Football by the Numbers: Fantasy Matchups to Seek and Avoid

These rankings are for the purposes of how many fantasy points they score. We’re trying to use season-to-date performance to predict how many fantasy points they are likely to allow this week to offensive players. If you have questions relating to matchups, feel free to ask them via Twitter @MichaelSalfino. But don’t ask me which fantasy defense to play – if that’s your biggest problem, you’re good. Generally, pick the defense that’s facing the team that’s allowed the highest sack rate and/or scored the fewest real-life points. All else is pure guess work.

This week’s highlighted matchups follow after the chart. But first a word about the categories. Only “Red Zone” is a little tricky. We’re not talking efficiency there, but rather red zone possessions allowed. Red Zone Possessions have proven over many years to be more useful in predicting future defensive performances. Plus there’s too much overlap with the TD rates we look at. RYPG is rushing yards per game. RTD/G is rushing TDs per game. PYPG is passing yards per game. PTD/G is passing TDs/per game. Obviously, yardage allowed is more reliable than touchdowns allowed for predictive purposes.

Here are the rankings. Matchup recommendations follow.

Defensive Power Rankings
Teams are sorted by cumulative rankings in all categories. Lowest total number is best; highest is worst.
Rank Team RZ RYPG RTD/G PYPG PTD/G POWER
1 Baltimore  5 3 2 5 2 17
2 Cincinnati  1 2 15 10 3 31
3 Houston  9 4 13 2 5 33
4 Pittsburgh  2 6 13 3 10 34
5 San Francisco  5 1 1 22 14 43
6 Jacksonville  4 12 15 8 14 53
7 Dallas  11 10 8 16 14 59
8 Cleveland  10 30 15 1 5 61
8 Seattle  11 14 8 18 10 61
10 Detroit  23 28 2 6 5 64
11 Atlanta  15 7 15 19 10 66
12 New Orleans  2 18 15 14 18 67
13 NY Jets  11 23 26 7 1 68
14 Washington  19 22 15 11 3 70
15 San Diego  19 19 5 4 27 74
16 Philadelphia  7 17 23 9 21 77
17 Miami  15 13 2 26 22 78
18 Tennessee  14 24 5 15 22 80
19 Minnesota  22 5 8 30 22 87
20 Chicago  23 11 8 28 18 88
21 Green Bay  15 8 5 31 30 89
22 St Louis  7 32 15 12 27 93
23 NY Giants  27 25 26 17 5 100
24 Carolina  23 27 31 13 10 104
25 Denver  27 15 8 23 32 105
26 Arizona  27 16 31 29 5 108
27 New England  32 9 15 32 22 110
28 Kansas City  19 20 24 21 27 111
29 Buffalo  23 21 29 25 14 112
29 Oakland  15 29 26 20 22 112
31 Tampa Bay  30 26 24 27 18 125
32 Indianapolis  30 31 29 24 30 144

Let’s start with the worst defensive teams as always.

Jaguars at Colts (32): Bad week to face Maurice Jones-Drew(notes). But the real question is whether you play any other Jaguars in a week with no byes. Marcedes Lewis(notes) is having a terrible year driven by poor QB play but is coming off a decent game against the Texans and should be top 10 this week versus Indy, which especially struggles with defending tight ends.

Texans at Buccaneers (31): Of course Arian Foster(notes) but Ben Tate(notes) is a top 20 back this week, too, in light of those Buccaneers rushing rankings. All the running of course hurts Matt Schaub(notes), but against the Bucs he should be comfortably in the top 12 this week. Maybe Kevin Walter(notes) sneaks into the top 35 wideouts this week assuming that the Texans don’t roll up 250-plus rushing yards.

Raiders (29) at Chargers: I don’t know if Ryan Mathews(notes) will play this week, but I doubt it so Mike Tolbert(notes) should be a top 10 back against a Raiders defense that lacks basic fundamentals versus the run. Oakland is closer to average versus the pass, but Philip Rivers(notes) should have no problems. Expect Antonio Gates(notes) to have a big day after being called “fat and slow” by an anonymous teammate.

Bills (29) at Cowboys: Big days should be expected for all Cowboys except for Dez Bryant(notes), who will have a huge quarter or maybe a quarter and a half, as always. Make sure you play Laurent Robinson(notes) (but you have to pick him up first).

Matchups to avoid:

Ravens (1) at Seahawks: Avoid Marshawn Lynch(notes) this week even off the solid effort against the Cowboys. You wisely don’t play any other Seahawks.

Steelers (4) at Bengals (2): This is the game of the week. I’ve said here all year (well, the numbers have said it, actually) that the Bengals are for real defensively. But Ben Roethlisberger(notes) did just throw for 300-plus versus the Ravens. So play him and his receivers. Rashard Mendenhall(notes) gets a downgrade but you still have to start him. Cedric Benson(notes) won’t do anything, but still play A.J. Green(notes). Avoid all other Bengals.

Texans (3) at Bucs: Wow, Texans No. 3? Even with some key injuries. Forget about Josh Freeman(notes) this week. Maybe LeGarrette Blount(notes) scores a touchdown to contribute somewhat, but the ceiling for him in Week 10 is quite low.

Patriots (27) at Jets (13): Mark Sanchez(notes) scores more fantasy points this week than Tom Brady(notes). ‘Nuff said.

Feel free to ask my any questions via Twitter @MichaelSalfino