Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rating Matchups at the Quarter Pole

Rating Matchups at the Quarter Pole

**NOTE: These are match-up ratings, not defensive ratings. A rating of 1st means that they are an amazing match-up while a rating of 32nd means they are the worst match-up. 

OK, so we aren't technically 1/4th of the way through the season, but defensive trends are absolutely becoming relevant information at this point in the year. The most unfortunate aspect of this information is it's relative scarcity or difficulty in compilation. Furthermore, it is rare to find sufficient depth such that the information provided gives a truly clear picture of what kind of success an offensive player is going to have against a given defense. My goal with this post is to provide a snapshot of defensive performance at this point in the season for every defense against every position all in one place. I'll be adding notes where I think the rankings don't tell the whole story, and as always, comments and suggestions are highly appreciated. For now I'll be putting the defenses is order of most yards allowed per game to fewest, which should approximately make the list a worst-to-best ranking. I personally don't believe in "points against" rankings for kickers, so I'm not including them here...with the one exception being the Giants defense. JPP can block kicks like Ibaka blocks dunks. Hope you enjoy! (Here are my current weekly rankings for week 5 - they are updated to reflect injuries!)

For those of you who like smaller lists: (same information broken into smaller packets)
NFC North
NFC East
NFC South
NFC West

AFC North
AFC East
AFC South
AFC West

1. New Orleans Saints Defense:

5th Against the Pass [20.60 PPG]: The Saints defense is currently 5th worst against the pass despite having one of the lowest attempts against them. This is a terrible set of statistics, especially given the 2 total interceptions against three relatively weak quarterbacks (RG3, Matt Cassel, and Cam Newton) who have thrown their fair share of interceptions this season. On the other hand, the Saints have given up the most rushing yards to quarterbacks of any team in the league (having already players Rodgers, Newton, and RG3), so that number will probably come down going forward. Either way, you should feel confident playing any QB against the Saints defense (with the possible exception of Josh Freeman).

1st Against the Run [27.85 PPG]: The reason for the low number of passing attempts is the terrible state of their run defense. These numbers are slightly skewed by the game Jamaal Charles had against them (nearly 300 total yards), but every other running back who has faced them (Alfred Morris, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Cedric Benson) has scored at least 10 points. That is an unbelievable statistic, and you should start any starting running back against this team.

4th Against Receivers [29.43 PPG]: The Saints have been similarly terrible against wide receivers. Both starting WRs and strong WR2s have played well against this team and should be started liberally.

32nd Against Tight Ends [3.88 PPG]: Surprisingly, the Saints are best in the league against tight ends. This is probably a product of their extreme deficiencies in the other two categories (RBs and WRs) and should be taken into consideration when starting TEs against them. Try to avoid it when possible.

2. Tennessee Titans Defense:

2nd Against the Pass [22.20 PPG]: The Titans have allowed the second most points to quarterbacks this season, despite playing a number of this season's most underachieving QBs. Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Schaub have all come to town and beaten up on the lowly Titans. While I don't know about Christian Ponder's chances, it's hard to be against him with this defense.

5th Against the Run [24.58 PPG]: Again, this defense is terrible against the run, we know that. The Titan's haven't exactly gone up against the best running backs in the league with the exception of their game against Arian Foster. Given the division the Titans are in, their run defense ranking isn't likely to get much better. Anyone running against the Titans is a good play.

18th Against Receivers [20.38 PPG]: The Titans defense is markedly more effective against opposing wide receivers. The Titans have a slightly stronger group of corners, so even though they've given up plenty of receiving yards over the last 4 games, there have only been 3 touchdowns by receivers. If you are debating about whether or not to start a receiver against the Titans, consider it a tough matchup.

1st Against Tight Ends [20.03]: The Titans are every bit as bad against tight ends as they are good against receivers. They've allowed 7 touchdowns to tight ends, so you know where opposing offenses will go in the red zone. These defensive rankings are something like self fulfilling prophesies.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense:

15th Against the Pass [16.64 PPG]: It's time to think differently about the Tampa Bay pass defense. This team has played four of the best early-season quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and RG3) and allowed only a modest number of fantasy points. The passing touchdowns allowed (just 4 this season) are amongst the lowest in the league. If you can avoid playing a moderate quarterback against this defense, that would be best for your fantasy team.

22nd Against the Run [13.73 PPG]: The Bucs defense is even better against the run than the pass. While they haven't exactly faced any powerhouse running teams, the 13.73 total points for running backs against them each week is extremely weak. They are best avoided if you can swing it.

