I admit it. I started the Arizona Cardinals defense and special teams in a couple of leagues this week, which means next to Chipper Jones, I am the second most bummed out guy in the country.
But, it got me thinking. I am a staunch proponent of defensive darts, the act of trying to find the best available D/ST on the waiver wire any particular week. After the St. Louis defense ran circles around the Arizona defense in a fantasy sense, I began to question this ploy, until I crunched some numbers. Now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is absolutely the smart play. I just need to figure out how to increase my chances of choosing wisely. We’ll do that next week. This week I’ll share the data I discovered in an effort to convince you never again to take a defense early, regardless of their reputation. Not only that, they present repercussion of this data screams don’t hesitate to drop your defense if they are on bye to pick up another one, there is no reason to carry more than one assuming you have weekly waivers.
To simplify things a bit, I am going to use a league I run as the experimental model. The D/ST is pretty standard with a couple of quirks. Sacks and turnovers are worth 2 points; TD’s are each six with those over 50 yards doubles. A modest five points is awarded for a shutout, three points given for 2-9 points, two points for 10-16 and one points for 17-20.
We’ll start easy and show the average points per team:
|3||San Francisco 49ers||12.8|
|6||Green Bay Packers||11.9|
|8||New York Giants||11.6|
|9||New England Patriots||11.3|
|11||New York Jets||11.3|
|26||New Orleans Saints||8.6|
|27||San Diego Chargers||8.5|
|28||St. Louis Rams||8.4|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7.8|
To be perfectly honest, this alone should suffice to make my point. On average, over the course of the season, the top defense averaged a whopping 2.4 more points than the twelfth ranked team. In other words, if you drafted the Lions and played them each week, you barely averaged more than two more points than your opponent with respect to D/ST scoring each week.
Now let’s share some data that is really intriguing. The following shows how many weeks each team finished in the top-12 of D/ST scoring last season.
|RANK||TEAM||WEEKS in TOP-12||WEEKS #1|
|3||San Francisco 49ers||11||1|
|6||Green Bay Packers||12||1|
|8||New York Giants||9||1|
|10||New York Jets||8||1|
|11||New England Patriots||8||1|
|26||New Orleans Saints||4||0|
|27||San Diego Chargers||5||0|
|28||St. Louis Rams||4||0|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5||0|
While you may disagree, I find the fact that even the best team was only worthy of an active roster spot for half the season to be pretty compelling reasoning to play musical defenses. Granted, three teams were in the top-12 ten or more times, but even this equates to at most three-quarters of the season.
Now here's the data that really caught my eye and sort of ties everything together. Here is the average weekly points for the top-12 teams from last season:
I find it most interesting that every week, there seems to be a team that significantly outpaces the rest. Based on our data above, 13 different teams led the way in scoring that week, with only two teams leading in multiple weeks.
Why not roll the dice and try to be one of those teams? The chief reason this is so entertaining is there is limited downside. So you don't get it right. Chances are you still come close to choosing a roster-worthy defense (unless you chose the Cardinals this week) so you won't cost yourself the victory. On the other hand, you have a chance of gaining a significant edge if you can nail a top-three defense.
To me, that is the key. This game is all about risk and reward and there is limited risk but a healthy reward to playing defensive roulette. I suspect the same can be said for kickers, but that's a discussion for another time.
As part of this column each week, I have posed a series of "who would you start" matchups. In lieu of that, the homework assignment this week is to rank the top-12 defenses for the remaining games and offer some brief explanation. I will share mine in the forums and we can compare to the actual results next Tuesday.
As alluded to earlier, I am going to spend the week researching angles to best choose a defense which I will present next week. We'll then repeat the top-12 exercise to see if we fare any better.
Good luck this week and here's hoping your defense plays more like the Rams did Thursday and not the Cardinals.