Schwartz: Ranking the Offensive Lines in the NFL Divisional Round, From 1-8
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philadelphia Eagles offensive line
- Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz analyzes the eight remaining offensive lines in the 2019 NFL playoffs.
- There are three distinct tiers, with the Philadelphia Eagles having the top unit.
It’s Divisional Round time, folks. The best sports weekend of the season.
Eight teams, four games and one step closer crowning a champion.
We know the old trope: “Defense wins championships.” That may have been true back in 1985, but you have to score points now.
And if you want to score points, you better have an offensive line. Well, we have some excellent offensive lines left in the playoffs. I’ll break them down for you in order.
There are three clear tiers of O-lines, and while I’m ranking them here, I don’t think there’s a ton of difference between the teams within each tier.
Let’s get to it.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have faced Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack over the past month. They’ve allowed zero sacks to those players. Just look at last weekend: On the road against the Bears’ No. 1 defense, and they allowed only five pressures and one sack on 41 dropbacks.
If those stats don’t impress you, their personnel should. They have arguably the top tackle duo in the game (Jason Peters and Lane Johnson), plus All-Pro center Jason Kelce.
Add in Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks and the Eagles have a formidable unit.
2. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have injury issues up front, so for the purposes of this ranking, I’m assuming they are healthy (and they should be mostly healthy after having a few weeks off).
Left tackle Terron Armstead was the second-best player at his position — and he could have been the best if healthy.
Max Unger made another Pro Bowl and again served as the anchor on the Saints’ elite O-line. Ryan Ramczyk, the second-year right tackle, was named a second-team All-Pro.
Andrus Peat is an above-average left guard who can also fill into at left tackle if Armstead can’t go.
The Saints rank second in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric and third in adjusted sack rate.
This has been the most consistent offensive line in the NFL the past two seasons, and a huge asset for QB Drew Brees.
3. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are this high on this list because of the way they play as a unit. They have talent. Clearly.
Rookie left guard Quenton Nelson, a first-team All-Pro leads this group, but the Colts aren’t as talented overall as the other top units.
Their play down the stretch helped them make this top tier: After starting 1-5, they allowed the fewest number of sacks from Weeks 6-17.
They went almost a month without Luck being tackled before the line of scrimmage. Their attitude, their physically and their domination will show against the Chiefs this weekend, particularly in the run game.
I love watching this unit play.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Last weekend was the Cowboys’ best performance all season. They are finally (sort of) healthy now and a coaching change to the offensive line after the bye week has made a noticeable difference.
If you were designing a left tackle in a factory, it would be the Cowboys’ Tyron Smith.
Their right guard Zack Martin has been the best at his position since he was drafted; he was first-team All-Pro again this season.
Joe Looney has filled in admirably for Travis Frederick at center this season.
Two potential weaknesses that could be on display this weekend: Right tackle La’el Collins has been inconsistent, and left guard has been a liability. The latter could be a big problem against the Rams’ Aaron Donald.
5. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are first in adjusted line yards and sixth in sack rate. They are second in stuff rate and first in second level yards.
They’ve had some issues moving the ball against the best defensive lines, but if you look at the numbers, it’s not that awful.
Todd Gurley averaged more than four yards per carry against the Saints, Chiefs and Eagles.
LA did play poorly against the Bears down the stretch. This weekend will be a big test for the Rams vs. Dallas.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
Their right tackle is sort of OK … The Chiefs have a Pro Bowler at left tackle and an All Pro right tackle. Their inside players are above average.
They don’t allow a ton of sacks but their rushing numbers leave a bit to be desired, as K.C. ranks just 16th in adjusted line yards.
7. New England Patriots
This offensive line is continually underappreciated. The Patriots traded for Trent Brown and he’s filled in nicely at left tackle.
Center David Andrews has been solid for years now, and right guard Shaq Mason was graded highly by PFF this season.
The Pats rank third in adjusted rushing and first in adjusted sack rate.
Maybe I should give them more credit, but their talent isn’t the same as the other units
8. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers easily have the biggest issues on their line of any team still left in the playoffs. They have liabilities at right guard and right tackle.
Their center and left tackles are good, which helps them overcome some issues on the right side.
The O-line could be a problem this weekend, playing in New England.