Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Defense wins championships.
Yes, even in fantasy.
If I win my fantasy league this season, it won't be because of Tom Brady or Maurice Jones-Drew. It won't even be because of Marques Colston, who got me 31 fantasy points Sunday night versus the San Diego Chargers.
It will be because of my 11th-round pick, the Chicago Bears' defense and special teams.
With talents like Santonio Holmes, Lance Moore and C.J. Spiller still on the board, I thought I might be getting a little ahead of myself taking a defense so early.
Now I just wonder why I didn't take the Bears' defense sooner.
Just like they did in Dallas a week earlier, the Bears' ferocious defensive unit showed no mercy against Jacksonville, sacking overwhelmed second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert three times and forcing a fumble. Gabbert also heaved up a pair of interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
Overall, Chicago generated 28 fantasy points, three behind Colston for the highest point total of the week. It's the third week in a row that the Bears have registered at least 20 fantasy points. Compare that to the No. 1 pick in most drafts, Arian Foster, who has reached 20 points just once during the 2012 fantasy campaign.
The Bears have been far and away the most successful defense in fantasy this year, contributing 92 points in five contests. Not only is that total 34 points better than the next-most prolific defense (Seattle and Minnesota are tied for second with 58 points), but it's higher than nearly every position player you could have drafted. Only five players (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan) have outscored the Bears' defense in fantasy this season.
With Brian Urlacher entering his 13th season in the league and Julius Peppers set to begin his 11th, some worried that Chicago would be too old to challenge some of its younger, more physically gifted opponents.
That hasn't been the case. The Bears lead the NFL in a wide range of defensive categories including takeaways (17), sacks (18), return touchdowns (5) and interceptions (13). Chicago is also sixth in the league in yards allowed (291.2 ypg), second-best in rushing yards allowed (65.8 per game) and fourth- stingiest in points per game (14.2).
After picking off Gabbert twice on Sunday and Tony Romo five times in Week 4, the Bears have now forced seven interceptions in two weeks. Four of the seven interceptions were taken back for touchdowns, with two coming from linebacker Lance Briggs and the other two stemming from explosive cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman.
Though none of his interceptions have resulted in touchdowns, the 5-foot-8 Tim Jennings has also enjoyed a breakout year for Chicago, producing an NFL-best four interceptions in five games. Safety Major Wright isn't far behind Jennings in the interception department, having snagged three picks for the Bears over his last three contests.
If Chicago can continue to create interceptions at this incredible rate, the Bears might have a chance to re-write the NFL record books. As of now, the Bears are on pace to finish the year with 41.6 interceptions, which would be the most in a season since San Diego collected 49 picks back in 1961. Bears head coach Lovie Smith was three years old when that happened.
The overwhelming success of the Bears' defense this season stands to threaten one of the most basic and longest-lasting principles of fantasy football. We've always been taught to wait on defense but how can we when there's a team out there that is consistently generating more points than most fantasy quarterbacks?
Think about it. The Bears are on pace to score 294 fantasy points this season, 125 points more than the highest scoring defense from 2011. Only Aaron Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford were able to match that total last year.
And keep in mind, Chicago still hasn't benefited from a Devin Hester return touchdown yet this season. Given his history (his 18 return scores are the most in league history), it seems like only a matter of time before he'll find the end zone again.
Drafting a defense has always been more of a cumbersome requirement rather than something that could actually enhance our chances of winning. Now the Bears have an opportunity to change that school of thought.
But before we bend down and start worshipping the Chicago defense as our all- knowing, all-encompassing fantasy savior, let's be realistic for a minute.
Without its five return touchdowns, Chicago's season total would be reduced to 62 fantasy points. That's still excellent as far as fantasy defenses go, but definitely not deserving of an early-round pick.
Considering that the Bears scored only nine touchdowns on returns all last season, is it really reasonable for us to expect them to continue averaging a touchdown per game for the rest of the year? That just seems a little steep to me.
Plus, the Bears still have to face the Detroit Lions two more times as well as the Packers, Titans and Panthers, all teams that finished in the top half of the league in yards gained a season ago. Three of Chicago's first five games this year were against teams that finished in the bottom six in that same category last season, so the Bears haven't really had much of a challenge so far.
Fantasy owners have shown a lack of commitment to defense in the past and I think it would take a very special team to change that way of thinking. Maybe the Bears are that team, but for now, it's still a little too early to tell.