Should You Bench Your Fantasy Football Starters Against the Seahawks?
Last week, the Seattle Seahawks kicked off the 2014 season as defending Super Bowl Champions by dismantling the Green Bay Packers and their dynamic offense fairly handily. Much has been said about the Seahawks defense, particularly in the secondary as the "Legion of Boom" brashly makes plays while a rotating front seven pressure the quarterback.
Going with a theme similar to my article last week on whether or not Thursday Night Games impact fantasy performance, I decided to investigate whether or not the numbers show that you should bench your starters when they face Seattle.
This time, I first decided to tabulate 2013 standard scoring fantasy points data on a gameby-game basis from for the quarterback, running back, wide receiver one, wide receiver two, and tight end positions for all games played against the Seahawks.
The Null Hypothesis: There is no statistical difference for skilled position players when they play against Seattle as opposed to the rest of the league.
To test the null hypothesis, similar to last week, I took 16 data points for each position, for a total of 80 data points. I then ran a t-test to determine the validity of the null hypothesis in terms of p-value. Again, a refresher on p-values can be accessed via Wikipedia.
In this test, to make sure the sample size was large enough to remove variability, I grouped all the positions together as one large pool of 80 players, and compared the averages in the 16 games against the Seahawks to the total player averages for all games they played to determine if the null hypothesis should be accepted or rejected. In this case, the result was a resounding .001, which means we should reject the null hypothesis and determine that there is a strong presumption that the Seahawks defense shuts down opposing offenses.
I know what you're thinking: Yeah, McFly, I already know the Seahawks defense is really good, so what exactly are you telling me? Well, the t-test I did was really only the basis for me to delve further and continue on with the investigation to see whether or not you should bench your offensive starters against the Seahawks in fantasy on a weekly basis.
So, with that, let's get into the second part of the testing, which shows you actual player results in 2013 versus the Seahawks, comparing that to a player's season-long fantasy points average. Additionally, you see the difference between the two, the standard deviation from their average using all of their 2013 games played as data points and, most importantly, the probability that based on an assumption of a normal distribution, that the particular player analyzed would score more points against the Seahawks than other opponents.
To interpret the table, you see that, of the 16 starting quarterbacks who faced the Seahawks in 2013, the position scored over 5 fewer fantasy points per game versus their season average, only averaging about 9 fantasy points per contest. More importantly, you see that the probability of a quarterback having a better game against the Seahawks than another opponent was only 22%.
What's also very interesting is that the Seahawks held some of the league's elite fantasy quarterbacks significantly below their averages as well, particularly Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Of course the better quarterbacks have higher averages, so playing against the Seahawks typically results in underperformance, but based on the results above, you should seriously consider benching almost any quarterback on your roster when they play the Seahawks, especially if you have a viable bench or streaming alternative
The storyline of Seattle's dominance against running backs isn't as persuasive as it is against quarterbacks, but it still shows that running backs in 2013 scored over two fantasy points less against them, with a 36% probability that a running back would perform better against the Seahawks than another opponent. That number would be significantly lower if two players from last year who played injury-shortened seasons - Arian Foster and Mike James - had their best games of the season against the Seahawks. James even had a goal-line jump-pass for a touchdown, which would tend to be categorized as a fluke. The Seahawks did shut down several other running backs last season, including Steven Jackson and Adrian Peterson.
Wide Receiver One
Overall, the Seahawks secondary is viewed as the best part of their defense, highlighted by one of the best shutdown corners in the game in Richard Sherman and all-pro safety Earl Thomas. How do they stack up against the top wideout on the opposing team? Pretty well, especially in 2013 against Larry Fitzgerald and Marques Colston. Overall, however, the primary wide receiver only scored 1.6 fewer points than their average when they faced the Seahawks, and several receivers exceeded their averages (albeit some had low averages to start with because they aren't very good). Primary receivers would perform better against non-Seattle opponents 61% of the time.
While it is known that Sherman doesn't switch sides of the field, statistically if you start your top wide receiver against the Seahawks, you had mixed results in 2013. There is nothing alarming at the present to consider benching your top wideout against the Seahawks unless you have better options on your bench. In real football terms, this probably holds true because the Seahawks can stake to leads with their overall defensive effort, and wide receivers accumulate fantasy points over the course of the game, with very little negative impact if they don't catch a ball.
Wide Receiver Two
Due to the lack of elite options at the number-two wide receiver spot who happened to play the Seahawks last year, there was only a 1.10 decrease in fantasy points for them against Seattle last year. The probability that this group would have a better game against the Seahawks than other opponents is 41%. Only the much maligned on numberFire (typically for good reason) T.Y. Hilton was a fantasy stud against the Seahawks a season ago, buoyed by a play in which Hilton seemed to get behind Sherman with late safety help, which made Hilton the highest scoring fantasy player against the Seahawks at any position in the 16 games played with a total of 26.00 standard fantasy points.
The tight ends who faced the Seahawks last season were hardly world-beaters. In the few opportunities they had against top-five players at the position though, the Seahawks held all below their average, including Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis. Overall, tight ends scored 1.21 fewer points against the Seahawks, and would do better against the Seahawks versus other opponents 41% of the time.
Due to the rash of early injuries to top 12 tight end types in fantasy football already, starting Antonio Gates this week against the Seahawks if he's your top tight end shouldn't be of significant concern.
When you analyze your fantasy matchups for a week, rarely should you bench one of your studs based on their matchup. However, in certain circumstances and through this study, you should give serious thought to benching any of your skill positions against the Seahawks. In particular, as was the case with Thursday versus Sunday night games, the quarterback was impacted most heavily against the Seahawks, as Seattle's penchant for getting quarterback pressure and causing turnovers has significant negative impact on the position. The other positions have some pretty compelling data points as well.