2nd Against Receivers [33.03 PPG]: Surprisingly, the Bucs have a terrible track record against opposing wide receivers. Their extremely poor passing yards ranking doesn't resonate strongly with quarterbacks, where fumbles, interceptions and low touchdowns reduce their overall value, but does make wide receivers extremely valuable. You will be looking at more yards than touchdowns, but feel confident playing receivers against this team.

23rd Against Tight Ends [6.65 PPG]: The Bucs are good against tight ends, but their opposition thusfar has been pretty weak. Don't seek out this defense, though, when selecting a tight end option.

4. Washington Redskins Defense:

4th Against the Pass [21.10 PPG]: The Redskins are absolutely terrible against opposing quarterbacks, which is definitely saying something since they've played Brees, Bradford, Dalton, and Freeman. There's absolutely no getting around this deficiency, especially since they lost Carriker and Orakpo. Play any QB against the Redskins D.

23rd Against the Run [13.60 PPG]: The Redskins have managed to have success against the run by limiting the carries by opposing offenses. As long as the opponent feels pressured by the Redskins offense, they should be solid against the run. I wouldn't hold too strongly to this ranking if you know the offense will run the ball heavily (20+ times per game).

1st Against Receivers [37.98 PPG]: The Redskins have the worst record against opposing WRs of any team in the NFL right now. The primary wide receiver has been absolutely excellent against this defense, so play any WR1s and all strong WR2s against this terrible defense.

4th Against Tight Ends [10.45 PPG]: The final piece is that the Skins are terrible against tight ends. Given that there are still multiple games against the NFC East with their solid TEs, this ranking won't be getting much better.

5. Oakland Raiders Defense:

1st Against the Pass [22.48 PPG]: The Raiders have not been able to stop the pass all season and are one of only two teams who haven't recorded an interception yet this season. This is what happens when you let your two best corners walk away. Play any and all QBs against this train-wreck of a defense (sorry Raiders fans).

6th Against the Run [24.55 PPG]: The Raiders have played against nothing better than decent-to-poor running backs, but they still rank 5th worst in the NFL. Play any starting running back you can against this team. Talent will probably trump offensive line play against this defense.

10th Against Receivers [24.15 PPG]: The Raiders fare better against opposing WRs, but they are still heavily scored on. The Raiders have not given up a large number of touchdowns to receivers, but it's still better than playing them against most other teams. Don't senselessly avoid this defense with any average or above average receivers.

5th Against Tight Ends [10.43 PPG]: The Raiders haven't given up many yards to TEs, but they've averaged one touchdown per game. Play any traditionally good TE against this defense.

6. Buffalo Bills Defense:

6th Against the Pass [20.44 PPG]: The Bills have been just plain bad against the pass. This secondary made Sanchez and Weeden look like NFL caliber QBs...and that's saying something. Any quarterback can play against the Bills for the time being.

4th Against the Run [25.20 PPG]: The Bills were absolutely horrendous against the run last week against the Patriots. The Bills hadn't been so bad against the run before this week, but they definitely hadn't been good. The 49ers will show us whether this is going to be a trend or a one-week wonder.

5th Against Receivers [28.10 PPG]: Similar to their pass defense, the Bills have been remarkably ineffective against wide receivers. This is somewhat surprising given the fact that their defensive backs aren't especially bad, but something about this revamped defense just isn't getting the job done.

18th Against Tight Ends [7.50 PPG]: This is the kind of ranking that says absolutely nothing. 7.50 PPG is middle of the pack. Don't seek them out or avoid them.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:

20th Against the Pass [15.55 PPG]: The Jaguars are probably good against the pass because their offense is like a limp noodle. Other teams simply aren't intimidated by the Jaguars offense, even though Blaine Gabbert is playing much more like an NFL quarterback. The Jaguars also have a good CB1 in Derek Cox. It definitely isn't because opposing teams aren't throwing the ball, though; they just aren't throwing it well.

3rd Against the Run [26.75 PPG]: Opposing teams are running an average of 30.5 times per game, but they're only getting about 4 yards per carry. If this offense could get ahead of teams they would be able to stop the run. Keep that in mind before the Jags play bad defenses...they just have to be really bad defenses.

20th Against Receivers [19.53 PPG]: The Jags are decent against WR1s, as long as they aren't of the elite variety (A.J. Green is that variety), but they can be hurt in unexpected ways. T.Y Hilton rocked this team, but he's the kind of guy you could never have bet on before that game. I wouldn't suggest playing borderline WRs against this team.

25th Against Tight Ends [5.98 PPG]: The tight ends are better than average against tight ends, but good tight ends could still gash them. Don't seek this defense out when choosing a TE.

