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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 1

An in-depth look at the teams and players to target for IDP production. 

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 first 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 hone 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.

Week 1 presents a challenge in that we are operating with a blank slate. If we think of the 2015 season as a puzzle, right now we would have only the corner pieces. At the best of times, fantasy owners make educated guesses about who to start and who to bench, but the theme of this week’s article is ‘go with your gut’.

If you watched the preseason, there were definitely some valuable tidbits to stash away in your memory banks, but realise that the reality could change in an instant. Teams try new things in preseason. Coaches, like artists seeking that perfect portrait, are tinkerers by nature - but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean useful information to be deployed on the fantasy battlefield this week.

So, without further ado, let’s see where our gut takes us in Week 1.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Buffalo front seven vs. Indianapolis

Should the names Anthony Castonzo, Lance Louis, Khaled Holmes, Todd Herremans and Jack Mewhort inspire confidence in an offense? The aforementioned quintet is the group the Indianapolis Colts will be relying on to protect their all-world quarterback Andrew Luck in what should be a stiff test. Rex Ryan’s defense will be without the suspended Marcell Dareus, but Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes should provide plenty of potent pass rush. Expect Ryan to scheme up some exotic pressure looks to test the communication on the Colts’ line. The key match-up in this game could be how effectively the Colts can exploit rookie cornerback Ronald Darby, who has been victimized by quarterbacks all preseason. If Ryan can protect the weak link, the Bills should be in business for a productive day.

Dallas front four vs. New York Giants

Suddenly the Dallas Cowboys’ front four look like world-beaters. Although Greg Hardy will not play due to suspension, Dallas has Randy Gregory, Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford to call upon to cause some havoc up front. Meanwhile, the Giants have had their fair share of difficulties on the offensive line after incumbent left tackle Will Beatty went down with injury, forcing rookie Ereck Flowers to be the blind side protector for Eli Manning. Ben McAdoo’s second year as offensive coordinator could start the same way his first did in Detroit last season – with a bloodbath up front. If Dallas’ offense can shorten the game, be efficient with the football and limit the Giants’ possessions, it could end up being a feeding frenzy for the Cowboys’ front four.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Denver front seven vs. Baltimore

The Ravens boast one of the top tier offensive lines in the league; they will need every one of those players to perform in what should be a hostile environment in Mile High. Wade Phillips’ defense is a fearsome unit and has flashed its potential in preseason. However, my feeling is that a veteran team like Baltimore should be able to settle in to this game and connect on some quick-hitters to offset the rush.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

San Diego defenders vs. Detroit

The Chargers home stat crew was one of the most generous in 2014 in terms of giving out tackles per tackle opportunity, ranking sixth overall. Assuming this carries forward into this season, we can expect plenty of opportunity for the San Diego defense against a versatile Detroit offense that can throw multiple looks at teams. In what should be a tightly contested affair, players like Donald Butler, Manti Te’o and Melvin Ingram should be able to rack up the tackles.

Washington defenders vs. Miami

On paper, this looks like Miami’s coming out party as an offense. The Redskins’ headlines in the past couple of weeks have been all bad as people turned their attention to this match-up, but the Skins defense is not a pushover by any means. The Dolphins may not have it all their own way, but they should be able to wear down the Redskins’ resistance with a steady dose of Lamar Miller mixed in with some precision passing from Ryan Tannehill. The Redskins home stat crew ranked fourth in terms of tackles awarded per tackle opportunity in 2014; that should continue to provide a feast of tackle production for your Redskins IDP options.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Green Bay defenders at Chicago

The Bears’ home stat crew ranks as stingy in awarding tackles, finishing 28th last season in tackles per tackle opportunity. As a result, your best move might be to avoid playing your Packers defenders this week. Another factor to consider is that the Bears offense could sputter with a subpar offensive line and Jay Cutler always one move away from making the big mistake.

Carolina defenders at Jacksonville

The Jaguars’ stat crew ranked 26th in tackles awarded per tackle opportunity last year. In the preseason we saw glimpses of what Blake Bortles and this offense could be, but the Panthers defense will provide a stiff test for the second-year passer. As a result, the Jaguars offense could struggle to put drives together, limiting the tackle opportunity for the likes of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and company. The smart play here might be to avoid your Carolina defenders if you can afford to.


Best of luck with Week 1 and make sure to check back next week for more matchup analysis.

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