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Put It On The Line: Conference Championship Defensive Line Rankings

To rank the playoff team’s defensive line play, I watched video with an emphasis on recent games against quality opponents (other playoff teams). Minor adjustments were then made based on SIS data. All rankings assume players who are questionable will play.

Some teams only moved up because other teams were eliminated. That’s why I’ve provided detailed thoughts on what we learned from this past weekend, so there’s no doubt where I stand on the quality of these offensive lines.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 7)

DIs: Chris Jones, Khalen Saunders, Derrick Nnadi, Brandon Williams

Edges: Frank Clark, George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap, Mike Danna 

What We Thought: The Chiefs are built to beat people when they have a lead, with one of the league’s premier interior pass rushers (Jones) and a  strong pass rush unit.

What We Learned: Kansas City was a bit more hit-and-miss than I’d like to see at this point in the playoffs. As I’ve mentioned before, they can be a problem for any offensive line in obvious passing situations, but I’d like to see a bit more in neutral situations.

Their run defense also leaves something to be desired as gaps are punctured in their front. Jones is a premier player up front, but he alone is not enough to keep this Chiefs unit from dropping in the rankings this week. 

3. Cincinnati Bengals (Last week: 8)

DIs: D.J. Reader, B.J. Hill, Josh Tupou, Zachary Carter

Edges: Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Cameron Sample, Joseph Ossai

What We Thought: The Bengals are strong against the run but lack dynamism in their pass rush.

What We Learned: Cincinnati’s rush defense was stout, and its pass rush saw a slight upgrade as it flustered Josh Allen just enough to keep him from having the time to hit big plays. Many of these pressures were slightly later in the play, but not so much I’d disregard them as flat-out coverage pressures. Based on their consistency, they move up a spot in my rankings this week.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 3)

DIs: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis, Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph

Edges: Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Robert Quinn

What We Thought: The Eagles have a deep group that can rotate players to stay fresh but can run hot and cold at the defensive interior positions.

What We Learned: It was a party at Lincoln Financial Field as the Eagles never allowed the Giants to get going, jumping out to a 28-0 halftime lead. Like much of their regular season, this allowed their defensive front to do what they do best and rush the passer, highlighted by sacks on back-to-back plays for Reddick.

Their run defense still looks inconsistent, but it doesn’t matter when the opposing team can’t afford to run the ball. Philadelphia holds steady in this week’s rankings.

1. San Francisco 49ers (Last week: 1)

DIs: Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Kerry Hyder Jr.

Edges: Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, Drake Jackson

What We Thought: The 49ers can get it done with four up front regardless of how the opposition tries to attack: run or pass, extra offensive linemen, wildcat, it doesn’t matter.

What We Learned: The 49ers lined up for a major challenge against Dallas' talented offensive line. While they didn't get home as much as they would’ve liked, the pressure was there all game long, helping them create interceptions. They were stifling on the ground by resetting the line of scrimmage and reducing rushing lanes. They continued to play an all-around game against a quality opponent, continuing to earn the top spot in these rankings.

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