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Fantasy Football: Signature Starts Allowed

Rich Hribar offers a Defensive Signature Starts Allowed chart as a tool to set your lineups going into the season’s final leg.

Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis
Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis

Nov 18, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) reacts after a New England Patriots turnover during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, I provided an update on the players with the best (and some of the worst) Signature Start numbers of the 2013 season. Today, I’m going to flip the current numbers of those starts around a bit and provide you with the number of those starts that team defenses are allowing.

As a quick refresher, these are the number of top 12 weekly finishes surrendered to quarterbacks and tight ends and the number of top 24 backs and receivers (also reduced to top 12 finishes for good measure). This allows us to eliminate the fringe points scored at each position and focus strictly on who is giving up and preventing the best performances each week to a given position.

This is important because total points and averages allowed can be misleading and weighted down. Just like most of the community, I look at fantasy points allowed and adjusted fantasy points allowed as a tool in preparing my lineups. Both are fantastic tools in staggering together and filter raw data even further, and I will continue to incorporate both. Just like all metrics, none are infallible by the nature of our completely unsolvable game, including this one. Instead, add the Defensive Signature Starts allowed chart as another one of those tools in setting your lineups going into the season’s final leg.

SSD

I live in a PPR world, so the scoring used is full point per reception and standard quarterback scoring. If you don’t play PPR, the totals aren’t dramatically skewed, so you can still take away a decent amount. First, let’s break down the chart real fast. Green means go, as in start players facing these defenses, no questions asked. Red means avoid unless you are really hamstrung or have a stud that just cannot be benched (these are in limited supply). If you notice, yellow is only listed in the top 12 columns of each position, meaning expectations of large ceiling should be suppressed. A team like the Jets may allow weekly starting wide receivers at a favorable rate, but not many score among the best at the position.

Cumulative Data and Recent Trends

The chart is based on the entire 2013 season throughout eleven weeks of action. As a whole this is important because the teams that rank in the green and red have season long success (or lack of) that has been an ultimate strength or weakness.  Those grades aren’t the results of off and on spikes in one direction or the other, and players facing those teams should be treated with affection or discretion going forward.

What you don’t see are the minor surges caused by injuries and poor play, which is why we are going to now cover some of the more lucrative opportunities and vice versa. Let’s break down the positions a little bit and uncover a few recent trends to go with the season long notes.

Quarterbacks

After the past two weeks, everyone finally realizes the Panthers have staying power. They’ve yet to allow any quarterback to post a top 12 week. The average weekly finish for quarterbacks facing Carolina is QB22 on the season. They haven’t allowed multiple touchdown passes in any game this season and have stomped out the Konami Code, not allowing any quarterback to rush for 20 yards. They still have two dates with Drew Brees left in the fantasy playoffs, but the rest of the signal callers they face are completely avoidable.

Speaking of Brees, what a difference a year has made for the Saints defense. After allowing the most yards in NFL history, only Jay Cutler has had a top 12 game against them. New Orleans has held three consecutive passers under 200 yards and a total of five on the season. That is alarming because when a team that scores as much as the Sanits do, teams are generally chasing point production, which come sin chunks from the passing game. That is very telling of just how much they’ve improved. Their remaining slate isn’t too daunting as the best quarterbacks they face are Newton (x2) and Russell Wilson, players with lower passing ceilings than their overall point total suggests.

After weathering the Kaepernick storm in week one, Green Bay recovered in defending quarterbacks despite a plethora of defensive injuries. That caught up to them as they have allowed four of the past five quarterbacks they’ve faced to register a top 12 week and they aren’t the type of players you’d expect. Christian Ponder, Joe Flacco and Josh McCown and Nick Foles all found success and Matt Stafford, Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger are still on tap. Sticking with the Packers, Scott Tolzien faces a Vikings team this week that has allowed four straight top 12 weeks.

San Diego ranks as the fourth worst team on average of points allowed to quarterbacks, but only Peyton Manning has a top 12 weeks against them since week five.

Running Backs

Even though they remain neutral big picture, the Bears depleted defense is one to target, as pointed out by C.D. Carter earlier this week. Chicago didn’t allow any top 24 rushers over the first three weeks, but since have given up one in seven consecutive weeks, including six that have finished as RB9 or higher.

Atlanta is another team that you can green light any running back into your fantasy lineup. Over their past four games, they’ve allowed 183 rushing yards per game and four top 24 backs, three of which have finished inside the top three highest scorers that week. Atlanta has quit on the 2013 season, meaning that you shouldn’t quit using players against them.

Your eyes don’t lie. Even though the Cowboys have only played ten games, 15 different running backs have torched them on the way to a starting fantasy week. They’ve allowed a top 24 back in every game played this season and multiple backs in four different weeks, and that’s with Sean Lee.

Washington is the best matchup to exploit on a week to week basis. Not only have they allowed a starter in every game, but nine of the ten have had top 12 weeks. In seven different weeks they have allowed a top six week. The average weekly finish for running back signature starts against Washington is RB6 overall.

One last running back note, these aren’t the scary 49ers that have scared owners away in years past from using backs facing them. Week four versus the Rams is the only game in which they didn’t allow a starter, and six of those nine have had top 12 weeks.

Wide Receivers

Not only has Carolina stifled opposing quarterbacks, but they have had only one wide receiver (Stevie Johnson in week two) register a top 24 week against their secondary. Tennessee is right behind them, allowing only two, both coming in week two versus Houston. These are two units to avoid with nearly anyone.

Haden Penitentiary is real. Out of the seven receivers to score well on the Browns, only Torrey Smith and Jordy Nelson were their team’s number one options, and only Nelson has scored. Nelson was WR22 and Smith was WR24, so do more than damper expectations against the Browns with your stud wide outs. Brandon Marshall has a meeting with the warden in week 15, and although Antonio Brown has two games left, one falls in week 17.

Tight Ends

Denver has become extremely leaky to tight ends, allowing four straight top 12 weeks. They draw Rob Gronkowski this week before seeing Delanie Walker and Antonio Gates to open the fantasy playoffs. They play the Texans week 16, but it’s unknown if Owen Daniels will return to muddy that situation up. If not, Garret Graham could be a chip that you can finally push all in.

I’ve been on an island most of the season defending the Cardinals and their ludicrously high point total allowed to tight ends. It’s not that I believe they are a great unit versus tight ends, but merely a more decent one than given credit for. They’ve been either torched by hybrid receiver types or given up peanut points to Joe Nobody tight ends (apologies to Danny Noble and Ryan Griffin).

They haven’t allowed a top 12 tight end since week seven, and the only player to top 50 receiving yards against them since week six was Noble’s 62 yards on his one reception.  Outside of Coby Fleener, who has four straight weeks of top 12 production, there’s not a lot to like on their schedule since Vernon Davis is a week 17 play.

*Stats for this article were provided by Pro-Football-Reference, and NFLData.com

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