Winning games in the NFL is nearly always predicated on the performance of offensive and defensive line play. There are only a few top-tier units on either side of the line of scrimmage, while the rest of the league has to scheme up plays to overcome their own deficiencies. Whether it’s rushing the passer, blowing up the backfield on a running play, or staying disciplined on a designed RPO, defensive lines have a tough task to constantly play disruptor without allowing big plays to develop.
On the other side, offensive linemen have two methods of defending increasingly fast, strong defensive line units. Passing plays force offensive linemen to move backward in pass protection, giving edge rushers and interior defensive linemen the ability to stay aggressive, while running plays allow offensive line units to be the aggressor, moving past the line of scrimmage to open up running lanes using their own physicality. This forces defensive lines to be the disciplined unit, making it fun to watch the continuous battle in the trenches.
Here, we rank the top-five offensive and defensive line units in the league through two weeks, while previewing several key matchups to monitor during the Week 3 NFL slate.
Offensive Line Rankings & Matchups
1. Detroit Lions
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Dallas Cowboys
Key Week 3 Matchups
Giants vs. 49ers
The Giants have ruled out Andrew Thomas (LT – Giants), removing Daniel Jones’ (QB – Giants) top blindside protection against a top-five 49ers defensive line on Thursday night. Despite the miraculous comeback the Giants achieved against the Cardinals in Week 2, they have still logged six quarters of scoreless, awful offense. The additional absence of Saquon Barkley (RB – Giants) due to an ankle injury removes quality pass blocking and the easy safety valve for Jones to evade pressure in the pocket, so expect a long night for New York as they face Nick Bosa (DE – 49ers) and the vaunted 49ers defensive line on the road in primetime.
Browns vs. Titans
The Titans are an underrated team that could easily be 2-0 entering a matchup against the Browns in Week 3. Cleveland has a strong offensive line unit, but they specialize in run blocking, which plays into the strengths of Tennessee’s defense. Specifically, Jeffery Simmons (DT – Titans), who just inked a contract extension this offseason. Simmons is a disruptor on every down, joined by Denico Autry (DE/LB – Titans) and Harold Landry III (DE/LB – Titans) on the front-seven. The loss of Nick Chubb (RB – Browns) means Jerome Ford (RB – Browns) and Deshaun Watson (QB – Browns) will have to handle the primary bulk of carries, along with newly signed Kareem Hunt (RB – Browns), which could see a lot of stalled drives and inefficient runs facing a stout Titans defensive line.
Bills vs. Commanders
Buffalo drafted second-round rookie guard O’Cyrus Torrence (G – Bills) to strengthen its offensive line this offseason, but it will have a tough task handling the deep rotation of defensive line talent rostered by Washington. Especially with the return of edge rusher Chase Young (DE – Commanders), the Commanders could shut down James Cook (RB – Bills) and Josh Allen (QB – Bills) in the run game, making Buffalo a one-dimensional offense like we saw last season. When Allen faces pressure, he tends to make poor decisions, so this could be a matchup that gives the Commanders a chance to win outright as 6.5 point home underdogs.
Defensive Line Rankings & Matchups
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Buffalo Bills
3. Washington Commanders
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Key Week 3 Matchups
Colts vs. Ravens
The Indianapolis Colts defensive line has DeForest Buckner (DT – Colts), Kwity Paye (DE – Colts), and Samson Ebukam (DE – Colts), amongst others, who have looked great through two weeks this season. They face a Baltimore offensive line without two of its linemen, Ronnie Stanley (LT – Ravens) and Tyler Linderbaum (C – Ravens), meaning Lamar Jackson (QB – Ravens) could have improvise early and often to avoid taking sacks and big hits behind the line of scrimmage. The Ravens’ backfield is also depleted, so with OC Todd Monken at the helm, expect a more pass-centric Ravens offense to counter the underrated defensive line rostered by Indianapolis.
Falcons vs. Lions
Atlanta brought in several key veterans on its defense this offseason, including Calais Campbell (DT – Falcons) and David Onyemata (DT – Falcons), bolstering its defensive line, which has led to a 2-0 start for the Falcons. Grady Jarrett (NT – Falcons) is a force in the interior as well, which could create challenges for Detroit’s run-centric offensive line that has been so dominant over the past couple of seasons. The Lions have moved Penei Sewell (LT – Lions) to left tackle to counter Taylor Decker’s (LT – Lions) injury, leaving a less experienced crew on the right side of the offensive line, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai (RG – Lions) is also injured in the interior. Detroit may have a tough time executing its typical ground and pound approach against the Falcons’ defensive line in Week 3.
Chiefs vs. Bears
Chicago’s offensive line is among the worst in the NFL and they get a reloaded Chiefs defensive line as their next opponent in Week 3. The Chiefs re-signed star defensive tackle Chris Jones (DT – Chiefs), while they are getting stronger in the interior with Derrick Nnadi (DT – Chiefs), and second-year edge rusher George Karlaftis (DE – Chiefs) on the outside. The raw, inexperienced Bears offensive line has already had enough adversity to overcome, with inefficient play calling and quarterback play, so on the road against a talented Kansas City defensive line, we could see this game wind up 38-10 in favor of the Chiefs.