IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid - Week 12
By Jene Bramel
November 24th, 2010

Each week, this column will take a critical look at key statistical trends to highlight pass rushing and tackle matchups to exploit and avoid. We'll be heavily relying on another great 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, Doug Drinen's Matchup Analyzer Tool and our 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 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 12. After the first week of games, we'll be including data from the Matchup Analyzer to allow you to check any of the week's pass rush or tackle matchups.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Pittsburgh front seven at Buffalo
The Bills have allowed just three sacks in the last three weeks, but opposing defenses have been credited with 22 quarterback hits in those games. The Steelers are second only to the Chargers in sacks and should be able to convert more of those pressure opportunities into sacks. James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are all strong big play options.

Philadelphia front four at Chicago
The Eagles front four didn't fare well against the Giants last week, but should be much better against the league's most favorable pass rush matchup. The Bears have been better in recent weeks, but Cameron Wake (who had a sack and forced a handful of holding penalties) showed what a talented edge rusher can do to this offensive line last week. Expect a big week for Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham may be high upside plays in sack heavy scoring systems.

New York Giants front four vs Jacksonville
The Giants front four has been inconsistent in recent weeks, but both Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora looked healthy against Michael Vick last week. The Jaguars allow sacks and hits in bunches at times, especially against lines solid from end to end. Both Tuck and Umenyiora are good bets for a sack or more.

There are also strong isolated pass rush matchups for Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson, Darnell Dockett and Matt Roth this week.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

San Diego front seven at Indianapolis
Peyton Manning has had a harder time covering for his offensive line this year, but the Colts are still arguably the league's toughest pass rush matchup. Shaun Phillips and the Chargers lead the league in sacks, but will have an uphill battle this week.

Detroit front four vs New England
The Patriots have allowed just two sacks in their last four games, holding up very well against the solid pass rusher in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis in the last two weeks. The Lions boast a strong front four, but Tom Brady and his offensive line are playing crisply enough that Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Lions' rotation aren't good bets to buck the trend this week.

Season
Team Defense
Team Offense
Pressure
QB Sks
QB Hits
DrpBcks
Pressure
QB Sks
QB Hits
DrpBcks
2007 League Avg
11.3%
2.13
3.99
35.40
11.9%
2.13
3.99
35.40
2008 League Avg
12.0%
2.02
4.13
34.30
12.0%
2.02
4.13
34.30
2009 League Avg
13.3%
2.15
4.71
35.40
13.3%
2.15
4.71
35.40
Team
Pressure
QB Sks
QB Hits
DrpBcks
Pressure
QB Sks
QB Hits
DrpBcks
Arizona Cardinals
11.50%
2.0
4.3
37.5
16.40%
3.5
6.3
38.3
Atlanta Falcons
8.50%
1.8
3.1
36.3
8.40%
1.5
3.3
39.2
Baltimore Ravens
11.20%
1.9
4.0
35.7
11.70%
1.9
4.1
35.1
Buffalo Bills
9.80%
1.5
3.2
32.5
18.20%
2.1
6.5
35.8
Carolina Panthers
13.30%
1.6
4.5
33.9
17.40%
3.0
6.1
35.1
Chicago Bears
12.40%
1.8
4.8
39.3
18.20%
3.7
6.2
34.2
Cincinnati Bengals
12.30%
1.0
4.3
35.0
13.70%
1.9
5.5
40.2
Cleveland Browns
14.00%
2.0
5.2
37.2
12.50%
2.6
3.9
31.3
Dallas Cowboys
13.10%
2.0
4.5
34.3
13.30%
1.9
5.2
39.1
Denver Broncos
10.20%
1.4
3.2
31.4
10.40%
2.6
4.3
41.5
Detroit Lions
16.40%
2.8
5.7
34.7
9.60%
1.8
4.4
45.6
Green Bay Packers
16.10%
2.9
6.2
38.5
11.80%
2.0
4.2
35.7
Houston Texans
14.10%
1.7
5.5
38.9
12.70%
2.2
4.5
35.4
Indianapolis Colts
10.60%
2.1
3.7
34.9
7.30%
1.2
3.3
45.1
Jacksonville Jaguars
15.40%
2.0
5.2
33.7
20.30%
2.3
6.4
31.5
Kansas City Chiefs
12.50%
2.1
5.1
40.7
14.40%
1.5
4.4
30.6
Miami Dolphins
14.50%
2.6
4.9
33.7
10.00%
1.9
3.7
37.0
Minnesota Vikings
13.10%
1.7
4.5
34.3
16.40%
2.0
5.8
35.3
New England Patriots
9.20%
1.8
3.8
41.4
8.70%
1.4
3.0
34.5
New Orleans Saints
13.60%
1.9
4.5
33.0
9.50%
1.4
4.1
43.1
New York Giants
16.30%
2.8
5.5
33.7
9.10%
1.2
3.3
36.4
New York Jets
11.60%
2.1
4.3
37.0
8.50%
1.7
3.0
35.5
Oakland Raiders
13.20%
2.9
4.3
32.6
11.70%
3.2
4.1
35.0
Philadelphia Eagles
10.60%
2.5
4.0
37.8
14.00%
2.8
5.2
37.2
Pittsburgh Steelers
11.50%
3.0
4.8
41.8
14.40%
2.3
4.2
29.2
San Diego Chargers
11.10%
3.2
3.9
35.0
10.30%
2.3
3.9
37.9
San Francisco 49ers
13.70%
2.2
4.8
35.0
18.70%
2.5
6.7
35.8
Seattle Seahawks
11.90%
2.6
5.0
41.9
9.50%
2.4
3.5
36.8
St. Louis Rams
14.60%
2.8
5.7
39.0
10.90%
2.0
4.3
39.6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10.70%
1.6
3.5
32.8
14.20%
2.0
4.6
32.5
Tennessee Titans
15.80%
3.0
6.9
43.6
9.00%
1.8
2.6
29.0
Washington Redskins
10.00%
2.0
4.2
42.1
16.50%
2.8
6.5
39.3

