Fantasy Football Defense & Special Teams Rankings

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Well… it’s that time of the year again. Football is back. And with that, countless pretend team owners and GMs are preparing for their respective fantasy football drafts.  This is the first edition of what will be a weekly series at Football Savages covering all things FFL related.

Since this is my first post for FS, here’s a quick intro on me and what you can expect. I’ve been a football fan and especially a Chiefs fan my entire life. I grew up playing it, watching it every chance I got, even dreamed about playing it beyond high school until knee injuries pushed me in another direction.

I’ve been playing fantasy football for about 11 years now and am currently in an advanced keeper league that’s over 25 years old. Some of the guys in that league have been there since the beginning and tell stories of having to tabulate stats from box scores in the Monday and Tuesday morning newspapers… I shit you not. And yes… it’s exactly like the stories your dad tells you about having to walk to school through blizzards and cataclysmic events… I too pretend to be interested.

Professionally, I consult and provide advanced data analysis for a private organization in a government related field that I can’t get into too about too much. Bottom line…  I dig analysis. And my background makes for a sometimes unconventional approach as it relates to fantasy football.

Enough about me… let’s get down to business.

This week we’ll be taking a look at and ranking all 32 Defenses and Special Teams, aka the DSTs. The two basic factors when deciding which DSTs to draft or play are overall rating as a group and strength of schedule, or more importantly, strength of the offenses they’ll be facing. There are of course other factors to consider such as how good their own team’s offense is, i.e. are they so horrific on offense that they constantly go three and out, constantly put their defense on their own end of the field, turn the ball over like the other team’s their favorite charity… I’m looking at you 2012 Chiefs Offense. But that’s neither here nor there.

So, without getting into too much detail, the rankings presented here are the result of ranking all 32 NFL defenses using a combination of average rankings among some of the top fantasy sites, NFL power rankings from multiple sources and then statistically comparing each teams weekly matchups to calculate probabilities and project performance. Comparisons aren’t just team for team but what factors affect fantasy scoring in most standard leagues… i.e. yards allowed, sacks, interceptions, defensive scores and special teams scoring.

Strategy’s also important. Things you need to be thinking about as it relates to defensive units during a season should not only include overall schedule of offenses they’ll be facing, but what offenses they face during the last weeks of the fantasy season and playoff stretch, say weeks 12-16 of the NFL season, whether they have a plus punt and kick returner, whether the teams they’re playing happen to be turnover prone or have a weak defense themselves resulting in often poor field position, whether they give up those extra fantasy point opportunities, i.e. sacks and turnovers, you know the drill.

After crunching all that data I described above it resulted in a number for each team, the lower the number, the better the defense. It really doesn’t matter what this number is called so let’s just call it a Breh Factor. You’ll see it in the table below.

In general… it’s slightly more complicated than just saying this defense is better than that defense.

Alright… enough chit chat. Truth is I could probably talk your ear off about fantasy football but I have to cut this off somewhere. So here it is… the list, divided into four categories; the elite, the solids, the sleepers, and the suck.


The Elite

Team Overall Rank BYE Week Breh Factor
Seahawks 1 4 0.15632
Broncos 2 4 0.33330
49ers 3 8 0.34591
Panthers 4 12 0.65395

If there was ever a sure thing this season, it’s the Seahawks DST. The stars have aligned for Seattle’s DST this season the same way they did for the Chiefs DST the first half of last season. In fact, in my calculations, their Breh Factor is twice as good as the next best DST, the Broncos… hang on… brb, gotta go vomit.

OK. Back now. I always get a little nauseous anytime I have to say something nice about “that team.”


The Solids 

Team Overall Rank BYE Week Breh Factor
Patriots 5 10 0.70785
Cardinals 6 5 0.76758
Saints 7 6 0.84264
Rams 8 3 0.91163

If you can somehow manage to grab one of these DSTs in the later rounds, chances are you’ve drafted really well. Though many sites have the Rams as a bit higher, here’s where the numbers place them. And that’s an adjustment resulting mostly from the competition they’re facing compared to the teams above them.


The Sleepers

Team Overall Rank BYE Week Breh Factor
Texans 9 10 0.97773
Bengals 10 4 1.01288
Buccaneers 11 7 1.01755
Steelers 12 12 1.09284
Ravens 13 11 1.14769
Browns 14 4 1.18290
Chiefs 15 6 1.27188

After the first game of the preseason I’m tempted to move the Chiefs (2 pick 6s, a DeAnthony Thomas punt return for a TD and what seemed like a million sacks) up to The Solids group but no… gotta stay with what the numbers say… and it was the first preseason game after all. But still… Keep an eye on the Chiefs who seem to be really loaded with pass rushers and DeAnthony Thomas returning punts looks like the real deal. The downside… they have a brutal schedule and will face some of the more potent offenses in the NFL. Also… weeks 14 through 16 the Chiefs will face the Cardinals on the road, Raiders at home and Steelers at home. Not a bad fantasy playoff schedule at all.


The Suck

Team Overall Rank BYE Week Breh Factor
Eagles 16 7 1.52402
Bills 17 9 1.60673
Jets 18 11 2.22711
Lions 19 9 2.38678
Bears 20 9 2.42360
Giants 21 8 2.43848
Falcons 22 9 2.47847
Vikings 23 10 2.74680
Jaguars 24 11 3.23681
Packers 25 9 3.24573
Chargers 26 10 3.30922
Titans 27 9 3.46693
Raiders 28 5 3.70241
Dolphins 29 5 3.72111
Colts 30 10 4.50153
Redskins 31 10 5.71331
Cowboys 32 11 6.56302

If you have any of the above DSTs as your starting unit, chances are you’re the Taco of your The League and in line for the Sacko, or Ruxin, or whatever your league calls last place. Not the worst thing in the world. Everybody loves Taco.

No need to explain most of the teams in this list, and if you saw the Cowboys in game one of the preseason… that more than validates what their Breh Factor shows. They are Gawd Awful… and their schedule isn’t helping them out any. They face the Seahawks twice, the Saints, the Eagles twice, the Bears… get the picture? There are actually some decent units in this list, but that’s the real world… and the offenses they face push them down with the bottom feeders in the fantasy world.



Staff writer for Football Savages and Fantasy Football enthusiast/recovering junkie. Some say he never blinks and that he roams around the woods at night foraging for wolves.


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