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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 11

An in-depth look at the key games 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 eleventh 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.

We’ve made it this far in the regular season. For some of you, the dying embers of your season are guttering out; for others, the fires are burning brightly and showing no signs of being quenched. Whichever side of the spectrum you find yourself, my advice would be never to give up. Teams can squeak into a playoff spot with a late season run and play spoiler for the big boys.

Remember, it’s all about getting into the tournament. Once you’re in, record doesn’t matter. The IDP landscape continues to morph into a new, untameable beast from one week to the next, but let’s see if we can be the David to its Goliath by dissecting these matchups.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 11.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Pressure Percentage is calculated as sacks plus quarterback hits per game divided by pass attempts faced by game
and expressed as a percentage.

New England front seven vs. Buffalo

The Patriots rank only behind the Broncos in sacks (30) and average 2.6 per game at home. The last time the Bills and Patriots faced off - a memorable encounter in Week 2 punctuated by a late Buffalo comeback – the Patriots had their way with the Bills offensive line and disrupted Tyrod Taylor constantly. Bill Belichick is a mastermind capable of creating defensive game plans to take any quarterback out of his comfort zone. The Bills are surrendering pressure on 16.3% of dropbacks and average three sacks allowed per game; their showing against the Jets last week only served to emphasise how fragile they can be. The Patriots, with an extra day to prepare, should be able to take advantage.

Minnesota front seven vs. Green Bay

One game is a fluke, but three games is most definitely a trend. The Packers sputtering offense has a lot of soul searching to do ahead of this crucial clash in Minnesota. With temperatures beginning to dip, rediscovering their rushing attack could be the key to getting back to form. However, that won’t be easy against a Minnesota front seven that has been playing outstanding football. The Vikings have allowed only one opponent to exceed 20 points this season and get pressure on 18% of dropbacks. Aaron Rodgers’ offensive line may be protecting him, but his receivers’ inability to get open has meant he has had to hold onto the ball, resulting in more pressure. In this pressure cooker environment, I expect the better defense to exert some serious pressure and win the day.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

St Louis front four at Baltimore

The Rams are the very definition of a Jekyll and Hyde team. If they can get a game on their terms, they have the ability to throttle an opponent; if they can’t, they have the ability to be throttled themselves. The home/road split for their sack totals is 20/9, unsurprising given the advantage the turf and crowd noise give them. The Ravens, meanwhile, have given up pressure on only 8.1% of dropbacks, a surprising statistic considering their season so far. All the trends point to fading the Rams pass rushers this week, especially if newly installed starting quarterback Case Keenum puts them in bad situations.

Sack Opportunity Chart

LEAGUE Team Defense Team Offense
Pressure QB QB Drop Backs Pressure QB Sacks QB Hits Drop
Applied Sacks Hits Faced Allowed Allowed Allowed Backs
2008 NFL Average 12% 2 4.1 34.3 12% 2 4.1 34.3
2009 NFL Average 13.3% 2.2 4.7 35.4 13.3% 2.2 4.7 35.4
2010 NFL Average 12.7% 2.2 4.6 35.9 12.8% 2.2 4.6 35.9
2011 NFL Average 13.1% 2.3 4.8 36.3 13.1% 2.3 4.8 36.3
2012 NFL Average 12.8% 2.3 4.8 37 12.8% 2.3 4.8 37
2013 NFL Average 13.5% 2.5 5.1 38 13.5% 2.5 5.1 38
2014 NFL Average 13.7% 2.4 5.1 37.3 13.7% 2.4 5.1 37.3
2015 NFL Average 14.1% 2.3 5.4 38.3 14.1% 2.3 5.4 38.3
LEAGUE Team Defense Team Offense
Pressure QB QB Drop Backs Pressure QB Sacks QB Hits Drop
Applied Sacks Hits Faced Allowed Allowed Allowed Backs
ARIZONA Cardinals 16.2% 1.7 6.1 37.8 16.9% 1.6 6.1 36.2
ATLANTA Falcons 13% 1.1 5 38.4 12.6% 1.9 5.2 41.6
BALTIMORE Ravens 13.7% 2.7 5.4 39.7 8.1% 1.7 3.4 42.8
BUFFALO Bills 10% 1.6 4.1 41.2 16.3% 3 5.2 32
CAROLINA Panthers 14% 2.9 6.2 44.4 12.8% 2 4.1 32.2
CHICAGO Bears 16% 1.7 5.4 34 14.1% 1.8 5.1 36.3
CINCINNATI Bengals 14.8% 2.9 6 40.7 9% 1.6 3.1 34.4
CLEVELAND Browns 9.6% 1.6 3.4 35.5 15.1% 3.6 6.3 41.8
DALLAS Cowboys 14.3% 1.8 5.1 35.8 11.3% 2.2 3.9 34.4
DENVER Broncos 22.3% 3.4 8.4 37.9 13.5% 2 5.4 40.4
DETROIT Lions 17.1% 2.6 6.3 37.1 16.8% 2.4 7.4 44.3
GREEN BAY Packers 16.4% 2.6 6.3 38.6 14.9% 2.4 5.6 37.2
HOUSTON Texans 15.3% 2.6 5.6 36.3 10.4% 2.2 4.8 46.1
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 13% 1.4 5.1 39.3 17.6% 2 7.6 43
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 11.4% 2.1 4.6 39.9 15.4% 3.1 6.6 42.7
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 11% 2.9 4.4 40.4 15.7% 3.3 5.8 36.8
MIAMI Dolphins 13.6% 2.2 5 36.7 16.2% 3 6.6 40.4
MINNESOTA Vikings 18% 2.3 6.8 37.7 18.2% 2.8 5.8 31.7
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 14.5% 3.3 6.2 43 10.7% 2.3 4.7 43.4
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.9% 2.2 4.4 37 11.1% 2.4 4.8 43.3
NEW YORK Giants 11.6% 1.2 4.9 42.2 9.5% 1.5 3.8 39.9
NEW YORK Jets 18.7% 2.3 7.6 40.3 9.9% 1.1 3.7 37.2
OAKLAND Raiders 9% 2.1 4 44.7 7.5% 1.3 3 39.9
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 12% 2.6 5 41.6 14.4% 2 6 41.8
PITTSBURGH Steelers 11.9% 2.8 5 42.1 10.8% 2.3 3.8 35.1
SAN DIEGO Chargers 13.3% 1.8 4.4 33.3 14.1% 2.3 6.6 46.4
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 12.4% 1.8 4.7 37.6 17.8% 3.1 5.9 33
SEATTLE Seahawks 18.2% 2.6 6.3 34.8 24.4% 3.7 8.1 33.2
ST. LOUIS Rams 18.4% 3.2 6.8 36.9 21.3% 1.4 6.4 30.2
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 15.2% 2.2 5.4 35.8 19.9% 1.8 6.7 33.4
TENNESSEE Titans 15.2% 3 4.9 32.2 18% 3.2 6.6 36.4
WASHINGTON 12.5% 1.7 4.2 33.9 13.6% 1.3 5.2 38.4

