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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 12

Dave Larkin breaks down the key games to target and avoid 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 Aaron Rudnicki. 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 12th 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 Aaron Rudnicki 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 hone 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 are likely in one of these two situations: you are in playoff contention or you are staring at your loss column as the number steadily increases. Regardless of which scenario fits you best, my advice is to try to finish strong. Even if you have to play spoiler, it adds to the competitiveness of the league and is something that every owner should pride themselves on.

Now to brass tax: consider this week a must-win. Speaking for myself, I can tell you I am involved in must-win games in all of my main leagues as the playoff race intensifies. Don’t be that guy who forgot to make that waiver move while you’re scoffing down your Thanksgiving turkey. Act now and then chill with your family knowing you’re in good shape.

Let’s dissect the Week 12 matchups from an IDP perspective.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Baltimore pass rushers vs. Cincinnati

No A.J. Green, no Giovani Bernard – no hope for the Bengals? It certainly seems that way in a tough road matchup against a bitter divisional foe. The Ravens haven’t been able to consistently generate pressure (13% pressure applied) but their pass rush seems to be rounding into form. The Bengals looked all at sea last week against the Bills. It could be another long day for Andy Dalton and his depleted corps of weapons, not to mention his up-and-down offensive line. Trust the Ravens pass rush to deliver.

New Orleans pass rushers vs. Los Angeles

The Saints defense has actually been a pretty solid unit this year from a pass rushing perspective. Averaging pressure of 16.6% of opponent dropbacks and 1.9 sacks per game, they have the talent to cause problems for Jared Goff and the Rams offensive line. The noise in the Superdome will be the Saints’ friend here, as Goff struggles to communicate. We have seen this script play out many times before; I see a repeat happening. Drew Brees and the offense should be able to mount a comfortable lead despite the strength of the Rams defense, allowing the Saints pass rushers to feast.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Carolina pass rushers at Oakland

The resurgence in the Panthers defense may come to a crashing halt this Sunday in Oakland. As I have documented many times in this article over the season, the Raiders offensive line has been one of the stingiest units as far as giving up pressure. To date, they have allowed heat to get to Derek Carr on just 5.2% of dropbacks. The Panthers will be without Luke Kuechly and already rely on exotic blitzes to flush quarterbacks. This could be a long day under the California sun for the road team. Without Mario Addison, who has yet to practice this week, it will be even tougher. Fade your Panthers at all costs.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Arizona defenders at Atlanta

The tackle opportunity metrics don’t scream out that is a matchup to focus on, but gut feeling tells me otherwise. The Cardinals are coming off a gut-wrenching defeat last week in Minnesota, while Atlanta is fresh after a bye. The Falcons average 24 rushing attempts per game, a decent baseline for tackle production. Arizona’s season is on the line here; in fact, it may already be over. Regardless, the Falcons should be able to control this game. The STF number for the Georgia Dome is a solid 1.603, but that shouldn’t make you waver in your decision.

New York Jets defenders vs. New England

The STF is significant (1.688) in this matchup, as the hapless Jets take on the Patriots in what will be a chilly New Jersey. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back under center for the home team, but it is when the Patriots have the ball that fantasy owners will make hay. The Patriots offense averages 28.9 rushing attempts per game and will hammer the ball between the tackles to wear out a wilting Jets defense. Much like the Arizona/Atlanta game, this one feels like a great opportunity for the weaker team to rack up the tackles.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Buffalo defenders vs. Jacksonville

Jacksonville’s offense has been one of the poorest units for tackle opportunity, allowing just 48.2 per game to opponents. That is not a total we can rely on if we plan on starting any Bills. Stephon Gilmore is tempting if the Jaguars have to come back – and they most likely will – but my advice here is to steer clear of your Bills and look elsewhere.

Seattle defenders at Tampa Bay

The Bucs have actually been a very solid tackle matchup, but the Seahawks defense is so good that it limits their opportunity. The only reason they are hovering around 53.8 tackle opportunities per game is the high rate of dropbacks and offensive snaps faced (39 and 66.8, respectively). I’m not saying the Seahawks will trounce the Bucs, but it will be convincing enough to make you think twice about trusting your Seahawks tacklers.


 

Best of luck with Week 12 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.