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IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid, Week 16

Dave Larkin analyzes the best and worst IDP match-ups for the fantasy playoffs.

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 16th 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.

If you are reading this article, you have likely reached base camp before beginning your travails to the top of the mountain and fantasy football immortality. That may be overstating it a bit, but pat yourself on the back; you’ve worked hard to get here.

Picking the right match-ups is crucial to winning any week, so maintain the process and the results should follow. If you are an underdog in the race to the pinnacle, throw every dart you have at springing an upset. If you are the favorite, don’t rest on your laurels. Situations have a way of changing quickly, even as we approach Week 16.

Without further ado, let’s break down the match-ups in this finals week.

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
15.0%
2.54
5.58
37.2
Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
ARIZONA Cardinals
15.1%
2.9
5.4
35.9
ATLANTA Falcons
11.4%
2.4
4.3
37.6
BALTIMORE Ravens
16.8%
2.8
6.4
38.4
BUFFALO Bills
15.5%
2.2
5.1
33.3
CAROLINA Panthers
12.9%
2.3
4.7
36.6
CHICAGO Bears
14.1%
3.2
5.9
42.1
CINCINNATI Bengals
13.3%
2.3
5.1
38.1
CLEVELAND Browns
12.8%
2.3
5.6
43.9
DALLAS Cowboys
17.2%
2.5
6.0
34.9
DENVER Broncos
15.7%
3.0
6.1
38.6
DETROIT Lions
14.6%
2.7
4.9
33.3
GREEN BAY Packers
13.8%
2.9
4.9
35.7
HOUSTON Texans
14.4%
2.8
5.7
39.6
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
13.7%
2.7
5.1
37.0
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
15.1%
2.0
5.1
33.6
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
14.3%
3.4
6.3
44.1
LOS ANGELES Chargers
14.6%
2.4
5.4
36.6
LOS ANGELES Rams
15.9%
2.4
5.7
35.9
MIAMI Dolphins
11.8%
1.7
4.1
34.4
MINNESOTA Vikings
17.5%
3.4
6.0
34.4
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
14.8%
1.9
5.9
40.1
NEW ORLEANS Saints
15.6%
3.2
6.0
38.4
NEW YORK Giants
13.6%
1.8
4.8
35.3
NEW YORK Jets
17.6%
2.4
6.6
37.7
OAKLAND Raiders
9.6%
0.9
2.9
30.6
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
18.9%
2.6
8.0
42.4
PITTSBURGH Steelers
17.7%
3.3
6.9
39.1
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
16.0%
2.5
5.9
37.1
SEATTLE Seahawks
17.7%
2.6
6.4
36.3
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
16.8%
2.6
6.0
35.7
TENNESSEE Titans
14.9%
2.6
5.4
36.5
WASHINGTON Redskins
15.6%
2.9
5.8
37.0

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Dallas pass rushers vs. Tampa Bay offensive line

The Dallas Cowboys crumpled like wet tissue paper against the Colts last week, a result not entirely unpredictable when the importance of the game for both sides was considered. A beating like that can inspire a team, however, so expect a strong response from Jason Garrett’s men in a game that they need to seal the division.

Tampa Bay’s offensive line has performed better on the road than at home in terms of pressure allowed, but that shouldn’t be deterrent here. Overall, the Bucs line allows 7.1 quarterback hits per game and their quarterback – whether Fitzpatrick or Winston – has resembled a pinata at times this season. In a game the Cowboys need, bet on them to beat the Bucs into submission.

Key stat: At home, the Cowboys apply pressure on 16.8% of opponent dropbacks.

Philadelphia pass rushers vs. Houston offensive line

The Texans boast a rather horrendous offensive line in terms of pass protection, giving up pressure on 22.6% of dropbacks. Deshaun Watson has been hit an average of 7.8 times per game to boot, so traveling to a hungry and suddenly-revitalized Eagles team this week will not be straightforward.

The Eagles, much like the aforementioned Cowboys, need this game like blood and you can trust their front four, which crushed Jared Goff at times last week, to deliver. Think back to Saturday night’s game when Watson was routinely being battered behind the line by a Jets (yes, the New York Jets) front seven that has only been mediocre this season. Imagine what will happen when the Eagles pin their ears back and let loose.

Key stat: The Eagles have averaged eight quarterback hits per game.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Pittsburgh pass rushers at New Orleans

The Steelers, on a high after an impressive victory over the Patriots, face an unenviable uphill task this week in New Orleans. The schedule gods have not been kind to the Men of Steel with this final stretch of games. Although they boast a decent pressure applied number of 17.7%, they may struggle to find any joy against a stout Saints line.

The caveat here is the injuries the Saints have sustained up front, notably their center Max Unger, who was unable to finish the Monday night tilt at Carolina. Reshuffling an offensive line can cause havoc with communication, but any issues should be mitigated both by Drew Brees’ quick release and the fact they are playing at home, where crowd noise will not be a factor. The smart play here is to trust the trend and sit your Steelers.

Key stat: The Saints have allowed pressure on just 9.7% of dropbacks when playing in the Superdome.

