In real life NFL games it is well known that a good offense can only get you so far. It is the defense that not only wins games, but championships. Could the same be true for fantasy football? In our NFL preseason thinking we recommend holding off on drafting a defense until the later rounds because you can still get good value late in the draft. However, while there may still be good value in the later rounds, the question is: just how essential is a good defense to winning in fantasy football?
To explore this we looked across 10 random head to head Yahoo leagues and looked at how frequently a team wins their weekly match-up when their defense scores more than 10 pts. Of the 200 games we looked at 140 qualified, meaning one of the team’s defenses scored more than 10 pts. Amazingly in those games where a team’s defense scored more than 10 pts the winner held a record of 44-6 for an astounding win percentage of 88%. Numbers like that are very convincing – essentially if your defense can put up points more often than not you will get the win.
Now that we have established that a sound defense can make the difference between winning and losing, how important is it to draft a top ranked defense? Can you reach the holy grail of 10 weekly defensive fantasy points more consistently by playing match-ups than by drafting a solid defense? To look at this we took a look at the top 5 ranked defenses from pre-season live drafts and compared the performance of those units to the top 5 ranked weekly matchup defenses from weeks 1-4.
The top ranked preseason defenses were the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and Philadelphia Eagles. These units averaged 8.39 fantasy points over the first 4 weeks of the season with a standard deviation 4.30. A standard deviation that high indicates that performance of these “elite” units was all over the place and inconsistent at best. While playing a top tier defense can get you a win by itself, they are just as likely to throw up a dud in a tough match-up and tank your team.
The top 5 ranked matchup defenses obviously varied from week to week based on matchups, but averaged 9.15 fantasy points with a standard deviation of 0.60. What this tells us is that playing the match-ups not only averages more points, but is a much, much more consistent way to attain performance. Playing the match-ups will not result in the homerun as frequently as as the top tier defenses, but it will get you close to the 10pt mark on a more consistent basis.
At the end of the day our analysis backs up our preseason assumptions that it is best to draft a defense late and play the match-ups. The top ranked defenses may be able to win you a game by themselves, but there will be drastic ups and downs. Playing the matchups on defense is a great way to consistently put up points and get you close to the holy grail of victory – 10 fantasy live skor bola points from your defense.
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