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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid - Week 7

Updated 10/22 by Jene Bramel and Larry Thomas, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

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 Larry Thomas. 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 lineup 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.

Okay, enough of the disclaimers, let's look at our highlighted matchups for Week 8. After the first week of games, we'll be including data from the Matchup Analyzer to allow you to check any of the week's pass rush or tackle matchups.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Houston front four at Buffalo
The Bills are behind five other teams in sacks allowed, but lead the league in our pressure allowed metric. Opposing defenses are hitting Buffalo quarterbacks on one out of every four pass drops. Ryan Fitzpatrick pulls the ball down and runs more often than any quarterback in the league, but this has the makings of a rebound week for Mario Williams. Desperate owners in big play leagues could find gold with Connor Barwin.

Tennessee front four Vs Jacksonville
The Jaguars allowed eight sacks in the two games before the bye week and face a Titan line rotation that regularly gets to the quarterback. Kyle Vanden Bosch, William Hayes, Jason Jones and Tony Brown all make solid starts for those looking for two-way upside this week.

Detroit front four Vs St. Louis
St. Louis front four at Detroit

Both sides of this matchup look favorable. The Rams' offensive line has been up and down this season, but Mark Bulger usually makes an attractive standing target for opposing lines. Cliff Avril and Julian Peterson should be strong starts, as should Leonard Little for the Rams. Keep an eye on the injury reports for James Hall. He'll also be worth risking despite the groin injury if he practices fully by the end of the week.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

New Orleans front seven Vs Atlanta
The Cowboys broke a strong trend of pass protection from the Falcons' offensive line last week, as Atlanta allowed four sacks - two more than they had allowed in their five previous games. Expect the Dallas explosion to be a one week blip in the data and start Will Smith and Charles Grant in your big play leagues only if you've no other viable options.

Atlanta front four at New Orleans
The Saints also saw a strongly negative pass rushing trend broken last week as the Dolphins managed five sacks against them. One poor week isn't enough to buck this trend either, however, and John Abraham shouldn't be expected to put up big pass rush numbers this week.

Team
Pressure
QB
QB
Adj Pass
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Att Faced
2007 Lg Avg
11.3%
2.13
3.99
35.4
2008 Lg Avg
12.0%
2.02
4.13
34.3
2009 Lg Avg
13.7%
2.22
4.83
35.3
Arizona
12.0%
2.67
4.83
40.3
Atlanta
11.5%
2.00
4.50
39.2
Baltimore
12.9%
2.33
4.33
33.7
Buffalo
13.8%
2.29
5.14
37.3
Carolina
14.5%
2.50
4.00
27.7
Chicago
14.2%
2.33
5.33
37.5
Cincinnati
13.9%
2.43
5.43
39.0
Cleveland
12.9%
1.71
4.43
34.3
Dallas
14.7%
2.33
5.67
38.7
Denver
12.1%
3.50
4.33
35.7
Detroit
12.2%
2.50
4.33
35.5
Green Bay
16.7%
2.00
5.33
32.0
Houston
15.0%
1.00
5.14
34.3
Indianapolis
14.3%
2.67
5.67
39.5
Jacksonville
9.0%
0.83
3.33
37.0
Kansas City
5.8%
1.29
2.00
34.6
Miami
13.2%
2.83
4.33
32.8
Minnesota
17.1%
3.43
6.29
36.9
New England
14.1%
1.86
4.57
32.4
New Orleans
15.8%
2.50
6.33
40.0
N. Y. Giants
20.1%
2.43
6.00
29.9
N. Y. Jets
11.8%
1.14
4.14
35.0
Oakland
13.1%
2.29
4.14
31.6
Philadelphia
15.7%
3.50
6.00
38.2
Pittsburgh
10.7%
2.86
4.29
40.0
St. Louis
8.4%
1.83
2.67
31.7
San Diego
15.2%
2.17
5.83
38.3
San Francisco
17.6%
2.67
6.50
37.0
Seattle
13.2%
1.71
4.43
33.6
Tampa Bay
18.3%
1.57
5.00
27.3
Tennessee
12.9%
1.83
5.33
41.5
Washington
17.1%
2.57
5.29
31.0

Strong Matchups in green. Weak Matchups in red.


Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Denver defenders at Baltimore
Both Denver and Baltimore have been above-average tackle matchups through seven weeks, but we'll take the away defenders against the Ravens at home this week. Expect good weeks from D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins. Andra Davis may see enough rush attempts to be worth starting as well.

NY Jets Vs Miami
The Dolphins have become one of the league's best tackle matchups, providing a league best 57 tackle opportunities a week. They've also been among the most consistent matchups, with only one week below 50 opportunities for the season. David Harris should rebound well this week and Calvin Pace and Bart Scott should be safer than usual starts in balanced and tackle heavy leagues.

Atlanta defenders at New Orleans
The Saints are tied with Miami in most tackle opportunities allowed per week. Through six games, they've yet to allow less than 52 per week and have been a more balanced offense than you might think. Curtis Lofton has a top five expectation this week and complementary players like Mike Peterson, Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud should also be productive.

Green Bay defenders Vs Minnesota
Look for Nick Barnett to have a good week against the solid Vikings' matchup. Atari Bigby will also be a stronger than usual start.


Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Chicago defenders Vs Cleveland
The Browns have been a horrible tackle matchup. Excluding the nearly five quarter overtime game they played against Cincinnati, they've yet to allow even average opportunity in a week and have had 35 or fewer opportunities in each of their last two games. Lance Briggs, Nick Roach and the rest of the Chicago defense are risky lineup options this week.

San Diego defenders Vs Oakland
The Raiders are providing the worst tackle opportunity in the league and have the worst road split (only 36 opps/wk) by far. The Chargers haven't been consistent this season, but there isn't much to like on paper here for Stephen Cooper and Tim Dobbins.

Team
Tackle
Rush Att
Pass Att
Offensive
Run
Ops
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
2007 Lg Avg
49.8
27.3
35.4
62.7
43.5%
2008 Lg Avg
49.3
27.6
34.3
61.9
44.6%
2009 Lg Avg
49.6
27.0
35.3
62.5
54.8%
Arizona
46.7
22.3
40.3
62.7
47.9%
Atlanta
50.0
25.7
39.2
64.8
51.3%
Baltimore
48.0
26.0
33.7
59.7
54.2%
Buffalo
54.4
33.0
37.3
70.3
60.6%
Carolina
49.0
30.0
27.7
57.7
61.2%
Chicago
52.5
27.7
37.5
65.2
52.7%
Cincinnati
47.9
22.9
39.0
61.9
47.8%
Cleveland
56.1
34.9
34.3
69.1
62.1%
Dallas
50.2
25.5
38.7
64.2
50.8%
Denver
46.7
24.0
35.7
59.7
51.4%
Detroit
51.2
24.2
35.5
59.7
47.2%
Green Bay
46.2
27.8
32.0
59.8
60.3%
Houston
46.3
24.7
34.3
59.0
53.4%
Indianapolis
51.2
26.2
39.5
65.7
51.1%
Jacksonville
52.2
26.3
37.0
63.3
50.5%
Kansas City
49.6
29.7
34.6
64.3
59.9%
Miami
43.2
23.3
32.8
56.2
54.1%
Minnesota
48.3
23.6
36.9
60.4
48.8%
New England
43.6
24.4
32.4
56.9
56.1%
New Orleans
45.2
23.0
40.0
63.0
50.9%
N. Y. Giants
42.4
24.4
29.9
54.3
57.6%
N. Y. Jets
46.9
27.4
35.0
62.4
58.5%
Oakland
56.0
36.6
31.6
68.1
65.3%
Philadelphia
51.8
27.3
38.2
65.5
52.7%
Pittsburgh
45.3
20.1
40.0
60.1
44.5%
St. Louis
52.3
32.5
31.7
64.2
62.1%
San Diego
50.8
27.0
38.3
65.3
53.1%
San Francisco
49.2
23.0
37.0
60.0
46.8%
Seattle
54.6
31.6
33.6
65.1
57.9%
Tampa Bay
52.1
34.3
27.3
61.6
65.8%
Tennessee
58.8
27.7
41.5
69.2
47.0%
Washington
49.7
23.7
31.0
61.1
60.6%

Strong Matchups in green. Weak Matchups in red.

This feature will be a work in progress all season long. We welcome all suggestions and feedback to bramel@footballguys.com.