Football by the Numbers: Matchups to seek and avoid

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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