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 6 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.
As the wheel of time in the NFL continues its inexorable turn, you have probably figured out whether your fantasy team is a contender or a pretender. There will always be heartbreaking losses and ecstatic victories, but the picture should be clear after about six weeks.
Still, whether you're riding high or in the depths of despair, there is always room to add another win. We have accumulated five weeks’ worth of data on the key trends in the IDP landscape. So without further ado, let us dive into the Week 6 schedule.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Los Angeles Rams front seven at Jacksonville
The Rams boast one of the finest defensive units in the league and have really blossomed under the tutelage of veteran defensive mastermind Wade Phillips. The unit’s doggedness will be tested this week against a run-heavy Jacksonville team who will be on cloud nine after beating Pittsburgh. The Jaguars offense is an interesting case, as they basically go about their game plan – if it works – to limit the quarterback’s involvement at all costs. When Blake Bortles is your signal caller, you can hardly blame them, but the fact remains that they have averaged a league-low 28.4 dropbacks per game. The key thing here is for the Rams to contain Leonard Fournette and tilt the game script their way. If that happens, we could see a series of big plays by the Rams and plenty of pass rushing opportunities.
Key stat: The LA Rams have applied pressure on 20.1% of opponent dropbacks and have recorded an average of three sacks and seven quarterback hits per game.
Tennessee front seven vs. Indianapolis
Uncertainty reigns over whether Marcus Mariota will make his return on Monday Night Football, as the Titans will be praying they don’t have to witness Matt Cassel play quarterback again. If, indeed, that’s what you would call the abomination we witnessed in Miami last week. The Titans aren’t exactly a premiere pass rushing team – their pressure applied metric sits at just 13.6% - but their opponent Indianapolis gives up pressure for fun. Jacoby Brissett has been hit an average of 8.6 times per game, and the Titans front seven should be licking their chops to get after a weak unit. The fact this is at home and on primetime helps Tennessee’s cause. Rely on your Titans this week.
Key stat: The Colts offensive line is allowing pressure on a staggering 26.1% of dropbacks. The return of center Ryan Kelly will certainly help make this unit more cohesive, but Jacoby Brissett has been running for his life.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Oakland front seven vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Raiders, touted by many as a trendy team entering the season, have been anything but through five weeks. The likely return of star quarterback Derek Carr should help their cause this week, but the defense still can’t consistently get to the passer. Applying pressure on just 14.6% of dropbacks, they will need to step up their game to get heat on Philip Rivers. The Chargers know the importance of this game as far as staying alive; at 2-4, they are not out of the race, but 1-5 would surely be a death knell for their season. Fade your Raiders if possible.
Key stat: Our offensive line guru Matt Bitonti has the Chargers in the bottom tier of offensive lines, but the unit has given up pressure on just 11.5% of dropbacks.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
San Francisco defenders at Washington
Predictably, a maturing 49ers defense has really been racking up the tackle opportunities; with 56 per week, they comfortably lead the league in this category. The Redskins will be eager to pick up the momentum from their narrow loss to Kansas City and establish the run against a team that has faced 30 rush attempts per game. With the TVO also a positive factor for this game (see below), the 49ers defenders should have a field day from a fantasy perspective. Even marginal players like Ray-Ray Armstrong have excellent upside.
Key stat: The Redskins home stat crew is one of the most generous in the league, with a TVO factor of 1.242 ranking 6th in the charts. Both Washington and San Francisco defenders make excellent plays this week.
Philadelphia and Carolina defenders
The Thursday night contest sees a clash of two 4-1 teams on the rise in what should be a barnburner. The good news from an IDP perspective is that the Carolina home stat crew is a generous bunch; tackles and assists should be in plentiful supply. Both offenses have been humming of late and this could end up being a back and forth affair with plenty of points scored. However it turns out, expect to see plenty of production from all your Panthers and Eagles assets.
Key stat: The Bank of America Stadium stat crew in Charlotte ranks 4th in the league with a TVO factor of 1.257, while the two offenses are among the best in tackle opportunities allowed.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Pittsburgh and Kansas City defenders
The marquee late afternoon game on Sunday should tell us a lot about these teams. Most people would predict an offensive shootout here, but I’m leaning towards more of an old-school battle. Regardless of how the game unfolds, it will be tricky for the IDP assets to get much joy on the stat sheet with a low TVO factor. The Chiefs offense is allowing 54.4 tackle opportunities per game, while Pittsburgh is up at 50.2 If I had to side with one team’s players here, it would be Pittsburgh’s.
Key stat: The Chiefs’ home stat crew is notoriously stingy with the TVO factor and ranks 30th in the league in this category. Err on the side of benching your Chiefs and Steelers key assets if possible.
New York Giants and Denver defenders
The Giants are on a collision course with the first pick in the NFL Draft if things carry on down this path. Things will not get any easier this week in Denver, where the well-rested Broncos will be ready to meet them and their depleted wide receiver corps. While it may be a great game to exploit for pass rushing opportunities against the Giants offensive line, tackle production will be hard to come by. Fade your Broncos and Giants if you have better options.
Key stat: With a 1.064 TVO factor, Mile High ranks among the worst venues for tackle production for IDP assets.
Best of luck with Week 6 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.