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Green Bay defenders at Atlanta
The Packers tackle opportunity has been terrible the past three weeks, but they get the league's most consistent tackle matchup on the road. The Falcons have allowed 54 or more opportunities for four consecutive weeks and should be able to move the ball well enough against a strong Green Bay defense to give AJ Hawk, Desmond Bishop and Charlie Peprah some of the best opportunity they've had this season.

Dallas defenders vs New Orleans
The Saints are right behind the Falcons in tackle opportunity allowed and are gradually getting all the parts of their offense back to full health. At home, they should provide plenty of tackle chances for Keith Brooking and Bradie James. Though both Dallas ILBs began rotating out on a spare series or two for Sean Lee last week, they should remain safe plays this week.

Jacksonville defenders vs New York Giants
The Giants had allowed fewer than 50 opportunities only once before their ugly 39 opportunity performance against Philadelphia last week. With the receiving corps continue to lose talent to injury, the Giants may have to rely heavily on the run game. That bodes well for the prospects of all three Jaguars' linebackers, with Justin Durant and Daryl Smith having LB3+ expectations.

Cincinnati defenders at New York Jets
The Cincinnati secondary and defensive line are crippled by injury and the offense struggles to move the ball against average defenses at times. The Jets could well put up 70 tackle opportunities and 40 or more rushing attempts Thursday night, which would make Dhani Jones and Chinedum Ndukwe top plays.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Pittsburgh defenders at Buffalo
The Bills blew up against the Bengals last week, but they'll likely struggle greatly to move the ball against Pittsburgh. As noted above, Lawrence Timmons has enough big play upside to use in sack heavy leagues (and probably as a LB2 in balanced leagues), but this matchup isn't favorable in tackle heavy systems. Consider sitting him if you play one LB and have other strong options in those situations.

Kansas City defenders at Seattle
Derrick Johnson struggled to a so-so week against a horrid Arizona matchup last week and gets another bottom five matchup against the Seahawks this week. Consider him low level LB2 with upside at best.

