Football by the Numbers: Defense Power Rankings
We’re ranking defenses this year in the key fantasy categories to help you not choose a defense but rather to help you with matchup decisions. We’re going to list all teams regardless of byes and focus on borderline starters who have a strong wind in their sails and the ones who are facing matchup headwinds, too.
Of course, matchups are a relative thing. There are no elite defenses this year, at least not yet. So you shouldn’t necessarily run and hide from anyone. Look at last week when no-name Victor Cruz(notes) toasted Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) with the game on the line. Go figure. Usual small sample size caveats apply, too. But the entire NFL season is a small sample. The NFL has already played about 19 percent of the 2011 regular season slate. And the fantasy football regular season is much shorter than that.
A word about the categories. Only “RZ” – red zone – is a little tricky. We’re not talking efficiency there, but rather red zone possessions allowed. Even when we get more data, efficiency in the red zone can be largely random since we’re talking about a small number of possessions. 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, you should be looking more at yardage allowed earlier in the season than touchdowns allowed.
So here are this week’s rankings.
No byes this week. Let’s start at the bottom.
Vikings at Chiefs (32): I wouldn’t touch any Vikings skill player right now other than Adrian Peterson, no matter who the opponent.
Patriots (3) at Raiders (31): The Raiders can’t do anything right on defense. And the Patriots turn every quarterback they face into someone Brady-like. This is the fantasy shootout of the day, but you didn’t need these stats to tell you that. Play everyone who is otherwise boarderline. Heck, I’d play Chad Ochocinco(notes) this week. Well, almost.
Dolphins (28) at Chargers: Well, you’re going to play your Chargers every week anyway. But the Dolphins inability to stop the pass is a surprise, though injuries have been a very big factor. It’s too early to know who will play this week. But if Antonio Gates(notes) can’t go, consider starting Randy McMichael(notes), who was 4-51 last week.
Redskins at Rams (27): Against the defense last in rushing yards, Tim Hightower(notes) is a top 10 back this week. Rex Grossman(notes) will probably be a top 10 QB scorer this week, too. You don’t want to play against Santana Moss(notes) or Fred Davis(notes), either. I know that Chris Cooley(notes) had the catches against Dallas, but Davis is better right now even when both are healthy.
Now the top end of the rankings:
Titans (1) at Cleveland. You’re not going to play any Browns except Peyton Hillis(notes). At least the Titans are worse in allowing rushing yards. But Tennessee has shut down Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) and Ray Rice(notes).
Saints at Jaguars (2): You can’t be afraid of anyone if you are a Drew Brees(notes) owner. But the Jaguars have shut down some good offenses and given how the Saints spread the ball around, the only other Saint I’d play this week is Jimmy Graham(notes).
Bills at Bengals (3): Cincy is tough on defense and will be a big test for the highest scoring team in the NFL. I understand you want to play the hot hand. But notice how Buffalo has played the three worst defenses in this index. We’ll find out in Week 4 whether Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) and company are for real. Yes, I remember what they did at Cincy last year. But in the NFL, last year is a long time ago.
Lions at Cowboys (3): Hey, those Ryans can coach some defense. Probably not going to be a huge day for Matthew Stafford(notes) and company. Plus the Cowboys will really get after him on third and long. Remember, the Lions can’t run the ball at all. I suspect that Brandon Pettigrew(notes) spends a lot of time this week trying to help out against DeMarcus Ware(notes), so don’t worry too much if you face him this week.
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