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 1. The objective is to project QB pressure through film study, injuries, scheme, coaching and talent.
Biggest Week 9 DL > OL Mismatches
1. Packers DL (5th in Brandon Thorn’s latest rankings for pressure) vs. Chargers OL (29th in offensive line rating)
2. Browns DL (8th) vs. Broncos OL (25th)
3. Panthers DL (6th) vs. Titans OL (20th)
4. Seahawks DL (16th) vs. Bucs OL (23rd)
5. Jaguars DL (2nd) vs. Texans OL (13th)
6. Eagles DL (11th) vs. Bears OL (24th)
Biggest Week 9 OL > DL Mismatches
1. Cowboys OL (3rd) vs. Giants DL (29th)
DL > OL
1. Packers DL vs. Chargers OL
Key matchups: DT Kenny Clark vs. LAC’s IOL, LBs Z’Darius & Preston Smith vs. RT Sam Tevi
Notes: Green Bay’s DL ranks 11th in adjusted sack rate, 13th in Team Pass Rush Win Rate, and has 20 sacks this season. Z’Darius and Preston Smith combine for the 3rd most pressures (72) of any edge-rushing duo while DT Kenny Clark is 3rd out of DTs in QB hurries with 26. The Chargers OL ranks 9th in adjusted sack rate, 17th in Team Pass Block Win Rate, 32nd in QB hits (28), and has given up 14 total sacks.
The Chargers got back starting LT Russell Okung last week and he impressively played 80% of the snaps so this OL received a much-needed boost, but they still have four below average or worse players rounding out the unit.
Sam Tevi is arguably the worst right tackle in football, while center Scott Quessenberry will be making his 2nd career start this week. Against the likes of Z’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark, these are as lopsided of mismatches as you’ll find this season.
This is one of the most opportunistic and versatile defensive fronts that should pose major problems for this overmatched Chargers OL.
2. Browns DL vs. Broncos OL
Key matchups: DE Myles Garrett vs. LT Garett Bolles
Notes: The Browns DL ranks 6th in adjusted sack rate, 9th in Team Pass Rush Win Rate, and has 22 total sacks. DE Myles Garrett is 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 9. The Broncos OL ranks 28th in adjusted sack rate, 26th in Team Pass Block Win Rate, and has given up 27 sacks. RT Ja’Wuan James is a game-time decision after leaving last week’s game in the 1st quarter with a knee injury.
The Broncos have been forced to stick with Garett Bolles as the starter simply because there are no better options on the roster, which says something about the lack of depth at offensive tackle that most teams are dealing with because Bolles has been inept this season.
Myles Garrett predominantly lines up over the left tackle, but also has been rushing over the right tackle more this year than last, so he will have plenty of opportunity to dominate against Bolles and whoever the right tackle winds up being.
Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, and Larry Ogunjobi round out a very solid group up front. The key will be if this Browns offense can sustain enough drives and score a reasonable amount of points so that their rushers can pin their ears back and go. The Broncos have the 3rd ranked defense per DVOA, so it isn’t a lock, but the individual mismatches are too great to not expect pressure regardless of opportunity.
3. Panthers DL vs. Titans OL
Key matchups: DT Gerald McCoy vs. RG Nate Davis, DE Brian Burns vs. RT Jack Conklin
Notes: The Panthers DL ranks 2nd in adjusted sack rate, 18th in Team Pass Rush Win Rate, and 2nd in total sacks (30). They have 6 DL with 10 or more pressures. The Titans OL ranks 32nd in adjusted sack rate and 10th in Team Pass Block Win Rate. Center Ben Jones is in the concussion protocol and didn’t practice on Thursday.
The Titans OL is banged up and will likely have Jamil Douglas playing center and with rookie RG Nate Davis struggling mightily in pass-protection against top-tier rushers put this interior at a major disadvantage against the likes of DTs Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe.
Jack Conklin is a liability against very good or better speed rushers that can threaten his edge and corner at a high level, making this a bad matchup against stellar rookie Brian Burns. With Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin rounding out the rotation of edge-rushers, this is a deep group that has been playing well as of late. With Jones likely out, Rodger Saffold fresh out of the concussion protocol, and Davis not playing well, the Panthers DL has several matchups to exploit.
