Analysis

Inside the numbers: Detroit Lions defense is underrated

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Ogletreemania has died down. We got a whole slew of games to play this Sunday and Monday, which means your NFL olfactories are about to start getting pounded by Dick Stockton and every other NFL announcer out there. So what are the numbers you should care about for the NFL's 93rd Opening Weekend?

Well here's a sampling. Every week in this space we'll delve into some numbers that make sense -- and some that don't -- to give you an idea about who's gonna win Sunday and perhaps who to put in your fantasy lineup.

For Week 1, we're starting on the defensive side of the ball, where one playoff hopeful's defense is better than the accounting shows.

The Bogus Report: For all the talk of the Lions defensive struggles the numbers don't lie. Or do they? Detroit had the worst-ranked defense in the preseason, allowing a whopping 395.8 yards per game.

Those numbers are sooo misleading. Check these out:

Starting quarterbacks versus Lions in preseason: 32-of-53, 362 yards (less than seven yards per attempt), 1-3 TD-INT ratio, and a fumble. No bueno.

Starting running backs versus Lions in preseason:Montario Hardesty, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, and C.J. Spiller ran 24 times for 84 yards in the preseason. That's 3.5 yards per carry.

It's worth noting that the Lions could be without Louis Delmas and Chris Houston in the secondary, but this defense is not as bad as many in the biz seem to think.

Notable: Rookie quarterback with a 5-1 TD-Int ratio and a 110.3 passer rating. Andrew Luck? No, Russell Wilson. #whowould'vethought

You Can Count on It: A lot of people are worried about Philip Rivers and his 20 interceptions last season. Well, Rivers plays at Oakland in Week 1, where he's 5-1 with a career passer rating of 102.2.

His last two starts at Oakland:

Week 5, 2010: 431 yards, 10.3 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and a 114.3 passer rating (he also had a 14-yard scramble).

Week 17, 2011: 310 yards, 11.9 yards per attempt, three touchdowns, one interception, and a 135.1 passer rating.

More Russell Wilson: the Seattle starter quarterbacked 19 possessions in the preseason. The Seahawks scored on 13 of them.

2012's Upset Team?: The Chiefs will probably fall to the Falcons in Week 1 with Tamba Hali out, and some defensive starters nursing injuries. But it's definitely worth nothing that the Chiefs have Eric Berry back from his lost 2011 campaign (knee). Even without him, KC led the NFL in allowing the fewest big plays (20) in football over the last eight games.

Chiefs, Part Deux: The average 2011 ranking of the first eight defenses Kansas City plays is 20th. Even Peyton Hillis might be a good spot start for your fantasy team.

2012's Deep Sleeper?:Sam Bradford threw six touchdowns, no interceptions and racked up a 116.3 passer rating in the preseason. Not saying he's a 30 touchdown-10 interception guy, but he's in his third year now and he wasn't the top overall pick for nothing.

The Rams open up versus Detroit, who despite the numbers we addressed up there could be short-handed in the secondary.

Chart of the Week

Don't expect passing numbers to be through the roof in Week 1, i.e., the air attack might not soar in 2012 the way it did in 2011. Defensive backs had a full offseason to practice with one another, unlike during the lockout. Secondaries need that time as much, or more, than any position group.

Three thoughts from the NFC East

  1. Michael Vick's health has been a major issue of late, with his ribs injury being the latest installment. Why this is a news flash is a mystery. Vick has played 16 games once in his nine-year career (2006).
  1. Of Kevin Ogletree's eight catches Wednesday night, two went for touchdowns and three more went for big first downs. He was open for a potential third touchdown catch on a play where Romo misfired under duress. Overall, the little known Ogletree was targeted 11 times.
  1. Everyone knows Washington can't ever decide on a lead running back. But for all the credit Mike Shanahan has received for leading effective rushing attacks during his coaching career, the reality is the Redskins committee approach has been nothing short of terrible. The Redskins finished 25th in the league in rushing last year, and 30th in 2010. It's not all about the quarterback in DC.

Reader's Choice Award: For all the "choker" status applied to Tony Romo, my tweep, @SardonicSatire, points out:

In the Final Analysis:

Be leery of anointing the Ravens as an elite defense. While they have a favorable matchup versus an - as of now - average Bengals offense, they only registered six sacks in the preseason. Losing Suggs and his 14 sacks to injury was devastating.

Look out for the Panthers, who play the Bucs in Week 1. The jury is still out on Gregg Schiano's front seven, and in two games last season, Carolina rushed for 433 yards and seven touchdowns! In fact, Tampa Bay allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL last season (156.1), as well as five yards per carry.

Fantasy Tasty Nugget:Cam Newton's fantasy value in those two games versus Tampa: 38.4 and 30.7 fantasy points. Unreal.

Listened to this while writing this: Phil Collins live. Love you. Mean it.

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