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. Each text section is 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 fourth 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 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.
If your season is flagging, it is time to crack the whip, get back on the horse or whatever other semi-Western metaphor you want to use. Conversely, don't get lazy if you’re sitting pretty atop your division.
The next 10 weeks will challenge owners' depth with teams on bye; don’t get lost in the shuffle. Make sure you have failsafe options on the bench to cover for your star players. It’s a long season, but we've got all the angles covered for you here at Footballguys.com.
So without further ado, let’s get to the best and worst matchups of Week 4.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Washington front seven vs. New York Giants
After a heartbreaker on the road in Philadelphia, the Redskins return home to host a newly invigorated Giants team. You get the sense that Tom Coughlin's offense is beginning to get the hang of the newly installed Ben McAdoo scheme – but the offensive line still has its weaknesses. Thus far, the Redskins have managed to apply pressure on a startling 23.8% of opponent dropbacks. Granted, the 10-sack outing against the Jaguars is an outlier and inflates the number, but the play up front from the likes of Ryan Kerrigan, Chris Baker and Jason Hatcher has been solid. The Giants are giving up nearly two sacks a game and could come unstuck if their usual failings – which managed to elude them last week – rear their ugly heads again. The Skins should be able to apply good pressure under the lights of Thursday Night Football.
Kansas City front seven vs. New England
When you barely beat a frankly awful Raiders team at home you're going to be criticised. The Patriots, whether through bad protection or subpar quarterback play, seem to have lost their swagger on offense. Enter Kansas City in Arrowhead on a Monday night, coming off an impressive road win in south Florida. The Patriots offensive line has been struggling mightily to keep Brady clean this season, giving up 2.3 sacks per game and five quarterback hits. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been racking up three sacks per game and look threatening up front when the game script allows them to pin their ears back and rush. Call it a gut feeling, but this seems like a potential slip-up for the favoured Patriots; the Chiefs may be the team to expose the New England offense for the warts it has.
Pass Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Miami front seven vs. Oakland (in London)
I'm told the Queen won’t be attending this admittedly poor advert for the NFL. No matter, though; we're trawling for points, not royal endorsements. A head-scratching home loss to the previously winless Chiefs, not to mention a quarterback controversy, will not leave the Dolphins in good spirits entering this contest. With how well the Dolphins are playing up front, you would think they would pulverise Oakland, but Derek Carr has been getting rid of the ball quickly and taking very few sacks and hits. In fact, Oakland has given up pressure on only 6.4% of dropbacks. With the bad juju surrounding Miami, I have a feeling Oakland might be able to hold their own across the pond and keep Miami's pass rush at bay.
Sack Opportunity Chart
|LEAGUE AVG||Team Defense||Team Offense|
|Pressure||QB||QB||Drop Backs||Pressure||QB Sacks||QB Hits||Drop|
|2008 NFL Average||12%||2.02||4.13||34.3||12%||2.02||4.13||34.3|
|2009 NFL Average||13.3%||2.15||4.71||35.4||13.3%||2.15||4.71||35.4|
|2010 NFL Average||12.7%||2.21||4.59||35.9||12.8%||2.21||4.59||35.9|
|2011 NFL Average||13.1%||2.32||4.75||36.3||13.1%||2.32||4.75||36.3|
|2012 NFL Average||12.8%||2.29||4.75||37||12.8%||2.29||4.75||37|
|2013 NFL Average||13.5%||2.53||5.13||38||13.5%||2.53||5.13||38|
|2014 NFL Average||12.4%||2||4.57||36.9||12.4%||2||4.57||36.9|
|GREEN BAY Packers||17.2%||1.7||5.7||33||16.2%||3||6||37|
|KANSAS CITY Chiefs||13.5%||3||5||37||14.2%||3.7||5.3||37.7|
|NEW ENGLAND Patriots||11.9%||2.3||4.3||36.3||12.4%||2.3||5||40.3|
|NEW ORLEANS Saints||11%||1.3||4.3||39.3||7.5%||1||3||40|
|NEW YORK Giants||16.5%||2.3||5.7||34.3||11.4%||1.7||4||35|
|NEW YORK Jets||17.2%||3.3||7||40.7||16.2%||2.3||6||37|
|SAN DIEGO Chargers||10.1%||2.3||3.7||36.3||12%||0.7||4||33.3|
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ers||9.2%||1.3||3.3||36.3||10%||2||3.3||33.3|
|ST. LOUIS Rams||12.9%||0.3||3||23.3||15.8%||2.3||6||38|
|TAMPA BAY Buccaneers||11.6%||1.3||3.7||31.7||20.2%||2.3||6.7||33|
Tackle Matchups to Exploit
Jacksonville defenders at San Diego
It had to be done; the Jacksonville defenders have been earning their paycheques through the first three weeks as Gus Bradley's unit continue to churn out the tackles. The Jaguars average 65.7 tackle opportunities per game and continue to be worked each week as they find themselves powerless to stop any offense. The visit to sunny San Diego and the efficient Philip Rivers will not make things any easier. The Chargers have allowed 55.7 tackle opportunities per game and should control this game from start to finish. Expect more of the same from Jacksonville in the box scores.
