IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 5 - Footballguys

Dave Larkin recommends the match-ups to target and avoid for this week in IDP.

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 few 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 fifth 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 week I will study film from the previous week’s games and provide you with nuggets of wisdom that will put you on the right track to the playoffs, and hopefully a championship.

Navigating your way through a fantasy football season, with the slog of waiver wire runs, trades, injury monitoring, and line-up quandaries, can test even the most patient owners. We are about to enter that period of the season that will make or break your hopes of being a champion. Bye weeks are about to kick into high gear, so there will be plenty of chopping and changing to starting line-ups afoot.

Fortunately, we always have the solace of the matchups to fall back on, and with that an edge on the competition who are even now scrambling for options. These first four weeks have been a humbling reminder to IDP aficionados of just how quickly the landscape of defensive football can change. Making the right choices based on sound data can often make the difference, even as the cast of characters changes.

Let’s not stand on ceremony, though. It’s time to dive into the Week 5 matchups.

Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
2015 NFL Average
14.2%
2.31
5.41
38.1
2016 NFL Average
14.2%
2.18
5.37
37.8
2017 NFL Average
15.1%
2.33
5.49
36.5
2018 NFL Average
14.7%
2.54
5.71
38.9
Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
ARIZONA Cardinals
15.8%
2.5
5.3
33.3
ATLANTA Falcons
8.4%
2.0
3.8
44.5
BALTIMORE Ravens
14.5%
2.5
6.0
41.5
BUFFALO Bills
11.2%
2.5
4.8
42.5
CAROLINA Panthers
14.4%
2.7
5.3
37.0
CHICAGO Bears
18.7%
4.5
7.3
38.8
CINCINNATI Bengals
14.9%
2.5
6.8
45.3
CLEVELAND Browns
13.6%
3.0
6.0
44.3
DALLAS Cowboys
15.7%
3.5
5.5
35.0
DENVER Broncos
15.0%
2.5
6.0
40.0
DETROIT Lions
17.7%
3.3
5.0
28.3
GREEN BAY Packers
15.4%
3.3
5.8
37.3
HOUSTON Texans
12.9%
2.8
5.3
40.8
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
15.9%
4.3
6.8
42.5
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
12.4%
2.5
4.3
34.3
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
11.4%
2.5
5.3
46.0
LOS ANGELES Chargers
18.4%
2.0
6.5
35.3
LOS ANGELES Rams
12.3%
2.0
4.8
38.8
MIAMI Dolphins
11.9%
1.5
4.8
39.8
MINNESOTA Vikings
17.6%
2.8
6.3
35.5
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
15.1%
1.5
5.5
36.5
NEW ORLEANS Saints
11.9%
2.3
4.3
35.8
NEW YORK Giants
13.9%
1.3
4.8
34.3
NEW YORK Jets
16.9%
2.5
6.8
40.0
OAKLAND Raiders
9.4%
1.3
3.3
34.5
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
18.7%
2.8
8.0
42.8
PITTSBURGH Steelers
17.9%
3.3
7.8
43.3
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
12.1%
2.0
5.3
43.5
SEATTLE Seahawks
16.8%
2.3
6.0
35.8
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
17.6%
2.0
7.3
41.3
TENNESSEE Titans
16.7%
3.0
6.5
39.0
WASHINGTON Redskins
16.2%
2.3
6.3
39.0

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Minnesota front seven at Philadelphia

This may not have immediately jumped out to most casual observers as a matchup to pounce on. After all, the Eagles are supposed to have one of the most consistent offensive lines in the league. In the immortal words of Lee Corso: not so fast, my friend. The numbers don’t lie: the Eagles are giving up pressure on almost one in every five dropbacks, and Carson Wentz has regularly been escaping rushers and dodging danger in his first couple of starts back under center.

