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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 17

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 final edition of what was 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 not standard practice to have a championship game in Week 17, but if you are in that position we have you covered. Historically, this week of the season is one of the most difficult to predict; teams rest starters and give young players more opportunities, coaches may have already been fired (Chip Kelly) and other unusual factors.

We can use our matchup data sheets to predict with a high degree of accuracy how the tackle counts and pass rush opportunities may play out, but be prepared to rely on your gut this week as well. Pay attention to the tidbits released by coaches during the week as far as the status of players.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 17.


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.

Minnesota front seven at Green Bay

The last time these teams met, the Packers needed some moments of inspiration from Aaron Rodgers to establish a lead and get out of Minnesota with a priceless victory. This time, the Vikings could turn the tables on their rivals with a dominating performance from their defense. A solid unit on all levels, the pass rush has been quietly efficient and generates pressure on 17.1% of dropbacks, with 2.5 sacks and an impressive 6.3 quarterback hits. The Packers struggled mightily to protect Rodgers in Arizona, and while they will surely look to the ground game to prevent that situation repeating itself, they may find it tough sledding against a stout front seven. The absence of left tackle David Bakhtiari has forced a reshuffle that could continue to haunt Rodgers, whose confidence has to be low right now.

New England front seven at Miami

This looks to me like a tune-up game for the Patriots ahead of their inevitable long playoff run. Bill Belichick’s squad was handed a tough defeat by their division rival Jets last week; this week expect a big response, especially defensively. Miami is a team playing out the string and has surrendered pressure on 16.1% of dropbacks. With fresh questions floating around about Ryan Tannehill and the future of this team, don’t be surprised to see New England’s front seven hammer home that point and embarrass Miami.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Kansas City front seven vs. Oakland

The Raiders remain the best team in the league as far as pressure allowed, giving up a measly 9.5% pressure on dropbacks. Derek Carr’s hesitance has led to more sacks than the pressure indicates (2.5 per game), but overall this unit has used a quick passing attack and defined reads to make their quarterback’s life easier. Kansas City can still win the division and have everything to play for, but the absence of Justin Houston has blunted this pass rush; they now generate pressure on only 11.5% of dropbacks. In a game the plucky Raiders could keep close, the Chiefs pass rush is best avoided.

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 16.7% 2.3 6.4 38.4 16.9% 1.7 6.1 36.3
ATLANTA Falcons 13.6% 1.3 4.9 35.8 13% 2.1 5.3 41.1
BALTIMORE Ravens 14.3% 2.3 5.3 36.8 10.6% 1.5 4.5 42.9
BUFFALO Bills 10.9% 1.3 4.3 39.1 15.5% 2.7 4.9 31.8
CAROLINA Panthers 14.9% 2.8 6.4 43 11.9% 1.9 4 33.7
CHICAGO Bears 16.1% 2.1 5.4 33.6 12.9% 1.9 4.5 35.3
CINCINNATI Bengals 15.1% 2.7 6.3 42.1 10.1% 1.9 3.4 33.7
CLEVELAND Browns 12.5% 1.9 4.2 33.6 16.4% 3.1 6.7 40.6
DALLAS Cowboys 14.7% 2 5 34 11.4% 1.9 3.9 33.9
DENVER Broncos 20% 3.2 7.8 39.1 13.7% 2.5 5.6 40.8
DETROIT Lions 16.7% 2.5 6.1 36.3 15.2% 2.7 6.4 42.2
GREEN BAY Packers 16.1% 2.7 6.1 38.1 15.9% 2.8 6.1 38.1
HOUSTON Texans 15.6% 2.4 5.8 37.1 12.4% 2.3 5.1 40.8
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 13.6% 2.1 5.3 39.3 17.8% 2.4 7.3 41.1
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 10.6% 2.3 4.2 39.7 12.8% 2.9 5.3 41.2
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 11.5% 2.7 4.7 41 15.2% 2.9 5 32.8
MIAMI Dolphins 14.7% 1.9 5.3 36.4 16.1% 2.9 6.4 39.7
MINNESOTA Vikings 17.1% 2.5 6.3 37 18.2% 2.8 5.8 31.8
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 14.9% 3.2 6 40.4 14.1% 2.4 6 42.7
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.2% 2 4 35.9 11.3% 2.1 4.9 43.7
NEW YORK Giants 12.7% 1.5 5.3 41.5 10.9% 1.7 4.4 40.3
NEW YORK Jets 16.9% 2.5 6.9 40.7 11.2% 1.4 4.4 39.2
OAKLAND Raiders 9.5% 2.5 4.1 43.5 8.5% 1.8 3.4 39.9
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 13.3% 2.3 5.5 41.7 15.3% 2.4 6.3 41.4
PITTSBURGH Steelers 12.1% 2.7 5 41.3 9.4% 2.2 3.7 39.1
SAN DIEGO Chargers 12.6% 2 4.3 33.9 13.6% 2.5 6.1 44.7
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 13.5% 1.9 4.9 35.9 17.2% 3.5 6.1 35.6
SEATTLE Seahawks 17% 2.3 6.1 36.1 22.5% 3 7.5 33.5
ST. LOUIS Rams 17.7% 2.7 7 39.5 19.6% 1.2 5.9 30.2
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 14.6% 2.3 5.3 36.6 19.7% 1.7 6.7 34.2
TENNESSEE Titans 12.5% 2.5 4.2 33.5 15.7% 3.3 6 38.3
WASHINGTON 12.7% 2.3 4.7 36.8 14.2% 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.