Tampa Bay defenders at Pittsburgh
The Bucs are not far behind the Jaguars in terms of tackle opportunity (57.3 per game) and face a tough challenge this week on the road in Pittsburgh against a Steelers team that demolished the vaunted Panthers front seven. This is a gut check of the highest order for the reeling Bucs, but the Steelers line has been playing good football recently and should be able to dictate the tempo of this one. Plug in as many Bucs as you can this week – this one could get ugly fast.
Tackle Matchups to Avoid
Atlanta defenders at Minnesota
The debut of Teddy Bridgewater could throw the cat among the pigeons here, but my hunch is that the rookie may struggle in his first outing. There will be a lot on Bridgewater’s plate with the Vikings running game struggling, so expect plenty of inconsistent play and stalled drives. The Falcons may be able to benefit in the big play columns, but tackle opportunity will be difficult to come by. Through three games, Minnesota has only allowed 44.7 opportunities per game. The best play might be to sit your Falcons this week.
Tackle Opportunity Chart
|LEAGUE AVG||TEAM Defense||TEAM Offense|
|Tackle||Rush Atts||Drop Backs||Offensive||Rush||Tackle Opps||Rush||Drop||Offensive||Rush|
|2008 NFL Average||49.3||27.6||34.3||61.9||54.8%||49.3||27.6||34.3||61.9||54.8%|
|2009 NFL Average||49.9||27.4||33.3||62.9||55.1%||49.9||27.4||33.3||62.9||55.1%|
|2010 NFL Average||49.9||27.2||35.9||63.1||54.5%||49.9||27.2||35.9||63.1||54.3%|
|2011 NFL Average||50||27.3||36.3||63.6||54.5%||50||27.3||36.3||63.6||54.5%|
|2012 NFL Average||50.6||27.2||37||64.2||53.7%||50.6||27.2||37||64.2||53.7%|
|2013 NFL Average||51.3||27.1||38||65||52.8%||51.3||27.1||38||65||52.8%|
|2014 NFL Average||51.7||27.3||36.9||64.2||52.8%||51.7||27.3||36.9||64.2||52.8%|
|GREEN BAY Packers||58||37.3||33||70.3||64.4%||46||21.7||37||58.7||47.1%|
|KANSAS CITY Chiefs||50||25.7||37||62.7||51.3%||54.7||29.7||37.7||67.3||54.3%|
|NEW ENGLAND Patriots||48||26.3||36.3||62.7||54.9%||54.3||29.7||40.3||70||54.6%|
|NEW ORLEANS Saints||51||25.7||39.3||65||50.3%||57.7||29||40||69||50.3%|
|NEW YORK Giants||49||27.7||34.3||62||56.5%||53.7||30.3||35||65.3||56.5%|
|NEW YORK Jets||45.3||19.3||40.7||60||42.6%||56.3||32.3||37||69.3||57.4%|
|SAN DIEGO Chargers||44||20.3||36.3||56.7||46.2%||55.7||32.7||33.3||66||58.7%|
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ers||45.3||22.3||36.3||58.7||49.3%||51||27||33.3||60.3||52.9%|
|ST. LOUIS Rams||47.7||30.3||23.3||53.7||63.6%||54.7||27||38||65||49.4%|
|TAMPA BAY Buccaneers||57.3||32.7||31.7||64.3||57%||44||21.7||33||54.7||49.2%|
Best of luck with Week 4 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.