IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 7

Dave Larkin walks you through the best and worst IDP matchups for Week 7.

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 seventh 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.

The bye week gauntlet continues in earnest this week, forcing owners to be nimbler with line-up decisions and waiver wire acquisitions. There is still time to salvage a seemingly lost season – and to turn a fringe playoff roster into a championship one. The devil lies, as it always does, in the details.

It all starts on the defensive side of things with picking your spots, isolating the key matchups – six weeks of data helps a lot – and using a good process to generate good results. At times, you will suffer from a good-process/bad-result situation, but that is not sustainable. Stick to the process and the fantasy glory will come.

Let’s see where the best and worst matchups of Week 7 lie.

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
14.4%
2.51
5.58
38.7
Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
ARIZONA Cardinals
14.8%
3.0
5.7
38.2
ATLANTA Falcons
9.2%
1.7
3.8
41.7
BALTIMORE Ravens
17.1%
4.3
6.8
40.0
BUFFALO Bills
14.7%
3.2
5.7
38.5
CAROLINA Panthers
12.8%
2.4
4.8
37.6
CHICAGO Bears
16.6%
3.6
6.6
39.8
CINCINNATI Bengals
13.6%
2.2
6.0
44.2
CLEVELAND Browns
14.3%
2.5
6.2
43.0
DALLAS Cowboys
18.2%
3.0
6.5
35.7
DENVER Broncos
15.3%
2.7
5.5
36.0
DETROIT Lions
16.0%
3.4
5.4
33.8
GREEN BAY Packers
15.8%
3.0
5.3
33.8
HOUSTON Texans
13.8%
2.5
5.2
37.5
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
13.0%
3.2
5.3
41.0
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
13.1%
2.3
4.5
34.3
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
11.5%
2.8
5.5
47.8
LOS ANGELES Chargers
17.5%
2.7
6.7
38.0
LOS ANGELES Rams
12.2%
2.0
4.5
36.8
MIAMI Dolphins
11.6%
1.7
4.3
37.3
MINNESOTA Vikings
18.1%
3.0
6.5
35.8
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
12.8%
1.2
5.2
40.3
NEW ORLEANS Saints
10.8%
2.4
4.0
37.0
NEW YORK Giants
12.9%
1.2
4.5
35.0
NEW YORK Jets
14.3%
2.3
6.2
43.0
OAKLAND Raiders
9.5%
1.2
3.0
31.7
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
21.9%
2.7
9.3
42.7
PITTSBURGH Steelers
17.1%
3.7
7.7
44.8
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
12.9%
2.0
5.3
41.5
SEATTLE Seahawks
16.9%
2.7
6.0
35.5
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
16.9%
1.8
7.0
41.4
TENNESSEE Titans
13.6%
2.2
4.8
35.7
WASHINGTON Redskins
12.2%
2.0
4.6
37.8

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Denver pass rushers at Arizona

It is no secret that the Cardinals, since inserting rookie Josh Rosen into the starting quarterback role, have been treating him with proverbial kid gloves. Unwilling to sell their precocious passer down the river to hungry defenses, the team has wisely limited his attempts. The anemic nature of the offense, however, has persisted.

The upside is that the Cardinals present an excellent matchup for pass rushers, with their offensive line ranking as one of the most porous in the league. The Broncos are at a true tipping point in their season; another loss could spell the end of Vance Joseph as head coach. Defensively, this team has shown signs of life, but they are nowhere near their greatness of 2015. The smart play here is to trust the Denver defense to deliver against a backdrop of turmoil in a cushy matchup.

Key stat: Arizona’s offensive line has been a veritable sieve, allowing pressure on 19.7% of dropbacks and 2.2 sacks per game – this is despite only 30.5 dropbacks per game (league average 38.7).

Los Angeles Chargers pass rushers vs. Tennessee (in London)

How likely is it that the Titans will give up another boatload of sacks against the Chargers after an embarrassing display last week? Well, it is not completely outside the realm of possibility, especially considering the growing confidence of the Chargers defense. This unit essentially shut down the Browns in Cleveland and has demonstrated its prowess in tough games so far.

For the Chargers, the back end and pass rush appear to be in sync at last, so it could be a long afternoon in London for the Titans, who surrender pressure on 13.5% of dropbacks, not a horrendous mark by any measure. Still, the momentum is all with Los Angeles here, who should dispatch Tennessee with a pass-rush-inspired performance.

Key stat: The Titans gave up 11 sacks to a high-quality Ravens outfit last week. The Chargers pass rush averages pressure on 17.5% of opponent dropbacks and has 6.7 quarterback hits per game.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

New Orleans & Baltimore pass rushers

Of these two teams, the better defense undoubtedly resides with Baltimore, a team that has generated pressure on 17.1% of opponent dropbacks. The unit has recorded an average of 4.3 sacks per game and 6.8 quarterback hits. Drew Brees may face no tougher test this season, but as the key stat points out below, the Saints offensive line is stingy at the worst of times.

Compared to their rivals in Maryland, the Saints defense has slowly been finding its feet, creating pressure on just 10.8% of opponent dropbacks. Baltimore’s offensive line has been incredibly consistent in protecting Joe Flacco this year, so this could be a stalemate. In fact, this matchup figures to be a clash where you could make an argument for eschewing the pass rushing options in favour of better ones. The best play here is to sit your Saints and Ravens pass rushers if you can afford to.

Key stat: It is rare we see a matchup where both offensive lines are likely to have the edge on both defenses, despite the inherent quality of those defenses. The Ravens and Saints are two of the stingiest offensive lines for surrendering pressure, with rates of just 9.6% and 8.0%, respectively.