Los Angeles pass rushers vs. Baltimore

The Chargers have been a middling pass rushing unit this year, albeit without their top edge rusher Joey Bosa for most of the season. They face just 36.6 dropbacks per game, below the league average. That number could dip even lower this week against a Baltimore team that is comfortable running the ball down the opponent’s throat.

Baltimore’s offensive line is stingy in giving up pressure and still sets the league pace with rushing attempts (32.1 per game). If the game remains close – and in this well-matched affair, it should – expect the Ravens to keep things close to the vest and limit pass rushing opportunities. Start your Chargers at your own risk.

Key stat: Baltimore’s offensive line has allowed pressure on just 10.8% 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
50.2
25.2
37.2
62.4
40.4%
Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals
55.6
30.5
35.9
66.4
46.0%
ATLANTA Falcons
51.7
25.1
37.6
62.7
40.0%
BALTIMORE Ravens
46.1
22.6
38.4
60.9
37%
BUFFALO Bills
47.5
25.2
33.3
58.5
43.1%
CAROLINA Panthers
48.6
23.2
36.6
59.9
38.8%
CHICAGO Bears
49.2
22.1
42.1
64.1
34.4%
CINCINNATI Bengals
55.0
29.1
38.1
67.2
43.4%
CLEVELAND Browns
55.5
27.1
43.9
71.0
38.1%
DALLAS Cowboys
48.9
24.4
34.9
59.2
41.1%
DENVER Broncos
51.4
25.5
38.6
64.1
39.8%
DETROIT Lions
47.9
24.9
33.3
58.2
42.8%
GREEN BAY Packers
50.4
26.6
35.7
62.4
42.7%
HOUSTON Texans
51.1
24.4
39.6
64.1
38.1%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
53.1
26.1
37.0
63.1
41.3%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
47.6
26.1
33.6
59.7
43.8%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
54.1
24.8
44.1
68.9
36.0%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
48.1
23.6
36.6
60.2
39.3%
LOS ANGELES Rams
48.6
24.4
35.9
60.3
40.4%
MIAMI Dolphins
52.1
28.9
34.4
63.4
45.7%
MINNESOTA Vikings
49.5
26.6
34.4
60.9
43.6%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
48.6
22.9
40.1
63.1
36.4%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
47.9
20.9
38.4
59.3
35.2%
NEW YORK Giants
51.5
28.0
35.3
63.3
44.2%
NEW YORK Jets
51.1
26.9
37.7
64.6
41.6%
OAKLAND Raiders
48.6
29.1
30.6
59.7
48.8%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
50.4
21.1
42.4
63.5
33.2%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
49.4
23.1
39.1
62.2
37.1%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
49.6
25.5
37.1
62.6
40.8%
SEATTLE Seahawks
47.5
22.5
36.3
58.8
38.3%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
51.8
25.3
35.7
61.0
41.5%
TENNESSEE Titans
49.0
25.0
36.5
61.5
40.7%
WASHINGTON Redskins
49.4
24.0
37.0
61.0
39.3%

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Seattle and Kansas City defenders

TVO factor: 1.228 (2nd in league)

A potentially thrilling Sunday night clash between two playoff-calibre teams should set the pulses racing. Tackle production could be bountiful in this one, with a generous TVO factor acting as the tide to lift all defenders. Seattle’s offense averages 31.9 rush attempts per game so, like Baltimore, they will try to beat the Chiefs up front.

However, no team has been able to successfully hold down the Patrick Mahomes II show all season, so expect a tit-for-tat affair with both offenses finding their rhythm. That should translate to a positive game script for tackle opportunity – for both sides – and a match-up that could be decisive in fantasy championships.

Key stat: The Chiefs defense has averaged 54 tackle opportunities per game despite facing rush attempts on just 36% of plays.

Arizona defenders vs. Los Angeles

TVO factor: 1.099 (22nd)

The Rams are limping into the postseason, but a trip to Arizona looks like the perfect chance to right their wrongs. The status of Todd Gurley remains in question after he sustained an injury last week against Philadelphia. Even if the highly productive Gurley misses the game, however, the Rams have more than enough firepower and running game potential to make this a cakewalk.

The Cardinals face rushing attempts on an incredible 46% of snaps, a sign of just how often they have been in negative game scripts. The Steve Wilks era may be coming to an end before it has even properly started, and a win for the Rams here will be yet another nail in the coffin. However, this clash bodes well for Arizona’s defenders, who should see ample tackle opportunity.

Key stat: The Cardinals defense has averaged 55.6 tackle opportunities per game, with the league average at 50.2.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Jacksonville defenders at Miami

TVO factor: 1.191 (8th)

This is a game you want no part of, mainly due to the uncertainty surrounding both teams’ ability to sustain offense. Could Ryan Tannehill produce something masterful? It is a possibility, albeit a remote one. Is Cody Kessler capable of orchestrating some productive drives? Also, a chance, though slim.

This is simply not the type of game we can pin our championship hopes on, even with a favorable TVO factor. If you must side with one set of players here, make it Jacksonville’s, but this is a ‘avoid like a plague’ type of game.

Key stat: The Dolphins offense has allowed just 40 tackle opportunities per week over the last three games.

Best of luck with Week 16 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.