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Football by the Numbers: Defense Power Rankings

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

These are not rankings of defenses for the purposes of how many fantasy points they score. We're trying to use season-to-date performance to predict how many fantasy points they are likely to allow this week to offensive players.

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. Plus there's too much overlap with the TD rates we look at. 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. Obviously, yardage allowed is more reliable than touchdowns allowed for predictive purposes.

Here are the rankings. Matchup recommendations follow.

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 Baltimore 1 2 2 22 2 29
2 Cincinnati 1 7 13 6 4 31
3 Dallas 1 1 2 21 17 42
4 Washington 7 6 13 17 2 45
5 San Diego 12 17 9 1 11 50
6 Pittsburgh 7 16 13 11 4 51
7 Cleveland 5 25 2 3 17 52
7 Jacksonville 6 10 9 12 15 52
9 San Francisco 12 5 1 27 11 56
10 Tennessee 4 11 2 25 17 59
11 Houston 15 12 9 13 11 60
12 Seattle 15 9 22 14 7 67
13 Detroit 18 18 2 24 7 69
14 Minnesota 19 4 13 31 7 74
15 NY Jets 12 26 31 5 1 75
16 Carolina 15 27 22 2 11 77
17 Atlanta 24 8 13 18 17 80
18 Green Bay 19 3 7 30 24 83
19 New Orleans 7 15 13 26 24 85
20 Tampa Bay 24 24 13 9 17 87
21 St Louis 7 32 13 16 24 92
22 Philadelphia 7 30 22 4 30 93
23 Arizona 27 19 31 15 7 99
24 Indianapolis 19 31 28 7 15 100
24 Miami 29 14 8 19 30 100
26 Chicago 19 28 9 28 17 101
26 Denver 31 23 13 10 24 101
28 NY Giants 32 21 28 20 4 105
29 New England 29 13 22 29 17 110
30 Kansas City 24 20 28 8 32 112
31 Buffalo 19 29 22 23 24 117
32 Oakland 27 22 22 32 24 127

The Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks and Titans are off this week. Tennessee showed the most volatility last week, unexpectedly losing eight ranking points versus a Steelers offense that was struggling coming into the game. This illustrates the limits on our ability to predict outcomes. Random factors are at play in many games – a poor angle by a defender, some hyper-efficiency on a couple of red zone plays. But as we start adding weeks these isolated plays are given less and less weight.

Let's start with the worst defensive teams, as always.

Browns at Raiders (32): Oakland is last in passing yards per game and bottom 10 in allowing TDs through the air, too. The Texans didn't even need Andre Johnson(notes) last week to post huge numbers, as the Silver and Black can't cover backs and tight ends, either. So Colt McCoy(notes) is an attractive waiver claim if, say, you've lost Philip Rivers(notes) this week. Oakland is below average versus the run, too. Odds are good that Peyton Hills busts out this week, too.

Bills (31) at Giants (28): Two bottom five defenses means plenty of fantasy points in the Meadowlands this week. Play Victor Cruz(notes), who has one less target than Hakeem Nicks(notes) the last three weeks despite not starting any game. As I wrote in the Journal on Tuesday, the Giants running game is very efficient in creating passing downs at 30th in yard per rush. But empty the cupboard in this game, which looks like it will be played in the 30s. Play Mario Manningham(notes). Eli Manning(notes) is the top QB this week.

Cowboys at Patriots (29): Well, maybe Tony Romo(notes) is the top QB. Dallas isn't going to waste time trying to run this week. The problem is that you never know how long Dez Bryant(notes) is going to last – he seems to start every game with the fuel light on. But there's hope that Miles Austin(notes) will be back, as he's returned to practice.

Turning to the best defensive teams:

Texans at Ravens (1): Matt Schaub(notes) and company saw the defensive outhouse last week and visit the penthouse this week. They also must do this without Andre Johnson. The Texans have had good days against the Ravens before. But I do not like this matchup at all. I understand this sounds crazy, but McCoy will outscore Schaub this week. Don't worry too much about facing Arian Foster(notes), either, as the Ravens can fearlessly stack the box. But of course Foster must be started every week.

Colts at Bengals (2): The Pierre Garcon(notes) party ends this week. We knew very early, last year even, that the Bengals were a tough defense and the evidence now is incontrovertible.

Cowboys (3) at Patriots: You can't be afraid of anyone if you are a Tom Brady(notes) owner. But he will get knocked around this week, at least. Still, play all Patriots.

Eagles at Redskins (7): The Eagles are piling up yards, but this will probably be a lower scoring game. Michael Vick(notes) is not a matchup QB; he can pile up long runs against anyone. But the Eagles have been very inefficient at converting yards into touchdowns and that trend should continue in Week 6.

Feel free to ask my any questions via Twitter @MichaelSalfino

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