Win. Your. League.

Receive 3 Free Downloads More Details

IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 9

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 ninth 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’ve made it this far in the regular season. For some of you, the dying embers of your season are guttering out; for others, the fires are burning brightly and showing no signs of being quenched. Whichever side of the spectrum you find yourself, my advice would be never to give up. Teams can squeak into a playoff spot with a late season run and play spoiler for the big boys.

Remember, it’s all about getting into the tournament. Once you’re in, record be damned. The IDP landscape continues to morph into a new, untameable beast from one week to the next, but let’s see if we can be the David to its Goliath by dissecting these matchups.

So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 9.


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.

Denver pass rushers at Indianapolis

Here’s a little perspective on just how dominant the Denver defense has been: the average pressure percentage in the NFL this year is 13.8; the Broncos’ pressure percentage is a staggering 21.8. Their sideline-to-sideline speed, trio of lockdown cornerbacks and pincer-like defensive front has stymied offenses from day one. This unit is on pace to be one of the best defenses we have ever seen, much like the Seahawks team that defeated these very Broncos in the Super Bowl. As for the Colts, there is definitely something up with Andrew Luck. He won’t admit it, but he is clearly playing hurt and his confidence is suffering as a result. The team has installed Rob Chudzinski as their new offensive coordinator, hoping to get a spark. All I see is Denver lighting the fuse here and attacking a Colts offense that gives up pressure on 16.3% of dropbacks.

New Orleans pass rushers vs. Tennessee

The Saints defense gave up 49 points last week, so by no means am I suggesting this is a unit we can trust on a weekly basis. What I am saying is that the Titans are in freefall, having just fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt. The return of Marcus Mariota would help, but surely Rob Ryan will have some blitz packages prepared to spook the rookie into mistakes. Tennessee’s offense gives up pressure on 20.1% of dropbacks, and with how potent the Saints offense has looked recently, this one could get ugly fast. It won’t surprise you to hear the Saints split when it comes to sacks is heavily skewed to home games; they have notched 14 in the dome and just five on the road.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

St Louis pass rushers at Minnesota

Taking a pass on the Rams pass rush may seem like an unusual recommendation considering how dominant they have been. While the Rams have generated plenty of sacks at home (18), they have failed to carry that with them on the road, notching just eight. The formula is working wonders for Jeff Fisher; feed it to Todd Gurley, don’t ask Nick Foles to do too much and play great defense. In what should be a low-scoring affair, however, expect Minnesota to keep it on the ground (46.4% rushing plays this season) and limit the St Louis rushers’ effectiveness.

