IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 5

Dave Larkin identifies the best and worst match-ups to target and fade for IDP purposes.

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 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 fifth edition of the IDP Matchup column here at Footballguys in 2019. I have been penning this defensive diary for the past several years and I am delighted to be able to share some tidbits to help you secure a league title come December.

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. Every week I will study film from the previous week’s games and provide you with nuggets of wisdom that will lead you to a championship.

The data is accumulating after four weeks, providing us with additional tidbits of information to better shape our line-up decisions. Week 4 was a humbling and stunning one, throwing up a handful of shocks to remind us that, as much as we like to think we have it all figured out, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The best approach is to stay open to the possibilities in any given week and don’t fall victim to recency bias.

Without further ado, let’s kick off with this week’s matchups.

NFL
Average
By Season
Team Defense
Team Offense
Pressure
Applied
QB Sacks
QB Hits
Drop Backs
Faced
Pressure
Allowed
QB Sacks
Allowed
QB Hits
Allowed
Drop
Backs
2016
14.2%
2.18
5.37
37.8
14.2%
2.18
5.37
37.8
2017
15.1%
2.33
5.49
36.5
15%
2.33
5.49
36.5
2018
15%
2.5
5.56
37
15%
2.5
5.56
37
2019
14.7%
2.5
5.57
38
14.7%
2.5
5.57
38
Team
Team Defense
Team Offense
Pressure
Applied
QB Sacks
QB Hits
Drop Backs
Faced
Pressure
Allowed
QB Sacks
Allowed
QB Hits
Allowed
Drop
Backs
Arizona
13.6%
2.8
5
36.8
14.8%
5
7
47.3
Atlanta
16.5%
1.3
5.3
31.8
15.6%
2.5
7.3
46.5
Baltimore
19.6%
2
7.3
37
10.7%
2.5
4
37.5
Buffalo
10.7%
1.8
4.5
42
19.1%
2.5
7.5
39.3
Carolina
21.4%
4.5
8.5
39.8
11.9%
2.8
4.8
40
Chicago
15.3%
4.3
6.8
44
13.8%
2.3
5
36.3
Cincinnati
16.1%
1.3
4.8
29.5
14.1%
4.8
6.5
46.3
Cleveland
17%
3.5
6
35.3
11.2%
3
4.3
38
Dallas
15.4%
1.5
6.3
40.5
11.2%
1.8
3.8
33.5
Denver
12.5%
1.3
3.8
30
12.6%
2.8
5
39.8
Detroit
10.7%
2.3
4.8
44.3
13.5%
1.8
5
37
Green Bay
17.2%
3
6.3
36.3
12.3%
2
4.8
38.5
Houston
16%
3.3
6.8
42.3
23.4%
4.5
8.5
36.3
Indianapolis
13.2%
2.3
4.5
34
11.8%
1.5
4.3
36
Jacksonville
17.5%
3.3
6.8
38.5
16.5%
2.5
5.8
34.8
Kansas City
11.3%
2.8
4.5
39.8
11.2%
0.8
4.5
40
LA Chargers
16.1%
2.3
5
31
16.5%
2.8
6.5
39.5
LA Rams
9.4%
2.5
3.8
40
13.3%
2
6
45.3
Miami
9%
1.3
2.8
30.5
27.3%
4.5
10.5
38.5
Minnesota
15.8%
2.8
6.3
39.5
15%
2
4
26.8
New England
18.8%
4.5
8
42.5
9.8%
1
3.8
38.3
New Orleans
17.4%
3.5
6.8
38.8
10.1%
1
3.5
34.8
NY Giants
19%
2.5
6.5
34.3
15%
1.8
6.3
41.8
NY Jets
15.6%
1.7
6.3
40.7
24.3%
4.3
8.7
35.7
Oakland
8.8%
1.3
3.3
36.8
8%
2
2.8
34.3
Philadelphia
11.4%
0.8
5
43.8
14%
1.8
5.5
39.3
Pittsburgh
20%
3.5
7.8
38.8
7%
1
2.5
35.8
San Francisco
15.8%
3
6
38
12.6%
0.7
3.7
29
Seattle
8.4%
2.5
3.3
38.5
15.9%
3
5.8
36.3
Tampa Bay
14.5%
2.8
7
48.3
19.2%
3
7.3
37.8
Tennessee
15.4%
3.3
6.3
40.5
22.1%
4.3
7.5
34
Washington
9.6%
1.3
3.3
34
16.8%
2.3
6.8
40.3

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Pass Rushing Match-ups to Exploit

New England pass rushers at Washington

The Patriots defense has been simply unstoppable this season – and Bill Belichick is loving it. Averaging 4.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits per game, this unit will have the measure of most teams, especially poor ones like Washington. Jay Gruden’s team has had a litany of issues this season, among the most pressing being the offensive line’s ineptitude.

