Which individual defensive players have the best matchups in Week 1 of the NFL season? You have no idea how much time I have spent stressing over that question. I have half a dozen IDP teams I have to set lineups in, and there are some attractive options available on the waiver wires, too, who have favorable matchups in Week 1. I present to you the week 1 edition of 2023 IDP Football Week 1 Matchups.
In IDP, talent trumps matchups most of the time. You could stick with a couple of talented players and start them every week and do pretty well. You should never bench a star just because a mediocre player faces a poor-quality offense.
Nonetheless, there are situations when you will have multiple players of equal or similar value on your team, and you will have a tough decision about who to start. In that case, pay attention to my matchup rankings.I will analyze the matchups for defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. Let's start with DL because it is the most predictable.
2023 IDP Week 1 Matchups
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Defensive Line Matchups
Matchup quality seems to have the biggest impact on defensive linemen and outside linebackers. The worse offensive line a pass rusher faces, the more likely they are to make one or more sacks in a game. The characteristics of quarterbacks matter, too.
Those who hold onto the ball for longer and are unable to avoid sacks will be sacked more often, even if they aren't pressured often. For example, Deshaun Watson was sacked 27.4% of the times he was pressured last season--the second-highest of any starting quarterback--even though he was playing behind one of the best offensive lines.
Teams with the worst offensive line matchups (and best defensive line matchups) in Week 1 pic.twitter.com/zZrJyZnHhq
— Mitch Blatt NFL, IDP, and Travel (@MitchBlattNFL) September 4, 2023
Factoring the quality of offensive lines and quarterback's sack tendencies, these are the best defensive line matchups for Week 1:
Seahawks Defensive Line vs. Rams
The Rams' offensive line is the second worst in the league, according to both Pro Football Network and Sharp Football. Their inexperienced starters (the 28th-fewest combined games started) have not been together for long.
Slow and hobbled 35-year-old quarterback Matthew Stafford is extremely likely to go down to the ground when pressured. His pressure-to-sack rate last season was 27.1%, the third-highest and just 0.3 points fewer than Watson's.
Best Play: Seahawks Outside Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu
Saints Defensive Line vs. Titans
The Titans offensive line is the least-experienced, second-youngest, and single-worst offensive line in almost everyone's ratings. They are forced to start Daniel Brunskill at right guard, who graded below 70 for each of the past three seasons and allowed 11 sacks in his four-year career.
They're also banking on a quick learning curve for rookie eleventh-overall pick Peter Skoronski at left guard. Fellow first-round pick (2019) Andre Dillard will be playing tackle. He never developed, and the Eagles benched him and then let him go. He'll be trying to make a fresh start. Maybe one of the three will hit, but not all three.
Best Play: Saints LDE Cameron Jordan
Quality Play: RDE Carl Granderson
Outside the Box Play: MLB Demario Davis
Although he plays middle linebacker, Davis rushes the passer often, and he has been involved in five or more sacks a year in six of the past seasons.
Browns Defensive Line vs. Bengals
Joe Burrow is 1-4 against the Browns, and some people treat that matchup as a mystery or a random spate of bad luck, but it's not so mysterious if you consider Burrow has been sacked 18.0 times by the Browns' ferocious defense, more than by any other team.
That's 3.6 sacks per game. If your quarterback is going down that often, it's no wonder they have a hard time winning. Eleven of those sacks are credited to DPOY contender Myles Garrett.
Myles Garret hit ‘em with the spin before sacking Joe Burrow ?
— The Athletic NFL (@TheAthleticNFL) November 1, 2022
Must Start: Browns DE Myles Garrett
Quality Play: Browns DE Za'Darius Smith
It's harder to define what makes a good linebacker matchup because there are so many different kinds of linebackers. Some excel in pass coverage. Some blitz. Whatever else they do, linebackers have to prowl the field and stop running backs.
What you are mostly looking for with linebackers is a high tackle number--ideally double digits. Some linebackers like Foye Oluokun and Roquan Smith are set-it-and-forget-it. Oluokun will come close to making ten or more tackles in every game against any opponent.
