The bye weeks have arrived, and it’s time to start managing your starting defense. Many owners will only carry one defensive unit on their squad in favor of another offensive player. If this is you, and you happen to have Atlanta, Arizona, Carolina or Philadelphia as your defensive unit, it’s time to decide if it’s worth it to drop an offensive player for a bye-week plug in at defense. In last week’s article I listed Denver as my #1 plug and play defense, and not only did they come through, they outperformed my projections. Just so you know, I do follow my own advice and I played Denver in one of my leagues which lifted me to a narrow victory over my opponent. It’s time now to look ahead to week 4.
Plug and Play Defenses – Week 4
1. San Francisco (18% owned in Yahoo! leagues) – The 49ers were my 3rd choice for plug and play defenses in week 3, and were it not a 101-yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin and a last second miracle TD from Brett Favre to Greg Lewis, they would’ve scored almost exactly as projected. This week they come home to face the St. Louis Rams. To say that the Rams have struggled offensively in ’09 would be an understatement. After the Lions’ upset of the Redskins on Sunday, the Rams now own the NFL’s current longest losing streak at 13 games. With little receiver depth and injury/performance issues at quarterback in St. Louis, expect a huge game from the 49er’s defense in week 4. Projection: 6 points allowed, 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 Forced Fumbles
2. Cincinnati (11%) – Cincinnati is coming off back to back upset victories, beating Green Bay on the road in week 2 and shocking the Super Bowl champion Steelers in week 3, breaking an 8-game home losing streak against Pittsburgh. The Bengals defense gave up a moderate number of points in weeks 2 and 3 (44 points combined) after shutting down Denver in week 1, but that won’t deter me from making them my 2nd choice among plug and play defenses this week. They travel to Cleveland, who just took a thrashing at the hands of the Ravens, posting a whopping 3 points on the scoreboard. The Browns’ offense has struggled in ’09 and I expect that to continue this week. Projection: 9 points allowed, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 Forced Fumble
3. Tampa Bay (31%) – Tampa’s defense seems to be hitting rock bottom after half a decade of excellence. Two or three years ago, the Bucs would’ve been a top defense in any fantasy draft, and now they just can’t stop anybody. The Bucs face the Washington Redskins, who, thankfully for them, haven’t shown the ability to light up the scoreboard this season. I’m a little wary of this pick because of their performance thus far, the fact that they are on the road and the Redskins coming off a humiliating loss, but if St. Louis can hold the Redskins to 9 points at Washington (which they did in week 2) then I think that Tampa can at least come close the Rams’ efforts. Don’t expect huge numbers, but if worse comes to worse, they’ll put up a performance that at the very least won’t lose you your matchup. Projection: 17 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 INT
As mentioned earlier, the bye weeks start in week 4. If you have a good record and still have a decent shot at winning without dropping someone, it may be a good time to see what gems get dropped on waivers by other owners simply because of their bye. You might be in a good position to solidify your team for the long run. On the other hand, if you simply must make a move, here are some players that may be available in your leagues waiver wire or free agent pool:
E.J. Henderson (17% owned in Yahoo!) – How E.J. is only owned in 17% of Yahoo leagues with IDP players is beyond me. I was singing the praises of E.J. in my week 1 D-Day article and I haven’t changed my mind. Perhaps people were scared by the “Q” next to his name and shied away from him last week. They shouldn’t have. E.J. led the Vikings with 8 solo tackles and 5 assists against the 49ers in week 3. If he’s out there in your league, grab him and do it quickly.
Larry Foote (11%) – Foote continues to have a solid season for the Detroit Lions tallying 5 solo tackles and 4 assists in week 3. I’ll continue to harp on people to pick him up until I see he is owned in over 50% of Yahoo! leagues.
Antoine Bethea (16%) – With Bob Sanders currently out of the picture, Bethea is having a nice season, at least from a fantasy perspective. He led the Colts with 6 solo tackles and 2 assists in week 3 with an interception and a pass defensed for good measure. With Indianapolis’ quick-strike offense putting up points without taking time off the clock, their defense is on the field for more time than most, which leads to more opportunities for Bethea and all Colts defenders to score points. Keep in mind that his stock will likely drop when Bob Sanders returns to the lineup and starts stealing tackles.
Tyvon Branch (5%) - After notching only 10 total tackles on the season in 2008, Branch has more than doubled that effort in only 3 games in 2009. Tied for the team lead with 25 total tackles, he has been solid to say the least. He’s coming off of a 10 tackle game (8 solo, 2 assists) against the Broncos. At only 5% owned, he’s almost certainly available in your league.
Marcus Stroud (7%) – The Bills defensive tackle has been very consistent, posting 4 solo tackles in each of his first 3 games. He also has 2 assists and a sack. If your league requires a DL or DT position, Stroud may be worth picking up.
Ray Edwards (11%) – The Vikings defensive end benefits from the players next to him on the defensive line: Jared Allen and the Williams Wall. This gives Edwards consistent one-on-one opportunities, and he has come through thus far in ‘09, registering 11 solo tackles, 5 assists and 1.5 sacks.
Eli Ricke knows absolutely nothing about Fantasy Football that everyone else doesn’t already know. All of his success in Fantasy Football can be attributed entirely to dumb luck. He has been playing Fantasy Football since 1999 and is a habitual liar. You will occasionally run across him in the café forums under the name 204BC, a name that has no particular meaning whatsoever. He just made it up, the same thing he does with most of the advice he gives.
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