NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara selects O-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 Redskins have won three straight after starting 0-2. The offensive line has given up six sacks in the three-game win streak, yet this group is rated as the fourth-best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus. The O-line will play a huge role in this week's divisional matchup against the Eagles, who boast the league's second-best scoring defense. The Eagles lead the NFL in time of possession, so third down is going to be crucial for Washington's offense. The Redskins were awful on third down last week against the Ravens, going 3-for-12. Plus, they didn't convert on any of their six third-and-1 opportunities -- not one was a run play.
I am double-dipping in this game, but the recent news was too big to pass on. After being a key component in the Eagles' 3-1 start, Lane Johnson will now serve a 10-game suspension. Pro Football Focus had Johnson ranked the sixth-best pass-blocking offensive tackle heading into Week 6. Rookie fifth-round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitaiwill replace Johnson as the starting right tackle against the Redskins. It will be Vaitai's NFL debut. How the rookie performs will likely dictate what rotation changes, if any, head coach Doug Pederson makes throughout the game.
Coming off impressive victories over Carolinaand Denver, the Falcons now head to Seattle to take on the 12th man. The crowd noise will be a challenge in itself, let alone going against a defense that ranks in the top five in several defensive categories, including first in yards allowed. However, the Falcons are countering with the top-ranked offense. The Falcons were the first offense to score at least 20 points against the Broncos this season.
A big emphasis will be on offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. They will be up against Michael Bennett -- and when Bennett comes inside, left guard Andy Levitre will be tasked with stopping the pass rusher. The Falcons have proved tough on the line so far, so I won't be surprised if they can hold it down again despite this week's tall order.
This is the first time Andrew Luck will face a J.J. Watt-less Texans team, which must induce a sigh of relief. However, the Colts have allowed Luck to get sacked 20 times (most in the NFL) and get hit 42 times (second-most) this season, while the Texans' defense has 35 quarterback hits (third-most in the league) and 13 sacks (sixth-most). Couple this with the fact that Indy runs the ball just 33.2 percent of the time, which sets this O-line up for a full day of pass blocking.
The Colts are still trying to figure out their best starting five, as they've had four different lineups in five games. Right tackle Joe Reitz (back) was inactive in Week 4 -- though he was healthy last week and didn't make the start. Rookie Joe Haeg started at right tackle in his place. Regardless of who plays where, the Coltsmust keep Luck upright if they want a chance to win. That's going to be a major issue with Jadeveon Clowney -- and Whitney Mercilus, the Texans' sack leader (3.5), on the other side. Clowney only has two sacks this season, but he also has eight tackles for loss and six QB hits. He is a complete menace in the run game and can be downright unblockable at times.
The Cardinals' offensive line suffered a major setback this week as right guard Evan Mathis (ankle) was placed on IR after suffering the injury against the 49ers. Left guard Mike Iupati also went down with an ankle injury against the 49ers and reports say he will miss 2-4 weeks. Earl Watford will fill in at right guard for Mathis, and John Wetzel for Iupati. The Cardinals' offense will have its hands full against the Jets. While Gang Green's secondary has been less than stellar, New York's front has been a nightmare -- the team has the second-best run defense and is ranked 31st against the pass. Carson Palmer is back this week after missing a game from a concussion, and keeping him upright will be key.
New York Giants
The Giants' offensive line really struggled against Green Bay, allowing three sacks and committing three penalties. Quarterback Eli Manning has not looked comfortable in the last three games (all losses), so providing Eli time in the pocket will be key if the Giants want to get back in the win column. All eyes will be on left tackle Ereck Flowers after another poor game filled with penalties, but it won't get any easier as he has to deal with Terrell Suggs this week. Another matchup to watch is Bobby Hart vs. Elvis Dumervil.