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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 8

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 eighth 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.

We are past the midpoint of most fantasy football seasons, but it is not time to panic yet. You may be one of the lucky ones, riding high with a winning record and looking like a shoo-in for the playoffs. In the immortal words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend! Things change pretty quickly, so remaining focused and keying in on the match-ups is something you can’t afford to let up on.

Then again, if you are one of the unlucky few who have scored a ton of points but haven’t seen the results in the win column, now is not the time to fret. Refocus, keep plugging away and good things will happen. Sometimes this hobby of ours comes down to a bit of bad luck, but that can turn around in an instant.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 8.


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.

St Louis front four vs. San Francisco

The San Francisco offensive line is crumbling before our very eyes. After succumbing to Seattle’s pass rush last Thursday, the last unit they will want to see is St Louis’ front four. The 49ers have allowed 25 sacks through six games, fourth most in the league, and if Colin Kaepernick’s confidence continues to wane that number could skyrocket. St Louis has recorded the third most sacks in the league (23), with 15 coming at home. The recipe is there for the Rams; feed Todd Gurley, don’t turn it over and let the defense hunt. It will not surprise you to hear the 49ers allow pressure on 18.5% of dropbacks. This one could be over before it gets started.

Denver front seven vs. Green Bay

This is a riskier proposition purely because of the calibre of the quarterback in question, Aaron Rodgers. However, the tape tells me that the Packers offensive line has its weaknesses and an elite pass rush can exploit that, especially at home in prime time. The Broncos lead the NFL in sacks (25) and boast a pressure percentage of 21.1, not to mention averaging a ludicrous 8.7 quarterback hits per game. The Packers fell foul of a Buffalo defensive buzzsaw in 2014; this could be a repeat performance if the Broncos offense can remain viable and give the defense the rest it needs to puncture the Packers. It should be noted the Packers have allowed only 11.4% of Rodgers’ dropbacks to be under duress, but I fancy that trend to turn this week.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

New York Jets pass rushers at Oakland

The Raiders can take pride in the turnaround they have orchestrated this season, and many will be quick to praise the Derek Carr to Amari Cooper connection as the primary reason. Certainly that has been a big factor, but the play of the offensive line has been quite something. Through the first few weeks, Oakland has allowed the lowest pressure percentage at just 6.8%. The front five are smashing pass rushers and Carr is releasing the ball quickly. The Jets pass rush always presents problems – and they could buck the trend here – but they are not prolific in the sack column (11) and create pressure more with the aim of disrupting the quarterback’s timing and rhythm than simply taking him down. This will be a stern test for the Raiders, but the best play this week might be to stay away from your Jets pass rushers.

