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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 Larry Thomas. 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 two large tables 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.
Before we get to the hard data and matchup analysis, a quick explanation of the metrics we're using will probably be helpful. This column will be broken up into two primary sections - pass rushing matchups to exploit/avoid and tackle matchups to exploit/avoid. Beginning in Week 2, each text section will be followed by a table listing the relevant statistics and metrics driving our matchup decisions.
The pass rushing matchup table will include weekly averages of sacks, adjusted averages of sacks and quarterback hits and pass attempts faced. It will also have a column titled Pressure Applied, a metric we're introducing to show how often a team defense is generating pressure on the opposing quarterback. We'll be calculating Pressure Applied by dividing each team defense's sacks and quarterback hits by its total pass attempts faced. The same set of data will be provided and Pressure Allowed calculated for each team offense, to show which offenses are allowing pressure on their quarterback most often.
The tackle matchup table will include weekly averages of both rush and pass attempts faced, total offensive snaps faced and the percentage of rush vs pass attempts faced. It will also have a column titled Tackle Opportunity, a metric we introduced in mid-2007 to show how many plays a defense faced that could have ended in a solo tackle. We'll be calculating each team's Tackle Opportunity by adding all rush attempts, pass completions and sacks - the three plays that can end in a solo tackle outside of special teams and turnover plays. The same set of data will be provided and Tackle Opportunity calculated for each team's offense, to show which offenses are allowing the most tackle opportunity to opposing defenses.
We'll be highlighting the Pressure Applied/Allowed and Tackle Opportunity metrics with color codes showing the best and worst pass rush and tackle matchups. Expect to see lots of “good” and “bad” matchups early, as a relatively low sample size will show a lot of teams outside the historical standard deviations we'll be using to focus on the key matchups. While sample size will be a confounding issue during the early weeks, we'll still make every effort to show where the data looks meaningful. Without getting into a long discussion of statistics, we recognize that these metrics and tables will not be as predictive and reliable early in the season. We also acknowledge the noise within a set of unofficial statistics like solo tackles and quarterback hits. As the season progresses and the standard deviations of the data fall in line with prior seasonal averages, we expect that the data tables will be increasingly more reliable and useful.
You are very welcome to the first 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 Larry Thomas 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 improve 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.
Week 1 presents a challenge in that we are operating with a blank slate. If we think of the 2014 season as a puzzle, right now we would have only the corner pieces. At the best of times, fantasy owners make educated guesses about who to start and who to bench, but the theme of this week’s article is ‘go with your gut’.
If you watched the preseason, there were definitely some valuable tidbits to stash away in your memory banks, but realise that the reality could change in an instant. Teams try new things in preseason. Coaches, like artists seeking that perfect portrait, are tinkerers by nature - but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean useful information to be deployed on the fantasy battlefield this week.
So, without further ado, let’s see where our gut takes us in Week 1.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Seattle front seven vs. Green Bay
It is finally here. The battle of the reigning Super Bowl champions and the men from Titletown should be a wonderful entrée for the feast ahead on Sunday. Seattle, to continue the food metaphor, have an extra bite in prime time in familiar surroundings, and with the Packers being forced to start rookie center JC Tretter, the visiting Pack could be in for a tough night. The Seahawks, meanwhile, haven't lost any irreplaceable pass rushers and look as strong as last season when they applied pressure on 18.7% of opponent dropbacks at home. Bet on that trend continuing in what should be an opening day victory for the champions.
Denver front seven vs. Indianapolis
The Colts' offensive line has never been a strength, even through the Peyton Manning years. A retooled Denver front seven featuring DeMarcus Ware, a healthy Von Miller and even second-year pro Quanterus Smith, should see plenty of opportunity to rush the passer. The ground attack for Indianapolis has been anemic with Trent Richardson carrying the rock, but this feels to me like a 'catch-up mode' game for Andrew Luck’s offense. That game script should lend itself to bloated pass rush numbers for the home team in Mile High – and a great coup for their fantasy owners.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
New York Giants front four at Detroit
The Lions boasted one of the best offensive lines in pass protection in 2013 and should carry that momentum forward into this season against a Jekyll and Hyde Giants outfit under the lights on Monday Night Football. While the Giants are set to be bolstered by the returning Jason Pierre-Paul after an injury-interrupted 2013, it is hard to imagine them getting Matthew Stafford's jersey dirty very often. Mathias Kiwanuka is an underrated commodity and should post good totals against the run, but producing top notch pass rushing numbers may be hard to come by for this front four.
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Buffalo defenders at Chicago
With Nigel Bradham suspended, the Bills and Doug Marrone must shuffle the pack at linebacker. Preston Brown should step in alongside Brandon Spikes, who shone in the preseason. The Bears represented a decent matchup for opposing defenses last season under head coach Marc Trestman, and should give Buffalo all they can handle. The real question mark for the Bills surrounds EJ Manuel; if the young signal caller can sustain drives and keep his composure, the Bills defense will not have to play as many snaps. The likelihood of that happening in the pressure cooker of Soldier Field on opening day isn’t good, however. Bet on Buffalo struggling and the likes of Da’Norris Searcy, Brandon Spikes and the aforementioned Brown being the beneficiaries with plenty of tackle opportunity.
New England defenders at Miami
Bill Lazor will debut his new, up-tempo offense against bitter rival New England in scorching Miami on Sunday. We have seen examples in the past of quick-fire offenses yielding an above average tackle opportunity, turning players who would normally be average starters into one-week superstars. If the Dolphins can hang in and stick to their script offensively, Patriots defenders like Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins could be in for big outings. Miami’s normally stingy statistics crew may prevent elite numbers, but this one is worth taking a gamble on. Kyle Arrington and Patrick Chung are sneaky upside plays.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Philadelphia defenders vs. Jacksonville
The Eagles' home statistics crew is notoriously stingy with assisted tackles, even for the hometown team. Last year, there were only 7.9 assisted tackles handed out to Eagles defenders per game. In a game Chip Kelly's team should control from the outset with an up-tempo offense to outflank and outmanoeuvre the Jaguars' developing defense, the smart play is to keep your Eagles in reserve this week. Mychal Kendricks deserves a look in any starting line-up, but if you have better options don't hesitate to pull the trigger on them.
Tampa Bay defenders vs. Carolina
After an offseason of change, the Panthers' revamped offense looks ripe for the picking in Florida when they take on their division rival Tampa Bay. The Bucs boast a strong front seven led by Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David and should give Carolina's new offensive line fits. The Carolina offense, while capable, has been more down than up this preseason. Cam Newton's rib injury should limit him, so Tampa Bay will be able to key more on the run and keep the Panthers under wraps. As a result, the Bucs defense could see a below average snap count. Much like the Eagles/Jaguars contest, if you have better options make sure to plug them in.
Best of luck with Week 1 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
email@example.com, or if you prefer you can tweet me @davlar87.