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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 5

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.

Clarity is a great thing, but the NFL is anything but as we enter the fifth week of action. Several upsets have littered the first four weeks of action, both on the field and in our fantasy lineups, as former studs turn to duds and old darlings of IDP fantasy football rise from the ashes.

Predicting this wild ride is folly, but with our data set growing week on week – and a healthy dose of film to put the numbers into context – we can capitalise on trends and maximise our points output.

Remember, getting to the dance is the main goal. We’re at the quarter pole; now is no time to take your eye off the ball.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 5.


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 vs. St. Louis

The Packers are in a three-way tie for the lead in sacks along with their opponents this week, the Rams, and the Broncos (17). Dom Capers’ front seven has feasted on opponents at Lambeau Field this season, able to pin their ears back and be more aggressive in the latter stages of games after Aaron Rodgers and the offense have built a lead. The Rams may have turned over a new leaf last week with the emergence of Todd Gurley, but the Packers front seven is stout and should be able to keep Foles in difficult down and distance situations. The home team’s pressure percentage is an impressive 16.2%, while the Rams line has given up pressure on 17.7% of dropbacks.

Arizona defense at Detroit

The Cardinals defense hasn’t missed a beat since the departure of Todd Bowles to become head coach of the New York Jets. Their big dime package has given offenses fits, and while it hasn’t translated into sacks (1.8 per game), it has registered a 16.2% pressure percentage. The Lions have to be given credit for their game effort in Seattle, but this offense still has issues that can’t simply be solved in one week. Coming off a short week, with a multiple Cardinals defense to prepare for, I foresee another long day for Matthew Stafford – who is averaging 42 dropbacks per game - and this underperforming offensive line.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Seattle front seven at Cincinnati

Normally it would be a fool’s errand to advise fading the Seattle front seven against any opponent, but this isn’t just any opponent. The Bengals are behind only the Raiders in pressure allowed, surrendering a miniscule 7.6% pressure percentage. The offensive line is the main reason why; the film shows that clever play design combined with excellent play all over the line has given Andy Dalton time to survey the field and pick his targets. Seattle’s pressure percentage of 17.8% is impressive, but this is an entirely different test. Cincinnati’s balance should give them the edge and keep Dalton clean. Avoid your Seahawks from a pass rushing perspective if you can.