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 13.8% 2.3 5.3 38.3 13.8% 2.3 5.3 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 15% 1.6 5.8 38.3 15.3% 1.4 5.3 34.4
ATLANTA Falcons 13.4% 1.3 5.4 40 12.2% 1.9 5 40.9
BALTIMORE Ravens 13.9% 2.6 5.4 38.6 8.8% 1.8 3.8 42.4
BUFFALO Bills 10.1% 1.6 4.3 42.4 14.9% 2.9 5.1 34.6
CAROLINA Panthers 11.8% 2.9 5.4 46 12.2% 1.9 4 32.7
CHICAGO Bears 14.3% 1.7 4.6 32 13.1% 1.9 4.9 37.1
CINCINNATI Bengals 15.3% 2.9 6.4 42 8.8% 1.3 3 34.3
CLEVELAND Browns 10.4% 1.6 3.8 36 15.7% 3.4 6.5 41.4
DALLAS Cowboys 12.3% 1.9 4.3 34.9 11.4% 1.9 3.9 33.7
DENVER Broncos 21.8% 4 8.4 38.7 11.2% 1.7 4.4 39.7
DETROIT Lions 18.5% 2.5 6.3 33.8 17.7% 2.8 8 45.1
GREEN BAY Packers 18.6% 3.3 7.4 39.9 13.3% 2 4.1 31.1
HOUSTON Texans 15.7% 2.5 5.6 35.8 10.3% 2.1 4.9 47.4
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 11.7% 1.5 4.6 39.6 16.3% 2.1 7.1 43.8
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars 13% 2.3 5.1 39.6 13.4% 2.7 5.6 41.4
KANSAS CITY Chiefs 9.8% 2.6 3.9 39.4 15.4% 3.5 5.8 37.3
MIAMI Dolphins 11.4% 1.9 4.3 37.6 16.1% 3 6.6 40.7
MINNESOTA Vikings 18.1% 2.6 6.7 37.1 17.3% 2.9 5.7 33
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 15.4% 3.7 6.6 42.7 11.7% 2.6 5.1 43.9
NEW ORLEANS Saints 11.2% 2.4 4.3 37.9 10% 2.3 4.5 45
NEW YORK Giants 10.3% 1.1 4.4 42.6 10.3% 1.5 4 39
NEW YORK Jets 16.1% 1.6 6.6 40.9 9.8% 1 3.7 37.7
OAKLAND Raiders 8.3% 2 3.9 46.4 7.8% 1.4 3 38.6
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 10.6% 2.1 4.4 41.7 12.2% 1.9 5 41
PITTSBURGH Steelers 13.2% 2.8 5.4 40.8 13% 2.6 4.3 32.8
SAN DIEGO Chargers 13.5% 1.9 4.4 32.4 13.9% 2.4 6.5 46.8
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 12% 1.8 4.4 36.4 18.8% 3.5 6.4 33.9
SEATTLE Seahawks 16.8% 2.5 5.5 32.8 24.2% 3.9 8 33.1
ST. LOUIS Rams 17.6% 3.7 7 39.7 19.5% 1.6 5.6 28.6
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 17.6% 2.4 6.3 35.7 18.7% 2 6 32
TENNESSEE Titans 13.9% 2.6 4.3 30.9 20.1% 4 7.6 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.

Cleveland defenders at Cincinnati

The Bengals can go to 8-0 with a division victory here, and with reports emerging that the Browns are ready to start Johnny Manziel, things could go downhill fast for the visiting team. Cincinnati’s offense has been prolific this season, presenting defenses with too many problems to solve to stop them. Cincinnati has averaged 51.1 tackle opportunities per game, while Cleveland has seen 51.6 per game. The home stat crew in the Queen City tends to be generous, with a STF figure of 1.678 making this an excellent matchup for even your marginal Browns defenders. Cleveland could be missing three members of its secondary, so monitor practice reports and you might be able to pluck a plug-and-play option off the waiver wire.

Miami defenders at Buffalo

It is unclear whether Tyrod Taylor will return for the Bills this week, but even if he doesn’t I have seen enough from Miami to know that they’re not there yet. The back-to-back wins over AFC South opponents were impressive, but they were brought down to earth by New England. Buffalo destroyed this team in Week 3; I’m not suggesting another result like that is on the cards, but the Bills should feel confident they can stymie Miami’s offense. The Bills offense has averaged 51.7 tackle opportunities per game, and with a STF of 1.713 at Ralph Wilson Stadium this looks like a terrific matchup for Miami defenders.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Carolina defenders vs. Green Bay

Green Bay’s offense has been below average this season in terms of tackle opportunities allowed at just 48.1 per game. The loss of Jordy Nelson has really hurt this offense’s ability to attack all three levels of the defense, putting Aaron Rodgers in uncomfortable situations. Denver were able to expose this, and Carolina might be able to do a passable job as well. The Panthers have actually averaged 54.6 tackle opportunities per game, but many of these have come late in games when the other team has been in catch-up mode. I expect this one to a close to the vest type of affair, so this may pattern may not repeat itself.

New York Jets defenders vs. Jacksonville

The Jaguars offense has only managed 48.1 tackle opportunities allowed per game, not good enough to warrant playing your Jets defenders. You could argue the Jets’ defensive display against Oakland, paired with the fact Geno Smith might get another start, would sway you towards trusting your New York players. I could see that, but I still believe the wisest play here is to trust in what the Jets defense showed for the majority of the season. In a low- scoring affair, the best play is to steer clear of your Jets.

