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Football by the Numbers: Matchup Decider

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

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

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.

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 San Francisco 1 6 2 2 2 13
2 Houston 4 2 1 7 17 31
3 Chicago 8 8 2 11 4 33
3 Seattle 8 12 8 3 2 33
5 Pittsburgh 13 4 11 1 5 34
6 Detroit 2 16 2 8 16 44
7 Arizona 7 21 8 5 10 51
8 San Diego 3 3 6 19 25 56
9 Denver 13 5 8 12 22 60
10 Dallas 17 13 20 6 5 61
11 Green Bay 6 11 14 21 13 65
12 Atlanta 5 26 24 10 5 70
13 Philadelphia 19 18 2 13 22 74
14 Miami 25 9 6 27 8 75
15 NY Giants 8 15 11 25 17 76
15 Tampa Bay 12 1 14 32 17 76
17 Carolina 18 19 14 17 10 78
18 NY Jets 8 30 24 4 13 79
19 Cincinnati 13 20 24 15 8 80
20 Minnesota 25 14 14 16 17 86
21 St Louis 22 17 29 14 10 92
22 New England 13 10 11 30 31 95
23 Washington 22 7 14 29 27 99
24 Baltimore 28 27 24 23 1 103
25 Kansas City 30 25 14 9 27 105
26 Cleveland 25 24 20 22 17 108
27 Indianapolis 19 22 28 20 22 111
28 Oakland 19 23 30 24 27 123
29 Buffalo 22 31 32 18 25 128
30 Jacksonville 31 29 30 28 13 131
31 Tennessee 29 28 22 26 27 132
32 New Orleans 31 32 22 31 31 147

Games of note:

49ers (1) at Saints (32): Colin Kaepernick is a top five QB this week if he starts. Boost Vernon Davis into a starting role even if Alex Smith goes, given how Davis had Smith's back when everyone else bailed. So maybe Smith will finally butter Davis's bread. Or Davis butters Smith's bread? How about we just say they'll go together this week like turkey on rye. Make sure you play Michael Crabtree, too.

I do think the Niners will have to score. Note how San Francisco is really in a class of its own in our rankings. But also note my belief, which has been confirmed to me by the stat people in the know, that offense tends to control outcomes. So the gravity is stronger for the Saints offense, which will pull the Niners defense closer toward it than vice versa. Remember, there really is no defense for a perfectly executed offensive play. And Drew Brees executes superbly. At New Orleans, with a playoff spot now in sight after the terrible start, I would not bench any of my usual Saints as much as I respect/fear the 49ers defense against more ordinary offenses/quarterbacks.

Titans (31) at Jaguars (30): We're licking our wounds still from recommending the Dolphins players against the Titans a couple of weeks ago. Let's not make that mistake again. The point here, similar to the one above, is that offense matters more than defense so garbage offenses move closer to average but not likely above it no matter how bad the opposing defense is. So do not go out of your way to play Titans and Jaguars who you usually avoid (the ones not named Chris Johnson).

Bills (29) at Colts (27): Here's the exception to the point in the Titans-Jaguars write up, and the value of this Matchup Decider. The Bills and Colts are okay offenses that play terrible defenses and thus get upgraded pretty significantly. So expect at least 50 combined points in this game.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and enjoy all the extra games along with the turkey sandwiches throughout the weekend. I like mine on a Verp's roll with bacon, iceberg lettuce, a firm but juicy tomato and Hellman's mayonnaise.
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