Seattle defenders at Arizona

Although this matchup rates as a mediocre one in the STF designation, it is still worth exploiting because of the increasingly balanced nature of Arizona’s offense. Rookie back David Johnson has injected new life into this offense, which is slicing through defenses for fun. Seattle has a low tackle opportunity number (45.9) but hasn’t faced an offense like Arizona’s in a few weeks (their last meeting, in fact). The Cardinals are allowing 51.1 tackle opportunities per game, with 27.5 rush attempts per game affording the Seahawks defenders a real chance of a big outing.

Buffalo defenders vs. New York Jets

The forecast in Buffalo is for snow flurries and temperatures of 33F – this could be a fun one. Everything is on the line for the Jets; win and they are in, but a loss will open the door for Pittsburgh. Rex Ryan could knock off his former team, and one Bills player called this game their Super Bowl. Besides all of the storylines, however, what we know is that the Jets have a pretty high-powered offense. The elements could adversely affect their passing game, but Chris Ivory is enough of a threat to pose problems. The Jets offense is allowing 52.4 tackle opportunities per game, one of the highest in the league, and should be able to stay on schedule in Buffalo. My only caveat would be to watch the forecast around three hours before game time. If it appears as though neither offense will be able to efficiently move the football, stay away.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Indianapolis and Tennessee defenders

The STF designation rates this as a poor matchup to target for tackle production, but you don’t need metrics to tell you that. Neither offense has been impressive this season and, although the Colts have something to play for, their playoff hopes are essentially hanging by a very thin thread. No matter the outcome, this is a matchup you should avoid at all costs.

St Louis defenders at San Francisco

The 49ers have been a horrible matchup for opposing tacklers, allowing just 46.4 tackle opportunities per game with only 23.3 rush attempts per game to boot. The Rams defense has actually averaged 54.5 tackle opportunities per game, so against any other opponent they might be worth considering, but not this week. Avoid this matchup like the plague.

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 63.6 50.7% 50.4 25.5 38.1 63.6 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 45.9 22.2 38.4 60.6 36.6% 51.1 27.3 36.3 63.6 42.9%
ATLANTA Falcons 49.2 25.4 35.8 61.2 41.5% 53.1 25.3 41.1 66.4 38.2%
BALTIMORE Ravens 49.8 25.3 36.8 62.1 40.8% 51.9 24 42.9 66.9 35.9%
BUFFALO Bills 47.2 23.7 39.1 62.8 37.8% 51.1 30 31.8 61.8 48.5%
CAROLINA Panthers 49.5 22.6 43 65.6 34.5% 52.5 31.9 33.7 65.6 48.7%
CHICAGO Bears 48.5 26.9 33.6 60.5 44.4% 52.3 29.2 35.3 64.5 45.3%
CINCINNATI Bengals 49.6 21.2 42.1 63.3 33.5% 51.3 28.3 33.7 62.1 45.6%
CLEVELAND Browns 50.2 28.4 33.6 62 45.8% 49.6 23.4 40.6 64 36.6%
DALLAS Cowboys 49.9 27.2 34 61.2 44.4% 47.6 25.6 33.9 59.5 43%
DENVER Broncos 49.3 24.5 39.1 63.6 38.6% 50.5 24.8 40.8 65.6 37.8%
DETROIT Lions 51.2 25.7 36.3 62 41.5% 50.4 21.6 42.2 63.8 33.9%
GREEN BAY Packers 49.5 26.1 38.1 64.2 40.6% 50.7 26.5 38.1 64.6 41.1%
HOUSTON Texans 47 24 37.1 61.1 39.3% 52.5 28.1 40.8 68.9 40.8%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 52.1 27.5 39.3 66.7 41.2% 47.9 23.3 41.1 64.4 36.1%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 54.2 27.6 39.7 67.3 41% 47.7 22.3 41.2 63.5 35.1%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 48.7 24.1 41 65.1 37.1% 48.3 25.7 32.8 58.5 43.9%
MIAMI Dolphins 55.1 30.7 36.4 67.1 45.8% 45.7 20.1 39.7 59.7 33.6%
MINNESOTA Vikings 49.5 24.9 37 61.9 40.3% 50.7 28.9 31.8 60.7 47.6%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 49.5 23.9 40.4 64.3 37.1% 50.9 22.4 42.7 65.1 34.4%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 50.9 25.7 35.9 61.6 41.8% 54.8 24.1 43.7 67.8 35.5%
NEW YORK Giants 54.9 27.1 41.5 68.6 39.6% 50.1 23.9 40.3 64.2 37.2%
NEW YORK Jets 45.5 21.4 40.7 62.1 34.5% 52.4 27.9 39.2 67.1 41.6%
OAKLAND Raiders 52.4 24 43.5 67.5 35.5% 48.1 22.9 39.9 62.8 36.4%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 55.1 28.1 41.7 69.7 40.2% 54.6 27.2 41.4 68.6 39.7%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 51.1 23.2 41.3 64.5 36% 50.3 23.6 39.1 62.7 37.6%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 47.5 24.9 33.9 58.9 42.4% 54.3 23.7 44.7 68.4 34.7%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 55.1 29.7 35.9 65.7 45.3% 46.4 23.3 35.6 58.9 39.6%
SEATTLE Seahawks 45.9 22.7 36.1 58.7 38.6% 53.4 29.7 33.5 63.1 47%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.5 27.1 39.5 66.7 40.7% 43.4 25.5 30.2 55.7 45.7%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 53.7 27.7 36.6 64.3 43% 48.7 28.1 34.2 62.3 45.1%
TENNESSEE Titans 49.8 27.4 33.5 60.9 45% 47.8 22.7 38.3 61 37.2%
WASHINGTON 49.3 25.7 36.8 62.5 41.1 51.7 25.5 37 62.5 40.8%

Best of luck with Week 17 and make sure to check back next season 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.