Super Bowl LII comes down to Patriots vs. Eagles’ four

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Football is again on its annual grand stage.

Millions around the world will watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles, and watch multi-million-dollar commercials in between the action. Long runs, touchdown passes and acrobatic plays await.

Also included are the warriors of the trenches, the big uglies who battle to establish supreme leverage and position. In the game of inches, these increments are often the most important and influential in determining a winner. But rare are the offensive lines — and those who play it — considered sexy enough for spotlight attention during the lead up to the sport’s biggest contest.

Not here.

As we’ve done all season, we not only appreciate but understand and explain what goes on with these large fellas. It’s time again to go Behind The Offensive Line (PRESENTED BY FORD) for a Super Sunday edition. Let’s explore how one offensive line’s group matchup could determine what retailers love to call the Big Game. Continue reading

Interior battle sets up to determine AFC’s champion

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Tom Brady is 7-0 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in playoff games.

But these aren’t your granddaddy’s Jaguars.

Jacksonville brings about as menacing a defense as you’ll see in football, and undoubtedly the one with the largest bite of the four remaining teams. Typically, that wouldn’t mean much to a Brady-led offense, what, with the five Super Bowl rings and Rob Gronkowski and all. But we’ve found some similarities with Brady’s last few servings of Kryptonite. Continue reading

Three trench-related points to watch on Divisional Weekend

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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The Divisional Round is considered by some (including yours truly) as the best weekend in football. The league’s best teams are all battling for a shot to make the conference championship game and move one step closer to football’s greatest stage.

We find ourselves with a surprising lack of favor for the NFC’s No. 1 seed — but a chance to prove the newfound doubters wrong — and a team replacing an important piece on the interior of its offensive line as it prepares to meet one of the league’s most complete defenses.

Plenty of intrigue awaits. Let’s dive into the best trench-related storylines from this weekend’s playoff games. Continue reading

Three (story)lines to watch during Wild Card Weekend

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Playoff time is a wonderful time, even if you’re the team that snuck in by the skin of its teeth and the tripping up of a few contenders. You’re in — it doesn’t matter how you got there.

For the purpose of this space, though, it does matter, because we’re going to examine which teams have the best (or worst) chances based on their offensive line play. For the wild-card round of play, we have evenly matched games, and also ones that beg the question: Can this team’s line do a good enough job to give it a real shot at winning? Continue reading

Counting down the top-three NFL offensive lines of 2017

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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We brought you the bad news last week. You’re here if you came back around for the good news, and for that, I thank you.

This week is all about those lines who rose to the cream of the crop in 2017. We have two surprise groups, including one that is getting almost no love, despite the great numbers it has posted in run and pass blocking (not to mention the division title of which it was a part of winning). We also have a unit that you’ll probably recognize and chalk up to its running backs — but it’s so much more than just that. Continue reading

Three NFL offensive lines that need offseason upgrades

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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We’ve spent much of this season taking a week-by-week look at individual offensive lines and their successes, or failures. This week, that changes.

As we enter Week 16 and near the beginning of a new year, it’s time to take a look back on what we’ve learned about offensive lines in 2017. We’ll start with the bad news first this week — three teams that need to address their offensive lines in the offseason — but come back next week for the good news. Continue reading

Bears’ shifty backs find success behind Josh Sitton in road win

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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In the midst of a season that could very well produce a coaching change, the Chicago Bears pulled off a surprise, blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. A quick look at the box score tells the story of how they did it: By grinding the Bengals into submission with a multi-back ground attack.

Jordan Howard rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, and Tarik Cohen added 80 yards on 12 carries (and could have had his own touchdown, had he not stepped out of bounds when cutting up field toward paydirt). Continue reading

Packers’ offense stuck in first gear, but not because of blocking

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Green Bay is a team with hope standing on its sideline in the form of a man who usually dons a No. 12 jersey. But in the meantime, the Packers aren’t all that threatening.

Against Pittsburgh in Week 12, some of that had to do with struggles in protecting backup quarterback Brett Hundley. The Packers surrendered four sacks in that game and are 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed with 42 through 12 games. Continue reading

Inconsistency on Chiefs’ OL putting limitations on Alex Smith

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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A week after the disaster in Carson that included five interceptions and a 50-burger put on them, the Buffalo Bills rebounded with a close win over the Kansas City Chiefs, who appear to be up a creek without a paddle as we enter the final quarter of the regular season.

After opening the season with five straight wins, Kansas City has lost five of its last six, including three straight. Sunday’s loss to the Bills would probably be the most concerning of the defeats, had the Chiefsnot just inexplicably fallen to the now 2-9 New York Giants a week earlier.

In both losses, the same theme emerged: The Chiefs‘ offense has fallen apart. Continue reading

Vikings winning with stronger interior line, composed QB play

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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It’s been quite some time since the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams played a meaningful game after Halloween. In Week 11, we finally got a new, relevant chapter between the two division leaders.

In perhaps the most unexpected outcome, the Vikings came away with the win earned on the backs of its runners.

Latavius Murray rushed 15 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and Jerick McKinnon gained 48 yards on 14 attempts. The running game chewed all the clock necessary to cap an excellent offensive day from quarterback Case Keenum, who spread the ball among nine receivers on 27-of-38 passing for 280 yards and a score. The Vikings salted away their best win of the season in the fourth by riding the two backs, feeding them carry after carry, including one by Murray that initially went for 34 yards before some of it was negated due to an illegal block in the back. Continue reading