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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid Week 2

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 second 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.

Listen to enough of the rhetoric surrounding Week 1 and the one message you’ll consistently hear like a mantra is: It’s only one week, don’t get too high or too low. It is sometimes difficult to remain patient with players who, just a few months ago, had you on their bandwagon, only for them to disappoint in their first outing of the season.

Don’t jump off the wagon too early, though, or you could be burned as they cosy themselves up to other owners in your league and rack up the points. On the flip side, remaining patient too long can be damaging too.

The bottom line is that we are still learning who these teams are, but we have our first data point of the season and we can start to see patterns emerging before too long to help us make better line-up decisions and rack up those wins.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 2.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Miami front seven at Jacksonville

The Dolphins’ vaunted front four could only muster one sack in a tight road victory in the nation’s capital last week; more will be expected within the building this time around. The Jaguars represent a tasty pass rushing matchup if their pass protection blunders against Carolina are anything to go by. Blake Bortles has made baby steps in terms of improvement, but there are still opportunities here for defenses the calibre of Miami’s. This is a classic ‘get well’ game for the road team.

New Orleans front seven vs. Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers much-maligned offensive line lived up to its reputation in Week 1, giving up pressure constantly to a stout Titans front seven. Jameis Winston was given a rocky reception as he was sacked four times and hit six times. The Saints had a rather inauspicious debut in Arizona, but will be pleased to enjoy some home comforts about a vulnerable Bucs offense. The Saints may be without starting cornerback Keenan Lewis, but there are more than enough threats up front to trouble Tampa Bay.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Buffalo front seven vs. New England

The Patriots rotated their interior offensive linemen against Pittsburgh, with rookies like David Andrews and Shaq Mason performing really well. Carrying that forward to this road test in Buffalo against arguably the league’s best defense won’t be easy, but the smart play here is on the Patriots, and specifically Tom Brady. Typically, Brady performs well against Rex Ryan defenses; he may not diagnose every creative pressure package, but more often than not his quick release and pre-snap adjustments give him a leg up. For that reason I’m betting on a quiet day from Buffalo’s front seven.

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 10.6% 2 3.9 36.8 10.6% 2 3.9 36.8
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 8% 2 4 50 3.1% 0 1 32
ATLANTA Falcons 15.4% 0 8 52 8.6% 1 3 35
BALTIMORE Ravens 11.4% 4 5 44 26.5% 2 9 34
BUFFALO Bills 9.8% 2 5 51 0% 0 0 19
CAROLINA Panthers 13.3% 5 6 45 6.1% 2 2 33
CHICAGO Bears 0% 0 0 23 13.2% 2 5 38
CINCINNATI Bengals 6.7% 2 3 45 2.9% 0 1 34
CLEVELAND Browns 4.2% 0 1 24 14.3% 3 5 35
DALLAS Cowboys 10.8% 1 4 37 2.2% 0 1 45
DENVER Broncos 26.5% 2 9 34 11.4% 4 5 44
DETROIT Lions 9.1% 2 4 44 9.7% 1 3 31
GREEN BAY Packers 13.2% 2 5 38 0% 0 0 23
HOUSTON Texans 8.6% 2 3 35 9.6% 5 5 52
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 0% 0 0 19 9.8% 2 5 51
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 6.1% 2 2 33 13.3% 5 6 45
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 9.6% 5 5 52 8.6% 2 3 35
MIAMI Dolphins 3.1% 1 1 32 10.8% 3 4 37
MINNESOTA Vikings 11.1% 1 3 27 21.6% 5 8 37
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 12.2% 3 5 41 5.9% 2 2 34
NEW ORLEANS Saints 3.1% 0 1 32 8% 2 4 50
NEW YORK Giants 2.2% 0 1 45 10.8% 1 4 37
NEW YORK Jets 14.3% 3 5 35 4.2% 0 1 24
OAKLAND Raiders 2.9% 0 1 34 6.7% 2 3 45
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 8.6% 1 3 35 15.4% 0 8 52
PITTSBURGH Steelers 5.9% 2 2 34 12.2% 3 5 41
SAN DIEGO Chargers 9.7% 1 3 31 9.1% 2 4 44
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 21.6% 5 8 37 11.1% 1 3 27
SEATTLE Seahawks 24.1% 2 7 29 19.1% 6 9 47
ST. LOUIS Rams 19.1% 6 9 47 24.1% 2 7 29
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 11.1% 2 2 18 16.2% 4 6 37
TENNESSEE Titans 16.2% 4 6 37 11.1% 2 2 18
WASHINGTON 10.8% 3 4 37 3.1% 1 1 32

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Dallas defenders at Philadelphia

Even in a game the Eagles struggled to get out of the blocks, they still allowed an above average 52 tackle opportunities to Atlanta. Chip Kelly’s offense was forced out of its rhythm after a fast start by the Falcons; expect a similarly tight game this week, but don’t be surprised if the Eagles emphasise running the football. They ran the ball on only 23.5% of their Week 1 plays. That number should shoot up to 40% against Dallas, who looked vulnerable at times against the Giants. Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens both make excellent plays this week.

