As the season winds down, the injuries continue to change lineups. In addition, some of the lines are moving up and down the rankings based on Week 14's performances. Let's get right to it:
Green Bay plus 8.
The Packers line has gotten healthy in a hurry. All of their starters were practicing this week, which means that C Corey Linsley and RT Bryan Bulaga are in the lineup for this weekend's contest at Oakland. Linsley isn't that much better than J.C. Tretter, but there is a significant upgrade from Don Barclay to Bulaga. The team is taking a run-first approach as of late, and this is also playing into the strength of the offensive line. The Packers receive a nine slot upgrade with this news, and are firmly grading out as a top-tier unit, 4th overall in the latest rankings.
Oakland plus 5.
The Raiders' line got center Rodney Hudson back in the lineup in last week's tight win over the Broncos. Hudson had been a huge part of the line's success earlier in the season, especially in pass blocking, and the offense just looks better with him in the lineup. Tony Bergstrom returns to the bench and the Raiders grade out at 3rd overall, a 5 slot upgrade in the latest offensive line rankings.
Seattle plus 15.
The last few weeks, the Seattle offensive line has really come alive. The unit, which had seen a great amount of change at the start of the season, is starting to play really well. The new center Patrick Lewis has received praise from coaches for his play. I wasn't a believer at first, but lately he has been a clear upgrade over Drew Nowak. Left guard Justin Britt (who had switched from right tackle prior to the opening game) finally looks comfortable in his new spot. Garry Gilliam, a first tme starter at right tackle, also has grown into the position. As a unit this group is peaking as the season winds down. With the upgrade to cohesion and changes to the individual grades of Lewis, Gilliam and Britt, the Seahawks climb up the rankings all the way to 12th, just outside the cut-off for top-tier ranking.
Tampa Bay plus 5.
This is an upgrade based primarily on the return to Gosder Cherilus to the lineup. Cherilus had been battling injury and contrary to my prediction, Demar Dotson was actually a downgrade in his place. Even though this lineup is upgraded, the unit had a rough game last week against New Orleans. Particularly painful was the holding penalty on Donovan Smith calling back a 36 yard gain by Vincent Jackson. Still, Smith is a young player and this is a good offensive line, last week's performance aside. The Bucs remain firmly in the mid-tier of the rankings, at 15th overall.
Indianapolis plus 10.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is the best lineman on the Colts, by far, and it's a great sign that he has been practicing this week. According to coaches, Castonzo is on track to play this weekend, "barring any setbacks." Castonzo's return would put Joe Reitz back at his more natural right tackle, and move the inexperienced Denzelle Good to the swing role. In other news the team waived Todd Herremans, who lost his starting job in preseason. Still the Colts' line is trendng upward, and grade out at 22nd overall, just on the cusp of being a mid-tier unit in the rankings.
Buffalo minus 10.
Last week's big upgrade didn't last long, as the team revealed that starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson has been battling Crohn's Disease, and might be lost for the season. Henderson has lost 20 pounds so far and had only been listed with a mysterious "illness" on the official injury report. With Cyrus Kouandijo still in the doghouse, Jordan Mills has been starting in Henderson's place. Mills is a replacement level player. The team did get some good news as right guard John Miller rejoined the lineup. However, while he has more upside, he isn't much better than Kraig Urbik in the near term. The loss of Henderson, and the recent trend of penalties (7 by the line last week) has lowered this unit's grade 10 spots, to 21st overall in the rankings. They are a mid-tier unit, but just barely.
San Francisco minus 1.
Left guard Alex Boone was rolled up on twice in the loss to Cleveland, and he has been diagnosed with an MCL sprain. Boone could be done for the season, and as a pending free agent, could have played his last game in a 49ers uniform. In his place Marcus Martin slid to left guard, and Daniel Kilgore played center. It's not all bad news as Andrew Tiller is an improving player at right guard. Tiller's rise, minus Boone's injury leaves the 49ers line down a spot to 24th overall. They are a low-tier option at this time.
Detroit minus 9.
