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 seventh 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.
By now, whether you play redraft or dynasty, you probably know in your heart of hearts what the fate of your team will be. There are always the exceptions when teams can come back from the brink and put together a run, but you have to be true to yourself when evaluating. Sometimes it’s not good and you need to make wholesale changes; sometimes it’s simply a tweak or two.
No matter what your position is in your league, no matter what your record is, stay the course. I have seen so many quality owners fall foul of a late season slump behind lazy management, while conversely the also-rans become major players in the end-of-season playoff hunt.
Stay alive and you never know what might happen. We are into the meat of the season now, when you can really start to make that run. Without further ado, let’s dive into the Week 7 matchups.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Minnesota pass rushers at Philadelphia
The Eagles made an important shift on their offensive line last week, moving ‘Big V’ to right tackle after the loss of Lane Johnson. The suspended Johnson’s absence was felt, as ‘Big V’ struggled mightily against Washington. Carson Wentz looked mortal as a result – and the rookie faces the biggest test of his young career this week. The Vikings pass rush is ferocious and has made mince meat of opposing quarterbacks. It isn’t even just the pass rush; the coverage is sticky, allowing the rushers to get home more often than not. With a dearth of playmakers outside the numbers, the Eagles will have trouble picking their spots to attack. Off a bye, Mike Zimmer’s team should have a lot planned for the rookie, so expect fireworks in Philly.
Denver pass rushers vs. Houston
You might call this one a lay-up, and you wouldn’t be wrong – but why mess with a good matchup? The Broncos will be salty after a Thursday night loss, but with 11 days to prepare for the Texans they should fancy their chances. The narrative of Osweiler returning to Denver adds a bit of spice, and the Broncos pass rushers should have a bead on what the errant passer likes – and what he doesn’t. The tape doesn’t lie: Osweiler is leaving a lot to be desired with his play. Expect Denver’s crowd to get into it on Monday night and create havoc.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Los Angeles pass rushers vs. New York (in London)
Call this one a hunch, but moving games across the pond can really affect teams. If you’re the Rams, taking the flight across eight time zones can’t be easy. The Giants have surrendered quite a bit of pressure as Eli Manning struggled, but last week they seemed to turn a slight corner. It may not be the end of their woes, but it was a step in the right direction. The Giants’ quick passing attack should be able to offset the pass rush; Manning has one of the fastest snap to pass numbers in the league. This may be a long shot, but I would be limiting my expectations for Rams players this week.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Miami defenders vs. Buffalo
The Bills may not rank among the best teams when it comes to tackle opportunity allowed, but their volume of rushes should warrant serious consideration in this matchup. They totalled over 300 yards on the ground against San Francisco, and could do the same to their division rivals. The Dolphins should be hailed for their sterling effort against Pittsburgh, but the game script will be totally different this week. Can Adam Gase motivate his team to produce another performance like that one? I doubt it, and I expect Buffalo to stay hot. The Dolphins defenders should have plenty of tackle opportunity here.
Washington defenders at Detroit
The Lions offense has quietly been one of the most interesting to watch in the league in 2016. Matthew Stafford is playing at a high level and keeping all his receivers and backs in play. Washington will likely be the beneficiaries of that wide-open offensive style this week. Expect a big day from the Redskins defensive players in a game decided by a handful of points.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Green Bay defenders vs. Chicago
The Bears have been among the worst tackle opportunity allowed opponents this season, so the Packers defense should allow them to get back on track here. That will mean a shortening of the game as Aaron Rodgers and the offense do their thing. If the script unfolds as it should – which based on Green Bay’s form is no guarantee – then the Packers should roll here. It might be a good week to bench your Green Bay players if you have better options.
Cincinnati defenders vs. Cleveland
The Browns offense has shown signs of life every week, and certainly there is an extra bit of intrigue to this encounter with Hue Jackson’s return to Cincinnati. However, when it comes down to it we’re talking about the Browns. The likelihood of their offense being viable for an entire game – and making the Bengals defensive players studs this week – is very low. The smart play here is to eschew your Cincinnati defenders in what is a poor matchup.
Best of luck with Week 7 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 email@example.com, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.