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Andy Behrens

When bad matchups happen to nice fantasy owners

Andy Behrens
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In late October, we reviewed the end-of-season schedules for the league's top defenses. Here's a link. The purpose of that post was to assist with fantasy playoff planning, ahead of trade deadlines.

Those deadlines have obviously passed in most leagues, so it's tough to significantly overhaul your roster for the playoffs right now. But still, we're going to revisit the list of the league's stingiest defenses, just so you can feel helpless and alone.

Also, some of you might be looking ahead at potential fantasy playoff seedings, and you're positioning yourself to face an opponent whose roster is matchup-challenged.

Six NFL teams are holding their opponents below 20 points and 300 total yards per game, and one team actually limits their opponents to less than 15 points and 240 yards. Let's meet everyone:

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The Steelers have been unreasonably good. They're allowing the fewest points in the league (14.5) and the fewest total yards (235.4). In fact, the difference between Pittsburgh's D and the NFL's No. 2 defense is nearly 30 yards per game. The Steelers are the only team in the league that's giving up fewer than 3.0 yards per rush. No one has scored more than 24 points against them this season, and they've held opponents to 10 points or less five times.

Basically, if you're not a Manning, you're not going to have a good day against the Steelers. Eli and Peyton have combined for 439 yards and four TDs against Pittsburgh; everyone else struggles. So if your imaginary team is in a must-win situation, you'd rather not depend on multiple Patriots in Week 13 or Cowboys in Week 14.

And another thing about Dallas: You'll notice that in Weeks 14-16, the Cowboys face three of the best defenses in the league. They travel to Pittsburgh, then host New York and Baltimore. It's a ridiculously difficult stretch. The Giants, Browns and Redskins all face rough year-end schedules, too, but not quite like the Cowboys.

That's not to say that Dallas can't win out, of course, or that the Cowboys' skill position players will be useless for fantasy purposes. But if you're looking for three straight big games from any of them, well...good luck. The set-up is arguably most challenging for Marion Barber. Pittsburgh, New York and Baltimore happen to be the three defenses allowing the fewest fantasy points to running backs.

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