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Football by the Numbers: Defense power rankings

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

These rankings are for the purpose of predicting how many fantasy points defenses will allow to offensive players this week.

Yes, it's early. But we weight the rankings 75 percent for last year and just 25 percent for Week 1. This way, they can be better relied upon when choosing among players that you believe are generally close in value.

If you have other questions relating to matchups, feel free to ask them via Twitter @MichaelSalfino. I cannot emphasize enough that these defensive rankings have nothing to do with which defense to play in fantasy.

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. 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. Yardage allowed is more reliable than touchdowns allowed for predictive purposes. Ideally, the two correlate. But some teams really can be break but don't bend, e.g., teams that blitz a lot.

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
1 Houston 12 11 1 9 1
2 Pittsburgh 19 16 16 14 18
3 Baltimore 12 24 16 7 1
4 San Francisco 3 6 1 22 18
5 Seattle 19 5 16 11 5
6 Philadelphia 3 17 1 1 1
7 Dallas 12 12 16 5 5
8 Jacksonville 19 23 26 19 1
9 NY Jets 3 32 16 8 28
10 Atlanta 3 28 26 15 5
11 San Diego 3 6 1 21 5
12 Cincinnati 12 22 26 28 18
13 Cleveland 3 27 1 27 18
14 Miami 30 13 26 17 5
15 Tennessee 19 30 16 13 18
16 Chicago 19 8 16 26 5
17 Arizona 19 20 1 3 5
18 Washington 3 3 1 31 28
19 Denver 19 9 1 10 18
20 Minnesota 12 18 1 16 18
21 Detroit 1 10 1 4 5
22 Kansas City 32 15 16 25 28
23 New Orleans 26 29 26 29 18
24 St Louis 26 13 26 32 5
25 New England 3 2 1 18 5
26 Green Bay 3 31 16 6 18
27 NY Giants 12 26 1 23 28
28 Oakland 26 3 1 12 5
29 Carolina 12 25 1 2 5
30 Tampa Bay 1 1 1 24 5
31 Indianapolis 30 19 32 30 18
32 Buffalo 26 21 16 19 28

The interesting thing we can do this week is identify defenses that the early data suggests are significantly better or worse than where they ended in 2011.

So up relative to last year, meaning they provided more difficult fantasy matchups for your offensive players than we would have anticipated based on final 2011 results: Detroit, New England, Oakland, Carolina, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Arizona

The teams that performed much worse in Week 1 than in 2011 in limiting fantasy damage to opposing skill players were Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, the Jets and Cincinnati.

Matchups to exploit:

Chiefs at Bills (32): Yes, the Bills were supposed to be much improved. But many Jets had big days. I expect the Chiefs to perform similarly, even in Buffalo. So especially play Dwayne Bowe. Matt Cassel also makes a decent start if you are in very deep or two QB leagues. But Jon Baldwin is still adjusting and should be avoided. Dexter McCluster, though, could replicate his Week 1 effort and be a very nice flex play in point-per-reception leagues (where he also qualifies at running back).

Vikings at Colts (31): I like Adrian Peterson (seems I was wrong in betting against the speedy comeback few if any have ever made). And Percy Harvin should be very productive, too. Kyle Rudolph can be a very dangerous weapon even if you do not have to play a tight end (or have another one).

Matchups to avoid:

Texans (1) at Jaguars: Play Maurice Jones-Drew. That's it when it comes to Jaguars.

Lions at 49ers (4): Of course, you have to roll with Megatron and Matthew Stafford. But forget about all other Lions unless you play in deep leagues. There has to be more attractive options on your bench.

Ravens (3) at Eagles (6): I'll take the under here, even when it comes to fantasy point totals. Marginal Ravens and Eagles should be avoided. Name brands are okay, but don't expect them to carry you.

Cowboys (7) at Seahawks (5): The Cowboys can be run on a little, so Marshawn Lynch is okay and even Russell Wilson may do damage on the ground against all those man looks. But forget about Sidney Rice this week against the stout Dallas secondary. Seattle is tough to score on in the air but easier on the ground. Hard to see any of the Cowboys receivers having a big day. I would not expect Kevin Olgetree, who only was on the field for about half the snaps in New York, to score even once never mind repeat his Week 1 outburst.
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