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 17 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.
For most of you, the season has concluded and you are either crying into your beer bottle as you chew on your favourite snack, or celebrating a well-deserved championship win. However, there are the few among you who have to face the inherent uncertainty and Russian roulette of fantasy unpredictability that is Week 17.
I would encourage anyone playing into Week 17 to lobby hard for your commissioner to change the playoff structure so that seasons finish up in Week 16. That said, the goal here is to dissect the matchups regardless of the week, so it is business as usual.
Let’s finish with a flourish in Week 17 as we dig in for the last time this season.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Seattle pass rushers vs. Arizona offensive line
The formula for Pete Carroll’s team is straightforward to reach the playoffs: a win and an Atlanta loss to Carolina. The visit of the Cardinals - who may well produce one last hurrah performance for the likely departing Bruce Arians - won’t be easy, especially considering their recent success in the Pacific North-West. Regardless, sometimes we must overlook narrative and instead focus on the raw numbers, and they say the Arizona line has given up pressure on 17.6% of dropbacks. Expect a strong defensive performance to prime the Seahawks here.
Key stat: The Seahawks average three sacks per game at home, compared to 2.5 per game on the road.
Pittsburgh pass rushers vs. Cleveland offensive line
The Browns will bid to prevent the notoriety that will come with becoming only the second team in history to go 0-16 when they visit Pittsburgh on Sunday. The smart money says they will fall short in that desperate attempt, and the Steelers pass rush could be a big reason why. The home team are still playing for the possibility of a No 1 seed (if the Patriots somehow slip up), so they will play their starters until it becomes obvious the goal is not achievable. Expect the Browns to bear the brunt of a fired-up Steelers pass rush.
Key stat: The Browns give up pressure on 19.7% of dropbacks, a statistic inflated by DeShone Kizer’s unwillingness to get rid of the ball in rhythm.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Tampa Bay defensive front vs. Saints offensive line
The Bucs will endeavour to dig deep against the Saints in a game that will count for nothing but pride for them. Still, they showed good heart to take the Panthers to the death last week and could shake up the NFC South championship race with a victory. The Saints may have had a few players go down through injury, but their offensive line remains strong and has given Drew Brees ample time to scan and pick apart defenses this year. The Bucs average pressure on just 14.3% of dropbacks, so I wouldn’t be expecting much from them.
Key stat: The Saints have kept Drew Brees protected this season with the running attack, surrendering pressure on just 9.9% of dropbacks.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
New York Giants and Washington defenders
In this dead rubber, the best we as IDP aficionados can hope for is plenty of tackles and assists in a fast-paced encounter. It is unlikely this comes to pass, but one can always hope. The Giants may well turn to Davis Webb in the closing stages, but the offense should do enough to keep the Redskins’ IDP options viable. The same goes for the Giants, although that has become something of a MASH unit. This is a classic case of shutting your eyes and trusting the numbers.
Key stat: With a TVO factor of 1.329, the Giants’ home stadium ranks as the best in the league as regards bang for your buck with tackles and assists.
Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland defenders
The Chargers have to win this game in order to have any chance at qualifying for the playoffs, so I would expect a high tempo game plan to tire out the Raiders. Oakland showed good spirit in their clash with Philadelphia last week, so to expect them to roll over would be too far. However, there may be some lackadaisical effort in the second half from the visitors if L.A. can establish a lead. The Oakland side looks the more tempting for tackle production here, but the TVO factor makes this a must-exploit matchup.
Key stat: The StubHub Centre ranks second in the NFL in TVO factor at 1.268.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Baltimore defenders vs. Cincinnati
Though the Bengals may try to run the ball this week to end the punishment that the 2017 season has been, they won’t have much success. The Ravens stop the run as well as any team, and their IDP assets will find it difficult to produce against this putrid offense. The TVO factor is against Baltimore here; their stadium ranks 27th in the key metric. Avoid this matchup at all costs if you can afford to.
Key stat: The Bengals offense has allowed just 43.4 tackle opportunities per game to opposing defenses this year, a pitiful total compared to the league average of 49.7.
Philadelphia and Dallas defenders
This one could be a dangerous game to play IDP assets; both teams – but especially Philadelphia – might rest starters and upset the apple cart. Regardless of how the game script plays out, the risk factor is just too high here to reliably forecast production. The nail in the coffin seems to be the TVO factor, which will leave IDP owners shaking their heads.
Key stat: The Eagles’ home stadium ranks 30th in TVO factor at 1.041 and is one to steer clear of.
Best of luck with Week 17 and make sure to check back next season 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.