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 analysis 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.
You are very welcome to the Thanksgiving 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.
Depending on your league’s format, you could be staring down the barrel of your last game, or couple of games, of the fantasy regular season. If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still in the hunt, consider that a success. If you’re on the outside looking in, there’s nothing quite like playing the spoiler role.
Whatever your situation for Week 13, pinpointing the juicy match-ups to target and the stale ones to avoid will be crucial, so let’s dig in.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Los Angeles Chargers front seven vs. Cleveland
A match made in heaven may take place for appreciators of pass rush this Sunday, as the hapless Browns visit the upwardly mobile Chargers. Los Angeles’ defense has feasted the past couple of weeks, and there is no reason it can’t do the same here. Everyone wants to believe that Cleveland can stop the rot and notch a victory, but that isn’t likely to happen here. The Browns give up pressure on 20.1% of dropbacks, so expect poor DeShone Kizer to be running for his life all day.
Key stat: The Chargers’ formidable pass rush ranks fourth in the league in sacks (32) and averages 2.8 per game at home. The Browns offensive line has surrendered 3.3 sacks per game.
Jacksonville front seven vs. Indianapolis
Another match-up that could be described as ‘low hanging fruit’, but we have to them when they present themselves. This one could be ugly from the outset, as the Jaguars press home their clear advantage in the trenches. Doug Marrone’s team will be smarting from a late reversal to the Cardinals, so expect a backlash here. The Colts could prove to be a sacrificial lamb as the Jaguars re-establish their credentials as more than just an AFC afterthought.
Key stat: The Colts own the dubious honour of allowing the most sacks in the league (46), while the Jaguars have the most sacks (41). This might not end well for Jacoby Brissett, ladies and gentlemen.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Buffalo front seven vs. New England
The popular narrative last week was that the Bills defense played much better with Tyrod Taylor back in situ as quarterback. That is true to a certain extent, but the Chiefs are a flawed team right now. This one should see a swift return to earth for the Bills, whose playoff hopes are well and truly viable in a watered-down AFC. My advice is not to overthink this and bench your Bills if possible.
Key stat: The Patriots surrender pressure on just 13.8% of dropbacks, while the Bills pass rush has left a lot to be desired (pressure applied on just 12.2% of dropbacks).
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
New York Giants defenders at Oakland
The Giants have rightly been panned by the media and players alike this week for their unceremonious benching of franchise stalwart Eli Manning. It felt like watching a couple break up, with one party totally oblivious as to what they had done. When the Giants visit the Black Hole on Sunday, it will be Geno Smith (really?) taking snaps. As much as people might like to think a change at quarterback could revitalise the flagging Giants’ season, I can’t see it. In fact, it could have the opposite effect and morale could dip. Fortunately for us, the TVO factor in Oakland is outstanding this season, so plugging in the likes of Landon Collins and others could yield huge dividends. The Raiders should run away with this one, with Marshawn Lynch getting fed early and often.
Key stat: Oakland is one of the stadia this year that has seen a huge bump in TVO factor compared to previous years. It ranks fourth overall with a mark of 1.222, compared to 1.080 and 1.087 in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Tampa Bay defenders at Green Bay
The Buccaneers are on their last legs this season, so this could be an excellent spot to mine for tackle production. A defense that has seen 51.9 tackle opportunities per game faces a Packers offense that looked inspired last Sunday. Brett Hundley may not be the abject passer everyone thought he was. Moreover, the Packers are playing for their lives, with the hope that Aaron Rodgers can return in Week 15. This should be a win for Green Bay, so the game script could be very favourable for the Bucs defenders.
Key stat: Lambeau Field ranks 11th in TVO factor, not a terrible mark and definitely worthy of consideration in this match-up.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
San Francisco and Chicago defenders
The smart play here appears to be to rely on San Francisco’s defenders, but the TVO factor makes this one to avoid at all costs. It is hard to ignore the 49ers have had 55 tackle opportunities per game, while the Bears’ rush percentage stands at 46.3%, one of the highest marks in the league – but ignore it. This could be ugly from minute one. My advice is to avoid mining for production here.
Key stat: Soldier Field ranks second to last in the league in TVO factor (1.023), so in other words it is where tackle production goes to die.
Los Angeles Rams and Arizona defenders
On paper, this looks like a favourable match-up for the Cardinals against a high-flying Rams offense. It could end up being a decent day if you own any Arizona defenders, but not a day you can rely on. TVO factor really turns me off this one; if you decide to start any defenders in this game, be ready for a letdown.
Key stat: Arizona ranks 29th in TVO factor at 1.044 and should be avoided for your IDPs.
Best of luck with Week 13 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.