Football by the Numbers: Matchups to seek and avoid

These rankings are for the purpose of predicting how many fantasy points defenses will allow to offensive players this week. 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 Houston  6 4 6 2 5 23
2 Pittsburgh  1 6 6 3 11 27
3 Baltimore  10 5 6 7 1 29
4 San Francisco  3 1 1 23 13 41
5 Seattle  6 8 3 15 11 43
6 Cincinnati  3 3 23 11 5 45
7 Jacksonville  3 15 14 4 9 45
8 Dallas  10 11 6 13 13 53
9 Cleveland  9 29 14 1 3 56
10 NY Jets  10 17 23 6 2 58
11 Atlanta  14 2 6 26 13 61
12 Detroit  23 27 6 5 3 64
12 Miami  17 7 2 25 13 64
14 Philadelphia  6 14 14 12 24 70
15 Washington  20 18 20 10 5 73
16 New Orleans  2 19 14 19 20 74
17 Tennessee  20 22 3 16 18 79
18 Chicago  24 10 6 30 13 83
19 Denver  20 16 3 21 24 84
20 Green Bay  15 12 6 31 24 88
21 St Louis  10 32 20 9 20 91
22 San Diego  18 23 14 8 30 93
23 NY Giants  27 21 23 18 9 98
24 Kansas City  18 28 23 14 24 107
24 Oakland  15 25 23 20 24 107
26 New England  31 13 14 32 18 108
27 Arizona  30 24 28 27 5 114
27 Minnesota  27 9 20 28 30 114
29 Buffalo  24 20 29 24 23 120
30 Carolina  24 30 32 17 20 123
31 Indianapolis  27 31 28 22 30 138
32 Tampa Bay  32 26 31 29 24 142

Matchups to seek

Buccaneers (32) at Titans: Tampa Bay is terrible across the board. So Chris Johnson could do some damage, though the vast majority of his owners have been finished long ago. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) (elbow) or Jake Locker(notes) should produce but are not needed in most formats given that we are done with the byes. But Nate Washington(notes) is a great flex option this week.

Panthers (30) at Colts (31): Jonathan Stewart(notes) has been more involved in the passing game, but DeAngelo Williams(notes) is better and I’d take a shot on him as at least a flex this week, too. Greg Olsen(notes) disappointed last week but was targeted nine times and should be played this week. Be very afraid if you are facing Cam Newton(notes) and Steve Smith this week. But the Panthers are also terrible and even worse versus the run than the Colts. Joseph Addai(notes) is too shaky to play if he starts, but if he sits out again with his hamstring I think Donald Brown(notes) cracks the top 25 this week.

Bills (29) at Jets: Plaxico Burress(notes), Dustin Keller(notes) and Santonio Holmes(notes) are worth playing this week, in that order. Mark Sanchez(notes) is a nice add if you have injury issues. I actually like Joe McKnight(notes) better than Shonn Greene(notes) but McKnight needs Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) to sit out in order to have value.

Matchups to avoid

Texans (1) at Jaguars: I guess you have to play Maurice Jones-Drew(notes), but I think Jonathan Stewart (for example) outscores him this week. Look at Jacksonville’s pass defense and you will be bearish on playing Andre Johnson(notes) off an injury with a new quarterback. You have to do it, I know, but have little fear if you are facing No. 80 this week.

Steelers (2) at Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe(notes) should have a rough week after doing okay in his first full game with Tyler Palko(notes).

Niners (4) at Ravens (3): Similar to last week’s tussle between the Ravens and Bengals, which surprisingly turned into a very productive fantasy day for many. Ray Rice(notes) should have tough sledding. The Niners haven’t allowed a rushing TD and have yielded just 73 yards per game. Frank Gore(notes) has it a little easier, especially if Ray Lewis(notes) is out again. But it’s hard to see this game being played in (or near) the 20s.

Feel free to ask my any questions via Twitter @MichaelSalfino