IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 14

Dave Larkin analyzes the best and worst IDP match-ups on the Week 14 slate.

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 14th 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.

For many of you, playoff time is in the air or, at the very least, close. As the regular season draws to a close, we have more matchup data on our hands and can make more informed choices. However, it would be foolhardy to overlook recent trends, which are more indicative of performance than, say, how many tackle opportunities a team had in Week 4 before their offensive line was shredded by injury.

Keep recent trends and season-long trends in different departments of your headspace, using both to make the right choice this week – and hopefully throughout a successful playoff campaign.

Without further ado, let’s break down the match-ups in Week 14.

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
14.9%
2.53
5.56
37.4
Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
ARIZONA Cardinals
16.1%
3.2
5.9
36.7
ATLANTA Falcons
10.3%
1.9
3.8
37.3
BALTIMORE Ravens
15.6%
2.9
5.9
37.9
BUFFALO Bills
16.5%
2.6
5.7
34.3
CAROLINA Panthers
13.5%
2.4
5.1
37.7
CHICAGO Bears
13.6%
3.1
5.6
41.2
CINCINNATI Bengals
13.3%
2.1
5.1
38.3
CLEVELAND Browns
13.1%
2.4
5.7
43.4
DALLAS Cowboys
17.8%
2.8
6.3
35.6
DENVER Broncos
15.9%
3.1
6.3
39.3
DETROIT Lions
14.7%
2.8
4.8
32.9
GREEN BAY Packers
15.0%
3.2
5.3
35.6
HOUSTON Texans
14.4%
2.8
5.7
39.3
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
13.6%
2.5
4.9
36.1
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
15.3%
2.0
5.3
34.8
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
13.2%
3.3
6.0
45.4
LOS ANGELES Chargers
14.8%
2.4
5.5
37.2
LOS ANGELES Rams
17.0%
2.8
6.3
36.8
MIAMI Dolphins
11.8%
1.7
4.1
34.5
MINNESOTA Vikings
16.4%
3.0
5.8
35.5
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
13.3%
1.6
5.6
41.8
NEW ORLEANS Saints
14.9%
3.1
5.8
38.5
NEW YORK Giants
13.0%
1.6
4.8
36.4
NEW YORK Jets
16.1%
2.1
6.1
37.8
OAKLAND Raiders
9.6%
0.8
2.8
29.6
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
20.0%
2.6
8.0
40.1
PITTSBURGH Steelers
18.0%
3.4
7.1
39.4
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
15.6%
2.5
5.8
36.8
SEATTLE Seahawks
16.6%
2.6
6.1
36.8
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
17.2%
2.8
6.3
36.9
TENNESSEE Titans
14.1%
2.4
4.9
34.8
WASHINGTON Redskins
14.6%
2.7
5.7
38.8

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Dallas pass rushers vs. Philadelphia offensive line

Adherents of defensive football are still salivating over what was undoubtedly one of the finest performances of the season by a unit. The Dallas defense made the New Orleans offense, high-powered by nature and nigh on unstoppable to that point, look impotent. Speed was the key was Dallas, whose linebackers flew to the ball as if their lives depended on it.

A similar mindset wouldn’t go amiss this week as they welcome arch-rival Philadelphia to Jerry’s World. The Dallas defense is averaging pressure on 17.8% of dropbacks and, as the key stat mentions, the Eagles have not been a solid pass protecting unit on the road. A withering and, at times, the non-existent ground game has been a major factor in that extra pressure, something the Eagles coaching staff will be acutely aware of.

The right play here is to trust your eyes and believe in the momentum Dallas has been building. They are the freight train, Philadelphia the bug in their path. This only ends one way.

Key stat: On the road, Philadelphia has allowed pressure on 19.8% of dropbacks compared to 14.6% at home.

Denver pass rushers vs. San Francisco offensive line

Suddenly things are lining up for the Broncos, who looked down and out earlier this season. With a win against San Francisco – and a 7-6 record – the playoffs are within their grasp. In the remaining games, they may need the bounce of a ball to go their way; this clash might be more about San Francisco trying to stop Von Miller and company from knocking the ball out.

The 49ers offensive line is bruised, battered and hemorrhaging pressure, putting their quarterback under duress on 19.7% of dropbacks. Some of that pressure is invited by the inexperienced Nick Mullens who, after a stunning debut, has crashed back down to earth. The Broncos should be able to feast on a team that has given up 7.2 quarterback hits per game.

Key stat: The Broncos defense has averaged 3.1 sacks and 6.8 hits per game this season.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Cleveland pass rushers vs. Carolina offensive line

The Panthers have surrendered marginally more pressure on the road than at home this season (12.8% compared to 10.7%) but have generally been a steady offensive line. Cam Newton was beaten from pillar to post last week by the Bucs and you can expect Gregg Williams to gobble up that intel, put his own spin on it and come after Newton this week.

Cleveland’s season has petered out, but they will be eager to finish the year on a high before a new head coach is likely brought in. The Browns have applied pressure on just 13.1% of dropbacks, so it is not a given that they will be able to get to Newton with just a four-man rush. If Newton can deal with the blitz well – as he has been most of the season – it could be a long afternoon for the Browns and their pass rushers.

Key stat: Carolina’s offensive line allows pressure on just 11.9% of dropbacks.

Tampa Bay pass rushers vs. New Orleans offensive line

Many fair-weather fans will have one leg hanging off the Saints bandwagon after a dismal defeat last week, but Sean Payton’s team tends to bounce back. It would be folly to overlook the Bucs, however, especially after their pass rush came to life against a hapless Panthers squad last week. Still, the Saints line has been almost impenetrable this year, as the key stat touches on.

