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 15 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.
Playoffs in the air, everywhere I look around. It’s that time of year when seasons end and one champion remains to stand atop the mountain of fantasy immortality. I truly hope that our guidance here at Footballguys has you among the esteemed company of the final playoff teams.
The calls you make or don’t make this week will define your season, so let’s make sure we have all the match-up angles figured out for Week 15.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
New Orleans pass rushers vs. New York Jets
It could have been so different for the Jets this season. A bounce of a ball here or a ill-timed turnover there doomed them to narrow losses, but their biggest loss didn’t come in the L column last week. Rather it was the season-ending hand injury to Josh McCown that threw them for a loop. Bryce Petty, who looked uninspiring to say the least in relief against Denver, will take on a Saints pass rush that will be licking its chops. The Jets offensive line was already giving up pressure on 18.6% of dropbacks, but Petty’s play could see that skyrocket. A plum match-up for your Saints; don’t hesitate to shoehorn them into your line-up.
Key stat: Although the Saints haven’t been the best pass rushing unit, averaging pressure on just 13.4% of opponent dropbacks, this match-up is too good to turn down.
Denver pass rushers at Indianapolis
Nothing cures what ails you like facing a truly awful offensive line. That will be the message being spread in the Denver locker room this week as they try to salvage some pride in an utterly forgettable season. The Colts might be in a giving mood as Christmas arrives, as they surrender 3.9 sacks per game and 8.5 hits per game. Denver’s defense should be able to feast despite its comparatively poor 13.9% pressure applied metric. Don’t overthink this one.
Key stat: It hasn’t all gone the Broncos’ way this season, but the Colts offensive line has given up pressure on a staggering 24.7% of dropbacks and has become the prime match-up for pass rushers.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
New England front seven at Pittsburgh
This one might be patently obvious to most, but the Patriots pass rush is not good. In fact, it is lacking any sort of true threat and could be the undoing of the team in Pittsburgh this Sunday. Bill Belichick has ways of manufacturing pass rush, of course, but the trend is a concerning one. Regardless, the Steelers will have to plan to stonewall the Patriots and rack up the points behind an offensive line that has surrendered pressure on just 10.0% of dropbacks. Ben Roethlisberger should have the platform to fling the rock around the yard; avoid the Patriots defenders if you can.
Key stat: The Patriots have applied pressure on just 13.4% of opponent dropbacks; the league average sits at 15.4%.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Philadelphia and New York Giants defenders
The Carson Wentz news will have shaken the Eagles franchise to its core, but Nick Foles has now had a full week to prepare and could surprise some. The Giants are already looking ahead to their proverbial golf tee times in January, although we can expect a prideful effort from Big Blue with their owners watching keenly. This may be all one-way traffic, but even the Eagles’ main IDP options have some appeal if the Giants can actually muster an offense. The stat crew tilts this one into the must-start column, so plug in as many Eagles and Giants as you can afford to.
Key stat: No stadium stat crew is more generous at doling at solos and assists than MetLife, so expect plenty of opportunity for IDP production here.
Arizona and Washington defenders
The Cardinals are showing some fight as the season comes to its end, still clinging to a faint playoff dream. Meanwhile, it has been a steady downhill journey for Washington, with injuries to key positions playing a part. This one could end up being one of the more fun clashes of the day, as two relaxed teams face off with not much to lose. The tackle production should be strong enough here to warrant starting any Redskins or Cardinals IDP options if you have them.
Key stat: Not quite on the level of MetLife, the Redskins’ home stadium ranks third in TVO factor at 1.235.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Houston defenders at Jacksonville
No matter who ends up starting for Houston (and I really hope it’s not Tom Savage, for his sake), this one is one to avoid for tackle production. Jacksonville’s stadium stat crew is stingy, and even though the Jaguars offense averages 53.2 tackle opportunities allowed per game, it could all end in tears. If you have to start one set of players, make it Houston’s – but keep those expectations low.
Key stat: Stay away from Jacksonville’s home stadium if it is tackle production you seek. Maybe the stat crew is distracted by the pool revellers or something, but the stadium ranks dead last in TVO factor.
Chicago and Detroit defenders
A rare Saturday night encounter that could end up being a feisty affair between two rivals, I am mildly intrigued by this. The TVO factor should discourage fantasy owners from investing in any of the Bears or Lions IDP options. With points being so crucial this week, the lean in this match-up would go to the Bears defenders – although this one could be more of a stalemate that the average fan would think. The take-home message here is to avoid if you have better options.
Key stat: With a TVO factor of 1.066, Ford Field in Detroit is another venue to avoid for tackle production.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.