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 50.8 25.6 38.3 63.8 50.3% 50.8 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 47.1 23.5 38.3 61.8 38.1% 48.4 25.9 34.4 60.3 42.9%
ATLANTA Falcons 49 22.4 40 62.4 35.9% 56.4 28.4 40.9 69.3 41%
BALTIMORE Ravens 52.5 25.8 38.6 64.4 40% 52.3 24.8 42.4 67.1 36.9%
BUFFALO Bills 47.4 22.1 42.4 64.6 34.3% 51.7 27.6 34.6 62.1 44.4%
CAROLINA Panthers 54.6 27 46 73 37% 50.7 32.1 32.7 64.9 49.6%
CHICAGO Bears 47.4 26.4 32 58.4 45.2% 51.7 28.3 37.1 65.4 43.2%
CINCINNATI Bengals 51.3 22 42 64 34.4% 51.1 28 34.3 62.3 45%
CLEVELAND Browns 51.6 29.8 36 65.8 45.2% 51.6 24.1 41.4 65.5 36.8%
DALLAS Cowboys 47.7 24.1 34.9 59 40.9% 51.7 27.7 33.7 61.4 45.1%
DENVER Broncos 50 24.3 38.7 63 38.5% 50 24.4 39.7 64.1 38.1%
DETROIT Lions 54.4 29 33.8 62.8 46.2% 48.3 18.6 45.1 63.8 29.2%
GREEN BAY Packers 51.3 26.6 39.9 66.4 40% 48.1 26.4 31.1 57.6 45.9%
HOUSTON Texans 50 26.9 35.8 62.6 42.9% 54.3 26.3 47.4 73.6 35.7%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts 54.5 29.3 39.6 68.9 42.5% 48.1 22.4 43.8 66.1 33.8%
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 24.5 39.4 63.9 38.4% 50 25 37.3 62.3 40.2%
MIAMI Dolphins 53.3 29.9 37.6 67.4 44.3% 46.7 20 40.7 60.7 32.9%
MINNESOTA Vikings 47.9 23.3 37.1 60.4 38.5% 50.9 28.6 33 61.6 46.4%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots 50.9 22.6 42.7 65.3 34.6% 51.4 20.4 43.9 64.3 31.8%
NEW ORLEANS Saints 51 25.6 37.9 63.5 40.4% 58.1 25.5 45 70.5 36.2%
NEW YORK Giants 56.5 26.9 42.6 69.5 38.7% 50 23.8 39 62.8 37.8%
NEW YORK Jets 44.7 21.1 40.9 62 34.1% 53.3 29.4 37.7 67.1 43.8%
OAKLAND Raiders 53.6 22.4 46.4 68.9 32.6% 48.7 22.6 38.6 61.1 36.9%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles 54.1 26.6 41.7 68.3 38.9% 52.7 26.6 41 67.6 39.3%
PITTSBURGH Steelers 53 24.5 40.8 65.3 37.5% 47.5 25 32.8 57.8 43.3%
SAN DIEGO Chargers 45.6 24 32.4 56.4 42.6% 57 23.5 46.8 70.3 33.5%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers 53.9 28.1 36.4 64.5 43.6% 46.8 25.3 33.9 59.1 42.7%
SEATTLE Seahawks 47.3 25.8 32.8 58.5 44% 53.5 29.5 33.1 62.6 47.1%
ST. LOUIS Rams 54.7 25.6 39.7 65.3 39.2% 43.1 25.7 28.6 54.3 47.4%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers 53.4 27.4 35.7 63.1 43.4% 49.6 30 32 62 48.4%
TENNESSEE Titans 45.9 26.1 30.9 57 45.9% 49.7 24 37.7 61.7 38.9%
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 9 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.