The Bengals defense is going to surprise in '09
Tomorrow, tomorrow, it's football tomorrow, kick-off's just a day away. Yes, I'm doing my NFL happy dance and bastardizing old show tunes. We all have our preseason rituals, so don't bash mine. I'm talking specifically to that guy in Des Moines who's trying shave a football field in his chest hair. Damn, now I'll have that stupid song stuck in my head all day. And so will you.
On to football-- While everyone else is busy charting who will help on the offensive side of the ball, we'll take a look at who can help you steal some fantasy games on the defensive side of the ball, because even in fantasy, defense wins games! Week One is always the toughest to predict as we have yet to see a full first-team 60 minute game. Who has improved, who's struggling to put the pieces together, and how will rookies and line-up turnover impact the team's defensive performance? There are usually more oddball upsets in week one than any other time in the season. Here are my Start and Sits and Plug 'n Play options for Week One. If my advice and your gut instinct conflict, never second guess yourself. It's your team!
Plug and Play
|Solid defensive option||If they are on your bench, leave 'em there||Reasonable risk/reward option|
|Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans|
13 - 10 OT
The Jaguars are simply not a viable fantasy option going into 2009, and certainly not against the highly potent Indy offense. no one on the Jags defense reached 100 tackles in 2008. I think Justin Durant will get close this year, and sophomore DE Derrick Harvey should make some big noise in 2009, but he won't find his way into the sack column against a Colts offensive line that only surrendered 14 sacks all season. Indianapolis is a team that can spot start on defense for you this season, but do not expect big things in terms of turnovers in week one. QB David Garrard is simply not prone to interceptions (he threw 13 all season), and the team was -7 on turnovers vs. opponents last season.
|Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints|
35 - 10
This is one of those games with all the hallmark upset signs chiseled on the wall. The Eagles have a strong offense, and an imposing defense, but the game is being played in Carolina. Panthers' LBs Thomas Davis and Jon Beason have both faced injuries in the preseason, and Julius Peppers is amidst more trade rumors again, all of which could impact week one performances. That said, I still like the Philly defense to give the Panthers fits, and I expect a special teams return for a score. perhaps Ellis Hobbs will be the game breaker for Philly. If the Panthers manage an upset, look for RB Mike Goodson to be the catalyst.
|Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
The Jets have new defensive guru Rex Ryan in the cockpit, and I think they will be one of the more dominating defenses in 2009. I would play them this week despite my belief that they will lose the game to the Texans, whose own defense is getting better each season. You can seldom justify benching a special teams unit led by Leon Washington, who can take the ball 100 yards on any given return.
|Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens|
10 - 6
The Dolphins are a middling offense, but they have a solid defense. The Falcons have a solid offense, but their defense is suspect, especially with some key losses. I expect a close game, which I'll give to the home team, and newcomer TE Tony Gonzalez will be the difference maker. Neither defense should kill you this week, but I wouldn't start either of them.
|Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns
31 - 3
Don't look now, but the Cincy defense is surprisingly better than some give it credit for. A healthy Carson Palmer and a reinvigorated receiving corp, led by Ochocinco will make the Bengals a surprise team in 2009. Denver's defense is woeful (I have them ranked 31st). See Team Defensive Rankings. The Bronco's offense, is packed with talent, but I wouldn't expect to see much of it in week one, with a RB carousel, a marginal starting QB, and their top receiver without any preseason reps. If Denver had more time to gel its offense in the preseason I'd make the Cincy D a plug and play start, but I think they could be better than that in week one.
|San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals|
27 - 24
The Giants have a very dominating defense and this game should be no exception, so they are a must start. However, Washington is a team that is a thorn in their rival's side, so don't be shocked if the Redskins pull off the upset against a bumbling Eli Manning and his shaky receiving corp. Albert Haynesworth is going to be looking to make his presence known, and rookie Brian Orakpo is going to be in the corner of Manning's eye all day.
|St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks|
31 - 17
Both teams have upper tier defenses that I would start most weeks against other teams, but this week I cannot recommend either as more than a marginal play. I think this meeting of familiar enemies with two gunslinger QBs is going to be a shootout. I believe the Packers will get the best of the Bears by games end, but I think both team's defenses will give up 20 points or more. I would sit both teams, but it is difficult to rule either out because of special teams and turnovers.
|Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots|
42 - 10
The west coast hate-fest kicks off with a Monday night game between the diminished Raiders and the famished Chargers. I expect this to be a game heavily waited toward San Diego, despite playing at Oakland. LaDainian Tomlinson should have a very productive game on the ground against one of the worst run defenses in the league. That said, don't ever count the raiders out, especially at home.
|IDP ~ Starts and Sits - News and Notes ~ Week 1
IDP players are not as easy to predict week to week as offensive players are, in terms of who to start and who to sit. Each week one can make an argument for benching a top offensive player who is going against a brutal defense, or rotating flex players based on favorable match-ups. Most fantasy owners save their bench spots for offensive reserves and offensive depth. We rarely look to start and sit options until bye weeks begin. However, it's important to pay as much attention to your IDP players as you would your offense, because quite often, it's defensive points that sway games each week. Try and eek at least one bench spot in their for a fantasy defensive reserve. I guaranty it will pay more dividends than that third string RB you were hoping an injury might catapult to fantasy riches.
Notes for you Monday morning waiver wire bandits; don't drop a stud who puts up one point in week one to grab a guy who put up 10 tackles in his first game of the year. Every season and every week, a handful of defensive players blow up and seem to get in on every play, then they don't do anything the remainder of the season. Nothing sucks worse than throwing away talent on a one week wonder. Consistency and knowing who faces the favorable match-ups each week is how owners make their IDP players pay off.
IDP Match Up of the Week
|Rookie Detroit Lions QB, Mathew Stafford vs. The New Orleans Saints secondary.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz has thrown his support behind the young kid rather than the old vet (Culpepper) despite his 4-1 interception to TD ratio in the preseason. Schwartz sees a budding chemistry with WR Calvin Johnson. Stafford will try to make big plays with Johnson, and you can almost see free safety Darren Sharper salivating. Strong safety Roman Harper and CB Tracy Porter are going to get a lot of chances to create turnovers. The Saints new defense scheme calls for a lot of aggressive blitz packages, which will mean mistakes for Stafford and interceptions for the Saints DBs. Two more guys in black and gold with big smiles? DEs Will Smith and Charles Grant are being allowed to play this week, and will be slashing and gnashing to get to the rookie QB who is protected by an offensive line that surrendered 52 sacks in 2008. That's second to only San Francisco. Finally, let's not forget the 54th man on the Saints roster; their loud and proud, crowd, who will be all sorts of distraction for Stafford. Play 'em, if ya got 'em!
I won't bore you with the obvious choices, but each week there will be a few guys you'll want to look at who are not necessarily big names in IDP...yet. This week it's an all rookie start 'em.
Brian Orakpo, DE, WAS ~ A defensive end playing linebacker is fantasy gold. Cash in. Manning down, Manning down!
Patrick Chung, DB, NEP ~ An IDP colleague of mine is high on the Pat's Brandon Merriweather, but it's Chung who will replace DB Rodney Harrison's production. Put that it your fantasy roster and smoke it.
Aaron Curry, LB, SEA ~ On the flipside, Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson should learn this kid's name. He'll make an impact statement this week.
Alphonso Smith, DB, DEN ~ For you return yard junkies, Smith earned the KR/PR duties in the Mile High city. Start redeeming now against the Bengals.
Sitting top players is never easy to do, but if you have alternatives in week one, sit these guys:
LB Jon Beason, CAR ~ He's coming back from an MCL injury and will not likely be at 100%
LB Kirk Morrison, OAK ~ Is coming back from a dislocated elbow, and will likely not be at 100%
LB Lawrence Timmons, PIT ~ Is doubtful to play week one due to an ankle injury.
DE Richard Seymour, OAK ~ Seymour was traded from the Patriots this week and has so far failed to show up in Oakland. At this point, regardless of when/if he shows up, starting him before he has time to acclimate with his new team is not advisable.
DB Bob Sanders, IND ~ Is OUT
DB Marcus Trufant, SEA ~ Is OUT
See you in Week 2!