IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 8

Dave Larkin breaks down 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 eighth 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.

The regular season continues to ebb away like the tides, but even if you’re stranded on the beach there is still time to make some waves. Wow, I must really have holidays on the brain or something. Sandy beach metaphors aside, there is no excuse not to give the home stretch your all.

Matchups are becoming more predictable as we collate more data, although there are still going to be the outliers that throw us for a loop. One tool that is especially useful in breaking ties with your line-up decisions is the terrific stat crew breakdown in Aaron Rudnicki’s spreadsheet. Jene Bramel and John Norton touched on this in last week’s IDP Roundtable podcast, namely how stat crews can affect solo versus assist awards.

Identifying the stadiums where tackles are doled out like eggs at Easter can really tip the balance for your team. There are plenty of fascinating matchups to get into this week, and with six teams on bye we will need every nugget we can get.


 

Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Minnesota front seven at Chicago

The Bears generally haven’t been too bad at protecting the passer, with their offense relying on a committed ground game and play action passes with quick releases. The switch back to Jay Cutler probably won’t see a shift away how the team operated under Brian Hoyer, but there is no nice way to sugar coat this Vikings matchup. A riled-up Minnesota defense, which has generated pressure on 16.6% of opponent dropbacks and has racked up 6.8 quarterback hits per game, will be eager to put their debacle in Philadelphia behind them. The Bears are a top five team when it comes to pass attempts (37.3 per game), so expect a strong pass rushing effort from the road team.

Arizona front seven at Carolina

Cam Newton may not have his left tackle Michael Oher back on his blind side as it was predicted this week. The bad news then is that Mike Remmers will man the left side, with Daryl Williams at right tackle. This duo has allowed a considerable amount of pressure, and Arizona’s 15.5% pressure applied is one of the better marks in the league. The Panthers are allowing pressure on 17.8% of dropbacks and a horrid 7.3 quarterback hits. The bye may have done them some good, but this Cardinals pass rush is legitimate and will cause problems. Bet on the road team to produce the goods here and possibly bury the Panthers for 2016.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Tampa Bay front four vs. Oakland

The Raiders offensive line continues to excel in pass protection – to a ridiculous degree. To date this season they have allowed pressure on a measly 5.2% of dropbacks. Derek Carr has been an average of just twice per game. This has allowed Oakland’s offense to thrive, and Tampa Bay have been rather mediocre (13.6%) at putting pressure on the opposing passer. The home team is still missing some of its frontline players up front, so Carr should have all day back there. Fade the Bucs players in your line-up if it is pass rushing prowess you seek.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

Philadelphia defenders at Dallas

The Cowboys, fresh off a bye, welcome their bitter rivals to Jerry World in prime time. This sounds like an excellent spot for Dallas to flex their muscles and fire on all cylinders. The Eagles have faced only 21.8 rushing attempts per game, but a lot of that has come down to game scripts and the types of teams they have played. Dallas won’t shy away from shoving the ball down their throats with Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys have allowed 54.8 tackle opportunities per game – the best mark in the league – and should give the Eagles linebackers and safeties excellent chances to rack up points.

Seattle defenders at New Orleans

Just behind the Cowboys in terms of tackle opportunity allowed, unsurprisingly, is the Saints offense. Drew Brees and company make a habit of playing in comeback mode, with plenty of passing attempts and offensive plays run in general. The Seahawks defense is a stingy unit, but the Saints should be able to move the ball in the dome. The road team has faced 39.3 dropbacks per game; that sounds about right for this one, which should be close. The Seattle secondary in particular has terrific tackle upside.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Tennessee defenders at Jacksonville

This is the very definition of a stay away game. The Jaguars can’t do anything right offensively, and Blake Bortles only seems to get less convincing as the weeks go by. I expect the Titans to control this one on the ground and force Bortles into bad situations late in the game. The Jaguars offense has allowed a paltry 46 tackle opportunities per game, not enough to get us excited for production. Keep your Titans players on the bench.

Houston defenders vs. Detroit

In one of the more fascinating clashes of the week, we see a Lions team who can’t – or refuses to – run the ball against a team who has been rather generous in giving up rushing yards. Who will win? Nobody knows, quite frankly, but my recommendation here is to fade your Texans players. The Lions average only 22 rushing attempts per game, lowering the ceiling for Houston linebackers and safeties. You could see a nice outburst from the cornerback positions as Matthew Stafford peppers them with passes, but overall I would keep my distance from this one.


Best of luck with Week 8 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.