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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 7

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 seventh 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.

“You think you know, but you don’t know – and you never will” – Jim Mora Sr.

Jim Mora’s diatribe continues to echo through the years in the unpredictable and ever-changing National Football League. Last week’s clashes threw up their fair share of shocks as more defensive players went down to injury while others asserted their claims.

Amid all this chaos, fantasy owners must find a happy medium to decipher the puzzle this league throws up for us each and every week. It is time to make your move if you are struggling and push home your advantage if you are winning. No time to waste.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 7.


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.

Buffalo front seven vs. Jacksonville (in London)

The Bills were touted as one of the finest defensive units in the league coming into this season, but thus far they have failed to live up to expectations. Even with the injury to Kyle Williams, a pressure percentage of 10.2 must not make happy reading for Rex Ryan. Mario Williams has spoken out about the complexity of the scheme, and although it may be too soon to count on a complete 180 as far as the execution of said scheme, it could happen as early as this week. The Jaguars offense could be just the remedy for Buffalo, with the Jags line giving up a pressure percentage of 13.9 to go along with 2.8 sacks and six quarterback hits per game. There will be no home advantage for the Jaguars in Wembley Stadium, and I expect the Bills to get back on track. Look for big outings from Williams and Jerry Hughes.

St Louis front seven vs. Cleveland

A well-rested St Louis team boasts one of the finest front sevens in all of football, but it is their defensive line that is most impressive. Aaron Donald spearheads a strong pass rushing unit that has a pressure percentage of 17.1, with 3.8 sacks and 6.6 quarterback hits per game. The Browns have been competitive in every game, but have some vulnerability on their offensive line, which has allowed pressure on 14.9% of dropbacks. The Browns rank fourth in the league in sacks allowed (22), making this a potentially productive match-up for your Rams pass rushers. Start them with confidence.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

New England front seven vs. New York Jets

The Jets have the perfect blend of offensive plays - 47.4% of their offensive snaps are rush attempts, behind only Tampa Bay and Carolina – to keep this contest close and prevent the Patriots from teeing off on Ryan Fitzpatrick. The offensive line has been gelling nicely and has surrendered pressure on only 9.2% of dropbacks and given up only two sacks all season. With the inherent inconsistency associated with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich so far this year, the best play here is sit your Patriots pass rushers unless you are in a bind with bye weeks.

