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NFL Week 11 Trench Matchups: All eyes should be on the Los Angeles Rams' DL vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' OL

Nov 1, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) forces a fumble by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

December football and freezing temperatures are nearing, and while it's not entirely true, some old sayings have it that the war in the trenches becomes only more important during these times. So, how will things play out up front in Week 11?

With the kickoff to Thursday Night Football just hours away, it's time for us to analyze every contest's trench matchups by predicting the survival curves for the offensive line and projecting how often a quarterback will be pressured at a given time after the snap.

Going into each game, a machine-learning model incorporates several features in order to come up with a prediction:

  • The survival curve of the offensive line in previous games (or from last year)
  • The survival curve of the defensive line in previous games (or from last year)
  • The PFF pass-blocking grades of the five offensive linemen
  • The PFF pass-rush grades of the pass-rushers and the positions they are projected to line up in
  • How the blend of individual grades and team-level survival curves from the past are weighted toward predicting the cervical curve depends on continuity and how far in the past the information lies. Less continuity means the individual grades are weighted more heavily.
  • Schematic factors such as how often the defense is projected to blitz and how often the offense is projected to use play action, designed rollouts or six-plus-man protections.

[Editor's Note: PFF's advanced statistics and player grades are powered by AWS machine learning capabilities.]

Each week, we will use our projections to highlight the biggest mismatches in the trenches. We will also identify an interesting matchup to watch.

We made a mistake in trusting the New Orleans Saints‘ offensive line ahead of Week 10, as they didn’t protect Drew Brees and Jameis Winston as they had previously advertised. The San Francisco 49ers were able to produce quick pressure (pressure within 2.5 seconds of the snap) on 23% of their pass-rush snaps, a rate roughly around the league average.

The same happened in the matchup between the Miami Dolphins‘ offensive line and the Los Angeles Chargers‘ defensive line, but this was less a failure of math and more a function of a few incorrect assumptions. For example, had we known for sure that Joey Bosa wasn't able to play, we would have expected this contest to end much closer to a toss-up.

Here are our mismatches for Week 11.

Favoring the offensive line: Indianapolis Colts DL at Green Bay Packers OL

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