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.
As fate would have it, a pair of No. 1s collide in Week 11, so make a wish. Dallas' top-ranked rushing attack, which has recorded at least 100 yards in every game this season, will be challenged by Baltimore's top-ranked run defense that has held opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in seven of nine contests. The Cowboys, who have the longest active win streak, continue to pile up Ws behind their top-notch offensive line, which emphatically parted the Steelers' D "like the Red Sea" and put a stamp on the Cowboys' road win in Pittsburgh a week ago.
And while the story of Week 11 is Tony Romopublically endorsing Dak Prescott, I'm wondering if the NFL's best overall defense can slow down the Dallas Express led by Ezekiel "Missy" Elliott, who continues to get his freak on running his way into this year's MVP conversation. He looks to add to his record-setting season, as he's just 3 yards away from Tony Dorsett's franchise rookie record (1,007 in 1977) -- something he'll shatter. Elliott not only is the league's leading rusher but ranks first in rushing yards after contact with 452.
This is such a balanced matchup on paper. The Ravens have allowed 400 yards of total offense just once this season (vs. the Giants), while the Cowboys have racked up 400 yards in seven straight games. Historically, the Ravens have been the winners when these two teams meet, as they are 4-0 all time and 1-0 in Dallas. A key matchup to keep an eye on is top-tier left tackle Tyron Smith vs. Terrell Suggs, who has six sacks and nine quarterback hits.
The heat is on with the Dolphins riding a four-game win streak, averaging 29 points, 385 total yards and 180 rushing yards per game in that span, along with giving up just one turnover and three sacks. One of the reasons for that success is the starting offensive line has been healthy and playing together, although the team was dealt a big blow when left tackle Branden Albertwas ruled out for this weekend's game after dislocating his left wrist. Without Albert, rookie left guard and 13th overall pick Laremy Tunsil will slide out to play left tackle and face Robert Quinn(if he's healthy enough to play). Playing left guard then will likely be Kraig Urbik or Anthony Steen. The interior O-linemen -- center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jermon Bushrod and whomever players LG -- will have their hands full with game wrecker Aaron Donald.
Sophomore sensation Jay Ajayi leads the NFL in rushing yards (608) since Week 6 despite the Dolphins having a bye in Week 8, outgaining the likes of Elliott and DeMarco Murray. At the beginning of the year, I would've picked Todd Gurley as the featured back of this game, but I stand corrected. Ajayi has absolutely earned recognition for his performance in Year 2.
I've got my eye on this game because the Eagles have not flown very well on the road. They are 1-4 outside of Philadelphia with four straight losses, and playing in Seattle (4-0 at home) is always a challenge in itself when dealing with the 12s. The crowd noise is so paralyzing that when I played with the New York Giants, we wore ear plugs in practice the week leading up to the Seattle game to get used to not hearing anything. This noise surely will test quarterback Carson Wentz. Plus, Pete Carroll is 5-3 when facing rookie QBs.
The Eagles are coming off a season-high 208 rushing yards, led by Ryan Mathews' 109. The Eagles should lean on their run game, as they are 5-1 this season when rushing for 100 yards or more. In the passing game, the key will be protecting Wentz, who's had seven turnovers in the last six games. Although Philly has the worst third-down offense in the league, Seattle's third-down defense isn't much better (27th). However, the Seahawks boast the second-best scoring defense (17.6). Two guys the Eagles' offensive line will have to contain: Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. They have more sacks (16.5) than any other pass-rushing duo in the league, and Avril adds 16 quarterback hits. Tasked with stopping Avril is Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
I'm double-dipping in this game because both defenses are so tough. The Eagles are tied for third in scoring defense (17.8) and are 5-0 when they allow 15 or fewer points this season. But they are 0-4 when allowing more than 15 points, and Seattle has averaged 26.5 points at home this season. If the Seahawks' O-line protects Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls gets going in his first game back from a fibula injury, then Seattle is sitting pretty. Rawls missed the last seven games, and consequently, the Seahawks have put up the worst rushing offense in the Wilson era.
The Vikings took another blow to the offensive line as Jake Long was placed on injured reserve after an Achilles injury. Minnesota seems to be the kiss of death for offensive linemen this season, but all they can do is plunge forward. The road doesn't get any easier this week when the Vikings get a visit from the Cardinals, who are second in total defense and tied for third in scoring defense (17.8). Arizona will pose a big challenge, as the Vikings' offense has struggled to find the end zone with 16 offensive touchdowns (27th in the league) and has logged fewer than 100 rushing yards in eight of nine games. The Vikings rank dead least in yards per carry (2.7) and the pass protection isn't much better. Quarterback Sam Bradford has been sacked two or more times in five straight games. Hopefully, Bradford will get more protection this week, and one matchup to keep an eye on is left tackle T.J. Clemmings vs. Chandler Jones.