Sack Opportunity Chart

LEAGUE 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 13.1% 2.2 5 38.4 13.1% 2.2 5 38.4
LEAGUE 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 15.3% 1.5 5.7 37 15.1% 1.3 5.2 34.2
ATLANTA Falcons 11.5% 1.2 4.8 42.2 11.5% 2.3 4.7 40.5
BALTIMORE Ravens 13.8% 3 5.5 40 8.2% 1.3 3.5 42.7
BUFFALO Bills 10.2% 1.5 4.5 44.3 15.3% 2.7 5 32.7
CAROLINA Panthers 10.4% 2.6 4.6 44.4 12.6% 2 4.2 33.4
CHICAGO Bears 15.5% 1.8 5 32.2 12.8% 2 4.8 37.7
CINCINNATI Bengals 15.9% 2.8 6.5 41 7% 1 2.3 33.2
CLEVELAND Browns 8.9% 1.7 3.3 37.3 14.9% 3.7 6.2 41.5
DALLAS Cowboys 11.2% 2.2 4.2 37.6 9.4% 2.2 3.4 36.2
DENVER Broncos 21.1% 4.2 8.7 41 11.2% 2 4.7 41.5
DETROIT Lions 17% 2.2 5.7 33.3 15.1% 1.5 7.2 47.3
GREEN BAY Packers 19.6% 3.8 8.2 41.7 11.4% 1.8 3.7 32.2
HOUSTON Texans 11.2% 1.5 4.2 37.3 8.7% 1.7 4.2 48
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 10.3% 1.3 4 38.8 16.2% 1.8 6.8 42.2
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 13% 2 5 38.5 13.9% 2.8 6 43.2
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 8.8% 2.2 3.5 40 15% 3.8 5.8 38.8
MIAMI Dolphins 10% 1.4 3.4 34 14.2% 2.4 6 42.4
MINNESOTA Vikings 15% 2 5.8 38.6 16.1% 3 5.2 32.2
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 15.8% 3.8 6.6 41.8 11.9% 2.6 5 42
NEW ORLEANS Saints 10% 2 3.5 35.2 9.5% 2.7 4.2 43.8
NEW YORK Giants 9.9% 1.3 4.3 43.8 10.7% 1.2 4.3 40.3
NEW YORK Jets 18.7% 1.6 7.2 38.6 9.2% 0.4 3.2 34.6
OAKLAND Raiders 7.4% 2 3.2 43.2 7.4% 1.8 3 40.4
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 10.9% 2.3 4.8 44.5 11% 1.3 4.3 39.3
PITTSBURGH Steelers 11.6% 2.8 4.8 41.8 14.2% 2.7 4.3 30.5
SAN DIEGO Chargers 15.5% 1.8 4.8 31.2 15.2% 2.8 7 46.2
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 10% 1.5 4 39.8 16.8% 3.2 5.5 32.8
SEATTLE Seahawks 15.1% 2.2 5.2 34.2 24.3% 4.3 8.3 34.3
ST. LOUIS Rams 17.1% 3.8 6.6 38.6 21.7% 1.8 6.6 30.4
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 16% 3 5.2 32.6 17.8% 2.2 5.8 32.6
TENNESSEE Titans 15.7% 3 4.4 28 16.8% 4 6.4 38
WASHINGTON 12.6% 2 4.3 34.3 11% 1.2 4.3 39.3

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.

Tennessee defenders vs. Atlanta

The league is beginning to catch up to Ken Whisenhunt and Marcus Mariota’s offensive scheme. Off 10 days’ rest, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan should have a nice game plan to exploit them defensively, although the health of Julio Jones remains a big question mark. Tennessee’s stadium ranks among the good matchups for STF (explained above) and the Falcons offense is allowing 55.8 tackle opportunities per game. All this points to a positive game script for the Titans defenders, who may have to play more snaps if Zach Mettenberger is under center.

Indianapolis defenders vs. New Orleans

The Saints offense showed signs of life against Atlanta, but it is clear that Brees is still limited as far as downfield accuracy. Indianapolis will therefore be looking at another dink and dunk style offense like they faced last week against New England. The Saints have not been able to consistently run the football (24.3 rush attempts per game) but have been an excellent matchup for tackle opportunity, with 56 per game. If New Orleans can keep this game close, the Colts defensive backs especially should have ample tackle opportunity. The Colts home stat crew also ranks among the best as far as STF.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Pittsburgh defenders at Kansas City

It appears as though Landry Jones will get the starting nod in Arrowhead. This could go one of two ways: either Jones could wet the bed and put the Steelers defense in bad situations, or he could manage the game smartly and not make the big mistake. If the latter plays out, we may see a carbon copy of the toothless Chiefs offense we saw last week. With no Jamaal Charles, it is going to be difficult to trust any defenders facing the Chiefs. As it stands, Kansas City is a poor tackle matchup, allowing only 49.3 opportunities per game. Their home stat crew is also stingy as far as giving out tackles and assists; stay away from this one if you can.

Washington defenders vs. Tampa Bay

Despite the Redskins home stat crew ranking among the best in STF, this one might be better avoided due to the nature of the opponent. Now, could the Bucs surprise us with a game effort coming out of their bye? Absolutely, but it is unlikely to happen. The Redskins know this division is wide open once again and should be able to hold serve at home. The Bucs rank as a poor tackle matchup, allowing only 49.2 opportunities per game. The uptick in production from their ground game is encouraging, but I need to see a trend developing here before I can recommend starting your fringe IDPs against them.

