Are Offensive Line Matchups The Key To The Rams Leading The NFL In Sacks?

Whitney Curtis

The St. Louis Rams and Denver Broncos tied for the league lead in sacks in 2012, with 52. The Bengals finished the year just one sack behind. What’s the outlook for each team in 2013?

I recently stumbled upon an offensive line rankings article from Evan Silva from just a few months ago. Silva noted each team’s 2012 pass block rankings from both Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders, as well as providing his own projected ranking for each of the NFL’s offensive lines.

While I understand that none of these offensive lines will look exactly the same as they did in 2012, it got me wondering…Does one of these teams have an advantage in becoming 2013’s sack leader based upon their opponents [in]ability to thwart those in pursuit of their QB?

The results were mixed…and certainly intriguing.

Broncos Opponents O-Line Rankings

Opponent
PFF
FO
Silva
17
14
8
@ NY Giants
18
3
4
23
4
30
26
25
14
25
11
27
30
22
25
31
18
17
19
23
13
@ Chargers
29
32
32
20
27
11
@ Patriots
9
5
1
@ Chiefs
20
27
11
8
19
10
Chargers
29
32
32
11
9
12
@ Raiders
23
4
30
Total
338
275
277
Average
21.13
17.19
17.31


Average of All Three Rankings: 18.54


Luckily - for the Broncos' defense - they’ll once again be rewarded with the opportunity to line up against the relatively unanimous, woeful San Diego Chargers twice in 2013. Football Outsiders ranked the Chargers as the league’s worst in 2012, while Evan Silva doesn’t see improvement on the horizon for their offensive front in 2013. Sorry, Philip Rivers


In the entirety of their season, it’s fair to say [based on these rankings] the Broncos will line up against a Top 12 offensive line four times -- Giants, Patriots, Titans, and Texans. On average, they’ll be facing the NFL’s 18-19th ranked O-line, but note that PFF doesn’t think highly [avg: 21.13] of their opponent’s offensive lines based on last year’s result.

** Von Miller lead the Broncos’ Defense with 18.5 sacks in 2012** [could serve four game suspension]

Bengals Opponents O-Line Rankings

Opponent
PFF
FO
Silva
28
24
28
21
15
24
6
31
18
5
12
6
Patriots
9
5
1
4
10
22
3
1
26
10
30
16
24
17
29
@ Ravens
17
14
8
Browns
5
12
6
@ Chargers
29
32
32
Colts
31
18
17
@ Steelers
21
15
14
15
16
7
Ravens
17
14
8
Total
245
266
242
Average
15.31
16.63
15.13


Average of All Three Rankings: 15.75


The Bengals - as aforementioned - finished their 2012 campaign a mere one sack behind both Denver and St. Louis. According to the rankings listed above, it appears they had a tougher go at achieving the honor. Like the Broncos, Cincinnati will play the unanimous Top 10 - and Silva’s top offensive line for 2013 - New England Patriots in the upcoming season. Rams fans can cope with that.


Aside from their matchup with the Patriots, finding sacks against the Browns front - who got respectable scores from all three parties - may prove difficult. On average, the Bengals look to face off against the league’s 15th-16th ranked O-line.

**Geno Atkins lead the Bengals’ Defense with 12.5 sacks in 2012**

Rams Opponents O-Line Rankings

Opponent
PFF
FO
Silva
32
26
31
14
8
21
@ Cowboys
25
11
27
7
29
2
Jaguars
30
22
25
@ Texans
11
9
12
27
21
23
13
20
20
Titans
8
19
10
@ Colts
31
18
17
Bears
28
24
28
@ 49ers
7
29
2
@ Cardinals
32
26
31
12
7
15
16
6
5
@ Seahawks
13
20
20
Total
306
295
289
Average
19.13
18.44
18.06


Average of All Three Rankings: 18.54


If it didn’t immediately hit you, the Rams and Broncos tied with an average of 18.54. You can’t make this stuff up, folks [when in reality all of this data is made up]. I find it comical, though, that my search to see which of these teams could break the tie lead me…to a tie.


While last year’s data and one man’s 2013 projections tell us the Rams and Broncos are operating on a level playing field [one of which is 5,280 feet above sea level], it’s fair to assume that none of it really matters when the regular season ensues. All three of the team’s highlighted above have stellar defenses and will cause fits for even the league’s best offensive lines.

**Chris Long lead the Rams’ Defense with 11.5 sacks in 2012**

Who ends the season as the NFL’s sack leader remains to be seen, but for now… it’s just another tie between the Rams and Broncos.


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