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NFL Week 3 trench matchups: Steelers defensive line, Bears offensive line set to dominate in Week 3

Week 3 of the NFL season is right in front of us, with tonight's clash between The Beard and The Mustache just hours away. And just like that, we're now three episodes deep into our weekly series where we predict mismatches in the trenches by using predictive survival curve analysis.

As a refresher, here is the broad method describing what we are doing:

Going into each game, a machine-learning model incorporates a lot of 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 where they are projected to line up
  • 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.

Last week, we projected the Green Bay Packers' offensive line to dominate against the Detroit Lions' defensive line, and we were right. The Lions generated only five quick pressures (pressures within 2.5 seconds of the snap) against Aaron Rodgers, one of the lowest marks of the league and clearly not enough to stop him from picking them apart.

We also predicted that the Browns defensive line would get after Joe Burrow early in the snap. This particular choice didn't turn out to be a bad one, but it wasn't the best choice, either. Myles Garrett and company pressured Burrow within 2.5 seconds 25% of the time, a figure well above average (20%), but it was still only the 10th-highest mark of the week.

As far as last week's matchup of the week is concerned, the Atlanta Falcons offensive line won against the Dallas Cowboys defensive line. Matt Ryan was pressured within 2.5 seconds after the snap only 13% of the time, well below league average. Once again, the offense isn't exactly the problem in Atlanta.

Here are our projected mismatches of Week 3.

Favoring the offensive line: Chicago Bears OL vs. Atlanta Falcons DL

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