In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the Week 7 winner is ...
Welcome to the jungle! The Bengals finally found their run game, having a dominant performance against a Browns defense that has struggled this season -- ranking 31st in total defense and against the run. Cincy racked up the second-most total yards (559) and rushing yards (271) by any team in a single game this season. The offensive line -- starters Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Russell Bodine, Kevin Zeitler and Cedric Ogbuehi, along with subs Eric Winston and Jake Fisher -- controlled the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game. The Bengals' performance did have one negative: three sacks, with the O-line responsible for two of them. Normally, this would knock them out of contention for this award, but the O-line finished the game with no penalties and no other QB hits allowed.
This group led a ground attack that featured a huge performance by Jeremy Hill. He had 168 yards on just nine carries for a whopping 18.7 yards per carry. It was his first 100-yard game since Week 17 of the 2014 season. Hill's 74-yard touchdown run was a ballet of hippos, as he followed his pulling blockers through the hole and into the open field. Giovani Bernard also chipped in with 17 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Pro Football Focus had Cincinnati ranked as this week's top-ranked run-blocking unit, while the sacks knocked them down to the 16th-graded pass-blocking group in Week 7. Regardless, quarterback Andy Dalton still had 308 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns -- one of which was a Hail Mary hauled in by the juggling machine, A.J. Green -- finishing with his highest passer rating (128.3) this season.
Other notable O-line units in Week 7
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins put on another running clinic, as Jay Ajayi accomplished something only three other players in NFL history have done. He joined Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson and Ricky Williams after recording back-to-back 200-yard rushing games. Ajayi finished Sunday with 214 yards on 28 carries (a 7.6-yard average). When you accomplish something historic like that, every O-lineman takes full pride in the feat.
The O-line took control of the game against Buffalo on the opening possession, as Miami marched 64 yards on 15 plays and chewed up 7:32 before settling for a field goal. The Fins tallied 454 yards of total offense against a Bills defense that was ranked 12th overall, fifth on third down and first in red-zone defense. The protection was consistent, as well: Ryan Tannehill was only sacked once and barely touched otherwise -- pretty impressive against a defense that was second in the league in sacks (21) heading into the game. So what prevented the Dolphins from being this week's winner? The O-line had six penalties -- five holding penalties and one false start.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs' offensive line has had its struggles this season -- particularly on the left side -- but the unit put together a monster day on the ground against a struggling 49ers defense. Tampa Bay produced 513 yards of total offense, plowing through the worst rushing defense in the league for 249 yards on the ground. Jacquizz Rodgers enjoyed a career day, with 154 yards on 26 carries (5.9 a pop), while Jameis Winston threw for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. Winston was sacked twice, but neither was on the OL -- and the unit only allowed one QB hit, to boot. Joe Hawley, Ali Marpet and Demar Dotson all had very solid games and continue to anchor the unit.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos hosted their former quarterback, Brock Osweiler, in a big AFC showdown on "Monday Night Football" -- but it was Denver's O-line that stole the show, stymieing the Texans' defense and shielding Trevor Siemian from harm (zero sacks and zero QB hits). It was an impressive performance against Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, who entered the matchup with 6.5 sacks and 18 QB hits combined. One of the best ways to slow down pass rushers is to run the football, and that's exactly what Denver did: The Broncos finished the night with 190 yards on the ground. C.J. Anderson led the charge, slashing the Texans on his first two carries of the night (12 and 11 yards) and eventually racking up 107 yards and a touchdown on just 16 totes. Devontae Booker added 83 yards and a TD on 17 carries. While the O-line largely played well -- specifically center Matt Paradis and left guard Max Garcia -- the unit has struggled with penalties in consecutive weeks, adding four more in this contest.