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Defending Reality: Team Defense Scoring

A deeper look at fantasy scoring for team defenses.  

Nearly every Fantasy League has different rules for how to score a Team Defense. Many use the tried and true method of one point for a sack and two for a turnover. To add a little variety, many also add six points for the rare touchdown and yet another two for the rarest of scores - a safety. Other leagues try to tweak this scoring method by incorporating points against, yards against, or both.

FANTASY FOOTBALL SCORING - A HISTORY LESSON

The basis for fantasy scoring comes from an attempt to quantify an individual player's performance numerically and assign that a value proportional to his team's performance. Touchdowns and yardage usually translate to team success, and the offensive player is rewarded for such productivity.

The second iteration of fantasy scoring came about as an attempt to normalize different positions to a similar scoring system. Quarterbacks produce more touchdowns and yardage than running backs, who produce even more than wide receivers. The result for many leagues was to reduce the points for passing touchdowns and also passing yardage so as to make running backs more valuable. Other leagues go one step further by awarding an extra point per catch to each player to increase wide receiver and tight end values closer to running backs.

What does any of this have to do with Team Defense? I am glad that you asked that question. This article is an attempt to determine how to quantify Team Defense scoring in a manner that reflects the impact a defense has on the outcome of a game, and also to provide a normalized score for a Team Defense that puts the value of a Defense at or near par for other fantasy football positions.

BASELINE DEFENSE

First, we have to determine what constitutes a good Team Defense. Is it one that gives up the fewest yards, or the fewest points? An argument can be made for either being the case, so let's take a look at the rankings from last year to see which method more accurately reflects a successful season. The results for last season are in Table 1:

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