We all do it. We are in a rush to get our lineups set so we take the shortcut of just looking at the rankings of the opposing defense and use that as the main criteria for choosing a player. It might only be a player a week and most of the time it works out fine. But, we just cannot assume that rankings is an all-encompassing evaluation of the opposing defense against whatever position we are looking at. That ranking only tells us how many fantasy points the opposing defense has allowed to a position this season. It does not take into account the quality of the players at the position a team has faced. To maximize our chances of winning each week, we need to look deeper than just the listed rankings; we need to account for the actual quality of opposing players when looking at that ranking. To that end, this week we are going to look at a few deceptive positional defensive rankings so far this season.
New England vs QB — New England has allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. That would indicate that they are a matchup you should avoid when considering a QB, right? I will not go so far to say the Patriots are a good matchup for opposing QB, but their impressive rank has a lot to do with a soft schedule so far. In terms of passing yards for the season New England has faced: Miami which ranks 23rd, Minnesota which ranks 28th, Oakland which ranks 26tth, Kansas City which ranks 31st and Cincinnati which ranks 11th in passing yards this season. If you look at touchdowns, the schedule looks nearly as weak. Kansas City does rank 8th in passing TD, but the next best is Miami which is tied for 19th. Minnesota, Oakland and Cincinnati rank 32nd, (t) 27th and (t) 27th respectively As you might surmise by looking at those stats, the Patriots defense against quarterbacks has been very much helped by a weak schedule.
Jacksonville vs QB — At the other end of the spectrum is the Jacksonville defense against quarterbacks. Just going by points allowed per game, Jacksonville ranks 30th against opposing quarterbacks this season. Not to say that the Jaguars have a great defense, but they have had a tough schedule thus far. They have faced Philadelphia, Washington, Indianapolis, San Diego and Pittsburgh so far. All of those tams rank in the top-ten in passing yards per game. Indianapolis and San Diego rank first and second in passing TD this season, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are both in the top-13. So, the Jaguars are not an automatic start when you see a quarterback is facing them. Are they bad, probably, but they are not likely the third worst passing D in the NFL.
Cleveland vs RB — In the realm of running back defense, the Browns have been made to look much weaker than they actually are due to a tough schedule. Cleveland’s opponents have been very good at running the balls this season. Cleveland has played: Pittsburgh which ranks 7th in rushing yards per game, New Orleans which ranks 9th in yards per game and has the most rushing touchdowns, Baltimore which ranks 12th in rushing yards and has scored the 5th most rushing touchdowns this season. Again, the Cleveland D is likely to be below average against running backs, but not nearly as bad as their current 29th ranking.
New York Jets vs RB — If you are looking for a rushing D that has been made to look better against running backs than the ranking suggests look no further than the New York Jets. If you just go by fantasy points allowed, the Jets have been the 7th best team against running backs. As you might have guessed, a weak schedule is responsible for the lofty ranking. The Jets have played Green bay – 25th in rushing yards per game, Chicago – 22nd in rushing yards per game, Detroit – 28th in rushing yards per game, San Diego –27th in rushing yards per game, and Oakland – ranked 32nd in rushing yards per game. Oakland and Chicago have also each rushed for only one touchdown this season. Given the schedule, I would say the Jets rushing D is actually average at best.
Green Bay vs TE — We do not always have to go deep into stats to see why a team might have a ranking that is the result of a favorable schedule. Green Bay ranks 4th against tight ends this season. While that looks impressive, it is far less so when you see they have played Seattle, the Jets, Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota. Yes, Martellus Bennett is a good tight end, but none of the Packers opponents have a tight end of note – at least not a fantasy relevant, healthy tight end.
Those were just a few examples. This is the sort of thing you should be doing as much as you can. Looking beyond the stats that everyone else can see to find advantages. Trying to determine if a team is good or bad against a certain position because they have a good or bad D, or if they have had a tough or easy schedule which has skewed their stats one way or another. Yes, chances are the 32nd ranked team against a position is likely to be bad, but they might not be horrible if they have had the toughest schedule – just bad, and that is a difference that matters.
What we are doing by looking at different aspects of team building every week is addiing some extra tools to your toolbox for creating a team. The more tools you have the better you will be at building your teams and by extension, the more likely you will be to win some money. Further, the deeper you can go into the stats, the bigger advantages you will find. You are more likely to win if you go beyond the obvious; while a small advantage might not seem all that important, a few small advantages add up to a big advantage.
That is all for this week. Good luck with your teams this week, you can catch me on Twitter @STCDub.