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
50.7
24.8
38.7
63.4
39.0%
Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals
61.3
34.0
38.2
72.2
47.1%
ATLANTA Falcons
53.3
23.5
41.7
65.2
36.1%
BALTIMORE Ravens
45.2
21.0
40.0
61
34.4%
BUFFALO Bills
50.7
24.2
38.5
62.7
38.6%
CAROLINA Panthers
47.2
21.8
37.6
59.4
36.7%
CHICAGO Bears
48.2
21.4
39.8
61.2
35.0%
CINCINNATI Bengals
55.0
25.0
44.2
69.2
36.1%
CLEVELAND Browns
55.0
28.8
43.0
71.8
40.1%
DALLAS Cowboys
51.5
25.5
35.7
61.2
41.7%
DENVER Broncos
51.3
27.8
36.0
63.8
43.6%
DETROIT Lions
48.8
26.0
33.8
59.8
43.5%
GREEN BAY Packers
47.5
25.2
33.8
59.0
42.7%
HOUSTON Texans
53.0
27.2
37.5
64.7
420%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
58.8
28.0
41.0
69.0
40.6%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
49.2
27.5
34.3
61.8
44.5%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
54.5
23.2
47.8
71.0
32.6%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
47.3
22.8
38.0
60.8
37.5%
LOS ANGELES Rams
45.5
20.5
36.8
57.3
35.8%
MIAMI Dolphins
52.8
28.3
37.3
65.7
43.1%
MINNESOTA Vikings
48.7
23.8
35.8
59.7
39.9%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
50.2
24.2
40.3
64.5
37.5%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
49.0
22.0
37.0
59.0
37.3%
NEW YORK Giants
48.2
26.3
35.0
61.3
42.9%
NEW YORK Jets
52.5
24.5
43.0
67.5
36.3%
OAKLAND Raiders
46.8
26.5
31.7
58.2
45.6%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
47.5
18.7
42.7
61.3
30.4%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
51.8
22.7
44.8
67.5
33.6%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
48.5
23.5
41.5
65.0
36.2%
SEATTLE Seahawks
49.7
25.3
35.5
60.8
41.6%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
53.6
21.4
41.4
62.8
34.1%
TENNESSEE Titans
52.5
28.5
35.7
64.2
44.4%
WASHINGTON Redskins
46.6
20.4
37.8
58.2
35.1%

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Miami defenders vs. Detroit

TVO factor: 1.255 (2nd in the league)

Vegas expects this to be a tight clash between well-matched teams, with the Lions currently favored by two points on the road. If the game script proceeds as such, this could be an excellent spot for Miami’s primary IDP options to thrive. The Lions offense is rested coming off a bye and has been a surprisingly good tackle matchup.

Miami’s defense has averaged 52.8 tackle opportunities per game, but significantly the unit has seen opposing teams select rushing plays 43.1% of the time. Detroit’s backfield should give Miami plenty of reason for pause, especially with Matt Patricia undoubtedly eager to get his talented rushers into a rhythm. The TVO factor is tremendous here for excellent production from Miami defenders – and even Detroit’s, if you fancy it.

Key stat: The Lions have not been a tremendous matchup for tackle production, but their offense allows 49.8 tackle opportunities per game. A below-average rush percentage of 35.2 is a concern, but this one should be a tight affair, so expect a more balanced approach.

San Francisco defenders vs. Los Angeles Rams

TVO factor: 1.154 (12th)

This is turning into a must-exploit matchup every week as the 2018 Rams offense shows no signs of slowing down. Off the back of a couple of stiff road tests, the Rams make it three road trips in a row and face a spunky 49ers team that took Green Bay to the brink.

Interestingly, the Rams offense has one of the highest rush percentages in the league (45.9%), so the 49ers defenders should have their hands full. Todd Gurley has a habit of making tough days for tacklers, but he could help unlock the value of the likes of Fred Warner, Reuben Foster and more. Stick to the script here and plug in as many 49ers as you can.

Key stat: Unsurprisingly, the Rams offense has allowed 53.3 tackle opportunities per game and has a tackle-friendly rush percentage of 45.9.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Houston and Jacksonville defenders

TVO factor: 1.003 (32nd)

Sometimes you must put the numbers to one side and simply trust your gut. Honestly, it is difficult to predict the fates of Houston and Jacksonville’s offenses from week to week, so relying on either to be consistent enough to generate tackle production would be a fool’s errand. Both have statistically been decent matchups for opposing defenses, incidentally.

What tips this one over into the ‘avoid’ section is a hugely unfavorable TVO factor. Even if this turned into a barnburner and ended up 33-30, the actual tackle production in this hypothetical clash would be far below its value. The best play here is to avoid this one completely if you have better options.

Key stat: Both offenses are decent as far as metrics, but the TVO factor drags this matchup down in the cellar.

Indianapolis defenders vs. Buffalo

TVO factor: 1.038 (29th)

The news that Derek Anderson will start in place of the injured Josh Allen is the significant story in this matchup. Anderson looked competent, but nothing more, in spot duty as the Panthers’ backup over the past few years. While Indianapolis’ defense isn’t exactly a feared unit, it still has plenty of active players ready to fly around and create mayhem for the veteran passer.

While this matchup may hold some appeal as a pass rushing one for the Colts, it is one to stay away from as a tackle proposition. The Bills offense has been horrendous and cannot sustain drives, averaging a putrid 14.3 completions per game. Expect the Colts to get right here, with poor Mr. Anderson bearing the brunt of the onslaught.

Key stat: The Buffalo offense has been a poor tackle matchup, and it could get even worse this week with the news that journeyman Derek Anderson will get the starting nod. The Bills offense allows just 46.3 tackle opportunities per game, despite an above-average rush percentage of 46.4.

Best of luck with Week 7 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.