NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara selects offensive line units to watch heading into the week, breaking down what's on the line for each group, potential matchups and other significant factors. Following each week's games, O'Hara will select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week.
Carson Palmer might still be a little bruised and banged-up after the Vikings' defense dominated the Cardinals' offensive line last week, sacking Palmer four times for a loss of 43 yards. On top of that, he was hit 15 times and the Vikings had 30 quarterback disruptions (QB hits, sacks and hurries combined), according to Pro Football Focus. Palmer has had a tough year, as he's been sacked 30 times -- as opposed to 25 times all of last season. While some people may think sacks are a meaningless stat, 27 of those 30 sacks have come in Arizona's six losses.
The Cardinals' offensive line has really struggled since left tackle Jared Veldheer went down in Arizona's Week 8 loss to the Panthers. (He was placed on IR the next day with a torn triceps.) Since then, John Wetzel has come in at left tackle, and he'll have his hands full this week with Vic Beasley (9.5 sacks and 10 QB hits this season). Earl Watford is in at right guard for the injured Evan Mathis and has struggled. Watford has allowed six sacks and 24 QB disruptions. After not seeing the field in his rookie season, tackle D.J. Humphries is in his first year of real action and has given up nine sacks and 37 QB disruptions. Mike Iupati was injured in last week's contest, but hopefully the reliable guard gets back on the field Sunday.
The Broncos are coming off a bye week after stealing a big road win against New Orleans in thrilling fashion. This week, the Chiefs aren't going to make it easy on Denver, as they lead the NFL in takeaways with 23. The Broncos have won 23 straight games when they don't have a giveaway, so the turnover battle will be a key component in this division game. Quarterback Trevor Siemian has been nursing a shoulder injury and has had to carry this offense since C.J. Anderson went down. Rookie Devontae Booker has stepped in as the starter, but is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry. When the offense isn't running the ball well, there's a lot of pressure on the pass protection.
Tackles Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung have struggled this season. Stephenson, who is PFF's lowest-graded right tackle, has given up 24 pressures and had four penalties, while Okung has allowed 38 pressures and committed seven penalties. The question mark in this game is Dee Ford, who suffered a hamstring injury last week, but he's having a breakout season with 10 sacks (tied for the league lead) and 38 pressures. Kansas City also has back game-wrecker Justin Houston. In the Thanksgiving spirit, the two pass rushers will be looking to feast on Denver's tackles (if Ford does indeed play).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Second-year quarterback Jameis Winston continues to rise above some poor O-line play. But this week, he's facing the Seahawks' No. 1 scoring defense, which could be without Earl Thomas (hamstring) and Deshawn Shead (hamstring). Winston has been excellent since Week 5, as the Buccaneers have a plus-10 turnover differential since then (tied for best in the NFL). However, running back Doug Martin is having the worst rushing performance of his career, averaging 2.8 yards per carry. That number is also the worst in the league among all players with at least 50 carries this season.
Left tackle Donovan Smith has struggled in pass protection and given up 11 QB hits and 33 hurries. He and right tackle Demar Dotson will have the challenge of trying to block the dynamic duo of Frank Clark and Cliff Avril. Clark has 7.5 sacks and 37 QB disruptions, while Avril is tied for the league lead in sacks with 10 and has 48 QB disruptions. It could be a long day for the Bucs' O-line, which also includes guards Kevin Pamphile and Ali Marpet and center Joe Hawley.
New England Patriots
While the Jets' defense has given up a ton of big plays in the passing game, it is still a tough task for any offensive line in one-on-one pass blocking. The Jets are stout against the run (fourth in the league) and they blitz on passing downs more than any team in the NFL (37.3 percent of the time). On the other side of the ball this week, though, is Tom Brady. The Patriots veteran has a 124 passer rating against the blitz because he gets the ball out quickly. Since Brady's return in Week 5, the Patriots boast the No. 1 scoring offense (31.7 points per game) and have the second-best third-down rate, converting 48.5 percent of the time. This is huge for offensive linemen, as they can keep defenses on the field and wear them down.
Patriots tackles Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon have allowed a combined seven sacks and 41 QB disruptions this season. The Jets love to bring pressure off the edge, so the tackles will have their hands full with the pass rush, as will rookie guard Joe Thuney. The Jets mix up their pass rushers more than any other team, so Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams will be tough to contain. Williams has six sacks and 31 disruptions, while Richardson has a pair of sacks and 30 disruptions.