As the season winds down, there are only two regular season games remaining. The year is almost through but there's still a bunch of offensive line news to cover. Let's get after it:
New Orleans plus 8.
Despite struggling with penalties in their loss Monday Night against the Lions, the Saints' line gets an upgrade due to the return of Jahri Evans. The most experienced lineman on the team is no longer playing at a Pro Bowl level, but he is better than those who replaced him while he was injured, specifically Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete. With their regular right guard guard back in the lineup, the Saints' line grades out at 11th overall, just inside the cusp of top-tier status.
San Diego plus 5.
Good news for Chargers' fans as right guard D.J. Fluker appears to have shaken off his multiple concussions and rejoined the lineup for the win over the Dolphins. Fluker is the Chargers' best offensive lineman and was matched up against Ndamukong Suh for the entire game. Fluker had a great performance, including a pancake. Fluker was able to push the pile and he was also a big part of their success in the running attack last week. There's still no sign of left tackle King Dunlap, who missed his seventh consecutive game. Still, with Fluker back in the lineup, the Chargers' ranking rises to 20th overall, a mid-tier unit. As with most Chargers' related news this year, it makes one wonder how good this team could have been if key players had stayed healthy.
OAKLAND minus 3.
Right tackle Austin Howard was placed on the injured reserve list due to a knee injury. In his place J'Marcus Webb moved over from guard and rookie Jon Feliciano saw the first start of his career in the home loss against the Green Bay Packers. A fourth round pick this year, Feliciano is (hopefully) in the team's long term plans at guard and the coaching staff was impressed with his performance. However late in the game Feliciano was pulled for Khalif Barnes, as Feliciano has shortcomings in pass protection and the Raiders were down, throwing every play. In light of the recent uncertainty, the Raiders' line drops 3 spots to 6th overall, still a top-tier unit.
Seattle minus 12.
After a big upgrade in last week's article, the Seahawks' line got some bad news with an injury to their best player, left tackle Russell Okung. Okung sprained his calf in the third quarter of last week's win over Cleveland, and the head coach said that he "could miss some time." With only two weeks left in the regular season, and a playoff berth already locked in, look for the team to rest this player until the playoffs begin. Alvin Bailey steps in for Okung. Bailey is slightly better than replacement level, and he had been seeing playing time as an eligible sixth lineman in jumbo sets. Still, without their left tackle, the Seahawks' line drops to 24th overall, a low-tier option.
Miami minus 16.
Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey was placed on injured reserve this week, with a foot injury. Pouncey had missed several contests with this injury but it was determined that he could not recover without surgery. The move puts rookie Jamil Douglas at center, where he has been unsteady in relief of Pouncey. The team resigned Jacques McClendon, and he could also be an option at the pivot. In other news left tackle Branden Albert injuryed his knee but is expected to play this week. Overall the Dolphins' line takes a huge hit after losing their best player for the season. Without Pouncey, the Dolphins fall to 30th overall, firmly in the low-tier of the rankings.
Week 16's Match-ups of Note
- 3rd GB O-Line @ 28th AZ defensive front seven (+25).
- 6th OAK O-Line vs. 31st SD defensive front seven (+25).
- 13th JAX O-Line @ 32nd NO defensive front seven (+19).
- 14th TB O-Line vs. 30th CHI defensive front seven (+16).
- 12th CAR O-Line @ 27th ATL defensive front seven (+15).
- 7th HOU O-Line @ 22nd TEN defensive front seven (+15).
- 32nd STL O-Line @ 1st SEA defensive front seven (-31).*
- 27th NE O-Line @ 5th NYJ defensive front seven (-22)
- 28th NYG O-Line @ 9th MIN defensive front seven (-19).
- 31st DEN O-Line vs. 17th CIN defensive front seven (-14).
- 21st IND O-Line @ 8th MIA defensive front seven (-13).
- 23rd SF O-Line @ 11th DET defensive front seven (-12).
* It finally happened, the league's worst offensive line STL is going to the league's best defensive front seven in SEA. Buyer beware.
A look back on Week 15's Match-ups of Note:
The match-ups went 7-5 last week, bringing the total on the year to 85 good predictions and 60 bad ones.
CLE - RG John Greco on IR with knee injury.
Cam Erving to replace. There was a small drop in the rankings but not enough to change their slot (if it was a tackle or center that would have caused a re-rank).
CHI - RT Kyle Long struggling in pass protection.
Although coaches are "staying patient" with Long, who was a guard prior to this season, it has become an issue. Again it's not enough to move them down in the rankings, but players should be aware.
BUF - RT Henderson placed on NFI list.
Seantrel Henderson (who has missed several games) was placed on the Non-football injury list with Crohn's Disease. Jordan Mills has taken his place for several games and will likely see out the season.
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 16 Offensive Line Rankings
|6||OAK||3||-3||30.28||B+||B||B+||RT Howard to IR.|
|11||NO||19||8||29.65||B||B||B-||RG Evans returned to lineup.|
|17||CHI||16||-1||28.4||C+||C||C+||RT Long struggling in pass pro.|
|20||SD||25||5||28.15||C||C||C+||RG Fluker returned to lineup.|
|24||SEA||12||-12||27.65||C-||C||C-||LT Okung out, Bailey to replace.|
|30||MIA||14||-16||26.8||D||D||D||Pouncey IR, Douglas to replace.|
|31||DEN||28||-3||26.73||D||C||D-||Tackles struggling in pass pro.|
Week 16 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|5||New York (A)|
|8||Miami||Misi to IR.|
|26||New York (N)|