8. Cleveland Browns Defense:

7th Against the Pass [20.24 PPG]: The Browns have the 4th most passing attempts against them, and that contributes to their poor ranking. They have generated 6 interceptions, but 4 of those came in week 1 against Michael Vick. They have allowed 9 passing touchdowns; a trend that will likely continue even after Joe Haden returns from injury suspension. Play opposing quarterbacks against this defense.

15th Against the Run [15.88 PPG]: Opposing teams have not been especially successful running the ball against the Browns, despite running the ball nearly 25 times per game. The teams ranked 15th-23rd are very tightly packed in terms of run defense, but most of those teams have endured fewer rushing attempts than the Browns. I wouldn't seek them out if I could avoid it.

3rd Against Receivers [32.58 PPG]: Their top corner has been out for a while and they are paying for it. The nice thing is that there are more than enough points to go around for teams with two top receivers (Maclin/Jackson, Boldin/Smith). If you don't know which receiver to play, play the one with the matchup against the Browns.

29th Against Tight Ends [5.00 PPG]: The Browns have been excellent against tight ends. Brent Celek, Jermaine Gresham, Scott Chandler, and Dennis Pitta have been stymied by this defense. Avoid them whenever possible.

9. Carolina Panthers Defense:

10th Against the Pass [17.69 PPG]: Offenses have been throwing with significant success against the Panthers defense. Thus far they have been assisted by the fact that they run defense has been so bad, but with only three interceptions on the season, there is no reason for opposing offenses to stop throwing against them. You should be cautious of starting terrible QBs against them. They aren't the worst pass defense in the NFL.

2nd Against the Run [27.28 PPG]: Opponents are getting over 5 yards per carry against the Panthers (5.21 to be exact). Play any starting running back you can against them. The Panthers have already allowed over 850 total scrimmage yards to running backs in 4 games.

26th Against Receivers [18.03 PPG]: The Panthers have been moderately successful against opposing wide receivers considering the offenses they've played (Saints, Giants, and Falcons), so they aren't a defense you want to seek out. At the same time, don't avoid playing a starting receiver against them. There are far worse matchups than the Panthers. They seem to be worse against slot-receiver types.

12th Against Tight Ends [8.70 PPG]: The Panthers have been unable to stop opposing tight ends from scoring against them. It goes right along with the rest of their defense, but if you don't have a good tight end option, playing a decent one against the Panthers could be a successful strategy.

10. Baltimore Ravens Defense:

25th Against the Pass [14.27 PPG]: The Ravens have a much improved offense, but their defense is far worse than in the past. The saving grace is that they still generate plenty of turnovers. Opposing quarterbacks have not been especially successful, and you shouldn't seek a matchup against the Ravens when you can avoid it. You also shouldn't bench an entrenched starter against this team.

13th Against the Run [17.48 PPG]: The Ravens are nothing better than average against the run. Opposing offenses aren't afraid to run against the Ravens, but they aren't very successful when they do. Despite scoring 5 rushing touchdowns in 4 games, opposing teams are only generating about 3.3 YPC. This is a difficult set of data to predict into the future, so don't avoid or seek a rushing matchup against the Ravens.

11th Against Receivers [23.60 PPG]: Even against mediocre offenses, the Ravens have not been very good against the receivers. Opposing offenses are forced to pass against the Ravens more than in the past, and the corners are not living up to their potential in most games. Feel safe playing your strong receivers against this team. Short-pass receivers are having special success (Wes Welker and Andrew Hawkins).

16th Against Tight Ends [7.75 PPG]: There's nothing to see here. You can't make any predictions based on this very average rating.

11. New York Giants Defense:

14th Against the Pass [16.97 PPG]: Since the first game of the season, the Giants have been quite good against the pass. The pass rush is something to be feared, and their secondary is slowly getting more healthy. Until their corners are back to full health, it will still be fine to play many QBs against them. This isn't a team you want to seek a fight with or run away from.

19th Against the Run [14.10 PPG]: The offense is helping stop the run in the case of the Giants. They are allowing well over 4 yards per carry, but only enduring about 21 carries per game. The Giants run defense has not allowed rushing touchdowns (only one this season); likely due to their strong short yardage game. Singular running backs on strong offenses could have great success. Any sort of RBBC probably kills the value of all backs involved.

7th Against Receivers [26.80 PPG]: The Giants are allowing about 1 touchdown per 10 passing attempts to receivers. This is an unbelievably high rate and should be taken advantage of whenever available. The Giants are giving up over 17 yards per reception to wide receivers. Get your big play receivers in the game.

26th Against Tight Ends [5.53 PPG]: The Giants are doing very well against tight ends. Try to avoid this defense if you can when picking a tight end.

