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 Week 16 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.
This is the most exciting week in fantasy football if you’re involved in what will likely be a nervy, topsy-turvy weekend bedecked in drama, holiday cheer and big hits. More than anything, this week is for taking advantage of opportunities and making the calls that sit best with you.
Make no mistake, you will never hit on all your decisions (if you do, have you considered becoming a professional gambler or something). All you can do is use a combination of data and your gut to do what you’ve hopefully been doing all season – winning games.
Let’s make sure your season doesn’t go up in smoke at the final hurdle by dissecting the Week 16 matchups.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Baltimore pass rushers vs. Indianapolis offensive line
‘Tis the season to rush the passer if you’re a Baltimore Ravens player. No matchup will be more welcome at this time of year for the playoff-hungry Ravens than a visit from the Colts, who have surrendered pressure on 24.1% of dropbacks this season. A lot of this can be attributed to Jacoby Brissett’s unwillingness to know when a play is over, instead clinging to the ball and taking sacks. John Harbaugh’s men won’t care, though; a win here will go a long way to securing a coveted playoff berth. This one could be over before it starts.
Key stat: The Ravens have applied pressure on 17% of opponent dropbacks and rank 8th in the league in sacks with 38.
Dallas pass rushers vs. Seattle offensive line
A sneaky one here in a must-win game for both teams, but Dallas’ defensive line could do a surprisingly good job of corralling the always frustrating Russell Wilson. If the Cowboys front seven has one attribute that could cause Seattle problems, it is their athleticism. No defensive player has the pace of Wilson, but Dallas’ line should be disciplined enough and quick enough to at least put him under pressure. The return of Ezekiel Elliott will always be a boost for the defense, giving them additional time to rest. Call this a hunch, but I predict a very productive day from a Cowboys front that has averaged pressure on a disappointing 15.5% of opponent dropbacks.
Key stat: The Seahawks have given up pressure on 20.3% of dropbacks this year, a statistic that should have the Cowboys’ eyes lighting up like Christmas tree lights.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Philadelphia pass rushers at Oakland
The Raiders, despite their lack of success in the win/loss column, continue to be a tricky match-up for opposing defensive lines. Derek Carr has been kept clean for most of the season; the line has allowed just 21 sacks all season, with just eight at home. The Eagles are stumbling towards the finish line a little bit defensively, so another letdown here from their vaunted pass rush wouldn’t be a shock. My advice would be to play your Eagles with caution here.
Key stat: The Raiders have given up pressure on just 7.7% of dropbacks, comfortably the lowest mark in the league.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Washington and Denver defenders
In what is a dead rubber, we could actually end up seeing an entertaining game here with plenty of tackle opportunity. Towards the end of the season, we normally see a game or two where two teams put on a show despite being out of the running for the playoffs. Expect a heavy dose of Samaje Perine and C.J. Anderson here as both teams try to set up play action passes to help out their quarterbacks. Tackle opportunity will abound, so plug in as many Redskins and Broncos as you can.
Key stat: Washington ranks fourth in the league in TVO factor at 1.234, so IDP owners will be hopeful of a Christmas miracle when it comes to tackles and assists to get them over the top.
Tampa Bay defenders at Carolina
In what many see as a one-sided match-up, the right side here is probably the Buccaneers defenders from an IDP perspective. Even so, the Bucs showed some life against Atlanta on Monday Night Football and will be keen to stub the toe of their bitter rivals. It has been a tumultuous week for the Panthers off the field with the news of the team being up for sale, so one wonders if that could be a distraction. The Panthers should be able to put that aside and get the job done, but this could end up being an unexpectedly productive game for your IDP studs.
Key stat: Bank of America Stadium ranks 6th in the league in TVO factor at 1.219, so it is a green light match-up option.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
New York Giants and Arizona defenders
A Giants vs. Cardinals game that has nothing on the line won’t excite IDP owners, and nor should it. Besides the fact the TVO factor is firmly against any production here, it appears as though the Giants might give Davis Webb a crack (if practice reports of him getting first-team reps are anything to go by), while the Cardinals will start Drew Stanton. You don’t need to be expert to know this is not fruitful turf for fantasy production.
Key stat: The Cardinals’ TVO factor at home sits at 1.040 and ranks 29th in the league; yet another venue where tackle production goes to die.
Kansas City and Miami defenders
This one could be a one-sided affair, especially if Jay Cutler shows a lack of desire to duke it out in an arms battle with Alex Smith. The Chiefs have everything to play for here; one more win and they secure a playoff berth. I expect both teams to start off motivated, with the Chiefs steadily moving out ahead of their opponents to coincide with a Cutler implosion. If it is tackle production you seek, look elsewhere.
Key stat: Arrowhead Stadium has a TVO factor of just 1.063 and is one to avoid.
Best of luck with Week 16 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.