IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 5

An in-depth look at the key games to target for IDP production. 

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 fifth 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.

At this point in the season only the strong survive. Injuries continue to ravage the IDP landscape, leaving bodies strewn across the fantasy football battlefield. No one is immune, but you can get a leg up on the pile if you have your wits about you.

It is time to be shrewd with waiver wire acquisitions and identify the clear trends that have been established after four weeks of play. Along with the rest of our outstanding IDP staff, I am here to help you avoid the minefield of fantasy duds and pinpoint the matchups where you can excel.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Carolina front seven vs. Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers have allowed 35 quarterback hits this season, an average of 8.8 per game. They are not devoid of talent on their offense; rather, it is a combination of things that have led to this putrid metric. The Panthers have a long week to prepare for their division rival, and will be champing at the bit to score some redemption in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. The Panthers have not been able to generate a consistent pass rush this season – yet. Remember, they still boast players like Kawann Short, Kony Ealy (who could have been the Super Bowl MVP) and linebackers like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis who can put pressure on the pocket. Call it a hunch, but this team is too good to keep down.

Minnesota front seven vs. Houston

The Vikings have firmly established their defense as one of the stingiest in the league. Mike Zimmer’s unit has been nearly impossible to navigate for offenses, and along the way it has racked up 15 sacks and 26 quarterback hits. If Houston can keep this game close, they will not expose their offensive line to punishment; then again, this could pan out like the New England game. Brock Osweiler has a penchant for the big mistake, and I believe the Vikings will successfully stifle the Texans offense. The dam will break and the Vikings should pile up some more pass rushing points as they go to 5-0.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

San Diego pass rushers at Oakland

Through four weeks the Raiders continue to be one of the more lockdown offensive lines in terms of giving up pressure. Derek Carr has been more decisive with his reads and releases the football quickly, but the line has to be credited for giving up only five sacks. The Chargers have a tough task on their hands here; they are one of the less effective pass rushing units and have registered only 15 quarterback hits and nine sacks so far. The trend is strongly in favour of the Raiders here.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Denver defenders vs. Atlanta

Despite the fact the Broncos’ home stadium ranks 31st in our TVO factor (a measure of how many tackles are awarded per opportunity), this matchup might challenge the home team more than they think. The Falcons offense has been nothing short of mesmerising so far, tossing opposing defenses aside like a dog would its toys. This is their first test against a high level defense. With how well Matt Ryan is seeing the field, I believe Atlanta has the ability to cause Denver problems. Add in the fact that Paxton Lynch is making only his second start, and there is reason to believe the Denver offense could sputter. The Falcons have allowed 55 tackle opportunities per game to opponents, so this could be a good time to keep your Denver defenders in your lineup.

Detroit defenders vs. Philadelphia

The Eagles have had similar success to their bird brothers Atlanta, allowing 54.3 tackle opportunities per game to opponents. Doug Pederson has orchestrated the offense to perfection, settling Carson Wentz down early and providing him with clear, easy reads. Wentz deserves plaudits for looking nothing like a rookie quarterback in his three starts, and a Lions defense lacking many of its marquee names shouldn’t trouble him too much. Expect a productive day from Detroit’s defenders.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Miami defenders vs. Tennessee

The offensive talent on both these teams is struggling to perform, so this is far from an enticing clash in general football terms. Tennessee’s offense in particular is trying to find its identity, with Marcus Mariota finding his feet slowly in his sophomore campaign. The Titans offense has allowed only 48.3 tackle opportunities per game, so the best bet here is to fade the Dolphins defensive players if you can.

Arizona defenders at San Francisco

The quarterback situation in Arizona remains up in the air with Carson Palmer’s concussion. A four-day lay off seems an awfully short period to recover from a head injury, so I am assuming Palmer sits in a winnable matchup for the Cardinals. At 1-3, they can’t afford to produce a dud here. Their defense averages only 49 tackle opportunities per game, one of the lowest marks in the league. Against a 49ers offense that ranks among the league’s bottom-dwellers in terms of offensive snaps per game, the smart play here is to sit your Cardinals.


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.