IDP Matchups - Week 11
by Dave Larkin
November 14th, 2012

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 line-up 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.

You are very welcome to the 11th edition of what will be a season-long look at the best and worst matchups in the IDP landscape based on detailed, accurate spreadsheet data generated by Larry Thomas on a weekly basis.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Dave Larkin. I am a veteran IDP player and what some would call a diehard fan of this game of football that we all love so much. Defense is my passion. Over the past few years, I have assimilated countless pages of data from various sources to improve my knowledge of the defensive side of the football. Each and every week I will study film from the previous week's games and provide you with nuggets of wisdom that will lead you to a championship.

Playoff football is in the air, but several injuries on the offensive side of the ball have flummoxed things from an IDP standpoint as well. Suddenly match-ups that appeared average have become great. Don't be left in the wake of quicker-acting league mates who beat you to the punch. Get your gloves on and punch them first.

For those of you in contention, keep at it. Do not let up one bit and be sure to familiarize yourself with the match-ups in your playoff weeks, even if you haven't secured a berth yet. A wise man once told me that "prior planning prevents p*** poor performance". Great advice, if you ask me.

If you are out of contention, the same advice applies. You owe it to your league to remain competitive and play spoiler. You owe it to fantasy football, this hobby we all love so dearly.

Let's dig in to a juicy Week 11 slate with the match-ups to exploit and avoid.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Chicago front four at San Francisco

Both Jay Cutler and Alex Smith could miss this encounter, leaving the uninspiring Jason Campbell and athletic but unproven Colin Kaepernick at the respective helms of these NFC juggernauts. In what should be the equivalent of two behemoths clashing horns, I expect this one to be won in the trenches. Chicago gets the edge in that department. The Bears have seven defensive linemen with more than 100 snaps; as a unit, they have accounted for a whopping 32 sacks, 16 hits and 102 hurries. Lovie Smith's unit will know exactly how to defend Kaepernick's running ability and will keep him in the pocket; this could lead to coverage sacks and perhaps a defensive touchdown from a fumble. The 49ers are a good match-up for pass rushers as well this year they have surrendered pressure on 16.9% of drop backs.

Recommendation: ****

Philadelphia front four at Washington

I'm going out on a limb here with this recommendation. The Eagles pass rush, despite being lauded as one of the best in the league, simply hasn't clicked this season. To date, they have only registered 15 sacks. Having studied Washington, however, it is clear the Eagles could find some success against this offensive line. Tyler Polumbus at RT is a weak point and Robert Griffin III has shown that he can get flustered at times when the pocket collapses. This all boils down to one thing: defensive discipline. Can the Eagles keep RGIII in the pocket? Perhaps. This defense will need to play their hearts out to stay in this game with Nick Foles under center. I am backing them for a game effort.

Recommendation: **1/2

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Baltimore front seven at Pittsburgh

I had to think hard about this one. On paper, you would assume that the presence of Byron Leftwich would mean more time in the pocket and a less decisive and therefore more mistake-prone passer. If the Steelers are smart about this game and I believe Mike Tomlin is a very good coach they will run right at the Ravens and give Leftwich manageable 3rd and short to medium. If the script plays out this way at Heinz Field, Baltimore will struggle to maintain a pass rush.

Recommendation: ***

Cincinnati front four at Kansas City

The Bengals will struggle to reproduce their fine defensive display of last week in a match-up with the Chiefs offensive line. Despite being 1-8, the Chiefs' line has given up only 15 sacks all season and boasts one of the better right sides on the offensive line in the league. Matt Cassel has also demonstrated the ability to escape pressure and scramble when needs must. The Chiefs rank fourth in the league in rushing attempts, so they should be able to keep the Bengals honest defensively not a good recipe for pass rushing.

