So far this season, I've been referencing a Football Outsiders efficiency statistic called VOA, which stands for value over average. What's the main difference between VOA and our more familiar statistic, DVOA? Well, the "D" stands for "defense-adjusted," so it's the fact that DVOA adjusts for opponent strength, and thereby produces a more valid representation of how good a team really is. I bring this up because, now that there are four weeks in the books, we've started incorporating those opponent adjustments into our stats, so I'll only be speaking of DVOA (full explanation here) from now until the end of the season.
With that development, and the fact that there are a ton of typical fantasy starters on bye this week, I figured I'd answer a few questions that some people -- especially newcomers -- probably have about what's presented weekly in this space.
What scoring system are you using when you talk about fantasy points?
At Football Outsiders, we award one point for every 20 passing yards, 10 rushing yards and 10 receiving yards. We award four points for passing touchdowns, but six for rushing and receiving touchdowns. We don't award any points for receptions. We also have a two-point penalty for interceptions and fumbles lost.
What do the numbers in the matchup tables mean?
Each player's plus-or-minus score indicates how many fantasy points above or below his average you can expect him to score that week, based on his matchup and the above scoring system. For instance, Michael Vick is averaging 18.9 fantasy points per game, and he's designated as a plus-3 on the road against Pittsburgh's pass defense in Week 5. This means that we'd expect a player who averages that many points -- in this case, Vick -- to score about three more solely because of the matchup.
Why do the plus-or-minus scores seem to always be higher for quarterbacks and running backs?
Historically, quarterbacks and running backs in fantasy football are more affected by matchups than wide receivers and tight ends.
How do you choose which players appear in the matchup tables and which don't?
Because matchups in general aren't as influential as people think, I start out by omitting the top six fantasy quarterbacks (according to points per game) who are playing that week, as well as the top 12 running backs, top 12 wide receivers and top six tight ends. These are players who should be in your lineups regardless of the matchup. Of the remaining players, I'll include any player with a score of plus-1 point (or minus-1 point) or anything more extreme than that.
So, with that little tutorial out of the way, here are the fantasy football players with the best and worst matchups for Week 5:
Christian Ponder (plus-4 points)
According to DVOA, the Tennessee Titans don't just have the worst pass defense in the NFL right now -- they have a pass defense that's nearly 50 percentage points worse than the average NFL team. If you're someone who likes consensus in their stats, the Titans' pass defense also ranks dead last in adjusted net yards per attempt, which incorporates sacks, touchdowns and interceptions into the traditional yards-per-attempt number. So far this season, they have only six sacks and one interception while allowing 10 touchdowns.