But if you're stuck with a lower-tier linebacker at your LB2 or LB3 spot, you should target linebackers who face teams that run a lot of total plays, especially those teams with a lot of running plays.
Once we get into Week 8 or so, we can look at the average plays per game of each team, but for now, we will have to look at the tendencies of coaches and make educated guesses.
Carolina Panthers Linebackers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Last season, the Falcons were one of the most run-heavy teams in the league despite trailing in most of their games and starting a rookie fifth-rounder at running back. This year, the Falcons picked Bijan Robinson as No. 8 overall. They are coached by Arthur Smith, who presided over the best years of Derrick Henry's career as Titans offensive coordinator. You do the math. We know the Falcons are going to run the ball a lot in Week 1. Frankie Luvu and Shaq Thompson will be called upon to make a lot of stops. One possible problem? If Bijan is too difficult to bring down, and they miss tackles.
The NFL opener is one week away, so naturally @benjaminsolak and I answered the question on everyone's minds....
WHY ARE NFL NERDS SO OBSESSED WITH PANTHERS LB FRANKIE LUVU?
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) August 31, 2023
Best Play: Panthers RILB Frankie Luvu
Quality Play: LILB Shaq Thompson
Miami Dolphins Linebackers vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers ran the second-most plays last season. Their new offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, likes a fast pace of play. The Cowboys ran the eighth-most plays with him calling the shots last season. This could be a high-scoring game, so the defensive players on both sides of the ball will have plenty of opportunities to make tackles.
Sleeper Play: Dolphins ILB David Long Jr
Defensive Back Matchups
Defensive back matchups are the toughest to predict. Just because a cornerback is facing a bad quarterback doesn't mean he's an automatic start. If you're banking on interceptions, you'll probably miss. Consider: there have only been six years since 1990 in which the league leader made double-digit interceptions. The record since 1990 was 11 interceptions by Trevon Diggs in 16 games in 2021. So even the best are averaging fewer than an interception a game.
You're just hoping the defensive back will get a lot of passes thrown his way and end up with a lot of tackles and pass breakups. Safeties are also better for making tackles because they clean up when a cornerback or a front seven messes up.
I'm going to look at the pace of play again, but this time with a bias toward passing plays and downfield plays where safeties will be involved.
Buffalo Bills Defensive Backs vs. New York Jets
Aaron Rodgers averages 34.4 pass attempts per game in his career in games decided by seven points or fewer. It is a good bet that the Jets vs. Bills game on Monday Night Football will be one such game. If Rodgers has to air it out to keep up with the Bills or come back, he'll do it.
Last season, the Bills played the Rodgers' Packers, and Bills safety Damar Hamlin made ten combined tackles. Hamlin is the backup safety, but he started because of an injury to Micah Hyde that caused Hyde to miss most of the season. Hyde is expected to start, but he is questionable with a back injury.
With his first snap of the 2023 regular season, Damar Hamlin will be the league’s unanimous Comeback Player of the Year.
— Built in Buffalo (@BuiltInBuffalo_) September 8, 2023
Start if Healthy: Bills S Micah Hyde
Quality Starts: S Jordan Poyer
Potential Start if Hyde Misses: S Damar Hamlin
New York Giants Defensive Backs vs. Dallas Cowboys
This heated divisional rivalry could become a high-scoring slugfest. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy takes over playcalling duties in Dallas. He always presided over high-scoring offenses when he was calling plays in Green Bay.
Giants safety Xavier McKinney averaged five combined tackles a game last season but missed half the year. He does well against the Cowboys. In his four career games against the NFC East foes, he has averaged 5.75 tackles per game and made one interception and two pass defenses.
Xavier McKinney In 2021:
10 Pass Defenses
93 Total Tackles
72.2 Passer Rating Allowed
Don’t Forget How Valuable Xavier McKinney Is‼️❌❌❌ pic.twitter.com/dZ7e2JkJbN
— ??????????? (@DimesJayy) August 31, 2023
Best Play: Giants FS Xavier McKinney
Sleeper Play: SS Jason Pinnock
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