Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Today we finish up our series of fantasy rankings with the defense/special teams.
Like the kicking position, the difference between the best team and the 12th- best team is limited and works against the D/ST being selected in an early round. In 2010, Pittsburgh was No.1 in my fantasy league with 179 while Detroit finished No.12 with 113 points. We're only talking about 3.88 points- per-week over a 17-week season.
Looking at the current fantasyfootballnerd.com rankings confirms the analysis. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the first team off the board at No.108, which in a 12-team league makes them an end-of-the-ninth-round selection.
Now for my 32-team defense/special team ranking.
1) Pittsburgh Steelers - They can sack the quarterback with the best of them (league-leading 48 sacks in 2010), have Troy Polamalu roaming from sideline to sideline wrecking havoc, almost never allow a runner to crack the 100-yard mark and play very well with the lead, which they often have. They also re- signed key defensive free agents - Ike Taylor and LaMarr Woodley. Add in two games each against the offensively-challenged Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals and you have the makings for a dominant fantasy defense.
2) Green Bay Packers - If Pittsburgh is No.1, then the Packers are No.1A. They sacked the quarterback 47 times last year and finished second to New England with 24 interceptions. If they could find a kick return threat (zero kick returns for touchdown in 2009 and 2010), they could overtake the top-dog Steelers.
3) New York Jets - The Jets were the "in pick" last year (2010 ADP 89.6), but couldn't live up to the unrealistic expectations. They were good, finishing fifth-best with 143 points, but were a step below the top fantasy defenses.
4) Chicago Bears - "Da Bears" turned out to be a bargain last year. Fantasy owners, burned by Chicago's 2009 season in which Brian Urlacher was injured in the opener, didn't recognize their improvement in the off-season. The return of Urlacher and the addition of a star pass rusher in Julius Peppers helped make them a top-five fantasy defense. That and Devin Hester returning three punts for touchdowns. They'll all be back in 2011 and an improved offense may give them better field position to work with too.
5) New England Patriots - The Pats defense didn't sack the quarterback like Pittsburgh or Green Bay but did produce 38 turnovers, second only to the New York Giants 39 total. Another thing they did very well was turn defense into offense with five defensive touchdowns and three kick returns for scores. While defensive points aren't always reliable, the team has strengthened their defensive line and should improve on their 35 sacks, making them a top-five fantasy defense.
6) San Diego Chargers - The Chargers led the league in fewest passing yards- per-game (177.8) and fewest total yards-per-game (271.6). What they didn't do was force turnovers. They produced just 23 total turnover (7 fumbles, 16 interceptions). They also failed miserably on special teams which led directly to a couple of losses and a new special teams coach.
7) Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens defense and linebacker Ray Lewis get a lot of media attention, but they are not the powerhouse they were a few years ago as age and injuries have taken their toll. Pressure on the quarterback, or lack of it, was their downfall last year as the team registered just 27 sacks and 28 turnovers. If rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith can be the star some think, it could allow the Ravens to send more men at the quarterback.
8) Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles made a huge splash in the off-season, adding free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin and trading for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But they had a long way to go after yielding 31 passing touchdowns last season and finishing 17th in fantasy points. They will be much improved, but they are not a top-five defense.
9) New York Giants - The Giants defense sacked the quarterback 47 times and led the league in producing turnovers. Despite those solid numbers, they finished just 10th in fantasy points because they yielded 21.7 ppg. The problem was too many "short fields" due to an offense which kept putting them in bad situations. If the offense promises not to turn the ball over 42 times, the defense might be a good fantasy value in 2011.
10) Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons team was the exact opposite of the Giants. They didn't sack the quarterback a lot (31) or force turnovers (31), but they also didn't have an offense which turned the ball over (eight fumbles, nine interceptions). They added DE Ray Edwards and drafted linebacker Akeem Dent to bolster the defense.