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 13.5% 2.3 5.1 38.3 13.5% 2.3 5.1 38.3
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 14.3% 1.7 5.4 37.9 14.8% 1.4 5 33.7
ATLANTA Falcons 12.5% 1.1 5.1 41.3 10.3% 2 4.1 40.1
BALTIMORE Ravens 13.7% 2.9 5.3 38.7 8.4% 1.6 3.6 42.7
BUFFALO Bills 10.1% 1.6 4.3 42.4 14.9% 2.9 5.1 34.6
CAROLINA Panthers 11.7% 3 5.3 45.5 12% 1.8 3.8 32
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 9.2% 1.7 3.3 35.6 15.2% 3.7 6.3 41.4
DALLAS Cowboys 11.2% 2.2 4 35.7 11% 2 3.8 34.8
DENVER Broncos 21.1% 4.2 8.7 41 11.2% 2 4.7 41.5
DETROIT Lions 19.2% 2.4 6.6 34.1 17.7% 2.3 8 45.3
GREEN BAY Packers 19.6% 3.8 8.2 41.7 11.4% 1.8 3.7 32.2
HOUSTON Texans 12.5% 1.9 4.4 35.4 9.4% 2 4.6 48.7
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 11.4% 1.4 4.6 40 16.9% 2.1 7.3 43
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 13% 2.3 5.1 39.6 13.4% 2.7 5.6 41.4
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 8.5% 2.1 3.3 38.7 15.7% 3.6 6 38.1
MIAMI Dolphins 10.8% 1.8 4 37.2 15.3% 2.7 6 39.3
MINNESOTA Vikings 18.6% 2.8 7 37.7 19% 3.2 6.3 33.3
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 14.4% 3.5 6 41.7 11.2% 2.7 5 44.5
NEW ORLEANS Saints 12% 2.3 4.4 37 10.6% 2.6 4.7 44.3
NEW YORK Giants 11% 1.3 4.6 41.6 10.8% 1.3 4.1 38.3
NEW YORK Jets 16.4% 1.8 6.8 41.7 8.9% 0.7 3.2 35.7
OAKLAND Raiders 7.3% 1.8 3.3 45.8 6.8% 1.7 2.7 39
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 10.6% 2.1 4.4 41.7 12.2% 1.9 5 41
PITTSBURGH Steelers 12.6% 2.7 5.1 40.7 13.1% 2.6 4 30.6
SAN DIEGO Chargers 13.7% 1.7 4.3 31.3 13.7% 2.6 6.6 48
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 11.9% 2 4.6 38.3 18.5% 3.6 6 32.4
SEATTLE Seahawks 17% 2.7 5.7 33.6 24.7% 4.4 8.3 33.6
ST. LOUIS Rams 17.1% 3.8 6.7 39 20.3% 1.8 6 29.5
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 16.2% 2.7 5.5 34 18.1% 2 5.8 32.2
TENNESSEE Titans 12.9% 2.5 3.8 29.7 17.3% 3.5 6.5 37.7
WASHINGTON 13.6% 1.9 4.6 33.7 11.9% 1.1 4.7 39.6

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.

Baltimore defenders vs. San Diego

The Chargers have turned into one of the best tackle matchups in the league, mainly due to their propensity to fall behind in games, forcing a Philip Rivers air show. This uptick in passing attempts has seen San Diego average 48 dropbacks per game. The Ravens, meanwhile, are circling the drain but still have some fight left in them. Their defense has averaged 52.1 tackle opportunities per game and should reach at least that total in this clash. Neither team is exactly riding a wave of momentum, so I expect a sloppily played game that will be on the shoulders of the quarterbacks. Incidentally, the Ravens home stat crew has been particularly generous in terms of STF, rating 1.739 (great matchup).

New York Giants defenders at New Orleans

The Saints have started to turn their offense around, relying more on a stubborn rushing attack and a controlled passing game than the other way around. The offense has averaged 57 tackle opportunities allowed per game, one of the best in the league. The Giants come to town off the back of a division win, but there are clearly cracks to be exploited in their defense. Mark Ingram and the Saints offensive line should be licking their lips in anticipation of what could be a feast in the Big Easy. Road teams tend to get plenty of tackles and assists awarded in the Superdome, as the STF (1.700) suggests the Giants defenders have a terrific matchup. In a game New Orleans should control, be sure to insert your Giants into your lineup.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Detroit defenders vs. Kansas City (in London)

Typically the Wembley Stadium stat crew is stingy when it comes to awarding tackles and assists, rating as a 1.500 on the STF scale. In other words, this one is a stay away. However, if we are to avoid one offense here it would be Kansas City. Despite performing well against Pittsburgh without wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, their body of work suggests that was a fluke and not a trend. The Chiefs have allowed only 49.4 tackle opportunities per game, so the Lions defenders should not expect many chances to dent the box score. This recommendation is an indictment of both teams, in reality.

