New England up 3
The theme of Week 14 is the tackle eligible, also known as the "extra tight end." This strategy is an obvious recent trend in the league, particularly among top-rated lines like Dallas and the LA Rams. New England is the most effective example of the six-lineman look. Last week's road win was played in ugly weather, 30 mph plus wind gusts, and the Patriots' offensive line chose to overwhelm the Buffalo defensive front seven, who knew it was coming and couldn't stop it. The offense ran 46 times for 222 yards total, with Damien Harris averaging 7.6 yards per attempt. New England is on a bye week, but they check in at five overall in the rankings after their Monday Night Football win.
Jacksonville up 3
Center Brandon Linder started against Atlanta in Week 12 and played 100% of snaps. Linder started again last week at the LA Rams but he injured his back and only played 44% of snaps. Linder is not practicing, but veterans like him and Andrew Norwell often get days off at this point in the season. At the right guard spot, Ben Bartch (back - limited in practice) and Will Richardson ended up splitting reps 1:1 last week against LA Rams. Assuming Linder can rehab in time for the divisional matchup at Tennessee it all adds up to twelfth overall in the latest ranks.
New Orleans up 17
Left tackle Terron Armstead (knee, shoulder) missed last week's Thursday Night Football loss, but he has returned to practice this week. Assuming Armstead re-takes his spot, reliable swing tackle James Hurst could move to right tackle in place of Ryan Ramczyk (knee - not in ranks). This would allow the coaches to hide Jordan Mills on the bench. With or without their best starters, the Saints' offensive line ranks fourteenth this week. They have a choice matchup against a struggling NY Jets' defense.
Tennessee up 5
Given the bye week to recover, starting right guard Nate Davis has emerged from the league's concussion protocol and has been practicing in full this week. Davis has been in the protocol twice in the last month, and the Titans' coaching staff has turned to Aaron Brewer on both occasions. Brewer is improving and might play his way into the starting job in the future. But the model gives a slight edge to Davis and his experience with the other starters. The Titans' offensive line grades 17th before facing a vulnerable Jacksonville defensive front.
Minnesota up 8
The coaches made an unexpected but positive lineup change last week prior to the close loss against Detroit: Oli Udoh moved from right guard to left tackle, allowing the coaches to keep Rashod Hill in the swing role, and more importantly get their best five players on the field. Udoh's versatility lets the coaches get both Mason Cole and Garrett Bradbury in the lineup. Bradbury had been a healthy scratch in recent weeks but the organization will give this former first-round pick every chance to succeed. Udoh and the new lineup will be tested by a very talented Pittsburgh pass rush, but the model says it's an upgrade, from the depths of the rankings to a respectable 19th overall.
Cincinnati up 9
Center Trey Hopkins missed the loss against LA Chargers as did right tackle Reily Reiff, both with ankle injuries. In their places, Trey Hill started at center, Isaiah Prince started at right tackle, and both struggled mightily against a mediocre Chargers' defensive front. The good news this week is that both of the usual starters were working in practice in a limited fashion. Coaches have termed Reiff "more limited" than Hopkins, but both are officially "day-to-day" and should be in the lineup this weekend against San Francisco. Assuming these key players return to the lineup, the Bengals' offensive line grade 20th in the latest rankings.
Baltimore down 7
Right tackle Patrick Mekari injured his hand during the one-point loss at Pittsburgh last week. Coaches have said he will be "out for a while." Tyre Phillips took over for Mekari during the contest and could keep the starting job for the next few weeks. The front office never intended for Patrick Mekari to become such a key player to the offense, but the injury to Ronnie Stanley forced Alejandro Villanueva to left tackle. Right tackle has become a problem spot for this offense, and as Phillips is more of a natural guard, it doesn't appear one that will get fixed until the offseason. Baltimore falls to 21st before their divisional road game against an elite Cleveland pass rush.
Seattle down 4
Guard/center Kyle Fuller started last week's rivalry win against San Francisco at left guard for Damien Lewis but he was forced from the game with a calf injury early and has not practiced this week. Jake Curhan took over for Fuller, but Damien Lewis has returned to practice with a full designation (elbow - in ranks). The issue is at right tackle where Brandon Shell has been knocked out of the last two games with a shoulder injury. Shell's play has visibly declined with the injury and either Jake Curhan or Stone Forsythe could get the start against Houston. The Seattle offense is trending upward in general, and this week's matchup is certainly a good one, but the offense simply looks better with Shell than without him.
