Trench Talk: Offensive and Defensive Line Matchups for Super Bowl LV
Football starts in the trenches, so where else to start our slew of Super Bowl breakdowns than with the offensive and defensive line matchups for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Related reading: Receivers vs. Corners: Super Bowl LV
I reintroduced this matchup study last week, which helped lead to three prop picks hitting. This is likely to be the basis for much of my analysis for the coming week.
One of the biggest storylines leading up to this game, in my opinion, is the Chiefs’ loss of Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher to a torn achilles. For a unit that has shuffled players all year, losing their blindside protector could be a massive loss. While I’ll present the PFF rankings for each of the below units, we need to take an individualized look at matchups with this injury.
Let’s get started.
Offensive and Defensive Line Matchups for Super Bowl LV
How do these team’s lines compare to each other? It’s often said the game starts in the trenches, and as an Eagles fan who watched our lone Super Bowl come off the back of an elite offensive and defensive line, I can anecdotally attest to the legitimacy of this claim. All rankings come from PFF, with a sprinkle of DVOA.
Kansas City Pass Blocking
KC Pass Blocking (7th) vs. TB Pass Rush (8th)
Advantage: Kansas City (maybe not)
My maybe not addendum here is clearly in reference to the aforementioned Fisher injury, who was one of the Chiefs best offensive linemen, and certainly their strongest OT.
His absence matters, going against a menacing Tampa Bay pass rush.
The Buccaneers were fourth in the NFL this year with 48 sacks, tacking on an additional seven in this postseason.
Mike Remmers and Andrew Wylie will be the two tackles. Remmers is at least league average, while Wylie, a guard originally, has poor grades across the board.
Center Austin Reiter is the one constant force for the Chiefs, the fifth-strongest pass-blocking center this year. That should come in handy slowing down Vita Vea and this rotating cast of defensive tackles for Tampa Bay, but the advantage goes to the Buccaneers edge defenders.
Shaqull Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are both in the top-35 of pass-rushing defensive ends.
While Patrick Mahomes seemed unaffected by a turf toe injury, it may linger. I’m going to trust that Mahomes can get the ball to his star pass-catchers, but he may have less time than he’s accustomed to.
Tampa Bay Pass Blocking
TB Pass Blocking (16th) vs. KC Pass Rush (22nd)
Advantage: Tampa Bay
The advantage on the whole goes to Tampa Bay, highlighted by rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs.
It’s no secret that if you can get to Tom Brady, you can beat him in the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers tackles should hold the Chiefs weak edge rushers in check.
Upon further review, the Chiefs defensive ends are abysmal. Frank Clark and Alex Okafor, the two defensive ends that have played the most, come in at 94th and 100th at the position, respectively. Clark is a big name and does have 8.0 sacks this year, but sacks never tell the entire story.
With this established, there will be an advantage for the Chiefs against Tampa’s offensive line, and it’s once again Chris Jones and this interior pass rush.
Jones is the second-best pass rushing defensive tackle in the NFL this year, behind Aaron Donald. Remember Josh Allen taking awful sacks and generally having his flow disrupted all game? Yup, that was thanks to Jones.
We highlighted last week how Jones’ disruption actually lended credence to taking Allen’s rushing over (he finished with 88 rushing yards).
It goes without saying that Brady does not have the mobility of a Josh Allen. Brady could be facing pressure up the middle and potentially taking a few sacks.
Kansas City nose tackle Derrick Nnadi comes in as the fifth strongest tackle against the run, a nice compliment to Jones’ pass-rushing.
Expect the Buccaneers to use stretch run plays to combat this.
Kansas City Run Blocking
KC Run Blocking (10th) & KC Rushing (9th) vs. TB Run Defense (11th) & DVOA Ranking (1st)
Advantage: Tampa Bay
I’ve brought DVOA rankings to the rushing side because of DVOA’s affinity towards Tampa Bay. Their ranking of best in the league is significant, and I felt it worthy of inclusion.
With that out of the way, I would stay away from Chiefs running backs in the Super Bowl, for player props or in DFS.
In their three playoff games, Tampa is allowing an average of just 57 rushing yards per game. These are close games, mind you, not a product of gameflow.
Linebacker Lavonte David is one of the focal points of this defense shutting down the run, grading out as the tenth best linebacker against the run, and fifth overall. Davis appeared on the injury report this week, something to monitor in advance of the game.
This rush defense is legit, and add in the element of three running backs getting touches in the Chiefs backfield, and the position is far too uncertain for me to put money on.
Tampa Bay Run Blocking
TB Run Blocking (12th) & TB Rushing (8th) vs. KC Run Defense (23rd) & DVOA Ranking (31st)
Advantage: Tampa Bay
This is the largest disparity of the game, and will likely be one of my favorite props for the game. Leonard Fournette has been a revelation for Tampa Bay, donning the moniker ‘Playoff Lenny.’
Maybe it was all the burn he got at LSU, but Fournette often feels like he’s 34 years old in my head – he’s just 26.
Fournette is averaging 70.3 rushing yards per game in three postseason games, hitting his over in all three.
His over is deflated by the presence of Ronald Jones, just how I like it. Jones missed the first playoff game, had a strong game against the Saints, and then became incredibly inefficient against a weak Green Bay run defense (1.6 yards per carry).
Fournette is the man to target in the running game for the Super Bowl.
In the two games they’ve both played, Fournette is averaging 68.5% of snaps played to Jones’ 28.5%.
I’ve seen early lines of Fournette over 48.5 rushing yards, which is tremendous value! If you have the ability to take props early, I’d expect this line to rise in the week to come.
That will wrap up trench talk. There are plenty more breakdowns to come, including receivers vs. corners, favorite prop bets, a game pick and more.
Make sure you’re following on Twitter, @griffybets, for my latest. Let’s finish the NFL season strong!