4. Seahawks DL vs. Bucs OL
Key matchups: DE Jadaveon Clowney vs. RT Demar Dotson, DT Jarran Reed vs. RG Alex Cappa/Earl Watford
Notes: The Seahawks DL ranks 27th in adjusted sack rate, 11th in Team Pass Rush Win Rate, and has 13 sacks this season. The Bucs OL ranks 25th in adjusted sack rate and has given up the 4th most sacks (28). RT Demar Dotson didn’t practice on Wednesday while RG Alex Cappa practice on a limited basis 3 weeks after breaking his forearm. DT Quinton Jefferson missed week 7 and didn’t practice on Wednesday.
The Seahawks haven’t been a very productive DL based on adjusted sack rate or total sacks, but there are some important mismatches in this game based on film study and additional context that put this game on my radar.
Jadeveon Clowney has continued to be incredibly disruptive since joining the Seahawks this season, leading the team in hurries (26) and pressures (33), and now faces a hobbled Demar Dotson. Clowney primarily plays over the right tackle but rushes over the left tackle about 30% of the time and has another mismatch there vs. Donovan Smith.
The right guard spot on the Bucs OL is particularly vulnerable in this one, with Alex Cappa possibly returning just 3 weeks after breaking his forearm. Cappa is a promising developmental player, but struggles against top-tier competition which Jarran Reed qualifies for. Reed made his return in week 7 after a suspension and has been a bit rusty, but this is the sort of game he could break out in, whether against Cappa or week 8 starter Earl Watson.
With the Bucs being on the road in a hostile environment for their 5th straight road game (including a London trip), this will be an extremely difficult test for the tackles and whoever mans the right guard spot.
5. Jaguars DL vs. Texans OL
Key matchups: DEs Josh Allen & Yannick Ngakoue vs. RT Tytus Howard, DT Calais Campbell vs. OGs Max Scharping & Zach Fulton
Notes: The Jaguars DL ranks 9th in adjusted sack rate, 6th in Team Pass Rush Win Rate, have 6 defenders with 10 or more pressure, and 3 with 20+ pressures. They also have 29 sacks, good for the 3rd most in the NFL. The Texans OL ranks 22nd in adjusted sack rate, 7th in Team Pass Block Win Rate, and has surrendered 24 total sacks.
This Texans OL has been solid when the starters have played together, the problem is they’ve only done so in two games all season and this week will make it the third time with Tytus Howard set to make his return from a partially torn MCL. Howard is in for a difficult test back from injury having to face off against the red-hot Josh Allen, plus Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue when they rotate over to his side.
The Ngakoue vs. Laremy Tunsil matchup should be outstanding, with Ngakoue good enough to threaten Tunsil with his vaunted cross-chop move. Campbell has huge mismatches against these guards and should continue his dominant form. It will be difficult to sack Deshaun Watson, but he should see a significant amount of pressure.
6. Eagles DL vs. Bears OL
Key matchups: DT Fletcher Cox vs. RG Rashaad Coward, DE Brandon Graham vs. RT Bobby Massie
Notes: The Eagles DL ranks 21st in adjusted sack rate, 5th in ESPN’s Team Pass Rush Win Rate metric, and has 21 sacks on the season. Fletcher Cox ranks 3rd out of DTs in pressures (33) and Brandon Graham ranks 7th out of DEs in QB hurries (29 & pressures (42). The Bears OL ranks 16th in adjusted sack rate, 15th in Team Pass Block Win Rate, and has given up 19 sacks. DT Hassan Ridgeway was put on injured reserve with an ankle. DT Tim Jernigan practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and could see his first action since week 2.
The Eagles are coming off a game where they dominated in the trenches on the road against a solid Bills team and now host a middling Bears offense that is starting a recently converted defensive tackle (Rashaad Coward) at RG. Fletcher Cox made life miserable for Bills RG Jon Feliciano last week and now faces a lesser player, making this a glaring mismatch. Brandon Graham should be able to work around Bobby Massie off the edge while Derek Barnett could be in for a nice day against Charles Leno who is struggling this season as a pass-protector.
The key will be slowing down the Bears ground game enough to put the onus on QB Mitch Trubisky, which will unlock these advantageous matchups for the Eagles front. Losing Hassan Ridgeway hurts the Eagles as they already had lost Malik Jackson for the year and now have two recently promoted practice squad fill-ins opposite of Cox. If Jernigan plays it will be a boon to this DL but I like them as a big mismatch regardless.
Chicago’s OL is coming off their best game of the year last week but that isn’t saying much considering it came against a weak Chargers defense and defensive line (aside from Joey Bosa).