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 third 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 first two weeks of action have yielded some fascinating results from an IDP perspective. Slowly we are witnessing defenses rounding into form, while certain offenses are beginning to develop a big target on their backs. Two weeks of data is not nearly enough to form the type of picture we need to be accurate, but the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.
After watching the tape, we can figure out the teams creating pressure and not getting home; at the same time, we can study some interesting box score totals for tackles and how they relate to home stat crews.
So, without further ado, let’s see which matchups we can take advantage of in Week 3.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
New York Giants front four vs. Washington
The metrics don’t suggest that this will be a plum matchup for the Giants, but I have seen enough on film. This New York defensive front is playing at a high level, with their strong run defense bound to earn them the right to rush the passer on a more consistent basis. Kirk Cousins is on shaky ground in Washington and is prone to mistakes. The Giants’ back seven should be able to take advantage, and Landon Collins has shown his versatility as both a coverage player and pass rusher in the first two weeks. The Redskins are averaging 45.5 dropbacks per game this season, no coincidence considering their struggles. If Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and others are afforded this kind of opportunity, they will thrive.
Miami front seven vs. Cleveland
The Browns offensive line has allowed six sacks on the season, and with rookie quarterback Cody Kessler about to take the reins it could get uglier. The Dolphins have been getting some excellent play from their defensive line despite not getting home every time. Adam Gase will be keen to get back to 1-2, and an aggressive defensive game plan designed to confuse and harass Kessler will be key to accomplishing that goal. It looks like a ‘get well’ game for Miami on paper; expect the defensive front seven to feast.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Tennessee front seven vs. Oakland
The Raiders boast one of the better offensive lines in the league, and have surrendered just one sack this season, as well as only seven quarterback hits. Both numbers are among the top five in the category. All of this bodes well for a road trip to Tennessee, where the Titans pass rush has been steady if not spectacular. Against Detroit last week the Titans defense accounted for four sacks, but expect things to be a little tougher against Oakland. Derek Carr is releasing the ball on time and providing pass rushers little chance to affect his throws. In what should be a tight game, back the trend we have seen the opening two weeks.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Chicago defenders at Dallas
The Cowboys stat crew gives a healthy bump to this matchup, where the hapless Bears, at 0-2, will hope to rally behind Brian Hoyer. Wait, did I just type that sentence? Yes, things are that grim for Bears fans – and unlikely to get better in the House That Jerry Built. The Bears sustained a bevy of blows to their defense this week, with Lamarr Houston going to injured reserve, Danny Trevathan due to miss time and an already depleted secondary. Dallas should be able to find a rhythm early in primetime and rack up the carries for Alfred Morris and Ezekiel Elliott, who has a terrific opportunity to get out of the doghouse. The Cowboys are one of the top teams when it comes to rushing attempts, averaging 30 per game. The Bears have faced an average of 31 rushing attempts per game. All of this points to a very fruitful day for Chicago’s defensive players.
Buffalo defenders vs. Arizona
The Bills are circling the drain but have a chance to put up a fighting display here in a last-gasp effort to keep Rex Ryan in situ. Will it happen? Unlikely, but the Cardinals have been known to lose games on the road they have absolutely no business losing. If it does go to script, however, the Cardinals should run away with it. David Johnson looks irrepressible right now and has cemented his place as one of the best backs in the league. Larry Fitzgerald’s play seems to hit new heights every year, and Carson Palmer will have gained confidence from last week’s demolition of Tampa Bay. The Bills home stat crew is notoriously generous when it comes to handing out solo tackles, so players like Preston Brown, Zach Brown and the cornerback tandem of Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby should be excellent plays.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Tampa Bay defenders vs. Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Rams offense boasts one of the worst offensive snap totals in the league at just 115 through two weeks. An inefficient rushing attack and a horror show in San Francisco contributed to that, but Tampa Bay should have no problems keeping them under wraps. Todd Gurley can’t do it all himself, and the Bucs have been getting good play from their defensive front seven. It all leads me to believe that another stinker could be on the cards for the Rams. This might be a good week to bench your Bucs.
Houston defenders at New England
This one puzzles me a great deal. I could easily see New England fudging some kind of genius plot to knock off the Texans behind a stunning display of poise and maturity from Jacoby Brissett. Conversely, the rookie quarterback could flounder and Houston’s defense could flex their muscles on primetime. Regardless of what happens, the Patriots offense will not be able to operate at its usual level and that turns me off Texans players. New England’s stat crew is only average when it comes to solo versus assists awarded, so I would advise you avoid Houston players if at all possible.
Best of luck with Week 3 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.