StrategyNovember 5, 2010

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Weak Defenses and Favorable Week 9 Matchups

By Jeff LaGrassa

Looking to exploit favorable fantasy matchups in Week 9? In this article, I list the worst rushing and passing defenses in the league through the first eight weeks of the 2010 season, their opponents, and who may benefit and produce great fantasy performances.

Worst Run Defenses

RankTeamGamesYds. AllowedYds/gameRush TDs Allowed
27Detroit Lions7913130.48
28Indianapolis Colts7932133.18
29Arizona Cardinals71002143.17
30Tampa Bay Buccaneers71046149.45
31Denver Broncos81237154.614
32Buffalo Bills71321188.78

Matchups in Week 9

27 Detroit Lions vs. N.Y. Jets (LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene)
28 Indianapolis Colts @ Philadelphia Eagles (LeSean McCoy)
29 Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings (Adrian Peterson)
30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons (Michael Turner, Jason Snelling)
31 Denver Broncos BYE WEEK
32 Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears (Matt Forte, Chester Taylor)

Worst Pass Defenses

RankTeamGamesYds. AllowedYds/gamePass TDs Allowed
26Cleveland Browns71709244.113
27Atlanta Falcons71822260.311
28Jacksonville Jaguars82137267.117
29Seattle Seahawks71874267.78
30Washington Redskins82247280.914
31New England Patriots71977282.413
32Houston Texans72096299.416

Matchups in Week 8

26 Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots (Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate, Deion Branch)
27 Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow)
28 Jacksonville Jaguars BYE WEEK
29 Seattle Seahawks vs. N.Y. Giants (Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham)
30 Washington Redskins BYE WEEK
31 New England Patriots @ Cleveland Browns (Blecch!)
32 Houston Texans vs. San Diego Chargers (Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates*, Patrick Crayton, Seyi Ajirotutu)

* check injury reports

Some caveats:
* While we now have seven weeks worth of data for most teams (and eight for some) with which to derive statistics, these averages can be influenced by whether a team has faced strong rushing or passing offenses so far this year. One very bad week can turn a middling defense into a bad one, and on the contrary, defensive strengths can suddenly strengthen due to players returning from injury or suspension.
* 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 own strengths despite whatever their opponents’ weaknesses may be.
* If a team gets down quickly in a game, they may not have the choice of running the ball even though their opponent may have a weak running defense — the losing team 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.

With the exception of the Seattle running back tandem, nearly all of last week’s running back matchups panned out, and I expect similar results this week. Most of the RBs are fairly obvious starts who were already in your starting lineup anyway: they include LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, and Matt Forte. The only sneaky plays this week are really Chester Taylor and Jason Snelling, and I would personally only start these desperation plays if I was having serious bye-week blues.

As for the exploitable passing defenses, it’s a shame that two of the worst are on bye this week as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins have been regularly torched all season long. On paper, the Browns may be facing one of the worst passing defenses in the league, but the components of the Cleveland offense have been so atrocious and unreliable that they can not be started in good faith. The San Diego offense is like a M.A.S.H. unit these days but against the Texans, you have to start any Chargers player with a heartbeat. Start all Giants and Patriots, and even members of the Tampa Bay offense make good plays this week.

And honorable mention goes to the Dallas Cowboys, who may be 10th in the league with only 205.4 yards per game given up, but in the last two weeks since Romo broke his collarbone have surrendered at home 306 passing yards and four passing TDs to Eli Manning, and then 260 yards and four passing TDs to David Freakin’ Garrard. This is a Dallas team that looks like has seemingly given up on the season, and while you weren’t taking Aaron Rodgers out of your starting lineup anyway, any member of the Packers offense makes an especially good start: WRs James Jones and Jordy Nelson make especially sneaky plays this week.

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 a 20-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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