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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 9

Dave Larkin breaks down the best and worst IDP match-ups in Week 9.

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 ninth 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.

Some of you may be craning your necks right now, checking your calendar to confirm that it is, in fact, Week 9 of the season already. Some of you may be in the fantasy gutter, trying to salvage your season with frantic free agent moves and desperate trades; some of you are riding high, enjoying the success and trying to build on it.

The bottom line is this: it is time to get down to the real business end of the season. Just because you’re floundering doesn’t mean you can’t put together an improbable run to the promised land. Equally, being on top doesn’t mean you will stay there.

Let’s keep the foot on the pedal with a look at the Week 9 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
14.4%
2.51
5.52
38.2
Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
ARIZONA Cardinals
16.1%
3.0
5.8
35.6
ATLANTA Falcons
10.6%
2.0
4.4
41.7
BALTIMORE Ravens
15.9%
3.4
6.0
37.6
BUFFALO Bills
13.3%
2.6
5.0
37.6
CAROLINA Panthers
13.1%
2.6
5.1
39.3
CHICAGO Bears
14.3%
2.9
5.4
38.0
CINCINNATI Bengals
13.8%
2.6
6.3
45.3
CLEVELAND Browns
13.4%
2.5
5.9
43.9
DALLAS Cowboys
17.5%
2.7
6.0
34.3
DENVER Broncos
16.8%
3.0
6.3
37.1
DETROIT Lions
16.1%
3.3
5.1
31.9
GREEN BAY Packers
16.4%
3.3
5.7
34.9
HOUSTON Texans
14.5%
2.6
5.6
38.9
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
12.1%
2.6
4.6
38.4
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
15.5%
2.4
5.1
33.1
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
12.2%
3.0
5.5
45.1
LOS ANGELES Chargers
16.4%
2.6
6.1
37.4
LOS ANGELES Rams
16.0%
2.8
5.8
36.0
MIAMI Dolphins
10.9%
1.4
3.6
33.4
MINNESOTA Vikings
15.8%
2.6
5.6
35.5
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
11.8%
1.5
5.0
42.3
NEW ORLEANS Saints
11.8%
2.4
4.6
38.7
NEW YORK Giants
13.0%
1.3
4.6
35.5
NEW YORK Jets
14.8%
2.1
6.1
41.3
OAKLAND Raiders
8.6%
1.0
2.7
31.6
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
20.8%
2.8
8.9
42.8
PITTSBURGH Steelers
17.3%
3.4
7.6
43.9
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
13.5%
2.1
5.4
39.8
SEATTLE Seahawks
15.6%
2.7
5.7
36.6
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
14.9%
2.3
6.0
40.3
TENNESSEE Titans
14.5%
2.1
5.0
34.6
WASHINGTON Redskins
14.9%
3.0
6.0
40.3

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Denver pass rushers vs. Houston offensive line

The last exposure we had to Houston was watching them demolish Miami on a prime time stage, a victory that, while impressive by its comprehensive nature, papered over some cracks. The primary weakness in the Houston foundation is, of course, the offensive line, a unit that has been the bane of Deshaun Watson’s existence this season. To expect a unit that has allowed 3.3 sacks and 8.9 hits per game to shore things up overnight would be folly.

Despite their difficulties, the Denver defense has done one thing right: pass rush. The Broncos have averaged pressure on 16.8% of dropbacks, a number that has been neutered somewhat by the inefficiency of their offense, leading to a downstream effect of fewer pass-rushing opportunities. In what could be Vance Joseph’s last stand, at home, the smart play here is to ride the Broncos pass rush.

Key stat: The Texans offensive line has been porous at the best of time, allowing pressure on a league-high 24.7% of dropbacks.

