Sunday afternoon will mark the start of NFL Week 6, and with it comes the phase of the season in which we finally have a good understanding of just how good teams are. And this goes for overall team strengths just as much as for the trench matchups within the game.
Just like every week, it's time for us to analyze the trench matchups of every contest 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 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 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.
Last week was a good week for our model. We expected the Dallas Cowboys‘ offensive line to hold up against the mostly harmless New York Giants pass rush, and they didn't disappoint us, as they kept Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton fairly clean from quick pressure (pressure within 2.5 seconds after the snap) — only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams allowed quick pressure at a lower rate.
We also predicted that the Cincinnati Bengals (like so often) would have a tough time stopping the Baltimore Ravens‘ pass rush, and that’s precisely what happened. The Ravens don’t have one of the best defensive lines in the league, but they sent the blitz on 61% of Joe Burrow’s dropbacks, and the barrage of extra rushers proved too much for the Bengals to handle. The Bengals ultimately allowed quick pressure on 37% of their dropbacks, the league's highest rate for Week 5.
Here are our projected mismatches for Week 6:
Favoring the offensive line: Denver Broncos DL vs. New England Patriots OL