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 second 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 Larry Thomas 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.
The results are in, the votes have been counted and verified – and we know absolutely nothing yet.
The first week of the season has given us the first page of the story, but there are many more chapters to this tale that we have yet to even fathom. Players and their roles are constantly changing, but we can at least rely on the metrics from the IDP Matchup spreadsheet to guide us into Week 2.
The key question to ask yourself as you scan through the bounty of information from Week 1’s box scores is the following: is this a fluke or a trend? As always, our outstanding staff has you covered here at Footballguys.
So, without further ado, let’s see which matchups we can take advantage of in Week 2.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
New England front seven vs. Miami
Lost in the shuffle among the press clippings of the Patriots’ victory in Arizona was the stellar performance of the defense. Although they only registered three sacks, Carson Palmer was consistently moved off the spot. The platoon of pass rushers that New England boasts will mean offenses cannot focus on any one player. Miami has an offensive line made up mostly of players who should be playing offensive tackle; big men can be exposed if they are out of position. I expect Bill Belichick to formulate a game plan to expose the Miami line; that should yield a good pass rushing day and, more than likely, will see the Patriots go to 2-0.
Seattle front seven at Los Angeles
The Rams’ performance on Monday night was… well, let’s just say it left a lot to be desired. In the process of making San Francisco look like Super Bowl contenders, the Rams offensive line in particular did not perform well. A hungry Seahawks front seven should be more than ready to exploit such a unit, even on the road. The Seattle defense totalled nine quarterback hits last week. Don’t overthink this matchup too much.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
San Francisco pass rushers at Carolina
Just because San Francisco shut out the Rams does not mean the script will look anything similar this Sunday in Charlotte. The Panthers offense struggled at times against Denver, one of the best defensive units in the league, but at times it looked like it was in cruise control. A full 10 days of rest to construct a game plan should yield positive results for Cam Newton and company. Carolina’s offensive line is among the best in the league and should be more than capable of slowing down – if not stopping completely – the Niners pass rush, despite giving up eight quarterback hits in Week 1.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
New Orleans defenders at New York Giants
The Saints are fielding a shadow of a defense, with the news that starting cornerback Delvin Breaux is to miss several weeks yet another mark against them. As we know by now, this New Orleans team is night and day when you compare their home and away performances. The Giants, with their up-tempo passing attack, should relentlessly go after the Saints in the secondary, exposing their less talented players time and again. Despite the propensity to air it out, new Giants head coach Ben McAdoo knows the importance of grinding out yards on the ground. The platoon of Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen should keep the Saints honest and will provide plenty of tackle opportunity.
Washington defenders vs. Dallas
The Cowboys had the third highest total for offensive snaps last week, behind only Seattle and San Francisco. This number came down to a controlled, if conservative, passing offense that focused on quick, simple reads for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Dallas should be salivating, however, after watching the film from Monday Night Football when the Steelers ran at will against the Redskins front seven. This could be the game we see Ezekiel Elliott break out. Washington’s front seven make excellent IDP plug-and-play options, but the tackle opportunity should filter through to the entire defense.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Green Bay defenders at Minnesota
Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford, it matters not to me. The Vikings offense will be a remedial version of what it could have been with either of these quarterbacks at the controls. Adrian Peterson endured a torrid outing in Nashville last week, but tends to perform well when he faces the Packers. For his career, he boasts a 5.27 yards per attempt clip and has accumulated 14 touchdowns. My hunch here is that the improved Packers front seven will have the discipline to shut down Peterson and the Vikings will struggle to stay on the field. All of this points to a disappointing outing for the Packers defenders, so I would bench them unless you have better options.
New York Jets defenders at Buffalo
While the Bills certainly have the talent to rebound in a big way under the lights at home, I am not counting on it. The Sammy Watkins news could be a devastating blow for this offense. Practice reports may be encouraging, but practicing and playing effectively are two very different things. The Bills offense looked putrid in Baltimore, and a fearsome Jets front seven will pose them plenty of problems. It is always tough to call these divisional games, but the Jets looked much better in their loss than the Bills did in theirs. If New York can control the tempo, their defenders will have fewer snaps than normal. Fade your Jets this week if you can afford to.
Best of luck with Week 2 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.