Defense Wins Championships, Week 2

Updated: September 10, 2013
Kansas City Chiefs v Jacksonville Jaguars

Note: Every week, there will be an accompanying discussion thread on Reddit’s Fantasy Football subreddit. Please join me there all week, I really do try to answer every question posted! If you’re new to these projections, you can check out the Week 1 column here, as well as the Week 1 Reddit discussion here (which received over 400 comments last week, thank you for the amazing contributions!). Also, check out the updated rankings! They include all the games that were off the board this morning, as well as line adjustments throughout the day.

Welcome back to week 2 of the NFL Fantasy Football season! Last week, we saw absolutely no surprises or upsets. As predicted by virtually every analyst out there, the Kansas City Chiefs stormed into #1 of the D/ST scoring, followed up by perennial powerhouses Dallas, Tennessee, Miami, and the Jets.

Right. Moving on.

Why oh why couldn’t I have used better examples?

“Even those of us in deep leagues should have solid plays available on the waiver wire, so if you drafted a D/ST like Dallas (oh god, why?) or Kansas City (hey, I think they might be fine this year) in a 16-team league, don’t be afraid to drop them for Tampa Bay or Cleveland this week.”

I really nailed this one last week. Let’s see how bad the damage actually was with some week 1 results using ESPN Standard scoring as usual:

       #. Team (Actual score) [Projected score]

  1. Kansas City (23) [6.19]
  2. Dallas (21) [4.02]
  3. Miami (17) [6.68]
  4. Tennessee (15) [5.14]
  5. NY Jets (12) [5.24]
  6. Texans (11) [7.88]
  7. Detroit (11) [5.35]
  8. Buffalo (11) [3.63]
  9. Seattle (10) [7.76]
  10. Philadelphia (10) [1.90]
  11. Denver (9) [8.85]
  12. Tampa Bay (9) [7.95]
  13. Arizona (9) [6.86]
  14. Redskins (9) [5.18]
  15. Cleveland (8) [7.58]
  16. Chicago (7) [11.55]
  17. St. Louis (7) [9.65]
  18. New Orleans (7) [3.22]
  19. New England (6) [10.21]
  20. Pittsburgh (6) [7.93]
  21. Carolina (6) [4.66]
  22. Jacksonville (6) [3.77]
  23. Oakland (6) [0.89]
  24. Indianapolis (5) [6.00]
  25. San Francisco (4) [6.27]
  26. Cincinnati (2) [6.65]
  27. NY Giants (1) [5.57]
  28. Atlanta (1) [3.50]
  29. San Diego (0) [5.56]
  30. Minnesota (-1) [4.19]
  31. Green Bay (-4) [3.83]
  32. Baltimore (-6) [2.75]

Now, if our assumptions about defensive TDs are true, then it’s hard to do analysis on our sample size. The standard deviation is going to be huge. But what kind of things can we tell? For one, the average score this week was 7.44. Our predicted average score was 5.83. Where is the error from? Well, last year D/STs averaged 6.79 points per game across the board, so perhaps both: Our model may need tweaking and this was a high scoring week. More data is key.

Analyzing a pitifully small sample size

The top scoring D/STs this week allowed 2, 31, 10, 9, 17, 23, 24, 28, and 27 points, further illustrating our core axiom that turnovers are king. Here again were our top 10 rankings, along with how many turnovers they forced (actually, fumbles forced – not just recovered – and interceptions):

  1. Chicago – 2 FF, 2 INT
  2. New England – 3 FF
  3. St. Louis – 4 FF, 1 INT
  4. Denver – 1 FF, 2 INT
  5. Tampa Bay – 2 FF, 1 INT
  6. Pittsburgh – 1 FF
  7. Houston – 1 INT
  8. Seattle – 3 FF
  9. Cleveland – 3 INT
  10. Arizona – 2 FF, 1 INT

Now let’s see the actual top 10, and how their ST (Special Teams) scoring differed (if at all):

  1. Kansas City – 2 INT, 1 TD
  2. Dallas – FF, 3 INT, 2 TD
  3. Miami – 2 FF, 3 INT
  4. Tennessee – 2 FF, 1 INT
  5. NY Jets – 3 FF, 1 INT
  6. Buffalo – 2 FF, 1 INT, 1 TD
  7. Detroit – 1 FF, 3 INT
  8. Houston – 1 INT, 1 TD
  9. Philadelphia – 2 FF, 2 INT
  10. Seattle – 3 FF

Surprise, surprise. The teams scoring defensive TDs and racking up turnovers are the teams on top! So far, so good. The results, while not exactly as we predicted, are still fully within the realm of possibility. How about the four teams I was suggesting off the waiver wire?

St. Louis got you 7. Tampa Bay got you 9. Cleveland got you 8. Arizona scored a defensive TD to salvage a score of 9.

We are not trying to hit home runs every week. That is going to be impossible and/or frustrating. We are simply trying to avoid the Whammies while hitting the big money – defensive TDs – as often as chance allows.

How about the teams I repeatedly cautioned you about?

San Francisco scored 4. Green Bay scored -4. Baltimore scored -6. Indianapolis, the most asked-about team this week (perhaps second only to Tampa Bay), scored 5 – lower even than their “surprisingly low” prediction of 6.00.

And those seven 100% ownership teams, how did they all do? Well, it was a mixed bag.

Chicago (7 points), Cincinnati (2), Denver (9), New England (6), San Francisco (4), Seattle (10), Houston (11), Pittsburgh (6). The only two scores that were significantly below average, SF and Cincinnati, belonged to teams rated 12th and 13th last week, respectively.