Although the team did waive LaAdrian Waddle, there's no specific injury or personnel reason for this downgrade. Waddle hasn't played for weeks. The reason for this downgrade was the total breakdown of offensive line play in the game against St. Louis. The interior of the line especially was victimized by Aaron Donald, who recorded 3 sacks. Matthew Stafford was under pressure all game and there was a key mistake with a wayward snap that certainly played a factor in the outcome of the game. This unit lacks a top tier left tackle and the problems trickle down from there. The Lions grade out at 27th overall, firmly in the low-tier of the rankings.
Denver minus 6.
As anyone with access to the league's highlights will know by now, Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack went bananas on the Broncos' line last week. Both Ryan Harris and Michael Schofield were taken to school, and when the day was done, Mack tallied five sacks, good enough for the league lead. Truthfully, this line never really recovered from the loss of Ryan Clady in preseason, and without Manning's awareness, the pass protection is among the league's worst at this time. The Broncos are down six spots, to the low-tier, at 28th overall.
Week 15 Match-up's of Note
- 11th JAX O-Line vs. 27th ATL defensive front seven (+26).
- 5th PHI O-Line vs. 28th AZ defensive front seven (+23).
- 7th HOU O-Line @ 29th IND defensive front seven (+22).
- 4th GB O-Line @ 24th OAK defensive front seven (+20).
- 2nd NYJ O-Line @ 16th DAL defensive front seven (+14).
- 13th CAR O-Line @ 26th NYG defensive front seven (+13).
- 8th CIN O-Line @ 20th SF defensive front seven (+12).
- 12th SEA O-Line vs. 21st CLE defensive front seven (+9).
- 25th SD O-Line vs. 7th MIA defensive front seven (-18).
- 31st PIT O-Line vs. 12th DEN defensive front seven (-19).
- 32nd STL O-Line vs. 15th TB defensive front seven (-17).
- 18th TEN O-Line @ 2nd NE defensive front seven (-16).
A look back on Week 14's Match-up's of Note
Last week's predictions were 6-3, bringing the total for the year to 78 good predictions and 55 bad predictions.
SD - King Dunlap returned to lineup but couldn't finish.
Dunlap had been battling an ankle injury and returned to the lineup but did not actually finish the game. This situation has lingered all season and it's getting to the point where he might be better off on injured reserve. In other news D.J. Fluker remains questionable with a concussion.
NYG - Ereck Flowers aggrevated his ankle against Miami.
Flowers had been battling an ankle injury and tried to play through it. But similar to Dunlap, Flowers hurt himself during the contest and had to leave the game. Justin Pugh took his place and Flowers is questionable for this week's game against Carolina.
PHI - Jason Peters left with ankle injury but returned to contest.
It was another heroic effort by the All-Pro left tackle, who has been playing in pain all season.
BAL - Eugene Monroe to IR, Kelechi Osemele to LT
Left tackle Eugene Monroe (who has not played for several weeks) was placed on the injured reserve list. Kelechi Osemele took his place at left tackle and Ryan Jensen took Osemele's guard spot. As this has been (generally) the lineup for several weeks, there is no change to the Ravens' rankings
As usual, if you have a question about a team not specifically talked about in this article, please feel free to contact me via twitter or in the Shark Pool.
Week 15 Offensive Line Rankings
|3||OAK||8||5||30.78||A||A||A-||Hudson returned to lineup.|
|4||GB||12||8||30.6||A||A||A-||Bulaga, Lindsey return.|
|10||BAL||9||-1||29.78||B||B+||B-||Osemele to LT.|
|MID TIER||12||SEA||27||15||29.15||B||B+||B-||Entire line is playing well.|
|15||TB||20||5||29.03||B-||B||B-||Cherilus returned to lineup.|
|21||BUF||11||-10||28.15||C||C+||C||Henderson to IR?|
|LOW TIER||22||IND||32||10||28.1||C||C-||C||Castonzo returns to lineup.|
|24||SF||23||-1||27.73||C-||C||C||Boone injured, to IR?|
|27||DET||18||-9||27.48||C-||C||C-||Line fell apart vs STL.|
|28||DEN||22||-6||27.23||C-||C||D+||5 sacks allowed vs OAK.|
Week 15 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|5||New York (A)|
|26||New York (N)|