I've been hammering this point for weeks now, and I'm still on it. So, when you have a weekly defense/special teams column, and you regularly struggle for an idea for a lead, and there's a topic that keeps coming up, over and over and over ... hey, what do you want, sometimes they write themselves.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is a good defense.
At least, it's a good fantasy defense. If you want to argue it's a bad real-life unit, I won't vehemently argue. My argument might exist, yeah, but it wouldn't be vehement. But after weeks of listening to people saying things like "Nick Foles will have a big game Sunday! He's playing Dallas!" and not understanding why people are thinking what they're thinking, I decided once and for all I had to stake a claim.
I'll look at the unit in a bunch of ways. If you can think of a way to look at the defenses that I haven't thought of that disproves my point, I'm happy to hear about it; post something in the comments and make me look dumb. Normally, that isn't difficult to do, but I think I'm actually smart here.
Fantasy points scored
Four defense/special teams units have scored double-digit fantasy points four or more times this season: Kansas City, Seattle, Carolina and Dallas.
|Team||Times scoring in double digits||Opponents in those games|
|Kansas City||6 (seven games)||JAC, PHI, NYG, TEN, OAK, HOU|
|Seattle||6 (seven games)||CAR, SF, JAC, HOU, TEN, ARI|
|Carolina||4 (six games)||NYG, ARI, MIN, STL|
|Dallas||4 (seven games)||NYG, STL, WAS, PHI|
For overall scoring, Dallas is seventh. Which is legitimate. I'm not claiming it is a top-three, top-four unit. But I keep seeing the Cowboys ranked 22nd, 23rd, 24th in weekly rankings.
Yards, points allowed
Sure, Dallas ranks 29th in yards allowed. That's rough. But among the team's seven opponents are four of the NFL's top five in yards per game (Denver, Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego). That's a brutal stretch for any defense, and again, the Cowboys scored double-digit fantasy points in two of those matchups. As for points allowed, Dallas is 16th in the league -- and remember, that's 16th despite being 29th in yards. And again, five of Dallas' seven opponents rank in the league's top half in points scored. Dallas has held four of its seven opponents under their season average in points.
|Opponent||Pts. vs. Dallas||PPG vs. others||PPG rank||Yds. vs. Dallas||YPG vs. others||YPG rank|
And, if you'll let me nitpick arguments in my favor, among the games in which the Cowboys' opponents outscored their average are the Denver game (which was the exceptionest game ever) and the season opener against the New York Giants (which was before the Giants were quite so abysmal -- they were competitive through two games). Yeah, those are picking and choosing arguments in my favor, but based on my numbers above, I'm not sure I even needed it. I just wanted to point those things out.
Dallas' nine interceptions are tied for sixth in the NFL. Six fumble recoveries come in tied for seventh. Literally the only teams that have a better total than the Cowboys' 15 turnovers are the incredible Kansas City and Seattle defenses and Chicago's, which isn't as great as it used to be, but can still get turnovers like it's last call at Arby's.
Moreover, Dallas' D/ST has four touchdowns (two interceptions returns, a fumble return and a punt return). The only units with more are, again, Kansas City and Chicago.
Now that I'm running these rankings on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays, I can't compare my weekly rankings to those of the ESPN guys and explain the difference. Those ranks will be out, and, assuming you check them, I will bet good money that Dallas is ranked in the early 20s at Detroit this weekend. I have Dallas eighth. I am willing to be proven wrong, but I just don't see any reason why I am.
Just ask Nick Foles.
That's all done now, so let's move on to a look at some of the fantasy defenses for Week 8 that I find notable, with my ranking for the unit in parentheses:
San Francisco 49ers (No. 1) - After struggling mightily through its first three weeks (against Green Bay, Seattle and Indianapolis), the 49ers' defense turned it around in Weeks 4-7, with a 13.75 fantasy-points-per-game that would rank second in the league over the whole season. This week, they get to face Jacksonville at a neutral site (London). Have fun, boys. Cheerio, pip-pip, and all that.
Carolina Panthers (No. 4) - Speaking of defenses that have turned it around, Carolina had six and two fantasy points in the first two weeks, and hasn't scored below 10 since. Carolina ranks in the top eight in the NFL in both rushing and receiving yards per game. This week, in a Thursday night game (when scoring is naturally down) against a Tampa Bay team that won't have Doug Martin and that will have Mike Glennon at quarterback, Carolina's upside is a high-20s fantasy day. The most likely outcome is in the teens, but the Panthers might be the defense most able to win a fantasy matchup.
Cleveland Browns (No. 13) - I feel like I write about Cleveland in this space almost every week, but this time it's not really about them. But if there were some weird gambling game in which you had to pick a defense and guess its Week 8 fantasy scoring within two points, I would put all sorts of dollars on Cleveland this week, and that is entirely because of the Browns' opponent. The Chiefs have yet to give up fewer than four or more than seven fantasy points to an opposing defense in seven weeks. If you recall my D/ST consistency rating, a unit's m-score is a reading of how likely a unit is to score around its average. A lower score indicates more consistency, with most teams falling in the 3-6 range. Kansas City's opponents have an m-score of 0.5. I don't know how that's possible, but again -- Cleveland, 4-7 points, Week 8. Book it.
New York Giants (No. 25) - I don't know who will play quarterback for the Eagles this weekend. But I don't think it matters. If it's Nick Foles, the Giants will allow a lot of yards and plenty of points. If it's Michael Vick, the Giants will allow a lot of yards and plenty of points. (If it's Matt Barkley, okay, whatever, bump the Giants up several spots, but also run and hide, because the apocalypse is here.) Take out Monday's disaster of a game against Josh Freeman and the Vikings -- and I mean "disaster" inasmuch as that game was hideous, not that the Giants had a disaster -- and the Giants haven't scored more than five fantasy points. They had averaged a negative fantasy score.
Here are the overall rankings for Week 8 (with six teams on a bye *sob*):
|1||San Francisco 49ers||Jacksonville (in London)|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||Cleveland|
|3||Seattle Seahawks||at St. Louis|
|4||Carolina Panthers||at Tampa Bay|
|5||New Orleans Saints||Buffalo|
|6||Cincinnati Bengals||NY Jets|
|7||New England Patriots||Miami|
|8||Dallas Cowboys||at Detroit|
|9||Green Bay Packers||at Minnesota|
|10||St. Louis Rams||Seattle|
|13||Cleveland Browns||at Kansas City|
|14||Atlanta Falcons||at Arizona|
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||at Oakland|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Carolina|
|17||Miami Dolphins||at New England|
|18||Philadelphia Eagles||NY Giants|
|19||Buffalo Bills||at New Orleans|
|20||New York Jets||at Cincinnati|
|22||Minnesota Vikings||Green Bay|
|24||Jacksonville Jaguars||San Francisco (in London)|
|25||New York Giants||at Philadelphia|
|26||Washington Redskins||at Denver|