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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid - Week 10

  Posted 11/5 by Jene Bramel and Larry Thomas, Exclusive to Footballguys.com


Each week, this column will take a critical look at a few key statistical trends to highlight the pass rushing and tackle matchups to exploit and avoid. We'll be heavily relying on another new feature at FBG this season, the IDP Matchup Spreadsheet that will be generated by Larry Thomas. That spreadsheet will contain a number of weekly and weekly average statistical measures to help identify those defensive teams who are facing the best and worst opportunity as the season progresses. While this column will include two large tables of tackle and pass rush opportunity and matchup data, it's only a fraction of the data available in the spreadsheet. We hope that the Matchup Spreadsheet and this column will join John Norton's weekly IDP projections and Doug Drinen's Matchup Analyzer Tool and customizable MyFBG function as useful tools to assist in making weekly lineup and waiver wire decisions.

Before we get to the hard data and matchup analysis, a quick explanation of the metrics we're using will probably be helpful. This column will be broken up into two primary sections - pass rushing matchups to exploit/avoid and tackle matchups to exploit/avoid. Each text section is followed by a table listing the relevant statistics and metrics driving our matchup decisions.

The pass rushing matchup table will include weekly averages of sacks, adjusted averages of sacks and quarterback hits and pass attempts faced. It will also have a column titled Pressure Applied, a metric we're introducing to show how often a team defense is generating pressure on the opposing quarterback. We'll be calculating Pressure Applied by dividing each team defense's sacks and quarterback hits by its total pass attempts faced. The same set of data will be provided and Pressure Allowed calculated for each team offense, to show which offenses are allowing pressure on their quarterback most often.

The tackle matchup table will include weekly averages of both rush and pass attempts faced, total offensive snaps faced and the percentage of rush vs pass attempts faced. It will also have a column titled Tackle Opportunity, a metric we introduced in mid-2007 to show how many plays a defense faced that could have ended in a solo tackle. We'll be calculating each team's Tackle Opportunity by adding all rush attempts, pass completions and sacks - the three plays that can end in a solo tackle outside of special teams and turnover plays. The same set of data will be provided and Tackle Opportunity calculated for each team's offense, to show which offenses are allowing the most tackle opportunity to opposing defenses.

We'll be highlighting the Pressure Applied/Allowed and Tackle Opportunity metrics with color codes showing the best and worst pass rush and tackle matchups. Expect to see lots of "good" and "bad" matchups color coded early, as a relatively low sample size will show a lot of teams outside the historical standard deviations we'll be using to focus on the key matchups. While sample size will be a confounding issue during the early weeks, we'll still make every effort to show where the data looks meaningful. Without getting into a long discussion of statistics, we recognize that these metrics and tables will not be as predictive and reliable early in the season. We also acknowledge the noise within a set of unofficial statistics like solo tackles and quarterback hits. As the season progresses and the standard deviations of the data fall in line with prior seasonal averages, we expect that the data tables will be increasingly more reliable and useful.

Okay, enough of the disclaimers, let's look at our highlighted matchups for Week 6. To check any of this week's pass rush or tackle matchups, make sure to check out the Sack Opportunity Analyzer and the Tackle Opportunity Analyzer sheets within the IDP Matchup Spreadsheet.

Pass-Rushing Matchups to Exploit

New York Jet front seven Vs St. Louis

The Jets have quietly been one of the better pass rush units in the league and are tied for the third most sacks in the leagues through nine games. With solid pass rushers coming from the middle (Kris Jenkins) and outside (Darrelle Revis, Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace), the Jets should have another good week against a Ram offense that's allowing a quarterback hit or sack on nearly 16% of their snaps.

Detroit front four Vs Jacksonville

After last week's dismal performance, when David Garrard was hit 13 times by a previously anemic Bengal pass rush unit, the Jaguars are now the league's most favorable pass rush matchup by our pressure allowed per pass attempt metric. For the season, Jacksonville is allowing a quarterback hit - which according to the NFL is when Garrard actually hits the ground - one out of every five times their quarterback drops back. The Detroit defensive line isn't anything special, but has been playing much better over the past month. Dewayne White looks like a very strong play, as does Cory Redding. For those of you really scraping the bottom of the barrel, rookie Cliff Avril could be an interesting play as well.

Indianapolis front four at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh fell to the second most favorable pass rush matchup this week after Jacksonville's horrid week, but are still allowing a quarterback hit on over 19% of their pass attempts. The Indianapolis front four has struggled against some decent matchups of late and haven't had a sack in three weeks. The data would suggest that they'll have an excellent shot to break that trend this week.

