Football by the Numbers: Fantasy Matchups to Seek and Avoid

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 questions relating to matchups, feel free to ask them via Twitter @MichaelSalfino. But don't ask me which fantasy defense to play – if that's your biggest problem, you're good. Generally, pick the defense that's facing the team that's allowed the highest sack rate and/or scored the fewest real-life points. All else is pure guess work.

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. 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 Houston 2 4 3 2 2 13
2 Baltimore 7 3 3 5 1 19
3 Pittsburgh 1 6 3 3 7 20
4 San Francisco 2 1 1 21 12 37
5 Jacksonville 2 14 15 4 7 42
6 Cincinnati 2 5 23 11 7 48
7 Dallas 13 10 3 14 12 52
8 Seattle 7 11 3 20 12 53
9 NY Jets 9 16 23 7 2 57
10 Atlanta 11 2 10 23 12 58
10 Cleveland 11 29 15 1 2 58
12 Detroit 23 23 10 6 5 67
12 Miami 18 7 2 24 16 67
14 Washington 18 18 15 10 7 68
15 Tennessee 17 22 3 13 16 71
16 Denver 18 19 3 17 23 80
17 New Orleans 2 17 15 27 22 83
18 Chicago 27 8 10 30 11 86
19 Green Bay 13 13 10 31 23 90
19 San Diego 18 25 10 9 28 90
19 St Louis 13 32 21 8 16 90
22 Philadelphia 9 15 21 16 30 91
23 Kansas City 18 26 23 12 23 102
24 Arizona 27 20 27 25 5 104
25 New England 30 12 15 32 16 105
26 Oakland 13 27 23 19 28 110
27 Minnesota 27 9 15 29 32 112
28 Carolina 23 28 31 15 16 113
29 NY Giants 30 24 29 26 16 125
30 Buffalo 26 21 27 22 30 126
30 Indianapolis 23 31 31 18 23 126
32 Tampa Bay 30 30 29 28 23 140

Matchups to seek for running backs:

Indianapolis (31st rushing yards, 31st rushing TDs) at New England: BenJarvis Green-Ellis should be top 10-to-15 this week. Even Shane Vereen(notes) is playable in deep formats or if you are struggling to fill a flex spot.

Carolina (28th, 31st) at Tampa Bay (30th, 29th): Running back nirvana here. Jonathan Stewart(notes) and DeAngelo Williams(notes) must be played even with Cam Newton(notes) doing damage with his legs. LeGarrette Blount(notes) should explode.

St. Louis (32nd, 21st) at San Francisco: The Rams are giving up about 160 rushing yards per game. So you do not want to face Frank Gore(notes) this week.

Rather than using the whole ranking, see how I use those two rushing columns to assess matchups? And yards trump touchdowns regardless of your scoring system as they are more indicative of true weakness due to the larger underlying sample size of plays.

Matchups to seek for QB/WRs:

Denver at Minnesota (29th in passing yards allowed, 32nd in passing TDs allowed): Well, Tim Tebow(notes) can't throw it (30 percent poor throw rate, twice the league average) so this is of little significance.

Green Bay (31st, 23rd) at Giants: Eli Manning(notes) and his receivers (whoever is healthy) will put up big, big numbers this week. Whether it's in real time or garbage time, who cares?

Carolina at Tampa Bay (28th, 23rd): Do you know how hard it is to rank 30th in one yardage category (rushing) and 28th in the other (passing)? That's crazy bad. It may be unique (or at least very rare). Typically, offenses pick a weakness (pass or run defense) and that elevates the team's standing in the other. So, yeah, Steve Smith (finally).

Matchups to avoid for running backs:

Michael Turner(notes) (Texans), Steven Jackson (Niners), Rashard Mendenhall(notes) (Bengals), Cedric Benson(notes) (Steelers), Peyton Hillis(notes) (Ravens) seem headed for very tough days, though I understand you have to play guys who are expected to receive goal-line carries.

Matchups to avoid for QBs/WRs:

The Redskins (Jets), Falcons (Texans), Bengals (Steelers), Ravens (Browns – No. 1 in passing yardage allowed and No. 2 in TDs per game) and Chargers (Jaguars) should have tough days through the air. But an asterisk for the Jaguars given that Jack Del Rio is gone and assumed to have played a key role in the Jaguars' defensive preparation.

Feel free to ask my any questions via Twitter @MichaelSalfino

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