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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 14

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 fourteenth 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.

In the majority of leagues, the time has arrived. It is playoff time. In the immortal words of Bill Parcells: ‘This is why you lift them weights’. Now, in our case, we don’t have to lift weights for fantasy football purposes – unless you set your line-ups in the gym. My hope is that the content here at Footballguys has helped you make it to the playoffs; the next step is to get you one step closer to that championship.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 14.


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.

Arizona front seven vs. Minnesota

The Cardinals rank near the bottom of the league in sacks, but they boast a respectable pressure percentage of 15.8 and deliver six quarterback hits per game. It is a defense predicated on confusion and complex blitz packages, forcing the ball out quickly and making sure tackles. That should be the tone of the game plan when Bruce Arians’ team welcomes the Minnesota Vikings, who are allowing pressure on 18.5% of dropbacks. The Vikings’ offensive line has been troublesome all season due to injury; if Adrian Peterson can’t get going, this team has trouble adjusting. A fired-up Arizona team eager to keep pace on Carolina and take another step towards a first-round bye should make short work of the Vikings.

Detroit front four at St Louis

After a heartbreaking loss last Thursday night, the Lions (18.5% pressure applied) visit the faltering Rams, who boast one of the worst pressure allowed figures in the league at 20.9%. This translates to pressure on around one in every five dropbacks. Whether it is Case Keenum or Nick Foles at quarterback, it won’t matter; these are two teams heading in polar opposite directions. At this time of year, we begin to see certain squads mailing it in, for lack of a better term. I believe the Rams are on the verge of that happening, so expect a strong pass rushing effort from a Lions defensive front seven that has outperformed expectations of late.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Cincinnati front four vs. Pittsburgh

This one is going out on a limb, but the Steelers offensive line has been performing quite well recently, surrendering pressure on only 9.3% of dropbacks. The Bengals have the talent to cause problems for Ben Roethlisberger and company, but in what should be a tight divisional game it is hard for me to give the edge to one team over the other. The balance in the Pittsburgh attack alone should keep the Bengals, who average 3.3 sacks per game at home, at bay.

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 14.3% 2.3 5.5 38.2 14.3% 2.3 5.5 38.2
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 15.8% 1.8 6 38 17.2% 1.6 6.3 36.9
ATLANTA Falcons 14.2% 1.1 5.2 36.3 12% 1.9 5 41.8
BALTIMORE Ravens 15.2% 2.3 5.8 37.8 9.4% 1.6 4 42.8
BUFFALO Bills 11.1% 1.5 4.5 40.6 14.7% 2.6 4.8 32.3
CAROLINA Panthers 14.4% 2.9 6.3 43.4 11.4% 1.8 3.8 33
CHICAGO Bears 16.2% 2.2 5.7 34.9 13.2% 1.7 4.7 35.4
CINCINNATI Bengals 16.6% 2.7 6.8 41.2 8.7% 1.6 2.9 33.7
CLEVELAND Browns 8.7% 1.4 3 34.3 16.7% 3.4 7.1 42.4
DALLAS Cowboys 14.6% 1.9 5 34.3 11.4% 2.1 3.9 34.3
DENVER Broncos 22.9% 3.3 8.8 38.3 14.5% 2.3 5.7 39
DETROIT Lions 18.5% 2.8 6.7 36 15.7% 2.6 6.8 43
GREEN BAY Packers 16.7% 2.8 6.4 38.4 15.8% 2.4 6 37.9
HOUSTON Texans 15.6% 2.4 5.7 36.4 11.1% 2 4.8 43.7
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 13.1% 1.6 5.3 40.1 18.6% 2.3 7.8 42.1
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 10.9% 2.4 4.3 39.7 13.8% 3 5.8 42.3
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 11.3% 2.8 4.6 40.7 15.1% 3.2 5.3 34.7
MIAMI Dolphins 14.8% 2.2 5.5 37.3 16.5% 2.8 6.5 39.3
MINNESOTA Vikings 16.9% 2.3 6.2 36.5 18.5% 2.9 6 32.4
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 14.1% 3 5.8 41.3 14.5% 2.4 6.5 44.8
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.6% 2 4.3 36.7 11.9% 2.3 5.2 43.6
NEW YORK Giants 12.1% 1.3 5.1 42 10.4% 1.8 4.3 40.8
NEW YORK Jets 17.3% 2.3 7.2 41.4 11.5% 1.4 4.5 39
OAKLAND Raiders 9.9% 2.4 4.2 42.2 8.2% 1.5 3.3 39.7
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 13.1% 2.5 5.5 42.1 15.1% 2.3 6 39.8
PITTSBURGH Steelers 12.4% 2.9 5.1 41 9.3% 2.1 3.5 37.6
SAN DIEGO Chargers 12.6% 1.8 4.3 33.8 14.6% 2.5 6.5 44.6
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 13.3% 1.7 4.9 36.8 17.4% 3 5.9 33.9
SEATTLE Seahawks 17% 2.6 6.3 36.8 22.4% 3.3 7.3 32.7
ST. LOUIS Rams 16.5% 2.7 6.2 37.3 20.9% 1.3 6.8 32.3
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 15.3% 2.4 5.8 38.3 20.7% 1.9 6.9 33.3
TENNESSEE Titans 13.9% 2.8 4.7 33.5 15.9% 3.3 5.8 36.6
WASHINGTON 11.8% 1.8 4.2 35.4 14.4% 1.7 5.3 37

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 at Carolina

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte boasts one of the best STF numbers in the league at 1.741, making this an outstanding matchup for our tackle producers. Like many of the games on the docket this week, this NFC South tilt sees two teams going in opposite directions facing off. Atlanta is looking weary defensively and the home team should be able to take full advantage with a steady dose of the ground game mixed in with precision passing. The Carolina offense is allowing 53.3 tackle opportunities per game, with 33.3 rush attempts ranking among the best in the league. Atlanta faces an average of 25.9 rush attempts per game. All this adds up to a feeding frenzy for Atlanta defensive players.

