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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 12

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 twelfth 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.

It is officially crunch time in fantasy football. With only two or three more weeks of regular season play to go in most leagues, now is the time to make your move. If you are out of the picture, you must do everything in your power to play spoiler. Nothing ruins a league more than an owner who drags his heels and refuses to put in the work when his team is out of it.

Give your division rival that black eye and shake things, or make that final surge and secure that championship. It’s put up or shut up time, folks.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 12.


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.

Cincinnati front four vs. St Louis

Paul Brown Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for the Bengals this year. In all, 19 of their 29 sacks have been recorded on home turf, and that trend should continue this week against a frail Rams offensive line that inspires little confidence. First round selection Greg Robinson is not living up to his lofty billing, and the line is piecemeal at best. Cincinnati’s pass rush has been consistent all season, averaging pressure on 14.8% of dropbacks. The Rams are circling the drain under Jeff Fisher; expect the Bengals to turn up the heat and ride their pass rush to a win here.

Denver front seven vs. New England

It is rare that I bet against Bill Belichick’s team, but after watching the last two weeks of Patriots offensive tape, I am starting to become concerned about the offensive line. The last time an elite quarterback came into Mile High, he got obliterated and embarrassed by a swarming Denver defense on Sunday night – and Aaron Rodgers, if not for his mobility on that night, might have been sacked 12 times. Tom Brady will not be able to escape the pocket, so a quick passing game will be the key. Denver can match up with that, however; their cornerback trio is among the best in the league. This is an excellent match-up for Denver, who have averaged pressure on 21.6% of dropbacks.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

New Orleans front seven at Houston

The Texans have turned the ship around after a horrid start and now look like a respectable team. They could even be playoff-bound if they can take care of business down the stretch. The offensive line has surrendered pressure on only 10.6% of dropbacks, one of the best marks in the NFL. The Saints, meanwhile, are another team on the verge of collapse. A putrid defensive performance against the Redskins will be sticking in their craw after the bye, but I doubt they will be able to turn it around in a week. Expect a steady dose of Alfred Blue from Houston and a strong pass rushing display to control the game and limit the Saints’ rushers’ opportunities.

Sack Opportunity Chart

Team 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 14.2% 2.3 5.4 38.1 14.2% 2.3 5.4 38.1
Team 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 15.9% 1.9 6.1 38.3 16.7% 1.6 6 35.9
ATLANTA Falcons 13.9% 1.2 5.3 38 12.4% 1.8 5.2 42.1
BALTIMORE Ravens 13.8% 2.5 5.3 38.4 8.6% 1.6 3.7 43
BUFFALO Bills 11.4% 1.5 4.7 41.1 15.3% 2.9 5 32.6
CAROLINA Panthers 14.7% 3.1 6.4 43.5 12.3% 2 4 32.6
CHICAGO Bears 16.3% 2 5.5 33.8 14.1% 1.8 5.1 36.1
CINCINNATI Bengals 14.8% 2.8 5.9 39.9 9.6% 1.8 3.4 35.3
CLEVELAND Browns 9.6% 1.6 3.4 35.5 15.1% 3.6 6.3 41.8
DALLAS Cowboys 14.9% 1.9 5.2 34.9 12.1% 2.2 4.1 34
DENVER Broncos 21.6% 3.3 8.1 37.5 13.9% 2.3 5.5 39.6
DETROIT Lions 16.7% 2.4 6 36 16.4% 2.6 7.2 43.8
GREEN BAY Packers 17.1% 2.9 6.7 39.1 14.8% 2.4 5.5 37.1
HOUSTON Texans 15.4% 2.6 5.7 36.9 10.6% 2.1 4.8 45.1
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 12.7% 1.4 5.1 40.1 18.1% 2 7.6 42.1
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 11.3% 2.3 4.5 39.8 15.5% 3.2 6.5 41.9
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 11.3% 2.9 4.5 39.7 15.6% 3.3 5.6 35.9
MIAMI Dolphins 14.2% 2.2 5.1 36 16.6% 3 6.5 39.1
MINNESOTA Vikings 17.6% 2.3 6.6 37.5 18.8% 3.1 6.2 32.9
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 13.9% 3.2 5.9 42.5 12.1% 2.2 5.2 43.1
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 18.3% 2.2 7.3 39.9 10.6% 1.3 4 37.7
OAKLAND Raiders 9.3% 2.3 4.1 44.1 7.8% 1.3 3 38.5
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 12.4% 2.4 5 40.4 14.3% 2.1 6 42
PITTSBURGH Steelers 11.9% 2.8 5 42.1 10.8% 2.3 3.8 35.1
SAN DIEGO Chargers 13.4% 1.9 4.4 32.8 14.2% 2.4 6.4 45.1
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 13.3% 1.8 4.9 36.9 18% 3 6 33.3
SEATTLE Seahawks 18.3% 2.5 6.4 34.9 24.2% 3.5 8 33
ST. LOUIS Rams 17.8% 3 6.7 37.7 20.7% 1.4 6.2 29.9
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 15% 2.3 5.5 36.6 19.6% 1.7 6.5 33.1
TENNESSEE Titans 15.4% 3.1 5 32.5 17.2% 3.3 6.3 36.7
WASHINGTON 12% 1.7 4.1 34.1 14.4% 1.7 5.5 38.1

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.