I call this part burying the lead*:

  1. Chicago (12.81) versus Minnesota
  2. New England (12.55) versus NY Jets
  3. Cincinnati (9.21) versus Pittsburgh
  4. Seattle (7.50) versus San Francisco
  5. Miami (7.47) at Indianapolis
  6. Baltimore (7.36) versus Cleveland
  7. Atlanta (7.04) versus St. Louis
  8. Oakland (7.00) versus Jacksonville
  9. Denver (6.77) at NY Giants
  10. St. Louis (6.65) at Atlanta
  11. Carolina (6.14) at Buffalo
  12. New Orleans (6.07) at Tampa Bay
  13. Arizona (5.98) versus Detroit
  14. Buffalo (5.65) versus Carolina
  15. Kansas City (5.60) versus Dallas
  16. Indianapolis (5.53) versus Miami
  17. San Francisco (5.35) at Seattle
  18. Tampa Bay (4.97) versus New Orleans
  19. Dallas (4.96) at Kansas City
  20. Detroit (4.91) at Arizona
  21. Cleveland (4.72) at Baltimore
  22. Minnesota (4.72) at Chicago
  23. NY Giants (4.30) versus Denver
  24. NY Jets (3.28) at New England
  25. Pittsburgh (3.00) at Cincinnati
  26. Jacksonville (2.65) at Oakland

*As you’ll notice, there are only 26 teams here. Because of the late MNF double header, the gambling lines have not been posted for the remaining three games on the board (Chargers at Eagles, Titans at Texans, and Redskins at Packers) as of writing. Therefore, they’ll remain off of our board until we have all of our variables! Of those six teams, the Texans will rate as very good, the Packers will rate as mediocre, and everyone else will probably rate as unplayable. We will have the exact numbers as soon as the bookies catch up.

Filtering out the noise

Chicago and New England are on top for a second consecutive week. Why? Well, we still have a lot of our data from the 2012 season. I’m weighing week 1 fairly significantly (approximately 3 games of 2012 weigh as heavily as one week 1 game), but that still means 2012 accounts for a vast majority of the data set. Did Chicago or New England give us anything to go on from week 1 that we can be comfortable starting either in week 2?

Chicago forced 2 fumbles, recovered 1, and intercepted Andy Dalton twice. Against an inferior Vikings team, against whom Detroit D/ST just scored 11 points against, I think this one checks out.

New England forced 3 fumbles last week, and this week face a Jets team at home that just scraped by Tampa Bay. Of these two plays, this one seems more likely to be too noisy from 2012… but I doubt it is far off from reality! Now if only Mark Sanchez could find his way back into the game

Week two waiver wire targets

Miami (19.6% ownership), Baltimore (62%), Atlanta (11.2%), and Oakland (0.6%) lead the way this week, and I’m pretty comfortable ranking them in that order.

Miami is noteworthy in that they are an underdog. Go through and look at the top scoring D/STs each week – how many of the top scoring units end up as winners each game? The answer is a lot. What does Miami have going for them then? They’re one of the teams that benefited most from a strong showing in week 1. Indianapolis allowed a fairly high number of sacks in 2012, and the Dolphins were pretty good getting to the quarterback. This figures to be another one of those 7-9 points games with an upside of much, much more.

Are you comfortable running Baltimore D/ST out there? I would be, although feel free to shy away from them for Atlanta or Oakland. I think you’d have to get down to #10, the Rams, before I’d say the Ravens are an outright better choice.

Week two cautionary tales

San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Dallas are on my list this week. However, please do not assume that I mean all four of these teams will do poorly! However, with the exception of Kansas City, they are all road teams in tough games. Personally, I was hoping Kansas City would rate better this week, but we need a little more of a 2013 sample size before we can start counting on them in tough matchups.

Best of luck this week. As mentioned above, I try to answer every question thrown my way on Reddit, and I’m always happy to discuss strategy!


@dtlerch on Twitter

/u/quickonthedrawl on Reddit

t4blog at gmail dot com


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  1. Flatty

    September 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    If I have Luck starting, should I still try to snag Miami? Isn’t it a bit counter productive to hope your QB throws a lot of TDs against a D/ST you’re starting? In my league even allowing 14-17 only nets you a single point. 28-34 is -1!

    • Dylan

      September 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Hi Flatty,

      Not at all! Think of every starting position as completely independent of every other on your roster. Let’s say Andrew Luck goes 20/25, 250 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT. The actual numbers aren’t important, but that seems like a pretty generous statline for him. Can Miami still score well?

      Absolutely! Let’s say they tally 4 sacks, a recovered fumble, and return a kickoff for a TD. All of a sudden, you have a QB and a D/ST scoring you 20 points each!

      To put it another way, there are so many scenarios that exist where Luck scores well and Miami score well. They’re not mutually exclusive at all, and so if you choose your starters based purely on expected value, you’ll end up in the best position you can.

  2. Aaron

    September 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    That is literally the scenario i am going with this week, luck and miami.

  3. Pingback: Defense Wins Championships, Week 2 (cont.) - Nerdball Magazine

  4. Nick Becvar

    September 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I’m curious as to why Dallas is ranked so low. I picked the Dallas D up in 2 leagues, and they are projected to have the most fantasy points, according to Yahoo, this week (I think). I still think KC sucks as a team, and Dallas D is way better than Jacksonville D…I blacme Jacksonville for KC scoring so many points, not their team necessarily.

    • Dylan

      September 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Hi Nick,

      Be careful when using projections off of a fantasy site. for example uses Madden simulations! I’m not sure about Yahoo! projections.

      I’m just not sold by either KC or Dallas this week yet. I think we need to temper expectations for both this week, and wait until we get a larger sample size.

      Good luck though!

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