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Stadium Tackle Factor (STF) is designed to recognize trends and identify favorable tackle matchups for IDP. STF
takes into account where game is played (Stat Crew) incorporating Stat Crew, Tackle Opportunity, and Tackle
Opportunity Allowed data, transforms it into a rating number/factor. The number/factor is separated into four
categories: Great, Good, Neutral, and Poor.

Denver defenders at Chicago

Despite being a poor matchup according to STF, inexperience under center could yield greater opportunities for the Broncos defense. Brock Osweiler has the confidence of the coaching staff, but if Gary Kubiak is smart he will limit the potential mistakes and play a safe, ground and pound style of football. The Bears defense has been averaging 46.4 tackle opportunities per game, in part due to their better play. Offensively, they seem to be clicking enough that we could see an above average number of tackle opportunities for Denver.

Indianapolis defenders at Atlanta

Both teams come off a bye with a point to prove, but the home team should be particularly eager to stop their slide. Atlanta’s offense has been an excellent tackle matchup, averaging 55.2 tackle opportunities allowed per game. Their inability to run the ball effectively in San Francisco two weeks ago will irk them, but expect to see sounder blocking and a better game plan. The Georgia Dome’s stat crew provides a neutral matchup for Colts defenders, who average 52.4 tackle opportunities per game. The wildcard here is backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has the ability to sustain drives with his quick, accurate passing.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Dallas defenders at Miami

Miami were lucky to escape Philadelphia with a victory last week and face the tricky task of welcoming Tony Romo back this Sunday. Offensively, the Dolphins leave a lot to be desired. They average a poor 47.7 tackle opportunities allowed per game, but interim head coach Dan Campbell has shown willingness to pound the rock, which could give Dallas a chance. The smart play here, however, is to fade the Dallas IDPs and trust the trend. The return of Tony Romo should see a drop in their snap counts anyway.

Kansas City defenders at San Diego

The Chiefs defense has been playing well enough to limit their own opportunity, averaging just 48 tackle opportunities per game. With San Diego in a tailspin and missing key weapons like Keenan Allen, this offense simply lacks bite. Their rushing attack has also been putrid and has put too much pressure on Philip Rivers to make every play. Expect the Chargers to struggle against a stout Chiefs defense; sitting your Chiefs might be the best play.