Also worth mentioning are the Packer front seven against the Vikings and the Arizona defense at home against San Francisco.

Pass-Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Atlanta front four Vs New Orleans

John Abraham is a dynamic player, but he's been handled by better offensive lines this season in Carolina and Philadelphia. Abraham was able to break through against what had been a tough Green Bay matchup, but should struggle this week against the Saints, who have allowed only seven sacks on the season.

Chicago front four Vs Tennessee

The Packers broke a five week shutout streak by the Titan offensive line last week, doubling the number of sacks Tennessee had allowed in 2008 to four. Don't expect that trend to continue for the Bears this week; Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown are both shaky plays if you're looking for a sack this week.

Team
Pressure
QB
QB
Adj Pass
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Att Faced
2007 Lg Avg
11.3%
2.13
3.99
35.4
2008 Lg Avg
12.0%
2.14
4.13
34.4
Arizona
16.4%
2.63
5.38
32.8
Atlanta
9.4%
2.00
3.25
34.8
Baltimore
15.1%
2.25
5.00
33.1
Buffalo
12.5%
1.63
4.13
32.9
Carolina
8.5%
1.63
3.00
35.3
Chicago
11.1%
2.00
4.88
43.8
Cincinnati
14.3%
1.00
4.44
31.0
Cleveland
15.3%
1.75
4.63
30.3
Dallas
14.9%
2.89
5.22
35.0
Denver
10.4%
2.38
3.75
36.0
Detroit
9.2%
2.00
2.88
31.1
Green Bay
13.8%
1.75
4.88
35.4
Houston
12.5%
1.75
3.50
28.0
Indianapolis
10.4%
1.38
3.25
31.1
Jacksonville
10.2%
1.38
3.38
33.1
Kansas City
5.4%
0.50
1.63
30.3
Miami
10.9%
2.25
3.75
34.4
Minnesota
13.3%
2.63
4.88
36.6
New England
11.3%
1.75
3.38
30.0
New Orleans
11.5%
1.75
4.25
36.9
N. Y. Giants
13.9%
3.75
4.63
33.4
N. Y. Jets
13.2%
3.50
5.13
38.8
Oakland
8.8%
2.38
2.88
32.6
Philadelphia
13.8%
3.38
4.88
35.3
Pittsburgh
14.7%
4.00
5.75
39.0
St. Louis
11.6%
2.25
3.75
32.3
San Diego
7.6%
2.00
3.13
41.1
San Francisco
9.6%
1.75
3.25
33.8
Seattle
12.6%
2.50
4.63
36.6
Tampa Bay
15.0%
1.67
5.00
33.4
Tennessee
15.1%
2.75
5.88
38.9
Washington
11.8%
1.56
4.11
34.9

Strong Matchups in green. Weak Matchups in red.


Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Chicago defenders Vs Tennessee

The Bears go from the worst tackle matchup in the league last week (DET) to one of the best against the Titans this week. The Tennessee offense has the second highest run-pass percentage in the league and averages 34 rush attempts a game. The Chicago defense has seen a higher percentage of pass attempts than any other defense in the league, but the Bears aren't likely to hold to that trend this week. Lance Briggs was one of the few tacklers to survive the Detroit matchup this season. Teammates Brian Urlacher and Kevin Payne should rebound to join him with above-average weeks.

Houston defenders Vs Baltimore

The Ravens have continued to provide well above-average tackle opportunity to opposing defenses. The Baltimore offense has had only one week with fewer than 30 rush attempts this season and have rushed the ball 87 times in the past two weeks. The Texan defense was dealt a blow with the loss of Zac Diles to a leg injury this week, but all three linebackers should have good weeks against the Ravens this week. Expect DeMeco Ryans to look more like the player he was last season and for both Morlon Greenwood and Kevin Bentley to top five solos.

Philadelphia defenders at New York Giants

The Eagles also go from facing one of the worst tackle matchups in the league to one of the best this week. The Giants have been providing steady opportunity to opposing defenses and allowing inside backers and safeties well above-average weeks. Stewart Bradley and Quentin Mikell are both strong plays this week. Trent Cole and Omar Gaither should also have solid tackle weeks.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Carolina defenders at Oakland

The Raiders have run the ball only 30 times over the past two games and provided a nearly unbelievable 21 tackle opportunities on just 34 offensive snaps to Atlanta last week. The Panther defense is a better unit overall and get an Oakland team that is clearly in complete meltdown. Jon Beason has proven all but immune to matchups, but must be considered a candidate for your bench if you've got other reasonable options. Thomas Davis and the rest of the Panther defenders should be avoided this week.

