IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 17

Dave Larkin analyzes the best and worst IDP match-ups for the final regular season 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 final edition of this 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.

Hopefully, by this point, a neat little bow has been placed on your season, much as there were bows on the presents under your tree at Christmas. It is rarer to have fantasy championships decided in the wheel of fortune that is Week 17, but still some leagues prefer to play the entire season. The match-ups do not go away for this all-important week, of course, so let’s seal a little silverware.

Without further ado, let’s break down the match-ups in Week 17.

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%
2.52
5.58
37.2
Team Defense
Pressure
QB
QB
Drop Backs
Applied
Sacks
Hits
Faced
ARIZONA Cardinals
15.3%
2.9
5.4
35.2
ATLANTA Falcons
11.6%
2.4
4.5
39.1
BALTIMORE Ravens
17.0%
2.9
6.5
38.5
BUFFALO Bills
15.0%
2.1
4.9
32.8
CAROLINA Panthers
12.8%
2.2
4.6
36.0
CHICAGO Bears
14.2%
3.1
5.9
41.9
CINCINNATI Bengals
12.4%
2.1
4.7
38.1
CLEVELAND Browns
13.2%
2.3
5.6
42.5
DALLAS Cowboys
17.1%
2.5
6.1
35.9
DENVER Broncos
15.5%
2.9
5.9
37.9
DETROIT Lions
14.3%
2.7
4.7
33.1
GREEN BAY Packers
13.2%
2.9
4.7
35.8
HOUSTON Texans
13.9%
2.7
5.6
40.4
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
13.4%
2.5
4.9
36.7
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
15.8%
2.1
5.2
33.0
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
14.9%
3.3
6.5
43.3
LOS ANGELES Chargers
14.9%
2.5
5.3
35.8
LOS ANGELES Rams
16.4%
2.5
5.9
35.9
MIAMI Dolphins
13.1%
2.0
4.5
34.1
MINNESOTA Vikings
17.5%
3.3
6.1
35.1
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
14.4%
1.7
5.8
40.2
NEW ORLEANS Saints
15.4%
3.2
6.1
39.4
NEW YORK Giants
13.7%
1.7
4.9
36.1
NEW YORK Jets
17.9%
2.5
7.0
39.1
OAKLAND Raiders
9.2%
0.9
2.9
31.1
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
19.0%
2.7
8.1
42.5
PITTSBURGH Steelers
17.3%
3.2
6.8
39.3
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
16.0%
2.5
5.9
36.7
SEATTLE Seahawks
18.4%
2.5
6.7
36.6
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
16.3%
2.5
5.7
35.1
TENNESSEE Titans
14.7%
2.5
5.3
35.7
WASHINGTON Redskins
15.6%
2.9
5.7
36.4

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Philadelphia pass rushers at Washington

The Eagles have put together back-to-back impressive performances to vault themselves from playoff also-rans to legitimate contenders – if they get in. Doug Petersen’s team will need to win in Washington and hope Minnesota lose to Chicago to clinch a spot. Their pass rush could have a lot to do with achieving that victory.

Although the Eagles don’t often finish their pressures, their front four has nonetheless averaged pressure on 19.0% of opponent dropbacks. The unit averages just 2.7 sacks per game, which is incongruous with the pressure they sustain. A hungry team is always more dangerous, so this could be the week the pass rush finishes the job. Washington allows pressure on 16.3% of dropbacks, so it could be a long day for the elusive Josh Johnson.

Key stat: The Eagles lead the league in quarterback hits, tallying 121 over the course of the season.

Seattle pass rushers vs. Arizona

For the Seahawks, a win would secure the fifth seed, while a loss would see them topple down to the sixth seed. There is a likelihood, therefore, that Pete Carroll could field some younger players to keep veterans fresh. However, knowing Carroll’s expositions on competition and the importance of iron sharpening iron, expect the Seahawks to use this game as a tune-up for the playoffs.

Arizona’s offense has been dysfunctional at the best of times this season. In what could be Larry Fitzgerald’s final game as a Cardinal, expect a similar pattern to what we have seen all season: relentless pressure on Josh Rosen and plenty of big-play opportunities for the Seahawks.

Key stat: The Cardinals offensive line has allowed pressure on 19.3% of dropbacks.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Tennessee pass rushers vs. Indianapolis

The injury to Colts center Ryan Kelly could derail what has been a stellar season from this offensive line, which has played a huge part in Andrew Luck’s return to form. A more pragmatic approach may be needed from Colts head coach Frank Reich in this de facto playoff game – the loser will go home – so expect a balanced offensive game plan.

Tennessee’s defense has been standout in fits and starts without ever reaching its peak. As a unit, their defense averages pressure on just 14.7% of dropbacks and has recorded just 79 quarterback hits all season. Luck should, barring a collapse from his line, have time to operate. The smart play here is to fade the Titans pass rushers.

Key stat: The Colts offensive line has allowed pressure on only 11.2% of dropbacks.

Minnesota pass rushers vs. Chicago

Both teams have something to play for in this intriguing end-of-season NFC North clash. The Vikings know that a win will secure a playoff spot, while a Philadelphia loss would accomplish the same. For the Bears, there is still a slim hope of leapfrogging the Rams into the number two seed, but that is a remote chance at best.

