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 Falcons just scored 45-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history. They also have 1,915 total offensive yards through four games, a franchise record. The highlight of last week's contest, though, and maybe this entire NFL season thus far, was the performance of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Atlanta became the first team in NFL history to have a 500-yard passer and 300-yard receiver in the same game.
But it hasn't been just those two who have carried the load in Atlanta, as running back Devonta Freeman averages 5.9 yards per carry. The excellent offensive line also has played a huge role in the team's success so far. This week, I'll be watching how right tackle Ryan Schraeder does against NFL sack leader Von Miller -- as well as the matchup between left tackle Jake Matthews and Shane Ray. On top of a stout front seven, Denver's secondary is scary-good. Jones isn't going to be running free like he has in the past, so the O-line will have even more pressure to give Ryan the time he needs to connect with receivers downfield.
The 3-1 Texans have quite the task this week as they travel to take on the undefeated Minnesota Vikings in a raucous new stadium. First-down production is going to be essential, as they won't want to get into third-and-long situations against Minnesota. We saw the Giants struggle offensively against the Vikingson Monday, converting on just 2 of 12 third downs -- with eight of those 12 tries coming on third-and-7-plus. The Vikings' defense ranks second in the league in sacks (15) and first in takeaways (11).
The Texans are the only team without a rushing touchdown this season, and ironically, Lamar Miller leads the NFL in offensive touches (106) and is on pace for 372 carries this season, which would be a franchise high. Texans center Greg Mancz, who struggled against Kansas City's Dontari Poe in Week 2, will have a big challenge in Linval Joseph, who has three sacks this season.
Veteran left tackle Duane Brown returned to the practice field this week for the first time this season (following season-ending quadriceps surgery in January). Brown could make his first start of the 2016 campaign this weekend, and lucky for him, he'll face Everson Griffen, who is tied for third-most sacks in the league with three.
The Bills' offensive line has been very stout in the run game with left guard Richie Incognito, center Eric Wood, right guard John Miller and left tackle Cordy Glenn, who has missed several weeks due to a high ankle sprain. The Bills will have the advantage in this game if they keep pounding the rock. Buffalo did a good job running the ball last week against the Patriots and racked up 134 yards on an average of 4.2 yards per carry.
However, Buffalo's guards have struggled in pass protection. Through four weeks, three sacks have been attributed to the unit -- all three given up by Incognito. He and Wood will have a nightmare matchup against Aaron Donald, who played a shade of nose tackle against the Bucs a week ago.
After earning my Offensive Line of the Week award for their Week 4 performance, the Steelers continue to be banged up. With injuries to Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and Ryan Harris (lower leg), Chris Hubbardwill start at right tackle. This is the third time this season that the Steelers will have a different starting lineup on the O-line. Left guard Ramon Foster is expected to play after missing last week's game with a chest injury. If he can't go, B.J. Finney will again get the start. The Steelers helped Le'Veon Bell average 8 yards per carry against the Chiefs on Sunday, but will now face the NFL's second-best run defense.
Hubbard will face Muhammad Wilkerson, while Foster or Finney and David DeCastro will have their hands full with defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who has four sacks, five tackles for a loss and seven QB hits this season. Another really good matchup to watch is Maurkice Pouncey vs. former teammate Steve McLendon.
The Cowboys' offensive line continues to grind down defenses -- even without Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, who was placed on injured reserve this week. Dallas has the top-ranked run-blocking O-line and nearly rushed for 200 yards in two straight weeks. But this week, it'll go against a Bengals defense that has allowed only one 100-yard rusher since the beginning of the 2015 season (Seattle's Thomas Rawls had 169 yards Week 5 last year).
One more to keep an eye on:
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers(at Carolina Panthers, 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday):Jameis Winston has been hit more than any other quarterback through four games this season, taking 38 blows. The Bucs got a victory in Week 1, but they've lost three straight since. The focus will be on the interior and the question is: Can Joe Hawley and Ali Marpet hold up against Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei?