Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Miserable Offenses

I've heard the term "Misery Index" floated around a few times in NFL circles. Most recent, I believe, was Jim Caple's article on ESPN.com a while back about the most miserable franchises in the NFL.

I prefer to use the term to describe bad offenses, primarily the types you want to oppose with your fantasy football defense. We always drool over juicy matchups for our offensive players against bad defenses, but it doesn't seem like the same attention is given to defensive matchups against bad offenses. Since most leagues give bonus points to defenses for sacks and turnovers created, my Misery Index is simple: It's simply the sum of sacks and turnovers by an offense. Using that data, you can construct a kind of "strength-of-schedule" for your fantasy defense that should maximize its point totals.

Here are the Misery Indeces for 2007's offensive squads:

Detroit Lions365490
San Francisco 49ers345589
Kansas City Chiefs335588
St. Louis Rams374885
Baltimore Ravens403979
New York Jets255378
Oakland Raiders374178
Chicago Bears344377
Philadelphia Eagles274976
Atlanta Falcons244771
Miami Dolphins294271
Pittsburgh Steelers224769
Minnesota Vikings303868
Tennessee Titans343064
Carolina Panthers293362
New York Giants342862
Denver Broncos293261
Arizona Cardinals362460
Houston Texans382260
Seattle Seahawks243660
Washington Redskins292958
Tampa Bay Buccaneers203656
Jacksonville Jaguars213152
Dallas Cowboys242549
Cleveland Browns291948
San Diego Chargers242448
Buffalo Bills212647
Cincinnati Bengals301747
New Orleans Saints301646
Green Bay Packers241943
Indianapolis Colts192342
New England Patriots152136

No huge surprise there to see truly awful offensive teams San Francisco, Kansas City, and Baltimore near the top of the list. Detroit's Jon Kitna led the league in times sacked in 2007 and tied for the league lead in interceptions, while the Rams had to make do with Gus Frerotte longer than any NFL franchise should ever have to at this stage of his career. (Please stay healthy, Tarvaris Jackson.)

The other end of the spectrum includes what many could say were the five best quarterbacks in the NFL in 2007, save Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger. I don't have the numbers, but since QBs are responsible for nearly all interceptions, many of a team's fumbles, and play some part in taking sacks, then it shouldn't come as a surprise that good QBs minimize those errors and help keep the misery low.

So how does this chart help you pick a fantasy defense? For the first few weeks of the season, it probably doesn't help much at all. Defenses can change dramatically from year to year and, while quarterback play tends to be more steady, especially at the higher levels, a QB change can dramatically impact a team's Misery Index one way or the other. Aaron Rodgers will probably be OK (if he's the starter in Green Bay...), but I'd consider it unlikely that the Packers are #3 in lowest Misery in 2008.

It is, however, very helpful to look at the season's current Misery Index around week 8 or so and perhaps pick up an underperforming defense that has a stretch against two or three miserable offenses for the next few weeks. If you had the Seattle defense from weeks 10-14 last year (a stretch that included San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Arizona), you would have been rewarded with 14 turnovers and 18 sacks over that five-week span. I'll try to post semi-regular Misery Index updates throughout the 2008 season.

And what about the Vikings' outlook for 2008? With what looks to be one of the league's best defenses, they should rack up the sacks and turnovers as well as any team in the league -- but perhaps not that early. Here are the 2007 Misery Indeces of the teams on the Vikings' 2008 schedule, in order:

43, 42, 62, 64, 46, 90, 77, 60, 43, 56, 52, 77, 90, 60, 71, 62

That's an average of 62.2, compared to a league average of 63.1 -- slightly tougher than average. The first two games, against Green Bay and Indianapolis, figure to be tough, but, as mentioned, who knows how Aaron Rodgers might play? And now that Mike Martz is out of Detroit, it might be a little harder to sack Jon Kitna (the Lions accounting for the two 90s on the schedule). On the bright side, the average 2007 Misery Index for the team's final five opponents is 72, meaning that you should get strong performances from the defense late in the season and into your playoffs, which is when you need it the most.

No comments: