With one quarter of the 2009 fantasy season behind us, it seemed like a good idea to take a fresh look at Team Defenses. This time we will rank them according to actual performance to date, rather than mere speculation. The biggest surprise so far is the complete fantasy collapse of the Pittsburgh Steelers vaunted defense. While they are still getting the job done on the field, they have been a lame duck through four games for fantasy owners who drafted them as the first defense in almost all leagues, and almost always several rounds too early. This proves a prime example of why fantasy "experts" recommend waiting till later rounds and grabbing a defense with upside, rather than reaching early for the top defenses from the previous season.
On the flipside, one of the biggest first quarter surprises is that of the Cincinnati Bengals defense. After watching them play in the preseason, I moved them up in the defensive rankings from 30th to 24th, yet here they are heading into week 5 tied for 5th with the Chicago Bears and N.Y. Giants in fantasy points. Defensive lineman, Antwan Odom is leading the team with 8 sacks, which is tied for tops in the league, with Denver's Elvis Dumervil. The best part for Cincy is they are doing it as a team. Besides Odom, none of the other Bengals defenders even rank in the top 15 at their respective positions. Only time will tell if they can keep it up, and a week 5 match-up against the Baltimore Ravens will put them to the test, but they're making me a believer as a plug and play option based on match up each week.
Equally surprising is the leap from 27th to 3rd for the San Francisco 49ers defense. New coach Mike Singletary has his team focused and headed in the right direction on both sides of the ball. Only the Denver Broncos have allowed less than the 49ers 13.25 points per game to opposing offenses.
Another huge surprise has been the play of the New Orleans Saints defense. They were ranked 28th prior to the preseason when they surrendered only 9.5 points per game. I moved them up to 21st. They have launched themselves to first in overall fantasy points, and second in fantasy points per game at 10.5. I don't see this as a fluke. They have now played 8 straight games of solid defense (preseason included). They lead the league with 10 interceptions and 3 defensive touchdowns. Right now they are an every week play.
However, the biggest upset surprise through the first four weeks of play goes to the Josh McDaniels' coached Denver Broncos. They have surrendered only 26 points to opposing offenses and they have 6 interception. They also are second in the league to the Vikings with 15 sacks, 8 of which are Elvis Dumervil's, the defensive lineman turned linebacker.
The one team who truly illustrates the difference between real life and fantasy production is the New York Jets defense. I had them ranked 4th headed into the regular season and that's exactly where they are, with only 57 points allowed. However, this has not translated to fantasy production. In fantasy they are ranked 27th, with only 4 sacks, 4 interceptions and no defensive or special teams TDs. This should improve, but it's a sign that no matter how good they are in reality, they are not going to be bountiful fantasy producers.
Here are the full statistical rankings through four weeks of play. Note that while New Orleans has more points, the Philadelphia Eagles have only played three games and thus have a higher points per game average.
See previous rankings:
What was on the CD player while I wrote this article: