IDP Matchups to Exploit and Avoid: Week 9

Dave Larkin breaks down the best and worst value match-ups for IDP production in Week 9. 

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 ninth 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.

It is time to take the pulse of your fantasy team or teams. Is it in a healthy state – strong and determined – or wilting as you approach the stretch run? No matter the condition of your team right now, what matters is the final outcome. Remember, there are no style points in fantasy football; generally, it’s about whether you’re in the tournament or watching from the rim of the Toilet Bowl.

These next few weeks of action are some of the most difficult to traverse. Bye weeks tear our traditional line-ups to shreds, forcing us to resort to waiver wire additions and match-up plays. That’s where this column comes in. We have enough data to confidently predict which match-ups are set to apply the Jaws of Life to your team.

So, without further preamble, let’s analyze the Week 9 match-up list.


Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit

Miami pass rushers vs. New York Jets

The Dolphins defense is averaging 2.5 sacks per game at Hard Rock Stadium and has seemingly turned a corner. Coming off a bye, their pass rush will be champing at the bit to build on a pair of dominant displays. The Jets should provide just the match-up to accomplish that. Averaging 35 dropbacks per game, New York’s offense is lacking a consistent ground attack and their offensive line is being exploited to the tune of pressure on 16.8% of dropbacks. Ndamukong Suh and his defensive line buddies should be able to feast here.

Philadelphia pass rushers at New York Giants

Nothing about the Giants’ pressure allowed total (7.8%) indicates that the Eagles will be able to have much success. And yet, there is something undeniably wrong with the New York offense. Before their bye week the Giants barely scraped past a lacklustre Rams team; this Eagles defense will pose a lot of problems if the offense has similar issues. In divisional games the intensity gets ratcheted up a notch or two. The Eagles pass rush is averaging 3.1 sacks per game and 6.3 hurries per game; they have a chance to really disrupt the Giants passing attack which, because of their inability to run the ball, will shut down their entire offense.

Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid

Detroit pass rushers at Minnesota

The Vikings have been a sieve on the offensive line in the past few weeks. It is notable that Minnesota’s line has only given up six sacks at home compared to 13 on the road. The home crowd will allow for better communication – and perhaps the departure of Norv Turner will change things from a protection standpoint. The Lions will not be able to muster the kind of pressure on Sam Bradford that other teams have. Although it is tempting to bet against the Vikings with their recent woes fresh in our minds, the smart play here is to look at the home/away trend and avoid Detroit players.

Tackle Matchups to Exploit

San Francisco defenders vs. New Orleans

Our ‘Stadium Tackle Factor’ metric makes this match-up an average one overall from a stat crew perspective. From a pure football and opportunity perspective, however, it could be a gold mine for the 49ers defenders. It will not surprise you to hear the Niners lead the NFL in tackle opportunity, averaging 55.9 per game. The Saints are not the same team on the road, but anything less than a victory here would be disappointing. Sean Payton will lean on Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram II (assuming he is out of the doghouse) to wear down a San Francisco defense that seems to have no answer to opposing running backs.

Buffalo defenders at Seattle

The Seahawks home stat crew is a generous bunch and our STF makes this game of the better bets of the week. It is the Buffalo side that should pique our interest, what with the Seahawks being at home and presumably able to mould the game script to their liking. The Seattle offense has its warts at the moment (49.3 tackle opp allowed per game), but it is capable to sparking into life against an undermanned Bills team.

Tackle Matchups to Avoid

Kansas City defenders vs. Jacksonville

Besides the fact that Arrowhead Stadium ranks as one of the poorer match-ups as far as STF goes, this one is a stay away because of the Jaguars. Their inept offense may get a boost this week after they fired their offensive coordinator, but Blake Bortles’ mechanics are not going to fix themselves overnight. There is a serious problem festering within this team’s DNA, and it needs to be dealt with. Until then, I cannot see their 46 tackle opportunities allowed per game average improving. Your Chiefs players are best avoided here.

Atlanta defenders at Tampa Bay

The Bucs have been quite a good match-up for tackle opportunity (allowing 53 per game), but that has been due to them trailing in most games. Thursday night games are always difficult to pin down, but I feel strongly that Atlanta will be able to do a professional job here and defeat the Bucs. There is a possibility of a late comeback igniting the Bucs and providing tackle opportunity, but the Falcons defense has improved and could stifle the home team more than most think.


Best of luck with Week 9 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.