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Defensive Team by Committee

Finding the perfect pair of fantasy defenses to select late in your draft.

For fourteen straight years, Footballguys has promoted the defensive team by committee (DTBC) strategy to help fantasy players dominate their leagues. Fantasy defenses are inconsistent from year to year, making it difficult to predict which defenses and special teams (D/STs) will excel. And, at least in theory, the teams available at the ends of your drafts should provide less rewards. So how do you get great production out of the position while saving your most important draft picks? We spend countless hours analyzing team offenses, and relatively few thinking about team defenses. But an average defense against a bad offense will do just as well as a great defense against an average offense. The key to the DTBC system is to find two teams available late in your draft whose combined schedule features predominantly weak offenses. By starting your defense based on matchups, your D/ST will generally face a weak offense, meaning your D/ST position will score lots of fantasy points.

The first step in creating the DTBC system is to grade the offenses. I've used the Footballguys projections to rank the offenses, scoring them the following way: (0.3 x Points scored) + (0.03 x Total Yards) - 2 x (Interceptions thrown + Fumbles Lost). While most leagues award significant points for sacks, we don't project offensive sacks allowed data. But don’t worry: we’ll keep pass rushers in mind when we select the DTBC. Here is how Footballguys projects the offenses:

RkOffensePts
1 New England Patriots 278.6
2 Pittsburgh Steelers 273.7
3 Green Bay Packers 270.7
4 Arizona Cardinals 265.4
5 New Orleans Saints 263.5
6 Seattle Seahawks 260.8
7 Carolina Panthers 257.7
8 Dallas Cowboys 254.4
9 Kansas City Chiefs 253.4
10 New York Giants 249.7
11 Cincinnati Bengals 246.3
12 Buffalo Bills 245.9
13 Indianapolis Colts 244.4
14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 242.7
15 Atlanta Falcons 236.5
16 Houston Texans 235.8
17 Chicago Bears 235.7
18 San Diego Chargers 235.2
19 Minnesota Vikings 234.6
20 New York Jets 233.0
21 Washington Redskins 232.9
22 Oakland Raiders 231.0
23 Miami Dolphins 230.8
24 Baltimore Ravens 229.7
25 Denver Broncos 229.6
26 Jacksonville Jaguars 228.5
27 Detroit Lions 228.0
28 San Francisco 49ers 223.8
29 Los Angeles Rams 219.9
30 Philadelphia Eagles 219.6
31 Tennessee Titans 216.7
32 Cleveland Browns 215.3

After grading the offenses, I went through the NFL schedule and assigned each team the offensive rating of their opponent in each week. I also added three points to the offense's rating when they are at home and took away three points when the offense is on the road. Bye weeks are valued at 500 points to avoid combining D/STs that share the same bye week. After doing this for every game in every week, we can now rank each team’s schedule and pair up the defenses to form the best possible committee. One note: I'm ranking the committees through sixteen weeks, as most fantasy leagues don't play in Week 17.

2016 DEFENSIVE TEAM BY COMMITTEE: CHICAGO AND NEW YORK GIANTS

Both the Bears and Giants are going undrafted in nearly every league. As a result, this is an extremely cheap and easy combination to snag. You may think these defenses are cheap because they're not very good, but to that I offer you the following counterpoints:

  • You will get three games each against the Eagles and Lions.  Philadelphia's offense projects as one of the worst in the league, with below-average skill position talent across the board.  Detroit's passing game will take a step back without Calvin Johnson; combined with one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL, and the Lions make for a much tastier matchup for opposing defenses than they have in years past.
  • In addition, another three games come at home against the Titans, Rams, and 49ers, three of the shakiest offenses in the league.  And, in fact, home field advantage is something that comes up frequently with this combination: combined, your defense will be home in 12 of 16 weeks during the fantasy season. That's critical given that fantasy defenses tend to score more points when winning, so home field advantage can be a tipping factor when making matchup decisions. 
The schedule opens on the road against the Texans, in what will be Brock Osweiler's first start in Houston.  And it ends in Philadelphia, when the Eagles may be playing a rookie quarterbacks.  Take a look at the combined schedule, with the projected offensive grades in parentheses: 
 

Week 1: at Houston Texans (241.8)
Week 2: Philadelphia Eagles (219.6)
Week 3: Washington Redskins (232.9)
Week 4: Detroit Lions (228.0)
Week 5: at Indianapolis Colts (250.4)
Week 6: Jacksonville Jaguars (228.5)
Week 7: Los Angeles Rams (219.9)
Week 8: Minnesota Vikings (234.6)
Week 9: Philadelphia Eagles (219.6)
Week 10: Cincinnati Bengals (246.3)
Week 11: Chicago Bears (235.7)
Week 12: Tennessee Titans (216.7)
Week 13: San Francisco 49ers (223.8)
Week 14: at Detroit Lions (234.0)
Week 15: Detroit Lions (228.0)
Week 16: at Philadelphia Eagles (225.6)

