We all know that it is the skill positions that get all the respect on NFL teams. Everyone knows the quarterback or running back, but does anyone really care the name of the left guard? However, without their hard work none of the impressive numbers would be possible. Let’s take a look at which offensive lines have been playing the best thus far in 2011:
1. Oakland Raiders
Through the first four weeks of the season the Raiders lead the NFL in rushing (178.8 yards/game), while leading the league with just 2 sacks allowed. Is it their run first style of play that helps them produce such impressive numbers? Granted, that does help to eliminate the risk of a sack a little bit, but the lineman need to be opening up holes for Darren McFadden and company to rip through.
Just consider the fact that they already have 10 runs of at least 20+ yards this season. In 2010, there were 13 teams who had nine runs or less of at least 20 yards. That’s an extremely telling statistic and shows just how well the group up front is playing.
It’s a group that you may not be able to name individually, but it’s clear that they have emerged as one of the best in the league.
2. Buffalo Bills
They have given Ryan Fitzpatrick time to operate (3 sacks allowed), as well as help Fred Jackson and company run rampant against their opponents. The Bills are currently fifth in the league in rushing, at 137.0 yards/game.
They’ve opened up holes for their RB, while also giving their QB enough time to throw for 9 TD, fifth in the league, is enough of a reason for me to rank them near the top. Entering the season would anyone have predicted Fitzpatrick & Jackson would be among the best fantasy options? The work of the offensive line obviously goes a long way.
3. Green Bay Packers
The defending Super Bowl champions are firing on all cylinders, and it all starts with the five men up front. They’ve done a good job of protecting Aaron Rodgers (7 sacks allowed), allowing him to throw 12 TD vs. just 3 INT. With a quarterback rate of 120.8, they are far and away the best in the league in the regard (the Patriots are second at 111.3).
They haven’t had quite the same success in the running game, though they have picked up 109.5 yards/game, as well as 5 TD. They are also averaging 4.2 yards/carry.
Clearly, they are getting the job done in every aspect of the offense.
4. New England Patriots
Through the first four weeks Tom Brady dropped back to pass 163 times, tied for fourth in the NFL (the New Orleans Saints lead the league with 174). How many times do you think he was sacked? Just 4.
Granted, they hadn’t had the production in the running game (up until Week 4 that is), but that’s because they simply don’t run the ball as much as some other teams. When they do run, they are averaging 4.8 yards/carry, fifth in the league.
Their value, however, comes from allowing Brady to operate unmolested. They’ve achieved that, with Brady posting unbelievable numbers. In just four games he posted 1,553 yards and 13 TD, both marks significantly better than anyone else in the league.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
While having Michael Vick at QB could help reduce the number of sacks allowed, it’s still impressive that they have allowed just 7 in the early going (especially since Vick has missed time over the first three weeks). Throw in the fact that Eagles are third in the league, averaging 5.4 yards/carry (behind the Vikings & Raiders) and it is hard to argue with how well they have performed.