From pass protection to run blocking, every aspect of the modern NFL offence runs through the O-line. Aside from skill position players themselves, nothing has a larger impact on the outcome of a play call than the battle up front. In the Offensive Line Overview series, we look at which of the league's 32 offensive lines are trending up and down.
Without further ado, let's check in on the state of the NFL's trenches heading into Week 8.
Kansas City Chiefs
Despite guard Andrew Wylie making his NFL debut and Jordan Devey suiting up at center for the first time this season, Kansas City stalwartly defended against a Bengals' pass rush which had proven effective every other week of the season. The Chiefs lost Devey to injured reserve due to a pectoral injury – which he somehow played through during the Bengals game. Starting center Mitch Morse appears to be progressing in his recovery from a concussion sustained during the team's Week 6 loss to the Patriots, and should be closing in on a return to the field. If Morse isn't ready to go against the Broncos in Week 8, Jeff Allen or Cam Erving are the likeliest candidates to fill in at center. While normalcy should soon return to Kansas City's O-line, the fact that the team was able to persevere so admirably against Cincinnati despite a lack of continuity should not be overlooked. It's often said that offensive line units require time and patience to play as a cohesive whole, but that trend of thought didn't deter Kansas City for a moment. The Chiefs' put up 551 yards of offense last week, and QB Patrick Mahomes was sacked only twice. A large part of that reason for that performance is the reliability of RT Mitchell Schwartz, who continues what is likely to prove an All-Pro 2018 campaign. Schwartz makes better use of his hands than almost any other player at the position, and forced defenders to take retreat a pace for every step forward. The Chiefs' O-line will face off against a Denver rushing attack led by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb for the second time this season, but every indication tells that this unit will rise to the task.
What to Watch: Everything. Denver's defense ranks 22nd in yards per game and 13th in points per game, and is in no way formidable enough to warrant concern for any Chiefs starter. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce are all fantasy must-starts in Week 8, and Sammy Watkins warrants flex consideration.
It's understandable that Seattle's offensive line was largely written off to begin the season. The O-line had sunk the team during the previous two campaigns and got off to a truly rough start – the Seahawks had done nothing to earn analysts' trust when it came to blocking up front. But as we approach the midway point of the regular season, things seem a bit different. The offensive line has paved the way for Seattle to average 157 rushing yards per game through the last four weeks, and has allowed only 13 quarterback pressures throughout 106 pass-blocking snaps from Weeks 3-6 per Pro Football Focus. Tackles Germain Ifedi and Duane Brown have stood out in particular, having elevated their play to career-best levels – which is especially notable for Ifeidi, a former first-round pick whose performance drew deservedly heavy scrutiny in 2017. Coming off a bye week, Seattle's offense looks likely to storm out of the gate against Detroit.
What to Watch: Dual-threat quarterback will benefit from solid pass blocking, a reliable running game and a mostly-healthy Doug Baldwin all in tandem for the first time this season. Wilson has had a down year in fantasy so far, but appears primed to begin a bounceback campaign.
Andrew Luck slung four passing touchdowns and logged a season-high 131.5 passer rating during Indianapolis' win over the Bills, during which time he was pressured only three times. The larger story of the day, however, had to do with an offensive line that paved the way for the Colts' running game to take off for the first time all season with 220 total rushing yards – the most the team has recorded in 10 years. Marlon Mack finished with 126 yards and a rushing touchdown, and also nabbed a TD through the air. A big part Mack's success came due to elevated play from center Ryan Kelly and LG Quenton Nelson, who reliably paired up to force gaping holes up the middle of Buffalo's defensive line. RG Mark Glowinski logged his best showing of the season by a strong margin, and covered admirably for mistakes made by Branden Smith who filled in at RT. Indianapolis' O-line was of major assistance to Mack in his breakout game, allowing a league-leading 114 yards before contact to Per Pro Football Focus. If the team's offensive front can log another strong performance against Oakland's defensive front this week, it could be indicative of a more balanced – and higher scoring – Indianapolis offense to come.
What to Watch: Mack is firmly entrenched as Indianapolis' lead back and has looked the part, but did not practice Thursday and is questionable for Sunday's game against the Raiders. If Mack doesn't suit up, Indianapolis' run game could be an area to avoid in the fantasy realm – it seems likely that a three-man committee of Nyheim Hines, Robert Turbin and Jordan Wilkins share snaps without a clear leader.
In a season thus far defined by turbulence – with changes having been made at the starting quarterback position, the offensive coordinator having been fired and veteran players reportedly seeking trades – one constant has remained during each one of Arizona's games: poor offensive line play. The team's offensive line has been consistently ranked among the league's worst all season, and it became all the more obvious during last week's Thursday night blowout against Denver. The Broncos' pass rush, led by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, posted an astounding six sacks, six hits and six pressures on rookie quarterback Josh Rosen – leading to Rosen's 1:3 TD-to-INT ratio, 44.2 passer rating, three fumbles and sprained toe. Unsurprisingly, the offense's miserable performance also ushered in another quiet night for running back David Johnson, who compiled 70 total yards without a score. Back in 2016, Johnson led the conversation for most valuable fantasy asset along with Le'Veon Bell – but his performance behind this year's disastrous O-line has been remarkably pedestrian. The offensive front is a clear pitfall for the Cardinals without any solution in sight, but newly-promoted offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will certainly attempt to scheme his way to some sort of improvement. It's also worth noting that with Mike Iupate (back) and Justin Pugh (back) both questionable for Sunday's game against the 49ers, veteran guard Oday Aboushi has a legitimate chance of taking snaps. Aboushi signed with the team on Tuesday.
What to Watch: Larry Fitzgerald has been a fantasy stud for over a decade now, but the future Hall of Famer's talent is unable to surpass the disastrous offensive situation surrounding him. Though Fitzgerald logged his first game with at least 10 fantasy points in standard leagues last weeks, he still doesn't warrant more than flex consideration in most formats.
The Falcons saved their season hopes with Monday's win over the Giants, but lost RG Brandon Fusco to an ankle injury in the process. Both of Atlanta's starting guards now rest on injured reserve, and the team made two quick moves to attempt to address the situation this week: tackle Austin Pasztor and guard Rees Odhiambo were both signed to the 53-man roster, and will at least provide the team with some much-needed depth on the O-line. It's too early to tell how significant Fusco's absence will affect Atlanta's offensive front, but it seems likely that the team's already-existing issues will be forced into the limelight. The running game has yet to take off in Devonta Freeman's (knee) absence, and quarterback Matt Ryan – quietly a top three fantasy QB – has already been sacked 20 times this season. Compare that to the 24 sacks Ryan sustained during the entire 2017 season. The Falcons still have the weapons to achieve fantasy success, but the team could realistically need to chalk the O-line down as a problem for the remainder of the season.
What to Watch: The Falcons' running game has missed Devonta Freeman, who was placed on IR as a candidate to return, and is unlikely to forget his loss if the offensive unit's run-blocking gets any worse – neither Tevin Coleman or Ito Smith are averaging 4.0 YPC on the season, and are in line to face a slew tough matchups in a row in the Redskins, Browns and Cowboys after the team returns from its bye.