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 14 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 playoff time for most leagues, so we are down to the nitty gritty. No matter how you got here, whether by good fortune or sheer domination, enjoy the ride. Ultimately, these past 13 weeks were just the opening stanzas of an epic poem that will be part of fantasy football lore – if you can only finish the job and win that title.
Pinning down the match-ups to do just that will be crucial as always, so let’s finish strong in 2017.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Los Angeles Chargers pass rushers vs. Washington offensive line
The turnover on the Washington offensive line has seen Kirk Cousins face constant pressure. He should be commended for making the most of a bad situation, unleashing improbable bombs downfield despite being clocked in the facemask time after time. Something tells me a Chargers defense that averages 3.4 sacks per game at home will pick up right where Dallas left off last week. The motivation will be sky high for the 6-6 home team as the playoffs remain within their grasp. I expect a bloodbath up front for the Redskins, and a comfortable Chargers win.
Key stat: The Redskins have surrendered pressure on 18.6% of dropbacks, although recent offensive line woes have exacerbated matters.
San Francisco pass rushers at Houston
The Texans will always put forth a game effort, but you have to wonder how motivated they will be after the disheartening loss last week. Tom Savage has made some strides in his development, but he is still an immobile quarterback for the most part. A revitalised San Francisco front seven should be able to take advantage. The insertion of potential franchise quarterback (and saviour) Jimmy Garoppolo into the starting line-up injected a new sense of vitality and inspiration into the team last week. I believe that could be carried forward into this week. The 49ers would not generally be on the fantasy radar of many owners, but this Texans offensive line has been porous at the best of times.
Key stat: Surprisingly, the 49ers have applied pressure on 19% of opponent dropbacks, with 6.5 quarterback hits registered per game.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Baltimore pass rushers at Pittsburgh
Only the Raiders offensive line has given up less pressure per dropback than the Steelers, making this a tough test for the vaunted Ravens defense. This one could be even uglier than last week’s Pittsburgh/Cincinnati clash, with bragging rights and playoff positioning on the line. You never know, this could actually be a preview for a match-up in the Divisional Round. The cohesion of the Steelers offensive line and the consistency of Le’Veon Bell will make it very difficult for Baltimore to pin their ears back and go after Ben Roethlisberger. There is a certain magic to Pittsburgh playing at home in a night game that you just don’t mess with, so the smart play here is to trust the home team and avoid Baltimore pass rushers if you have better options.
Key stat: The Ravens have applied pressure on 17.8% of dropbacks – not to be sniffed at – but the Steelers are so stingy on the offensive line, allowing pressure on just 9.5% of dropbacks.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Dallas and New York Giants defenders
If Sean Lee plays, suddenly this NFC East contest looks a whole lot more skewed in the direction of the visiting Cowboys. Still alive mathematically in a crowded NFC playoff picture, they will be hoping to pile more misery on their rivals here. However, the Giants may have something to say about that. A tumultuous week that is unheard of in the franchise’s storied history saw head coach and general manager deposed, and Eli Manning restored to the starting quarterback gig by interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. This one is tricky to predict, but one thing we can rely on is a favourable TVO factor at MetLife Stadium and a pair of teams who will be happy to pound the ball. Advantage: IDP owners of these teams’ assets.
Key stat: The TVO factor at MetLife is the best in the league at 1.343, meaning even fringe IDP options could be worth plugging in.
Miami defenders vs. New England
No team allows more tackle opportunity to opposing defenses than New England, a statistic that won’t surprise you. Miami have a real opportunity on Monday night to spoil the party for their rival, with the Patriots eyeing the No 1 seed. As many times as I run it through in my mind, however, I cannot see this Miami team doing enough to stay competitive. Expect a businesslike approach to the game from the visitors. With Rob Gronkowski suspended, Tom Brady will focus more on the ground game and taking the short completions against Miami’s overmatched linebackers and safeties. The Dolphins have faced rush attempts on 47.1% of their defensive snaps, one of the higher marks in the league. Tackle production should be very favourable.
Key stat: The TVO factor in Miami may be in the bottom half of the league at 1.105, but this is too good a match-up to turn down.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Arizona and Tennessee defenders
The Titans are being widely panned by the media for being a pretender to the AFC South crown, and I suppose I can’t disagree. They have been fortunate with some victories, and have had what many call a ‘cupcake’ schedule. The Cardinals know their playoff hopes are up in smoke, but that doesn’t mean they won’t put forth a valiant effort. In fact, Arizona should be able to cause a limited Tennessee offense a few problems. Ultimately, though, the unfavourable TVO factor combined with offenses of questionable ability mean this is a stay-away.
Key stat: The TVO factor in Arizona is ranked 29th in the league at 1.035, so this is another example of where tackle production goes to die.
Denver and New York Jets defenders
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Broncos thought they had it all figured out with Trevor Siemian, only to see it all go up in smoke as their season crashed and burned. In truth, it continues to do so. Meanwhile, the unheralded Jets, who many dismissed as a shoo-in for the No 1 pick in the 2018 Draft, suddenly find themselves the favourites in Denver. The tackle production will be difficult to mine here with such a poor TVO factor, but if you have to lean to one side of this game I would play your Denver defenders. The Jets offense poses several match-up problems, ones the reeling Denver defense may struggle to deal with.
Key stat: The Broncos’ home stadium has a poor TVO factor, ranking 26th in the league at 1.070.
Best of luck with Week 14 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.