News, Analysis & UpdatesDecember 15, 2004

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The Top Ten Defenders of Week 14

By Arlo Vander

It wasn’t a big week for the elite sack artists, but otherwise, this past weekend had it all. Key interceptions and fumble recoveries, defensive scores and high tackle totals brought smiles to IDP owners’ faces. But among all the excellent performances, one man overshadowed all others, not only topping these rankings by a significant margin, but holding onto that top spot for a second straight week. Take a bow, Donnie Edwards, and congratulations who those fantasy owners who plucked him in their drafts prior to the season.

1. Donnie Edwards – LB, SD
For an unprecedented second week in a row, Edwards stands tall as the top defender in fantasy football. This week, he didn’t only distinguish himself through tackles (although nine solo stops and seven assists are no mean feat), but also picked off two Brian Griese passes, running one back 30 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. As if that weren’t enough, Edwards also led all players with four pass defenses.

2. Brent Alexander – S, NYG
Eleven tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two pass defenses… In many other weeks, Alexander’s production would have been good enough for the top spot in these rankings. This time, it was only enough for second place behind Edwards’ outburst, but fantasy owners certainly won’t complain about numbers like these.

3. Kawika Mitchell – LB, KC
Mitchell forced a fumble, recovered two, and scored his first career touchdown this week. In spite of that impressive stat line, he can’t be recommended as a fantasy pickup. For the third week in a row, Mitchell notched just three solo tackles, not the sort of production you want from a linebacker.

4. Dan Morgan – LB, Car
If you thought Morgan would be limited in his return from a three-game absence, think again. Carolina’s star linebacker played one of his best games of the season, picking off two passes, forcing a fumble, making six tackles and disrupting the flow of the Rams’ offense at every opportunity. So much for easing back into the game; kudos to owners who started him this week.

5. Tedy Bruschi – LB, NE
The sum of the Patriots’ defense is certainly greater than its parts, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be outstanding individual performances on occasion, even from players not named Rodney Harrison. Case in point: Tedy Bruschi’s 12-tackle, four-assist effort against the Bengals. Like the rest of the Patriots, Bruschi suffers from inconsistency; hopefully, his string of solid games will continue through the fantasy playoffs.

6. Lance Briggs – LB, Chi
Briggs, a third-round pick in last year’s draft, has improved by leaps and bounds this year. With 14 more tackles this week (the third time he has reached double figures), the sophomore is now tied for third in the league, trailing only superstars Zach Thomas and Ray Lewis. If you don’t already have him on your dynasty roster, good luck prying him away from his owner in the years to come. You’ll need it.

7. Osi Umenyiora – DE, NYG
Like Briggs, Umenyiora has made huge strides in his second pro campaign. this week, he scored his first career touchdown after scooping up a Kyle Boller fumble, defended two passes, and picked up two tackles and half a sack. He’s making a strong case for remaining in the starting lineup, and is worth a look if you start defensive linemen.

8. Terrence Kiel – S, SD
Improved sophomores seems to be the common denominator in this part of the rankings. Kiel makes it three in a row, and his second-year play certainly justifies San Diego’s faith in him. His eleven tackles in the Chargers’ victory over Tampa Bay mark the first time he has reached double digits this season.

9. Brian Russell – S, Min
With Antoine Winfield out, somebody had to step up in Minnesota’s defensive backfield, and Russel answered the call. Not only did he reach a season high in tackles with seven and three assists, but he also picked off his first pass of the year and defended three others. His final numbers won’t equal those of his breakout 2003 campaign, but he remains a viable fantasy option at DB.

10. Takeo Spikes – LB, Buf
With two forced fumbles, a sack and six tackles, Spikes clearly enjoyed playing against the Browns, his old divisional rival from his days with the Bengals. It will be interesting to see how he fares this week, when the Bills travel to Cincinnati.

Just missed: Michael Boulware (S, Sea), Ronde Barber (CB, TB), Rodney Harrison (S, NE), Derrick Pope (LB, Mia), Bryce Fisher (DE, StL)

Top Defenders of the Season to Date

1. Donnie Edwards – LB, SD
2. Terrence McGee – CB, Buf
3. Rodney Harrison – S, NE
4. Keith Bulluck – LB, Ten
5. Ray Lewis – LB, Bal
6. Jamie Sharper – LB, Hou
7. Ed Reed – S, Bal
8. London Fletcher – LB, Buf
9. Derrick Brooks – LB, TB
10. James Farrior – LB, Pit
11. Ronde Barber – CB, TB
12. Adrian Wilson – S, Ari
13. Will Witherspoon – LB, Car
14. Takeo Spikes – LB, Buf
15. Lance Briggs – LB, Chi
16. Madieu Williams – CB, Cin
17. Mike Green – S, Chi
18. Mike Peterson – LB, Jax
19. Troy Polamalu – S, Pit
20. Nick Barnett – LB, GB

Arlo Vander’s linebackers clicked this week, with Jonathan Vilma and Derek Smith leading the way. Unfortunately, the Charles Woodson-led secondary was a different story…

Who were your top defenders of week 14?

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