Chicago pass rushers at Buffalo

Derek Anderson didn’t so much give the Bills offense life on Monday night as he kind of poked it hopefully with a stick, eliciting a spasm that passed as adequacy. Anderson must have been regretting his decision to jump off his sofa to assume the starting job in Buffalo with the numbers of hard shots he was taking. In fact, a concussion may rule Anderson out of this game, forcing Sean McDermott to turn to Nathan Peterman. Oh boy. The Bills defense has been propping this team up, but how long can one unit survive this way, realistically?

The Bears are a topsy-turvy team in the midst of finding themselves. Mitchell Trubisky is prone to mistakes, but don’t expect Matt Nagy to go too far off script here in a game the road team should control. Khalil Mack’s dominating presence has been less than such in recent weeks, and so this underperforming unit has had to scratch and claw to victory. The visit to play a Buffalo offense that can’t get out of its own way could be just the ticket.

Key stat: The Bears pass rush has lacked venom in recent weeks, but Buffalo allows pressure on 18.1% of dropbacks.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

New Orleans pass rushers vs. Los Angeles

The observant among us witnessed a rare sight last Sunday as the Rams clashed with the Packers: Jared Goff was actually taking a few hits, and he seemed rattled. Rams coach Sean McVay adjusted in the second half, Goff operated from a cleaner pocket and the quarterback was able to rack up some chunk plays. With the constant threat of Todd Gurley between the tackles, it is difficult for pass rushers to cheat outside, fearful as they are of giving up a huge lane.

This one should be a fascinating playoff preview type of game, but the Rams offense should have ample time to operate. The Saints defense has averaged pressure on just 11.8% of dropbacks, a number that may surprise some considering their performances the past couple of weeks against Baltimore and Minnesota. There is a sense that the Saints defense is maturing quickly, and by season’s end we could see an uptick in this figure; for now, the correct play is to trust an established offense and its pass protection in Los Angeles. Fade your Saints.

Key stat: The Rams offense has allowed pressure on just 11.7% of Jared Goff’s dropbacks.

Tampa Bay pass rushers vs. Carolina offensive line

The return of FitzMagic has sprinkled some much-needed pixie dust on this Bucs offense, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A divisional clash against Carolina that could define the away team’s season beckons, and there is no doubt Fitzpatrick gives them a better chance to succeed. What may hinder their chances is a pass rush that, despite its big names and fat salaries, has failed to make a mark.

Things will not get easier against a Carolina offense that has stymied opposing defenses with a slick combination of play-calling, design and excellent quarterback play paired with solid pass protection. The Panthers are allowing just 1.4 sacks per game and 3.6 hits on Cam Newton per game, so it will be tough sledding for the Bucs, who have brought pressure on just 14.9% of opponent dropbacks. Fade the Bucs pass rushers here.

Key stat: The Panthers offensive line has allowed pressure on only 10% of dropbacks.

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
50.6
24.9
38.2
63.2
39.4%
Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals
57.8
32.9
35.6
68.5
48.0%
ATLANTA Falcons
53.0
23.0
41.7
64.7
35.5%
BALTIMORE Ravens
48.1
24.4
37.6
62.0
39.3%
BUFFALO Bills
51.0
25.1
37.6
62.8
40.0%
CAROLINA Panthers
48.6
21.6
39.3
60.9
35.4%
CHICAGO Bears
47.6
22.6
38.0
60.6
37.3%
CINCINNATI Bengals
56.4
25.8
45.3
71.0
36.3%
CLEVELAND Browns
56.5
29.3
43.9
73.1
40.0%
DALLAS Cowboys
50.9
26.4
34.3
60.7
43.5%
DENVER Broncos
50.0
25.8
37.1
62.9
41.0%
DETROIT Lions
49.6
27.3
31.9
59.1
46.1%
GREEN BAY Packers
49.0
26.3
34.9
61.1
43.0%
HOUSTON Texans
52.5
26.3
38.9
65.1
40.3%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
54.5
26.0
38.4
64.4
40.4%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
49.1
28.1
33.1
61.3
45.9%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
53.1
23.5
45.1
68.6
34.2%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
49.0
24.3
37.4
61.7
39.4%
LOS ANGELES Rams
44.9
20.8
36.0
56.8
36.6%
MIAMI Dolphins
52.4
29.6
33.4
63.0
47.0%
MINNESOTA Vikings
48.0
24.5
35.5
60.0
40.8%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
49.9
23.5
42.3
65.8
35.7%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
50.0
22.1
38.7
60.9
36.4%
NEW YORK Giants
49.3
26.1
35.5
61.6
42.4%
NEW YORK Jets
52.0
25.5
41.3
66.8
38.2%
OAKLAND Raiders
48.7
28.1
31.6
59.7
47.1%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
46.6
18.1
42.8
60.9
29.8%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
50.9
22.4
43.9
66.3
33.8%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
48.8
24.3
39.8
64.0
37.9%
SEATTLE Seahawks
48.7
23.6
36.6
60.1
39.2%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
52.6
22.3
40.3
62.6
35.6%
TENNESSEE Titans
50.1
26.6
34.6
61.1
43.5%
WASHINGTON Redskins
47.4
19.7
40.3
60.0
32.9%