The Bucs pass rush has, surprisingly, averaged pressure on 17.2% of dropbacks, and certainly, this unit has the talent to cause Drew Brees some problems. The smart play here is to trust the long-term trend of excellent pass protection and Brees’ lightning-quick release in what will likely be favorable weather conditions. If the Bucs can spring an upset, more power to them; the more likely outcome is a consummate ball control victory for the road team, though.

Key stat: The Saints have allowed pressure on just 8.1% of dropbacks in road games compared to 9.7% at home.

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
50.3
25.0
37.4
62.4
40.1%
Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals
56.8
30.8
36.7
67.4
45.6%
ATLANTA Falcons
52.0
25.5
37.3
62.8
40.6%
BALTIMORE Ravens
45.6
22.4
37.9
60.3
37.2%
BUFFALO Bills
47.9
25.1
34.3
59.4
42.2%
CAROLINA Panthers
49.0
23.0
37.7
60.7
37.9%
CHICAGO Bears
50.3
23.1
41.2
64.3
35.9%
CINCINNATI Bengals
56.8
30.6
38.3
68.8
44.4%
CLEVELAND Browns
56.0
27.9
43.4
71.3
39.1%
DALLAS Cowboys
49.6
24.3
35.6
59.8
40.5%
DENVER Broncos
51.9
25.3
39.3
64.7
39.2%
DETROIT Lions
47.6
24.4
32.9
57.3
42.6%
GREEN BAY Packers
50.2
26.8
35.6
62.3
42.9%
HOUSTON Texans
50.8
24.3
39.3
63.5
38.2%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
53.2
26.5
36.1
62.6
42.3%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
47.2
25.3
34.8
60.1
42.2%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
54.0
23.7
45.4
69.1
34.3%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
48.1
23.5
37.2
60.7
38.7%
LOS ANGELES Rams
48.1
23.2
36.8
59.9
38.7%
MIAMI Dolphins
51.4
28.1
34.5
62.6
44.9%
MINNESOTA Vikings
50.1
26.0
35.5
61.5
42.3%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
49.5
23.1
41.8
64.9
35.6%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
48.4
20.5
38.5
59.0
34.7%
NEW YORK Giants
51.8
27.3
36.4
63.8
42.9%
NEW YORK Jets
51.7
27.4
37.8
65.3
42.0%
OAKLAND Raiders
48.2
29.3
29.6
58.8
49.7%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
47.5
20.1
40.1
60.2
33.4%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
49.5
23.3
39.4
62.8
37.2%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
48.4
24.7
36.8
61.4
40.2%
SEATTLE Seahawks
48.0
22.6
36.8
59.3
38.1%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
50.8
23.3
36.9
60.3
38.7%
TENNESSEE Titans
49.8
26.3
34.8
61.0
43.0%
WASHINGTON Redskins
50.2
23.1
38.8
61.9
37.3%

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Arizona defenders vs. Detroit offense

TVO factor: 1.098 (20th in the league)

Matt Patricia may finally be able to execute his dream offensive game plan this week against Arizona, a team that has given up rushing attempts like they are going out of fashion. The Lions have the hogs up front to move the Arizona defensive line around and LeGarrette Blount should find success if they can establish the run. The Lions offense has allowed 50.8 tackle opportunities this season, making them a mediocre matchup overall.

Still, the Cardinals seem to find new ways of fumbling away games – their improbable win over Green Bay notwithstanding – and they face rushing plays on 45.6% of their snaps. This all points to a ground and pound game plan from Detroit, who should be able to complement that with a passing attack aided by the indoor conditions. The TVO doesn’t stand out, but the matchup is enough to be enticed to play your Cardinals.

Key stat: The Cardinals have faced an average of 30.8 rush attempts per game, with the league average standing at 25.

Kansas City defenders vs. Baltimore offense

TVO factor: 1.051 (30th)

The TVO factor is putrid for this clash, with only two teams ranking worse than the Chiefs, but that may not matter. The matchup, featuring a Ravens offense that has turned into a tackle opportunity factory under the direction of Lamar Jackson, is simply too good to turn down. Baltimore has totalled 139 rushing attempts over the past three games; they are likely to lean on the ground game here to kill the clock and keep Patrick Mahomes II off the field.

The Chiefs defense didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory last week against Oakland, so perhaps there will be a reaction from them this week. Andy Reid will know that any slip-up could allow the Patriots to sneak into the number one seed that the Chiefs currently hold. Kansas City’s defense has averaged 54 tackle opportunities per game, but intriguingly opponents have run the ball against them on just 34.3% of plays.

That script could flip this week with a run-heavy Baltimore team coming to town. Plug in your Chiefs in a plus situation for tackle production.

Key stat: The Ravens are the leading offense in the league for tackles opportunities allowed (TOA). Over the past three games with Lamar Jackson under center, the offense has registered 66, 56 and 64 TOA, respectively.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Los Angeles Chargers defenders vs. Cincinnati offense

TVO factor: 1.148 (13th)

Despite a reasonably solid TVO factor, it is a tricky proposition to trust the Bengals offense in its current guise. The loss of A.J. Green will only exacerbate the issues, so it is difficult to envisage a scenario where the Bengals keep this close and can maintain a reliable tackle opportunity script for the Chargers.

The Chargers defense has really come to life recently as well. Giving up 30 points to the Steelers shouldn’t detract from the fact that key defensive stops were made in critical moments. There may not be such moments in this game, but with the Chiefs only one game ahead in the division - and knowing that the teams meet next week – Los Angeles will be fired up to perform. My advice would be to look elsewhere for tackle production, however.

Key stat: The Bengals offense allows just 45.2 tackle opportunities per game.

Best of luck with Week 14 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 larkin@footballguys.com, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.