One of the biggest issues when drafting a fantasy team is figuring out which defensive unit to go with. If you didn’t get Seattle, that is. As of five weeks into this season, they are the only defense to actually approach projections. There have been several defenses that have exceeded their projections to this point like Houston, and others that have disappointed, like San Francisco. The only defenses that have been on the waiver wire all year long are the Eagles, the Redskins, the Giants (ouch, NFC East), and the Jaguars. Every other defense has had its bit of spotlight so far, and deservedly so. But all that does is make it harder to choose from week to week which defense you will go with.
Some owners simply pick one defense at draft time and roll with them throughout the entire fantasy season, for richer or poorer, and that works with a team like the Cowboys who will have more good matchups than poor ones throughout the year. The problem is that when they do have the poor matchups your fantasy team has more chance to lose. Let’s say you are down by 10 and you need points from your defense to get the win, would you want to count on the Cowboys D versus the Saints? You know the answer to that one.
I take one of two approaches when getting defensive:
- Draft the Seattle defense with my seventh or eighth pick in the draft, or
- Play the odds
If I’m lucky enough to get the Seattle defense (which I wasn’t this year — they were off the board earlier in the seventh round than my draft position in all my leagues) then I’m set all year long. Sure, even they will have their clunkers, but they should get me the points I need way more often than not. Since I wasn’t able to do that this year, though, I am going with option two, which isn’t all that bad. I will admit that it makes things a lot more interesting. It’s called looking at the matchups and switching out defenses accordingly. Three rules to playing the odds, though:
- Beware the “hot hand”
- Pay attention to home/road split
- Never trade for a defense
So many articles I read in fantasy sports magazines or on fantasy sports websites look at the defenses that are “hot” and tell players to ride the hot hand while it’s hot. The problem with that is that if they’ve been hot for two games in a row, that’s usually the time when they cool off (unless the team is playing the Jaguars or the Giants). So by the time you notice they’re hot, you pick them up off the waiver wire, and then they cool off just in time to give your team -2 points. Instead, look at the trends. Does the defense play better at home? That’s usually the case. Are they at home or on the road this coming week? Do they play a high-powered offense? How often do they blitz? And never, ever trade for a defense. There will always be at least one on the waiver wire that will fit your needs.
This week there are two teams that fit the bill that may be available on your league’s waiver wire:
- Buffalo Bills. You may be surprised but the Bills D has been amazingly consistent for most of the year so far. It’s why the Bills end up in so many close games that they have the chance to win at the end. Put aside the Cleveland game for a second and study how the Bills do at home. They’ve scored over 10 points in every single home game so far, and Cincinnati hasn’t been exactly lighting it up lately as they come into Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills defense at home is a good bet, and they’re available on a lot of waiver wires for the taking.
- Minnesota Vikings. Cam Newton is out of sorts. The aberration was the game he had two weeks ago, but last week he just looked lost. I think that continues here against a Vikings defense that can get to the quarterback. Ask Ben Roethlisberger. The Vikings are in the Dome, too, which is an advantage on both sides of the ball. This will be a low scoring affair, which always favors the defenses. I say roll with the Vikings defense for just this one game.
If you’re really desperate and both of these teams for some reason aren’t available off of your waiver wire, my advice is to stick with the defense you already have on your fantasy team. Don’t take a flier on the Redskins, or the Eagles, for this week. It’s not worth it, and they might get you negative points in the bargain. Stand pat, and your defense might just surprise you. Otherwise, happy waiver wire picking!