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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 16

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 sixteenth 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.

Every decision you have made this season in your fantasy line-ups has led to this moment, when you either go home happy or start planning for 2016. For most owners, the latter is already a cruel reality; for the lucky few who still have championship aspirations, it couldn’t be any more exciting.

Remember that it is difficult to reach this point and, like any NFL team or any sports team, you needed a few bounces of the ball along the way. Those bounces tend to even out though, so I don’t subscribe to the theory that fantasy football is all luck.

Trust your gut this week above all else. Ultimately, this is your team and your call, but that doesn’t mean that the great staff here at Footballguys can’t give you something to think about before you press ‘submit lineup’.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 16.


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.

Green Bay front seven at Arizona

Although the Cardinals offensive line has given up a below average sack total (1.6 per game), in a broader sense they have given up plenty of pressure. The design of the offense lends itself to more seven-step drops for quarterback Carson Palmer, who has absorbed 6.3 hits per game and has been pressured on 17.1% of dropbacks. Bruce Arians will not deviate from his style, so a Packers front seven that has rushed the passer surprisingly well (16.2%) should fancy its chances to cause some disruption. The rub is this: Arizona has discovered their ground game behind a stubborn back named David Johnson. If they Cardinals can maintain the balance they showed in Philadelphia, this could be a tricky one for the Packers pass rush to get into a rhythm. However, I believe Green Bay have the horses up front in Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews and even B.J. Raji to effectively stymie the running game. In a crucial road test for the Packers that could help them on their way to a division title, their ability to get to Palmer will be of the utmost importance.

Seattle front four vs. St Louis

The Rams are never a pushover team when they face their division rivals, but this test looks like one too far for this overmatched St Louis line. The Seahawks defense hasn’t been getting much credit lately, but their excellent play has been just as much a factor in their late season surge as their offensive fireworks. The Rams offensive line boasts one of the poorer starting five combinations in football, and they surrender pressure on 20.7% of dropbacks. Despite this, St Louis has given up the fewest sacks all season at just 18. I am predicting this pattern to change in a big way this week. Jeff Fisher would like to keep slamming Todd Gurley into the line of scrimmage for minimal gains, but if he truly wants to win this one he’ll have to trust his quarterback. The Seahawks know the division is out of reach, but they can play with no pressure knowing that a playoff berth is already secured. Expect Seattle to flex their muscle in a big way at home.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Denver front seven vs. Cincinnati

It is strength against strength as the vaunted Denver defense will attempt to salvage some pride at home against a Cincinnati offensive line that has given up pressure on only 9.8% of dropbacks, the third best mark in the league. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will not put A.J. McCarron in bad situations and will, as long as the game script allows, keep feeding the ball to his talented backs. The Broncos pass rush did their part against Pittsburgh in the early stages, but faded as the offense failed to keep up their end of the bargain. I could certainly see a Broncos breakout here, but these are two evenly matched teams who should cancel each other out. In that case, I will back the Bengals line to win the battle.