The Vikings, fresh off a 10-day rest, will be eager to get back on track in the NFC. Even with Everson Griffen out of the line-up, this pass rush has averaged pressure on 17.6% of dropbacks, an impressive total when you consider they have only faced an average of 35.5 dropbacks per game. The Eagles are a heavy pass team (46.6 dropbacks per game), so this could be a formula for a big day.

Key stat: The Eagles have surrendered pressure on 18.5% of dropbacks, one of the worst marks in the league, and have allowed 8.5 quarterback hits per game.

Tennessee front four vs. Buffalo offensive line

Poor Buffalo fans will always have the Miracle in Minnesota to look back on as this season continues to circle the drain – and we are only in Week 5. The biggest issue the Bills face is an offensive line unable to protect their rookie quarterback, who has been slapped around like a pinata back there.

Tennessee’s pass rush has averaged pressure on 16.7% of dropbacks – not a premiere mark by any means – and should fancy their chances to cause some damage. This is more about Buffalo’s weakness than Tennessee’s strength, but that could be enough to produce a big game for the Titans’ premium IDP options.

Key stat: The Bills’ inability to protect the passer is bettered only by Houston, giving up pressure on 23.2% of dropbacks. With Josh Allen firmly entrenched as the starter for better or worse, that number could see a further increase.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Green Bay pass rushers at Detroit

The Detroit offensive line has really started to gel very well together, as their league-low pressure-allowed figure of 6.8% would indicate. Their sack allowed percentage, unsurprisingly, is also the best in the league at 3.4%. The design of the offense and the poise of Matthew Stafford have combined to make this one of the more unexpected trends of the young season.

Green Bay faces a tall task to break through this wall, especially when you consider that although the Packers have registered 13 sacks this season (fourth best in the league), every single one of those sacks has come at home. Aaron Rodgers has produced his fair share of stunning moments in Ford Field, and he may have it all to do again if Stafford continues to carve up the defense behind a solid line. The right play is to avoid the Green Bay pass rushers.

Key stat: The Lions boast a league-low pressure percentage of 6.8% despite having an above average dropback-per-game number of 44.3.

Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
2015 NFL Average
50.4
25.5
38.1
63.6
40.2%
2016 NFL Average
50.0
25.3
37.8
63.1
40.1%
2017 NFL Average
49.6
26.1
36.5
62.6
41.9%
2018 NFL Average
50.9
24.6
38.9
63.5
38.7%
Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals
59.3
34.8
33.3
68.0
51.1%
ATLANTA Falcons
55.3
23.3
44.5
67.8
34.3%
BALTIMORE Ravens
44.5
21.0
41.5
62.5
33.6%
BUFFALO Bills
54.5
24.3
42.5
66.8
36.3%
CAROLINA Panthers
48.3
22.0
37.0
59.0
37.3%
CHICAGO Bears
45.5
19.0
38.8
57.8
32.9%
CINCINNATI Bengals
58.3
27.0
45.3
72.3
37.4%
CLEVELAND Browns
56.8
28.5
44.3
72.8
39.2%
DALLAS Cowboys
52.0
26.0
35.0
61.0
42.6%
DENVER Broncos
51.0
23.3
40.0
63.3
36.8%
DETROIT Lions
47.3
27.8
28.3
56.0
49.6%
GREEN BAY Packers
48.3
23.5
37.3
60.8
38.7%
HOUSTON Texans
56.3
27.0
40.8
67.8
39.9%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
59.3
28.0
42.5
70.5
39.7%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
45.5
23.8
34.3
58.0
40.9%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
52.5
21.5
46.0
67.5
31.9%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
49.0
25.8
35.3
61.0
42.2%
LOS ANGELES Rams
45.8
18.8
38.8
57.5
32.6%
MIAMI Dolphins
54.0
28.8
39.8
68.5
42.0%
MINNESOTA Vikings
50.8
26.5
35.5
62.0
42.7%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
50.3
26.8
36.5
63.3
42.3%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
50.3
23.0
35.8
58.8
39.1%
NEW YORK Giants
44.8
24.3
34.3
58.5
41.5%
NEW YORK Jets
53.3
26.8
40.0
66.8
40.1%
OAKLAND Raiders
44.3
24.0
34.5
58.5
41.0%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
47.0
18.5
42.8
61.3
30.2%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
53.3
26.0
43.3
69.3
37.5%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
52.8
25.0
43.5
68.5
36.5%
SEATTLE Seahawks
49.5
26.3
35.8
62
42.3%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
53.5
21.3
41.3
62.5
34.0%
TENNESSEE Titans
50.5
23.5
39.0
62.5
37.6%
WASHINGTON Redskins
44.0
19.0
39.0
58.0
32.8%

