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NFL Week 15 Trench Matchups: All eyes should be on the Bills' pass rush as Buffalo takes aim at the AFC East crown

Nov 8, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker A.J. Klein (54) sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) causing a fumble during the fourth quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With the Sunday slate of NFL Week 15 just a couple of days away, it's time for us to analyze each 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 were correct twice about the Buffalo Bills last week, as we expected Josh Allen to face a lot of pressure and also said that he would be able to overcome it. Allen was put under quick pressure — pressure within 2.5 seconds of the snap — on 40% of his dropbacks. While he struggled a bit (as every QB would against such a strong pass rush), he shook it off in the second half and finished the game in impressive fashion, ultimately leading his team to a crucial win.

Our bet on the other side of the ball was one of the safest bets in football last weekend, and the Green Bay Packers‘ offensive line didn’t disappoint: Aaron Rodgers was put under quick pressure only once in the whole game. It’s hard to win against the Packers at the best of times in 2020, but it's even harder when Rodgers has time to dissect the defense.

Here are our mismatches for Week 15.

Favoring the offensive line: Cleveland Browns OL vs. New York Giants DL

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