Defense Wins Championships, Week 4

Updated: September 24, 2013

Welcome back to the wacky world of the NFL, where Andy Reid has won more games in Philadelphia than the Eagles have for the better part of a year! And oh, those Kansas City Chiefs… but we’ll get to week 4 in a moment.

Each week, there will be an accompanying discussion thread for the week on Reddit’s /r/fantasyfootball. Please join me there all week! I try to answer every question posed in the D/ST discussion threads.

Week 1 (and basic methodology) | Week 2 | Week 2, part 2 | Week 3

As always, the results from week 3:

 Top scoring D/STs from Week 3 (ESPN Standard)

#. Team (expected score) versus/at Opponent [actual score]

  1. Baltimore (4.12) versus Houston [22]
  2. Green Bay (3.79) at Cincinnati [21]
  3. Carolina (5.08) versus NY Giants [21]
  4. Chicago (11.72) at Pittsburgh [20]
  5. Kansas City (3.45) at Philadelphia [20]
  6. Cincinnati (3.97) versus Green Bay [16]
  7. Dallas (6.46) versus St. Louis [13]
  8. New Orleans (6.96) versus Arizona [13]
  9. Cleveland (4.81) at Minnesota [12]
  10. Indianapolis (2.44) at San Francisco [12]
  11. Seattle (17.40) versus Jacksonville [12]
  12. Atlanta (4.60) at Miami [11]
  13. Tennessee (7.62) versus San Diego [9]
  14. New England (12.18) versus Tampa Bay [9]
  15. NY Jets (7.50) versus Buffalo [8]
  16. Minnesota (9.72) versus Cleveland [7]
  17. Washington (5.08) versus Detroit [6]
  18. Philadelphia (5.58) versus Kansas City [4]
  19. Tampa Bay (5.59) at New England [4]
  20. Denver (12.20) versus Oakland [3]
  21. Detroit (3.73) at Washington [3]
  22. Miami (8.41) versus Atlanta [3]
  23. Pittsburgh (3.03) versus Chicago [3]
  24. Houston (5.83) at Baltimore [3]
  25. Arizona (2.68) at New Orleans [2]
  26. St. Louis (5.98) at Dallas [1]
  27. San Francisco (8.28) versus Indianapolis [1]
  28. NY Giants (6.46) at Carolina [-1]
  29. Buffalo (7.46) at NY Jets [-2]
  30. Jacksonville (0.56) at Seattle [-2]
  31. San Diego (3.90) at Tennessee  [-3]
  32. Oakland (0.68) at Denver  [-4]

Where to even begin? Let’s start case-by-case.

Baltimore, Green Bay, Carolina, Kansas City, and Cincinnati all scored 16+ points, and every one was projected between 3.97 and 5.08 points. How did they do it?

Baltimore – 2 TDs, 1 INT. I think we can safely assume that a D/ST that only forces one turnover is unlikely to score 21 points without a shutout. However, return TDs can also happen on kick returns and the Ravens cashed in bigtime.

Green Bay – 1 TD, 5 FF, 1 INT, 4 sacks. It’s very rare that a team will lose its game, concede 34 points, and still score 20 points, but 5 (!) fumbles for Cincinnati were money here. Of course the Packers put up 21 points before their bye week. Why not make decisions more difficult for week 4?

Carolina – shutout, 2 INT, 1 FF, 7 (!) sacks. The Panthers were disappointing in week 2 after a disappointing 2012. Week 1 wasn’t much better. This is a team people claim looks good defensively, but that has not consistently scored well as a fantasy D/ST. The sack numbers are the most impressive stat here, especially given that Eli Manning has been so wretched for fantasy. His two interceptions were actually under the pace he had been on, and he has 8 through just 3 games.