Now, some of you may be thinking that these two defenses are not very good.  And, in 2015, that was true.  But the Giants New York signed Oliveir Vernon to boost the pass rush (to play opposite Jason Pierre-Paul), Damon Harrison to improve the run defense, and added Janoris Jenkins (and drafted Eli Apple) to bolster the secondary. And, if the Giants offense is as good as we think it will be, the defense should be playing in favorable situations.

As for the Bears, arguably no team did more to improve one position than Chicago did at inside linebacker, by adding Jerrell Freeman (Colts) and Danny Trevathan (Broncos).  Chicago then drafted an excellent edge-rushing prospect in Leonard Floyd to finalize a suddenly scary linebacker group. Those three join Willie Young, Pernell McPhee, and Lamarr Houston (along with ex-Patriots defensive end Akiem Hicks) to give Chicago an excellent set of linebackers. 

WANT JUST ONE?

In some leagues, it's just too costly to spend two rosters spots on defenses. If that's your plan, it still pays to know the ability level of the offenses that each team will face. The Titans have the easiest schedule in the league, with the Lions having the toughest schedules (i.e., they face the best offense). The full list is presented below: Note that week 17 has been excluded in calculating these ratings.

RkTmTotalRkTmTotal
1 JAX 4085 17 BAL 4171
2 GB 4090 18 CAR 4171
3 SD 4094 19 MIA 4171
4 TEN 4094 20 NO 4176
5 IND 4100 21 MIN 4186
6 CHI 4123 22 ARI 4187
7 DET 4125 23 BUF 4188
8 DAL 4127 24 WAS 4197
9 KC 4131 25 PHI 4199
10 NE 4131 26 DEN 4207
11 NYG 4134 27 SEA 4215
12 HOU 4142 28 TB 4215
13 OAK 4150 29 ATL 4221
14 PIT 4158 30 NYJ 4245
15 CLE 4165 31 LA 4249
16 CIN 4166 32 SF 4258

As usual, the AFC South teams populate the top of the list, with three of the top 5 spots.  Things are not easy for the NFC West's bottom two teams: the Rams and 49ers have brutal schedules, including by virtue of facing Arizona and Seattle twice a year.  The Jets look to have a very strong defense, but also face an excellent slate of opponents.   Meanwhile, the Broncos and Seahawks -- two of the most popular choices -- also have bottom 8 (i.e., facing tough offenses) schedules.

EVERY COMBINATION

Finally, here's a look at how every combination fares on a per-week  basis.  Remember, lower is better.

