coming off a dominant defensive effort led by Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark, with Smith increasingly moving all over the line of scrimmage to capitalize on the best matchups of that week. This week Smith will have the opportunity to rush over a banged up Decker at left tackle, better run than pass-blocking interior linemen, and possibly Tyrell Crosby at right tackle who has struggled mightily as a pass-protector.
This is a week to watch for Preston Smith having a big day from his base left defensive end spot while Kenny Clark is a mismatch against virtually every center in the NFL minus a few. Frank Ragnow is a very good run-blocker but will have his hands full as a pass-protector against the dynamic rush moves and power of Clark.
This Packers front is white-hot and the Lions may be down a key starter making this a no-brainer inclusion on the mismatch list this week.
4. 49ers DL vs. Seahawks OL
Key matchups: DE Nick Bosa vs. LT Jamarco Jones or George Fant
Notes: The 49ers DL ranks 1st in adjusted sack rate (9.6%), 12th in team pass rush win rate, 4th in pressure rate, and 3rd in QB hurry percentage. DE Nick Bosa leads all rookies in QB hits, hurries, and pressures. Seattle’s OL ranks 26th in adjusted sack rate (8.4%), 28th in team pass block win rate, 29th in sacks per pass attempt, and has given up the 6th most QB hits with 101. LT Duane Brown is out due to knee surgery, leaving either Jamarco Jones or George Fant in his place.
One of the best things a team can bring on the road to a hostile environment is a consistent pass-rush and the 49ers will have that this week against a banged up, already below average pass-protecting unit in the Seahawks. Duane Brown is out and it couldn’t come at a worse time with Nick Bosa primed to dominate either Jamarco Jones or George Fant. Bosa has been special this season and has such a great feel for the position both as a rusher and run-defender, while Jones and Fant are simply out-classed in this matchup so it won’t really matter who is playing.
The best way to deploy Bosa this week however is over the right tackle (which he has played about 20% of the time this season) to take advantage of the powerful but sloppy Germain Ifedi because Arik Armstead’s power-oriented game is a better matchup for Ifedi while Jones and Fant are more susceptible to the power that Armstead brings.
Last season LG Mike Iupati shut DeForest Buckner down when he was playing for the Cardinals and will offer up a great matchup, but without Brown to his left and backup center Joey Hunt to his right has a lot more on his plate to deal with this time around.
5. Cowboys DL vs. Redskins OL
Key matchups: DE Demarcus Lawrence vs. RT Morgan Moses, DT Michael Bennett vs. RG Wes Martin
Notes: The Cowboys DL ranks 17th in adjusted sack rate (7.1%), 1st in team pass rush win rate, and 12th in QB hurry percentage. The Redskins OL ranks 31st in adjusted sack rate, 10.1%), 20th in team pass block win rate, 31st in sacks per pass attempt, and has given up the 10th most QB hits with 92. RG Brandon Scherff is on injured reserve with Wes Martin taking his spot.
The Cowboys have an outside shot at making the playoffs if they can win and the Eagles lose which isn’t likely, but it at least should ensure their defensive front plays hard and facing a below average OL without their best player (Brandon Scherff) makes this an obvious choice for a top mismatch of the week.
DTs Maliek Collins and Michael Bennett have each had good seasons as interior rushers and should be able to end the season on a high note facing backup right guard Wes Martin, Ereck Flowers, and Chase Roullier on the interior. Along with both ends (Robert Quinn and Demarcus Lawrence), there are mismatches across the line that the Cowboys front should be able to exploit.