12. New York Jets Defense:

24th Against the Pass [14.42 PPG]: The Jets were very good against the pass, but with Revis out for the season this will likely change. The Jets were absolutely demolished in their game against the 49ers, so I wouldn't worry too much about playing QBs against this team. The fear here is that the Jets offense is so bad that the opposing offense never needs to pass.

7th Against the Run [24.40 PPG]: The Jets are giving up well over 4 yards per carry, and opposing offenses are taking advantage of it. The Jets are being punished by more than 30 rushes per game because their offense simply can't keep up or play ball control football. They are giving up 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game. They have only been able to stop the Steelers to this point...and the Dwyer + Redman attack was one of the worst in the NFL.

25th Against Receivers [18.75 PPG]: Here is one place where the loss of Revis will be especially felt. Cromartie is a solid CB1, but he was an excellent CB2. With him moving over into the top corner position, passing yards to receivers should likewise increase. The Jets play Houston this week, so we'll see how much open space Andre Johnson sees with Revis Island sunk for the year.

20th Against Tight Ends [7.38 PPG]: As with most of these TE rankings, there's not a whole lot to read into this number. Just go with your studs.

13. New England Patriots Defense:

9th Against the Pass [19.14 PPG]: The Patriots are still not especially good against the pass. Their offense forces their opponents to pass, but the defense just can't keep up. They definitely aren't as bad as last season, but you should still be confident playing any competent QB against this team.

25th Against the Run [12.45 PPG]: The Patriots have been extremely successful against the run this season, allowing just barely over 3 YPC this season. Whenever you can avoid this defense, do it.

9th Against Receivers [25.75 PPG]: The Patriots always manage to have the highest yardage receiver, but they're still giving up big points to any receiver who gets targets. They aren't especially good against deep or slot receivers. We'll have more knowledge about who does best as the season goes forward. They have the ability to shut down top receivers on occasion.

2nd Against Tight Ends [10.88 PPG]: The Pats have a terrible track record with tight ends. Dennis Pitta and Scott Chandler thrashed them. Good tight ends should be good plays.

14. Cincinnati Bengals Defense:

7th Against the Pass [19.98 PPG]: The Bengals CB corps has been extremely beat up this season. At this point it's hard to know if they will ever improve, but almost any competent QB can pass against this weak pass defense. They aren't generating turnovers or causing incompletions. Don't worry about avoiding this team.

10th Against the Run [22.20 PPG]: Despite defending against only 71 rushes this season, the Bengals have allowed over 5 YPC and one rushing touchdown per game. Feel confident playing almost any running back against this team. Opponents should start running more against this team.

24th Against Receivers [19.23 PPG]: Despite all the passing and running against this team, it doesn't seem to generate many WR points. The truth behind this statistic is that the Bengals have had two softball games against the Browns and the Jaguars. This ranking is going to plummet once they start playing real offenses.

7th Against Tight Ends [9.85 PPG]: The Bengals are poor against opposing tight ends, so seek out guys playing against this defense. We'll see what direction these numbers go as the season moves on.

15. Indianapolis Colts Defense:

19th Against the Pass [15.57 PPG]: This number is generically low because of the Bears, Vikings, and Jaguars. Those three teams have had pedestrian or worse passing attacks this season. You can tell this is the case by looking at the WR numbers. There's really nothing stopping a good passing attack from shredding this defense. Things will change if they stop the Packers this weekend.

8th Against the Run [24.00 PPG]: The Colts are the second team to have a terrible run defense with under 20 carries per game. This, again, is likely because of the weak opponents. Cedric Benson will show this weekend what a mediocre running game on a great offense can do to the Colts defense. I think he will have great success. They are allowing well over 4.5 YPC.

8th Against Receivers [26.30 PPG]: The Colts have been allowing big games to opposing receivers. The last second score by Cecil Shorts was a fluke, but even without those numbers the Colts are still bad. Any strong WRs should be played against this team, and if you don't know who to play, play the guy going up against the Colts.

31st Against Tight Ends [4.00 PPG]: They have been amazing against tight ends this year. Don't seek them out as an opponent.

16. Miami Dolphins Defense:

17th Against the Pass [16.54 PPG]: The Dolphins have been surprising stout against opposing QBs, but the opposition hasn't been very tough. This number is going to start going the other way if they keep giving up 300+ passing yards per game. Despite the low number here, don't be afraid to play QBs against them.

18th Against the Run [14.23 PPG]: The Dolphins are excellent against the run. They are allowing fewer than 3 YPC, so you really shouldn't need much more convincing than that. The one exception would be a RB that catches a lot of passes. The Dolphins have allowed nearly as many receiving yards to running backs (176 yards on 18 receptions) as they have rushing yards (213 yards on 88 carries).

