Here's a breakdown of four significant positional mismatches in Week 16:
The Washington Redskins' offensive line has been decimated by injuries this season, and the interior's been hit particularly hard, with guards Arie Kouandjio, Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, and Jonathan Cooper all out with season-ending injuries.
As a result, Washington's assembled a rag-tag unit with Luke Bowanko and Tony Bergstrom starting at the guard positions. Center Chase Roullier is the lone member of the interior offensive line to start every game this season.
This week, they'll get the unenviable task of blocking Tennessee Titans lineman Jurrell Casey, who's been underrated for quite some time and has dominated this season with 58 tackles (11 for loss), 11 quarterback hits, seven sacks, and two pass deflections.
One of the best ways to attack an offensive line that's not used to playing together is with stunts, as the absence of continuity makes it difficult to quickly determine blocking assignments.
So, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Titans dial up a number of stunts and complex blitzes to take advantage. Here's an example of Casey’s effectiveness on stunts:
On this play, Casey (No. 99) is aligned in the B-gap as the defensive tackle between the offensive guard and offensive tackle. Once the ball is snapped, he veers outside as the "penetrator" in a tackle-end stunt with Harold Landry (No. 58) as the "looper."
That means Casey's tasked with drawing the attention of the right guard and tackle just long enough for Landry to loop inside unblocked. However, the right guard and tackle fail to communicate - the guard takes on Landry but the tackle doesn't pick up Casey in time - which allows Casey to get free and sack the quarterback.
When he's not rushing the passer, Casey should have a disruptive day against the run. Bowanko and Bergstrom lack the raw strength to hang with Casey at the point of attack, and they're nowhere near technical enough to counter the array of moves he'll throw their way. This play is a great example of Casey’s ability against the run:
Casey's once again aligned in the B-gap as the defensive tackle. Once the ball is snapped, he angles his body slightly so he can expand his rush outside when the right tackle engages him.
As he starts to expand outside, Casey executes a perfectly timed chop with his outside hand, causing the guard to lose his balance and stumble forward. This makes it easy for Casey to clear the block and make the tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Saturday's matchup with Washington screams "big-time performance" for Casey, and Tennessee could coast to a victory if he comes through as expected.
Hicks has been an outstanding defensive tackle this season, racking up 51 tackles (11 for a loss), 11 quarterback hits, six sacks, three forced fumbles, and a pass deflection. He was voted to the Pro Bowl and it will be a travesty if he doesn’t get All-Pro consideration.
This week, Hicks should dominate his matchup with San Francisco 49ers right guard Mike Person, who hasn’t been bad this season but doesn’t match up well here. Person mostly struggles with defensive tackles who play with a great deal of power at the point of attack - and that certainly describes Hicks.
At 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, Hicks exerts a unique amount of force with his strikes. He also complements that power with deceptive quickness and a wide array of hand techniques. Here's a great example:
After the ball is snapped, Hicks hops outside, influencing Blythe to get more width in his pass set, which also widens the gap between the center and Blythe, opening up the inside move. So, Hicks tries to win inside, executing a powerful club move with his inside hand. However, Blythe manages to counter the move and stay in front of Hicks, forcing him into Plan B.
Hicks quickly re-counters by stabbing with his outside hand, which pins Blythe inside and creates a soft edge to work around on the way to sacking Jared Goff.
There may only be a handful of human beings with the technique, balance, power, and quickness to make that sequence work, but Hicks is one of them. And that's a bad sign for Person, who should have a long day at the office.
Oakland Raiders rookie left tackle Kolton Miller might be the worst starting offensive tackle in football, as he's declined after a decent start to the campaign. He especially struggles with powerful pass-rushers, as he lacks the core strength and hand techniques to anchor against them.
This week, Miller will have his hands full with Chubb, whose 12 sacks are just 2.5 behind Jevon Kearse's rookie record. And Chubb plays with the powerful style that Miller has trouble with, which is seen on plays like this:
Here, Chubb's aligned with an outside shade over Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the best in the NFL. Chubb attacks Whitworth down the middle with a bull rush and does a good job of winning the hand-placement and leverage battles, allowing him to walk Whitworth back to the quarterback.
Once Whitworth tries to anchor against the bull rush, Chubb uses the tackle's slight forward momentum against him, as he moves Whitworth aside and brings down Goff.
Expect Chubb to take advantage of Miller - who's nowhere near Whitworth's level - throughout Monday's game.
And while the Kansas City Chiefs possess one of the best offenses in football, their interior offensive line doesn’t meet that standard. Center Mitch Morse is adept in pass protection, but the same can't be said for guards Cameron Erving, who missed last week with a knee injury, and Andrew Wylie. If Erving's held out once again, Jeff Allen will take his place.
Meanwhile, Reed is solid against the run, but his ability to rush the passer (8.5 sacks this season) has blossomed this season. Here's an example:
On this play, Reed's aligned with an outside shade over the left guard. After the ball is snapped, he fakes an attack to the outside before darting inside with a two-hand swipe and arm-over finish that clears contact.
From there, Reed bullies his way through light contact to bring down Nick Mullens for the sack.
Prior to this year, Reed wouldn't have made that sack (he had just three in the last two seasons), but don't be surprised if he keeps producing against Kansas City's biggest weakness - guard play.
John Owning is a football writer at theScore. He has written for Bleacher Report and Football Insiders. He was also the lead NFL content editor at FanRag Sports. John provides analysis on the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News and edits for The Quant Edge. Find him on Twitter @JohnOwning.