Steelers, Raiders, Dolphins among O-lines to watch in Week 9

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.

Oakland Raiders

Everyone's hoping this game lives up to the hype it's getting with two 6-2 teams facing off in the Black Hole, where Denver has won five straight. The last time the Raiders beat the Broncos at home, Tim Tebow was on the field. The Raiders rank in the top 10 in almost every offensive category. The fifth-ranked offense has been boosted by Derek Carr's arm, and he can thank the O-line for giving up the least amount of sacks of any team in the league (nine). Plus, Carr only has been hit 17 times in eight games, which is remarkable.

Denver's secondary -- the "No Fly Zone" -- is a great complement to the team's pass rushers. The Broncos rank third in total defense and No. 1 in passing defense. They lead the league in sacks (26) and quarterback hits with 75, 19 more than the next-best team. Denver hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer or 100-yard receiver this season, but Carr threw for 513 yards last week. This contest will be a true litmus test for Oakland -- we'll find out if the Raiders are contenders or pretenders.

Tasked with stopping Von Miller, second in the league in sacks with 8.5, will be Donald Penn and Austin Howard. Howard, who had three of the Raiders' 23 penalties last week, might struggle one-on-one. Penn, though, hasn't given up a sack this season.

Side note: Denver's O-line has a tough task, too. While the Raiders have the second-worst total defense in the league, giving up 6.5 yards per play (most in the NFL), the Broncos still will have to stop Khalil Mack. The diverse defensive end has notched four sacks in the last three games and 15 QB hits this season (second most in the NFL). Broncos fans remember last year's Week 14 meeting, when Mack had five sacks in one game, tying Howie Long's franchise record.

New York Giants

Oddly enough, this is the third straight week that the Eagles face an opponent coming off a bye. This is a huge division game, as Philly has yet to win against an NFC East opponent in 2016. The big question is, can the Giants protect Eli Manning? The Giants are tied for second-best in sacks allowed (11), but the Eagles' defense has 22 sacks (the third-highest total in the league). For Big Blue, it's all about getting a fast start, something this team has struggled with. In six of their seven games, the Giants have been shut out in the first quarter. They've also floundered in the red zone, which is directly attributed to their worst-ranked rushing offense. The Eagles boast the fourth-best red-zone defense and are 4-0 when holding teams to 14 points or less this season.

Right tackle Bobby Hart will have his hands full with Brandon Graham, who is rated as the No. 1 edge rusher on Pro Football Focus, with four sacks and 28 hurries this season. Right guard John Jerry and center Weston Richburg are up against Fletcher Cox. Although Cox has been quiet in the last three games with no sacks (he had four in the first four games), he's been a big presence in the run game.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins look to keep the momentum they built prior to the bye week. They racked up 400-plus yards in each of their last two games, both of which were at home. Miami is 3-1 at home this season, averaging 26 points per game and 161 rushing yards per game in those contests. On the road, the Dolphins are 0-3 and average 13 points per game and just 65 yards on the ground.

The Dolphins are still riding high after back-to-back 200-yard rushing games by Jay Ajayi, but the Jets boast the No. 1 run defense, giving up just 74 yards per game. In the teams' two meetings last season, Miami rushed for 71 yards combined. Although the Jets are stellar against the run, New York ranks dead last against the pass. Gang Green has given up nine plays of 40 yards or more this season.

One player to keep an eye on is Leonard Williams. He has six sacks and 22 stuffs on the season and is a major threat to the entire Dolphins offensive line because the Jets move him around a lot. Lastly, the Dolphinsmust eliminate penalties if they want to improve to .500, as the O-line committed nine in the last two games.

Pittsburgh Steelers

This game always seems like a bloodbath, and to add to the drama, both teams are fresh off a bye after suffering a tough AFC loss (Baltimore was defeated by the Jets, Pittsburgh fell at the hands of New England). The biggest thing on everyone's mind heading into the contest: Will Ben Roethlisberger play? Is he healthy? Should he play? ... Regardless, the Steelers are going to need to lean on Le'Veon Bell. The offensive line has only given up 11 sacks this season, but it won't want to put any extra pressure on a hobbled Big Ben (or a healthy and inexperienced Landry Jones). Standing in the way of victory will be a stingy Ravens defense that is fourth overall, fourth against the run and second-best on third down.

The Ravens have dominated this rivalry as of late, winning five of the last six, including three in a row. But Baltimore is on a slide, having lost four straight contests after starting 3-0. Terrell Suggs, who is playing through a torn bicep -- Ouch! -- leads the Ravens with five sacks and has sacked Big Ben 11.5 times in his career, more than any other QB he's faced. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is tasked with facing Suggs. He has given up five sacks and 20 hurries, really struggling against the bull rush this season.

Tennessee Titans

If Mike Mularkey's team wants to win in San Diego for the first time since 1990, when the franchise was the Houston Oilers, the Titans need to do it with another healthy dose of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Tennessee has rushed for 100 yards or more in seven straight games, leading to at least 26 points in each of the last four games. The Titans run the ball more than any other team outside of Dallas (48.9 percent of the time). They are averaging 152 rushing yards per game and are led by Murray's 756 yards on the ground. He ranks second in rushing yards and has already tallied more yards than he had all of last season.

The Titans' offensive line has been very physical and had a big game against the Jags last week, earning the Offensive Line of the Week award handed out by yours truly. But the Chargers' defense is going to be a tougher task, as it has held offenses to less than 100 rushing yards in seven of its eight games, despite allowing 11 rushing TDs (third-most in the NFL). Tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin haven't given up a sack this season and will have to stop Melvin Ingram and rookie Joey Bosa. Ingram is the Chargers' best pass rusher with five sacks, while Bosa is coming on strong with 10 QB hits in just four games. Another matchup to watch is center Ben Jones vs. nose tackle Brandon Mebane.

Follow Shaun O'Hara on Twitter @ShaunOHara60.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
gamepasswhite_horiz (1)

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.