Tier One - Must Starts
- San Diego – These Bolts are not the Bolts that we saw to start the season. Not offensively, not defensively. Start ‘em if you got ‘em, as they’ll produce big fantasy numbers against the rather weak Viking offense.
- Dallas – The Cowboys are well-rested after their bye and will look to bludgeon their NFC East rivals. The Eagles’ offense is nothing short of an enigma, but bottom line is that QB Donovan McNabb has been average at best this season and the Cowboys will rattle him plenty.
- Pittsburgh – They’ve slipped considerably in the past three weeks, but being on national TV against a division rival should awake the beasts on this defense. They’ll return to form and should post double digits this week.
Tier Two - Good Starts
- Tennessee – Another week, another solid ranking for the Titans. I’m tempted to make them a “must-start” but they do have the potential to disappear. The matchup’s solid, though; facing either a gimpy David Carr who throws a ton of picks or a gimpy Vinny Testaverde who is… uh… well… who is on social security.
- Washington –The Skins lost DB Carlos Rogers but that shouldn’t impact how they play against the Jets this week. The Jets will start Kellen Clemens, who doesn’t have the same pocket presence of Chad Pennington. Washington has traditionally been one of those “solid defenses with limited fantasy value” but had a string of three straight solid fantasy outings before getting manhandled by the Pats. Then again, everyone gets manhandled by the Pats. Look for them to rebound and take out their aggression on the 1-7 Jets.
Tier Three – Average Starts
- Seattle – They’re only an average start this week because the Brown offensive machine continues to roll. Can’t believe I just typed that, but it’s true. Expect an old-fashioned shootout in Cleveland this week. The Hawks will probably log a turnover or two, and could sack QB Derek Anderson a couple times, but don’t expect a shutout or defensive battle.
- Denver – The Broncos have had some solid outings from their fantasy D, and they’ve had some absolute stinkers. But let’s take a look at this week: their opponents, the Detroit Lions, throw the ball. A lot. And what is the strength of this Denver D? The secondary. On top of it, the Lions have allowed a league-worst 35 sacks this season.
- Detroit – Believe it or not, the Lions are the 8th-best fantasy D and posted 17 fantasy points against the Bears (who had looked better as of late). The matchup against the Broncos isn’t the best, but the Broncos may be missing RB Travis Henry and WR Javon Walker will still be out. You could do worse, especially during a week when two startable defenses (Bears and Giants) are on bye and two teams that you pretty much can start any other team against (Miami and St. Louis) are also on bye.
- Oakland – I’m reluctant to rank them but the Texans do have a –10 turnover ratio and allow about 1.5 sacks per game. The aggressive, young Raider D might just be able to muster 8-10 fantasy points this week.
- Kansas City – Work with me here. The Pack is coming off an emotional, hard-fought Monday night battle against the Broncos. Brett Favre is a gunslinger. The Pack will be starting a third-string RB. And to top it off, the Chiefs are flying under the radar a bit this season and have posted a ton of double-digit fantasy outings. Not the best start but you could do worse.
- Atlanta– The Falcons have a pretty lousy defense, but this week’s game against the Niners should be quite sloppy and the home team might have the advantage there. The Niners have given up 26 sacks on the season and are –4 in turnover ratio (to the Falcons +5).
- Jacksonville – The Jags have proven that they are capable of putting up solid fantasy stats while also being a stout defense. However, this week’s matchup is less than desirable. The Saints could, however, revert to their early season form in which case the Jags may net double-digit fantasy points. They’re a riskier start this week, and the loss of DT Marcus Stroud doesn’t help.
Track Record – Week 8
(Last week’s rank/Actual rank)
- New York Giants (8): The G-men didn’t punish the Fin offense as much as anticipated. Only one sack? That is very un-Giant-like. Expect a return to fantasy dominance at some point this season, just not in the next two weeks (bye, vs. DAL).
- San Diego (1): The Bolts continue their string of big fantasy outings from their defense. Expect more of the same against the Vikes this week.
- New England (2): The Pats are a great team. Offense, ridiculous. Defense, consistent. Might want to seek another option against the Colts this week (and then they’re on bye) but after that, BUF, PHI and BAL look tasty.
- Tennessee (6): The Titans continue to play solid defensive football and posted their second straight 14-point fantasy outing from the defense. 5 sacks against the Raiders and they have a sweet schedule ahead: CAR and JAX are next up.
- Tampa Bay (21): The Bucs were one of this week’s stinkers. Only 2 sacks against Quinn Gray and the Jags? For shame.
- Pittsburgh (19): The second stinker of the week. The Steelers did control the game, but only managed one turnover and no sacks. This D should get back on track in the coming weeks.
- Chicago (10): I guess being the tenth-best fantasy D isn’t horrible, but this is not the Bear squad we know and love. If the Bears can continue to get four sacks per game, eventually they’ll start putting up top-tier numbers. Note the word “IF”.
- Minnesota (24): The third stinker of the week. The Vikes looked like they were getting their defense back on track – fantasy-wise – and had a decent matchup this past week. They have two tough games in a row Weeks 9-10 so it might be time to rest them on your fantasy squad.
- Indianapolis (7): So it looks like the Colts might be a top-tier fantasy defense after the past two weeks. I wouldn’t start them against the Pats’ juggernaut, nor would I throw in against the Bolts the next week. But down the stretch there are some cherry matchups to take advantage of.
- Cleveland (16): OK so maybe the “team playing the Rams” concept doesn’t work for all fantasy defenses. The Browns have a very average defense and a below average fantasy D. They were only able to muster up one sack and one INT.
- Jacksonville (5): Hey well look at that, the Jags respond to being put on this list. Long have they been a solid D, but an average fantasy D. Well, in three of the past four games, they’ve looked well above average, fantasy-wise. They were able to post 14 fantasy points against a Buc squad that had not given up much to opposing defenses in terms of fantasy points.
- New Orleans (9): Whereas the “team playing the Rams” concept does not appear to work, the “team playing the Niners” concept may hold some water. The Saints put up a respectable 8 fantasy points (2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery and only 10 points allowed), which was tied for second-best on the season for them. They have some solid fantasy matchups in the next few weeks – actually, the entire rest of the season looks sweet – so if you’re hurting for a fantasy D, the Saints might be a sneaky pick.