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 38.2 14.2% 2.3 5.4 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 15.6% 1.9 6 38.4 17.1% 1.6 6.3 36.8
ATLANTA Falcons 13.7% 1.2 4.9 36.1 12.7% 2.1 5.3 41.7
BALTIMORE Ravens 14.4% 2.2 5.3 36.8 10.6% 1.6 4.6 42.9
BUFFALO Bills 11.4% 1.4 4.5 39.6 15.1% 2.6 4.9 32.6
CAROLINA Panthers 14.7% 2.9 6.4 43.8 11.8% 1.9 4 33.8
CHICAGO Bears 16.2% 2.1 5.5 33.9 13.2% 2 4.7 35.8
CINCINNATI Bengals 15.4% 2.7 6.5 42.1 9.8% 1.9 3.3 33.5
CLEVELAND Browns 12.3% 2 4.2 34.4 16.5% 3.3 6.8 41.2
DALLAS Cowboys 14.3% 1.9 5 34.9 11.9% 2.1 4.1 34.1
DENVER Broncos 20.4% 3.3 8 39.2 14% 2.4 5.7 40.7
DETROIT Lions 17.1% 2.5 6.2 36.3 15.3% 2.7 6.5 42.4
GREEN BAY Packers 16.2% 2.7 6.3 38.7 14.8% 2.4 5.6 38.1
HOUSTON Texans 15.6% 2.5 5.6 36.1 12.6% 2.4 5.3 41.8
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 13.4% 1.8 5.2 38.9 17.9% 2.4 7.5 41.9
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 10.4% 2.4 4.1 39.9 13.1% 2.9 5.4 41.5
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 11.3% 2.9 4.7 41.6 15.1% 3.1 5.1 33.5
MIAMI Dolphins 14.6% 1.9 5.4 36.8 16.2% 2.7 6.4 39.4
MINNESOTA Vikings 16.8% 2.4 6.2 36.9 17.8% 2.8 5.7 32.1
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 15.1% 3.4 6.1 40.3 14% 2.4 6.1 43.4
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.4% 2 4.1 35.8 11.1% 2.2 4.9 44.2
NEW YORK Giants 12.1% 1.4 5.1 42.4 10.2% 1.5 4.1 40.5
NEW YORK Jets 17% 2.5 7 41.2 11.2% 1.4 4.4 39
OAKLAND Raiders 10.1% 2.6 4.4 43.1 8.6% 1.7 3.4 39.9
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 13.2% 2.4 5.4 41.2 15.4% 2.2 6.1 40
PITTSBURGH Steelers 12.3% 2.9 5.1 41.3 9.1% 2.1 3.6 39.3
SAN DIEGO Chargers 13% 1.9 4.4 33.4 14.5% 2.6 6.4 44.3
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 13.6% 1.9 4.9 35.7 17.7% 3.5 6.3 35.6
SEATTLE Seahawks 17.8% 2.5 6.6 37 21.9% 2.9 7.1 32.6
ST. LOUIS Rams 16.8% 2.6 6.6 39.1 20.7% 1.3 6.4 30.7
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 15% 2.4 5.6 37.2 20.1% 1.7 6.9 34.5
TENNESSEE Titans 12.8% 2.6 4.4 34 15.7% 3.5 5.9 37.4
WASHINGTON 12.4% 2.1 4.4 35.1 14.2% 1.7 5.1 36.2

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.

Baltimore defenders vs. Pittsburgh

In what many have billed as the Ravens’ Super Bowl, they will try to take down their hated rival Pittsburgh to put their playoff dreams in peril. The Steelers offense continues to impress and averages 50.5 tackle opportunities per game, but they should be able to better sustain drives against a Ravens defense that lacks a heart and soul. DeAngelo Williams was simply not fed the football last week; expect that to change this week, especially if Pittsburgh open an early lead. Unsurprisingly, the Ravens have faced an average of 25.7 rush attempts per game. Incidentally, this game ranks as a good matchup according to STF for both teams.

Jacksonville defenders at New Orleans

The news on Drew Brees is that he suffered a partially torn plantar fascia in the Monday night game against Detroit, not good reading for Saints fans. Reports have indicated he intends to play this week, however, so the Jaguars defense will have their hands full if that is the case. That unit has averaged 53.9 tackle opportunities per game and face an average of 67.1 offensive snaps per game. All this should add up to a highly productive outing for Jacksonville defenders, especially considering their season is up in smoke and some players may already be thinking about their golf tee times.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Detroit defenders vs. San Francisco

The San Francisco offense has been toothless all season and should continue that dry spell in Detroit. The Niners average only 46.3 tackle opportunities allowed and haven’t been able to generate a consistent rushing attack to boost that total. Detroit, meanwhile, have been limiting their own opportunity thanks to some solid defense down the stretch. The Lions average only 48.6 tackle opportunities per game at home, so Ford Field is a happy hunting ground for them. Stay clear of your Detroit defenders if possible.

Cleveland and Kansas City defenders

The STF number of just 1.48 makes this a poor matchup for both teams. The Browns looked feisty at times last week with Johnny Manziel at the helm, but simply aren’t good enough to hang with the better teams. The Chiefs know they have to keep winning to book their playoff berth, so expect a typical performance from them built on defense, turnovers and an efficient passing attack. If you have to take a punt on any team’s defenders, go with Cleveland due to the game script.

