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 25 percent for last year and 75 percent for the three weeks of 2012. This way, they can be better relied upon when choosing among players that you believe are generally close in value. Last week, it was 50/50. And next week we'll look solely (100 percent) at the numbers generated in '12.
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.
Matchups to exploit
Texans vs. Titans (32): Empty the cupboard of your Texans. Play Ben Tate and Arian Foster if you have them both. Start Matt Schaub, too, even though he probably won't be throwing much the second half. If you play against Andre Johnson this week, take my advice and avoid watching this game. It will be a house of horrors for you.
Broncos vs. Raiders (31): Peyton Manning should bounce back even though his fantasy numbers haven't been bad. He's a top five QB this week, easy. If Willis McGahee is breathing on Sunday, make sure he's in your lineup.
Packers vs. Saints (30): Aaron Rodgers and the Packers get a measure of revenge at least offensively. Jordy Nelson should finally reward his owners. But play everyone and especially Cedric Benson, who you will not find recommended by me often, if ever again. You have been cursed by the fantasy gods if you happen to be playing against him this week.
Falcons vs. Panthers (29): Make sure Michael Turner is in your lineup. You're probably playing all your other Falcons anyway. But even Jacquizz Rodgers is flex worthy this week. Make sure you start Tony Gonzalez, too.
Chargers at Chiefs (28): Ryan Mathews should get off nicely. Philip Rivers and his receivers bounce back, too. Make sure you play Malcom Floyd.
Matchups to avoid
Titans at Texans (1): And just when you think it couldn't get worse for Chris Johnson … The old one didn't really have to worry about matchups because he could break long gainers against any defense. But that's not this Chris Johnson, apparently. Avoid all Titans.
Rams vs. Seahawks (2): The Seahawks are so nasty. Forget about Steven Jackson this week, you probably have better options on your bench. I'd play Pierre Thomas for example over Jackson this week. Rodgers, too (and many more).
Cowboys vs. Bears (3): Looks like a third subpar game in a row for Tony Romo and his receivers. Chicago's solid across the board but DeMarco Murray has matchup-defying big-play potential. (You mainly want to avoid the grinders against the top rushing defenses.)
Jets vs. 49ers (4): The Niners are only average against the pass. So play the hot Santonio Holmes, especially with Stephen Hill hurt again. Forget about Shonn Greene, though you should have forgotten about him way back on draft day.