Recommendation: ***

Team Defense
Team Offense
Stat
Pressure
QBSacks
QBHits
DropBacks
Pressure
QBSacks
QBHits
DropBacks
2007 Avg
11.3%
2.13
3.99
35.4
11.3%
2.13
3.99
35.4
2008 Avg
12.0%
2.02
4.13
34.3
12.0%
2.02
4.13
34.3
2009 Avg
13.3%
2.15
4.71
35.4
13.3%
2.15
4.71
35.4
2010 Avg
12.7%
2.21
4.59
35.9
12.7%
2.21
4.59
35.9
2011 Avg
13.1%
2.32
4.75
36.3
13.1%
2.32
4.75
36.3
2012 Avg
12.3%
2.24
4.59
37.4
12.3%
2.24
4.59
37.4
Stat
Pressure
QBSacks
QBHits
DropBacks
Pressure
QBSacks
QBHits
DropBacks
Ari
18.4%
3.0
6.2
33.9
16.5%
4.4
7.2
43.9
Atl
11.8%
2.3
4.1
34.8
13.0%
2.1
5.3
41.1
Bal
12.3%
1.8
4.8
39.0
10.5%
2.1
3.9
36.9
Buf
11.0%
2.2
4.0
36.3
12.5%
1.7
4.3
34.7
Car
11.8%
2.8
4.4
37.7
11.4%
2.7
3.8
33.2
Chi
10.5%
2.9
4.3
41.2
17.5%
3.1
5.9
33.7
Cin
15.0%
3.1
5.7
37.7
10.9%
2.4
4.1
37.6
Cle
11.2%
2.2
4.4
39.8
12.6%
1.6
4.9
38.9
Dal
14.5%
2.0
4.7
32.1
8.4%
1.9
3.4
41.2
Den
14.6%
3.4
5.9
40.3
7.0%
1.2
2.7
38.0
Det
14.7%
2.1
5.3
36.2
9.8%
1.9
4.6
46.4
GB
14.6%
3.1
6.1
42.0
14.2%
3.2
5.7
39.8
Hou
17.1%
2.9
6.6
38.3
12.0%
1.2
3.9
32.3
Ind
13.2%
2.3
4.7
35.3
14.9%
2.3
6.3
42.6
Jac
10.9%
1.1
4.0
36.6
13.6%
2.8
5.1
37.7
KC
12.8%
1.7
3.7
28.6
12.0%
2.1
4.3
36.0
Mia
14.7%
2.7
6.6
44.7
12.3%
2.1
4.3
35.3
Min
12.0%
2.6
4.7
39.1
13.2%
2.4
4.5
34.0
NE
10.0%
2.1
3.9
39.0
9.6%
1.7
4.0
41.8
NO
10.6%
2.3
4.2
39.9
10.8%
1.8
4.7
43.3
NYG
11.4%
2.5
4.2
36.7
9.2%
1.3
3.5
37.9
NYJ
11.5%
1.8
3.8
32.8
11.8%
2.4
4.2
35.8
Oak
12.8%
1.2
4.7
36.6
11.2%
1.9
4.9
43.8
Phi
8.4%
1.6
3.0
35.8
16.4%
3.2
6.9
41.9
Pit
13.1%
1.8
4.2
32.2
9.7%
2.1
3.8
38.9
SD
9.6%
1.6
3.4
35.9
11.5%
2.4
4.1
35.8
SF
9.8%
1.9
3.6
36.4
16.9%
3.2
5.1
30.2
Sea
15.3%
2.8
5.8
38.0
16.1%
1.9
4.4
27.4
StL
13.6%
2.9
5.1
37.6
15.4%
2.8
5.4
35.3
TB
6.5%
1.7
2.8
42.4
8.4%
1.4
2.7
31.8
Ten
10.7%
1.6
4.0
37.5
8.6%
1.8
3.2
37.1
Was
9.8%
1.6
4.0
40.9
18.4%
2.4
6.0
32.7

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Carolina defenders vs. Tampa Bay

The Panthers' already dismal season could go from bad to worse against division rival Tampa Bay. One shining light on the Panthers defense has been Mike linebacker Luke Kuechly. He should shine this week against a Buccaneers offense that is currently among the league's elite. The Buccaneers have run the football on over 59% of their offensive snaps and why wouldn't they with a talent like Doug Martin back there? In what should be a tight game, I expect Tampa Bay's balance and better quarterback play to be the difference. What this means is a productive day in the tackle column for Carolina defenders.

Recommendation: ***1/2

Jacksonville defenders at Houston

It's always a juicy match-up when Jacksonville comes to town. Against the AFC's elite side Houston, it should be a bloodbath. Jacksonville averages 56 tackle opportunities per game and has looked poor recently on offense. The Texans will maul Jacksonville and in the process, owners of Jacksonville defenders should be grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Recommendation: ****

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

San Francisco defenders vs. Chicago

With Jason Campbell at quarterback, it is hard to put your trust in the usually match-up proof Niners. Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis have to be in your line-up, but if you have comparable or better options, I might be tempted to go that way.