Atlanta down 3
Left guard Jalen Mayfield has struggled in pass protection all season. This is not uncommon for rookies, especially ones adjusting to a new position. However last week's 2 sacks allowed performance against Tampa Bay was disheartening to watch. His poor play results in a rare, mid-season individual grade adjustment. Center Drew Dalman was also leaky in pass protection, and the coaches benched him at halftime for Matt Hennessy. Both Mayfield and Dalman are decent to good in run blocking, but both have been targeted by opposing defensive coordinators. Look for the blitzes up the middle to continue this week when the 25th ranked Falcons face a rugged Carolina defensive front.
NY Jets down 4
Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff was forced from last week's loss against Philadelphia with an ankle injury. Greg Van Roten replaced Duvernay-Tardif in the third quarter and the offense didn't score another point. Correlation isn't causation but without the Canadian doctor in the lineup, the right guard position goes from decent to problematic. The Jets rank 30th but they do have a somewhat decent matchup facing a New Orleans' defensive front that will be without their best player in Cameron Jordan.
Also note: IND, MIA, NEP, PHI are all on a BYE WEEK
CAR - Another shuffle in Carolina is likely as both guards Michael Jordan (hamstring) and John Miller (ankle) seem unlikely to start this week against ATL. Options include LT Cam Erving designated to return from IR, Deonte Brown, finally healthy again, and Brady Christensen, who has proven to be a versatile sub.
DAL - RT Terence Steele was activated off the Covid list. Look for the Cowboys to use either Steele or La'el Collins extensively this week as an extra lineman against a tough WFT defensive front.
DET - RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai did not practice (illness) but he is included in this week's ranks.
IND - C Danny Pinter played 100% of snaps last week for C Ryan Kelly, who was a late add to the Covid list. Kelly is included in the rankings, but only because IND is on a BYE.
HOU - RG Justin McCray practiced in full after emerging from the league's concussion protocol. C Justin Britt (knee - not in ranks) still is not practicing.
LAR - C Coleman Shelton replaced C Brian Allen (day-to-day, knee sprain, still in ranks). Shelton was good in pass pro, mixed in run blocking. LG David Edwards missed eight snaps total (Bobby Evans replaced) but was able to return to the game. The Rams used Joe Noteboom very effectively as an extra lineman last week, and Noteboom keeps increasing his total reps.
PIT - LG B.J. Finney injured his back early in the win over BAL and is not practicing this week. John LeGlue (undrafted from Tulane) replaced Finney and played extremely well. If LeGlue's hot play continues, look for an upgrade next week.
WFT - Backup C Tyler Larsen (knee - not in ranks) has returned to practice in a limited fashion. Fourth string center Keith Ismael held up well last week as the offense produced 190 total rushing yards at LVR. In other-other news, rookie RT Sam Cosmi was placed on season-ending IR with a hip injury, leaving Cornelius Lucas to start the rest of the way.
|5||New England||3||32.4||A||A+||A-||5.0||Michael Onwenu 6th man upgrade. BYE WEEK.|
|12||Jacksonville||3||31.1||B+||A-||B||4.8||Assuming C Brandon Linder (back - in ranks) is able to play this week.|
|14||New Orleans||17||31.0||B+||A-||B||4.8||LT Terron Armstead (knee, shoulder - in ranks) returns to lineup and James Hurst to RT for Ryan Ramcyzk (knee - not in ranks).|
|15||Washington||1||30.8||B||B-||B+||4.8||C Tyler Larsen (knee - not in ranks) likely out, Keith Ismael replaced.|
|16||Detroit||-3||30.7||B||B-||B+||5.0||Assuming RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai (illness - in ranks) is able to play this week.|
|17||Tennessee||5||30.3||B-||B||C+||5.0||RG Nate Davis (concussion - in ranks) returns to lineup.|
|19||Minnesota||8||30.2||B-||B-||B-||5.0||Oli Udoh to LT for Christian Darrisaw (ankle - not in ranks)|
|20||Cincinnati||9||30.2||B-||B||C+||5.0||Assuming C Trey Hopkins (ankle - in ranks) and RT Riley Reiff (ankle - in ranks) return to lineup.|
|21||Baltimore||-7||30.1||B-||B||C+||5.0||RT Patrick Mekari (hand - not in ranks), Tyre Phillips to replace.|
|25||Atlanta||-8||29.7||C+||C||B-||5.0||Left guard Jalen Mayfield downgrade.|
|30||NY Jets||-4||29.3||C+||B-||C||5.0||RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (ankle - not in ranks), Greg Van Roten replaced.|