New York Jets defenders at Indianapolis

The Colts offense will probably never perform as poorly for the rest of the season as they did against Buffalo. Nevertheless, with another AFC East defensive powerhouse coming to town, they will have to make some adjustments. Andrew Luck did not have his best game in western New York, but it is hard to keep a good quarterback down. A Monday night spotlight should fire up the Colts, despite T.Y. Hilton not being available. Luck is smart enough to get the ball out quickly and keep the offense on schedule.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Green Bay defenders vs. Seattle

The preseason concerns surrounding the Seahawks offense have carried forward into the regular season. In particular, their offensive line looks like a weak area that can be exploited. The Packers have decent pass rushers up front who should, in a rowdy Lambeau Field ‘revenge’ atmosphere, be able to cause Seattle problems. If you can avoid starting your Packers defenders, make the move.

Houston defenders at Carolina

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is happy to win games ugly, and this contest with Houston will be no different. Is a Panthers offensive explosion likely, considering what Kansas City did to Houston? Not necessarily. This Panthers offense is living on the edge and could splutter at any time; this is not the recipe for fantasy success on the IDP side. Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt will get theirs, but trust other Texans at your own peril.

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 51.2 26.5 36.8 63.3 51.8% 51.2 26.5 36.8 63.3 51.8%
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 52 20 50 70 28.6% 44 25 32 57 43.9%
ATLANTA Falcons 52 16 52 68 23.5% 59 35 35 70 50%
BALTIMORE Ravens 53 25 44 69 36.2% 43 23 34 57 40.4%
BUFFALO Bills 45 17 51 68 25% 50 36 19 55 65.5%
CAROLINA Panthers 48 21 45 66 31.8% 55 35 33 68 51.5%
CHICAGO Bears 48 30 23 53 56.6% 53 33 38 71 46.5%
CINCINNATI Bengals 48 16 45 61 26.2% 56 31 34 65 47.7%
CLEVELAND Browns 51 36 24 60 60% 49 28 35 63 44.4%
DALLAS Cowboys 45 24 37 61 39.3% 59 23 45 68 33.8%
DENVER Broncos 43 23 34 57 40.4% 53 25 44 69 36.2%
DETROIT Lions 67 30 44 74 40.5% 36 16 31 47 34%
GREEN BAY Packers 53 33 38 71 46.5% 48 30 23 53 56.6%
HOUSTON Texans 56 32 35 67 47.8% 52 21 52 73 28.8%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 50 36 19 55 65.5% 45 17 51 68 25%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 55 35 33 68 51.5% 48 21 45 66 31.8%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 52 21 52 73 28.8% 56 32 35 67 47.8%
MIAMI Dolphins 59 37 32 69 53.6% 43 18 37 55 32.7%
MINNESOTA Vikings 57 39 27 66 59.1% 45 17 37 54 31.5%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 54 25 41 66 37.9% 51 24 34 58 41.4%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 44 25 32 57 43.9% 52 20 50 70 28.6%
NEW YORK Giants 59 23 45 68 33.8% 45 24 37 61 39.3%
NEW YORK Jets 49 28 35 63 44.4% 51 36 24 60 60%
OAKLAND Raiders 56 31 34 65 47.7% 48 16 45 61 26.2%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 59 35 35 70 50% 52 16 52 68 23.5%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 51 24 34 58 41.4% 54 25 41 66 37.9%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 36 16 31 47 34% 67 30 44 74 40.5%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 45 17 37 54 31.5% 57 39 27 66 59.1%
SEATTLE Seahawks 46 26 29 55 47.3% 70 32 47 79 40.5%
ST. LOUIS Rams 70 32 47 79 40.5% 46 26 29 55 47.3%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 47 32 18 50 64% 46 26 37 63 41.3%
TENNESSEE Titans 46 26 37 63 41.3% 47 32 18 50 64%
WASHINGTON 43 18 37 55 32.7 59 37 32 69 53.6%

Best of luck with Week 2 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.