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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 16

Dave Larkin breaks down the matchups to exploit and avoid in Week 16. 

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 16th 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.

For those of you on the precipice of fantasy football immortality (in your leagues, at least), look no further. Footballguys have you completely covered for your final, and you have picked a good place to start. Capitalizing on matchups is – and has been – crucial to maximising the value in our teams all year. There is still an element of gut feeling to make your final lineup choices, but hopefully these matchups will help you along the way.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Oakland pass rushers vs. Indianapolis

The Colts have been one of the best pass rushing matchups all season long, giving up pressure on 20.8% of dropbacks. In recent weeks the offensive line has solidified somewhat – and you never quite know what you’ll get from these Colts – but the smart play here is to ride the Raiders. Their pass rush hasn’t exactly been elite, but Khalil Mack makes up for a lot of flaws. In a game that will possibly secure homefield advantage for Oakland, I expect a big performance in front of a hyped-up crowd.

San Diego pass rushers at Cleveland

I feel bad beating up on the Browns week after week with my recommendations, but I can’t help it. The matchup has consistently been one to exploit as this team remains mired in a pool of ineptitude with 0-16 beckoning. The Browns surrender 3.8 sacks and 8.1 quarterback hits per game, so the Chargers pass rush should have ample opportunity – even on the road – to build a lead and feast. There is always an outside shot of a Browns hero tale, but I’ve already seen enough of this team to know that is unlikely, if not impossible.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Baltimore pass rushers at Pittsburgh

Christmas Day football – and I can’t wait to sit back with a mince pie and watch this AFC North slugfest. The Steelers’ offensive line has been the most underrated unit of their team in recent weeks. This front five have come together nicely, showing terrific cohesion on their way to a pressure allowed figure of just 8.8% - one of the best marks in the NFL. The Ravens certainly have the ability to cause the line problems, but in a home game where crowd noise won’t be a factor I expect Baltimore’s pass rush to be shut down.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Tampa Bay defenders at New Orleans

Across the board, whether you look at rush attempts, offensive snaps or tackle opportunities allowed, the Saints are a matchup you want to exploit. The Bucs enter this week with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, and an offensive explosion is likely in the Superdome. Visiting teams in this venue get an STF figure of just 1.655 (about average), but the tackle opportunity will be such that STF will be irrelevant. Ride your Bucs to a title this week.

New York Jets defenders at New England

Road teams have an STF number of 1.741 in Foxborough, a fantastic mark that the Jets should be able to parlay into a big outing in the tackle column. In close line-up decisions, I would recommend leaning towards any New York player. The Patriots should control this game and their ‘small chunks’ offense allows opponents 53.2 tackle opportunities per game. Don’t overthink this one.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Tennessee defenders at Jacksonville

The Jaguars haven’t been the worst tackle matchup in the league, but they’re among the worst. An offense devoid of ideas and with a quarterback at the helm who is lacking confidence in his mechanics shouldn’t pose too many problems for Tennessee. The Titans’ ball control mentality should lend itself to a shorter game in what should be ideal weather in Florida. Barring a late Jacksonville comeback, I don’t expect to see many Titans racking up the tackles.

San Francisco defenders at Los Angeles

In a battle of inept offenses, I would go so far as to say you should avoid every IDP in this contest if you can. The Niners defense is unlikely to see many meaningful snaps against a Rams offense that allows just 45.5 tackle opportunities per game. The STF of 1.520 places this firmly in the ‘no fly zone’ of matchups.


Best of luck with Week 16 and make sure to check back next week for more matchup analysis (if you play in a Week 17 championship).

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.