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Published November 17, 2015

Matchups can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing in fantasy football, which means it’s crucial to keep track of which defenses rank amongst the best and worst in the league in various categories. More specifically, for fantasy purposes, it’s even more important to note which teams do well or poorly against certain positions.

To assist fantasy owners in keying in on the best matchups on fantasy football league websites this week, let’s break down the top defenses to exploit and avoid:

Passing Zone

The Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are probably the best four matchups to attack when you’re looking at quarterbacks and wide receivers to use on fantasy football league websites. For wide receivers, these defenses are looking rather tasty in week nine, giving guys like Dwayne Bowe, Dez Bryant and Andre Johnson (just to name a few) a very good shot at blowing up this week.

The Chicago Bears are also not very good against the pass, but they’re specifically woeful against the tight end. Giving up three touchdowns on nine catches in week nine to Rob Gronkowski, we saw that on full display. That’s something worth saying, too, considering just six NFL teams award opposing fantasy tight ends more than 10 points per game. Chicago leads the way with over 13 points per game. The bad news is they’re off in week nine with their bye, so people looking for an edge on fantasy football league websites will have to attack the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts.

Dallas isn’t the best one to attack since the Arizona Cardinals (who they face this week) doesn’t utilize the tight end, but the Jets face Travis Kelce and the Colts take on Larry Donnell. Needless to say, both Kelce and Donnell are shaping up as solid plays on fantasy league sites this week.

No Fly Zone

Of course, what’s the point in pointing out the top pass defenses to exploit if we can’t also avoid the ones that we shouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole? Just as important as playing those explosive wide receivers against awful pass defenses is not using the wrong wide receiver against an elite pass defense, as well. To accomplish this, fantasy owners will definitely want to shy away from the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, who have both specifically been good lately. The Niners were destroyed by the Denver Broncos a week ago, but that’s a bit of a blip on the radar in comparison to how they’ve fared the rest of the year. Needless to say, week nine probably isn’t going to be the week to use Austin Davis or any Rams wide receivers. The same goes for Michael Vick and his receiving weapons when New York heads to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs.

Tight end is a whole different bag, as we saw above in the matchups to exploit, as there are several defensive units that really don’t allow much out of the position when it comes to fantasy football numbers. In fact, there are a whopping 26 teams that give up under 10 points per game to the position. That means tight ends can be dangerous to play if you’re not already using an elite one on fantasy football league websites, but you should especially be careful this week if you’re planning on using a tight end facing the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles or Baltimore Ravens.

Those four teams happen to rank 1-4 against tight ends in fantasy football this year, with none of them giving up even six fantasy points to the position per game. San Diego takes the cake, though, making Charles Clay a pretty tough sell in week nine.

Run For Days

The New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers have far and away been the worst teams against fantasy running backs in 2014. That ranking has fluctuated a bit as the weeks have gone on and Carolina actually was fairly solid at home in week eight, but overall the stats are right on – you can run the ball on these teams. Naturally, that makes Ahmad Bradshaw, Marshawn Lynch, Ronnie Hillman and Mark Ingram all pretty strong plays this week.

Into the Wall

As fun as it is to use running backs facing the teams above, it’s just as key to not use backs going up against the likes of the Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills or Baltimore Ravens. Washington has especially been nasty against opposing running backs, but all four of these elite run defenses are giving up a paltry 13.25 fantasy points or less to running backs per game. DeMarco Murray had a big day against Washington last week, but he’s clearly the exception to the rule.

Ultimately, fantasy football is clearly a numbers game, but even stats don’t tell the whole story. Of course, if we do play by the numbers and use matchups to our advantage, we’ll likely usually come out on top. That’s the hope, at least.

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