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 5 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.
Let the bye week gauntlet commence! The ingenuity and patience of fantasy owners will be tested over the coming weeks as the standard war of attrition of starting line-ups is further dwindled by the absence of traditional starters by the byes. The next few weeks will define your season, so it is crucial to ensure your line-up is optimized.
As you know if you have read this column before, I am a firm believer that matchups help owners do just that. Pick the right side and you’ve got yourself a winning ticket. Fantasy football is, after all, a week to week proposition.
Absentees don’t have to mean a weakened lineup. So with that in mind, let’s analyze the Week 5 action.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Philadelphia pass rushers vs. Arizona
The red-hot Eagles host the Cardinals this week in what could be a one-sided affair. You have all the typical tropes to fall back on, like a West Coast team travelling east in the early time slot – or simply the fact the Cardinals offensive line can’t pass protect to save their lives. Carson Palmer is taken a beating back there, and it should be no surprise Arizona is tied for the lead in most sacks allowed (17). The Eagles pass rush has been playing well, even if the numbers don’t quite bear that out (13.5% pressure applied). All signs point to an Eagles win and a favourable game script, so err on the side of trusting your birds.
Key stat: The Arizona offensive line is ranked 29th by Footballguys guru of the men up front Matt Bitonti, and it is a unit in flux. The Cardinals give up pressure on 21.5% of dropbacks.
Indianapolis pass rushers vs. San Francisco
The Colts impressed me on Sunday night in Seattle. Granted, they eventually crumbled and suffered what looked like an embarrassing defeat, but they showed character and really stifled the Seahawks offense. I believe we could see them do the same to the 49ers offense which, although it is evolving, still has its warts. The Colts front seven has been applying pressure on 18.9% of dropbacks, while the 49ers and their 40.3 dropbacks per game have seen them yield plenty of pressure (18.0%). This should be a recipe for success if the Jacoby Brissett magic can establish an Indianapolis lead and a game script conducive to rushing the passer.
Key stat: The Colts rank second in the league with 28 quarterback hits; they may not always be getting to the passer, but that all adds up. Meanwhile, the 49ers have allowed 7.3 quarterback hits per game.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Jacksonville front seven at Pittsburgh
You don’t get much joy rushing the passer against Pittsburgh. A consistent offensive line that ranks 8th in Matt Bitonti’s list this week should keep the impressive Jaguars front seven under wraps. The Steelers surrender pressure on just 12.2% of dropbacks, and a varied attack from the home team should be able to offset a Jaguars onslaught. Whether you believe in the home-road splits for Ben Roethlisberger, my gut tells me to trust the Steelers this week and fade your Jaguars defenders.
Key stat: The Steelers offensive line has allowed just two sacks at home this season.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Cincinnati defenders vs. Buffalo
This is a tricky one to call, but it is hard not to be in awe of what Sean McDermott has done to turn the culture around in Buffalo. The Bengals smashed the lowly Browns last week, but that was Cleveland. In their other three games the Bengals have been disappointing, and who is to say the Bills can’t make them look bad here? Cincinnati’s home stat crew ranks 9th best at 1.205 TVO factor, so that, combined with the Bills’ propensity to run the football, should see a glut of tackle opportunity for the Bengals.
Key stat: Buffalo run the ball on 51.1% of their offensive plays, while the league average sits at 41.2%. Ground and pound yields big tackle opportunity.
Dallas defenders vs. Green Bay
The Packers offense hasn’t exactly been humming yet this season, but they are doing more than enough to keep defenses off balance. Eventually their offensive line woes may come back to haunt them (Matt Bitonti has them ranked 31st in his list) but Aaron Rodgers has a way of making subpar line play look great. Green Bay allows 50.5 tackle opportunities per game, while Dallas’ defense averages 53.3 tackle opportunities. On these numbers alone, it seems like a potentially big day for the primary Cowboys IDP options.
Key stat: The TVO factor for Jerryworld makes this a reasonable matchup in terms of tackle opportunity; the stadium ranks 18th in the league.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Oakland defenders vs. Baltimore
Baltimore’s offense has allowed 50.3 tackle opportunities per game, but it is hard to trust them. In order to keep the Raiders IDP options viable here, the Ravens would need to hang tight and stay close in this game. The fact that Derek Carr will miss the game certainly helps, but I still have trouble placing my faith in Joe Flacco and this unit. Fade your Raiders defenders if you have better options available.
Key stat: If there is a saving grace here, it is that the Raiders’ home stat crew ranks as the 10th best in terms of TVO factor.
Miami and Tennessee defenders
This could be an ugly game marred by poor quarterback play and broken dreams. Well, as long as Jay Cutler ‘executes his assignment’ as he did on the wildcat play last week, we should be okay… right? Maybe not, and my recommendation here is to assume we see plenty of punts and few sustained drives. Marcus Mariota won’t play, so Matt Cassel will take the controls. This will more than likely mean a steady dose of the ground game, but a salty Miami defense won’t be welcoming after the drubbing in London. Avoid this one if you can.
Key stat: The Dolphins’ home turf ranks 31st among home stat crews and is another reason to steer clear of this matchup.
Best of luck with Week 5 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.