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Atlanta defenders at Washington

TVO factor: 1.215 (5th in NFL)

Atlanta’s defense still lacks some of its core players in Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, but they will try to mesh it all together with duct tape off the bye. Dan Quinn’s defense is built to play fast, but this may not be a good attribute for what the Redskins plan to throw at them - a physical rushing attack led by Adrian Peterson.

It is no mystery what Washington wants to do with defenses: pound it, pound it again and pound it some more. Their rushing attack is varied, creative and vexing for defenses, just as Peterson’s youthful vibrancy is, no doubt. Even off a bye, it will be tough for the Falcons to contain a Redskins team with momentum. The TVO factor is in the favor of both teams, but the Falcons defenders are fancied to rack up some more points due to the game script.

Key stat: The Washington offense ranks fourth in the league in rush attempts with an average of 29.3 per game.

Cleveland defenders vs. Kansas City

TVO factor: 1.134 (16th)

After a week of predictable upheaval that turned the Browns coaching staff on its head, installing Gregg Williams as head coach until further notice, the Chiefs couldn’t be blamed for licking their chops for this clash. Despite Kansas City’s juggernaut offense registering as a poorer than expected tackle matchup for opposing defenses with just 48.8 tackle opportunities allowed per game (league average is 50.4), this is an excellent spot for them to get into gear.

Expect the Browns to stomach a lot of Kareem Hunt carries in this matchup of teams going in opposite directions. Cleveland’s defense, which at times has been a bright spot, has averaged 56.5 tackle opportunities per game. Despite the TVO factor making this just an average bet for tackles awarded per opportunity, you should try to shoehorn as many Browns into your line-ups as possible this week.

Key stat: The Browns have faced 29.3 rush attempts per game and have to deal with running plays on 40% of their snaps.

Tackle Matchups To Avoid

Baltimore and Pittsburgh defenders

TVO factor: 1.087 (22nd)

Quoth the raven: why are we so inconsistent? The Baltimore Ravens were the toast of the NFL just a few weeks ago, with pundits lavishing them with deserved praise. That glee has been quickly replaced by reprisals, questions about John Harbaugh’s job security and a general feeling of disarray. No better time for your arch rival Pittsburgh to visit, then.

This game has traditionally been a low-scoring affair in most seasons, but as the NFL has teetered towards offensive fireworks, this matchup has done the same. The TVO factor takes the luster off this clash in some respects, but ultimately this comes to a feeling that the Ravens’ recent decline may continue. Then again, it may not. Therein lies the rub: uncertainty reigns supreme here. If you have a strong conviction about this matchup, I encourage you to follow it, but I would advise avoiding this one for better options.

Key stat: The Ravens offense has averaged 54.9 tackle opportunities allowed, but they have gone downhill in their last two clashes, hitting just 48 and 46. This is a trend worth noting.

Best of luck with Week 9 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.

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