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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 10

Dave Larkin breaks down the best and worst match-ups in the IDP landscape this week. 

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 10th 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.

In this year of offense, it is difficult at times to find the edges in IDP leagues to stay viable. Fortunately, the team at Footballguys has your back as we approach the stretch run to the playoffs. This hobby is always a week by week endeavor, but it doesn’t hurt to start thinking ahead if you are in a position to make the postseason. That forward-thinking waiver wire move or trade could pay dividends down the line.

Week 10 has plenty of fascinating matchups to dig into, so let’s get right into it.

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
14.6%
2.54
5.55
38.1
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%
2.1
4.5
42.6
BALTIMORE Ravens
15.4%
3.1
6.0
38.9
BUFFALO Bills
13.4%
2.4
4.8
35.8
CAROLINA Panthers
14.7%
2.6
5.9
39.9
CHICAGO Bears
14.1%
3.0
5.6
39.9
CINCINNATI Bengals
13.8%
2.6
6.3
45.3
CLEVELAND Browns
14.0%
2.4
6.0
42.8
DALLAS Cowboys
17.6%
2.9
6.0
34.1
DENVER Broncos
16.6%
3.1
6.0
36.1
DETROIT Lions
15.0%
3.0
4.6
30.8
GREEN BAY Packers
15.2%
3.1
5.4
35.3
HOUSTON Texans
14.6%
2.6
5.8
39.4
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
12.1%
2.6
4.6
38.4
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
15.5%
2.4
5.1
33.1
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
11.3%
2.9
5.1
45.1
LOS ANGELES Chargers
16.1%
2.8
6.1
38.1
LOS ANGELES Rams
15.4%
2.4
5.6
36.0
MIAMI Dolphins
11.6%
1.7
4.0
34.4
MINNESOTA Vikings
18.8%
3.4
6.9
36.7
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
12.0%
1.4
5.1
42.4
NEW ORLEANS Saints
11.9%
2.1
4.6
38.9
NEW YORK Giants
13.0%
1.3
4.6
35.5
NEW YORK Jets
15.6%
2.3
6.2
39.8
OAKLAND Raiders
8.6%
0.9
2.6
30.4
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
20.8%
2.8
8.9
42.8
PITTSBURGH Steelers
17.0%
3.3
7.4
43.4
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
14.9%
2.8
5.8
38.9
SEATTLE Seahawks
15.8%
2.6
5.6
35.5
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
15.2%
2.3
5.9
38.6
TENNESSEE Titans
14.7%
2.5
5.1
34.9
WASHINGTON Redskins
14.3%
2.9
5.8
40.3

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Pittsburgh pass rushers vs. Carolina offensive line

This matchup is one of strength on strength. It might not be common knowledge among the NFL faithful, but the Panthers offensive line has coalesced into a very solid unit, helped by a run-first attack and the creative mind of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. In pass protection, the unit has consistently given Cam Newton ample time to work with. However, the Steelers will not simply be stonewalled.

Pittsburgh’s pass rush hasn’t been consistent all season, but it is beginning to round into form, averaging 3.3 sacks and 7.4 hits per game. Carolina has allowed pressure on just 10.9% of dropbacks, so this will be an excellent test for the home team. Being at Heinz Field should help them get an extra half-step off the ball with the crowd noise a factor, so the slight edge goes to the Steelers.

Key stat: The Steelers pass rush averages pressure on 17% of opponent dropbacks.

New York Jets pass rushers vs. Buffalo offensive line

After a dismal period in which rookie sensation Sam Darnold has turned into a pumpkin, there is no better time to see your division rival Bills come to town with their tails between their legs. The Jets need a big performance here to get their momentum back; after all, they are technically still alive in the AFC wildcard hunt, even at 3-6. The Jets pass rush has averaged pressure on 15.6% of dropbacks, not a formidable number by any means but something to work with.

The Bills will start either Nathan Peterman, the Human Turnover Machine, or Derek Anderson; either way, it augurs well for the Jets’ chances to get their pass rush fired up. Don’t expect the home team to do anything more than they need to do here; pound the ball, grind the Bills into submission. That should yield plenty of opportunities to get after the passer, however, so this rates as a tasty matchup.

Key stat: The Bills offensive line allows pressure on 17.3% of dropbacks, allowing sacks on 11.9% of dropbacks on the road.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Detroit pass rushers at Chicago

The Bears have managed to stay afloat in a competitive NFC race and welcome their division rival Detroit to the Windy City this week. Bears head coach Matt Nagy will be pleased with the direction his team is heading, but they will need to do more than fatten up on the likes of Buffalo to be considered real contenders.

A good chance to remedy that public perception as also-rans presents itself this week against Detroit, a team that offers only average return in the pass rush department. The Lions average pressure on just 15% of opponent dropbacks but have faced only 30.8 dropbacks per game as offenses tend to be able to establish the run. This, in turn, trickles down to fewer quality pass rushing opportunities.

The right play here is to trust the Bears to outcoach the Lions, rendering their pass rush null and void.

Key stat: Chicago’s offensive line has surrendered pressure on just 10.1% of dropbacks, with the league average at 14.6%.

Seattle pass rushers at Los Angeles Rams

Whether through scheme, personnel or execution, the Rams and head coach Sean McVay have outfoxed opponents in 2018. The Saints proved a task too far for them last week, but there is no shame there. Even in defeat, Los Angeles showed why they should still be considered at least a joint-favorite for NFC supremacy come January.

A crucial factor behind their success, of course, has been an offensive line that has nullified pass rushers time and time again. The line gives up only two sacks per game on average, but generally, Jared Goff is kept clean and releases the ball quickly and in rhythm – in other words, an offensive lineman’s dream.

The Seahawks have averaged pressure on 15.8% of opponent dropbacks, not a terrible mark by any means but not one that will get the Rams too hot under the collar. Back at home in the Coliseum, expect the Rams to run wild, exorcize the demons of the Superdome and keep their division rival at bay.

Key stat: The Rams offensive line has been one of the most cohesive and impressive units in the league, giving up pressure on just 11.8% 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
50.5
24.9
38.1
63.0
39.5%
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
52.4
22.0
42.6
64.6
34.0%
BALTIMORE Ravens
49.1
24.7
38.9
63.6
38.8%
BUFFALO Bills
49.2
24.8
35.8
60.6
40.9%
CAROLINA Panthers
48.5
21.5
39.9
61.4
35.0%
CHICAGO Bears
49.5
23.3
39.9
63.1
36.8%
CINCINNATI Bengals
56.4
25.8
45.3
71.0
36.3%
CLEVELAND Browns
55.7
28.7
42.8
71.4
40.1%
DALLAS Cowboys
51.9
27.4
34.1
61.5
44.5%
DENVER Broncos
50.4
26.6
36.1
62.7
42.4%
DETROIT Lions
48.6
26.8
30.8
57.5
46.5%
GREEN BAY Packers
49.4
26.4
35.3
61.6
42.8%
HOUSTON Texans
52.0
25.6
39.4
65.0
39.3%
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
53.6
23.7
45.1
68.8
34.4%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
50.6
25.3
38.1
63.4
39.8%
LOS ANGELES Rams
46.2
22.0
36.0
58.0
37.9%
MIAMI Dolphins
51.7
28.7
34.4
63.1
45.4%
MINNESOTA Vikings
49.1
24.3
36.7
61.0
39.9%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
49.9
23.7
42.4
66.1
35.8%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
49.6
21.8
38.9
60.6
35.9%
NEW YORK Giants
49.3
26.1
35.5
61.6
42.4%
NEW YORK Jets
51.1
25.4
39.8
65.2
39.0%
OAKLAND Raiders
48.3
28.3
30.4
58.6
48.2%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
46.6
18.1
42.8
60.9
29.8%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
49.8
21.6
43.4
65.0
33.3%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
48.6
24.0
38.9
62.9
38.2%
SEATTLE Seahawks
47.3
23.4
35.5
58.9
39.7%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
52.1
23.0
38.6
61.6
37.3%
TENNESSEE Titans
49.5
25.6
34.9
60.5
42.4%
WASHINGTON Redskins
48.0
20.3
40.3
60.5
33.5%

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Oakland defenders vs. Los Angeles Chargers

TVO factor: 1.210 (6th in the league)

The Chargers, believe it or not, have not been an especially reliable tackle matchup. Their offense operates in fits and starts and rarely puts together long, sustained drives, opting instead for the incisive downfield strikes. The numbers say they allow only 46 tackle opportunities per game to defenses; however, their rush percentage of 42.3 is more encouraging and an excellent sign for this matchup.

The Raiders, if you have watched them at all this season, don’t resemble much of anything on defense apart from a wet paper bag falling apart in your hands. This unit has been regrettable at the best of times. The Chargers have the potential to play down to the level of their competition here, perhaps, but that is a long distance down. The smart play here is to rely on a game script that should see Los Angeles get out to an early lead, establishing the run and grinding the Raiders into submission. The TVO is very favorable for a productive outing from Raiders defenders.

Key stat: The Oakland defense has faced running plays on 48.2% of all snaps, a league-leading number.

Dallas defenders at Philadelphia

TVO factor: 1.069 (24th)

The Cowboys look adrift at the moment, Jerry Jones’ frustration visible from the luxury box on Monday Night Football. A visit to Philadelphia, where no brotherly love is likely to be forthcoming on Sunday night, will only make things worse for Jones and his team. Despite a somewhat slow start to the season in the win-loss column, the Eagles offense has averaged 55.5 tackle opportunities per game, a whopping total well above the 50.4 league average.

A bye week came at the right time for the home team, who welcome Golden Tate into the offense with an extra week to prepare. It is fair to question whether we will see a last-gasp effort from the Cowboys to salvage their season, but even if it pans out that way the Eagles should be able to control this, either with the ground game or Carson Wentz’s efficient passing. The TVO may not be ideal, but the Cowboys have statistically been much more likely to rack up tackle opportunities on the road. The matchup here is perfect for a big day from Dallas’ main defensive players.

Key stat: The Cowboys average 54.3 tackle opportunities per game on road compared to 49.5 at home.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

New Orleans defenders at Cincinnati

TVO factor: 1.120 (16th)

A foot injury to A.J. Green has been a major headache for the Bengals this week, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time with the high-powered Saints offense coming to town. In order to have any chance to beat the NFC South leaders, the Bengals need to keep scoring, but the expectation is that without Green things will be much simpler for the Saints defense to decipher.

The Bengals, even with Green, were a poor tackle matchup and averaged just 20.9 rush attempts per game, running the ball on a below average 34.9% of offensive plays. This is somewhat puzzling considering the talent of Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard in the backfield, but the numbers don’t lie. Marvin Lewis’ team is likely to be more run-heavy with their superstar receiver on the bench, so this could change, but the Saints defense has been stingy, itself facing only 21.8 rush attempts per game. This is definitely one to avoid for tackle production on the Saints side.

Key stat: The Bengals offense allows just 46.5 tackle opportunities per game - and this number doesn’t account for an A.J. Green-less attack which the team now faces.

Best of luck with Week 10 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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