Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Breakdown: The Top Fantasy Football Defenses


With much focus placed on securing quality QBs, RBs and WRs, a quality fantasy football Defense is often underrated in pre-draft consideration. Truth is, while procuring a top defense is not your first priority in drafting, it should be kept in mind that a defense’s performance can make or break several games throughout the season. When evenly matched against an opponent in other aspects, a dominant defense can garner you the points necessary to claim victory, while a defensive collapse that actually produces negative points can negate the positive work done by other players and snatch a win away. (Trust me, I’ve seen it happen more than once.) So, without anything further, here is a look at the top fantasy defenses for the 2009 season:

1. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: A perennial powerhouse, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is poised to, once again, rank among the top defensive units in the NFL. In fact, I project them to be THE top defense this season. Led by linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior, as well as safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, the Steelers Defense limited opponents to an average of 237.2 yards per game and a paltry 13.9 points per game in the 2008 season, ranking No. 1 in the NFL in both categories; and with no major moves in the off-season, do not expect much deviation from that type of production this year. Additionally, with little off-season movement, Coordinator Dick LeBeau is free to concentrate on improving, not repairing or assimilating to, his defensive unit. Specifically, LeBeau will be focusing on a way to incorporate LB Lawrence Timmons in a way to maximize his speed and explosiveness which could make the Pittsburgh D even more dangerous than it already is. Still not convinced? Just remember that FF Defenses earn more points for lower scoring games and the Steelers play in the AFC North, which is essentially the NFL equivalent to the Big 10 when it comes to frequency of high-scoring games. And, if that weren’t enough, the Steelers’ strength of schedule ranks 29/32 this upcoming season. (Keep in mind they dominated last year with one of the league's toughest schedules)

2. NEW YORK GIANTS: The Giants ranked #10 in Defensive Fantasy points last season but things are looking up. To begin, Giants fans should be breathing a sigh of relief with news that they will be getting back two of their defensive leaders: Antonio Pierce (95 tackles, 72 solo and 2 sacks) will not be indicted for his involvement with Plaxico Burress’s shannanigans, and two-time Pro-Bowler and Giants Record Holder for most sacks in a game (6),DE Osi Umenyiora, who sat out the 2008 season, will return from injury. As if the return of these two weren’t enough, the Giants also picked up DE Chris Canty who last year had a career high 37 tackles, 3 sacks and 5 deflected passes, DT Rocky Bernard and LB Michael Boley during the off-season. Throw in DE Justin Tuck, who alone had 12 and 10 sacks in the past two seasons respectively and you have one monster unit. As long as there is no major fallout with new Defensive Coordinatory Bill Sheridan, who has stated that he will not make any major changes to the defensive scheme, fantasy owners can expect great numbers from the Giants Defense in 2009.
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3. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Like the Steelers, the Ravens have a slight advantage in the low-scoring AFC North and a favorable strength of schedule (28/32), but unlike the Steelers, the Ravens will have to grapple with instability caused by off-season movement this year. In addition to losing defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the mastermind of the “organized chaos” which characterizes the Ravens defense, the Ravens will also have to deal with the losses of key players Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Corey Ivy and Chris McAlister. While these departures are detrimental to last year’s No. 1 fantasy defense, the Ravens prevented a major hemorrhaging by resigning perennial Pro-Bowler and team leader Ray Lewis, whose overt confidence and swagger seemingly drive the Baltimore Defense. In addition to Lewis, the Ravens also signed cornerbacks Chris Carr and Dominique Foxworth to immediately fill voids created by free agency and added depth in drafting Paul Kruger (DE) and Jason Phillips (ILB). As I’ve noted previously, although Foxworth comes to Baltimore unaccompanied by impressive stats or notoriety, he has been praised by Jim Harbaugh as “a top flight corner and a top-flight corner in the Ravens mold.” In all, the Baltimore Defense should slip a bit this year, but when you fall slightly from a No. 1 spot you’re still considered a fantasy top pick.

4. TENNESSEE TITANS: But they don't have Albert Haynesworth! How will they ever succeed? Everyone needs to calm down about the loss of Haynesworth. Yes, he is an incredible player, truly a disruptive monster on the field, but he is only one person and it took more than Haynesworth alone for the Titans to have the fourth highest scoring defensive unit of the 2008 fantasy season and Tennessee will return 10 of last year’s 11 starters. Notable returners include members of the secondary Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin, and Chris Hope who last season combined for 16 interceptions as well as LBs Keithe Bulluck and Stephen Tullock who had 98 and 84 tackles last year respectively, and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch. Overall, sophomore DE Jason Jones and DT Tony Brown should take some of the sting out of losing Haynesworth and the Titans will continue to be a top fantasy defense.

#5 - Minnesota Vikings
#6 - New York Jets





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13 comments:

Brett Smiley said...

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Kenny Phillips is going to injure someone this year. Hopefully it will be a member of the Cowboys.

Medianewstime said...

Very interesting. I will definitely have to keep these guys in mind if I don't retire from the fantasy leagues this year.

Chris Stanley said...

You are seriously underestimating the new 3-4 in Green Bay. That team is going to be the sleeper D in the NFL this season. Clay Matthews and BJ Raji are key additions and Cullen Jenkins is healthy again. Also, Kampman is making the switch to OL beautifully. Watch out NFC North, THE PACK IS BACK.

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