2014 Fantasy Football: Team Defense Preview
Throughout this off-season we have been publishing a number of fantasy football previews by utilizing various prop bets from offshore sportsbooks. By comparing these odds with the Yahoo! Sports fantasy rankings; we’ve been able to successfully identify a number of overhyped and underrated players according to oddsmakers. We’ve already tackled quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers but for a long time we struggled to analyze team defenses.
Although one sportsbook posted a prop bet concerning how many points each NFL team will score during the 2014-15 regular season, no oddsmakers have offered a prop for points allowed. Without access to this type of defensive data, I thought that ranking the top fantasy defenses would prove harder to pick than a broken nose. I was wrong.
On Friday morning (8/22) BetOnline posted an intriguing season prop where the posted an over/under for sacks and interceptions for all 32 NFL teams. Although we were unable to find a sportsbook offering points allowed, we did find defensive projections at NFL.com.
A standard Yahoo! fantasy football league uses the following default point value for each category:
- Sack 1
- Interception 2
- Fumble Recovery 2
- Touchdown 6
- Safety 2
- Block Kick 2
- Kickoff/Punt Return TD 6
- 0 points: 10
- 1-6 points: 7
- 7-13 points: 4
- 14-20 points: 1
- 21-27 points: 0
- 28-34 points: -1
- 35+ points: -4
Although there are no betting opportunities for fumble recoveries, safeties, blocked kicks or defensive/return touchdowns, our data concerning interceptions, sacks and points allowed does provide some valuable insight into which defenses oddsmakers like this upcoming season.
|Team||Interceptions (2 Points)||Sacks (1 point)||Projected Points (PPG) Allowed||Fantasy PPG||Yahoo! Ranking|
|Seattle Seahawks||21 (42)||43.5||224 (14)*||101.5||1|
|Carolina Panthers||19.5 (39)||44.5||240 (15)*||99.5||5|
|San Francisco 49ers||19 (38)||41.5||288 (18)*||95.5||2|
|Cincinnati Bengals||20 (40)||33.5||320 (20)*||89.5||7|
|Arizona Cardinals||15.5 (31)||39.5||272 (17)*||85.5||4|
|Kansas City Chiefs||20 (40)||44||352 (22)||84||6|
|St. Louis Rams||16.5 (33)||48.5||384 (24)||81.5||3|
|New England Patriots||18.5 (37)||42.5||336 (21)||79.5||8|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||19.5 (39)||38.5||400 (25)||77.5||14|
|Philadelphia Eagles||19.5 (39)||38.5||432 (27)||77.5||22|
|Green Bay Packers||17.5 (35)||42.5||400 (25)||77.5||21|
|Denver Broncos||18 (36)||41||352 (22)||77||9|
|Buffalo Bills||18 (36)||40.5||352 (22)||76.5||11|
|Miami Dolphins||18 (36)||38.5||416 (26)||74.5||16|
|Cleveland Browns||16.5 (33)||40||400 (25)||73||20|
|New York Giants||17 (34)||39||384 (24)||73||15|
|New Orleans Saints||16.5 (33)||40||416 (26)||73||23|
|New York Jets||16.5 (33)||38.5||336 (21)||71.5||26|
|Baltimore Ravens||15.5 (31)||39.5||416 (26)||70.5||13|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||17.5 (35)||35.5||368 (23)||70.5||19|
|Houston Texans||15.5 (31)||39||352 (22)||70||31|
|Indianapolis Colts||16.5 (33)||36||368 (23)||69||12|
|Washington Redskins||16.5 (33)||35.5||432 (27)||68.5||25|
|Chicago Bears||17.5 (35)||33||400 (25)||68||10|
|Atlanta Falcons||15 (30)||36.5||432 (27)||66.5||30|
|Detroit Lions||15 (30)||35.5||416 (26)||65.5||27|
|Tennessee Titans||14.5 (29)||36.5||416 (26)||65.5||17|
|San Diego Chargers||15 (30)||35||432 (27)||65||24|
|Dallas Cowboys||15 (30)||35.5||448 (28)^||49.5||18|
|Minnesota Vikings||14 (28)||36.5||464 (29)^||48.5||28|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||13.5 (27)||32||448 (28)^||43||32|
|Oakland Raiders||12 (24)||35||448 (28)^||43||29|
* Team receives +1 ppg for points allowed
^ Team receives -1 ppg for points allowed
Admittedly this is a somewhat flawed system. In a standard Yahoo! league, managers will receive ten points if their defense pitches a shutout; however, we have no way to identify the probability of each team holding their opponent scoreless. That said, we do see a good deal of agreement regarding top defenses like the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers.
The Seahawks are the consensus number one defense, but which defenses are being undervalued and should be targeted by fantasy owners? According to oddsmakers, reigning DPOY Luke Kuechly and his Carolina Panther teammates should be the #2 ranked defense, however, they rank 5th behind the four NFC West teams (Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona).
Another fascinating sleeper is the Philadelphia Eagles who have the 10th best fantasy defense according to oddsmakers, but slip all the way to 22nd in the Yahoo! rankings. Known predominantly for his offensive prowess, Chip Kelly’s 3-4 defense features a number of impact players including DeMeco Ryans (127 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INT), Mychal Kendricks (106 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 INT), Trent Cole (56 tackles, 8 sacks, 3 FF) and Brandon Boykin (6 INT).
As for the most overrated teams, the Chicago Bears quickly jump off the page. Yahoo! ranks the Bears as the 10th best fantasy defense, but according to oddsmakers they’re slotted all the way down at 24. The team lost Pro Bowl DE Julius Peppers over the off-season and features a number of overrated, big-name players such as Jared Allen, D.J. Williams and Jay Ratliff.
Many teams like to play the matchups on a week-to-week basis and won’t own a single team defense for the entire season. Those owners can utilize the over/unders on our free NFL odds page to see which games are expected to be low-scoring. The Panthers/Buccanneers (39 at CRIS) have the lowest week 1 total which gives owners yet another reason to target the Carolina Panthers defense come draft day.
Which team defenses will you be targeting? Do you agree or disagree with our selections? Please leave any thoughts, comments or questions in the section below.
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