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.
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.
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.
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