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 12.9% 2.2 4.9 37.7 12.9% 2.2 4.9 37.7
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 16.2% 1.8 5.3 32.5 13.7% 1.3 4.8 34.8
ATLANTA Falcons 11.1% 1.3 5 45 10.7% 1.5 4 37.3
BALTIMORE Ravens 13.5% 2.8 5.3 38.8 10.8% 1.8 4.5 41.8
BUFFALO Bills 9.5% 1.8 4.8 49.8 13.8% 2.5 4.5 32.5
CAROLINA Panthers 9% 2.3 4.3 47 11.7% 1.8 3.8 32
CHICAGO Bears 15.5% 1.5 4.5 29 14.6% 2.3 5 34.3
CINCINNATI Bengals 12% 2.8 5.3 43.8 7.6% 0.5 2.3 29.5
CLEVELAND Browns 11.4% 2.3 4 35 15.9% 3.5 6 37.8
DALLAS Cowboys 8.3% 1.5 3.3 39 8.6% 2 3 34.8
DENVER Broncos 23.8% 4.3 9.5 40 14% 2.5 5.8 41
DETROIT Lions 16.7% 2.5 5.8 34.5 14.2% 1.5 6 42.3
GREEN BAY Packers 16.2% 4.3 6 37 10.9% 1.5 3.5 32.3
HOUSTON Texans 11.5% 1.5 4 34.8 8.1% 2 4.3 52.3
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 9.9% 1.3 3.8 38 16.4% 2 7 42.8
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 11% 2.3 4.8 43.3 11.6% 2 4.8 41
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 10% 2.3 4 40 17.4% 4.5 7 40.3
MIAMI Dolphins 8.1% 0.3 2.5 30.8 14.9% 2.5 6.8 45.3
MINNESOTA Vikings 16.9% 2 6.5 38.5 18.7% 3.3 6 32
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 15.8% 4.3 6 38 7.9% 2 3.7 46.3
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.1% 1.8 3.3 29.3 8% 2.5 3.5 43.8
NEW YORK Giants 10.7% 1.3 5 46.8 8.2% 1 3 36.8
NEW YORK Jets 20.9% 1.8 7.8 37 8.2% 0.5 3 36.8
OAKLAND Raiders 7.3% 2 3.3 44.8 5.7% 1.3 2.3 39.8
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 8.4% 1.5 3.8 44.5 15.1% 1.8 5.8 38
PITTSBURGH Steelers 12.9% 3.5 5 38.8 12.8% 3 4.3 33.3
SAN DIEGO Chargers 13.5% 1.3 4.3 31.5 17% 3 6.8 39.8
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 12.1% 2.3 4 33 17.7% 3.5 5.8 32.5
SEATTLE Seahawks 17.8% 1.5 5.3 29.5 22.8% 4.5 8.3 36.3
ST. LOUIS Rams 18.6% 4.3 7.5 40.3 17.8% 1.5 5.3 29.5
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 12.1% 2.3 3.8 31 16.2% 2.3 5.8 35.5
TENNESSEE Titans 16.1% 3 4.7 29 16.5% 4 6 36.3
WASHINGTON 13.3% 2.3 4.5 33.8 10.1% 1.3 4 39.5

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Washington defenders at Atlanta

Despite Atlanta’s home stat crew ranking among the bottom half in terms of TVO factor (total defensive tackles awarded by stat crews in relation to tackle opportunities), this match-up is too tasty to ignore from an IDP perspective. The Falcons have averaged 55 tackle opportunities allowed per game, with their resurgent ground attack averaging 29 attempts per game. All this adds up to a bonanza of points for your IDPs facing Atlanta. The Redskins have a chance to keep this game closer than most think, but it comes down to their ability to bleed the clock. The numbers show the Redskins defense has averaged only 41 tackle opportunities per game, which supports the clock management assessment. Nevertheless, the home team should be able to control things here. Keenan Robinson, Will Compton and Bashaud Breeland all make excellent plays.

Indianapolis defenders at Houston

Houston has, surprisingly, been a very good tackle matchup. The Houston offense, owing to their being in comeback mode so often, has averaged 55 tackle opportunities allowed per game. How likely that trend is to continue remains to be seen, but four weeks is a large enough sample size to be quietly confident in it. The status of Andrew Luck is still uncertain, but most believe he will play on Thursday. Houston’s home stat crew boasts one of the best TVO factor numbers at 1.217, meaning your Indianapolis defenders will get an extra boost in terms of solos and assists. The return of Arian Foster should allow Houston to remain more balanced – and there will be plenty of opportunity anyway should the Colts get out to a lead.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

San Diego defenders vs. Pittsburgh

Despite the Chargers’ home stat crew ranking as the best in terms of TVO factor, it is difficult to trust a Steelers offense that looked so poor against Baltimore to turn it on in primetime. Michael Vick’s playbook, so to speak, is a fraction of what the Steelers ask Ben Roethlisberger to do, making this offense infinitely more straightforward to stop. The Chargers defense has averaged only 46.3 tackle opportunities per game, so they make a poor matchup here anyway. A spluttering Pittsburgh offense isn’t likely to change that.

Kansas City defenders vs. Chicago

The Chiefs have had a hard time of it during the first few weeks of the season, but have a soft landing at Arrowhead this week. The Bears, admittedly, showed a good spirit in their victory against Oakland, but this team is there for the taking. The Bears have averaged 50.8 tackle opportunities allowed per game – not terrible by any stretch – but this feels like a get well game for the Chiefs at home. Expect smothering defense and a long day for Jay Cutler and company.

