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.
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.
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