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 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 10th edition of the IDP Matchup column here at Footballguys in the 2020 season. I have been penning this defensive diary for the past several years and I am delighted to be able to share some tidbits to help you secure a league title come December.
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. 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.
We have officially entered the beginning of double-digit weeks on the NFL calendar, and with that comes the realization that the fantasy playoffs are on the horizon. Fine-tuning our line-ups, not just for this week but for the long run, will be crucial in edging opponents in tight races for postseason berths. With the data at our disposal thanks to the match-up spreadsheet, we can more accurately project and target match-ups and get a leg up on our opponents during this stretch run.
Without further ado, let’s kick off with this week’s matchups.
Pass Rushing Match-ups to Exploit
Pittsburgh pass rushers vs. Cincinnati offensive line
Picking the Steelers is almost too easy every week, but not recommending them would be a dereliction of duty for this column. Their blistering pace of applying pressure on 27% of opponent dropbacks is unheard of over the past few seasons, with the average standing at 14.9%. The match-up this week is a good one despite Cincinnati’s glimpse of competence on the offensive line in their previous outing. The pattern with the Bengals has been clear – one of Joe Burrow under constant duress – and we should not change our opinions based on one data point.
The Bengals line has allowed 3.5 sacks and 8.3 hits on average as Burrow drops back an average of 44.9 times per game. Listed as 7.5-point underdogs on the road, the Bengals are in a tough spot and, even if Ben Roethlisberger does not play, will struggle to move the ball consistently. The numbers all point to a Pittsburgh rout; make sure you get a piece.
Key stat: The Steelers lead the league in sack percentage at 10.7%. That shoots up to 13.9% at home.
New Orleans pass rushers vs. San Francisco offensive line
Our resident offensive line guru Matt Bitonti has the 49ers’ unit ranked 24th in the league, a fair reflection of their general level of play. Having dispatched the Bucs, with an offensive line that was vaunted prior to last week, the Saints pass rush should be able to capitalize in the Superdome this week. The Saints have averaged pressure on 17% of dropbacks with 2.8 sacks per game – not elite numbers, but strong.
The pressure numbers for San Francisco say they are allowing pressure on 21% of dropbacks, a number that could skyrocket if the game script goes south on them. Vegas has them as 9.5-point underdogs, and with Nick Mullens at quarterback, there could be ample opportunities for the Saints to gobble up some big plays and create turnovers. This is a prime match-up, so try to slip in a Saints player or two into your line-up.
Key stat: The Saints have recorded eight sacks over the past two games.
Pass Rushing Match-ups to Avoid
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