RkComboValueRkComboValueRkComboValueRkComboValueRkComboValue
1 CIN--SD 3665 101 ATL--NYG 3740 201 ATL--IND 3763 301 JAX--NYJ 3784 401 CLE--NO 3822
2 CHI--MIA 3677 102 BUF--NYJ 3740 202 BAL--WAS 3763 302 KC--NYJ 3784 402 OAK--SEA 3822
3 IND--SD 3677 103 CLE--IND 3740 203 BUF--MIA 3763 303 DET--TEN 3784 403 SF--WAS 3822
4 CHI--NYG 3685 104 JAX--NYG 3741 204 ARI--IND 3764 304 OAK--PHI 3785 404 CAR--MIN 3823
5 MIA--TEN 3693 105 NO--SD 3741 205 BUF--NE 3764 305 NO--PHI 3785 405 OAK--TB 3823
6 DET--JAX 3694 106 ARI--SD 3741 206 DET--HOU 3764 306 CHI--DEN 3785 406 CLE--WAS 3823
7 IND--NYG 3696 107 CHI--TEN 3741 207 BAL--MIN 3765 307 TEN--WAS 3785 407 ARI--DEN 3828
8 BAL--TEN 3697 108 ATL--JAX 3741 208 ARI--DET 3765 308 GB--TB 3786 408 CAR--NO 3829
9 BUF--JAX 3700 109 DAL--TEN 3741 209 NYG--OAK 3766 309 BUF--PIT 3787 409 ARI--LA 3829
10 DET--GB 3700 110 CHI--DAL 3741 210 KC--NYG 3766 310 NE--OAK 3787 410 ATL--TB 3829
11 CIN--DET 3702 111 DAL--IND 3741 211 BUF--SD 3766 311 GB--NO 3787 411 DEN--OAK 3830
12 CLE--MIA 3702 112 ARI--TEN 3741 212 IND--PIT 3766 312 CAR--NYJ 3787 412 KC--SF 3830
13 DAL--WAS 3704 113 GB--HOU 3741 213 ARI--BUF 3766 313 SD--SF 3788 413 ATL--CAR 3831
14 IND--MIA 3704 114 DET--NE 3741 214 DAL--NO 3766 314 MIA--NO 3788 414 BUF--PHI 3832
15 DAL--PHI 3705 115 ARI--GB 3742 215 GB--PIT 3766 315 IND--PHI 3788 415 CAR--PIT 3832
16 BAL--DET 3708 116 GB--JAX 3742 216 BUF--CAR 3767 316 KC--PHI 3789 416 CLE--SF 3833
17 NE--NYG 3708 117 KC--SD 3742 217 SD--LA 3767 317 SF--TEN 3789 417 DEN--MIN 3833
18 CHI--OAK 3708 118 ARI--KC 3743 218 DEN--MIA 3767 318 ARI--TB 3789 418 ATL--BAL 3835
19 DET--SD 3708 119 HOU--PIT 3743 219 DAL--KC 3767 319 GB--LA 3789 419 PHI--WAS 3835
20 DET--NO 3709 120 HOU--TEN 3743 220 GB--MIA 3767 320 ARI--PIT 3789 420 ATL--WAS 3836
21 BAL--KC 3710 121 NO--TEN 3743 221 KC--NE 3768 321 DAL--TB 3790 421 NO--TB 3837
22 NE--TB 3710 122 BUF--NO 3743 222 ARI--CLE 3768 322 GB--SF 3791 422 DEN--TB 3837
23 BUF--CIN 3711 123 NYG--NYJ 3744 223 ATL--KC 3768 323 BAL--NYJ 3791 423 DEN--PHI 3837
24 BAL--JAX 3712 124 HOU--NYG 3744 224 NE--SEA 3768 324 OAK--WAS 3791 424 PIT--SEA 3839
25 BAL--DAL 3712 125 HOU--NO 3744 225 JAX--OAK 3768 325 CAR--TB 3792 425 CAR--SF 3842
26 CHI--SD 3712 126 PIT--SD 3745 226 DAL--DEN 3769 326 ATL--HOU 3792 426 MIN--PHI 3845
27 CHI--GB 3714 127 CHI--TB 3745 227 NO--WAS 3769 327 PHI--TB 3792 427 LA--WAS 3846
28 CHI--JAX 3714 128 MIN--NYG 3745 228 IND--WAS 3769 328 ATL--PIT 3793 428 ATL--LA 3846
29 DET--KC 3716 129 CHI--PHI 3745 229 KC--OAK 3769 329 CAR--TEN 3793 429 NO--SF 3846
30 CIN--SEA 3716 130 NE--NO 3745 230 CAR--NYG 3769 330 CIN--NO 3793 430 DEN--WAS 3846
31 DET--NYG 3716 131 CIN--JAX 3745 231 CLE--SD 3769 331 PHI--PIT 3793 431 CIN--TB 3848
32 NE--NYJ 3716 132 IND--TB 3745 232 BAL--DEN 3769 332 NO--PIT 3793 432 CLE--LA 3850
33 JAX--TEN 3716 133 GB--SD 3745 233 OAK--TEN 3770 333 ATL--CLE 3794 433 NYJ--PHI 3850
34 KC--WAS 3717 134 BUF--NYG 3746 234 MIA--SEA 3770 334 CHI--SF 3794 434 NYJ--SF 3854
35 HOU--KC 3717 135 MIN--SEA 3746 235 BAL--NO 3770 335 MIA--MIN 3794 435 MIN--SF 3861
36 NE--SD 3717 136 NYG--WAS 3746 236 DAL--NE 3771 336 BUF--KC 3794 436 DEN--SF 3861
37 JAX--SD 3718 137 CIN--DAL 3746 237 ARI--MIA 3771 337 ATL--NO 3794 437 ATL--MIN 3862
38 HOU--SD 3718 138 CIN--OAK 3747 238 NYJ--SEA 3771 338 DAL--PIT 3794 438 BUF--SF 3865
39 JAX--MIA 3718 139 CIN--CLE 3747 239 GB--NYJ 3771 339 IND--LA 3795 439 MIN--NYJ 3867
40 JAX--MIN 3718 140 NYJ--PIT 3747 240 CLE--NYG 3771 340 NE--PIT 3795 440 PHI--LA 3877
41 IND--NO 3718 141 GB--SEA 3747 241 CIN--NYJ 3772 341 CIN--MIN 3796 441 NYJ--TB 3878
42 CIN--NYG 3719 142 CHI--PIT 3747 242 HOU--NYJ 3772 342 NE--SF 3797 442 PHI--SF 3878
43 GB--IND 3719 143 HOU--IND 3747 243 IND--NE 3772 343 SEA--TB 3798 443 ATL--SF 3878
44 MIN--NE 3719 144 HOU--SEA 3747 244 PIT--TEN 3772 344 CAR--DEN 3798 444 ATL--PHI 3905
45 GB--WAS 3719 145 DAL--GB 3748 245 BAL--OAK 3772 345 ATL--OAK 3798 445 BAL--NYG 3936
46 SD--SEA 3721 146 BAL--CLE 3748 246 JAX--TB 3772 346 ARI--NO 3798 446 DET--IND 3956
47 DET--MIA 3722 147 MIA--PHI 3749 247 ARI--CAR 3772 347 CAR--OAK 3798 447 HOU--NE 3959
48 CAR--JAX 3722 148 KC--TB 3749 248 HOU--TB 3772 348 HOU--SF 3799 448 JAX--SEA 3960
49 CHI--IND 3722 149 MIN--TEN 3749 249 ARI--MIN 3772 349 MIN--WAS 3799 449 CHI--HOU 3967
50 ARI--NYG 3723 150 CIN--MIA 3749 250 DET--PHI 3772 350 ATL--SEA 3799 450 JAX--KC 3969
51 SD--TEN 3723 151 ATL--CIN 3749 251 NO--OAK 3773 351 KC--PIT 3799 451 JAX--NO 3973
52 HOU--MIA 3724 152 JAX--PHI 3750 252 NYJ--OAK 3773 352 HOU--PHI 3799 452 CIN--HOU 3976
53 GB--TEN 3725 153 BUF--CLE 3750 253 DEN--IND 3774 353 CLE--DEN 3799 453 BAL--PIT 3976
54 SEA--WAS 3725 154 DAL--LA 3750 254 CHI--CLE 3774 354 DEN--PIT 3799 454 CIN--NE 3977
55 CHI--NYJ 3725 155 BAL--GB 3750 255 CAR--WAS 3774 355 IND--SF 3800 455 BUF--IND 3981
56 GB--NE 3726 156 BUF--TEN 3750 256 NE--LA 3774 356 CAR--NE 3800 456 BAL--LA 3983
57 NYG--PHI 3726 157 DET--PIT 3751 257 CIN--LA 3774 357 CIN--DEN 3800 457 ARI--CIN 3989
58 NYG--TEN 3726 158 KC--MIN 3751 258 DEN--JAX 3774 358 ARI--PHI 3800 458 BUF--DET 3990
59 KC--MIA 3727 159 CIN--IND 3751 259 ARI--SEA 3774 359 OAK--SF 3800 459 BAL--MIA 3990
60 MIA--WAS 3728 160 DAL--NYJ 3751 260 DET--MIN 3775 360 BAL--BUF 3801 460 NE--WAS 3992
61 BUF--TB 3728 161 BAL--NE 3751 261 ARI--NYJ 3775 361 ARI--SF 3802 461 BUF--OAK 3997
62 GB--NYG 3729 162 CAR--IND 3751 262 DEN--SEA 3775 362 BAL--TB 3804 462 NYG--PIT 3998
63 CHI--SEA 3729 163 BUF--MIN 3751 263 PHI--SEA 3775 363 CLE--NYJ 3804 463 MIA--NYG 3998
64 HOU--JAX 3729 164 BAL--HOU 3751 264 PHI--SD 3776 364 KC--LA 3804 464 CIN--WAS 3998
65 MIA--SD 3729 165 ATL--TEN 3752 265 CLE--JAX 3776 365 BAL--SEA 3804 465 CHI--CIN 3999
66 DAL--JAX 3729 166 CAR--HOU 3753 266 BAL--CAR 3776 366 CAR--PHI 3804 466 DET--OAK 4000
