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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 15

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 fifteenth 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.

The playoffs have well and truly arrived in fantasy football. Whatever your league’s format is, the one thing you need this week is a victory. The sweet smell of a championship is within sight. Remember, regardless of your regular season record, as long as you in the dance, you’ve got a chance.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 15.


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.

St Louis front four vs. Tampa Bay

The Rams pass rush has accumulated 26 sacks at home compared to just 10 on the road, with crowd noise playing a big part in helping their elite edge players to hunt. Tampa Bay has only given up 24 sacks all season, but allows pressure on 19.9% of dropbacks. Jameis Winston has done an excellent job in recent weeks of speeding up his process in the pocket, eliminating the negative plays. On Thursday nights, however, the home team usually responds well and this Rams unit has the chance to produce a big night.

New York Jets front seven at Dallas

It is all about the match-up here. Dallas have nothing to play for after their loss in Green Bay, so there is a good chance of a letdown game against the surging Jets. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performances have allowed the Jets defense to prosper and pin their ears back. Although Dallas give up pressure on only 11.7% of dropbacks, I am willing to bet the playoff-pursuing Jets, who average 2.5 sacks and 7.2 quarterback hits per game, will rise to the challenge.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Denver front seven at Pittsburgh

Fading the Broncos’ elite pass rush seems like a risky proposition, but the Steelers offense has protected Ben Roethlisberger very well when he has played this year. Pittsburgh surrenders pressure on only 9.3% of his dropbacks. This Steelers offense is in high gear right now, and Denver’s defense will be constantly challenged. If the Denver offense struggles as it did last week, Pittsburgh could get into a position where Denver’s pass rush would be nullified. The Steelers have allowed only 10 sacks at home all year, so all the trends here are pointing towards playing your Broncos only if you have absolutely have to.

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 5.4 38.1 14.3% 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 15.6% 1.8 5.9 38.1 17.1% 1.6 6.3 36.9
ATLANTA Falcons 14.4% 1.2 5.2 35.8 13% 2.2 5.5 42.2
BALTIMORE Ravens 14.4% 2.2 5.4 37.5 10.6% 1.5 4.5 42.6
BUFFALO Bills 11.6% 1.5 4.7 40.5 14.4% 2.5 4.7 32.6
CAROLINA Panthers 15.2% 3.1 6.6 43.6 11.8% 1.8 3.8 32.7
CHICAGO Bears 16.3% 2.2 5.7 34.8 12.9% 1.8 4.5 35.3
CINCINNATI Bengals 16.1% 2.6 6.6 41.2 9.2% 1.7 3.2 34.2
CLEVELAND Browns 10.7% 2 3.7 34.5 16.4% 3.3 6.8 41.7
DALLAS Cowboys 14.3% 1.9 4.9 34.5 11.7% 2.1 4 34.1
DENVER Broncos 22% 3.3 8.3 37.8 14.5% 2.5 5.8 40.3
DETROIT Lions 18.5% 2.6 6.5 35 15.5% 2.7 6.8 43.5
GREEN BAY Packers 16.7% 2.7 6.3 37.8 15.4% 2.4 5.8 37.8
HOUSTON Texans 15.1% 2.5 5.5 36.2 12.3% 2.3 5.2 42.6
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 13% 1.7 5.2 39.5 17.6% 2.4 7.5 42.4
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 10.5% 2.5 4.2 40.2 13.7% 3 5.7 41.6
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 11.4% 3 4.7 41.2 15.2% 3.1 5.2 33.9
MIAMI Dolphins 14.4% 2 5.3 36.8 16.1% 2.7 6.4 39.5
MINNESOTA Vikings 16.8% 2.2 6.2 36.5 18% 2.9 5.9 32.9
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 15.2% 3.2 6.2 40.4 14.2% 2.5 6.2 43.8
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.4% 1.9 4.2 36.4 11.7% 2.3 5.1 43.5
NEW YORK Giants 12.1% 1.2 5.1 42 10.4% 1.6 4.2 40.1
NEW YORK Jets 17.2% 2.5 7.2 41.7 10.9% 1.4 4.2 38.8
OAKLAND Raiders 10.3% 2.6 4.5 43.2 8.3% 1.6 3.2 39.1
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 12.9% 2.4 5.4 41.7 15.3% 2.2 6.1 39.8
PITTSBURGH Steelers 12.6% 2.9 5.2 40.9 9.3% 2.1 3.5 37.8
SAN DIEGO Chargers 12.8% 1.8 4.2 33.2 14.4% 2.7 6.5 44.8
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 13.3% 1.7 4.8 36.5 18.7% 3.5 6.4 34.2
SEATTLE Seahawks 17.8% 2.5 6.6 37.2 20.9% 3 6.8 32.7
ST. LOUIS Rams 16.3% 2.8 6.2 38.3 20.7% 1.2 6.5 31.6
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 14.7% 2.4 5.7 38.6 19.9% 1.8 6.6 33.3
TENNESSEE Titans 13% 2.7 4.4 33.8 15.9% 3.4 5.9 37.2
WASHINGTON 11.5% 1.8 4.1 35.3 14.6% 1.8 5.4 36.8

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.

San Francisco defenders vs. Cincinnati

The game script for Bengals offensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is simple: minimize A.J. McCarron’s involvement and rely on your offensive line and running backs to win this game. McCarron showed decent poise and decision making last week, but made key errors that cost the Bengals. Expect a more conservative plan against a 49ers team that, quite frankly, has its warts. The 49ers defense has faced an average of 29.6 rush attempts per game, so there should be plentiful tackle opportunity against a very solid Cincinnati ground arsenal.