Tackle Opportunity Chart

LEAGUE 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 25.6 38.4 64 50.3% 51 25.6 38.4 64 50.3%
LEAGUE 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 48.3 25.3 37 62.3 40.6% 46.3 24 34.2 58.2 41.3%
ATLANTA Falcons 50.7 22 42.2 64.2 34.3% 55.8 28.5 40.5 69 41.3%
BALTIMORE Ravens 52.7 25.5 40 65.5 38.9% 53.5 26.3 42.7 69 38.2%
BUFFALO Bills 48.2 21.2 44.3 65.5 32.3% 51 27.5 32.7 60.2 45.7%
CAROLINA Panthers 52.2 24.8 44.4 69.2 35.8% 50.8 31.4 33.4 64.8 48.5%
CHICAGO Bears 48.2 26.7 32.2 58.8 45.3% 52.3 28.8 37.7 66.5 43.4%
CINCINNATI Bengals 51.5 22.5 41 63.5 35.4% 51.8 29.2 33.2 62.3 46.8%
CLEVELAND Browns 52 29.7 37.3 67 44.3% 52.2 24.8 41.5 66.3 37.4%
DALLAS Cowboys 49.8 23.6 37.6 61.2 38.6% 52 24.8 36.2 61 40.7%
DENVER Broncos 52 24.8 41 65.8 37.7% 49.2 22.8 41.5 64.3 35.5%
DETROIT Lions 53 27.8 33.3 61.2 45.5% 50.2 19.7 47.3 67 29.4%
GREEN BAY Packers 50.7 25.3 41.7 67 37.8% 49.8 27.3 32.2 59.5 45.9%
HOUSTON Texans 49.3 27.2 37.3 64.5 42.1% 55.7 27.2 48 75.2 36.1%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 53.2 27.7 38.8 66.5 41.6% 47.5 21.8 42.2 64 34.1%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 54.8 28.2 38.5 66.7 42.3% 49 23.2 43.2 66.3 34.9%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 51.2 26.3 40 66.3 39.7% 49.3 23.7 38.8 62.5 37.9%
MIAMI Dolphins 53.4 31.6 34 65.6 48.2% 45.2 19 42.4 61.4 30.9%
MINNESOTA Vikings 49 24.2 38.6 62.8 38.5% 50 28.2 32.2 60.4 46.7%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 51.4 23.2 41.8 65 35.7% 52 21.6 42 63.6 34%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 52.3 28.5 35.2 63.7 44.8% 56 24.3 43.8 68.2 35.7%
NEW YORK Giants 54.5 24.7 43.8 68.5 36% 51.7 24.7 40.3 65 37.9%
NEW YORK Jets 44.2 23.2 38.6 61.8 37.5% 53 31.2 34.6 65.8 47.4%
OAKLAND Raiders 52 23 43.2 66.2 34.7% 49 22 40.4 62.4 35.3%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 55.3 25.7 44.5 70.2 36.6% 51.3 26 39.3 65.3 39.8%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 54.5 24.7 41.8 66.5 37.1% 48 26.2 30.5 56.7 46.2%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 43.8 23.8 31.2 55 43.3% 56.8 23.5 46.2 69.7 33.7%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 52.8 24.7 39.8 64.5 38.2% 49.5 27.8 32.8 60.7 45.9%
SEATTLE Seahawks 50.2 27 34.2 61.2 44.1% 52.8 27.8 34.3 62.2 44.8%
ST. LOUIS Rams 56.4 27 38.6 65.6 41.2% 41.8 23.6 30.4 54 43.7%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 51.4 29.4 32.6 62 47.4% 49.2 29.8 32.6 62.4 47.8%
TENNESSEE Titans 44.4 26.4 28 54.4 48.5% 52 26.4 38 64.4 41%
WASHINGTON 47 25 34.3 59.3 42.1 54 27.7 39.3 67 41.3%

Best of luck with Week 7 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.