2009 fantasy football is coming aoon—a look back at 2008 defenses

Last month we started looking at last season’s statistics for position players in fantasy football land, and today we’ll look at a position many often overlook. That’s fantasy defenses, which can sometimes put up just enough points to earn your team a victory once in a while. It’s always smart to try and grab one of the top units, although as we’ve seen before, things change, sometimes drastically, from year to year with fantasy D’s. Me? I like to grab my defense before my kicker. This list is based on point totals from one of my leagues, so keep in mind that stats vary from year to year.

1. Baltimore Ravens—The Ravens’ defense is perennially awesome, and we’ll find out for sure how much of that was due to former coordinator Rex Ryan, who is now the head honcho for the Jets. Ryan took plenty of players with him too, like LB Bart Scott and S Jim Leonhard, but the Ravens still have Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Reed just keeps getting better every year, and his sick nose for the ball is one reason the Ravens had a league high 26 picks. They will keep scoring low as always, but their 34 sacks last season isn’t much to get excited about. Bottom line: The Ravens won’t be a number one this year, but are still top 10.

2. Philadelphia Eagles—Sadly, coordinator Jim Johnson passed away this week, though he was on leave from the team anyway. Look for the Eagles to continue Johnson’s schemes however, which means blitz, blitz and more blitz. What that means to you is sack points, and while Brian Dawkins is now in Denver, the secondary is still strong with corners Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel and safeties Quintin Mikell and Quintin Demps. Bottom line: 48 sacks is a lot, and the Eagles may not match that in ’09, but they aren’t going to suck by any means.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers—You don’t win the Super Bowl without a stout unit, and this won finished second in the league with 51 sacks, led by two awesome linebackers, NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers also ranked #1 in points allowed and yard allowed, with 20 picks and three defensive scores. Bottom line: With the front seven intact, this unit may be the top defense taken in many FF drafts.

4. Tennessee Titans—If you live in Nashville like I do, you saw this team play a lot, and let me tell you….their games are pretty boring to watch. Well, unless you like 13-10 scores every week. Punishing DT Albert Haynesworth is now in Washington, but Tony Brown and Kyle Vanden Bosch are no slouches, and CB Cortland Finnegan is a ball hawk like Ed Reed. Bottom line: More boring games for me, more fantasy points for you.

5. Chicago Bears—Their 22 interceptions probably had a lot to do with the Bears finishing as high as they did in 2008, but the Monsters of the Midway with just 28 sacks? To put that in perspective, the Saints also tallied 28 sacks. And besides Brian Urlacher, go ahead try to name five players on this defense. The Bears gave up 350 points in ’08, which is over 100 more than the Titans, Steelers and Ravens. Still, it’s the Bears. Bottom line: You can pick them, but I’m only picking them as a bye week backup.

6. Tampa Bay Bucs—This is not the same unit that ranked in the top 10 in points allowed and yards allowed in 2008, with Jon Gruden gone and Raheem Morris at the helm. Derrick Brooks is gone as are Cato June and Jovan Haye, but the likes of DE Gaines Adams and the ageless CB Ronde Barber remain. How much of Gruden’s mark will be missed? Bottom line: With so much turnover in the front office and on the field, I’m not taking my chances with these guys.

7. Green Bay Packers—Everyone expected big things from the Pack in 2008, but it was their offense, led by QB Aaron Brooks and WR Greg Jennings that were the bright spots on a mediocre team. So now with new D-coordinator Dom Capers and his 3-4 in place, things will look different at Lambeau. Aaron Kampman is now an outside linebacker, and BJ Raji and AJ Hawk are left to clog up the middle. Kampman will likely have more sacks, but how will the 3-4 affect overall fantasy points? Bottom line: I’m going out on a limb—the Pack will be much better defensively, and could be a fantasy sleeper.

8. New York Jets—DT Kris Jenkins is a monster, and Rex Ryan brought along a few toys, like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, as we mentioned earlier. Eric Mangini also took some players with him to Cleveland, but the Jets will still keep scores low, rack up sacks, and score on defense (5 defensive TDs in 2008). CB Darrelle Revis had 5 picks and keeps getting better. Bottom line: Proceed with caution, but still a Top 10 D.

9. Indianapolis Colts—Even with Tony Dungy gone and Jim Caldwell running the team, the Colts still give up way too much ground on the ground. Thing is, they are opportunistic, and they have Dwight Freeney attacking the QB and a bunch of under the radar players (like LB Gary Brackett) wreaking havoc (30 forced fumbles and 5 defensive scores in 2008). Bottom line: The Colts’ D will keep them in games, meaning these guys will continue to play hard and put up decent fantasy points.

10. Minnesota Vikings—These guys are damn near as good as the Ravens, led on the line by Jared Allen and DT’s Pat and Kevin Williams (45 team sacks in 2008). 12 picks from this unit is baffling, as is allowing 333 points, but they can be better. Bottom line: The Vikes may not be a true top 10 this season, so I’d take my chances with the revamped Giants or the sack-happy Cowboys before them.

Teams that aren’t on this list you’ll want to draft: New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts