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Football by the Numbers: Matchup Decider

I come to you this week as every week from New Jersey. It's hard to focus on football now, but I will do my best. In return, I ask all of you to text "redcross" to 90999 for a $10 donation to not only help the people who have been devastated in my state but also in New York, Connecticut and everywhere else, too.

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 7 3 2 1 14
2 Chicago 10 1 2 18 2 33
3 Houston 4 4 1 5 22 36
4 Seattle 11 5 6 13 6 41
5 Detroit 2 18 4 9 14 47
6 Arizona 9 21 10 4 6 50
7 Dallas 11 13 20 3 4 51
8 Pittsburgh 16 9 11 1 20 57
8 San Diego 2 2 6 21 26 57
10 Miami 24 3 6 27 6 66
11 Green Bay 7 12 11 19 19 68
12 Atlanta 5 26 25 10 4 70
12 Philadelphia 21 17 4 14 14 70
14 Denver 16 15 11 8 22 72
15 NY Giants 5 19 11 26 14 75
16 Minnesota 16 16 19 12 14 77
16 New England 7 8 6 28 28 77
16 NY Jets 11 29 25 6 6 77
19 Tampa Bay 15 6 20 31 10 82
20 Carolina 26 20 17 15 10 88
20 Cincinnati 11 22 29 16 10 88
20 Oakland 16 11 20 20 21 88
23 St Louis 21 14 23 17 14 89
24 Indianapolis 16 27 25 7 22 97
25 Cleveland 21 24 11 25 22 103
26 Kansas City 30 23 17 11 28 109
27 Washington 27 10 11 32 32 112
28 Baltimore 28 30 29 24 2 113
28 Jacksonville 30 25 25 23 10 113
30 Buffalo 24 32 32 22 26 136
31 Tennessee 29 28 23 29 28 137
32 New Orleans 32 31 29 30 28 150

Matchups to exploit

Eagles at Saints (32): If Michael Vick can't make it here, he can't make it anywhere. Andy Reid gave Vick a gift in allowing him to start this game, maybe his last as an Eagle, but probably not because the Saints are a one-way street to paydirt with no stop signs. Play all your Eagles, even the disappointing receivers. You want LeSean McCoy to get more work, but the volume won't even be necessary in Week 9.

Bears at Titans (31): Jay Cutler was so disappointing last week against a so-so Carolina defense. There are no excuses here. Expect him to shine, along with Brandon Marshall. You will play Matt Forte against everyone. But I don't know how much deeper you can go however given the inconsistency of the other members of the Bears offense. Marshall has 57 percent of Chicago wide receiver catches with no one else close to 20 percent. I don't trust Michael Bush now against anyone – rostering him now in all but the deepest formats is a give up.

Texans vs. Bills (30): I think you give Justin Forsett a flex spot this week. Make sure Andre Johnson is in your lineup, as he finally rewards his owners. Matt Schaub is worth starting this week.

Matchups to avoid

Titans vs. Bears (31): Forget all components of the Titans passing game but play Chris Johnson because he's matchup proof. And that's good and bad for him. Johnson can defy a bad matchup like he did against the Texans even if his team gets blown out. But he's also capable of underperforming against a poor defensive team, too. Clearly, a bad game is more likely. But it's not as likely as it would be for the types of backs that really grind out their yards. Johnson only needs a couple plays to have a big day. Will they come early enough on Sunday? We can only guess.

Bills at Texans (3): Seriously downgrade all your Bills on Sunday except Stevie Johnson. I think C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are low-end flex plays. I wouldn't expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to have a big day via garbage time. He may not make it that far as this one is going to get very ugly quickly.

Vikings at Seahawks (4): The Lions shocked me last week versus Seattle, but that was in Detroit. I will be doubly shocked if Seattle lays an egg in Seattle against a spotty Vikings offense. But the Vikings are a strange team because you have to play Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin and everyone else is marginal, including Kyle Rudolph. Yes, Rudolph makes a living with his ridiculous/fluky TD ratio. But he will not see the end zone in Week 9.
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