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.
The Lions' entire season comes down to the final regular-season game -- like it should -- and they have the most to lose of any team. Detroit could earn a first-round bye with the NFC's No. 2 seed or miss the playoffs entirely. If the Lions beat Green Bay, they will win the division for the first time since 1993. If they lose, the Packers will take the North and become the first franchise in NFL history to win 100 games (including playoffs) vs. a single opponent. With all of this to think about, the Lions should like the fact that they get this Week 17 divisional game at home.
There's a lot of pressure on the Lions' offensive line after a not-so-great performance against a Cowboys team that doesn't have a premier pass rush. Detroit gave up four sacks -- two from Graham Glasgow, while Taylor Decker and Riley Reiff gave up one apiece -- and five hurries Monday night. Decker specifically is looking to redeem himself from his Week 3 performance against Green Bay, when he surrendered two sacks and five hurries.
The Packers' defense has had one sack in every game this season and has stepped up during their win streak with 14 takeaways in the last five games. A week ago, Green Bay sacked Sam Bradford five times -- Nick Perry had two and Clay Matthews and Mike Daniels each recorded one. Perry will be looking to build off his performance earlier in the season against the Lions, one that saw him sack Matthew Stafford twice and add three hurries.
The Falcons are another team with a playoff picture that could change radically, as they could either secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC or drop to No. 4. They face a tough challenge with Drew Brees and the Saints' No. 2-ranked scoring offense. And while Sean Payton's defense doesn't look that alarming on paper, Cameron Jordan has been terrorizing quarterbacks this season. He is tied for fourth in the NFL in QB hits with 23 and tied at the top in tackles for loss with 17. Pro Football Focus has Jordan graded as the best 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, notching 79 QB disruptions (QB hits, sacks and hurries combined). Jordan moves inside and out and will be a good test for tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. Falcons left guard Andy Levitre is looking to avenge his rough game against the Saints in Week 3, when he gave up two sacks.
This offensive line has provided solid pass protection for MVP candidateMatt Ryan. He leads the NFL in passer rating (115.5) and is on pace for the fourth-highest passer rating in a season in NFL history. All others in the top five won the NFL MVP award that season (Aaron Rodgers, 2011; Peyton Manning, 2004 and 2013; and Tom Brady, 2007). In the run game, the O-line has blocked for one of the most prolific backfields this season. One of the featured backs is Devonta Freeman, who needs 17 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season.
New York Giants
With a playoff spot already clinched, the Giants are trying to spoil Washington's chances to sneak into the tournament. Anytime you can eliminate a division opponent, you want to capitalize, because you don't want to run into them in the postseason. To do so, the Giants must get superb play from tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. Against the Redskinsin Week 3, Flowers gave up two hurries and Hart surrendered a sack, QB hit and a pair of hurries. Trying to get by them will be linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. Kerrigan has 11 sacks and 19 QB hits on the season, while Murphy has eight sacks and is tied for the fourth-most QB hits in the league with 23.
The Giants have the NFL's third-worst offense since Week 7 in yards per game, ahead of only Cleveland and Los Angeles. The offensive line must protect a struggling Eli Manning, who has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6:6 since Week 13. The Giants are 4-0 this season when Manning hasn't recorded a giveaway, so giving him time in the pocket will be key in this tilt.
We all feel awful for Derek Carr and the Raiders, but this is no time for a pity party. Matt McGloin must lead this team to a victory over Denver to lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, and he needs another solid performance from the offensive line to do it. The O-line has been great all season and only allowed 16 sacks -- a costly one occurred last week, though, resulting in Carr's season-ending injury. The group has also been a good run-blocking unit, as the Raiders boast the fifth-best rushing attack in the league. This team must lean on the run game going forward with McGloin taking the reins.
The Broncos just put DeMarcus Ware on injured reserve, so Shane Ray, who has seven sacks this season, will get the start opposite Von Miller. Miller, the Super Bowl 50 MVP who sacked Carr in Week 9, is going to be hungry after not getting to the quarterback at all in the last three weeks. Tackle Austin Howard gave up one sack, one QB hit and two hurries to Denver last time out, so there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform well this weekend.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs' offensive line went off last week and helped the team gain more than 200 rushing yards against the Broncos. They'll have to muster up another dominant effort in San Diego and hope Denver takes care of Oakland if the Chiefs want to take the No. 2 seed. Andy Reid's offense has relied on running back Spencer Ware(who's battling an injury), rookie Tyreek Hill and a passing attack that features Alex Smith's consistency and Travis Kelce's play-making ability. Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz and the offensive line must protect Smith, with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and the Chargers' pass rush on the opposite side. Bosa has 9.5 sacks in 11 games, while Ingram has eight on the season.