News, Analysis & UpdatesDecember 31, 2004

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The Top Ten Defenders of Week 16

By Arlo Vander

With countless fantasy titles on the line in week 16, choosing the right IDPs was more important then ever. Fortunately for their owners, tried and true performers such as Donnie Edwards and Keith Bulluck came through with big games, while several key players such as Zach Thomas made strong returns from injuries. Hopefully, you had one or two of these standouts in your lineup to help your team to a victory.

1. Chris Claiborne – LB, Min
Minnesota’s tilt with division rival Green Bay last week already felt like a playoff game, and Chris Claiborne certainly brought his A-game for the occasion. His seven tackles were a season-high, and his interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter gave his team the lead. Unfortunately, his efforts weren’t quite enough, as Brett Favre engineered yet another late comeback, sending the Vikings to a heartbreaking loss.

2. Lance Briggs – LB, Chi
Like fellow linebacker Claiborne, Briggs also returned an interception back into his opponent’s end zone in a losing effort. With five solo tackles, the sophomore cracked the 100-tackle mark for the first time. Look for him to be a fixture on IDP rosters for many years to come.

3. Ken Hamlin – S, Sea
Inconsistent throughout the season, Hamlin has been red hot in the fantasy playoffs. For the second week in a row, he recorded seven tackles; this time, he also added a sack, forced a fumble and swatted away three passes to become the top fantasy defensive back of the week.

4. Chike Okeafor – DE, Sea
Hamlin’s seven tackles didn’t lead his team; that honor belongs to Chike Okeafor who not only made nine stops, but also forced a fumble and sacked Arizon quarterback Josh McCown twice. What a difference a week makes: the previous Sunday, Okeafor’s stat line consisted of just one assist.

5. Donnie Edwards – LB, SD
It should come as no surprise whatsoever to find Edwards’ name on this list. A strong candidate for this year’s defensive MVP, Edwards again showed up everywhere there were plays to be made, finishing his day with an interception, a forced fumble, a sack, two pass defenses, five tackles and four assists. By now, his owners are used to such excellence.

6. Keith Bulluck – LB, Ten
Another of this year’s top defenders, Bulluck took a large step toward his third straight 100-tackle campaign with seven on Saturday. He was also one of the few defenders who was able to make his presence felt by Denver’s passing game with two passes defended and an interception.

7. DJ Williams – LB, Den
Williams makes this list for the second week in a row with another strong performance. The rookie not only racked up six tackles and an equal number of assists, but also picked off the first pass of his career and defended against two other passes. Keeper leaguers, take note.

8. Jimmy Williams – CB, SF
After missing the last six weeks, Williams came back and put up his best numbers of the season as the Buffalo offense kept San Francisco’s defenders busy. His eight tackles, four assists and two pass defenses were all season highs, and he was also able to scoop up a fumble in his team’s lopsided loss.

9. Zach Thomas – LB, Mia
Losing Thomas for three weeks was a devastating blow to many IDP lineups, but the star linebacker is back and as good as ever. With nine tackles and nine assists, Thomas was a key reason why Cleveland had trouble moving the ball and only managed to score seven points. Welcome back, Zach.

10. Shawn Springs – CB, Was
When your cornerback picks up two sacks, you know you’re in for a pretty good IDP day. Springs also added an interception and six tackles in Seattle’s hard-fought defensive battle with Dallas.

Just missed: Steve Foley (LB, SD), Derrick Brooks (LB, TB), Kindal Moorehead (DT, Car), Roderick Hood (CB, Phi), Ronde Barber (CB, TB), Reggie Hayward (DE, Den), Dwight Smith (S, TB)

Top Defenders of the Season to Date

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

Carolina LB Dan Morgan again came through for Arlo Vander’s team, anchoring the defense and sealing a playoff win.

Who were your top defenders of week 16?

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