‘O’ line injuries have big impact

Oct 17, 2020 9:00 PM

Ask your casual NFL fan for their thoughts on Weston Richburg, and you will probably be met with a confused look. Ask a San Francisco 49ers fan for their thoughts on Weston Richburg, and you will probably be met with pleas for the offensive lineman’s return.

Richburg’s knee injury prior to the start of the 2020 NFL season set off an ugly chain of events in Santa Clara, which has seen the 49ers lose double-digit starters to injuries.

Offensive line injuries and continuity are becoming increasingly important in the betting market. Previously a plug-and-play unit on the field, offensive lines are proving to have a much greater impact to game outcomes.

With Lane Johnson struggling to recover from ankle surgery, the Philadelphia Eagles have lost four out of the five starters they presumed to have heading into the season. 

In the two games that Trent Brown played at tackle for the Raiders, Las Vegas averaged 138.5 rushing yards and Derek Carr was sacked once. The Raiders won both games. In the three games that Trent Brown missed, the Raiders averaged 109.3 rushing yards and Carr was sacked seven times.

The Dallas Cowboys are currently battling a slew of injuries on the offensive line. Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are both out for the season after Travis Frederick retired prior to the start of the year. Ezekiel Elliott does not have a 100-yard rushing game through five weeks after tallying seven of them last year.

Football Outsiders calculates a continuity score for offensive lines based on how many changes teams make during the regular season and how many different starters get used. Those continuity scores can tell you a lot about a team.

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The Tennessee Titans went from the fifth-worse continuity score in 2018 to the sixth-best in 2019 when they went to the AFC Championship Game. Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing. The Miami Dolphins finished the 2019 season with the league’s worst continuity score. They also finished last in adjusted line yards, which is an advanced rushing metric. That is not a coincidence.

Freddie Kitchens had a rough stint in Cleveland in 2019, but some of that can be blamed on offensive line turnover. The Browns were tied for the worst continuity drop between 2018 and 2019. In 2018, the Rams were able to maintain the same starting offensive line for every game of the season. They played in the Super Bowl.

As you scan the Week 6 board, pay a little extra attention to the offensive lines.

Sunday

Ravens -7.5 at Eagles: The Ravens have been able to sleepwalk through a large chunk of this season, but the Chiefs’ loss to the Raiders last week should wake them up. The door for the No. 1 spot in the AFC has reopened, and the Ravens should be primed for a good effort against a struggling Eagles team. RAVENS

Lions at Jaguars, Total 54.5: This total has gone up since it opened, and I think it is the right move. Jacksonville’s defense is last in the league in yards per play allowed. Houston generated 8.4 yards per play against them last week. Detroit’s offense should be firing on all cylinders after their bye week. OVER

Falcons at Vikings -3.5: Over the years, the fired coach bounce has been profitable for bettors. It worked for Houston last week. But I am not buying it with the Falcons. Their problems run deeper than Dan Quinn. VIKINGS

Browns at Steelers, Total 51: The Steelers are humming along at 4-0, but their offense is No. 24 in the league at 5.6 yards per play. These teams have two nasty defensive lines that will look to cause havoc. Cleveland’s defense held the Colts to 15 first downs, 308 yards of offense and forced two turnovers last week. UNDER

Packers at Buccaneers, Total 54: Pop quiz: Who has the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 2.7 yards per carry this year? Who had the No. 1 rushing defense last year, allowing 3.3 yards per carry? The Tampa Bay Bucs. Tom Brady gets the headlines, but the defense has played well. UNDER 

Monday

Cardinals at Cowboys, Total 54.5: This total may have been in the neighborhood of 60 if Dak Prescott was playing, but I still think both offenses will have their way in this contest. The Jets had drives of 14 plays, 12 plays and nine plays last week against Arizona that resulted in zero points. That will not happen against Dallas, even with Andy Dalton at the helm. OVER

Last week: 3-3

Season: 14-16