If the Bears opt to sit starters in the second half, all bets are off for this recommendation. However, if they play the entire game we might expect the Vikings, averaging pressure on 17.5% of dropbacks, to struggle against a stout offensive line. The Bears have been more porous in pass protection on the road, which may give some pause, but the best play here is to trust the trend and downgrade your Vikings pass rushers.

Key stat: The Bears have allowed only 11 sacks at home compared to 22 on the road.

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
25.1
37.2
62.3
40.3%
Team Defense
Tackle
Rush Attempts
Drop Backs
Offensive
Rush
Opportunity
Faced
Faced
Snaps Faced
Percentage
ARIZONA Cardinals
55.9
31.1
35.2
66.3
46.9%
ATLANTA Falcons
52.5
25.1
39.1
64.1
39.1%
BALTIMORE Ravens
45.9
22.1
38.5
60.7
36.5%
BUFFALO Bills
48.3
26.5
32.8
59.3
44.7%
CAROLINA Panthers
47.8
23.0
36.0
59.0
39.0%
CHICAGO Bears
48.5
21.6
41.9
63.5
34.0%
CINCINNATI Bengals
54.9
28.9
38.1
66.9
43.1%
CLEVELAND Browns
54.4
26.8
42.5
69.3
38.7%
DALLAS Cowboys
49.7
24.3
35.9
60.3
40.4%
DENVER Broncos
51.1
25.6
37.9
63.5
40.3%
DETROIT Lions
48.1
25.1
33.1
58.2
43.2%
GREEN BAY Packers
50.1
26.2
35.8
62.0
42.3%
HOUSTON Texans
51.6
24.3
40.4
64.7
37.5%
INDIANAPOLIS Colts
53.1
26.2
36.7
62.9
41.6%
JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
46.8
25.6
33.0
58.6
43.7%
KANSAS CITY Chiefs
54.5
25.7
43.3
69.0
37.3%
LOS ANGELES Chargers
48.1
24.3
35.8
60.1
40.4%
LOS ANGELES Rams
48.1
23.9
35.9
59.8
40.0%
MIAMI Dolphins
52.2
29.0
34.1
63.1
45.9%
MINNESOTA Vikings
49.5
26.3
35.1
61.5
42.8%
NEW ENGLAND Patriots
47.9
22.6
40.2
62.8
36.0%
NEW ORLEANS Saints
48.2
20.6
39.4
60.0
34.3%
NEW YORK Giants
51.2
27.1
36.1
63.3
42.9%
NEW YORK Jets
51.7
26.3
39.1
65.5
40.2%
OAKLAND Raiders
48.5
28.8
31.1
59.9
48.1%
PHILADELPHIA Eagles
50.5
20.9
42.5
63.5
33.0%
PITTSBURGH Steelers
49.3
22.7
39.3
62.1
36.6%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
49.9
25.5
36.7
62.3
41.0%
SEATTLE Seahawks
47.2
22.3
36.6
58.9
37.8%
TAMPA BAY Buccaneers
51.2
25.1
35.1
60.1
41.7%
TENNESSEE Titans
49.0
25.6
35.7
61.3
41.7%
WASHINGTON Redskins
49.3
24.2
36.4
60.6
39.9%

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Cleveland defenders at Baltimore

TVO factor: 1.103 (21st in the league)

This could be a near-ideal match-up for tackle opportunity. On one hand we have the Browns, averaging 54.4 tackle opportunities per game; on the other we have the Ravens, whose offense allows 55.5 tackle opportunities per game. Lamar Jackson’s effect on opposing defenses has been immediate and deadly. Content to take their opponents down with a series of mini body blows on the ground, the Ravens have zigged while the rest of the league zagged.

The Browns are playing purely for pride – and perhaps for their head coach Gregg Williams – but that can be quite the motivating factor. Expect this to be one of the first games over as both teams try to establish the run and chew the clock. The Browns’ defensive assets get a bump here in a game Baltimore needs to clinch the AFC North.

Key stat: The Ravens average 33.7 rush attempts per game at home.

New York Jets defenders at New England

TVO factor: 1.230 (2nd)

The Patriots haven’t been their vintage selves this season, but so far that hasn’t mattered. Sitting pretty at the number two seed in the AFC, a win here will secure the coveted first-round bye that has become almost part of the furniture in Foxborough. The Jets will try to spoil the party and deliver a bitter finish to what has been a topsy-turvy season for Bill Belichick’s team.

The Jets defense has averaged 51.7 tackle opportunities per game, a little higher than the league average. The expectation here is that New England leans heavily on its stable of backs, in the process protecting Tom Brady, and we see ample tackle opportunity for the Jets in a very favorable TVO factor stadium. New York’s defensive assets should be shoehorned into your line-up this week.

Key stat: The Patriots run the ball on 43.5% of offensive snaps, compared to a league average of 40.3%.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Miami and Buffalo defenders

TVO factor: 1.178 (10th)

In this case, we are saving the worst for last. Despite the TVO factor ranking in the top half of the league, neither offense has inspired confidence this season. This drastically reduces the attractiveness of this match-up, where it is entirely possible both teams take their foot off the gas and play out the string. Miami’s offense has allowed just 43.7 tackle opportunities per game, while Buffalo’s sits at 48.1.

This fits the mold of a game best-watched in highlights on RedZone and nowhere else.

Key stat: The Bills rank dead last in pass completions (16.9 per game), ending drives early and reducing tackle opportunity.

Best of luck with Week 17 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.