Miami defenders Vs Seattle

The Seahawk offense is now the third worst tackle matchup in the league and haven't provided an above-average number of tackle chances in five weeks. Despite the bad matchup, it's still not a great idea to bench Yeremiah Bell, but Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele are likely to struggle this week.

Team
Tackle
Rush Att
Pass Att
Offensive
Run
Opps
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
2007 Lg Avg
49.8
27.3
35.4
62.7
43.6%
2008 Lg Avg
49.3
27.3
34.4
61.7
44.2%
Arizona
45.8
23.6
32.8
56.4
41.9%
Atlanta
46.5
25.5
34.8
60.3
42.3%
Baltimore
41.3
22.8
33.1
55.9
40.7%
Buffalo
47.4
26.3
32.9
59.1
44.4%
Carolina
46.8
25.1
35.3
60.4
41.6%
Chicago
50.5
23.4
43.8
67.1
34.8%
Cincinnati
53.4
32.9
31.0
63.9
51.5%
Cleveland
51.4
31.6
30.3
61.9
51.1%
Dallas
48.4
25.4
35.0
60.4
42.1%
Denver
54.9
28.8
36.0
64.8
44.4%
Detroit
55.8
34.1
31.1
65.3
52.3%
Green Bay
48.9
29.9
35.4
65.3
45.8%
Houston
46.6
27.8
28.0
55.8
49.8%
Indianapolis
55.6
33.9
31.1
65.0
52.1%
Jacksonville
46.6
25.3
33.1
58.4
43.3%
Kansas City
53.3
33.8
30.3
64.0
52.7%
Miami
46.8
25.3
34.4
59.6
42.3%
Minnesota
46.9
23.0
36.6
59.6
38.6%
New England
45.3
25.4
30.0
55.4
45.8%
New Orleans
46.8
25.1
36.9
62.0
40.5%
N. Y. Giants
43.5
22.6
33.4
56.0
40.4%
N. Y. Jets
51.4
24.5
38.8
63.3
38.7%
Oakland
56.1
35.3
32.6
67.9
51.9%
Philadelphia
46.0
25.1
35.3
60.4
41.6%
Pittsburgh
49.3
24.0
39.0
63.0
38.1%
St. Louis
53.1
31.9
32.3
64.1
49.7%
San Diego
55.3
26.6
41.1
67.8
39.3%
San Francisco
51.8
31.1
33.8
64.9
48.0%
Seattle
55.4
30.1
36.6
66.8
45.1%
Tampa Bay
45.8
26.0
33.4
59.4
43.7%
Tennessee
48.4
24.3
38.9
63.1
38.4%
Washington
42.2
22.3
34.9
57.2
39.0%

Strong Matchups in green. Weak Matchups in red.


Trends From The Matchup Sheet

  • Indy started out in a nickel package, but with three safeties, Sanders, Bethea and Bullitt.
  • Arizona dominated TOP with St. Louis 38:38 to 21:22, a plus 17:16.
  • In Arizona @ St. Louis game, only three assists were awarded.
  • Atlanta had an amazing 57 rush attempts Vs Oakland last week, by far the most this season of any NFL team. The Falcons had only 21 Tackle Ops. This of course is reflected in the TOP with Atlanta totally dominating 45:15 to 14:45 an unbelievably plus 30:30. Making John Abraham's 5-0-3 very impressive. The cable guy will get disconnected if this doesn't improve quickly.
  • Oakland had 77 Tackle Ops last week; WOW! Which is the highest total so far this year, previous high was San Francisco 70 in week five.
  • Jacksonville has allowed 24 QBHs in the last two weeks.
  • Green Bay DE Mike Montgomery didn't start (Thompson), but still had a monster game 8-2-1 with a PD.
  • Philadelphia had a plus 14:30 TOP over Seattle 37:15 to 22:45.
  • The Colts are yet to have a game with less than 50 Tackle Ops.
  • Detroit is yet to have a game with less than 30 RAF (Rush Attempts Faced). Nine teams have faced 30 or more only once.
  • Only Cincinnati (1-8) and Detroit (0-8) have yet to have game with at least 30 rushing attempts.
  • Baltimore is the only team who has yielded 50 plus TOA (Tackle Ops Allowed) in every game.
  • Pittsburgh and Washington combined for 16 TFLs, 19 QBH and 23 PDs.

This feature will be a work in progress all season long. We welcome all suggestions and feedback to bramel@footballguys.com.