6th Against Receivers [27.40 PPG]: The Dolphins aren't very good against wide receivers, so feel confident playing most receivers against them. The Dolphins have been very consistent about giving up huge yardage to opposing WR1s (this is why A.J. Green is my top receiver for week 5).

19th Against Tight Ends [7.43 PPG]: Like most of these numbers, this doesn't tell you much of anything. Given how bad they are at most passing categories, don't hesitate to play tight ends against the Dolphins.

17. Atlanta Falcons Defense:

23rd Against the Pass [14.55 PPG]: The Falcons have been absolutely excellent against opposing QBs this season. I don't know where this defense came from, exactly, but with 7 INTs to 4 TDs this season, you don't want to start a questionable passer against this defense. Do what you can to make other arrangements.

11th Against the Run [19.50 PPG]: Despite being amazing against the pass, this defense is terrible against the run. The running backs going up against the Falcons have racked up well over 4.5 YPC. Real running games (blocking FBs and TEs) seem to work better than shifty running games against this defense. They may have difficulty disengaging from downfield blocking while being perfectly capable of shifting side to side.

28th Against Receivers [16.68 PPG]: Going right along with the QB ranking, the Falcons are excellent against all wide receivers. Only play even the best receivers against this team if you have to. Some players will do well, but most won't.

15th Against Tight Ends [7.95 PPG]: Nothing to see here, folks. Move along to point totals that matter. It is notably higher (relative to average) than the other pass-dependent categories.

18. St. Louis Rams Defense:

26th Against the Pass [12.32 PPG]: The Rams don't play host to too many top caliber QBs in the NFC West, but their defense has been better than expected against the pass. Their pass rush gets enough pressure to create errant throws on a regular basis. That being said, I wouldn't shy away from playing a good QB against them: RG3 and Stafford we're abysmal against this defense.

12th Against the Run [18.44 PPG]: The Rams are allowing just under 4.4 YPC and are facing around 20 carries per game. The weakness of the opposing offensive lines has been masking their much worse running defense. In a losing effort Beast Mode ran for 117 yards. Otherwise, players like Ryan Williams, Kevin Smith, and Michael Bush haven't exactly tested their defenses. Good running backs with strong offensive lines could run all over this defense.

29th Against Receivers [16.58 PPG]: Despite defending against 100 receiver targets, the rams have been strong against opposing wide receivers. The play of their young corners and pass rushers is the cause, but they haven't played any upper echelon receivers thus far this season. Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson all had big games from a yardage standpoint, so don't be afraid to play top-WRs against this team.

27th Against Tight Ends [5.38 PPG]: They have been good against tight ends. Try to avoid them where it is convenient.

19. Arizona Cardinals Defense:

28th Against the Pass [11.54 PPG]: The Cardinals are allowing an average of one touchdown and one interception to every quarterback who plays them. With numbers like that, it's very tough to play all but the best against this defense. It definitely helps that this offense doesn't scare anyone. They generate lots of QB turnovers.

24th Against the Run [12.66 PPG]: Opposing running backs are averaging below 4 YPC, but they are facing quite a barrage of rushes. With about 24 carries against them each game, it is amazing that they've only allowed one rushing touchdown. They have played a lot of very strong backs (Lynch, Ridley, McCoy, Reggie Bush, and Steven Jackson), all of whom have had serious trouble against this defense. They are for real.

14th Against Receivers [22.76 PPG]: Patrick Peterson is improving, but he still isn't an elite cover corner. Wide receivers have had enough success against this team for you to take chances, but you shouldn't expect too much. 22.76 is still a relatively low number, and you never know when this team is going to dominate a quarterback.

24th Against Tight Ends [6.16 PPG]: This number is definitely low, but it isn't a deal-breaker. You will still play top-end tight ends against this team.

20. Kansas City Chiefs Defense:

3rd Against the Pass [21.19 PPG]: This defense is 14th in yards but 31st in total points. This team is allowing an amazing 2.5 touchdowns per game despite allowing no 300 yard passing games. How amazing is that? All of this means that you should play quarterbacks against this team happily. The real test will be in week 6 when they play Josh Freeman. If they can't stop him, they can't stop anyone.

9th Against the Run [23.75 PPG]: This team is only allowing about 4.2 YPC, but they're also allowing about 5 receptions for 60 yards from opposing running backs each game. No matter what kind of running back you have going up against the Chiefs, you're going to want them to be in your starting lineup. This team simply can't stop them.

19th Against Receivers [20.10 PPG]: The Chiefs have actually been pretty efficient at stopping opposing wide receivers. Dwayne Bowe has been the leading receiver in yards each of the last three games. The Chiefs face opponents with very good receivers over the next two weeks, so I wouldn't be worried about starting Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, or Vincent Jackson against this defense.

