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 analysis 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.
You are very welcome to the Week 10 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.
The stretch run, for all intents and purposes, is upon us. To put it bluntly, every week is now a street fight to determine your survival in the playoff race. If you’re already in pole position, good for you; you’re one of the rare ones comfortably drifting towards the promised land. That is no reason to get complacent, of course.
The matchups are more important than ever for the next few weeks as we conclude the bye week gauntlet. Let’s dig in to Week 10.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Pittsburgh pass rushers at Indianapolis
The well-rested Steelers will relish a chance to play indoors in November and get their high-flying offense into gear. However, it will be the defense that will be licking their chops most of all. A matchup with the creaky Colts offensive line has led to excellent production for our IDP stars this year. Big play mavens like T.J. Watt should have a field day, especially if the offense can get out to an early lead. The Steelers average pressure on 17% of opponent dropbacks, but that could be more like 25% this week.
Key stat: The Colts give up pressure on 24.8% of dropbacks, with 3.9 sacks and 8.9 quarterback hits allowed per game.
New York Giants pass rushers at San Francisco
An unpopular one, perhaps, after the abysmal performance put forth by the G-Men last week at home, but this must be a bounce back (surely). The 49ers have many questions to answer with this roster; they are simply not equipped to handle the type of pressure the Giants can bring. Ben McAdoo knows he is coaching for his life, so he will undoubtedly whisper a few words of gentle encouragement in Steve Spagnuolo’s ear to get the defense geared up. This New York defense is not without talent, so I expect a return to the norm this week.
Key stat: The San Francisco offensive line has been a sieve this season, giving up pressure on 20.9% of dropbacks and allowing 3.6 sacks and 9.2 hits per game.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Tampa Bay pass rushers vs. New York Jets
It’s Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback for the lowly Bucs, who have seen their season unravel in front of them the past few weeks. It is the Jets who will fancy their chances of eating that elusive Jameis Winston W this week, however. The New York passing attack has been clicking of late, and Matt Forte has the chance to have a field day. All this points to a balanced approach from the road team that will keep the Bucs’ paltry pass rush (if you can even call it that) at bay. The Jets offensive line has allowed pressure on 18.2% of dropbacks – but will that even matter? I doubt it.
Key stat: The Buccaneers pass rush, vaunted in preseason as one of the league’s best (potentially), has been completely toothless this year. They have applied pressure on only 11.1% of opponent dropbacks, one of the lowest marks in the NFL.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Miami and Carolina defenders
In the Dolphins’ second consecutive prime time game, they will travel to Charlotte to face a Panthers team that has scratched and clawed its way to 6-3. The TVO factor makes this one an attractive option for all our IDP assets, but it is likely the Dolphins who will have more tackle opportunity. Carolina’s offense has allowed 51.6 tackle opportunities per game, but their defense has seen only 44.2 per game. Keep a close eye on the matchup of Christian McCaffrey vs. the Dolphins linebackers in coverage, where the rookie should be able to thrive and set up ample tackle opportunities.
Key stat: The TVO factor at Bank of America Stadium is 1.239, which ranks as the fifth best in the league. If you have to lean to one side, start your Miami defenders as Carolina are favoured in the line and more likely to have a favourable game script.
Washington and Minnesota defenders
A feisty Redskins team took down the Seahawks on the road last week, but what have they got in store for an encore? The Vikings should be well prepared after a bye, and will be ready to feast on that Redskins offensive line. However, I believe this game will remain tight. The Minnesota offense is the standout unit here in terms of tackle opportunity allowed (53.1 per game), so if you have to trust any team’s key IDP assets, make it Washington’s. However, I believe the high tide of TVO factor should raise all ships here.
Key stat: There is a favourable TVO factor of 1.231 at play in Washington to boost the value of all Vikings and Redskins defenders, so err on the side of trusting players in this one.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Jacksonville and Los Angeles Chargers defenders
In what could be a closer one than the majority believes, the Jaguars welcome the Chargers to sunny Florida in the hopes of keeping up their momentum. On paper, this looks to be one where tackle opportunity abounds, but the TVO factor puts paid to that. Still, the Jaguars offense averages 33.8 rush attempts per game, so if you had to trust one side it would be the LA one. In truth, this is one best avoided.
Key stat: No team in the NFL has a worse home TVO factor than the Jaguars, who rank at the bottom with 1.004.
Chicago and Green Bay defenders
The battle of Mitchell Trubisky and Brett Hundley won’t exactly get your pulse pounding, and neither should this matchup for IDP production. Besides the TVO factor, we are dealing with two offenses that can’t seem to get out of their own way. The Bears will play it safe, and we have already seen what the Packers think of Hundley by the way they called their plays the last couple of outings. In a defensive struggle, this one might be best avoided – or relied on for the big play categories.
Key stat: With a TVO factor of just 1.032, Soldier Field ranks 31st in the league and is basically one the stadia where solos and assists go to die.
Best of luck with Week 10 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.