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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid Week 4

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 fourth 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.

If your season is flagging, it is time to crack the whip, get back on the horse or whatever other semi-Western metaphor you want to use. Conversely, don’t get lazy if you’re sitting pretty atop your division.

The next 10 weeks will challenge owners’ depth with teams on bye; don’t get lost in the shuffle. Make sure you have failsafe options on the bench to cover for your star players. It’s a long season, but we’ve got all the angles covered for you here at Footballguys.com.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 4.


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.

Seattle front seven vs. Detroit

The Lions offensive line has been a sieve in recent weeks, surrendering pressure on 15.7% of Matthew Stafford’s dropbacks. A radical shift in offensive philosophy may cure what ails the Lions, but implementing a totally different game plan for a trip to Seattle may just play right into the home team’s hands. Seattle is behind only Denver and the New York Jets in terms of pressure applied on opposing quarterbacks (21.7%) and should be able to take their record to 2-2 here. This one might be the lay-up of the week.

Detroit pressure percentage allowed – 15.7%

Seattle pressure percentage – 21.7%

Green Bay front seven at San Francisco

Things are falling apart in San Francisco and a visit from the 3-0 Packers will be the last thing head coach Jim Tomsula will want to deal with. Whether through poor blocking or ineptitude at quarterback, the Niners haven’t been able to find a spark. The Packers don’t have a defense that strikes fear into opposing offenses, but they do have enough talent to give Colin Kaepernick headaches. The Pack rank third in the league with 11 sacks through three weeks; if Aaron Rodgers can fire them into a favorable game script, we could see another ugly day by the bay.

Green Bay pressure percentage – 14.5%

San Francisco pressure percentage allowed – 16.2%

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Buffalo front seven vs. New York Giants

On paper, this one looks like a strange recommendation, but you will be surprised perhaps to hear that the Giants offensive line has been more than serviceable this year. In fact, they have only given up pressure on 9.9% of dropbacks and Eli Manning has been sacked only once per game. The Rex Ryan-led Bills defense obviously presents a different set of issues to that of the Giants’ first three opponents, but this offensive scheme is designed to get the ball out fast. Buffalo’s defense has a fairly low pressure percentage (11%) to boot, so your Bills may not produce at the expected rate this week.

Buffalo pressure percentage – 11%

New York Giants pressure percentage allowed – 9.9%

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 12.1% 2.1 4.5 37.2 12.1% 2.1 4.5 37.2
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 10.7% 2 4.5 42 12.5% 0 3.5 28
ATLANTA Falcons 13.8% 1 6.5 47 13.3% 1.5 5.5 41.5
BALTIMORE Ravens 9.9% 2.5 4.5 45.5 12.7% 1 5 39.5
BUFFALO Bills 8.9% 2 5 56 17.5% 4 5 28.5
CAROLINA Panthers 9.6% 3 5 52 9.7% 2 3.5 36
CHICAGO Bears 12.8% 0 3 23.5 13.9% 2 5 36
CINCINNATI Bengals 13.2% 3 5 38 5% 0 1.5 30
CLEVELAND Browns 17.6% 3.5 6 34 15.4% 2.5 4 26
DALLAS Cowboys 6.7% 1 2.5 37.5 6.1% 1.5 2.5 41
DENVER Broncos 25.4% 3 8 31.5 13% 3.5 6 46
DETROIT Lions 7.9% 1.5 2.5 31.5 12.9% 1 5.5 42.5
GREEN BAY Packers 12.9% 2 4.5 35 8.6% 1 2.5 29
HOUSTON Texans 10.8% 2 4 37 8.1% 3 4.5 55.5
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 5.6% 0.5 1.5 27 18.2% 1 8 44
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 10.1% 2 4 39.5 11.5% 2.5 4.5 39
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 12% 4 6 50 15.6% 3 5 32
MIAMI Dolphins 6.2% 0.5 2 32.5 12% 2.5 5 41.5
MINNESOTA Vikings 13.6% 1 5.5 40.5 16.1% 3 4.5 28
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 19% 5.5 7.5 39.5 7.4% 2 3.5 47.5
NEW ORLEANS Saints 10.7% 1.5 3 28 8.7% 3 4 46
NEW YORK Giants 9.7% 1 4.5 46.5 11.4% 1.5 4.5 39.5
NEW YORK Jets 22.2% 1.5 8 36 6.8% 0.5 2 29.5
OAKLAND Raiders 2.5% 0 1 39.5 7.6% 1.5 3.5 46
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 9.7% 2 3.5 36 10% 0.5 4.5 45
PITTSBURGH Steelers 11.8% 3.5 5 42.5 7.4% 1.5 2.5 34
SAN DIEGO Chargers 8.8% 0.5 2.5 28.5 14.7% 3 5.5 37.5
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 12.5% 2.5 4 32 14.1% 3 5.5 39
SEATTLE Seahawks 18.8% 2 6 32 16.5% 4 6.5 39.5
ST. LOUIS Rams 19.7% 4 7.5 38 17.7% 1.5 5.5 31
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 10% 3 3 30 18% 3.5 5.5 30.5
TENNESSEE Titans 16.7% 3 4.5 27 21% 4.5 6.5 31
WASHINGTON 11.4% 2 4 35 11.5% 1.5 3.5 30.5

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Washington defenders vs. Philadelphia

The Washington stat crew (ranked second in TVO factor, a measure of total defensive tackles awarded in relation to tackle opportunities) makes an already favorable matchup even more enticing for Redskins tacklers. Granted, it is difficult to trust the Eagles offense based on their body of work so far, but there was a sense last week that things were trending upwards. Whether it is Ryan Mathews or DeMarco Murray toting the rock, the Eagles should be able to sustain some offense. Will Compton will play every down and makes an excellent plug-in linebacker off the waiver wire.