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 38.2 63.7 50.6% 50.4 25.5 38.2 63.7 50.6%
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 45.6 22 38.4 60.4 36.4% 51.6 27.5 36.8 64.3 42.8%
ATLANTA Falcons 49.9 25.8 36.1 61.9 41.7% 53.1 25.1 41.7 66.9 37.6%
BALTIMORE Ravens 50 25.7 36.8 62.5 41.1% 51.4 23.5 42.9 66.4 35.4%
BUFFALO Bills 47.9 23.7 39.6 63.4 37.4% 51 29.5 32.6 62.1 47.5%
CAROLINA Panthers 49.2 22.2 43.8 66 33.7% 53.4 32.8 33.8 66.6 49.2%
CHICAGO Bears 49.1 27.1 33.9 60.9 44.4% 51.7 28.5 35.8 64.3 44.3%
CINCINNATI Bengals 49.5 21.2 42.1 63.3 33.5% 51 28.1 33.5 61.6 45.6%
CLEVELAND Browns 50.7 28.5 34.4 62.9 45.3% 49.6 22.5 41.2 63.7 35.3%
DALLAS Cowboys 49.7 26.5 34.9 61.4 43.1% 48.4 25.7 34.1 59.9 43%
DENVER Broncos 48.8 24 39.2 63.2 38% 50.5 25.1 40.7 65.8 38.1%
DETROIT Lions 51.4 25.9 36.3 62.2 41.7% 50 21.4 42.4 63.8 33.5%
GREEN BAY Packers 49.8 26.2 38.7 64.9 40.4% 50.7 26.6 38.1 64.7 41.2%
HOUSTON Texans 47.6 24.9 36.1 61 40.9% 52.3 27.3 41.8 69.1 39.5%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 51.8 27.6 38.9 66.6 41.5% 48.4 23.4 41.9 65.2 35.8%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 53.9 27.3 39.9 67.1 40.6% 47.9 22.8 41.5 64.3 35.4%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 48.7 23.3 41.6 64.9 35.9% 48.6 25.6 33.5 59.1 43.3%
MIAMI Dolphins 56.1 31.4 36.8 68.1 46% 44.9 19.7 39.4 59.1 33.4%
MINNESOTA Vikings 49.9 25.3 36.9 62.2 40.6% 50.4 28.4 32.1 60.4 46.9%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 49.1 23.6 40.3 63.9 37% 51.3 22.5 43.4 65.9 34.2%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 51.4 26.5 35.8 62.3 42.5% 54.6 23.5 44.2 67.7 34.7%
NEW YORK Giants 54.9 26.4 42.4 68.9 38.4% 50.5 24.1 40.5 64.6 37.3%
NEW YORK Jets 45.6 21.4 41.2 62.6 34.2% 52.3 28 39 67 41.8%
OAKLAND Raiders 52.1 23.9 43.1 67 35.7% 48 22.8 39.9 62.6 36.4%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 55.1 28.5 41.2 69.7 40.9% 54.4 28 40 68 41.2%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 50.5 22.6 41.3 63.9 35.4% 50.5 23.9 39.3 63.1 37.8%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 47.4 25 33.4 58.4 42.8% 54.1 23.6 44.3 67.9 34.8%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 55.1 30.1 35.7 65.8 45.7% 46.3 23.4 35.6 58.9 39.6%
SEATTLE Seahawks 46.1 22.3 37 59.3 37.6% 53.6 30.2 32.6 62.9 48.1%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.8 27.5 39.1 66.6 41.3% 43.5 25.3 30.7 56 45.2%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 53.3 26.9 37.2 64.1 41.9% 49.3 28.4 34.5 62.9 45.2%
TENNESSEE Titans 49.4 26.6 34 60.6 43.9% 48.4 23.5 37.4 60.9 38.6%
WASHINGTON 48.7 26.4 35.1 61.4 42.9 51.5 25.8 36.2 62 41.6%

Best of luck with Week 16 and make sure to check back next season for more matchup analysis. Have a very happy Christmas! 

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.