Don’t be surprised if Belichick relies heavily on the passing game to establish a lead before giving Tom Brady a front-row seat to a running game-dominated second half. The game script here is pretty clear: the Patriots will roll, and their pass rushers are in line for plenty of big-play chances against the Washington quarterback, whoever it may be.

Key stat: New England is applying pressure on 18.8% of opponent dropbacks, with the league average at 14.7%.

Carolina pass rushers vs. Jacksonville

Ron Rivera has quietly concocted some excellent game plans for the Panthers defense thus far this season, vaulting his team back to .500 after a stuttering start. The challenge of containing Gardner Minshew, a quarterback few had even heard of as recently as a month ago, will be keeping the coach up at night. Minshew’s pocket mobility can give defenses fits.

And yet Carolina’s defense has averaged pressure on 21.5% of opponent dropbacks, the highest mark in the league. The loss of Kawann Short is a huge blow, but the Panthers are deep along the front seven and capable of coping. The Jaguars offensive line can be picked apart if Carolina can build a lead. At home, expect the pass rush to stay hot for the Cats.

Key stat: The Panthers defense averages 8.5 quarterback hits per game, with the average at 5.57.

Pass Rushing Match-ups to Avoid

Tampa Bay pass rushers at New Orleans

Even with Teddy Bridgewater taking the snaps, the Saints offensive line has remained stout and has protected him well. Giving up pressure on just 10.1% of dropbacks (league average is 14.7%) has allowed this offense to stay on schedule, even if Bridgewater’s passes are sometimes less crisp than those of Drew Brees.

The Saints face a formidable test at home this week, however, with the Bucs ready to shock the NFL world for the second week running by notching an away victory against a fancied opponent. Shaquil Barrett has been playing the best football of his life and the likes of Vita Vea are certain to create havoc up front. The New Orleans offensive line is an excellent unit, though, and should be able to maintain control of things at home. Trust the trend here.

Key stat: The Saints offensive line has allowed just one sack per game on average this season.

NFL
Average
By Season
Team Defense
Team Offense
Tackle
Opportunity
Rush Attempts
Faced
Drop Backs
Faced
Offensive
Snaps Faced
Rush Percentage
Tackle Opps
Allowed
Rush Attempts
Drop
Backs
Offensive
Snaps
Rush
Percentage
2016
50
25.3
37.8
63.1
40.1%
50
25.3
37.8
63.1
40.1%
2017
49.6
26.1
36.5
62.6
41.9%
49.7
26.1
36.5
62.6
41.7%
2018
50
25.1
37
62.2
40.5%
50.1
25.1
37
62.2
40.5%
2019
50.1
24.5
38
62.5
39.2%
50.5
24.5
38
62.5
39.2%
Team
Team Defense
Team Offense
Tackle
Opportunity
Rush Attempts
Faced
Drop Backs
Faced
Offensive
Snaps Faced
Rush Percentage
Tackle Opps
Allowed
Rush Attempts
Drop
Backs
Offensive
Snaps
Rush
Percentage
Arizona
55.5
29.8
36.8
66.5
44.7%
51
19.5
47.3
66.8
29.2%
Atlanta
50
28.3
31.8
60
47.1%
50.8
17.3
46.5
63.8
27.1%
Baltimore
42.3
18.5
37
55.5
33.3%
59.5
33.8
37.5
71.3
47.4%
Buffalo
44.8
20
42
62
32.3%
52.8
28.3
39.3
67.5
41.9%
Carolina
52.8
25.8
39.8
65.5
39.3%
50.8
24.8
40
64.8
38.2%
Chicago
52
20.3
44
64.3
31.5%
50.3
25.3
36.3
61.5
41.1%
Cincinnati
51.8
30
29.5
59.5
50.4%
48
17.8
46.3
64
27.7%
Cleveland
50
25.3
35.3
60.5
41.7%
46.8
23.3
38
61.3
38%
Dallas
48
21
40.5
61.5
34.1%
53.3
28.5
33.5
62
46%
Denver
48.8
29
30
59
49.2%
52.3
25
39.8
64.8
38.6%
Detroit
51.3
25.8
44.3
70
36.8%
53.8
30
37
67
44.8%
Green Bay
49.8
27.8
36.3
64
43.4%
48.5
23.8
38.5
62.3
38.2%
Houston
52.8
22
42.3
64.3
34.2%
48
23
36.3
59.3
38.8%
Indianapolis
49.5
23.8
34
57.8
41.1%
51.5
27.5
36
63.5
43.3%
Jacksonville
49
23.8
38.5
62.3
38.2%
47.8
23.5
34.8
58.3
40.3%
Kansas City
51
25.5
39.8
65.3
39.1%
51.3
23.5
40
63.5
37%
LA Chargers
47.5
24
31
55
43.6%
51.8
23.5
39.5
63
37.3%
LA Rams
49.3
24
40
64
37.5%
52.5
22.8
45.3
68
33.5%
Miami
58.3
35.3
30.5
65.8
53.6%
39.3
17.3
38.5
55.8
30.9%
Minnesota
55
25.8
39.5
65.3
39.5%
46.8
28.8
26.8
55.5
51.8%
New England
41.8
17.5
42.5
60
29.2%
51.3
27
38.3
65.3
41.4%
New Orleans
50.8
24
38.8
62.8
38.2%
47.3
22.8
34.8
57.5
39.6%
NY Giants
50.3
27.3
34.3
61.5
44.3%
50.8
22.8
41.8
64.5
35.3%
NY Jets
49.3
23.3
40.7
64
36.5%
47
21.7
35.7
57.3
37.8%
Oakland
49.3
25.5
36.8
62.3
41%
49.5
24.3
34.3
58.5
41.5%
Philadelphia
46.8
18.8
43.8
62.5
30%
52.5
28
39.3
67.3
41.6%
Pittsburgh
57.3
29.3
38.8
68
43%
41.3
18.3
35.8
54
33.8%
San Francisco
45
22
38
60
36.7%
56.7
36.3
29
65.3
55.6%
Seattle
45.3
18.8
38.5
57.3
32.8%
53.8
26.5
36.3
62.8
42.2%
Tampa Bay
50.3
19.8
48.3
68
29%
53.5
28.8
37.8
66.5
43.2%
Tennessee
49.8
22.3
40.5
62.8
35.5%
50.3
27.5
34
61.5
44.7%
Washington
57.3
30.5
34
64.5
47.3%
57.3
16.8
40.3
57
29.4%

