By Dylan Lerch
Fantasy Football Staff Writer
It is playoff time in the fantasy football world, and everyone is looking for ways to squeeze out an extra point or two from their roster. As such, D/STs have been getting a much more discerning look from anyone streaming defenses week-to-week or for those who have a “stud” D/ST with a bad matchup (I’ve got my eye on you, San Francisco…).
If you’ve been following along with /r/fantasyfootball on Reddit.com, you should be familiar with how I rank D/STs. However, for the rest of you:
I start with the premise that Vegas has the best predictive tool for fantasy football scoring. When a gambling line is set on an NFL football game, you can be darn sure that it’s nigh unbeatable for most gamblers, and as such, indicates how many points each team should be expected to score. A simple example from this week is Miami and Jacksonville – with an over/under set at 37 points and a spread of Miami -7, we can derive simple totals for each team. In this case, we arrive at 15 points for Jacksonville and 22 points for Miami (22-15=7, and 22+15=37).
That’s only half of the story though. D/ST scoring is based partially off of points & yardage allowed, but also on sacks, turnovers, and defensive TDs. With a simple algorithm, I’ve arrived at a set of rankings that have performed admirably all year long. Without further ado, here is where you can look for value this weekend:
1. Miami D/ST versus Jacksonville. For all the talk about how bad the Cardinals’ offensive line is and how many sacks they give up (3.8), Jacksonville hasn’t been much better with 3.1. Miami, for their part, have been pretty good at getting to the opposing QB. They are 5th in the league with 2.8 sacks per game. The downside to the play is that Miami doesn’t force very many turnovers, and Jacksonville doesn’t turn the ball over much – but, with Henne under center, they’ve seen a spike in their turnovers.
2. St. Louis D/ST versus Minnesota. Most people would look at this game, see Adrian Peterson opposing a porous run defense, and run far, far away. However, you have to delve a little deeper to see the value here. First, even if Adrian Peterson runs for 200 yards and 2 TDs, the rest of the Minnesota offense will still have to find a way to score. Christian Ponder is a guy who has thrown for less than 100 yards three times, including last week versus Chicago. He also has two more games with fewer than 120 yards passing. He also boasts 12 interceptions and 4 fumbles on the year, and St. Louis has been rather successful at capitalizing in those situations. Miami may have a higher expectation this week, but I like St. Louis for their upside.
3. Detroit D/ST at Arizona. Let’s be honest, can you really be surprised to see any team facing Arizona on this list? Arizona have been the best team to face for opposing D/STs, allowing more than 14 points per game; they rank 29th in interceptions thrown; and they rank 32nd in sacks allowed. However, don’t get your hopes up too high. If this game were being played in Detroit, they would be much stronger, but we’re still looking at a mediocre D/ST in Detroit (6th worst at 3.9 points per game). I have them as the third highest expected score this weekend, although please take note that their scoring floor is lower and their upside is higher than any other top play this week.
The Dolphins are available in almost 78% of leagues, St. Louis are available in 79%, and the Lions are available in 43% of ESPN leagues. Virtually 100% of leagues should have one of the three available for you to pick up, and I would highly recommend pulling the trigger.
The full rankings (Cleveland/Washington is off the board on major gambling sites due to RG3’s injury, and thus have no ranking this week):
2. St. Louis
6. Green Bay
10. New England
12. San Diego
13. NY Jets
18. Kansas City
25. NY Giants
27. New Orleans
28. San Francisco
29. Tampa Bay
Thank you for reading, and good luck crushing dreams this weekend!
@dtlerch on Twitter
Quickonthedrawl on Reddit