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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 13

Dave Larkin breaks down the IDP matchups to target and avoid in Week 13.

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 13th 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.

It’s nearly playoff time in most fantasy leagues, so this is likely a make or break week if you are in contention. If you’re not, sometimes it can just as much fun to play spoiler against a long-time rival as win the championship. Sometimes, anyway.

Let’s delve into Week 13 to see what we can glean from this week’s matchups.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Seattle pass rushers vs. Carolina

As a Panthers fan to my core this is painful to recommend, but you can’t argue with the facts. The road team is missing three key starters along the offensive line, with Ryan Kalil, Michael Oher and Daryl Williams all injured. The team had to sign players off the street this week to fill out their roster, so the Carolina offense may not be firing on all cylinders to put it kindly. Seattle’s pass rush has generated 31 sacks, good for fourth best in the league, and 77 quarterback hits. Cam Newton has been one of the most brutalised passers in the league this season. Expect the Panthers’ season to come crumbling down on Sunday night as the Seahawks swoop in.

Denver pass rushers at Jacksonville

The Jaguars’ offensive line has been better than expected as far as giving up pressure, with only 10.6% of dropbacks seeing heat coming on Blake Bortles. The Broncos will present a different beast to what he has faced in recent weeks, with their 20.3% pressure applied number and their 7.8 quarterback hits per game. Even with a game plan that gets the ball out of Bortles’ hands quickly, the Jaguars will struggle to contain a defense that seems to be finding its groove. This is a plum matchup for the Broncos to rack up some feel-good factor ahead of a playoff push.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Buffalo pass rushers at Oakland

The impenetrable Raiders line continues to dominate week after week, stiff-arming opponents’ pass rushers. The time it takes for Derek Carr to release the ball is minimal, which helps the line, but their play has been outstanding as well. Giving up pressure on only 5.5% of dropbacks will win you a lot of games. The Bills come to town with reason for hope, but even their 16.6% pressure statistic and Rex Ryan’s exotic schemes may not be enough to get Carr out of rhythm. The trend here is strong enough to recommend fading any defense facing the Raiders.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Los Angeles defenders at New England

The STF number of 1.726 for the Rams makes this a great tackle matchup for their key defenders, so plug in the usual suspects. The Patriots offense hasn’t been clicking of late, but it only takes a few drives and a run of successful plays to regain confidence. Tom Brady may be dealing with an injury, but he has more than enough in the tank to keep the Rams on the field for clock-eating drives. Expect a heavy dose of the ground game as well from the Patriots, whether with Dion Lewis catching passes on extended handoffs or LeGarrette Blount pounding it between the tackles.

Detroit defenders at New Orleans

Predictably, the Saints offense has been a terrific tackle matchup for opposing defenders (57.1 tackle opportunities per game). The Saints average 68.9 offensive snaps per game, and generally bring it at home. The Lions may have had a run of fourth quarter magic, but that could end this week if Drew Brees stay on his hot streak. The 1.668 STF for the Lions makes this a reasonable matchup, so plug in your Lions and watch the points pile up.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

San Francisco defenders at Chicago

Typically Soldier Field is one of the worst venues for STF, so each team’s tacklers are downgraded as a result. It is difficult to predict how this game will pan out. Perhaps each team’s ineptitude will come to the fore in a messy, poorly played game. Alternatively, we could see a shootout. Either way, I would bench my defenders in this game unless you are stuck for options.

Pittsburgh defenders vs. New York Giants

Despite their 8-3 start, the Giants have been an inconsistent offense and average only 46.7 tackle opportunities allowed per game. That is one of the worst marks in the league. Add in the fact they average only 21 rushing attempts per game and we are not exactly looking at a potentially lucrative points output for Pittsburgh’s IDPs. The Steelers defense averages 48.8 tackle opportunities per game, so these teams may simply cancel each other out. The smart play here is to fade your Steelers, though.


Best of luck with Week 13 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.