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 2 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.
Although we have just one week of data to go off, already there are teams to exploit - and to fade - for the coming weeks. Also-rans like Buffalo and Arizona have come to the fore, while perennial contenders have flexed their muscles and given us an idea of their potential to create tackle opportunity for prized defenders on our rosters. New offensive schemes have made viable what were previously considered token units. With Aaron Rudnicki's spreadsheet set to debut next week, let's dive into the match-ups for this week.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Denver pass rushers vs. Oakland
The Broncos pass rush looked to be in mid-season form last week, turning Russell Wilson into a ragdoll on some hits as the punishment piled up. Predictably, it was Von Miller who was responsible for a large proportion of that pressure. The elite edge rusher totaled three sacks to go along with six tackles and an assist in an utterly dominant display that left the Seahawks offensive line with no answers. The Raiders may be equally flummoxed to come up with a response to that type of dominant play when they crawl into Denver, their collective tails firmly tucked between their legs in shame after a diabolical Monday Night Football beating. Oakland's offensive line ranks among the top 12 units in Matt Bitonti's weekly ratings, but on film, they looked vulnerable against the Rams. A loud stadium, at altitude, with the pressure of being 0-1 in a divisional game - all of these factors work against the Raiders and Jon Gruden. The Broncos front seven should be able to feast.
Atlanta pass rushers vs. Carolina
The Panthers may learn the hard way that offensive line injuries can - and often do - derail a team's hopes for a season. The loss of right tackle Daryl Williams - it was a miracle that he was even available for Week 1 after a camp knee injury - is a critical blow. Add to that the loss of Greg Olsen, a solid pass blocker in his own right, and you have an unmitigated disaster for Ron Rivera and the coaching staff to navigate. Atlanta may have suffered similarly crucial losses with both Keanu Neal and Deion Jones set to miss significant time (and most of the season in Jones' case), but their pass rush caused Philadelphia plenty of problems last week. With 10 days to prepare, the Falcons will have some blitz packages cooked up to test this feeble Carolina offensive front. Cam Newton will have to get the ball out quickly to avoid taking unnecessary hits and sacks, but when has he ever been able to do that consistently? Bet on a big day from the Falcons front seven.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Cleveland front seven at New Orleans
As long as Drew Brees is at the helm of the New Orleans offense, opposing defenses will struggle to muster sustained pressure. The same story should unfold this week as the unexpectedly 0-1 Saints welcome the unexpectedly 0-1-0 Browns to the Big Easy, barring some kind of overdue miracle for Cleveland. The Saints should welcome back left guard Andrus Peat to further strengthen their offensive line, so the Browns pass rush will find it tough sledding - even on the fast track of the Superdome. Myles Garrett could put paid to this recommendation in a handful of plays, but the smart play here is to trust the long-established trends and fade the team facing the Saints when they're at home.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Miami and New York Jets defenders
Should the Dolphins get this week off? After all, they played the equivalent of two games last week in their epic encounter with the Titans. The Jets, you feel, won't be in such a forgiving mood when their division rival comes to town, especially coming off the high of Monday night's huge win. Suddenly Sam Darnold is the talk of the town, the defense is cocky and boisterous and there is a palpable optimism in Gang Green. What stood out against Detroit was a willingness to keep the offense balanced with a steady dose of backfield duo Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell. That should continue against Miami; the Jets would be wise not to hang their rookie quarterback out to dry. Miami should be given credit for their marathon performance, though they may face a bigger test here. Either way, the game script here calls for a tight clash where tackle opportunity should be plentiful. Kiko Alonso and Darron Lee, in particular, should be great starts for owners.
Key stat: The Jets finished in the eighth position in my offseason analysis of the TVO factor in stadia, a measure of how many solos vs. assists are handed out by stat crews on a play-to-play basis. MetLife Stadium finished 24th in the TVO factor last season, but over a four-year period, it has been a happy hunting ground for tacklers.
Indianapolis defenders at Washington
The Redskins are firm favorites in this inter-conference clash. This looks to be the perfect storm for IDP production. On the one hand, you have Andrew Luck facing a pass rush with a growing reputation for being nasty, likely forcing quick releases which lead to surer tackles; on the other, you have Alex Smith's pathological conservatism, which naturally leads to ample tackle opportunity. The Colts have more question marks, but the TVO factor in Washington is one of the best in the league and will be conducive to plenty of solo tackles being awarded to both teams. Clayton Geathers and Darius Leonard really appeal for the Colts, while for the Redskins Zach Brown and company should be handed more opportunity than last week against Arizona. Plug in as many players from this matchup as you can.
Key stat: The Redskins have an excellent TVO factor at home, ranking second over the past four seasons, meaning that for every tackle more solo tackles are liable to be handed out.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Seattle and Chicago defenders
The Seahawks suffered defeat in Week 1 at the hands of the Broncos, but they shouldn't be too downhearted about their performance. Denver's pass rush was simply a bad matchup for their overmatched offensive line. Here's the problem, though: they don't get any respite, as this week they take on the Bears at Soldier Field. This is a tricky one to predict and could be a low-scoring, grind-it-out type of game pockmarked by mistakes from both quarterbacks, either due to poor play or collapsing pockets. Take your pick, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Trubisky. A poor TVO venue, the projected game script here detracts even further from the appeal of the matchup from a fantasy perspective. This is one best avoided.
Key stat: Chicago ranked 31st in TVO factor last season, and has traditionally been a poor source of fantasy points. Solo tackles and assists are inconsistently awarded. As a result, this is a venue that should be passed over in IDP close lineup calls.
New England and Jacksonville defenders
A rematch of the AFC Championship game of last season in Week 2 is a nice treat for our late Sunday afternoon, but this may be a clash best avoided from an IDP perspective. The absence of Leonard Fournette instantly sucks some of the appeal out of the Patriots defenders, who would have benefited from the tackle opportunity associated with the big back's between-the-tackles style. Then, of course, there is the perennial problem of Blake Bortles' inconsistent ways as a passer. On the other side, Tom Brady may have his work cut out for him against this ferocious defense. On all three levels, the Jaguars have quality players poised to pounce if Brady makes a mistake - or holds the ball too long. The TVO factor is hugely unfavorable for tackle production, so instead simply sit back and enjoy this arm wrestle unfold.
Key stat: The Jaguars home stadium ranked dead last in the league in 2017 in TVO factor, meaning its stat crew was the stingiest in awarding solo tackles per tackle made. IDPs have to produce bigger games to even sniff the fantasy points totals of their peers.
Best of luck with Week 2 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.