Cleveland defenders at San Diego

The Chargers need this one badly, and will perhaps be pleased it is the Cleveland Browns – and not an AFC powerhouse – coming to town. This feels like a get-well game for the 1-2 Chargers, who are among the best in the league in terms of tackle opportunities allowed (57.7/gm). The Browns, meanwhile, have faced 31.3 rush attempts per game, a game script that should suit Philip Rivers and the hurting San Diego offensive line to a tee. Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead should provide plenty of tackle opportunities for Cleveland’s front seven.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Carolina defenders at Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers rank among the worst teams for tackle opportunity allowed (45/gm). It is hard to place any faith in that trend changing this week against a stubborn, albeit lacking in pass rush, Carolina defense. The return of Luke Kuechly will only serve to bolster that defense, so the Bucs may have trouble moving the football on the ground. Josh Norman and Charles Tillman have appeal in big play heavy scoring formats, but the Panthers’ key IDPs are best avoided.

Denver defenders vs. Minnesota

Adrian Peterson has looked much like his old self this season, but he has yet to face a defense as stingy as the Broncos. Denver has assembled a truly elite unit with threats on every level. The Vikings may be forced to put the ball in Teddy Bridgewater’s hands early, reducing tackle opportunity for the Broncos. Through the first three weeks, Denver has averaged only 48.7 tackle opportunities, while the Vikings have averaged 48 tackle opportunities allowed. Pass rushers like Von Miller and Demarcus Ware could thrive, but tackle numbers could be hard to come by for Denver.

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 37.2 62.8 50.8% 50.5 25.6 37.2 62.8 50.8%
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 24 42 66 36.4% 43 25 28 53 47.2%
ATLANTA Falcons 52 19.5 47 66.5 29.3% 54.5 26.5 41.5 68 39%
BALTIMORE Ravens 50.5 21 45.5 66.5 31.6% 50 24 39.5 63.5 37.8%
BUFFALO Bills 48 14 56 70 20% 52.5 30 28.5 58.5 51.3%
CAROLINA Panthers 49.5 22 52 74 29.7% 52.5 32.5 36 68.5 47.4%
CHICAGO Bears 44.5 27 23.5 50.5 53.5% 52.5 30.5 36 66.5 45.9%
CINCINNATI Bengals 49 20.5 38 58.5 35% 52 31.5 30 61.5 51.2%
CLEVELAND Browns 54 32.5 34 66.5 48.9% 44 28.5 26 54.5 52.3%
DALLAS Cowboys 43 20.5 37.5 58 35.3% 58.5 26.5 41 67.5 39.3%
DENVER Broncos 46 26 31.5 57.5 45.2% 51.5 23 46 69 33.3%
DETROIT Lions 60.5 34.5 31.5 66 52.3% 42 15.5 42.5 58 26.7%
GREEN BAY Packers 49.5 29 35 64 45.3% 50.5 28 29 57 49.1%
HOUSTON Texans 52.5 30.5 37 67.5 45.2% 51.5 22 55.5 77.5 28.4%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 48.5 30 27 57 52.6% 44.5 20 44 64 31.2%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 50.5 24.5 39.5 64 38.3% 49 26.5 39 65.5 40.5%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 51.5 21.5 50 71.5 30.1% 51 29 32 61 47.5%
MIAMI Dolphins 54 34 32.5 66.5 51.1% 45 16.5 41.5 58 28.4%
MINNESOTA Vikings 52 26.5 40.5 67 39.6% 50.5 29 28 57 50.9%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 56 26 39.5 65.5 39.7% 50.5 17 47.5 64.5 26.4%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 47.5 29.5 28 57.5 51.3% 53 23 46 69 33.3%
NEW YORK Giants 55.5 21.5 46.5 68 31.6% 48.5 23.5 39.5 63 37.3%
NEW YORK Jets 47 26 36 62 41.9% 50 31 29.5 60.5 51.2%
OAKLAND Raiders 55.5 27 39.5 66.5 40.6% 48.5 17 46 63 27%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 57.5 31.5 36 67.5 46.7% 46.5 16.5 45 61.5 26.8%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 59 26.5 42.5 69 38.4% 48 23 34 57 40.4%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 42.5 24.5 28.5 53 46.2% 57.5 26.5 37.5 64 41.4%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 43.5 19 32 51 37.3% 62 34 39 73 46.6%
SEATTLE Seahawks 50.5 27 32 59 45.8% 57.5 28 39.5 67.5 41.5%
ST. LOUIS Rams 65.5 34 38 72 47.2% 38.5 19.5 31 50.5 38.6%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 49 27.5 30 57.5 47.8% 49 30.5 30.5 61 50%
TENNESSEE Titans 42.5 27.5 27 54.5 50.5% 51 29.5 31 60.5 48.8%
WASHINGTON 36.5 15 35 50 30 60 36.5 30.5 67 54.5%


Best of luck with Week 4 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.