Fantasy Football

Defensive trends expose weak NFC West

Image: Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed (Gail Burton/Associated Press)
The Ravens' defensive ratings over the last three seasons are among the best in the NFL.
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Ryan Fowler

Ryan Fowler has spent the past 10 years covering and talking sports on TV and radio, in newspapers and on the web. He joined FOXSports.com as lead Fantasy Sports Editor and also acts as Digital Content Manager at WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter. Listen to his FOX Sports Team Report Podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes

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With 272 tackles and 11 interceptions in eight seasons, Nnamdi Asomugha is perceived as the golden ticket in this free agent blitzkrieg that is about to strike … err uhh err … envelop the NFL.

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The obsession with the Raiders’ cornerback resets the NFL’s “defense wins championship” mantra. But it’s within fantasy football leagues where owners adopt an “exploiting opposing defenses wins championships” philosophy.

Recently, I dissected the defensive stats of all 32 teams versus the pass and run over the last three seasons. In the tables below, I assigned each team a pass and rush defense composite rating. The ratings are the teams' average defensive rank from 2008-2010.

So, for example, the Buffalo Bills composite pass rating is six (above average) and rush rating is 28 (below average).

To take the study a step further, I averaged out each divisions’ pass and rush ratings. When it comes time to draft a fantasy team, this could assist owners in choosing between Player A and Player B.

Why?

If you knew a division is weak versus the pass and/or rush, perhaps you draft a running back or wide receiver from that division who will face a subpar 3-4 or secondary six times a season.
 

AFC Defensive Composite Ratings (2008-2010)

 
East Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
Buffalo 6 28
New England 17.66 13
Miami 19 11.66
New York Jets 12 6
AFC East Composite 13.67 14.67
North Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
Cleveland 20.33 27.66
Baltimore 10.66 4.33
Pittsburgh 9.66 2
Cincinnati 11.66 15.66
AFC North Composite 13.08 12.40
South Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
Indianapolis 11 24.33
Tennessee 23 12
Jacksonville 26.33 18.33
Houston 22.33 15.66
AFC South Composite 20.67 17.58
West Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
Oakland 6.33 29.66
San Diego 14.33 11.66
Kansas City 22.33 25
Denver 18 28
AFC West Composite 15.25 23.58

 

If you ever wondered why Peyton Manning is a highly coveted and successful fantasy quarterback, just take a look at the pass defense in the AFC South. The Titans', Jaguars' and Texans’ pass defense all rank in the bottom ten over the past three seasons. Manning’s status to start the regular season on time is in limbo (neck), but if he can go, the Colts' QB should enjoy soft coverage at least six times in 2011.

Pittsburgh’s and Baltimore’s lockdown rush defenses may cause owners to devalue the likes of Cedric Benson (or whomever the Bengals running back is) and Peyton Hillis when four games come against two top-5 rush defenses.

On the flip side, Ryan Mathews’ and Mike Tolbert’s stock may skyrocket knowing the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos rush defenses are among the worst in the league.
 

NFC Defensive Composite Ratings (2008-2010)

 
North Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
New York Giants 11 10.33
Philadelphia 11.66 9.33
Washington 15.33 16.66
Dallas 17 9.33
NFL East Composite 13.75 11.41
North Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
Green Bay 7.33 15
Minnesota 15.33 4
Detroit 25 27
Chicago 21 10
NFC North Composite 17.17 14
South Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
Atlanta 23.66 15.66
Carolina 10.33 21.66
New Orleans 17.66 18
Tampa Bay 7 26.33
NFC South Composite 14.66 20.41
West Pass 3-YR Rating Rush 3-YR Rating
San Francisco 21.66 8.33
Seattle 29.66 18
Arizona 22.60 21
St. Louis 21 24.33
NFC West Composite 23.73 17.91

 

The NFC West is the worst defensive division in the NFL over the last three seasons. The Seahawks managed to break into the playoffs with a 7-9 record last winter, but don’t expect a repeat trip if they continue to rank 29th in pass defense and 18th in rush defense. Frank Gore and Steven Jackson owners are drooling.

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The NFC East boasts the top rush-defense division since 2008. With the Cowboys and Giants healthier in 2011, expect the division’s rush "D" to improve.

Detroit is building a defense that can compete with their NFC North foes, but it’s going to take time. In 2010, the Lions ranked 16th against the pass (up 16 spots from 2009) and 24th against the run (up one spot from 2009).

The NFC South is vulnerable against the run, too. Atlanta has shown improvement and ranked 10th in 2010, but the Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers have all ranked in the bottom half of the league the last three seasons.

For more information on defensive trends, be sure to check out our Fantasy Football Draft Guide and more specifically our downloadable PDF file.

At the end of the day, whether or not these trends remain intact depends on a few factors such as health, coaching changes, schemes, and free agency.

Oh yeah, and if a defense signs Nnamdi Asomugha, with the emphasis on "ugh".
 

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