10th Against Tight Ends [9.18 PPG]: This is a large number of TE points per game. Feel free to start TEs against this weak defense.

21. Chicago Bears Defense:

32nd Against the Pass [9.69 PPG]: This Bears defense has 11 interceptions to 4 touchdowns. You don't want your quarterback playing against this defense if you can help it. I would sit all mid-level QBs against the Bears for the time being. You run the risk of a Tony Romo Monday Night.

29th Against the Run [10.98 PPG]: The Bears are allowing about 3.5 YPC this season, and while they're schedule hasn't been overwhelming in the RB category, this unit did shut down DeMarco Murray. I really don't think you want to risk playing any mediocre running back against this elite defense.

17th Against Receivers [21.63 PPG]: This number is low but not unbearable. You don't want to start many WR2s, but you can definitely get away with any standard fantasy-level player. You definitely don't want your bye week fill-in player to be going up against this defense though.

9th Against Tight Ends [9.58 PPG]: The Bears are apparently quite bad at stopping tight ends. I don't know how much of this was Jason Witten at the end of the Monday Night game, but it still seems like the Bears are a good matchup for your fantasy tight end.

22. San Diego Chargers Defense:

18th Against the Pass [15.60 PPG]:The Chargers have played quite well against the mediocre quarterbacks they played, but they were completely dominated by the one top quarterback they faced (Matt Ryan). This is probably a solid assessment going forward. With them allowing less than two touchdowns per game and greater than one interception per game, you shouldn't be seeking a matchup with San Diego any more than you should be avoiding one. This team will make fantasy quarterbacks exactly what they are.

14th Against the Run [17.35 PPG]: This team has been weak against the run both on the ground (allowing over 4 YPC and 2 touchdowns) and through the air (32 receptions for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns). Any running back that can catch screens and run the ball should have a nice game against this team. The Chargers don't have a strong front-seven to stop the run and don't seem to have the discipline and agility to stop backs in the passing game.

22nd Against Receivers [19.28 PPG]: This team is playing extremely well against wide receivers. You don't want to start a bye-week player against the Chargers if you can help it. There are definitely other players who will have more success than any low-level receiver playing the Chargers. They are somewhat susceptible to strong WR1s, but not to a great extent.

17th Against Tight Ends [7.60 PPG]: Very middling number. Don't worry about it right now.

23. Detroit Lions Defense:

22nd Against the Pass [14.86 PPG]: The Lions have been extremely good at pass defense over the first four weeks of the season despite not having any interceptions and allowing about 67% completions. There is something about these numbers that just isn't right, but I don't know whether it is in favor of the defense or offense at this point. It is possible that the Lions own offense is providing opportunities to score in ways that are not yardage or passing intensive, such as defensive and special teams touchdowns. On the other hand, it could just be the four mediocre or worse quarterbacks that the Lions have faced (Bradford, Smith, Locker, and Ponder). Whatever the reason, I wouldn't worry too much about avoiding this defense with fantasy-level quarterbacks. They haven't played a true top-12 QB yet this season.

28th Against the Run [11.63 PPG]: The Lions have allowed just under 4 YPC, and they are facing about 20 carried per game. The matchup here is pretty abysmal, and I would say that the four corresponding running backs (Steven Jackson, Gore, CJ2k, and A.D.) are much more impressive. Avoid this defense with running backs where possible for the time being.

27th Against Receivers [17.33 PPG]: The Lions have not been allowing fantasy points to receivers of any level. Given that none of the receivers they have faced are top-10 NFL receivers (Harvin is a borderline top-10 fantasy receiver), I'm not going to put too much stock in this yet. It does mean that low end fantasy receivers who strongly lead their team (like Stevie Johnson) would likely have trouble against this defense.

3rd Against Tight Ends [10.58 PPG]: This team seems to be very efficient at letting tight ends score fantasy points. Play your fantasy tight ends here!

24. Green Bay Packers Defense:

16th Against the Pass [16.63 PPG]: The Packers have gone from "by far the worst" to "pretty decent" in terms of preventing opponents from passing the ball. Opposing QBs are averaging fewer than 250 yards per game, but they are getting two touchdowns on average. They would be one of the best pass defenses in fantasy football without that Golden Tate reception (that reception was worth a little over 2 points per game at this point in the season). With all of this, you're better off avoiding the Packers than challenging them this season with your fantasy quarterback.

16th Against the Run [15.73 PPG]: The Packers are allowing just under 4 YPC so far this season, and their opponents are only averaging 30 yards per game receiving. You likely aren't going to have a huge running game against the Packers at this point, but stronger runners (like Marshawn Lynch) can do consistent damage if used heavily throughout the game. This isn't a matchup you are looking to target.

