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Three Year Ratings - Defense/Special Team
David Dorey
July 15, 2005

Ranking defenses is always a challenge since it is the one fantasy position that is treated very differently in most leagues. The scoring used to establish these ratings were:

  • Sacks = 1 point
  • Turnover Recovery = 2 points
  • Safeties = 2 points
  • All Touchdowns = 6 points

This is the most standard version of scoring and is included, at least partially, in almost all leagues.  These ratings reward those four events and within that is why defenses are so hard to accurately gauge from season to season. Some defenses do not come off a great fantasy season because they kept opponent scores low while also not scoring a lot themselves. They lost out to teams like Indianapolis, Seattle and Kansas City   who actually had terrible defenses but scored so many points that their opponents were often trying to catch up via the pass – hence sacks and interceptions.  

In some fantasy leagues, there are points awarded (or deducted) for total score or even touchdowns allowed. Others consider rushing and passing yardage and yet still others account for total yardage allowed. Throw in negative points and the variation becomes even more pronounced.

Even within the same categories, the point awards can vary wildly for defenses and in light of the great variation, the next pages will give a good statistical snapshot of each team over the past four years but will not give fantasy analysis that could be misleading due to the difference in scoring from league to league.

Defenses are often a barometer of how well an NFL team does since it must contend with whatever the offense did or did not accomplish. Teams like Atlanta and Oakland did a nosedive last season offensively and due to that, their defenses turned in a markedly worse season.

To gain an idea of the variation from year to year and to witness the more consistent defenses (good and bad), below shows the final defensive rankings for each NFL team for the past four seasons using the standard defensive scoring cited above. The higher ranked teams had the higher fantasy points scored for each year. You will note that there are many more consistently bad teams than consistently good teams. 

The Ravens, Falcons, Panthers and Patriots are annual fantasy favorites because they offer rare consistency. After last season, the Bills appear to be stocked up and ready to join the “every year” club with others like the Lions, Colts and Seahawks turning in far better fantasy numbers lately then they have NFL production.

The table below indicates just how much variation the standard fantasy scoring causes from year to year for most teams. Seven times in the last three years, a team was a top ten fantasy scorer and yet failed to be worthy of being a back-up defense in the next season. When selecting a defense, your best bet is to remain with the consistently best ones. It may seem tempting to play “the match-up game” each week, but reality will show it requires good defensive personnel and scheme in order to yield those fantasy points – not merely playing a very weak opponent.

Again - this only considers the scoring scenario described above.

Total Defense Points per Team, Ranked 1 (highest) to 32 (lowest) each year

DEF 02 03 04 Avg DEF 02 03 04 Avg DEF 02 03 04 Avg DEF 02 03 04 Avg
ARI 29 30 18 31 DAL 17 21 31 28 MIA 15 6 26 14 PIT 8 18 8 7
ATL 6 11 4 3 DEN 21 23 29 30 MIN 32 7 23 22 SD 12 31 19 23
BAL 9 3 2 1 DET 14 9 12 8 NE 10 1 3 2 SEA 16 14 13 13
BUF 31 22 1 16 GB 2 13 24 12 NO 4 20 10 6 SF 27 8 28 24
CAR 5 10 9 4 HOU 18 32 17 27 NYG 25 15 15 18 STL 22 2 30 17
CHI 24 28 7 20 IND 28 17 5 15 NYJ 26 27 11 25 TB 1 12 14 5
CIN 30 26 6 21 JAC 23 29 27 32 OAK 7 19 32 19 TEN 11 5 21 11
CLE 20 25 25 29 KC 13 4 20 10 PHI 3 16 16 9 WAS 19 24 22 26

Total Defense Points per Team, Sorted by overall ranking

DEF 02 03 04 Avg DEF 02 03 04 Avg DEF 02 03 04 Avg DEF 02 03 04 Avg
BAL 9 3 2 1 PHI 3 16 16 9 STL 22 2 30 17 NYJ 26 27 11 25
NE 10 1 3 2 KC 13 4 20 10 NYG 25 15 15 18 WAS 19 24 22 26
ATL 6 11 4 3 TEN 11 5 21 11 OAK 7 19 32 19 HOU 18 32 17 27
CAR 5 10 9 4 GB 2 13 24 12 CHI 24 28 7 20 DAL 17 21 31 28
TB 1 12 14 5 SEA 16 14 13 13 CIN 30 26 6 21 CLE 20 25 25 29
NO 4 20 10 6 MIA 15 6 26 14 MIN 32 7 23 22 DEN 21 23 29 30
PIT 8 18 8 7 IND 28 17 5 15 SD 12 31 19 23 ARI 29 30 18 31
DET 14 9 12 8 BUF 31 22 1 16 SF 27 8 28 24 JAC 23 29 27 32