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Football by the Numbers: Matchups to seek and avoid

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Thanks to Xatos for helping me out with a tweet, renaming this feature and making as clear as possible that 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. If you have questions relating to matchups, feel free to ask them via Twitter @MichaelSalfino.

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 3 2 4 2 12
2 Cincinnati 1 5 17 5 4 32
3 Cleveland 1 19 3 2 10 35
4 Pittsburgh 6 12 12 1 6 37
5 Dallas 7 1 3 14 14 39
6 Jacksonville 4 10 10 6 12 42
7 Houston 12 7 12 8 6 45
8 San Francisco 14 2 1 22 14 53
9 Seattle 12 11 17 20 4 64
10 San Diego 15 21 7 3 20 66
11 New Orleans 4 15 12 16 20 67
12 Washington 18 17 22 11 3 71
13 Detroit 24 28 5 9 6 72
14 NY Jets 11 26 28 7 1 73
15 Green Bay 15 9 5 31 20 80
15 Tennessee 8 24 7 15 26 80
17 Minnesota 24 4 12 29 17 86
18 Atlanta 24 6 21 24 12 87
19 Chicago 21 13 10 27 17 88
20 Philadelphia 8 23 22 10 26 89
21 Miami 18 20 7 21 29 95
22 Carolina 17 29 28 12 10 96
23 St Louis 8 32 17 13 32 102
24 Oakland 21 16 22 25 20 104
25 Denver 31 18 12 19 26 106
25 New England 29 8 17 32 20 106
27 Tampa Bay 21 22 22 26 17 108
28 NY Giants 29 27 27 18 9 110
29 Arizona 27 14 28 28 14 111
29 Kansas City 18 25 22 17 29 111
31 Buffalo 27 30 28 30 20 135
32 Indianapolis 32 31 28 23 29 143

The Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jets, Raiders and Buccaneers are off this week.

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

Colts (32) at Titans: Empty the cupboard because the Colts have mentally packed it in. That's what happens with teams that are used to winning. They hang tough for a month or so and then the minds wander. So Matt Hasselbeck(notes) is a top 12 QB. Chris Johnson runs wild this week. Nate Washington(notes) should be started everywhere and even Jared Cook(notes) is a very capable replacement for Tony Gonzalez(notes) and Jermichael Finley(notes) owners.

Redskins at Bills (31): Who can read Mike Shanahan's mind. But either Roy Helu(notes) or Ryan Torain(notes) is going to be top 10-to-15 at least. Even if we know they're splitting carries, they are both playable. Fred Davis(notes) is one of the top TEs on the board. Aaron Rodgers(notes) owners can probably sneak John Beck(notes) in there and salvage something decent at zero cost. Jabar Gaffney(notes) is a top 20 wideout this week.

Chargers at Chiefs (29): Owners disappointed by the production of Philip Rivers(notes) and Vincent Jackson(notes) – which these rankings projected – will be much happier on Monday night. Rivers goes off in a big way. The Chargers running game should also be huge. Yes, the Chiefs have played better of late, but they will show earlier season form against the Bolts.

Turning to the best defensive teams:

Cardinals at Ravens (1): You have to play Larry Fitzgerald(notes) but this should be another modest day against the best defense in the league. No other Cardinal is worth considering.

Bengals (2) at Seahawks: Looks like another ugly offensive performance for the banged up Seahawks, who faced the third-best defense last week and now get the even better Bengals, who this system touted many weeks ago.

Browns (3) at 49ers: Expect another low scoring game here. Frank Gore(notes) should gain some yards considering Cleveland is 19th in limiting them. But touchdowns will be scarce and do not expect Alex Smith or his receivers to have useful days.

Feel free to ask my any questions via Twitter @MichaelSalfino

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League size:
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Draft time:
Aug 28 9:00 am
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