StrategyOctober 7, 2010

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Weak Defenses and Favorable Week 5 Matchups - 3 comments

By Jeff LaGrassa

Looking to exploit favorable fantasy matchups in Week 5? In this article, I list the worst rushing and passing defenses in the league through the first four weeks of the 2010 season, their opponents, and who may benefit and produce great fantasy performances.

Worst Run Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gameRush TDs
29Indianapolis Colts598149.55
30Arizona Cardinals619154.85
31Oakland Raiders648162.05
32Buffalo Bills696174.0 7 

Matchups in Week 5

29 Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones)
30 Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints (Pierre Thomas*, Chris Ivory, Ladell Betts)
31 Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers (Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert)
32 Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings*)

Worst Pass Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gamePass TDs
26Detroit Lions964241.08
27Chicago Bears1021255.32
28New England Patriots1086271.59
29Seattle Seahawks1208302.06
30Jacksonville Jaguars1215303.89
31Washington Redskins1220305.06
32Houston Texans1351337.88

Matchups in Week 5

26 Detroit Lions vs. St. Louis Rams (Sam Bradford, Mark Clayton, Danny Amendola)
27 Chicago Bears @ Carolina Panthers (Blecch!)
28 New England Patriots BYE WEEK
29 Seattle Seahawks BYE WEEK
30 Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills (Blecch!)
31 Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley)
32 Houston Texans vs. N.Y. Giants (Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham)

* check injury reports

Some caveats:

  • While we now have four weeks worth of data with which to notice some trends and draw a few conclusions, these rankings can be greatly influenced by whether a team has faced strong rushing or passing offenses so far this year.
  • Additionally, teams often get players back who were on suspension or injured and will make adjustments and sometimes just simply start playing better. One player CAN make a difference in a defense; to wit, Indianapolis is a far better team when Bob Sanders is playing, and in the same manner, the Houston Texans are likely going to look a lot different with LB Brian Cushing returning.
  • You should never bench your studs
  • Just because teams have favorable matchups against weak defenses does not necessarily guarantee fantasy success. A lot of other factors come into play depending on what is going on with the gameplan, the game itself, etc.
  • Teams may decide that even though their opponent may have a weak passing defense, they’d rather gameplan to run the ball. Teams often play to their strengths despite whatever their opponents’ weaknesses may be.
  • If a team gets down quickly, they may not have the choice of running the ball even though their opponent may have a weak running defense — they may be forced to pass and play catchup.
  • A tight end who should have a favorable matchup against a weak passing defense may be needed to stay and help block because of a decimated offensive line.

    Unlike last week, I am enthusiastic about the favorable run defense matchups in Week 5. Unless the Colts jump out to a big lead, the Kansas City plowshare should cut through a Indy defense which has been sliced up all year. The Raiders just lost their biggest run stuffer to an injury, and the Chargers have been manhandling them in every game for the last six years. Maurice Jones-Drew got off to a slow start to the season but came alive last week (coincidentally against the Colts and that favorable matchup) and should continue to do so this week against a Buffalo team which looks to be the lead horse in the running for the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    While teams like Carolina and Buffalo have statistically favorable pass defense matchups on paper, their respective team performances have been brutal so far this year, and I’m not expecting things to turn around this week for them. Even with bye week issues, I just can’t see anyone starting Clausen or Fitzpatrick, or their respective wide receivers and tight ends in even the deepest of leagues.

    On the contrary, expect big things from Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning, who have each posted only one 300+ yard game this year. Unless their coaches decide they’d rather gameplan to run, I expect both QBs in finish in the top-five this week (although don’t forget the aforementioned return of Cushing and his effect on the underneath routes and the pass rush for Houston). Even rookie signal caller Sam Bradford should get in on the love this week; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him set a career high in both passing yardage and TDs against a Lions pass defense that has been more purr than growl all season.

    While these favorable matchups pan out more often than they fail, I want to stress that this analysis is best suited for borderline roster decisions in larger (12 and 14-team) leagues that also start a third WR, a fourth WR, or a flex spot. In a smaller (10-team) league which only starts two RBs and two WR positions, for example, I’m not likely to ever bench my studs solely to opt for a player with a favorable matchup.

    Don’t get cute! You drafted your studs for a reason, and if you’re gonna go down with them, at least go down swinging. Nothing feels worse in fantasy football than seeing a marquee player go off while on your bench because you thought a bit player with a favorable matchup was a sneaky play. Bottom line is: don’t treat this data as gospel; however, if you have a borderline roster sit/start decision, you may wish to opt for one of the favorable matchups shown.

Jeff LaGrassa is a Steelers fan and a Cafe regular, and the proud dad of an 18-month old boy. In his free time (yeah right!) he enjoys disc golf, skiing, and playing the electric bass. You can catch him posting in the Cafe forums as The Lung.
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3 Responses to “Weak Defenses and Favorable Week 5 Matchups”

  1. User avatar itsme2 says:

    Great Article!

  2. ThruSeer says:

    Just picked up Sam Bradford off the waiver wire to fill in for concussed Jay Cutler. I got Mark Clayton too, so I’m really pulling for St. Louis this week…. not to mention that I’m also running Steven Jackson. Maybe not wise to run Steven Jackson given my dependence on land and air, but as you said, I shouldn’t be benching my studs. This is all besides the point. Thanks for the article. Nice, lengthy, insightful, and reminded me of key things I should always remember to think about every week.

  3. a1doug182 says:

    I didn’t pay attention to your advice about Buf and went out and got Steve Johnson as a bye week fill in at WR. Man am I glad I did. It was the differance between a win and loss for me. I really didn’t understand how you couldn’t see that there was a good chance of a productive game there. Fitz has shown a good repore with him since taking over and Jax has given up a ton of points to QBs and WRs.


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