Kansas City – 1 TD, 2 INT, 4 FF, 5 sacks. Their score is the most impressive (and by that I mean repeatable) score of the four. I expect KC’s stock to keep rising as their schedule gets better and better. 2012 is still a significant part of the sample size, but 2013 is much more heavily weighted – if KC keep their current pace up, they will become rated as such starting from week 5 (versus NY Giants) or 6 (at Tennessee). This week may be a tough sell though, since Eli Manning shouldn’t be *as* bad as he’s been…

Cincinnati – 1 TD, 2 INT, 2 FF, 4 sacks. A very solid all-around effort by Cincinnati, who were rewarded for forcing 4 turnovers. Otherwise, Green Bay had almost 400 total yards and 30 points. This is a very difficult game to assess.

I would expect for every one of the five except Baltimore to climb the rankings (though remember, Carolina and Green Bay are on bye!) for weeks 4 and/or 5.

What happened to Minnesota and Seattle?

…what were you expecting? Minnesota scored you 7 in a game where Cleveland way overperformed. Sometimes, a team’s offense can be its biggest liability to its D/ST, and this is what happened in Minnesota. Cleveland forced three turnovers and turned their interception into an offensive touchdown in the first half (and costing the Vikings D/ST an extra 3 points). Seattle, meanwhile, was a victim of garbage time. They crushed Jacksonville, easily covering their 19.5 point spread while still conceding 17 points on defense. Their score of 12 was very respectable, if not the video game high score owners were hoping for.

Last notes on week 3

New England (9 points), Tennessee (9), and NY Jets (8) all met or came close to expectation and rewarded owners with very solid games. San Francisco, Miami, and Buffalo were the prime disappointments on the week. Every other poor-scoring team was easy to get away from, but these three threw up real stinkers. I’ve about lost my patience with Miami – thankfully, I haven’t had to play them yet in my leagues, but they’ve sunk well below expectation for two weeks in a row. Week 1 was nice, but I’d be very leery to trust them in week 4.

Week 4 D/ST Projections

  1. Cincinnati (12.84) at Cleveland
  2. Tennessee (9.50) versus NY Jets
  3. Indianapolis (8.92) at Jacksonville
  4. New Orleans (8.44) versus Miami
  5. San Francisco (8.22) at St. Louis
  6. Arizona (7.68) at Tampa Bay
  7. Kansas City (7.58) versus NY Giants
  8. Denver (7.27) versus Philadelphia
  9. NY Jets (7.13) at Tennessee
  10. Buffalo (6.81) versus Baltimore
  11. Tampa Bay (6.81) versus Arizona
  12. St. Louis (6.77) versus San Francisco
  13. Washington (6.59) at Oakland
  14. Seattle (6.58) at Houston
  15. Dallas (6.30) at San Diego
  16. Baltimore (6.21) at Buffalo
  17. Houston (5.85) versus Seattle
  18. Pittsburgh (5.64) at Minnesota
  19. Cleveland (5.03) versus Cincinnati
  20. Atlanta (4.94) versus New England
  21. NY Giants (4.84) at Kansas City
  22. Minnesota (4.77) versus Pittsburgh
  23. New England (4.30) at Atlanta
  24. Chicago (4.25) at Detroit
  25. Oakland (3.89) versus Washington
  26. Miami (4.24) at New Orleans
  27. Jacksonville (3.89) versus Indianapolis
  28. San Diego (3.03) versus Dallas
  29. Detroit (1.47) versus Chicago
  30. Philadelphia (-8.00) at Denver

Bye: Carolina, Green Bay

THIS IS WHY WE STREAM! Tennessee (4% ownership), Indianapolis (2.1%), New Orleans (5.5%), Arizona (7.4%), and Kansas City (40.9%) all rate as top 8 D/STs this weekend. How many of those were drafted in your league? How many of them are still on your waiver wire?

Meanwhile, where the heck are those 100%ers? Chicago, New England, Houston, and Seattle can be gotten away from this weekend, at least if my numbers are to be trusted. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get away from SF or Denver, and Cincinnati leads all options this week.