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Cleveland defenders vs. Baltimore

TVO factor: 1.156 (ranked 12th in the league)

Don’t look now, but the Ravens are storming into the AFC playoff picture with a cool, calm and collected vibe, much like their quarterback Joe Flacco. As tackle matchups go, this one could not be much better on paper. The Browns offense has returned to viability, but it is the Ravens offense that has been providing the ample tackle opportunity.

Baltimore’s balanced offense should give Cleveland plenty to keep tabs on. The Browns have averaged 56.8 tackle opportunities per game, comfortably above the league average. Divisional games are at times difficult to prognosticate about, but if form continues as expected the Browns tacklers should all get a nice boost. The stat crew is also more than generous, ranking 12th in the league.

Key stat: The Ravens offense, which is maturing into a formidable unit, allows 57.5 tackle opportunities per game. This represents one of the best marks among all offenses in 2018, even though their rush percentage is below the league average at 37.1%.

Dallas and Houston defenders

TVO factor: 1.208 (7th)

With a TVO factor of 1.208, Houston’s home stadium ranks in the top 10 and is a goldmine for IDP production. Both sides of this enticing all-Texas primetime clash will see a boost in the tackle columns, although it is the Dallas defensive side we should be focused on.

The Texans offense, at 55.5 tackle opportunities allowed per game, has come to life; Dallas, on the other hand, averages only 45.5 tackle opportunities allowed per game, not enough to make your go-to Texans that viable. Still, the TVO should be the tide to raise all ships here.

Key stat: Despite an off-kilter start to the season, the Texans offense is allowing 55.5 tackle opportunities per game and has a run percentage of 40.6.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

San Francisco defenders vs. Arizona offense

TVO factor: 1.067 (25th)

It should be no shock to anyone who has watched the first few weeks of the season to learn that the Arizona offense is, well, regrettable. In so many ways, the unit has failed to deliver and throwing Josh Rosen in will only result in more inconsistency as he learns the ropes of the NFL. The 49ers defense suddenly has several interesting IDP options, including rookie sensation Fred Warner, but counting on them to deliver in such a poor matchup would be folly. The TVO in the stadium is 25th in the league and should serve as the final nail in the coffin. Start your 49ers only if you are desperate.

Key stat: The Arizona offense allows only 38 tackle opportunities per game to opposing defenses. The league average is 50.6.

Cincinnati defenders vs. Miami offense

TVO factor: 1.109 (19th)

The Dolphins’ demise at the hands of the Patriots last week was about as predictable as the sun rising tomorrow morning. Many saw it coming, but it seems the Dolphins did not, if their performance is anything to go by. A rebound is a possibility against the Bengals, but it may not matter from an IDP perspective.

Miami is a surprisingly poor offense for tackle production, as the numbers below show. Cincinnati’s offense should allow them to build a lead, forcing Miami to become more pass-happy and hence less viable for tackle opportunity. The Bengals’ pass rushers certainly have upside, but relying on the main players for tackle opportunity isn’t a good bet.

Key stat: The Dolphins, despite a 3-1 start, allow only 41 tackle opportunities per game to opposing defenses.

Best of luck with Week 5 and make sure to check back next season 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 larkin@footballguys.com, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.