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 11th 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.
We’ve reached the nitty gritty stage of the season, when champions are born or dreams die in a puddle of mediocrity and broken hopes. As grandiose as that sounds, my point is this: do you really want to be wallowing in a puddle, or do you want to be hoisting your trophy in your dry sunbed as you toast your success with your significant other?
Although players are seemingly dropping like flies, the data is there to be exploited. All we have to do is tap into it and glean the gems that see us kicking back rather than weary and regretting our choices.
So let’s put the last 10 weeks in the rear view mirror and start fresh by owning Week 11. Here are the matchups to watch for.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Buffalo pass rushers at Cincinnati
The Rex Ryan revival in Buffalo has been quite something to behold. Down and out and written off by most, the controversial head coach has steered his ship away from choppy waters. A big reason for the turnaround: the defense, and specifically the pressure they have generated. Buffalo’s 18.1% pressure applied number is among the best in the league, while they average 3.3 sacks and 6.4 quarterback hits per game. In their way this week is a Bengals offensive line that has lacked cohesiveness and is vulnerable to pressure (giving up pressure on 16.2% of dropbacks). The Bills should be able to have decent success after a bye week.
Seattle pass rushers vs. Philadelphia
The Seahawks produce pressure at an impressive clip. On 19.1% of opponent dropbacks they disrupt the passer, one of the best marks in the league. They are behind only Buffalo in sacks (29), so the Eagles will have their work cut out in the noisy environs of CenturyLink Field (or whatever they’re calling it these days). Carson Wentz has not played in an atmosphere like this in his young career, so the situation points to a potentially dominant performance from the home team.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Baltimore pass rushers at Dallas
The Cowboys might be without All Pro left tackle Tyron Smith and the Ravens might be getting Elvis Dumervil back, but it is still difficult to envisage a scenario whereby the juggernaut ‘Boys are derailed at home. Dallas has given up pressure on only 10% of dropbacks, and with Ezekiel Elliott such a fearsome presence for defenses to deal with it will be tough sledding for the Ravens. For their part, the Ravens have generated pressure on just 13.1% of dropbacks. If they want any chance to beat Dallas, their pass rush will need to show up; I’m just not sure it will.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Green Bay defenders at Washington
The Packers may have started off the season as a defense to be reckoned with (especially against the run), but recent results have changed things. On the road, the Pack average 49.5 tackle opportunities per game, still low enough in the grand scheme of things but enough to warrant concern. The Redskins have established their ground game behind ‘Fat’ Rob Kelley, and as a team they allow 52.2 tackle opportunities per game. I am sticking with the trends here, and all signs point to the Packers defense struggling.
Minnesota defenders vs. Arizona
The Cardinals offense allows opposing defenses 53.9 tackle opportunities per game, enough to raise the eyebrows for any of their opponents. Carson Palmer and company have not looked like their unstoppable 2015 selves throughout this topsy-turvy campaign, but if the game script complies we could see plenty of opportunity for Vikings defenders. Minnesota’s defense averages just 47.1 tackle opportunities per game, but they have been trending downward. If the Sam Bradford-led offense continues to tank, we could see a favourable script for tackle production.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Miami defenders at Los Angeles
A running game that is struggling to get on track all season, and now you throw a rookie quarterback making his first start into the mix? Tough break, especially if you own any Miami defensive players. The caveat here is that a strong pass rush could feast on Jared Goff, but overall the tackle opportunity will be such that chances will be fleeting for Miami. Fade this matchup at all costs.
Oakland defenders vs. Houston
If you haven’t seen the Texans offense recently, do me a favour: don’t go looking for it. It will prove elusive and like Bigfoot may only exist in some peoples’ imaginations. The one saving grace for Oakland’s tackle opportunity is the Texans’ ability to run the ball effectively; they run the ball 41.6% of the time. However, the Raiders defense has seen an uptick in performance and they should be able to shut down Houston in Mexico.
Best of luck with Week 11 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.