StrategyDecember 25, 2010

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Weak Defenses and Favorable Matchups: Week 16 - 2 comments

By Jeff LaGrassa

Looking to exploit favorable fantasy matchups in Week 16? In this article, I list the worst rushing and passing defenses in the league throughout the season, their opponents, and who may benefit and produce great fantasy performances.

Worst Run Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gameRush TDs Allowed
25Cleveland Browns1809129.25
26Oakland Raiders1832130.912
27Washington Redskins1881134.413
28Indianapolis Colts1901135.814
29Tampa Bay Buccaneers1911136.510
30Arizona Cardinals2040145.716
31Denver Broncos2218158.422
32Buffalo Bills2221158.615

Matchups in Week 16

25 Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens (Ray Rice, Willis McGahee)
26 Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts (Donald Brown, Javarris James)
27 Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars (Rashad Jennings)
28 Indianapolis Colts @ Oakland Raiders (Darren McFadden*, Michael Bush)
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch)
30 Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys (Tashard Choice, Felix Jones)
31 Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans (Arian Foster, Derrick Ward)
32 Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead)

Worst Pass Defenses

RankTeamYds. AllowedYds/gamePass TDs Allowed
25San Francisco 49ers3221230.123
26Tennessee Titans3176244.316
27Jacksonville Jaguars3307254.427
28Dallas Cowboys3358258.324
29Seattle Seahawks3386260.519
30Washington Redskins3458266.023
31New England Patriots3460266.221
32Houston Texans3639279.929

Matchups in Week 16
25 San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams (Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson)
26 Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki)
27 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Washington Redskins (Rex Grossman, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Anthony Armstrong)
28 Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals (John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston)
29 Seattle Seahawks @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Kellen Winslow)
30 Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars (David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas, Marcedes Lewis)
31 New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson, David Nelson)
32 Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos (Tim Tebow, Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney)

Some caveats:
We now have exactly fourteen weeks worth of data for every NFL team 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 game-plan 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.

It’s Week 16 – the Fantasy Super Bowl! If you’re reading this article you’re competing for your league championship, in the third place game, or hopelessly addicted to fantasy football. If the former, all the year-long preparation can finally pay off – you followed the college bowls, the Senior Bowl, 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. As of the beginning of the weekend, Maurice Jones-Drew is listed as doubtful and his backup, Rashad Jennings, has a juicy matchup against a Washington Redskins defense, which has given up yardage in huge chunks all season long. Ray Rice and Donald Brown finally showed up to the 2010 season, and you’ll want to keep them in your lineup this season against two of the weaker rushing defenses in the league. Marion Barber has been close to returning from his injury the last two weeks, but as long as he remains out and there’s no three-way running back by committee, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice make excellent starts this week against the Swiss cheese Cardinals defense. Speaking of injury, Arian Foster is supposedly fully recovered from the ailment which knocked him out of last week’s game, and all signs point to him being full go on Sunday. As the defense that has been gashed the most on the ground this season, Buffalo should prove no match for both New England running backs. On the flip side, the injury situation in Oakland makes their RBs a gamble to start in your championship game, and despite the favorable matchup, I have a hard time putting a lot of faith that Marshawn Lynch is going to unleash the “Beast Mode,” which has been a mere whimper most of the year.

When it comes to favorable passing defenses, ride the hot hand in Jacksonville, where David Garrard has somewhat flown under the radar with a surprisingly strong stretch of recent games. That streak should continue against the Redskins, making the entire Jaguars passing offense a source of fantasy richness. On the other side of the field, Rex Grossman has been the talk of the fantasy world after last week’s performance, which along with four passing TDs was accompanied by three egregious turnovers, something Grossman has become famous for. Start him only if you’re a gambling man and have absolutely no better options. Along with the Skins WRs and TEs, safer starts include Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and his WRs, who stand a very good chance to put up some excellent garbage time statistics against the Patriots paper bag secondary. Even against a historically anemic Texans passing defense, there’s just no way you can put your money on Tim Tebow and his WRs, and chances are that if you’ve made it this far in the fantasy playoffs, you weren’t starting too many members of the St. Louis and Arizona passing attacks; despite the favorable matchups, it’s probably wise to avoid them when it counts most.

This is the final article of the season and I hope they have assisted you with roster decisions. I also wish you all good luck in this, the most important of weeks. Once more, 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, two RB and two 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 21 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 Matchups: Week 16”

  1. Thanks to you Jeff LaGrassa for sharing your insights this season.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. jfb05 says:

    Should I play Pierre Thomas or Marshawn Lynch? Should I play Marcedes Lewis or Jacob Tamme?

    Happy Holidays!


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