Cleveland defenders at Seattle

The Seahawks appear to have found their identity; a solid rushing attack complemented by a high-flying passing game with Russell Wilson making good decisions and accurate throws. Even without Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls, this team is dangerous. The Browns defense doesn’t stand much of a chance here, so a strong day is on the cards for your tackle producers. Cleveland averages 50.2 tackle opportunities per game, while Seattle averages 29.8 rush attempts per game. Need I say more?

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

San Diego defenders vs. Miami

On paper, you might think Miami’s offense would be a trustworthy unit against a disappointing Chargers defense, but not so fast. The Dolphins average only 45.2 tackle opportunities allowed per game. Part of this is down to their play-calling under former offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but part of it is a lack of continuity and the overreliance on the passing game. Lamar Miller saw plenty of work last week against the Giants, but how likely is that to continue? The Dolphins should stay close in this game, but I can’t recommend trusting your San Diego defensive players with how putrid this offense has been at times.

Atlanta and Jacksonville defenders

The STF (1.5) number for this game tells us that both sides should be avoided if possible. The Jaguars offense has been strong in recent weeks, and if you have to pick one set of defenders it would be Atlanta, but it might be best to look elsewhere. The Falcons offense has been beyond hard to watch and it is difficult to see that trend reversing itself.

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 50.4 25.5 38.1 63.7 50.7% 50.4 25.5 38.1 63.7 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 45.3 22.2 38.1 60.2 36.8% 51 26.8 36.9 63.7 42%
ATLANTA Falcons 50.3 26.2 35.8 62 42.3% 53.1 24.7 42.2 66.8 36.9%
BALTIMORE Ravens 50 25.7 37.5 63.2 40.7% 51.6 23.8 42.6 66.4 35.8%
BUFFALO Bills 47.9 23.6 40.5 64.1 36.9% 50.9 29.4 32.6 62 47.4%
CAROLINA Panthers 48.7 21.8 43.6 65.5 33.4% 53.2 33.1 32.7 65.8 50.3%
CHICAGO Bears 48.8 26.4 34.8 61.2 43.1% 51.8 29.2 35.3 64.5 45.2%
CINCINNATI Bengals 49.4 21.5 41.2 62.7 34.4% 50.7 27.5 34.2 61.6 44.6%
CLEVELAND Browns 50.2 28 34.5 62.5 44.8% 50.5 22.9 41.7 64.6 35.5%
DALLAS Cowboys 49.5 26.6 34.5 61.1 43.6% 48.9 26.1 34.1 60.2 43.4%
DENVER Broncos 48.2 24.8 37.8 62.5 39.6% 50.8 25.2 40.3 65.5 38.4%
DETROIT Lions 51.3 26.5 35 61.5 43.1% 50.3 21.4 43.5 64.9 32.9%
GREEN BAY Packers 49.7 26.3 37.8 64.2 41% 50.7 26.6 37.8 64.5 41.3%
HOUSTON Texans 48.2 25.4 36.2 61.5 41.2% 52.2 26.8 42.6 69.4 38.6%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 51.6 27.2 39.5 66.7 40.7% 49.1 23.7 42.4 66.1 35.9%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 53.9 27 40.2 67.2 40.2% 48.2 23 41.6 64.6 35.6%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 48.8 23.5 41.2 64.8 36.3% 48.5 25.5 33.9 59.5 42.9%
MIAMI Dolphins 55.7 31.1 36.8 67.8 45.8% 45.2 19.8 39.5 59.3 33.3%
MINNESOTA Vikings 49.8 25.7 36.5 62.2 41.3% 50.1 27.8 32.9 60.7 45.8%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 49.2 23.8 40.4 64.2 37.1% 51.3 22.2 43.8 66.1 33.6%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 51.8 26.9 36.4 63.3 42.5% 54.7 23.9 43.5 67.5 35.5%
NEW YORK Giants 54.7 26.2 42 68.2 38.4% 50.1 23.9 40.1 64 37.4%
NEW YORK Jets 45.9 21.5 41.7 63.2 34% 52.2 28.2 38.8 67.1 42.1%
OAKLAND Raiders 52.2 23.7 43.2 66.9 35.4% 47.8 22.6 39.1 61.7 36.7%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 54.8 27.8 41.7 69.5 40% 54.7 28.6 39.8 68.4 41.8%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 50.8 22.5 40.9 63.5 35.5% 50 24.6 37.8 62.5 39.4%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 47.8 25.5 33.2 58.6 43.4% 53.5 22.8 44.8 67.6 33.7%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 55.1 29.6 36.5 66.2 44.8% 45.9 23.8 34.2 58 41.1%
SEATTLE Seahawks 46.7 22.7 37.2 59.8 37.9% 53.2 29.8 32.7 62.5 47.7%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.7 27.5 38.3 65.8 41.8% 43.3 24.9 31.6 56.5 44.1%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 53.8 26.6 38.6 65.2 40.8% 48.8 28.5 33.3 61.8 46.1%
TENNESSEE Titans 49.2 26.6 33.8 60.4 44.1% 48.4 23.7 37.2 60.9 38.9%
WASHINGTON 48.5 26 35.3 61.3 42.4 51.8 25.8 36.8 62.6 41.3%

Best of luck with Week 15 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.