Reasons to pick Tennessee

The Jets have only conceded 22 points in three games to opposing D/STs, however the -2 for Buffalo in week 3 is really weighing that down. Last year they were almost as bad (or good?) as the Cardinals, and rookie QBs are always great targets. For their part, Tennessee have looked solid, scoring 15, 6, and 9 points in their first three games. Tennessee being at home also bodes well for their D/ST.

Reasons to pick Indianapolis

Oh, the Jaguars. KC rang in the new year with 23 points off of them. Oakland D/ST (Oakland!) scored 10 points. Seattle just scored 12. Blaine Gabbert will supposedly have his second try at futility, but it won’t matter either way. Jacksonville are going to be a value fade for the forseeable future. If your league mates are savvy to streaming, then that means looking one step ahead or planning two-week matchups (Tennessee in weeks 3 and 4 is the perfect example of this), and look to fade the Jaguars early and often.

Reasons to pick New Orleans

Doesn’t is just feel satisfying to crush with a D/ST that sucked last year? Let’s be honest, if you started the KC D/ST in week 1, you felt like a fantasy genius for the next 6+ days. New Orleans are getting a very nice baseline score based off of their sacks, and the Dolphins have not been killer to D/STs yet (conceding 8, 6, and then 11 to Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Atlanta, respectively). They, like Tennessee, are at home, and I have New Orleans as a slightly higher-upside play (though the Titans are clearly rated better here).

Notes on week 4:

This may be everyone’s last chance to hop on board the Kansas City bandwagon. At 40% ownership prior to a 20-point performance, I’d expect to see a surge for next week. However, one look at their schedule should have someone ready to snatch them up. Weeks 4-9 are v NYG, @ TEN, v OAK, v HOU, v CLE, and @ BUF before their bye week 10.  They will likely be startable in every one of those games, perhaps with the exception of week 7 versus Houston.

Chicago rate very poorly for the week, and I’m not sure what to believe. They’re a small underdog on the road in a game which figures to be high scoring. They’re also playing against Matthew Stafford, who’s been known to throw an interception or three. I think starting Chicago, given their performance history, is completely justifiable – just be warned than my algorithm does not like them here this week.

Baltimore also are not getting much love. Their big score in week 3 was rather unlikely given their turnover stats. I don’t suspect this team to be capable of doing that on a week-to-week basis. After all, they scored just 5 points through two weeks and were aggressively mediocre on 2012. Expect disappointment, and perhaps try to sell high if you need something flashy to sweeten a trade deal.

If you’re not going to stick with New England through to their bye week, now is the time to drop them. Weeks 4, 5, and 6 they are @ ATL, @ CIN, and v NO before getting back to three consecutive good matchups.

A graphical representation of results

We still do not have much of a sample size because our standard deviation in y (actual scoring) is very large – over three weeks, our results should be dominated by high-variance defensive TDs, and the results bear that out.


Week 1

Week 1 scatter

Week 2

Week 2 scatter


Week 3

Week 3 scatter

2013 YTD

YTDw3 scatter

Mixed results so far on the year. Note that the trend lines are all automatically generated & linear. Obviously, if we were dead perfect every game, its slope would be 1. We’ll see how they progress as the year progresses – with more data, we should be able to further sharpen our models. Please join me on Reddit’s /r/fantasyfootball for discussion about week 4′s D/STs all the way until Sunday morning. I try to answer every question posted!

Thank you for reading, and best of luck in week 4!


@dtlerch on Twitter

/u/quickonthedrawl on Reddit

t4blog at gmail dot com

Note: I’m experimenting with different ways to present the data for each week. If you have any input, please share!

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One Comment

  1. Aaron Oetting

    September 26, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Outside of the bills last week this ranking has been great at helping me avoid the sink bombs. Steaming d’ s in eight leagues this has made life much easier. Keep up the solid work

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