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Football by the Numbers: Matchup Decider

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

Many people, and even experts, are still in last-year mode. For example, I heard someone say that Michael Vick versus Detroit is a must-play this week. Maybe against 2011 Detroit (even 2012 Vick). But not against 2012 Detroit, according to the following rankings. The Lions have the fifth stingiest fantasy defense so far in football.

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 7 2 2 4 16
2 Seattle 3 3 7 5 3 21
3 Chicago 4 2 2 13 4 25
4 Houston 4 9 1 4 10 28
5 Detroit 2 13 2 10 10 37
6 Dallas 4 15 13 1 10 43
7 Minnesota 11 6 2 14 10 43
8 Philadelphia 15 12 7 9 4 47
9 Arizona 11 14 2 18 4 49
10 Pittsburgh 15 11 13 3 22 64
11 Atlanta 7 27 22 7 4 67
12 St Louis 15 18 22 12 1 68
13 San Diego 11 5 7 20 26 69
14 Green Bay 7 17 7 17 22 70
15 Miami 22 1 7 27 17 74
16 New England 7 8 7 30 28 80
17 Tampa Bay 20 4 21 32 4 81
18 NY Giants 10 16 15 23 19 83
19 Cincinnati 11 21 28 16 10 86
20 Baltimore 22 19 22 22 2 87
21 Denver 22 20 18 11 20 91
22 NY Jets 15 31 31 6 10 93
23 Kansas City 29 22 18 8 22 99
24 Carolina 26 23 18 19 17 103
24 Washington 15 10 15 31 32 103
26 Indianapolis 20 25 22 15 22 104
27 Jacksonville 31 29 28 21 10 119
28 Cleveland 25 26 15 26 28 120
29 Oakland 26 24 22 28 26 126
30 Tennessee 32 28 22 25 28 135
31 New Orleans 30 32 28 29 20 139
32 Buffalo 26 30 32 24 28 140

Matchups to exploit

Arizona vs. Buffalo (32): The Bills last week became the first team in history to give up 300-plus passing yards and 300-plus rushing yards in the same game. This was a week after giving up two 100-yard rushers and a 300-yard passer. But the Cardinals haven't reached 300 yards yet on offense. While offense tends to control outcomes about 60/40, the Bills may just be extremely bad. Remember what Mark Sanchez and the Jets did to them in Week 1. So play Kevin Kolb and expect Larry Fitzgerald to carry you. If William Powell is ever going to do anything, it will be this week.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee (30): Rashard Mendenhall should have another big day, even if his carries are limited. But Ben Roethlisberger is also a very good play after a lackluster Week 5 that wasn't his fault and that got a little better with a scoring change giving him a TD on a swing pass. The one caveat is that these Thursday night games have been "under" affairs, score-wise. Teams do not appear to be sharp off the short preparation and that seems to favor the defense.

You're going to play all your Falcons every week anyway. So no need to detail their great matchup with the 29th-ranked Raiders defense.

Cincinnati at Cleveland (28th): The Browns really struggle in pass defense. You'll play A.J. Green every week, of course. But get Andy Dalton in there this week and Andrew Hawkins, who leads the league in yards after catch, too.

Matchups to avoid

Giants at San Francisco (1): I'm not fading Eli Manning against anyone, but it does not get worse than this, be warned. Ahmad Bradshaw goes from the penthouse last week to the outhouse.

Green Bay at Houston (3): It's great offense vs. great defense week, apparently. I'm not benching any Patriots even against the stingy Seahawks. But the Packers have lots of trouble in pass protection, a Texans strong suit. So how is Jordy Nelson going to get free on his deep routes? We don't really know who is going to get the bulk of the carries for Green Bay, but will the loss of MLB Brian Cushing cripple or at least significantly lesson the Texans run D? My inclination is to play all the Packers you normally would play.

Philadelphia vs. Detroit (5): I'd bench Vick if I could pick up Andy Dalton or Kevin Kolb. The only Eagles receiver I'd play is DeSean Jackson, too. Not a good matchup, for obvious reasons. I don't know what is a good matchup for Vick anymore. As you can note above, last week's opponent, the Steelers, are no longer elite.
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