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NFL O-Line Overview: Raiders/Chargers TNF Preview

Today's TNF slate features one of the most engaging matchups of the year: two divisional rivals on the rise, both of whom stand at four wins and are hoping to push for a playoff berth down the stretch. In this week's edition of the NFL O-Line Overview, we'll dissect the current status of the offensive fronts that'll appear on prime-time tonight, and what impact those units will have on the game. And, of course, we'll check in on which groups are rising and falling around the league.

Risers:

Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for a season-high 159 rushing yards during Week 9's upset over the Packers, and the O-line's sharp improvements in run blocking were no small key to that success. Things appear to have stabilized under new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who found tremendous success calling audibles to the run whenever Green Bay showed a nickel defense. Center Scott Quessenberry, LG Dan Feeney and RG Michael Schofield – in other words, the interior of LAC's offensive line – played by far their best game of the season. If the team is able to put together another convincing performance against the Raiders on TNF, the Chargers could find themselves primed to make a push down the stretch.

What to Watch: Week 9 appeared to mark a substantial shift in the Chargers' backfield. Melvin Gordon logged his best performance of the season, rushing 20 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns while catching three passes for 29 more yards – but the more important statistic relates to Austin Ekeler, who totaled nearly 100 scrimmage yards. While Ekeler's day was certainly impressive from a production standpoint, he played a season-low 34 percent of offensive snaps. There appears to be a clear intent to shift the backfield focus over to Gordon, who finally looked like his old self, so it'll be worth keeping a close eye on how snaps are divvied out during Thursday's divisional tilt.

San Francisco 49ers: Consistency has been the story of San Francisco's success this season. Despite rolling without either starting tackle, the unit has allowed Jimmy Garoppolo tremendous protection during drop-backs all season, and excelled in run blocking – paving the way for all of Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to average more than 4.0 YPC on the year.  The O-line has additionally allowed only 12 sacks, which ties with the Saints and Rams for the fourth fewest in the league.

What to Watch: Despite leading the 49ers to an undefeated record through nine weeks, Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't been a stalwart fantasy option. He exploded with four touchdowns during Week 9's win over the Cardinals, but had previously scored just 10 times across seven games, with four contests below 200 passing yards. He should nonetheless be started with confidence Week 10. Against a Seattle defense that boasts one of the worst pass rushes in the league (despite strong play by Jadeveon Clowney) and a leaky secondary, Garoppolo's guarantee of stellar protection makes him a perfect spot-start option of fantasy managers whose primary QBs are on bye.


Fallers:

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have surpassed many expectations this season, turning in an offense that's found tremendous consistency rallying around rookie running back Josh Jacobs as the focal point. Unfortunately, it's appearing possible that injuries will muddle that formula for the immediate future. Center Rodney Hudson (ankle) and RG Trent Brown (knee) both sport questionable tags for TNF, and it's easy to imagine a scenario wherein they could be limited even if cleared to play. Being short-handed along the O-line would be an even bigger deal than usual this week, given that the Chargers' pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram is once again making a strong case for the title of "League's Best." They combined for three sacks during last week's win over the Packers, in addition to six quarterback hits, and would be a nightmare task for Oakland's offensive front to contain even if at full health.

What to Watch: In the (likely) event that Los Angeles' pass rush duo causes significant trouble for quarterback Derek Carr, it would make sense for the Raiders to further lean on Josh Jacobs – both as a runner, and as a quick-pass option to bail Carr out of trouble. Jalen Richard also stands to see an uptick in targets, but the case for Jacobs to be more involved whenever possible has already been made. The rookie first-round pick has exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in four of his last five games, and he's resumed practicing in full after dealing with a shoulder issue for the last few weeks. While Thursday Night Football games have an annoying tendency to subvert expectations, the stage certainly appears set for Jacobs to steal the spotlight in prime time – and tentatively put a cap on "Rookie of the Year" talk. For fantasy managers targeting Jacobs as a buy in dynasty and redraft formats, it would be wise to conclude trade talks by 8:20 PM EST. His price may skyrocket should he blow the doors of on prime time.

 

Green Bay Packers: Green Bay's offensive line had no answers for LAC's pass-rush tandem of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in Week 9. Tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, who'd succeeded admirably against a tough gauntlet to begin the season, appeared plainly outmatched during last week's loss. As a result, quarterback Aaron Rodgers recorded his lowest YPA (4.6) of the season along with his lowest yardage total (161). The team will look to bounce back against a Carolina defense that's struggled to defend the pass in recent weeks.

What to Watch: Davante Adams has been a disappointment for fantasy managers this season, now matter how you cut it. Coming off a four-game absence, the star wideout hauled in seven catches for just 41 yards on 11 targets. He's yet to score a touchdown this season. It's encouraging that he saw a high target volume upon returning, making Adams a strong bounceback candidate Week 10, after which the Packers will benefit from a bye to figure things out on offense. Adams' price is currently low, so he could be a target for savvy owners eyeing the fantasy playoff stretch. During that timeframe the Packers will face Washington, then two division rivals in Chicago and Detroit.