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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 7 3 5 1 17
2 Chicago 4 4 2 10 1 21
3 Houston 3 3 1 3 14 24
4 Seattle 8 12 9 4 1 34
5 Pittsburgh 12 6 14 1 8 41
6 San Diego 1 2 6 18 22 49
7 Detroit 5 19 3 9 17 53
8 Arizona 8 24 6 2 14 54
9 Dallas 12 13 21 7 5 58
10 Green Bay 6 11 14 20 14 65
11 Philadelphia 19 15 3 12 17 66
12 Denver 17 10 10 11 22 70
13 Miami 23 5 6 28 10 72
14 NY Giants 8 17 10 25 19 79
15 Atlanta 6 25 23 19 8 81
16 Carolina 25 16 18 16 7 82
17 NY Jets 11 30 27 6 10 84
18 Minnesota 24 14 14 14 19 85
19 Tampa Bay 17 1 14 32 22 86
20 Cincinnati 12 21 27 17 10 87
21 St Louis 20 18 27 13 10 88
22 New England 12 9 10 29 30 90
23 Indianapolis 12 22 23 15 19 91
24 Kansas City 31 23 10 8 27 99
25 Baltimore 28 26 23 26 1 104
26 Cleveland 20 27 18 22 22 109
27 Washington 26 8 18 30 32 114
28 Jacksonville 30 29 31 23 5 118
29 Oakland 20 20 30 24 26 120
30 Tennessee 29 28 21 27 27 132
31 Buffalo 26 32 32 21 27 138
32 New Orleans 32 31 23 31 30 147

Matchups to exploit

Oakland (29) at New Orleans (32): Two terrible defenses here. So empty the cupboards. That means take a shot at even marginal plays like Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram. I know Devery Henderson has caught one pass the last three weeks, but there is hope this week if you are in an injury/bye-week jam. For the Raiders, Brandon Myers and Darrius Heyward-Bey are dangerous options. And Carson Palmer is a top 10 QB easy, and probably better.

Miami at Buffalo (31): The Dolphins disappointed us greatly by struggling somehow against the Titans last week. But we have to go by the base rates here and try again against the Bills, who are especially putrid against the run. So, bounce back week for Reggie Bush, who of course was benched after fumbling last week. That, by the way, has to be one of the dumbest things ever. Fumbles are largely random and what sense does it make to have a home-run hitter like Bush be most concerned with ball security.

Houston vs. Jacksonville (28): Expect the Texans to rebound after they were stifled by the Bears on Sunday night. So play the usuals with confidence.

Matchups to avoid

Chicago (2) at San Francisco (1): This is a replay of last week. Expect similar suffocating defense and a very bad day for all your usual fantasy options. Of course, both quarterbacks are also very questionable, too. Maybe a 0-0 tie. I would look for any excuse to replace even Frank Gore and Matt Forte this week, so imagine how I feel about the other guys. Vernon Davis can't even get off against easy defenses, that's how pathetic the Niners game-planning is when it comes to creating mismatches for their best and most explosive offensive player.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (5): The Steelers have really moved up in these rankings of late and will need to be in top form now without Ben Roethlisberger leading the offense. Forget about Anquan Boldin. Torrey Smith is a shaky play, too. Ditto Dennis Pitta. Look again at the pass defense side of the Steelers rankings. You're not going to get the Week 10 Flacco this week, more like the fantasy scrub we saw agains the Texans and Browns.
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