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 final edition of the analysis of 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.
Competing in a Week 17 championship throws up its fair share of headaches and unforeseen circumstances – but we’ve got you covered at Footballguys. Keeping in mind that many NFL teams have their playoff destiny – or offseason destiny – determined already, navigating this minefield could be the difference between glory and despair.
Let’s examine the matchups to make sure we avoid the minefield and deliver a title.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Carolina pass rushers at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers offensive line has often been praised in recent weeks for its overall improved play compared to last season. However, a string of poor performances have Jameis Winston running for his life; the Bucs allow pressure on 18.1% of his dropbacks, not a sustainable number for success. The Panthers come to town playing out the string, but this team has a lot of pride. After a drubbing by Atlanta, Ron Rivera will be eager to finish on a high note. Carolina’s pass rush is underrated despite its 12% pressure applied number; in fact, they lead the lead in sacks. This could be a sneakily productive matchup.
Jacksonville pass rushers at Indianapolis
You would be forgiven if you had a double take moment when you saw I was recommending the Jaguars pass rush. After all, this team has been a train wreck up until recently, when a string of promising displays restored the faith. Lost in the media narrative of the Jaguars’ disappointing season is the fact that their defense hasn’t been all that bad. If you recall, the Jags absolutely demolished an under-strength Colts line in London when these sides last met. As it is, the Colts allow pressure on 20.8% of dropbacks, among the highest marks in the league. Don’t overthink this one, folks.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Atlanta pass rushers vs. New Orleans
The Saints allow pressure on Drew Brees on just 10.3% of dropbacks, surrendering only 1.6 sacks per game to boot. Certainly the game script is there for the Falcons to jump out to a big lead and pin their ears back as a defense, but this Saints offense is too good – and this Falcons defense too porous – for that to happen. Atlanta has been able to scheme up pressure in creative ways, but Brees’ release time from snap to throw is such that they will have a long day trying to get the star passer off his rhythm.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
San Francisco defenders vs. Seattle
The 49ers defense faces run plays on 49.6% of their snaps, a frankly shocking number that just goes to show how helpless they are to stop any team on the ground. With the No 2 seed still in play, Seattle will be going full tilt. Expect a heavy dose of rookie back Alex Collins (who could end up being a fantasy darling this week) as the Seahawks grind down a pitiful San Francisco defense that has racked up a league-high 56.8 tackle opportunities per game.
New York Giants defenders at Washington
A win and the Redskins could be back in the playoffs; all they have to do is knock off their bitter division rivals. It will be interesting to see how the Giants decide to play this game. After all, they can’t improve their seeding. At the same time, competitive balance comes into play; they can’t just sit everyone, surely? Regardless of what route Ben McAdoo decides to take, the Washington offense should be fancied to challenge the Giants defense. The last time these teams met the Redskins, in an admittedly erratic outing, managed to steal a win and completed plenty of shot plays downfield. If the Giants sit starters in the second half, the fireworks could start. This is an excellent STF matchup, with the home stat crew particularly friendly to the road team’s tackle prospects.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Philadelphia and Dallas defenders
This entire matchup might be a good candidate for ‘avoid’, as the Eagles and Cowboys lock horns in a game of pride alone. I don’t expect the Cowboys to play their starters for very long, despite Jerry Jones’ claims that he intends to keep the positive momentum going by playing them for all four quarters. The Eagles offense has allowed 52.7 tackle opportunities per game, so if you are going to side with any group of defenders here, make it Dallas’.
New England defenders at Miami
The Patriots have a No 1 seed to clinch and they can do so if they defeat the Dolphins, an opponent who has given them headaches in the past. If I know Bill Belichick, this will be an all business Patriots team ready to put the disappointment of 2015 behind them. The Dolphins, with a playoff game coming next week, might decide to rest some starters into the second half. The best advice here is to sit your New England defenders.
Best of luck with Week 17 and make sure to check back next season for more matchup analysis. Enjoy the offseason!
If you have any further questions or tricky line-up decisions you need advice with, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.