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IDP TUTORIAL: Lesson 8 – Playing the Matchups

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far in the Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Tutorial over the past several weeks here at Fantasy Sharks. We started with
Knowing Your Scoring
and
Basic IDP Draft Strategies
, moved on to discuss
Defensive Linemen
,
Linebackers
and
Defensive Backs
, and then moved onto more advanced concepts such as
Defensive Schemes
and
How Scorekeepers Affect IDP Scoring
.

In short, we’ve provided IDP owners with all the tools they need to draft a fantasy team that should be able to more than hold its own, at least on the defensive side of the ball.

However, drafting a solid team is only the beginning of a championship run in fantasy football. In fact, having the “best” draft in your IDP league will win you a fat bag of nothing.

There’s still a whole season of games to be played and important decisions to be made. The first of those decisions comes in the days leading up to Week 1, when it’s time to go about the business of setting your lineup for your first matchup of the season.

That’s an important word … matchup. Taking advantage of the right ones in the NFL can go a long way towards determining whether or not you’ll win yours in fantasy football.

Sure, matchups play a significant role on the offensive side of the ball, but in IDP they’re even more important. Outside the so-called “studs,” a great many individual defensive players are “matchup dependent.” In other words, they excel in good matchups and often struggle in bad ones.

There are a number of factors that go into determining what constitutes a favorable (or rotten) matchup.

The first is the tackle opportunities that a team will see in a given week. After all, tackles are the bread and butter of IDP production. They’re the most consistent source of fantasy points, and generally speaking, it’s the easiest factor to predict in a given game.

However, even here the predictors are “split,” as one has to consider not only how many tackle opportunities a team usually generates in a game, but also how many such opportunities their opponent allows per week.

To get a feel for what I’m talking about, let’s look at the Top 5 teams in the NFL in terms of tackle opportunities last year from Weeks 1-16, since no one cares about Week 17 except the tinfoil-hat wearing weirdos that play their fantasy championship games that week.

(If your league does, I mean “tinfoil-hat wearing weirdos” in the nicest possible way.)

We’ll also examine the five NFL teams that generated the fewest tackle opportunities in 2012.

Tackle opportunity data courtesy of
FootballGuys
(subscription required)

Rank

Team

Tackle Opps.

Rank

Team

Tackle Opps.

1

Jacksonville

57.6

28

Chicago

47.9

2

Baltimore

56.8

29

Kansas City

48.1

3

Tennessee

55.5

30

Seattle

46.3

4

Minnesota

55.4

31

Houston

45.4

5

New Orleans

54.4

32

Pittsburgh

43.5

There’s some interesting information to be gleaned from this table. First, there was a gap of over 14 tackle opportunities per game from the “top” team to the “bottom” one. Second, the teams that accrued a lot of tackle opportunities in 2012 generally had bad defenses, while the teams towards the bottom of the league in this stat did not.

Yes, I know, there are exceptions to those rules of thumb. There always are. Exceptions have been sent by the forces of evil to slowly drive me insane. Luckily, especially with gas being so expensive, it was a short trip.

Speaking in broad terms, bad teams have a tendency to rack up above-average tackle opportunities. Their defenses can’t get off the field because the defense is porous, a poor offense keeps putting the defense back out there, or opponents often find themselves with a lead and banging away on the ground to run out the clock.

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