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Monday 26th Jun 2017

A wise man once said it is better to be part of the solution than it is to be part of the problem. Actually, it was an old boss, and what I believe he said was to get the eff out of my office unless you have an effing solution and not another effing problem, but I digress.

Last week, I went off on a mini-rant, expressing my discomfort with the anecdotal nature of most fantasy football analysis. And truth be told, this was only exasperated this week as I continue to read and hear advice based primarily on what happened last week, mostly with respect to strength and weakness of opposing defenses.

So what I decided to do was crunch a few numbers in an effort to determine when a defense stabilizes, at least in terms of yardage allowed. The idea being we can get a better feel for how many weeks we need to wait before we can look at the yearly performance to date and get a true feel for the quality of the rush defense and of the pass defense.

The study was done by comparing the 2011 season ending averages for passing yards and rushing yards allowed to a rolling average. The rolling average is the average after week 2, then week 3, then week 4 etc. Different ranges were investigated (+/- percent from the seasonal average) to frame the data a bit.

The following displays how many teams fell within the specified performance ranges after the designated weeks. By means of example, if a team’s average rushing yards allowed was 120, then the ten-percent range is 108-132 (+/- 12). If the rolling average was between 108 and 132, then that team was a “yes.” The study counts up the “yeses.”

Here is the data:

PASS RUSH
WEEK 10% 15% 20% 25% 10% 15% 20% 25%
2 14 21 22 24 10 14 20 23
3 15 19 25 29 6 15 23 27
4 14 22 27 31 11 15 23 25
5 18 25 28 32 17 22 25 28
6 18 25 30 32 16 22 25 28
7 20 28 30 32 22 29 31 32
8 20 29 31 32 21 29 32 32
9 22 31 31 32 25 31 32 32
10 28 31 32 32 26 31 32 32
11 28 31 32 32 27 32 32 32
12 31 32 32 32 31 32 32 32
13 30 32 32 32 31 32 32 32
14 31 32 32 32 32 32 32 32
15 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32
16 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32

It appears passing defense stabilizes a bit faster than rushing defense. Using three-quarters of the teams and 15% as targets (admittedly arbitrary), after week 5, there is a good chance a passing defense “is what it is”, while it takes until after week 7 for the rushing defense to stabilize.

If you want to tighten the constraints to 10%, you have to wait until week 10 for passing and week 9 for rushing. On the other hand, if you open it up to 25%, then most defenses establish themselves pretty quickly.

Admittedly, this little study does little to help quantify the impact of an opposing defense, but it does suggest it is a bit perilous to make a quantitative judgment on a defense until at least week 6 or so. As such, when I embark on my lineup decisions, unless the defense is an extreme like the San Francisco 49ers, I will put more weight on the talent of the player than the quality of opposition. Later in the season, I may try to get a little cuter when I have a better idea of the true quality of opposing defense.

Speaking of matchups, we’ll soon table four theoretical lineup decisions like we did last week but first, let’s take a peek at how we did last week.

Peyton Manning (4 votes) over Joe Flacco (0 votes) – Unless your league gives negative points for picks, this was basically a wash. Each QB threw for a score; Flacco went for 232 yards against the Eagles while Manning totaled 241 versus the Falcons. Of course, Peyton threw the three early picks to only one for Flacco. Flacco did what we thought he would, my guess is the voters expected a little more out of the elder Manning. Truth be told, this was more about Manning himself and not about the matchup, so in retrospect it was probably a poor choice if the thought process was intended to include the opposition. However, it does highlight the fact that the jury is still out on Manning. The party line was we learned he could take a hit after week 1. However, the scuttlebutt following the Monday Night affair is Manning’s arm strength is such that backup Brock Osweiler is the designated “Hail Mary” guy. On the surface, this does not seem all that important but it does suggest opposing defenses can shorten up the coverage without fearing Manning has the ability to go over the top deep downfield.

Stevan Ridley (3 votes) over Ahmad Bradshaw (1 vote) – I’ll call this incomplete as Bradshaw left the game early due to a neck sprain. Ridley had a decent day with 18 rushes for 71 yards along with 3 catches for 24 yards against Arizona. He did not make it into the end zone. Bradshaw only toted 5 carries for 16 yards facing Tampa. Chances are, there yardage totals would have been close and it would have come down to whether Bradshaw scored.

Those voting apparently knew the results of the above study already since little heed was paid to the strength of rushing defense after week 1. The Cardinals held the Seahawks to 45 yards on the ground in week 1 while the Bucs surrendered a healthy 130 to the Panthers. Even so, Ridley was given the nod despite facing, at least in paper, a better rush defense.

Brandon Lafell (3 votes) over Santonio Holmes (1 vote) – Lafell took this one with 6-90 with no TD while Holmes went 3-28 with 1 TD. In a non-PPR it was pretty much a wash. That said (and yes, I was the dissenter with Holmes), the Jets wide out was targeted 11 times to only 8 for the Panther. That makes me feel OK about my decision, even though Lafell scored more points.

The reason I mention this is the primary reason the others chose Lafell was the perceived better matchup against New Orleans and their sieve like secondary. On the other hand, I cited the fact Pittsburgh defense does not scare me and I prefer the team’s #1 pass-catching option as opposed to the third option (Steve Smith and arguably Greg Olsen ahead of Lafell, not to mention Cam Newton’s legs). For me, it is more about the process than the results, so even though “I lost” this one, I am OK with it, feeling if I use the same process later, the odds are with me.

Brandon Pettigrew (2 votes) ties Kyle Rudolph (2 votes) – Rudolph edged out Pettigrew as they each scored on one of their three receptions, but Rudolph totaled 35 yards to Pettigrew’s mere 18. The dynamic on this one was quite interesting. Pettigrew matched up against the vaunted 49er defense while Rudolph faced the Colts. Those selecting Rudolph did so due to the matchup while the Pettigrew choosers went with the better receiver with the better quarterback. I chose Pettigrew, so speaking for myself, I feel the defense against the tight end is overrated so I took the guy that has proven to be a red zone target and got real lucky with a garbage time score.

Granted, this is as anecdotal as the evidence I whined about earlier, but at minimum, the quality of opposing defense was at best secondary with these matchups. Let’s investigate this a little more with the choices for week 3. Like last week, I will post them in the forum and chime in with my response. Please feel free to contribute to the discussion.

Tom Brady at Baltimore or Matthew Stafford at Tennessee

DeMarco Murray versus Tampa or Frank Gore at Minnesota

Larry Fitzgerald versus Philadelphia or Dwayne Bowe at New Orleans

Owen Daniels at Denver or Jermichael Finley at Seattle

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