Recommendation: **

Team Defense
Team Offense
Stat
TklOpps
RshFaced
DrpBksFaced
SnpsFaced
Run%
TklOppAll
RushAtt
DrpBacks
Snaps
Run%
2007 Avg
49.8
27.3
35.4
62.7
43.5%
49.8
27.3
35.4
62.7
43.5%
2008 Avg
49.3
27.6
34.3
61.9
44.6%
49.3
27.6
34.3
61.9
44.6%
2009 Avg
49.9
27.4
33.3
62.9
43.6%
49.9
27.4
33.3
62.9
43.6%
2010 Avg
49.9
27.2
35.9
63.1
43.1%
49.9
27.2
35.9
63.1
43.1%
2011 Avg
50.0
27.3
36.3
63.6
54.5%
50.0
27.3
36.3
63.6
54.5%
2012 Avg
50.9
26.9
37.4
64.3
52.8%
50.9
26.9
37.4
64.3
52.8%
Stat
TklOpps
RshFaced
DrpBksFaced
SnpsFaced
Run%
TklOppAll
RushAtt
DrpBacks
Snaps
Run%
Ari
50.2
30.1
33.9
64.0
60.0%
49.7
22.4
43.9
66.3
45.2%
Atl
49.2
26.2
34.8
61.0
53.3%
53.2
24.4
41.1
65.6
45.9%
Bal
58.1
33.4
39.0
72.4
57.6%
47.4
24.4
36.9
61.3
51.5%
Buf
53.2
29.9
36.3
66.2
56.2%
49.2
27.0
34.7
61.7
54.9%
Car
54.1
27.8
37.7
65.4
51.3%
46.1
25.9
33.2
59.1
56.1%
Chi
46.1
22.0
41.2
63.2
47.7%
50.2
29.0
33.7
62.7
57.7%
Cin
53.3
26.9
37.7
64.6
50.4%
50.4
25.3
37.6
62.9
50.2%
Cle
56.8
30.9
39.8
70.7
54.4%
44.9
22.8
38.9
61.7
50.7%
Dal
46.7
25.9
32.1
58.0
55.5%
52.0
23.6
41.2
64.8
45.3%
Den
53.1
27.6
40.3
67.9
51.9%
53.9
27.1
38.0
65.1
50.3%
Det
50.9
26.2
36.2
62.4
51.5%
54.9
24.3
46.4
70.8
44.3%
GB
49.9
24.6
42.0
66.6
49.2%
53.7
26.0
39.8
65.8
48.4%
Hou
43.1
20.9
38.3
59.2
48.5%
55.7
35.0
32.3
67.3
62.9%
Ind
48.8
25.7
35.3
61.0
52.6%
53.8
28.3
42.6
70.9
52.7%
Jac
56.1
32.9
36.6
69.4
58.6%
44.3
21.4
37.7
59.1
48.4%
KC
45.7
27.7
28.6
56.2
60.6%
54.4
32.4
36.0
68.4
59.6%
Mia
51.6
25.2
44.7
69.9
48.9%
49.8
28.1
35.3
63.4
56.5%
Min
54.2
28.4
39.1
67.5
52.4%
51.9
28.9
34.0
62.9
55.7%
NE
52.2
25.8
39.0
64.8
49.4%
61.4
33.9
41.8
75.7
55.2%
NO
58.3
31.8
39.9
71.7
54.5%
48.8
21.4
43.3
64.8
44.0%
NYG
50.1
25.8
36.7
62.5
51.5%
48.9
25.2
37.9
63.1
51.5%
NYJ
52.7
33.3
32.8
66.1
63.3%
47.9
27.9
35.8
63.7
58.2%
Oak
51.7
27.1
36.6
63.7
52.5%
49.6
22.0
43.8
65.8
44.4%
Phi
48.6
26.8
35.8
62.6
55.1%
53.9
28.4
41.9
70.3
52.8%
Pit
42.1
23.8
32.2
56.0
56.5%
53.4
27.3
38.9
66.2
51.1%
SD
46.4
22.9
35.9
58.8
49.3%
51.9
26.8
35.8
62.6
51.6%
SF
47.8
25.4
36.4
61.9
53.3%
52.2
30.3
30.2
60.6
58.1%
Sea
46.5
23.2
38.0
61.2
49.9%
51.2
33.4
27.4
60.8
65.2%
StL
52.3
26.4
37.6
64.0
50.5%
49.7
26.6
35.3
61.9
53.5%
TB
51.3
22.8
42.4
65.2
44.4%
45.9
27.2
31.8
59.0
59.3%
Ten
57.3
30.3
37.5
67.8
52.9%
45.7
22.2
37.1
59.3
48.6%
Was
49.8
23.1
40.9
64.0
46.4%
53.3
31.2
32.7
63.9
58.5%

Best of luck with Week 11 and make sure to check back next week for more matchup analysis.

If you have any further questions or tricky lineup decisions you need advice with, please drop me a line at larkin@footballguys.com, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.

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