StrategyNovember 18, 2010

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Weak Defenses and Favorable Week 11 Matchups

By Jeff LaGrassa

Looking to exploit favorable fantasy matchups in Week 11? In this article, I list the worst rushing and passing defenses in the league through the first ten weeks of the 2010 season, their opponents, and who may benefit and produce great fantasy performances.

Worst Run Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gameRush TDs Allowed
25Oakland Raiders1123124.86
26Detroit Lions1174130.410
27Carolina Panthers1184131.67
28Arizona Cardinals1192132.410
29Indianapolis Colts1199133.29
30Denver Broncos1288143.114
31Tampa Bay Buccaneers1294143.88
32Buffalo Bills1502166.99

Matchups in Week 11

25 Oakland Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore)
26 Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys (Felix Jones, Marion Barber)
27 Carolina Panthers vs. Baltimore Ravens (Ray Rice, Willis McGahee)
28 Arizona Cardinals @ Kansas City Chiefs (Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones)
29 Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots (BJGE, Danny Woodhead)
30 Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers (Ryan Mathews*, Mike Tolbert)
31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers (Frank Gore)
32 Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals (Cedric Benson)

Worst Pass Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gamePass TDs Allowed


Arizona Cardinals2424269.314
28Seattle Seahawks2450272.212
29Jacksonville Jaguars2451272.319
30New England Patriots2500277.816
31Washington Redskins2579286.618
32Houston Texans2712301.322

Matchups in Week 11

27 Arizona Cardinals @ Kansas City Chiefs (Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki*, Terrance Copper)
28 Seattle Seahawks @ New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Jeremy Shockey*)
29 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Cleveland Browns (Blecch!)
30 New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme, Austin Collie)
31 Washington Redskins @ Tennessee Titans (Vince Young, Randy Moss, Nate Washington, Justin Gage)
32 Houston Texans @ N.Y. Jets (Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Brad Smith)

* check injury reports

Some caveats:

  • With bye weeks completed, we now have exactly nine weeks worth of data for every NFL team (which is a good sample size) with which to notice trends and draw conclusions. However, injuries and player personnel can still alter defensive strengths around. Additionally, teams tend to run more and pass less this time of year when the weather worsens.
  • 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.

Looking back to last week, we had good results with Mike Goodson, Fred Jackson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks running back tandems. But due to the huge early leads which their opposing teams jumped out to, the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants RBs were unable to exploit their favorable matchups. This was a good lesson that game conditions can sometimes render the best conditions moot. Though Charles was able to redeem himself with his receiving prowess, (especially in PPR leagues) many NFL running backs are rarely targeted in the passing game like that. And then we had Cedric Benson, who despite the favorable matchup against Indianapolis, rushed 14 times for a pathetic 24 yards. With that kind of performance, is there any reason to think that Ced will fair any better this week against the worst rushing defense in the league, the Buffalo Bills?

As for the favorable passing defenses, if you started anyone from Philadelphia or Jacksonville then you were smiling like the butcher’s dog. Mike Thomas, last week’s sneaky play, was having a very good statistical day with 7 catches for 99 yards and an overtime period looming before one of the flukiest plays of the season, a 50 yard batted Hail Mary TD, made his stat line a stupendous one. What’s the lesson here? Start any player you can against the Houston pass defense; they are on pace to be historically one of the worst defenses of all time!

As for Week 11, bye weeks are complete and there’s no longer any need to make any substitution starts. For the most part, you can start your studs and the players you drafted. That’s not to say however that there aren’t some prime opportunities in WR4 and flex spots. Judging by last week’s inspired play, new head coach Jason Garrett has seemingly turned Dallas around 180 degrees and after a great passing performance against the G-men, I look for their running game to get back on track versus Detroit. No one is taking players like Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, and Jamaal Charles out of their starting lineups, but their backfield counterparts make acceptable emergency starts if the injury bug has hit your fantasy team. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank Gore sets a season high this week, but as previously mentioned, I wouldn’t touch Cedric Benson with a ten foot pole.

When it comes to favorable passing matchups, I really like what the Chiefs are doing in the last few weeks — putting up great fantasy stats in their losses, and fantasy stats are all we care about. If Matt Hasselbeck can throw for a season high on the road and with a broken wrist versus Arizona, I definitely like the Chiefs versus a Cards defense on the road. Everyone is surely starting all their Colts and Saints each week, and is this week that Randy Moss is used for anything else other than as a decoy? While the Browns have been been generating excitement with some inspired play and their rookie signal caller looks like the Real McCoy, I still wouldn’t start the QB or any of his wide receivers. And finally, while Sanchez and the Jets passing attack has been far from a dynamic juggernaut, as previously mentioned, start any warm body against this sieve-like Houston secondary.

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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