12th Against Receivers [23.13 PPG]: The Packers have not been especially good against opposing primary receivers this season. Marques Colston perfectly fits the mold of a guy who will beat the Packers corners: Big, quick, and shifty with great hands. These guys will take chances on interceptions, so a well-run route can turn into a huge gain. The safeties are still learning and are susceptible to play action and double moves.

21st Against Tight Ends [7.28 PPG]: The Packers are very average against tight ends. Play them as you see fit.

25. Minnesota Vikings Defense:

11th Against the Pass [17.25 PPG]: The Vikings are not on the better half of pass defense in terms of fantasy football. They fail to generate turnovers and are providing a consistent 250 yards per game. The Vikings have not played the cream of the crop in terms of quarterbacks (Gabbert, Luck, Smith, and Stafford), so focusing on the Vikings matchup with starting or strong backups isn't a bad move. You shouldn't be scared about facing them.

31st Against the Run [9.80 PPG]: The Vikings are allowing just over 3 YPC this season and are proving to be a serious matchup hazard. It helps that the Vikings have managed to keep the games close and control the clock. No matter how you cut it, under 10 total points per game is ridiculous. Play only the best RBs against them. As a small positive side note, they have allowed 20 receptions to RBs over the last 4 games.

20th Against Receivers [19.53 PPG]: The Vikings have not been very friendly to receivers this season, either. It definitely helps to play the 49ers and the Jaguars, but this defense kept Megatron and Reggie Wayne pretty well under wraps, even if Donnie Avery had a big game. This is definitely a matchup that you should avoid where reasonable.

8th Against Tight Ends [9.70 PPG]: Over 9 points per game is extremely solid. Feel confident playing tight ends against this team.

26. Denver Broncos Defense:

12th Against the Pass [17.14 PPG]: The Broncos have not had much success against the pass, but Peyton Manning has outpaced the opposing QB in every game this season. The Broncos don't seem to know what they want to do, with Schaub throwing for 4 touchdowns and Palmer throwing for none. It's very difficult to make an accurate prediction from this point forward, but you shouldn't avoid or seek this matchup right now. Lean towards facing the Broncos in most situations.

27th Against the Run [12.00 PPG]: The Broncos have been one of the best teams against the run, with opposing backs only averaging about 3.1 YPC so far this season. This is a team that has faced Arian Foster, Michael Turner, and Darren McFadden; if you can possibly avoid this matchup, do it.

13th Against Receivers [22.83 PPG]: The Broncos aren't especially good at defending against opposing receivers. It seems like they fare better when they are facing a team with a less defined receiving corps (they played better defensively against the Steelers and Raiders), so don't be afraid to bust out your studs on the Broncos. You just might want to avoid any weak players with weak quarterbacks.

6th Against Tight Ends [9.95 PPG]: Another team giving up big-ish points to tight ends. Feel free to utilize this matchup.

27. Philadelphia Eagles Defense:

29th Against the Pass [11.34 PPG]: The Eagles have been immensely successful against opposing fantasy quarterbacks. They have allowed just over 220 yards per game with barely 50% completions and more interceptions than touchdowns. That data is slightly skewed by their first game against the Browns, but the data holds: You don't want to start a borderline QB against this defense. Period.

26th Against the Run [12.23 PPG]: The Eagles are playing well against the run this year, but they are only facing about 22 rushes per game. The teams they've played have been quite variable (T. Rich was hurting week 1, Ryan Williams, Ray Rice, and Ahmad Bradshaw), but you can't really argue with 12 points per game. You don't want your RB starting against this team if they aren't a serious starter.

15th Against Receivers [22.03 PPG]: Even with the terrible passing ratings this team is only decent against receivers. Opponents tend to find room to work, even with two great corners on the outside. You don't need to worry too much about playing good receivers against the Eagles.

30th Against Tight Ends [4.93 PPG]: This rating is very very low. Try to avoid this matchup if you can.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers Defense:

13th Against the Pass [17.00 PPG]: One third of this teams games have been against Mark Sanchez, and this still isn't very good for the Steelers. Troy and James should be back on defense in the coming weeks, so I would expect things to turn around for them. At this point the Steelers are allowing 2 touchdowns per game passing to only one total interception. Those numbers are good for your fantasy quarterback.

20th Against the Run [14.07 PPG]: The Steelers run defense had been allowing about 4.5 YPC in their 3 games to start the season; an uncharacteristic number for this premier defense. With Philly and Tennessee coming to play over the next two weeks, we'll get a much better look at this team against real rushing attacks. I wouldn't hesitate to play McCoy or CJ2k against the Steelers at this point.

