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 number of 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 two large tables 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.
Before we get to the hard data and matchup analysis, a quick explanation of the metrics we're using will probably be helpful. This column will be broken up into two primary sections - pass rushing matchups to exploit/avoid and tackle matchups to exploit/avoid. Each text section is followed by a table listing the relevant statistics and metrics driving our matchup decisions.
The pass rushing matchup table will include weekly averages of sacks, adjusted averages of sacks and quarterback hits and pass attempts faced. It will also have a column titled Pressure Applied, a metric we're introducing to show how often a team defense is generating pressure on the opposing quarterback. We'll be calculating Pressure Applied by dividing each team defense's sacks and quarterback hits by its total pass attempts faced. The same set of data will be provided and Pressure Allowed calculated for each team offense, to show which offenses are allowing pressure on their quarterback most often.
The tackle matchup table will include weekly averages of both rush and pass attempts faced, total offensive snaps faced and the percentage of rush vs pass attempts faced. It will also have a column titled Tackle Opportunity, a metric we introduced in mid-2007 to show how many plays a defense faced that could have ended in a solo tackle. We'll be calculating each team's Tackle Opportunity by adding all rush attempts, pass completions and sacks - the three plays that can end in a solo tackle outside of special teams and turnover plays. The same set of data will be provided and Tackle Opportunity calculated for each team's offense, to show which offenses are allowing the most tackle opportunity to opposing defenses.
We'll be highlighting the Pressure Applied/Allowed and Tackle Opportunity metrics with color codes showing the best and worst pass rush and tackle matchups. Expect to see lots of “good” and “bad” matchups early, as a relatively low sample size will show a lot of teams outside the historical standard deviations we'll be using to focus on the key matchups. While sample size will be a confounding issue during the early weeks, we'll still make every effort to show where the data looks meaningful. Without getting into a long discussion of statistics, we recognize that these metrics and tables will not be as predictive and reliable early in the season. We also acknowledge the noise within a set of unofficial statistics like solo tackles and quarterback hits. As the season progresses and the standard deviations of the data fall in line with prior seasonal averages, we expect that the data tables will be increasingly more reliable and useful.
You are very welcome to the tenth 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 and 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.
Like me, you are probably in the midst of a rollercoaster of emotions as you traverse the wild ride that is your fantasy football season. In some leagues you might be soaring towards the playoffs; in others, crying into your keyboard. No matter the case, it is important at this time of the season to finish strong.
Playing spoiler is hollow fun – everyone wants a playoff spot – but that isn’t realistic. However, it is crucial to maintain the competitiveness of the league by fielding the strongest team possible. A great way to do that is adhere to the matchups, both favourable and unfavourable, and pick out the value spots.
So, without further preamble, let’s analyze the Week 10 match-up list.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Arizona pass rushers vs. San Francisco
The Arizona Cardinals defense suffered what can only be described as an old-fashioned beatdown two weeks ago. Fresh off a bye, they will be determined to prove it was a fluke and nothing more. Division rival San Francisco, a team devoid of inspiration and a rush defense, comes to town to cure what ails them. Whether Carlos Hyde is healthy enough to return or not, the Arizona defense has the hogs up front to cause Colin Kaepernick problems. The Cardinals’ pressure applied stands at 15.4%, a decent figure by league-wide standards, while they have notched 21 sacks (good for a top 10 spot). If the game script goes as predicted, we should see plenty of pass rushing opportunities for Arizona.
Washington pass rushers vs. Minnesota
The home-road splits for Minnesota giving up sacks have been stark: on their travels the Vikings give up 3.3 per game, while at home it stands at 2.6 per game. The offensive line continues to haunt the Vikings, and a Washington team boasting a 17.6% pressure applied number should be able to take full advantage. Off a bye, the Redskins will have plenty of time to study their opponent’s frailties – and likely take advantage.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Denver pass rushers at New Orleans
In a classic matchup of strength against strength, the Broncos’ irrepressible pass rush takes on the Saints’ stingy offensive line. Denver has generated pressure on 21.6% of dropbacks, but they struggled last week against a strong Raiders line. If the Saints can stay balanced and make Denver respect the run – like Oakland did – then the home team has a chance to keep the pass rushers at bay. The Saints have given up pressure on only 8.6% of Drew Brees’ dropbacks, one of the best marks in the league. That is despite having an average of 44.6 dropbacks per game.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Green Bay defenders at Tennessee
With the rejuvenated DeMarco Murray in the backfield and one of the best run blocking lines in football, it won’t surprise you that the Titans run the ball 46.6% of the time. Allowing 51.3 tackle opportunities per game, the Marcus Mariota-led offense should give Green Bay’s admittedly stingy run defense a few headaches. As far the stat crews go, this ranks as a neutral to good matchup, but Tennessee’s willingness to stick with the run will mean plenty of juicy opportunities for Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and the Packers’ safeties in particular.
Kansas City defenders at Carolina
Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, is far and away the best bet this week for STF (stadium tackle factor) at 1.771 for the road team. The Chiefs have won a staggering 16 of their last 18 regular season contests and face a team that looks a shadow of its pre-bye self. The Panthers run the ball 41.7% of the time, and will remain committed even if they are having no joy. This one should remain tight throughout, which sets up perfectly for the Chiefs (25 rush attempts faced per game) to capitalise.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Atlanta defenders at Philadelphia
The Eagles’ home ranks as a very poor site for STF (1.485 for road teams, 1.510 for home team) and so should be avoided most weeks. If you are leaning to either side of this tackle matchup, the Eagles side is the way to go as they are facing a red-hot Atlanta offense. The Falcons have totalled 52.3 tackle opportunities per game, but taking into consideration how few solo and assisted tackles will be avoided in Philadelphia, it is hard to trust them.
Houston defenders at Jacksonville
The Jaguars average a paltry 20.3 rushing attempts per game and represent one of the worst tackle matchups in the league. Blake Bortles’ struggles have really hampered this offense’s ability to put together sustained drives. The Texans know this team well – and Bortles’ deficiencies – so they should do a good job defensively. Incidentally, the Texans create pressure on 18.1% of their pass rush attempts, an excellent mark. In a low-scoring affair, avoid your Texans if you can.
Best of luck with Week 10 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.
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