Week 7 was relatively successful with six correctly predicted top-10 defenses and the Los Angeles Rams still to play on Monday night. Washington was a close class as they made my top-12, but I never thought the Cowboys offense would fall off the cliff as steeply as it did on Sunday, and both Arizona and Jacksonville ended up in the top-10 despite giving up lots of points to two solid offenses, which was not something I predicted.
However, the fantasy success of the Arizona and Jacksonville defenses brings me to another important point. I keep hearing and reading discussions of fantasy defenses where people cite yardage allowed totals and third-down conversion rates as evidence for strong defensive plays, and I felt like we need to address why those stats are not crucial in deciding on which fantasy football defense to play.
Yes, a strong third-down conversation rate means you keep the opposing offense off the field, and yardage allowed can mean a defense will limit scoring opportunities, but those are misleading stats unless we look at them as part of a larger picture. Offenses don’t need to gain lots of yards or convert on third downs to score points. Also, defenses can give up lots of yards and give up third-down conversions and still get fantasy points from sacks and interceptions. Often, defenses that sell out on blitzes can both get sacks and get burned on third downs. You’ll take those poor conversion rates if you’re also getting sacks.
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Picking The Right Defenses
When choosing a defense, you want to be looking for defenses that get consistent pressure and takeaways. Sacks and turnovers are more valuable for fantasy defense than preventing yardage and even, to a certain extent, preventing points. Again, as evidenced by Jacksonville and Arizona from Sunday. If a defense allows a stingy yards per play number, that’s great and I’ll cite some of those numbers below – but they better also be able to get into the backfield or force turnovers, or else it won’t really matter in the long run. That’s why the Chiefs Defense was so good last year, despite getting into a ton of shootouts. Teams against them were forced to play up-tempo and throw a lot, which led to sack opportunities and turnovers despite giving up lots of points.
Essentially, we need to move away from points against as being the most important factor in choosing a fantasy defense. NFL offenses have scored 5,295 points or 25.5 points per game so far this season, which is the most through the first seven weeks of any season in the Super Bowl era. With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can’t continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we’re used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their…