16th Against Receivers [21.77 PPG]: There's not much data on the Steelers when considering a true WR1. Demaryius Thomas had a good game in week one, but the Jets and Raiders don't really have a single top receiver. Philly and Tennessee don't have real WR1s either, so I'd feel comfortable playing Jackson and Maclin this weekend. Odds are that at least one of them has a big game.

13th Against Tight Ends [8.60 PPG]: The Steelers haven't be great against TEs yet, but this number is still pretty average. If you have two equal choices, this isn't a bad matchup to choose.

29. Dallas Cowboys Defense:

27th Against the Pass [12.22 PPG]: The Cowboys offense has stifled a lot of opposing quarterbacks this season. Consider the games against the Seahawks and Bears where Tony Romo would have scored as many or more fantasy points for the opponent than he did for his own team. The Cowboys defense is falsely inflated by the fact that opposing teams simply don't need to pass the ball against them to win. Tony Romo has been the leading passer in all four games so far this season. This defense will not be so good if they get tested late in a game against a serious contender.

17th Against the Run [14.50 PPG]: The Cowboys are average against the run, allowing just barely under 4 YPC this season on about 25 carries per game. They have managed to reduce the number of RB receptions so far this season, so try to avoid playing RBs who catch passes as part of their fantasy lifeblood against this team. The linebackers here can move to the ball.

31st Against Receivers [15.28 PPG]: Similarly to the QBs, opposing wide receivers just never get a chance to tear this team a new one. Brandon Marshall had serious success against this team, and I would think it safe to play any top receivers against the Cowboys. Their WR number is generically deflated.

14th Against Tight Ends [8.43 PPG]: This is a relatively high number, so play opposing tight ends against the Cowboys if you have a reasonable option.

30. San Francisco 49ers Defense:

21st Against the Pass [15.18 PPG]: Opposing quarterbacks have had moderate success against the 49ers. Heck, if you throw out the horrendous game by the Jets you might even say QBs have been playing well against this defense. I wouldn't avoid starting a QB against this team, but you definitely how for a better matchup than this.

32nd Against the Run [7.78 PPG]: About 3 YPC and no touchdowns. That's a pretty lowly stat line for any running back. Marshawn Lynch is powerful enough to make something against this defense, but he is a special guy right now. Don't start guys against the 49ers if you can help it.

30th Against Receivers [16.33 PPG]: This is a pretty pathetic number for opposing wide receivers. Again, the Jets game makes this a bit off, but it wouldn't be any different if they played the Jaguars, Cardinals, etc. There are plenty of offenses as bad as the Jets. Try to avoid starting all but the best against this defense.

10th Against Tight Ends [9.18 PPG]: The 49ers have been weak against tight ends. That's been surprising to me since they have such good linebackers. Perhaps TEs just get more goal line looks with the stout rush defense.

31. Seattle Seahawks Defense:

30th Against the Pass [9.98 PPG]: The Seahawks have been amazingly efficient against the QBs they've faced this season. Both Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers were held to a mere whisper against this defense. Unless you have a true stud or no other alternative, avoid playing QBs against this ballhawking defense.

30th Against the Run [10.78 PPG]: The Seahawks are also allowing fewer than 3 YPC to opposing running backs this season. They haven't played any powerhouse running teams so far this year, but the numbers are still telling. You don't want your running back facing this defense if you can help it.

23rd Against Receivers [19.25 PPG]: Just over 50% of targets towards WRs are being completed against this defense, so be very careful with inaccurate QBs or timing receivers. The physical play of the Seahawks defensive backs has been widely noted, so big possession receivers will likely fare better than others. The safeties for this team are excellent.

28th Against Tight Ends [5.18 PPG]: As with everything else, you don't want your tight end playing against the Seahawks. Their defense shuts everything down so far.

32. Houston Texans Defense:

31st Against the Pass [9.86 PPG]: You don't really want to play any QB against the Texans. There are times when you don't have a choice, but this defense has excellent pass rushers and corners. Avoid them whenever you can.

21st Against the Run [14.00 PPG]: Nothing was more surprising than when Chris Johnson ran all over the Texans. 14 points per game is still extremely low, so don't play any RBs against this defense if you can avoid it. The defense is so good against the pass that very few offenses can afford to waste time by running the ball.

32nd Against Receivers [15.05 PPG]: Less that an average of 100 yards and 1 touchdown for all wide receivers per team per week. Only the very best should be played against this defense.

22nd Against Tight Ends [6.75 PPG]: This team is not the best against tight ends, but you'd be well served to avoid playing against them unless you absolutely must. In all; avoid the Texans.

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