Atlanta defenders vs. Minnesota

With an STF mark of 1.583, the Georgia Dome has been a mediocre match-up for IDP purposes, but the quality of the opponent should render that null and void this week. The reeling Vikings come to town after a reality check defeat at the hands of their bitter division rivals, and they will be out to prove they are no fluke. The Vikings have responded well to every ‘big’ game this season but one, so expect a strong performance here. Minnesota ranks fourth in rushing attempts and although Atlanta’s tackle opportunity on the season is low enough (49.4) the trend is pointing to a game Minnesota should control.

New York Giants defenders at Washington

In one of the more bizarre statistical anomalies this week, the Redskins could not be more different as far as tackle opportunities allowed at home vs. on the road. On their travels, Washington allows a paltry 43.4 tackle opportunities per game; at home, that number shoots up to 58. The STF number for FedEx Field is one of the best in the league at 1.798, so the trends point towards a strong game from your Giants defenders. The Redskins know this is essentially their season on the line; expect to see a game effort.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Arizona defenders at San Francisco

The 49ers offense has been viable since Blaine Gabbert took over, but the pieces simply are not there to make this a consistent unit. Despite having a relatively high rush percentage of 43.2%, the offense has averaged only 46.4 tackle opportunities allowed per game. Arizona should take care of business and will give Gabbert all he can handle from a pass rush perspective. It might be a good week to sit your Cardinals if you have better options.

New York Jets defenders vs. Miami

Only the Rams have a worse mark for tackle opportunities allowed after the Dolphins, who average 45.9 opportunities allowed per game. That makes bad reading if you own any piece of the Jets defense, which itself has been rather poor in recent weeks. It is difficult to trust the Jets right now, but I have more faith in them getting back to winning ways and stifling this Miami offense than I do in Miami’s ability to do the same.

Tackle Opportunity Chart

Team 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 50.6 25.7 38.1 63.8 50.8% 50.6 25.7 38.1 63.8 50.8%
Team 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 46.5 23.4 38.3 61.7 37.9% 49.5 26.1 35.9 62 42.1%
ATLANTA Falcons 49.4 24.1 38 62.1 38.8% 54.7 26.5 42.1 68.6 38.6%
BALTIMORE Ravens 50.9 25.7 38.4 64.1 40.1% 53 24.7 43 67.7 36.5%
BUFFALO Bills 46.8 22.4 41.1 63.5 35.3% 51.3 28.7 32.6 61.3 46.8%
CAROLINA Panthers 50.8 24.1 43.5 67.6 35.7% 52.6 33.2 32.6 65.8 50.5%
CHICAGO Bears 47.8 26 33.8 59.8 43.5% 51.7 28.4 36.1 64.5 44%
CINCINNATI Bengals 48.3 21.8 39.9 61.7 35.3% 51.5 27.9 35.3 63.2 44.1%
CLEVELAND Browns 51.5 29.1 35.5 64.6 45% 50.1 22.4 41.8 64.2 34.9%
DALLAS Cowboys 47.3 24.2 34.9 59.1 40.9% 52 28.1 34 62.1 45.2%
DENVER Broncos 50.5 26.4 37.5 63.9 41.3% 48.6 23.6 39.6 63.2 37.3%
DETROIT Lions 52.5 27 36 63 42.9% 49.1 20.4 43.8 64.2 31.8%
GREEN BAY Packers 50.9 26.6 39.1 65.7 40.5% 49.1 25.3 37.1 62.4 40.5%
HOUSTON Texans 48.8 25.6 36.9 62.5 41% 52.9 26.7 45.1 71.8 37.2%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 52.2 27.2 40.1 67.3 40.4% 49.8 24.5 42.1 66.6 36.8%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 54.2 27 39.8 66.8 40.4% 48.1 23.1 41.9 65 35.5%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 47.8 23.6 39.7 63.3 37.3% 50.3 26.1 35.9 62 42.1%
MIAMI Dolphins 55 31.5 36 67.5 46.7% 45.9 20.1 39.1 59.2 34%
MINNESOTA Vikings 49 25 37.5 62.5 40% 50.6 28.5 32.9 61.4 46.4%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 49.5 22.5 42.5 65 34.6% 51.5 22.2 43.1 65.3 34%
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 46.7 23.3 39.9 63.2 36.9% 50.4 27.6 37.7 65.3 42.3%
OAKLAND Raiders 54 24.9 44.1 69 36.1% 47.4 22.2 38.5 60.7 36.6%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 54.5 27.8 40.4 68.2 40.8% 55.9 28.4 42 70.4 40.3%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 52.5 23.4 42.1 65.5 35.7% 48.4 24.9 35.1 60 41.5%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 47.3 24.9 32.8 57.7 43.2% 54.9 23.1 45.1 68.2 33.9%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 54.3 27.9 36.9 64.8 43.1% 46.4 25.3 33.3 58.6 43.2%
SEATTLE Seahawks 48 25.2 34.9 60.1 41.9% 52.8 29.4 33 62.4 47.1%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.5 27.6 37.7 65.3 42.3% 43.8 26.6 29.9 56.5 47.1%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 53.1 27.2 36.6 63.8 42.6% 49.7 29.7 33.1 62.8 47.3%
TENNESSEE Titans 48.4 26.3 32.5 58.8 44.7% 49.4 24.3 36.7 61 39.8%
WASHINGTON 50.3 27.9 34.1 62 45 50.7 24.2 38.1 62.3 38.8%
 

=Best of luck with Week 12 and make sure to check back next week for more matchup analysis. Happy Thanksgiving to
you and yours!

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.