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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 15

Dave Larkin breaks down the best and worst IDP matchups to get your into your playoff final. 

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 15th 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.

I have to first apologise for not getting my column out to you as usual last week. A combination of ill-timed events conspired against me and I simply did not have the time. No matter though, let’s look forward instead of backward and focus on some matchups that can get you into your final.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Minnesota pass rushers vs. Indianapolis

Is this the Vikings’ last stand? A loss here for either team, in fact, would be a death blow to their faint playoff hopes. Minnesota is the team we should be targeting here for pass rush, of course. Their defense averages pressure on 19% of dropbacks, while the Colts allow pressure on 21.5%. It’s a water hose against a sieve, ladies and gentlemen. Neither team will run away from the other, but I’m going to put my money on the numbers, and the numbers say Vikings.

Buffalo pass rushers vs. Cleveland

Allowing 3.7 sacks and 8.2 quarterback hits per game, the Cleveland Browns have perhaps the worst pass protecting line in the league. Now, that is mainly down to the unfavourable game scripts they find themselves in week after week. It is also down to a lack of talent. Regardless, for our purposes they are a great matchup to exploit. The Bills pass rush hasn’t been lighting the world on fire, but they are more than capable of feasting on a bad line. Don’t overthink this one.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Philadelphia pass rushers at Baltimore

The Ravens offensive line is a stingy unit and is allowing pressure on only 10.8% of dropbacks. A lot of this has to do with their offensive philosophy, of course, but the sample size is big enough to take it to the bank. Philadelphia’s pass rush has kept them in games at times, but hitting a brick wall like the Ravens offense might be too much to ask. Fade this matchup if you can as the desperate Ravens scratch and claw to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

San Francisco defenders at Atlanta

Watching the 49ers is about as pleasurable as sitting on old rusty nails while you cat cuts your hair, but there’s still value to be sucked out of this seemingly lifeless corpse. If you can believe this, the 49ers average 56.6 tackle opportunities per game and have faced running plays on 48.7% of their snaps. That is an insane number and one the Falcons should take advantage of this week. The emergence of DeForest Buckner is a nice silver lining for the road team; he should be able to match his performance of last week.

New Orleans defenders at Arizona

The Cardinals run their offense through David Johnson, a player steadily climbing into the pantheon of great running backs of the modern era. Their 24.9 rushing attempts per game and 69.2 offensive snaps per game bode well in this tilt against the Saints, who are out of the hunt. New Orleans has been inconsistent in their past couple of games. That could change, but you have to trust the trend here. If Arizona feeds Johnson early and stays balanced, Saints defenders should be in for a big day. Incidentally, the road team has faced an average of 25 rushing attempts per game.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Green Bay defenders at Chicago

Are the Packers back? It seems that way judging on their past couple of performances. Their dismantling of a rock solid Seahawks team opened my eyes, anyway – especially defensively. While they are unlikely to get the bounces as they did against Seattle, a strong defensive display should be a given against the Bears. The frigid conditions won’t bother the road team. The Bears (45.8 tackle opportunities allowed per game) have an outside shot of keeping this competitive. To be fair, they do run the ball effectively with Jordan Howard. Even still, I am finding it hard to envisage a scenario whereby your Packers defensive players are racking up tackles.

Detroit defenders at New York Giants

In case you haven’t been watching the Giants offense recently, let me give you a summary: punt, punt, interception, dropped pass, punt, ill-advised throw that should have been picked, turnover on downs. That about sums it up; to put it plainly, it has been less than impressive. I’m convinced something is amiss with Eli Manning, and it isn’t just Father Time’s clutches on him tightening. The Giants allow 46.5 tackle opportunities per game, not enough to get our juices flowing. They are committed to the run, certainly, but that won’t be enough in what should be a slugfest. Avoid your Lions at all costs.


Best of luck with Week 15 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.