Carolina defenders vs. Indianapolis

The Colts offense has been out of sorts lately, to say the least. Averaging only 46.4 tackle opportunities allowed per game does not sound like a team that went to the AFC Championship game last year. Clearly there is more going on here than meets the eye, but for the purposes of this week’s games it doesn’t matter. Carolina has been playing terrific defense and should hold serve here at home. They have been limiting their own opportunity and face a rush percentage of only 36.1. The recipe here seems simple: stay away.

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 50.9 25.6 38.3 63.8 50.3% 50.9 25.6 38.3 63.8 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 47.9 24 37.9 61.9 38.8% 46.7 24.4 33.7 58.1 42%
ATLANTA Falcons 49 21.1 41.3 62.4 33.9% 55.1 28.6 40.1 68.7 41.6%
BALTIMORE Ravens 52.1 25.7 38.7 64.4 39.9% 52.3 24.9 42.7 67.6 36.8%
BUFFALO Bills 47.4 22.1 42.4 64.6 34.3% 51.7 27.6 34.6 62.1 44.4%
CAROLINA Panthers 53.7 25.7 45.5 71.2 36.1% 50.2 31.5 32 63.5 49.6%
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 50.4 28.9 35.6 64.4 44.8% 53 24.7 41.4 66.1 37.4%
DALLAS Cowboys 47.5 23.2 35.7 58.8 39.4% 53.2 27.5 34.8 62.3 44.1%
DENVER Broncos 52 24.8 41 65.8 37.7% 49.2 22.8 41.5 64.3 35.5%
DETROIT Lions 54.4 28.7 34.1 62.9 45.7% 49 19.3 45.3 64.6 29.9%
GREEN BAY Packers 50.7 25.3 41.7 67 37.8% 49.8 27.3 32.2 59.5 45.9%
HOUSTON Texans 50.1 27.9 35.4 63.3 44% 55.1 26.9 48.7 75.6 35.5%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 54.6 28.3 40 68.3 41.4% 46.4 20.6 43 63.6 32.4%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 55 28.1 39.6 67.7 41.6% 48.1 23.9 41.4 65.3 36.5%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 49.9 26 38.7 64.7 40.2% 49.4 24.1 38.1 62.3 38.8%
MIAMI Dolphins 53.2 30.5 37.2 67.7 45.1% 46.8 21.2 39.3 60.5 35%
MINNESOTA Vikings 47.8 23 37.7 60.7 37.9% 52.2 29.2 33.3 62.5 46.7%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 51.7 24.2 41.7 65.8 36.7% 51 19.5 44.5 64 30.5%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 50.6 26.3 37 63.3 41.5% 57 25.4 44.3 69.7 36.5%
NEW YORK Giants 55.1 27 41.6 68.6 39.4% 49.4 24.1 38.3 62.4 38.7%
NEW YORK Jets 44.5 20.8 41.7 62.5 33.3% 53 30.8 35.7 66.5 46.4%
OAKLAND Raiders 53.3 22.7 45.8 68.5 33.1% 49.2 22.5 39 61.5 36.6%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 54.1 26.6 41.7 68.3 38.9% 52.7 26.6 41 67.6 39.3%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 53.9 25 40.7 65.7 38% 47.1 25.9 30.6 56.4 45.8%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 44.7 24 31.3 55.3 43.4% 57.3 23.1 48 71.1 32.5%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 54.1 26.7 38.3 65 41.1% 47.3 26 32.4 58.4 44.5%
SEATTLE Seahawks 47.9 25.3 33.6 58.9 43% 54.1 29.4 33.6 63 46.7%
ST. LOUIS Rams 56.7 26.5 39 65.5 40.5% 41.7 23.7 29.5 53.2 44.5%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 51.5 27.5 34 61.5 44.7% 49.7 29.8 32.2 62 48.1%
TENNESSEE Titans 45.5 26.8 29.7 56.5 47.5% 49.8 24.7 37.7 62.3 39.6%
WASHINGTON 47.7 25.7 33.7 59.4 43.3 53.7 26.3 39.6 65.9 39.9%

Best of luck with Week 8 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.