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Guest post #2: Numbers never lie?

Greetings my fantasy football friends! I'm slowly adjusting to life with a baby and am coming back to the land of fantasy football (I don't even know how I did in my leagues last week, how insane is that?!) and should have the consensus start/sit up for you by this weekend, but in the meantime I've got one or two more guest posts for you. Today's guest post is from my friend Matt Schauf at who is talking something near and dear to my heart: stats and knowing how to read/assess them correctly. For those looking for the standard links, they're coming soon but I really like Matt's post today...and of course should reiterate how much I appreciate his help as well as the help I've had from Ryan at

Oh and I promise to post a baby update for those who are actually interested with my next post!

Guest post

I’m not a fool. I know that you folks visit Sara’s site for two things: 1) semi-regular baby updates, and 2) links fantasy football stuff in various other places.

Well, you’re going to be disappointed today. My two girls are old enough to walk, fight and answer their father in a sarcastic tone (and the second isn’t even 2), and Ms. Holladay’s gone dark, so I have no idea how her family unit is operating. As for the links, I’m illiterate. Sorry. It’s not something I’m proud of.

Instead, though, I’d like to speak to you about clichés, actually one cliché in particular: “Numbers never lie.”

It’s true, obviously. Numbers don’t lie because they have to either be based on something that they’re counting or have been made up by some lying person. Even in that second scenario, they can’t really take the blame.

The problem, however, is that numbers don’t analyze themselves (though I wouldn’t judge them if they did). People take real numbers and draw their own conclusions from them, too often explaining away points with, “The numbers don’t lie.” They might not, but they sure can be misleading if you don’t look at them the right way.

One really easy place to be misled by numbers is when studying fantasy football matchups. The season is already so short that it presents small-sample issues for statheads, and that’s only amplified when you look at a segment of the short season. It becomes foolish, then, to rely on the overall view of that small, small segment, and I’ve picked out a few examples to try to illustrate why.

Washington – 4th most fantasy points allowed to QBs (based on RapidDraft scoring)
My favorite resource for fantasy points allowed and other similar stats is – which is very user-friendly and easy to customize. After entering my own scoring particulars, a quick check of the rankings shows that Washington has been the fourth most generous defense to opposing passers so far.

That would make Washington seem like a no-brainer matchup to exploit for any fantasy quarterback, but it also ignores the inflation from the Houston game. Take out Matt Schaub’s 497-yard, three-touchdown day, and you remove half of the scoring passes that Washington has allowed this year. You’ll also get a scoring average that drops to 16th in the league. This defense may still prove vulnerable against the pass, but only one of four opposing quarterbacks has produced multiple scores so far.

Oakland – 8th fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs
The Raiders have faced just 97 pass attempts through the first four weeks. That doesn’t make up the league’s lowest total, but the three teams behind Oakland already had their byes. With that in mind, low passing totals seem pretty logical. Of course, each of the quarterbacks who logged so few attempts also put up two touchdown passes on the Raiders.

Miami – 5th fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs
I’m a bit more willing to believe in the Dolphins than the Raiders here, but Miami’s ranking also doesn’t reveal the full picture. For starters, each of the three interceptions Miami has grabbed so far came from Brett Favre. That means the team played Trent Edwards (Week 1) and failed to pick him off. That should count for points against them. Otherwise, Miami allowed Mark Sanchez to throw for 256 yards and three touchdowns and held Tom Brady to meager numbers on a mere 24 attempts on a night where he didn’t have to do much. I like CB Vontae Davis and OLB Cameron Wake, but there seems to be vulnerability elsewhere. We’ll see how much when the Dolphins return from bye to face Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco.

N.Y. Giants – 8th fewest points (PPR) to RBs
The biggest thing that stands out here is that the Giants have yielded just eight receptions to running backs. Perhaps they’ll just prove to be good at defending against that, but we don’t know yet because they haven’t faced that many targets. What they have done is allow 125 yards and two touchdowns to Chris Johnson (who hasn’t?), 92 yards to Joseph Addai and 69 yards on 16 carries (4.3) to Donald Brown. Those aren’t terrible numbers for a defense to give up, but they also aren’t stellar. The Giants did limit Carolina’s runners, but we’ll see what Arian Foster does to them this week.

Houston – 10th most points to RBs
The Texans probably still carry a stigma for many a fantasy player of being generous to opposing runners, and the current ranking in points allowed will only feed that. However, whereas the Giants haven’t had to contend with much passing to backs, Houston has seen the fourth most running back completions in the league. It has also seen four rushing scores, a collection that includes three touchdowns from the 1-yard line and one from the 2. The biggest yardage game has come from Marion Barber, a whopping 55 yards on 17 carries, and Houston has yielded the seventh lowest rushing average – a fraction of a yard lower than the Vikings so far. Ahmad Bradshaw remains a decent play because of the work he’s getting and the likelihood that his team’s passing game will get close enough for several scores, but his matchup isn’t terrific this week.

San Francisco – 9th most points to RBs
You know who’s even more fun to run against than Houston? The Niners. Then again, if you take out the 192 yards amassed by Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, San Francisco has yielded just a 2.9-yard rushing average. The Saints accounted for many other PPR points with just the eight catches of Pierre Thomas (plus four from Reggie Bush before he broke a leg). Of course, taking away one game from a set of four only worsens the small sample size problem, so let’s just say the jury’s out on this run defense. I’m tempted to believe that a defense that has been tough to run on for the past several years will prove so again this season, especially after it held Michael Turner to 50 yards on 16 carries last week, but I’m willing to consider the alternative.

So there you go. Numbers abound these days, and the folks interpreting them will assure you that numbers don’t lie. Just make sure you figure out exactly what you’re looking at before you follow, though, because people aren’t always as smart as numbers.


Peter said…
Good article. Analysis has always been a combo of stats and context - a bit of a science/art hybrid, if you ask me.
Anonymous said…
Looking for your link fix while our girl is gone...check out
Anonymous said…
Before Sara's child is in kindergarten, he's going to be asking questions like 'mommy, do you have a large enough sample size to start that man?'

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