NFL Network analyst and former NFL offensive lineman 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.
One of the biggest trades in the NFL in the last decade (maybe even history) sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota, and now he returns to the City of Brotherly Love to face his most recent former team. Call it the ex-girlfriend game. His team is undefeated and well rested, but the story will surely revolve around the new kid on the block Carson Wentz. The high flying Eagles came back down to Earth after suffering their second straight defeat but more significant, they failed to reach the end zone for the first time this season and registered season lows in every offensive category.
Questions are aplenty when looking at the matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, who boast the No. 1 scoring defense (12.6 points per game) and the NFL's best turnover differential -- both comparable to the 1985 Bears in the first quarter of the season. While Philly leads the NFL in time of possession, the Vikings have the fourth-best run defense. Staying on the field will be a challenge for the Eagles' offense.
The biggest question is can the Eagles' offensive line protect Wentz? It's something the group struggled to do last week in Washington when he was sacked five times -- only three attributed to OL). Vikings are tied for third in sacks (19) and are one of only two teams to have three or more players with at least four sacks (Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter). Pressure will be on rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who is making his second start at right tackle for the suspended Lane Johnson, as he gave up a pair of sacks last week and one QB hit.
New York Giants
The Giants played in the first-ever London series in 2007 at Wembley Stadium (for the record, it was the most tired I have ever been before a football game), and they will make history, along with the Rams, as they play the first-ever NFL gameat Twickenham Stadium. The Giants are coming off a drama-filled victory at home against Baltimore, but the same turnover theme continues to haunt them. They have the second-worst turnover differential in the NFL (-10). The offense is also struggling to score points this year, especially in the red zone, where it is 1-for-11 since Week 2. Couple that with a 30th-ranked rushing offense (had only 38 yards on the ground last week) and you are looking at a pass-happy, one-dimensional offense. The Giants run the ball just 34 percent of the time -- 29th in the league. It's one-on-one pass rush drill all day long.
While the Rams' defense is struggling to get off the field on third down (43 percent, 26th in the league), it is very physical and led by Aaron Donald. He leads the NFL in QB hits (15) and is tied for lead with eight tackles for loss. Robert Quinn has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury but the Ramsare optimistic he can return Sunday. The matchup to watch is left guard Justin Pugh, the highest-graded LG by Pro Football Focus, vs. Aaron Donald, the highest-graded interior defensive lineman.
New York Jets
This is the Groupon Game, buy one get one free! Both O-lines will be under the microscope for different reasons. Let's start with the Jets, one of the most disappointing teams to date this season on both sides of the ball. The Fitzmagic is over and the Jets are going back to Geno Smith, which is most definitely to encourage some extra blitzes by Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees to test him and the offensive line. Geno takes over an offense that is dead last in scoring, which goes hand in hand with its red zone struggles (also worst in the league).
Losing Eric Decker(shoulder) puts more pressure on the rest of this offense, as well. Last week, the Jets were held to 33 rushing yards and the tackles (Ryan Clady and Ben Ijalana) struggled against Arizona's edge rushers, giving up a sack and 11 hurries. If they want Geno to succeed, they are going to need to run the ball better and find a way to help the offensive line out in protection. One thing in New York's favor, though, is Baltimore could be without Terrell Suggs this week, as he suffered a bicep injury.
The second part to this matchup highlights a banged up Ravens' O-line that saw three backups step in. Rookie Alex Lewis, John Urschel and Ryan Jensen filled in admirably last week, but ultimately could not punch the ball in from the 1-yard line on three consecutive runs. There is a chance that first-round pick Ronnie Stanleycould return at left tackle, but it looks like the Ravens will again be without Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda. Despite firing their Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman a week ago and replacing him with Marty Mornhinweg, they still throw the ball more than any team in the league (265 attempts) but rank last in yards per pass attempt (6). Not an ideal situation for a banged up O-line trying to protect a banged up QB, as Joe Flacco is nursing a sore right shoulder. The one-on-one match ups heavily favor the Jets' defensive line.
The return of Brock Osweiler has already impromted statementsby Denver's defensive players. It doesn't matter if they like Brock or not, when the D-line gets a chance to actually hit someone they have only been allowed to tag off on during practice for years, they get fired up. Things haven't looked great for Brock and the Texans, as they have struggled to score points (third-worst scoring offense), and he is the only player to throw an INT in every game this season.
Things won't get any easier against a Denver defense that, as he knows all too well, can get after the QB. (He has a Super Bowl ring because of it). The Broncos lead the NFL in both sacks (21) and QB hits (57), while Houston is hoping to get guard Jeff Allen and tackle Derek Newtonback on the field.
The Broncos' O-line struggled last Thursday against the San Diego Chargers, and with the extra rest, are hoping to bounce back from an awful performance by the tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson. The Chargers registered a sack, four quarterback hits and 18 hurries to hand the Broncos their second loss in five days. While they don't have to deal with J.J. Watt, the Texans' defense leads the NFL in forcing three-and-outs with Whitney Mercilus (4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits) providing pressure and Jadeveon Clowney leading the NFL with eight tackles for loss to go along with as many QB hits. The matchup inside to watch is center Matt Paradis trying to move mammoth NT Vince Wilfork. "Monday Night Football" is gonna be fun to watch this week!