StrategyOctober 14, 2010

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Weak Defenses and Favorable Week 6 Matchups - 2 comments

By Jeff LaGrassa

Looking to exploit favorable fantasy matchups in Week 6? In this article, I list the worst rushing and passing defenses in the league through the first five weeks of the 2010 season, their opponents, and who may benefit and produce great fantasy performances.
Worst Run Defenses

RankTeamGamesYds. AllowedYds/gameRush TDs
27Carolina Panthers5672134.44
28Arizona Cardinals5704140.85
29Indianapolis Colts5711142.25
30Tampa Bay Buccaneers4573143.32
31Oakland Raiders5739147.86
32Buffalo Bills5912182.47

Matchups in Week 6
27 Carolina Panthers BYE WEEK
28 Arizona Cardinals BYE WEEK
29 Indianapolis Colts @ Washington Redskins (Ryan Torain)
30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints (Pierre Thomas*, Chris Ivory, Ladell Betts)
31 Oakland Raiders @ San Francisco 49ers (Frank Gore)
32 Buffalo Bills BYE WEEK
Worst Pass Defenses
RankTeamGamesYds. AllowedYds/gamePass TDs
27Tennessee Titans51213242.66
28New England Patriots41089272.39
29Jacksonville Jaguars51411282.212
30Washington Redskins51490298.07
31Seattle Seahawks41208302.06
32Houston Texans51648329.611

Matchups in Week 6
27 Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars (David Garrard, Marcedes Lewis, Mike Thomas, Mike Sims-Walker)
28 New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens (Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh)
29 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans (Blecch!)
30 Washington Redskins vs. Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon)
31 Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears (Jay Cutler, Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen, Devin Hester, Matt Forte)
32 Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki, Dwayne “Butterfingers” Bowe)
* check injury reports
Some caveats:
# While we now have five weeks worth of data for most teams with which to notice some trends and draw a few conclusions, statistically, this is still a small sample size and can be greatly influenced by whether a team has faced strong rushing or passing offenses so far this year.
# 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.
Sadly, many of the teams with the worst rushing defenses in the NFL are on bye this week and can’t be exploited. The Buffalo Bills have been especially torched and look to be the lead horse in the running for the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and the Panthers and the Cardinals also get the week off. While Ryan Torain didn’t look particularly special last week in his first start, he has a much more favorable matchup this week against the Colts, whose run defense has leaked like a sieve this season. Unless the Colts jump out to a big lead against the Skins’ exploitable pass defense and take the running game out of their game plan, I like Torain to set a season high in rushing yardage, with a goal line plunge or two possibly also in the works. As of Thursday night, it’s looking increasingly like Pierre Thomas will sit another week, making Chris Ivory a nice flex play this week. Nobody is benching Frank Gore against a Raiders defense which has had trouble stopping the run all year.
As for the exploitable passing defenses, as previously mentioned, the Colts should rock our nation’s capital on Sunday night. If you own any elements of the Colts passing attack, you’re starting them this week; heck, against the Skins I’d be starting the Colts water boy if my league rules allowed it. After sitting out for a week with a concussion, Jay Cutler should vault the Bears passing attack back to prominence at home against the Seachickens. Up in New England, the attention in the game may be on how the new Patriots offense fares without Randy Moss, but I’ll be hedging my bets on a Ravens offense lighting up the young Patriot secondary. Though the Chiefs offense hasn’t been too dynamic so far this year, the Texans secondary seem to find new ways to blow coverage each week, and I expect Kansas City to challenge them with a few deep bombs. And while teams like Jacksonville and Tennessee have statistically favorable pass defense matchups on paper, their respective team performances have been less than stellar 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 put a lot of confidence in Garrard or Young or their respective wide receivers and tight ends in even the deepest of leagues. These are teams that live and die by the run, with two of the best running backs in the league, so weigh the risk and your roster decisions carefully and accordingly.
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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2 Responses to “Weak Defenses and Favorable Week 6 Matchups”

  1. User avatar DraftDodger says:

    I’ll admit up front that I’m a big Pat’s fan, but I think even if I weren’t I wouldn’t be high on the Ravens’ passing offense this week. You can believe that every Pats opponent is keeping the Miami embarassment in mind, and wants to play conservative football against the Pats. Look at the various match-up report articles and you’ll see that the Ravens are still considered a run-first team and that the passing attack is still a work in progress. This is a big game for these two teams, with New England 8-2 coming off bye weeks under Belichek (with the last loss back in 2002) and New England hasn’t lost a regular season home game since November 2008 (facts from a sportsweb article). With Flacco only connecting on 57 percent of his passes, he may fail to exploit any rookie mistakes made in the defensive backfield.

    Sorry, this just doesn’t look like a good game for the Ravens’ pass attack. They can’t afford to dig themselves into a hole against the Patriots on the road, and will play conservatively.

  2. User avatar Navyseal says:

    Despite the higher-than-average number of yards that TENN has given up thru the air, I wouldn’t exactly rank them as one of the “worst” pass D’s. They have only given up 6 total TDs thru the air, an average of 1.2 per week — that sounds more “average” to me than anything else. To wit, with the exception of Dallas, teams have had a fairly tough time running the ball against the Titans so far, and if you can’t run the ball, you must move the pigskin thru the air. I think Tennessee is a liiiitle better than advertised is all…

    keep up the great, insightful work gang!


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