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 25.5 37.7 63.2 50.5% 50.5 25.5 37.7 63.2 50.5%
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 46.5 25.5 32.5 58 44% 48.5 26 34.8 60.8 42.8%
ATLANTA Falcons 49 19.3 45 64.3 30% 55 29.5 37.3 66.8 44.2%
BALTIMORE Ravens 51.8 25.8 38.8 64.5 39.9% 53.8 26.3 41.8 68 38.6%
BUFFALO Bills 47.5 18.3 49.8 68 26.8% 53.3 29.3 32.5 61.8 47.4%
CAROLINA Panthers 53.3 24.5 47 71.5 34.3% 49.8 31.3 32 63.3 49.4%
CHICAGO Bears 46 25.8 29 54.8 47% 50.8 29.3 34.3 63.5 46.1%
CINCINNATI Bengals 51.8 20.5 43.8 64.3 31.9% 49.5 29.5 29.5 59 50%
CLEVELAND Browns 50.5 28.5 35 63.5 44.9% 48 23 37.8 60.8 37.9%
DALLAS Cowboys 50.8 24.3 39 63.3 38.3% 52 25.3 34.8 60 42.1%
DENVER Broncos 50.3 23 40 63 36.5% 48.5 21.5 41 62.5 34.4%
DETROIT Lions 56.3 28.8 34.5 63.3 45.5% 45 17 42.3 59.3 28.7%
GREEN BAY Packers 46.5 23.8 37 60.8 39.1% 54 30.3 32.3 62.5 48.4%
HOUSTON Texans 49.3 28.8 34.8 63.5 45.3% 55 26.5 52.3 78.8 33.7%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 52.8 28.8 38 66.8 43.1% 46.5 20.8 42.8 63.5 32.7%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 55.5 25.5 43.3 68.8 37.1% 48.5 25.3 41 66.3 38.1%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 50.8 25.3 40 65.3 38.7% 52.5 24.8 40.3 65 38.1%
MIAMI Dolphins 54.3 35 30.8 65.8 53.2% 42.5 15.8 45.3 61 25.8%
MINNESOTA Vikings 50.8 25.8 38.5 64.3 40.1% 49.8 27.3 32 59.3 46%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 50.3 24 38 62 38.7% 55.3 21.3 46.3 67.7 31.5%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 48 29 29.3 58.3 49.8% 55.8 23.8 43.8 67.5 35.2%
NEW YORK Giants 54 21.8 46.8 68.5 31.8% 49.5 26 36.8 62.8 41.4%
NEW YORK Jets 44.5 24.8 37 61.8 40.1% 51.8 29.3 36.8 66 44.3%
OAKLAND Raiders 54.5 24.3 44.8 69 35.1% 47.5 21.3 39.8 61 34.8%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 57.8 27.8 44.5 72.3 38.4% 45.5 21.8 38 59.8 36.4%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 55.5 27.5 38.8 66.3 41.5% 50.3 24.5 33.3 57.8 42.4%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 46.3 25 31.5 56.5 44.2% 54.5 25.3 39.8 65 38.8%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 50 26.3 33 59.3 44.3% 50.5 29 32.5 61.5 47.2%
SEATTLE Seahawks 45.3 24.8 29.5 54.3 45.6% 55 27.8 36.3 64 43.4%
ST. LOUIS Rams 58.5 27 40.3 67.3 40.1% 39.5 20.5 29.5 50 41%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 52.8 32.5 31 63.5 51.2% 48.3 27.8 35.5 63.3 43.9%
TENNESSEE Titans 42 25 29 54 46.3% 53 28.7 36.3 65 44.1%
WASHINGTON 41.3 19.8 33.8 53.5 36.9 58.8 31.3 39.5 70.8 44.2%

Best of luck with Week 5 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.