Season
Team Defense
Team Offense
TcklOps
Rush
DrpBcks
Snaps
R/P%
TcklOps
Rush
DrpBcks
Snaps
R/P%
2007 League Avg
49.8
27.3
35.4
62.7
43.5%
49.8
27.3
35.4
62.7
43.5%
2008 League Avg
49.3
27.6
34.3
61.9
44.6%
49.3
27.6
34.3
61.9
44.6%
2009 League Avg
49.9
27.4
33.3
62.9
43.6%
49.9
27.4
33.3
62.9
43.6%
Team
TcklOps
Rush
DrpBcks
Snaps
R/P%
TcklOps
Rush
DrpBcks
Snaps
R/P%
Arizona Cardinals
55.3
30.8
37.5
68.3
55.70%
41.6
19.6
38.3
57.9
47.10%
Atlanta Falcons
47.1
22.2
36.3
58.5
47.10%
56.9
31.6
39.2
70.8
55.50%
Baltimore Ravens
46.5
24.4
35.7
60.1
52.50%
54.0
31.3
35.1
66.4
58.00%
Buffalo Bills
55.7
35.1
32.5
67.6
63.00%
47.3
25.4
35.8
61.2
53.70%
Carolina Panthers
53.8
32.2
33.9
66.1
59.90%
45.2
25.7
35.1
60.8
56.90%
Chicago Bears
47.2
22.6
39.3
61.9
48.50%
48.3
26.5
34.2
60.7
55.10%
Cincinnati Bengals
48.2
26.7
35.0
61.7
55.40%
51.6
25.4
40.2
65.6
49.20%
Cleveland Browns
52.7
29.1
37.2
66.3
55.20%
48.1
27.8
31.3
59.1
57.80%
Dallas Cowboys
51.2
27.3
34.3
61.6
53.30%
49.3
22.6
39.1
61.7
45.80%
Denver Broncos
52.7
32.9
31.4
64.3
62.40%
49.9
23.1
41.5
64.6
46.30%
Detroit Lions
50.3
28.0
34.7
62.7
55.70%
51.6
23.3
45.6
68.9
45.20%
Green Bay Packers
47.7
24.9
38.5
63.4
52.20%
48.3
24.8
35.7
60.5
51.30%
Houston Texans
53.8
27.0
38.9
65.9
50.20%
49.3
26.0
35.4
61.4
52.70%
Indianapolis Colts
50.5
27.4
34.9
62.3
54.30%
54.1
24.3
45.1
69.4
44.90%
Jacksonville Jaguars
49.9
26.6
33.7
60.3
53.30%
52.3
31.2
31.5
62.7
59.70%
Kansas City Chiefs
49.8
25.6
40.7
66.3
51.40%
52.9
34.1
30.6
64.7
64.50%
Miami Dolphins
48.9
28.9
33.7
62.6
59.10%
49.8
25.9
37.0
62.9
52.00%
Minnesota Vikings
49.0
27.2
34.3
61.5
55.50%
48.4
26.3
35.3
61.6
54.30%
New England Patriots
55.5
26.2
41.4
67.6
47.20%
49.5
26.6
34.5
61.1
53.70%
New Orleans Saints
46.2
25.4
33.0
58.4
55.00%
55.2
24.8
43.1
67.9
44.90%
New York Giants
44.0
23.9
33.7
57.6
54.30%
54.9
30.6
36.4
67.0
55.70%
New York Jets
46.6
26.0
37.0
63.0
55.80%
53.2
32.8
35.5
68.3
61.70%
Oakland Raiders
47.2
28.2
32.6
60.8
59.70%
51.9
31.6
35.0
66.6
60.90%
Philadelphia Eagles
47.3
25.0
37.8
62.8
52.90%
52.4
27.9
37.2
65.1
53.20%
Pittsburgh Steelers
50.0
21.7
41.8
63.5
43.40%
47.9
28.7
29.2
57.9
59.90%
San Diego Chargers
45.6
24.0
35.0
59.0
52.60%
53.3
27.8
37.9
65.7
52.20%
San Francisco 49ers
52.8
28.9
35.0
63.9
54.70%
46.2
24.4
35.8
60.2
52.80%
Seattle Seahawks
51.5
26.9
41.9
68.8
52.20%
46.6
23.6
36.8
60.4
50.60%
St. Louis Rams
48.2
24.0
39.0
63.0
49.80%
51.8
27.0
39.6
66.6
52.10%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
48.0
28.5
32.8
61.3
59.40%
48.3
27.5
32.5
60.0
56.90%
Tennessee Titans
55.8
26.8
43.6
70.4
48.00%
45.2
28.5
29.0
57.5
63.10%
Washington Redskins
53.6
25.8
42.1
67.9
48.10%
47.3
23.5
39.3
62.8
49.70%

We welcome all suggestions and feedback to bramel@footballguys.com.

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