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 sixth 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.
With five weeks of data behind us, we can safely bank on certain trends to continue, while others will prove themselves to be mirages. Crunching the numbers can be an enlightening exercise in determining fantasy value and matchups to target, but at times we have to rely on our instincts as well.
Perspective is everything at this point in the fantasy football calendar. If you have clarity on players’ potential and you believe they can turn their fortunes around, stick with them. Trust me, there is nothing worse than jumping ship too early on a player you were bullish about, while all around you poked fun.
No matter your record, there is still work to be done. You have only laid the building blocks of your season – the foundation – but now comes the hard part. The grind of the season never stops, so without further ado let us examine the Week 6 matchups so we can continue our winning ways – or get back on track.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Houston pass rushers vs. Indianapolis
The battered and bruised Andrew Luck has absorbed a staggering 40 quarterback hits this season in just five games as the hits keep on coming. To his credit, his toughness has stood out. So, too, has his mental strength; to play behind a patchwork line and still keep firing is admirable. Their division rivals Houston lost J.J. Watt, removing the crucial cog from their defense, but this unit is bringing the heat with an average of seven quarterback hits per game. In previous years the Texans offense would have slowed them down – and with Brock Osweiler it still might – but if this team can establish a lead it will be a long night for the Colts. Will Fuller V, DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller should do enough to allow the Texans pass rushers to feast.
Buffalo pass rushers vs. San Francisco
The Bills are averaging 3.4 sacks per game, among the best in the league. Their resurgence after a poor start has been quite something; Rex Ryan appears to be throwing the kitchen sink at offenses, and it is working. The wildcard in this game is, of course, the insertion of media pariah Colin Kaeperrnick into the starting lineup for San Francisco. My hunch is that while Kaepernick might provide a spark in Chip Kelly’s designed running schemes, he will struggle mightily when it comes to third down and pivotal situations. I have no doubt Ryan is cooking up some looks to confuse the raw passer. Lorenzo Alexander is a great plug and play as his improbable start to the season continues.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Kansas City pass rushers at Oakland
The Raiders offense is really beginning to click. There was an interesting tidbit from NFL Films guru Greg Cosell on a podcast I listened to this week. He mentioned that Oakland had run a sixth offensive lineman out on the field for roughly 20% of their snaps against the Chargers. This afforded Derek Carr additional pass protection, which he took advantage of on the long touchdown to Amari Cooper. The Raiders have allowed a league-low five sacks and hardly let pass rushers touch Carr. The Chiefs are still without their main threat off the edge in Justin Houston, but even if he were 100% it would be a tall task. Kansas City’s average sacks per game is a putrid 1.3.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Green Bay defenders vs. Dallas
In a battle of strength vs. strength, the Cowboys offensive line takes on the Packers defensive front seven. The Green Bay defense has been ridiculously stingy against the run this year, allowing only 43.8 yards per game. For reference, the next closest is Philadelphia on 74 yards per game. The message here is the Cowboys won’t find it easy, but they lead the league with 788 total rushing yards and average 157.6 yards per game. Something’s gotta give, and I am backing the Cowboys to stay true to their formula. There is no way, even if the game gets out of hand, that they put Dak Prescott in bad situations. This will be the Packers’ biggest test to date in 2016, but their front seven defenders should have their hands full to the tune of plenty of tackle production.
Cincinnati defenders at New England
The Patriots have averaged 31.8 rush attempts per game. Part of that number is taking into account that both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett started games for them, but it is their style as well. Tom Brady excelled off play action against the Browns last week, so the Patriots will continue to pound the ball against a frail Bengals front. The tape will not be kind to this Cincinnati front seven that was frequently and all too easily washed down the line of scrimmage in Dallas. The Patriots allow 54.4 tackle opportunities per game, so this is a great week to plug in your Bengals.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Pittsburgh defenders at Miami
It will not shock you to hear the Dolphins rank dead last in tackle opportunities allowed; quite simply, nothing has worked for this offense. Adam Gase looks like a lost puppy on the podium in his post-game press conferences, fumbling for words when none can explain the ineptitude he is witnessing. The Steelers have a tendency to play down to their competition, but assuming they take care of business we are looking at a long day for Miami. If the Dolphins trail early, the run game will go out the window. If you can afford to sit your Steelers this week, I would recommend it.
Arizona defenders vs. New York Jets
Miami’s division rival New York is not quite as irredeemable in terms of tackle opportunities allowed (48.8 per game), but much of that has arisen in comeback mode. Ryan Fitzpatrick will keep firing – even when it seems the odds are completely against him. The loss of Eric Decker for the season is yet another dagger to the heart of the Jets offense. Arizona got back to 2-3 last week and with 11 days to prepare for this team they should take care of business. This is a get well game for Arizona’s defense.
Best of luck with Week 6 and make sure to check back next week for more matchup analysis.
If you have any questions or tricky line-up decisions you need advice with, please drop me a line at email@example.com, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.