How About Some Defensive Strategies

If the defense goes off and say scores 18 points or more most say the player was lucky. I don’t think this is true. Your selection of the defense and special teams is overlooked. Ask some of your friends what the scoring system is for the defense and most cannot answer you. Many stats are around for you use and can give you an edge over the competition. How many contest have you not cashed because of being shy 1 point? Focus a little more in the defensive pick you make and if you can squeeze that extra point out you will be ahead of the game.

Daily Fantasy Sites use a combination of the following: Points Allowed, Sacks, Defensive Touchdowns, Special Teams Touchdowns, Interceptions, Fumble Recoveries, and Safeties to produce their Defense/Special Team scoring. Try to gain a good understanding of how each of these categories affect the defensive scoring when selecting your lineups, as well as which categories that site has contribute towards scoring.  I am going to discuss factors to consider when selecting your defense and a list of resources you can start using.

I like to use the NFL website’s stat section to look at  Defense Stats when doing my weekly projections. It is easy to use and offers a variety of sorting options. If a site uses Special Teams scoring, you can also sort by  Kick Return TDs  in their stat section. If you are not comfortable judging matchups on your own, I recommend looking at a team’s past stats for the categories below before ranking your defensive plays for the week.

  • Points Allowed – This is the most important of the categories because all sites use Points Allowed in their scoring. It is also the most consistent category of them all to predict. Points allowed range from as low as 12 points allowed per game from the best defenses to 30+ points allowed per game from the worst. If you are not comfortable projecting this stat yourself, another good way to estimate it is by projecting Yards Allowed for that same Defense. There is a positive correlation between yards allowed and points allowed of defenses – for obvious reasons. The third measure I like to look at, is using the data presented to you from a sports book. From a sports book you can get the over/under line for a game, and the spread (projected margin of victory). Using these two numbers you can tell what that site projects for each team’s points allowed. For example: Let’s say the Lions vs. the Bucs over/under is set at 40 points, and the Bucs are favored by 7. You can project the Bucs Defense to allow around 16.5 points based on these Sports Book stats, which would equate to 1 fantasy point on average when using Draft Kings scoring system.
  • Sacks – This category is predictable for defenses, but not as much as points allowed is. Teams usually average anywhere from 1-5 sacks per game. A team averaging an extra sack per game will earn 1 to 2 points more on average than the other team, depending on the site’s scoring method. The important thing to note, is whether the site you are playing on uses Sacks for scoring, because many do not.
  • Defensive TDs – Defensive TDs are touchdowns scored from Interceptions or Fumbles. While defensive TDs will score you the most points per occurrence, they are hard to predict because of their low frequency. Last season the most Defensive TDs scored by a team was by the New Orleans Saints, who only scored 8 on the season. Meanwhile there were four teams which had zero throughout the season. The New York Jets D (regarded as one of the best defenses in the NFL) only had 2 total; 1 from an interception and 1 from a fumble. The average Defense will only have around 2 TDs from an INT or fumble on the season, which leads to less than 1 point added per game. Due to the high variance nature of this stat category, it should not influence your decision making too much.
  • Special Teams TDs – Special Teams TDs consist of Punt Return, Kick Return, Blocked FG, and Blocked Punt TDs. Special Teams should be viewed  similar to Defensive TDs, except in rare instances. There are special players that will emerge in the league every now and then that can dominate punt and kick returns. Devin Hester was an example of this in 2007 when he had 4 return TDs. This year’s strongest returner so far seems to be Leon Washington (2) for the Seattle Seahawks. In addition to his 2 scores this year, Hester showed strong potential to turn any kickoff return into a TD with the Jets over the past two seasons before getting hurt. A player capable of returning 4 kickoffs for TDs in a season, will boost the average points per game by 1.5 for sites that allow Special Teams Scoring. This could be just the edge you can keep an eye on. These types of returners are few and far between. Unless you have someone specific in mind, then ST-TDs should not take up much of your research time. It is also important to note that blocked punt and blocked FG TDs are extremely hard to predict and should be ignored altogether while researching.
  • Interceptions – Interceptions are generally worth two points, and while infrequent, are worth noting. In 2009 the range of Interceptions from Defenses was 8 at the lowest to 30 at the highest, with the median and mode being 15 INTs. The Packers, who had 30 on the season, averaged 2 points more per game than good defenses with only 15 INTs. This should be more of a tie-breaking decision than something you look for during your selection process.
  • Fumble Recoveries – While real-life defenses take a lot of pride in this category, it should be ignored for fantasy purposes. The top 12 fumble defenses all had between 13 and 15 recoveries on the season. A range this small has relatively no impact when selecting a team for fantasy purposes. If you must look at a stat, you should look at Forced Fumbles (FF) instead of recoveries. This a more consistent reference point, the same way targets is more accurate than receptions for most Wide Receivers.
  • Safeties – Finally, there are safeties. These range anywhere from 2 to 4 points depending on the site. These are the hardest of all to predict. In 2009 there were 21 teams that never recorded a safety. With the low-scores received, it is best to save your time and not factor in safeties at all when selecting a Defense.
  • Points Per Game – Looking at the opposing offense’s points scored per game along with your Defensive Points Allowed per game will give you a good gauge about how to project. A safe starting point is to average the points allowed per game by a defense with the points scored per game by the offense. It is important to note the previous match-ups in which the offense or defenses accumulated these stats. Then adjust accordingly. For example, if the Jaguars are averaging 25 points per game on offense, and they meet the Cowboys who are allowing 15 points per game on defense, projecting Jacksonville to score 20 points on the Cowboys is a reasonable starting point. But, if five of the Jaguars first seven games were against weak defenses which allowed a lot of points per game on average, you can skew the projection towards the Cowboys. I would start with around 17 points per game in this case. Using combinations of this method and researching the SportsBooks will provide you with an accurate starting point for points allowed by a defense. This will provide you with projected fantasy points to be earned.
  • Opposing QB: INTs Thrown – Last season Chicago, Detroit and Tampa Bay each threw at least 27 interceptions. When you see opposing QBs on a pace for almost 2 picks per game, you should boost your rankings of defensive matchups against those Quarterbacks. Through five games this season, there are already five teams which have allowed at least eight interceptions.
  • Injuries and Roster Changes – Any other noteworthy roster changes to the opposing offense should be considered during this research phase. For example, in week 5 of 2010 when the Bears played the Panthers, you had a matchup with a Rookie QB (Clausen) and a backup QB filling in for a team at the last minute (Collins). Roster changes such as these provide huge value boosts to opposing defenses. This week keep an eye out for the Packers. This offense is usually one you’d want to avoid, but if Aaron Rodgers’ concussion forces him to sit last minute, then Miami’s defense will receive a significant boost against Matt Flynn and the Packers.

Defensive in Nature

A defense should not automatically be the last choice you make, or the second to last choice behind your kicker. It is a good idea to come into the lineup selection process having picked many defenses per site you play, per week. This allows you some flexibility with structuring your offensive lineup, while still selecting a top defensive play. There are at least 11 men that contribute towards a fantasy Defense/Special Teams. They help provide consistency opposed to an offensive player which relies on fewer teammates to produce every week. Expect a lot of variance in your projections due to the nature of the statistical categories. Defensive plays and statistics happen less frequently throughout the season than the categories that go into an offensive player. It is not as easy to predict on one day all the variables that accumulate points for a fantasy defense, as it is for a running back averaging 20 attempts per game. However, it is possible to accurately project a Defense/Special Team’s fantasy score over time. This will give you an edge up on the competition.

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Courtney Aurillo

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