StrategyDecember 16, 2010

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Weak Defenses and Favorable Matchups: Week 15

By Jeff LaGrassa

Looking to exploit favorable fantasy matchups in Week 15? In this article, I list the worst rushing and passing defenses in the league through the 2010 season so far, their opponents, and who may benefit and produce great fantasy performances.

Worst Run Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gameRush TDs Allowed
25Carolina Panthers1724132.617
26Oakland Raiders1726132.811
27Tampa Bay Buccaneers1730133.19
28Washington Redskins1747134.412
29Indianapolis Colts1834141.114
30Arizona Cardinals1863143.316
31Denver Broncos1954150.319
32Buffalo Bills2156165.814

Matchups in Week 15

25 Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals (Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells)
26 Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos (Knowshon Moreno)
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Detroit Lions (Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris)
28 Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys (Felix Jones, Tashard Choice)
29 Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings)
30 Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson)
31 Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders (Darren McFadden, Michael Bush)
32 Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams)

Worst Pass Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gamePass TDs Allowed
26Tennessee Titans3176244.316
27Dallas Cowboys3307254.427
28Jacksonville Jaguars3358258.324
29Washington Redskins3386260.519
30Seattle Seahawks3458266.023
31New England Patriots3460266.221
32Houston Texans3639279.929

Matchups in Week 15

26 Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans (Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter)
27 Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins (Donovan McNabb, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Anthony Armstrong)
28 Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Jacob Tamme)
29 Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys (Jon Kitna, Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Jason Witten)
30 Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons (Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas)
31 New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers (Matt Flynn, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson)
32 Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans (Kerry Collins, Kenny Britt, Bo Scaife, Nate Washington, Randy Moss)

Some caveats:

  • We now have exactly 13 weeks worth of data for every NFL team (which is a very 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 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 catch-up.
  • 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.
  • I apologize to everyone who was looking for an article last week – I was switching ISPs and had no home internet access. Now Week 15, the playoffs are finally here! All the year-long preparation can finally pay off – you followed the Senior Bowls, NFL Combine and NFL Draft, you participated in dozens of mock drafts, you drafted your team, you made waiver wire additions and trades throughout the autumn, you analyzed matchups and successfully battled your fellow owners, all to win a spot in the final dance. Now, however, is not the time to 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, and you’ll have an entire offseason to wallow in the misery of your poor decision.

    But,if you’ve got a flex spot or injury issues and are forced to go deep, the following favorable matchups may put you over the top. After Josh Daniels was removed as Denver’s head coach, the offense has seemingly fallen off a cliff. The one bright spot has been RB Knowshon Moreno, who has rushed for 100 yards and/or scored a TD the last four games in a row and should continue that trend this week against a porous Raiders rush D. On the other side of the field, the Raiders running back committee should again tear up a Broncos defense that it shredded for 300+ yards back in late October. No one is taking Maurice Jones-Drew out of their starting lineups, but Rashad Jennings has been very fantasy worthy the last two weeks and could actually make for a decent start this week. Both members of the Carolina running back tandem are good to go against a Cardinals defense that gives up yardage in huge chunks, and while the Cowboys’ running back committee has been mostly anemic this season, due to the injury suffered by Marion Barber and the tasty matchup against the Redskins both Felix Jones and Tashard Choice make excellent starts this week. On the flip side, I just can’t place any amount of trust in either of the Dolphins running backs despite going up against the league-worst Bills defense, and starting a Lions running back, even against the Buccaneers, is like playing with fire.

    When it comes to favorable passing defenses, ride the hot hand in Houston, whose second half against Baltimore last week was other-worldly for fantasy stats and should continue this week against the Titans. Matt Ryan has been a far better real life QB than fantasy one this year, but I’m willing to bet he bucks that trend against the Seahawks passing defense. The Dallas offense should have no problems with the woeful Skins D, and on the other side of the field, I think the Washington offense could return the favor just like in last week’s Eagles/Cowboys game. While you’re not taking any members of the Indianapolis offense out of your starting lineups, there are some “favorable” matchups to avoid: with Matt Flynn almost certain to start in place of a concussed Aaron Rodgers, I wouldn’t trust any element of the Packers offense against the Patriots, and even against a historically anemic Texans defense, I couldn’t put my money on Kerry Collins and the Titans passing “attack” in the fantasy playoffs.

    Honorable Mention: While their yardage totals don’t rank them as bottom defenses, the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles have given up 25 and 26 TDs respectively on the year. This week they face the Denver Broncos and N.Y. Giants; therefore Kyle Orton, Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Kevin Boss also have some favorable matchups.

    While these 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 which also start a 3rd WR, a 4th WR, or a flex spot. In a smaller (10-team) league which only starts, for example, 2 RB and 2 WR positions, I’m not likely to ever bench my studs solely to opt for a player with a favorable matchup. Bottom line is: don’t treat this data as gospel; however, if you’ve got a borderline roster sit/start decision, you may wish to opt with 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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