Strong Matchup
Weak Matchup

Tackle Match-ups to Exploit

New York Giants defenders vs. Minnesota

Are we in for a Minnesota backlash this week? The press reports during the week have focused intensely on discord in the locker room revolving around Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs trade rumors, and Adam Thielen’s displeasure with the passing attack. Sometimes teams can rally after such internal combustion, and sometimes they can double down on what has gotten them this far. For the Vikings, the likelihood is a steady dose of Dalvin Cook and calculated downfield shots to the disgruntled receiving corps. The Giants defense performed well last week, certainly, but the weakness in their back seven is clear.

Minnesota should be able to run a balanced offense here and the result will be ample tackle opportunities for the G-Men, whose home stat crew will increase the value for each opportunity. Daniel Jones may take a few lumps against a strong Vikings defense; if the game script tilts Minnesota’s way, the entire Giants defense could be viable as plug-ins for your line-ups.

Key stat: The Giants home stadium stat crew ranks as the best in the league with a TVO factor of 1.320.

Atlanta and Houston defenders

The Vegas total for this game (48.5) indicates a shootout. Regardless of whether it comes to pass, this looks like a tight game between two teams desperate to get back on track. Atlanta’s rushing attack has stagnated horribly the first few weeks; they have recorded just 17.3 rush attempts per game (league average is 24.5) while their offensive line has struggled mightily. Houston, meanwhile, has been more dedicated to the run with a rush percentage of 38.8%. Not much joy has come from it, though.

It all points to both teams playing out a stalemate on the ground and going to a high-flying passing attack. Houston’s downfield shots were mere inches away from connecting last week, while Atlanta has made a habit of pass-heavy drives. The stat crew advantage here makes this a highly attractive game for IDP production.

Key stat: The Texans boast one of the most generous stadium stat crews, ranking fourth in TVO factor at 1.244.

Tackle Match-ups to Avoid

Buffalo and Tennessee defenders

This defensive battle is best avoided for tackle production despite the array of strong talents on both sides of the ball. Buffalo’s defense has averaged just 44.8 tackle opportunities per game, with Tennessee at 49.8. Both teams have a strong inclination to run the ball according to the numbers, but the stat crew is only so-so in Nashville and thus there is not much upside.

Poor quarterback play from both teams is likely, so drives will stall, and tackle opportunities will be sidelined in favor of special teams plays and incomplete passes. This game is the very definition of a stay-away.

Key stat: Tennessee’s stat crew ranks in the middle of the pack with a TVO factor of 1.150.

Cincinnati defenders vs. Arizona

The Bengals have faced 30 rushing attempts per game through the first four weeks as they have fallen to 0-4. Their defense has been suspect, but it may catch a break this week against an Arizona offense that runs the ball just 19.5 times per game. Arizona’s rush percentage is the lowest in the league at 27.1%, so the opportunity simply will not be there for the Cincinnati defensive assets to make hay.

In big-play formats, Arizona’s porous offensive line and pass-heavy game script make Bengals pass rushers appealing, but despite the 9th-ranked TVO factor in the stadium, this is a match-up to run far, far away from.

Key stat: Arizona’s rush percentage on the road is a paltry 20.4%, ranking 30th in the league.

Best of luck with Week 5 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.

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