Football by the Numbers: Matchup Decider

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

These rankings are for the purpose of predicting how many fantasy points defenses will allow to offensive players this week.

If you have other questions relating to matchups, feel free to ask them via Twitter @MichaelSalfino. I cannot emphasize enough that these defensive rankings have nothing to do with which defense to play in fantasy.

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. 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. Yardage allowed is more reliable than touchdowns allowed for predictive purposes. Ideally, the two correlate. But some teams really can be break but don't bend, e.g., teams that blitz a lot.

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 San Francisco 1 3 2 5 4 15
2 Seattle 2 10 6 3 1 22
3 Pittsburgh 12 4 6 1 11 34
4 Chicago 10 12 2 6 6 36
5 Denver 7 2 2 8 21 40
6 Cincinnati 7 9 16 12 6 50
7 Houston 4 5 1 18 25 53
8 San Diego 5 7 5 20 25 62
9 Arizona 10 28 12 4 9 63
10 Detroit 2 18 20 11 16 67
11 Carolina 15 17 16 10 11 69
12 Miami 24 8 6 26 6 70
13 Green Bay 12 14 16 16 13 71
14 Atlanta 5 24 26 17 1 73
15 NY Jets 7 29 28 2 9 75
16 Dallas 17 15 20 14 13 79
16 St Louis 21 16 29 9 4 79
18 Minnesota 19 13 12 23 21 88
18 Philadelphia 24 20 6 13 25 88
20 New England 12 11 12 29 25 89
20 NY Giants 15 22 6 28 18 89
22 Kansas City 30 27 6 7 23 93
23 Tampa Bay 21 1 16 32 25 95
24 Cleveland 17 19 20 25 16 97
25 Baltimore 24 26 26 22 1 99
25 Washington 19 6 12 30 32 99
27 Indianapolis 21 23 20 21 18 103
28 Tennessee 28 25 20 19 25 117
29 Buffalo 24 30 32 15 18 119
30 Oakland 28 21 29 27 23 128
31 Jacksonville 31 32 31 24 13 131
32 New Orleans 31 31 20 31 25 138

Games of note:

Cowboys vs. Saints (32): Matching up against the Saints didn't work last week. But Josh Freeman is way more up and down than Tony Romo. So expect top production from the Dallas passing game. DeMarco Murray is a good play when you look at the Saints' proven weakness in yielding rushing yards. Bottom line: expect Romo to be a top five QB this week considering what he did last week against a good Steelers defense.

Patriots at Jaguars (31): Murder she wrote. Nothing else needs to be said. If you have Sam Cunningham and Randy Vataha on your teams, get them in your lineup this week.

Panthers vs. Raiders (30): The Chiefs burned us last week when we were only playing against Oakland's terrible run defense with Jamaal Charles. But what I overlooked, in retrospect, was the fact that the Raiders were at home, where it is much less likely that you mail it in. This week, though, is a different story. DeAngelo Williams is a top play at running back this week with Jonathan Stewart likely out again. But be sure to play Steve Smith, too. And of course, Cam Newton should be a monster again after regressing to his mean in Week 15.

Dolphins vs. Bills (29): The key question here is whether to trust Reggie Bush given those Buffalo run numbers. I would not.

49ers (1) at Seahawks (2): You have two very hot quarterbacks, though inexperienced, against the top defenses in the sport. As I've said repeatedly here, I think gravity always wins for the offense. By that, I mean offenses pull the defense closer to their established level of performance. This is much tougher to calculate though with inexperienced quarterbacks from whom we have a smaller sample of data. Furthermore, you have two running quarterbacks, who tend to be more matchup proof. In fact, in recent weeks, the Seahawks unveiled a read option for Russell Wilson, which many including me thought would be featured all year. If you own Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, you probably have another QB with a better matchup. Strongly consider them. There is a lot of risk here. Bad matchup for Marshawn Lynch, too – but if Wilson is in the read option, Lynch should get a big yards per carry boost.

Bengals (6) at Steelers (3): I'd stay away from this game except for matchup proof guys like Ben Roethlisberger and A.J. Green. Bench everyone else. I see an under-40 total point game and it's really hard to figure out which Steelers receiver is going to be productive when the overall scoring is down.
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