67 CHI--MIN 3730 167 HOU--OAK 3753 267 CLE--KC 3776 367 TB--WAS 3805 467 CHI--NE 4000
68 CIN--PIT 3730 168 CLE--GB 3753 268 MIN--OAK 3776 368 CAR--KC 3805 468 CHI--WAS 4003
69 IND--JAX 3730 169 BUF--CHI 3753 269 GB--KC 3777 369 NYJ--WAS 3806 469 GB--PHI 4005
70 ATL--DAL 3730 170 DAL--MIN 3753 270 ATL--GB 3777 370 LA--TB 3807 470 NYJ--SD 4007
71 CHI--KC 3730 171 SD--TB 3754 271 CAR--CHI 3777 371 MIA--OAK 3807 471 ARI--HOU 4008
72 BAL--CIN 3730 172 NE--PHI 3754 272 CLE--MIN 3777 372 DEN--TEN 3807 472 MIA--LA 4012
73 DEN--NYG 3731 173 MIN--SD 3754 273 DEN--KC 3777 373 MIN--NO 3808 473 ATL--SD 4013
74 BAL--CHI 3731 174 CLE--DET 3755 274 DET--SF 3777 374 MIN--LA 3808 474 NO--SEA 4014
75 CIN--PHI 3731 175 KC--TEN 3755 275 CHI--LA 3777 375 CLE--PHI 3808 475 BAL--SF 4016
76 DAL--SD 3731 176 ATL--NE 3756 276 DET--SEA 3777 376 CLE--TB 3808 476 IND--OAK 4020
77 IND--KC 3732 177 MIA--NYJ 3756 277 ATL--DET 3778 377 NYJ--LA 3808 477 KC--NO 4020
78 DAL--NYG 3732 178 BUF--WAS 3756 278 CLE--HOU 3778 378 SEA--LA 3809 478 MIA--SF 4020
79 NYJ--TEN 3733 179 PHI--TEN 3756 279 JAX--LA 3778 379 DEN--NO 3810 479 DEN--SD 4021
80 IND--NYJ 3733 180 CAR--CIN 3758 280 CAR--MIA 3778 380 CLE--SEA 3810 480 ARI--CHI 4022
81 IND--MIN 3733 181 TB--TEN 3758 281 DET--LA 3778 381 DEN--DET 3811 481 NYG--SF 4023
82 CIN--KC 3733 182 DEN--GB 3758 282 NYG--SEA 3780 382 HOU--LA 3811 482 MIA--PIT 4028
83 DAL--HOU 3733 183 JAX--NE 3758 283 BAL--PHI 3780 383 DAL--OAK 3811 483 CLE--TEN 4035
84 DAL--DET 3733 184 BUF--HOU 3758 284 GB--OAK 3780 384 BUF--SEA 3811 484 ARI--NE 4036
85 NYG--SD 3734 185 PIT--WAS 3758 285 CLE--PIT 3781 385 OAK--PIT 3811 485 CAR--DAL 4036
86 CHI--DET 3735 186 CLE--OAK 3759 286 BUF--DEN 3781 386 ATL--BUF 3811 486 KC--SEA 4037
87 CIN--GB 3735 187 SD--WAS 3759 287 CHI--NO 3781 387 LA--TEN 3812 487 NYG--LA 4038
88 BUF--DAL 3736 188 SEA--TEN 3759 288 DEN--NE 3781 388 CAR--CLE 3812 488 HOU--WAS 4045
89 ARI--DAL 3736 189 CAR--SD 3759 289 HOU--MIN 3782 389 ARI--BAL 3813 489 PIT--SF 4049
90 CLE--NE 3737 190 JAX--WAS 3760 290 ARI--OAK 3782 390 NO--NYJ 3814 490 DEN--NYJ 4078
91 NE--TEN 3737 191 DEN--HOU 3760 291 OAK--LA 3782 391 CIN--SF 3815 491 ARI--WAS 4078
92 ATL--CHI 3737 192 DAL--MIA 3760 292 DAL--SEA 3782 392 ARI--ATL 3815 492 PIT--LA 4081
93 DET--TB 3737 193 GB--MIN 3760 293 IND--SEA 3782 393 BUF--LA 3817 493 MIN--TB 4082
94 IND--TEN 3738 194 ARI--JAX 3760 294 DAL--SF 3782 394 SEA--SF 3817 494 ATL--DEN 4084
95 CIN--TEN 3738 195 OAK--SD 3761 295 NO--NYG 3782 395 CAR--SEA 3818 495 SF--LA 4112
96 BAL--IND 3738 196 NYG--TB 3761 296 ATL--MIA 3782 396 MIA--TB 3818 496 ATL--NYJ 4130
97 CLE--DAL 3739 197 MIA--NE 3762 297 BUF--GB 3782 397 NO--LA 3819      
98 BAL--SD 3739 198 CAR--GB 3762 298 DET--WAS 3783 398 CAR--LA 3820      
99 JAX--PIT 3740 199 MIN--PIT 3762 299 JAX--SF 3783 399 SF--TB 3820      
100 DET--NYJ 3740 200 CAR--DET 3763 300 PIT--TB 3784 400 DEN--LA 3821