Splitsville: Moving the meter

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Russell Wilson is sixth in YPA (yards per pass attempt) and is about to get Percy Harvin back and runs like the wind, which gives him a high floor. Yet, everyone fades him because Seattle is pass averse. I get it. But he’s on pace for 25 passing touchdowns and 738 rushing yards. Those rushing yards equal 1,476 passing yards. Add that to his passing yardage total and you get 4,879 passing yards. Clearly the lack of rushing TDs is a problem, but you have to think those are coming given the rushing yardage total.

Geno Smith (11th in YPA) is another bye-week guy at least who is bettable with his running, too. Add his total to his passing and you have a pace for 4,605 passing yards. Smith also has two rushing TDs. Of course, interception taxes make him risky. I’m not a fan of those taxes, as they are just another product of our obsession with devaluing the QB position. Give bonuses for wins and taxes for losses for quarterbacks, folding turnovers into that but rewarding them for playing clean (since wins are often the product of playing cleanly).

[Watch: Roy Helu surpassing sleeper status]

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Compared to the NFL average quarterback, Tom Brady has been holding his team back in '13. (USAT)

The NFL has statistics for players that calculate yards gained when a player is on the field based on game situation (down, distance, score, etc.) compared to league average. Clearly this is best applied to quarterbacks.

Peyton Manning is the leader with creating 644.5 extra yards over league average. Every year, a point in the NFL equals 15-16 scrimmage yards. (This year it’s 15.3). So set it at 15.3 and you get 41.3 extra points the Broncos have scored with Manning as their quarterback versus league average -- about six points per game. That’s probably less than we would guess but right in line with what the oddsmakers say when a QB is hurt. In fact, it’s off the charts high (typically 2-3 points for a star QB), but we know Manning is having an off-the-charts season.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Tom Brady at minus-293.4 or minus-19.2 points (negative-2.7 per game). This is slightly worse than even Smith, who has been terrible for long stretches (understandable for a rookie). But Smith’s problem is turnovers while Brady’s is an inability to throw the ball downfield. Is this an age-based, inexorable decline for the future Hall of Famer or will Rob Gronkowski fix him? If it’s the latter, why did Matt Ryan play so well with new wide receivers no one would have said were good? Remember, Brady’s game last week with Gronkowski was a quantitative nightmare beyond the mere lack of fantasy points.

Now let's turn our attention to how NFL defenses are stacking up when it comes to stopping our fantasy football skill players.

Toughest pass defenses: Seahawks (11.5 fantasy passing QB points allowed per game based on season-to-date statistics), Chiefs (12.0), Panthers (12.9), Steelers (14.2), Titans (14.4), Texans (15.0), Patriots (15.0), Saints (15.5), Colts (16.0), 49ers (16.1).

[Watch: Is Dwayne Bowe a fantasy starter in Week 8?]

Easiest pass defenses: Falcons (26.3), Vikings (26.1), Broncos (25.4), Eagles (25.3), Packers (24.3), Cowboys (24.0), Jaguars (23.9), Giants (23.3), Redskins (22.8), Bills (22.8).

Toughest run defenses: Bucs (9.9 fantasy points per game to RBs based on full-season stats), Panthers (10.5), Packers (10.9), Ravens (11.3), Falcons (12.0), Jets (12.1), Chargers (12.3), Cardinals (12.3), Bengals (12.4), Seahawks (12.6).

Easiest run defenses: Jaguars (23), Redskins (21.6), Rams (18.6), Bears (18.6), Browns (17.6), Texans (17.4), Vikings (17.2), Steelers (16.0), 49ers (16.7), Colts (16.5).

The Panthers should be in the conversation for best defense in football with the Seahawks, based on these stats. They certainly are Seattle’s equal in being a defense you want to go out of your way to avoid.

The Chiefs are on pace to easily break the sack record of the 1981 Jets and face Cleveland this week, a team that has allowed the third-most sacks in the league. Yes, the Browns throw a lot (why I continue to like Josh Gordon). But the Chiefs average is five and they should come in this week at seven or so.

But now I see the Panthers have allowed 68.3 percent completions. So I must take back putting them in Seattle’s company (Seahawks: sixth best 58.5). The Chiefs and Bills are leading the league at 53.6 and 55.1 percent completions allowed.

The best predictor of future goal-line rushing attempts for our backs is the number of trips their teams make into the red zone. Here are the leaders: Broncos (4.7 per game) Falcons (4.3, but clearly circumstances are different there now), Packers (4.0), Chiefs (3.7), Chargers (3.7), Seahawks (3.7), Saints (3.7), Cowboys (3.6), Patriots (3.4), Lions (3.4).

Red zone possession per game trailers: Bengals (2.1), Bucs (2.2), Raiders (2.3), Giants (2.4), Browns (2.4), Jets (2.4), Vikings (2.5), Jaguars (2.6), Steelers (2.7), Cardinals (2.7). Backs on these teams are expected bad bets for future TDs.

But remember with all these numbers and even with what I do in the Scouting Notebook, we’re assessing probability. I’m not going to keep writing: “Maybe this happens and maybe that happens” though. You have to figure that out for yourself. When the scale doesn’t move, there’s no call to make. When it tips in one direction (positive) or the other (negative) based on data or something I see, I make the call definitively -- but it’s always merely probability based.
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