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 8 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.
The bye week gauntlet continues at pace this week, forcing owners to reach into the depths of their IDP knowledge to even field a line-up. Navigating the treacherous seas of the bye weeks can make or break a season; let’s make sure you readers end up in the former category.
Let’s do a deep dive on the tasty Week 8 slate of games.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Cincinnati pass rushers vs. Indianapolis
The Bengals may have been embarrassed by their division rival Pittsburgh last week, but that doesn’t mean they are out of the running – especially with opponents like Indianapolis. The Colts are a hot mess up front, giving up hits and hurries like they are going out of fashion. The news that quarterback Andrew Luck will likely not return this season will have only served to take more air out of what is already a fragile balloon still keeping their season afloat. The Bengals haven’t exactly been world beaters with a pressure applied number of 16.6%, but this matchup is the one to cure all woes.
Key stat: The Colts allow pressure on 27.1% of dropbacks, with four sacks and 9.6 quarterback hits per game. It is not a pretty picture for Jacoby Brissett and this offense.
Minnesota pass rushers vs. Cleveland (in London)
Strange things happen in London. Teams who should lose seemingly summon up unbelievable performances, while favorites are often bamboozled by the British air (or something like that, anyway). I can’t see the Vikings falling foul of any such hoodoo, not when it is Cleveland on the other side. Minnesota has surprisingly only applied pressure on 14.7% of dropbacks, but this matchup should be a tasty one with Joe Thomas now out for the year. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer may struggle against Mike Zimmer’s various double-A gap blitz looks, so expect a big day for your Vikings defenders.
Key stat: London, Paris, Berlin, it doesn’t matter where this game is played; the Browns will still be a shambles. Cleveland has lost stalwart left tackle Joe Thomas for the season, so expect that 18.8% pressure-allowed number to skyrocket.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Chicago pass rushers at New Orleans
The Bears aren’t who we thought they were. Under John Fox, they have turned into a tough out, as the Panthers will attest to. A talented secondary will perhaps give Drew Brees something to think about, but I can’t see the wily veteran being put off for too long. The Bears pass rush averages three sacks per game, but the Saints are stingy up front and will remain balanced. I would suggest benching your Bears this week, or at least capping expectations.
Key stat: The Saints offensive line is coming together nicely, with the return of Terron Armstead stabilizing the unit. Drew Brees has only been pressured on 10.6% of dropbacks, one of the lowest marks in the league.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Seattle and Houston defenders
This one should be what the analysts might call a barnburner. DeShaun Watson has played in big games, but he has never experienced intimidating cacophony that assaults the eardrums like a Seahawks game. With a generous stat crew and the likelihood of a back and forth contest, expect plenty of tackle opportunity here. Neither team has an especially outstanding offensive line, so both sides will remain balanced. The Texans run the ball 31.2 times per game, while the Seahawks are at 26.7.
Key stat: Seattle’s home stadium has one of the more favorable TVO factors, ranking fifth in the league with 1.245.
Dallas and Washington defenders
With only two games to keep our attention in the late afternoon window, this one should be on everyone’s radar. IDP owners, in particular, should try to find ways to plug assets in this game into their lineups. A generous stat crew will provide plenty of solos and assists in what should be a fascinating divisional clash. Both offenses have been going through something of a purple patch recently, so tackle opportunity abounds.
Key stat: The Washington stat crew ranks seventh in the league with a TVO factor of 1.231.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Detroit and Pittsburgh defenders
The Lions generally bring their A-game on primetime, but a test against a red-hot Steelers team will not be easy. Regardless of how this game pans out, the best move here might be to fade your IDPs and try to exploit another matchup. The home stat crew is notoriously stingy in the Motor City.
Key stat: The Lions home stat crew is better off avoided, with a poor TVO factor of 1.054.
Baltimore and Miami defenders
Slugfest might be the best word to sum up this potentially disastrous clash on Thursday night. In fact, slugfest might be overly complimentary to these teams. A combination of a lack of offensive fluency and a home stat crew that is reluctant to give out solos and assists means this one is best avoided. And I mean like the plague, brother.
Key stat: Baltimore ranks among the worst home stat crews, with a TVO factor of 1.054. Avoid if at all possible.
Best of luck with Week 8 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.