Tackle Opportunity Chart

LEAGUE TEAM Defense TEAM Offense
Tackle Rush Attempts Drop Backs Offensive Rush Tackle Opps Rush Drop Offensive Rush
Opportunity Faced Faced Snaps Faced Percentage Allowed Attempts Backs Snaps Percentage
2008 NFL Average 49.3 27.6 34.3 61.9 54.8% 49.3 27.6 34.3 61.9 54.8%
2009 NFL Average 49.9 27.4 33.3 62.9 55.1% 49.9 27.4 33.3 62.9 55.1%
2010 NFL Average 49.9 27.2 35.9 63.1 54.5% 49.9 27.2 35.9 63.1 54.3%
2011 NFL Average 50 27.3 36.3 63.6 54.5% 50 27.3 36.3 63.6 54.5%
2012 NFL Average 50.6 27.2 37 64.2 53.7% 50.6 27.2 37 64.2 53.7%
2013 NFL Average 51.3 27.1 38 65 52.8% 51.3 27.1 38 65 52.8%
2014 NFL Average 51 26.7 37.3 64 52.5% 51 26.7 37.3 64 52.5%
2015 NFL Average 50.7 25.6 38.3 63.9 50.4% 50.7 25.6 38.3 63.9 50.4%
LEAGUE TEAM Defense TEAM Offense
Tackle Rush Attempts Drop Backs Offensive Rush Tackle Opps Rush Drop Offensive Rush
Opportunity Faced Faced Snaps Faced Percentage Allowed Attempts Backs Snaps Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals 45.7 22.9 37.8 60.7 37.7% 49.9 26.3 36.2 62.6 42.1%
ATLANTA Falcons 49.1 23.8 38.4 62.2 38.2% 55.2 26.8 41.6 68.3 39.2%
BALTIMORE Ravens 51.9 25.3 39.7 65 39% 52.7 24.3 42.8 67.1 36.3%
BUFFALO Bills 47.2 22.4 41.2 63.7 35.3% 51.3 28.7 32 60.7 47.3%
CAROLINA Panthers 52.1 25.4 44.4 69.9 36.4% 51.6 32.6 32.2 64.8 50.3%
CHICAGO Bears 46.4 25 34 59 42.4% 52.4 28.8 36.3 65.1 44.2%
CINCINNATI Bengals 48.6 21.6 40.7 62.2 34.6% 51.2 27.9 34.4 62.3 44.7%
CLEVELAND Browns 51.5 29.1 35.5 64.6 45% 50.1 22.4 41.8 64.2 34.9%
DALLAS Cowboys 49.2 25.3 35.8 61.1 41.5% 51.4 27.1 34.4 61.6 44%
DENVER Broncos 51.1 26.6 37.9 64.4 41.2% 47.3 22.3 40.4 62.8 35.6%
DETROIT Lions 54.4 27.7 37.1 64.8 42.7% 48.4 19.4 44.3 63.8 30.5%
GREEN BAY Packers 51.1 27.6 38.6 66.1 41.7% 49 24.6 37.2 61.8 39.7%
HOUSTON Texans 49.6 26.2 36.3 62.6 41.9% 53 25.9 46.1 72 36%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 52.4 27.6 39.3 66.9 41.2% 49.6 24.2 43 67.2 36%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 54.4 27.1 39.9 67 40.5% 48.1 23.1 42.7 65.8 35.1%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 48 23.6 40.4 64 36.8% 49.9 25.6 36.8 62.3 41%
MIAMI Dolphins 54.8 30.9 36.7 67.6 45.7% 47.7 20.8 40.4 61.2 33.9%
MINNESOTA Vikings 48.9 24.2 37.7 61.9 39.1% 50.8 29.7 31.7 61.3 48.4%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 49.3 21.8 43 64.8 33.6% 52.4 22.2 43.4 65.7 33.8%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 51.8 26.4 37 63.4 41.6% 56.8 25.4 43.3 68.7 37%
NEW YORK Giants 54.5 26 42.2 68.2 38.1% 50.7 24.4 39.9 64.3 37.9%
NEW YORK Jets 46.1 22.1 40.3 62.4 35.4% 51.3 28.4 37.2 65.7 43.3%
OAKLAND Raiders 53.9 24.4 44.7 69.1 35.4% 48.8 22.3 39.9 62.2 35.9%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 54 26.6 41.6 68.1 39% 55.8 28.4 41.8 70.2 40.5%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 52.5 23.4 42.1 65.5 35.7% 48.4 24.9 35.1 60 41.5%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 46.6 24.2 33.3 57.6 42.1% 55.9 23 46.4 69.4 33.1%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 53 26.6 37.6 64.1 41.4% 47.1 26.3 33 59.3 44.4%
SEATTLE Seahawks 48.9 26.2 34.8 61 43% 51.3 28.2 33.2 61.4 45.9%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.3 27.6 36.9 64.4 42.8% 44 26.3 30.2 56.6 46.6%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 52.7 27.1 35.8 62.9 43.1% 48.7 28.7 33.4 62.1 46.2%
TENNESSEE Titans 48.4 26.7 32.2 58.9 45.3% 49.1 24.1 36.4 60.6 39.8%
WASHINGTON 49 26.7 33.9 60.6 44 52 25.6 38.4 64 39.9%

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 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.