Houston defenders vs. New England

In another matchup with an excellent STF number (1.736), the Patriots head to Houston seeking to end their two-game slide. Unsurprisingly, New England’s offense has not been its usual efficient self in the absence of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but they have enough to cause the home team problems here. The heavy usage of James White last week – and more specifically, how Tom Brady and he seemed to be on the same page – is encouraging, as the Texans linebackers are not the most athletic in coverage. Houston’s defense averages only 47.8 tackle opportunities per game, but the Patriots offense have a way of matriculating the ball down the field. The Houston defensive backs could be in for a big day.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Indianapolis and Jacksonville defenders

This game ranks as a poor matchup as far as STF (~1.4), so it is one to be avoided if you have the depth to cope. There are some good tackle producers to choose from, but if I were to side with one offense to explode, it would be Jacksonville. The Colts will surely go back to the drawing board after giving up 45 points to Pittsburgh, but Jacksonville have some weapons to cause them problems. Colts defenders look the more appealing option here if you’ re desperate, but the best play here is to avoid this one if possible.

Kansas City defenders vs. San Diego

The Chargers are surprisingly averaging 54.1 tackle opportunities allowed per game, but this comes down to their having to come from behind on a weekly basis. This team is in a shambles at the moment and needs a reboot – and maybe even a change of scenery. The red-hot Chiefs should do the business here at Arrowhead behind a strong defensive performance. Kansas City defenders could see an above average number of passing attempts coming their way if the Chargers are in comeback mode, but it is hard to hang your hat on that. My advice would be to sit your Chiefs unless you have no other options.

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 50.5 25.6 38.2 63.8 50.7% 50.5 25.6 38.2 63.8 50.7%
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 44.8 22 38 60 36.7% 50.8 26.8 36.9 63.7 42%
ATLANTA Falcons 50.3 25.9 36.3 62.3 41.6% 53.8 25.5 41.8 67.3 37.9%
BALTIMORE Ravens 49.4 25.1 37.8 62.9 39.9% 52.8 24.7 42.8 67.4 36.6%
BUFFALO Bills 47.3 22.9 40.6 63.5 36.1% 50.9 29.3 32.3 61.5 47.6%
CAROLINA Panthers 49 22.4 43.4 65.8 34.1% 53.3 33.3 33 66.3 50.3%
CHICAGO Bears 47.9 25.9 34.9 60.8 42.6% 52.4 29.8 35.4 65.2 45.7%
CINCINNATI Bengals 48.7 21.2 41.2 62.3 34% 51.3 28.5 33.7 62.2 45.8%
CLEVELAND Browns 50.7 28.9 34.3 63.3 45.7% 49.7 21.8 42.4 64.2 33.9%
DALLAS Cowboys 48.1 25.3 34.3 59.6 42.5% 50.1 26.6 34.3 60.9 43.6%
DENVER Broncos 49.3 25.3 38.3 63.5 39.8% 49.9 25.5 39 64.5 39.5%
DETROIT Lions 52 26.4 36 62.4 42.3% 50.1 21.6 43 64.6 33.4%
GREEN BAY Packers 50.9 26.8 38.4 65.3 41.1% 49.4 25.3 37.9 63.3 40.1%
HOUSTON Texans 47.8 25.2 36.4 61.6 40.9% 53.3 27.3 43.7 70.9 38.4%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 51.9 27 40.1 67.1 40.2% 49.3 23.8 42.1 65.8 36.1%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 54.6 27.3 39.7 67 40.8% 48.2 22.5 42.3 64.8 34.7%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 48.9 24 40.7 64.7 37.1% 49.1 25.6 34.7 60.3 42.5%
MIAMI Dolphins 55.6 31.2 37.3 68.4 45.6% 45 19.7 39.3 59 33.3%
MINNESOTA Vikings 49.5 25.6 36.5 62.1 41.2% 49.9 28.1 32.4 60.5 46.4%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 50 24.1 41.3 65.3 36.9% 51.2 21.8 44.8 66.5 32.7%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 53 27.6 36.7 64.3 42.9% 53.8 23.2 43.6 66.8 34.7%
NEW YORK Giants 55.3 26.7 42 68.7 38.8% 49.5 23.4 40.8 64.3 36.4%
NEW YORK Jets 46.4 22.2 41.4 63.6 34.9% 51.9 27.8 39 66.8 41.6%
OAKLAND Raiders 51.4 23.9 42.2 66.1 36.2% 48.9 22.9 39.7 62.6 36.6%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 55.1 27.6 42.1 69.7 39.6% 54.6 28.3 39.8 68.2 41.6%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 51.4 23.2 41 64.2 36.1% 49.3 24.5 37.6 62.1 39.5%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 48.3 25.5 33.8 59.3 43% 54.1 23.2 44.6 67.8 34.2%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 54.7 29 36.8 65.8 44.1% 46.1 24.4 33.9 58.3 41.9%
SEATTLE Seahawks 47.5 23.5 36.8 60.3 39% 52.9 29.6 32.7 62.3 47.5%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.8 28.3 37.3 65.6 43.1% 43.3 24.7 32.3 57 43.3%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 52.8 26.1 38.3 64.3 40.5% 49.7 29.3 33.3 62.7 46.8%
TENNESSEE Titans 48.7 26 33.5 59.5 43.7% 49.1 24.6 36.6 61.2 40.2%
WASHINGTON 48.8 26.3 35.4 61.8 42.6 51.2 25.3 37 62.3 40.6%

Best of luck with Week 14 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.