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 7 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.
Above all else, I think the most useful attribute for any fantasy owner to possess is adaptability. Injuries are inevitable in a league predicated on knocking opponents’ heads off on a down by down basis. Being able to assess the impacts (from a fantasy perspective) separates the good owners from those who will be crying into their last-placed trophy at the end of the season.
We have a six-week sample size of data to trawl through, and with it we can more accurately target matchups. However, I would urge you to remain as nimble as possible when it comes to line-up decisions. A trend that was once viable and rooted in data can turn on its head in a moment.
Let’s do a deep dive on the tasty Week 7 slate of games.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Jacksonville pass rushers at Indianapolis
The Jaguars have been on a strange path of seesaw games this season; every odd week is a rousing success, while the even weeks have seen them fall, sometimes to inferior opponents. As this is an odd week, should we simply expect a bounce back? The short answer is yes, and it all comes down to the opponent. The Colts line has been a sieve this season and rank as the worst unit in terms of surrendering pressure. Jacoby Brissett can inject some life into the offense, but teams seem to figure the Colts out by the fourth quarter. The Jaguars have a key opportunity to parlay their revamped defense into a division win here. Trust them to deliver on this, an odd week.
Key stat: The Colts offensive line has allowed pressure on 23.5% of dropbacks and gives up 7.8 quarterback hits per game.
New York Giants pass rushers vs. Seattle
One bye week will not erase the shambles of offensive line play that we witnessed from Seattle over the first five games. Pressure is their calling card, and as long as Rees Odhiambo is your left tackle, you’re asking for problems. The Giants showed some much-needed vigour against the Broncos on Sunday night, and will hope to carry that forward at home this week. The New York defense has the pieces to cause Seattle serious problems, and Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz packages can flummox even the most experienced quarterbacks. I expect a strong outing from the Giants defense, so err on the side of starting their key IDPs.
Key stat: Seattle’s line gives up pressure on 22.9% of dropbacks, while the New York Giants have pressure quarterbacks on only 10.5% of dropbacks. New York’s fortunes may change this week, though.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Kansas City pass rushers at Oakland
The Chiefs have the ability to beat any team on their day – except the Steelers, it appears. Nonetheless, their defense boasts some truly game-changing players and their hackles will be up for this divisional rivalry. Oakland, a desperate team at this early stage, will know that nothing less than a win will do. A strong offensive line is a good first step to achieve that goal, and the Raiders have been their usual selves in stoning opposing pass rushers. The Chiefs front seven has pressured quarterbacks on 14.7% of dropbacks, a little below league average. I recommend benching your Chiefs defenders if you can.
Key stat: Despite some hiccups in recent weeks with the offense as a whole, the Raiders offensive line is still stingy with giving up pressure. Derek Carr (and E.J. Manuel) has been pressured on just 8.7% of dropbacks, the league’s lowest mark.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Los Angeles Chargers and Denver defenders
The Chargers and Broncos are teams going in opposite directions on paper, but none of that ultimately matters when we look at things under the IDP microscope. A passing attack that will be without Emmanuel Sanders will force the Broncos to a run-heavy approach, while the Chargers seem intent on riding Melvin Gordon III into the ground. The stat crew is generous, so it should make for a fruitful day if you own players like Jatavis Brown and Brandon Marshall. This should be a tight game, so neither team will move off script too much. Expect big opportunities for IDP production.
Key stat: It may not be a ‘home sweet home’ yet for the Chargers, but the StubHub Center stat crew is certainly sweet to IDP fantasy owners. The crew ranks second in the league with a TVO of 1.277, so expect plenty of points here.
Cincinnati defenders vs. Pittsburgh
In reality, both teams’ key IDP assets should be able to feast here. The Bengals offense showed signs of life after a dismal start, with Bill Lazor playing to their strengths more than his predecessor. The Steelers, meanwhile, are committed to pounding the ball with Le’Veon Bell, so expect plenty of tackle opportunity for the visitors. The Bengals have faced an average of 27 rush attempts per game. I would bump that up to 30-35 if the Steelers get their way.
Key stat: The home stat crew in Heinz Field ranks third in the league with a TVO factor of 1.261, while the Steelers offense allows 50.7 tackle opportunities per game.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Carolina defenders vs. Chicago
The Panthers come off a 10-day mini bye week and face the Bears in what should be a fascinating clash. The Bears have a good average number for tackle opportunities allowed (52.2), but much of this is due to the offense playing from behind. The insertion of Mitchell Trubisky into the line-up should see a decline in that total as well. The Panthers may struggle to defend the run as effectively if, as expected, Luke Kuechly doesn’t play, but they have enough to stymie the Bears. The best bet here is to fade your Panthers if possible.
Key stat: With a TVO factor of just 1.014, the stat crew at Soldier Field ranks second to last and is one to avoid for tackle matchups.
Miami and New York Jets defenders
The AFC East tug-of-war continues as the Jets face the Dolphins. The home team is averaging a measly 46.4 tackle opportunities allowed per game, while the Jets defense sees 51.2 per game. This has all the makings of a close to the vest poker game where nobody really knows how it is going to end. The TVO factor (explained below) tips this into the ‘avoid’ bucket.
Key stat: Miami’s home stat crew ranks 27th in TVO factor at 1.059 and should be avoided if you are planning to start any IDP assets.
Best of luck with Week 7 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.