Drool-worthy matchups for the stretch run

With nine weeks of data in the books on this year’s NFL team defenses, it’s now pretty clear which matchups you should absolutely love to see on your players’ schedules for the remainder of the season.

Passing Defense

Worst of the Worst:

Detroit Lions: They allow a whopping 263 passing yards per game, including games where they gave up 358 to Brees, 340 to Campbell, 358 to Rodgers, and 329 to Hasselbeck. And only the Titans (who I’ll get to in a minute) have allowed more passing TDs.

Kansas City Chiefs: Only ten sacks on the season, second-worst in the league, and only three interceptions, which is obviously the worst. (Interesting aside – the Redskins, who give up the fewest yards per game, are tied with the Browns for the second-fewest INTs – just four.)

Jacksonville Jaguars: They can’t do a thing right against the pass. They’re sixth-worst in passing touchdowns allowed, fifth-worst in INTs with just five picks, the absolute worst in the league at getting to the QB with just eight sacks, and they give up the seventh-most passing yards per game.

Mediocre at Best:

Tennessee Titans: Statistically speaking, they’re the worst in the NFL, hands down, but they’re finally getting healthy and Jeff Fisher hasn’t gone anywhere. Since the return of cornerback Cortland Finnegan and nickelback Vincent Fuller, they’re 2-0, including a win over a decent 49ers team. I don’t think they’re anywhere near good yet, but they’re also not nearly as bad as they were just a few weeks ago.

Arizona Cardinals: They give up the fourth-most yards per game (247) along with the 8th-most TDs. They’ve looked a little better lately, but their high-powered offense leads to a lot of shootouts. Even in a losing effort, Jay Cutler threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns against them last week.

Rushing Defense

Worst of the Worst:

Buffalo Bills: Opposing offenses have been able to run over the Bills’ injury-decimated defense all season long. They give up 174 rushing yards per game, worst in the league, and have allowed a dozen rushing scores, tied with three other teams for second-worst. Opposing teams run the ball nonstop against them, averaging 34 rushes per game, tied for third. If your fantasy RB is matched up against the Bills, you can more or less rest assured that he’ll get the ball all day and do his best Jim Brown impression on every carry. Just to give you an idea of how bad they are, Jamal Lewis has only topped 70 yards once this season – when he burned the Bills for 117.

Cleveland Browns: Speaking of the Browns, they’re almost as bad against the run as the Bills, giving up the same number of TDs and almost as many yards per game (171, second-worst in the league). The Browns are always playing from behind, so running backs get lots of work against them, 35 carries per game (also second-worst).

Oakland Raiders: Teams just love to run the ball against them, averaging 36 carries per game, most in the league. And for good reason: They give up the fourth-most rushing yards per game and more rushing touchdowns than any other team. The sad thing for the Raiders is that they’re plenty talented on defense and have a well-respected defensive coordinator in John Marshall, but the offense is simply unable to stay on the field – only Buffalo, KC and Jacksonville spend less time on offense than the Raiders.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bills, Browns, Raiders and Bucs all allow over 160 rushing yards per game. After that, the next-worst team is Kansas City, who allows 136. I think it’s pretty clear where we need to draw the “Worst of the Worst” line.

Mediocre at Best:

St. Louis Rams: They’re one of the four teams tied for second-most rushing TDs allowed (12). They also allow the sixth-most rushing yards per game (135).

Kansas City Chiefs: Yeah, they give up a lot of yards on the ground (136 per game, fifth-worst in the league), but at least they’re sort of OK in the red zone, tied for tenth-worst with eight rushing TDs allowed. OK, I’m being charitable. They suck.