Fantasy roundtable: Ranking top defenses for season's second half
Defenses are often an overlooked aspect of fantasy football rosters (much like kickers), but sometimes, they can make or break your squad. To help owners positioning themselves to make a push at the playoffs, SI.com's fantasy experts rank their top-three defenses going forward.
Michael Beller: 1. Cardinals 2. Texans 3. Dolphins -- The Cardinals still have both of their games with the division-rival Rams on the schedule, and that's enough to make them my top defense for the rest of the year. They also have two games with the Seahawks who, while a good team, do not feature the most imposing offense, and one with the Falcons, a team that is absolutely decimated along the line. The Texans play the Jaguars twice, though one of those is in Week 17 after most fantasy leagues have wrapped up for the year. On top of that, they get the Browns and Titans. They do play the Colts Week 15, however. The Dolphins have had a great pass rush all year, they're a nightmare against the run, and the schedule is favorable for the rest of the season. You'll want to stay away from them in Week 12 against the Broncos and Week 15 against the Patriots, but they get the Vikings in the all-important fantasy championship, and also have games with the Bills and Jets.
Kevin Casey: 1. 49ers 2. Lions 3. Broncos -- San Francisco’s D has been pretty solid all year despite poor health and having to face four of the top 11 offenses in points per game before the bye. And now, Tramaine Brock is finally healthy, Aldon Smith is returning soon and Navorro Bowman will be back with a few weeks remaining. Tack on the fact that the second-half schedule is far less severe, and the Niners could be the top fantasy defense in the NFL going forward. The Lions are a no-brainer based on their consistent, if surprising, play. Denver is a wild card, as they still face the Patriots and Chargers on the road. But the Broncos also have plenty of anemic offenses on the slate, so the schedule isn’t too tough. The defensive revival in Denver is real, and the unit just seems due for some defensive touchdowns as well.
Ben Eagle: 1. Bills 2. Dolphins 3. Broncos -- Few expected the Bills D to be the premier fantasy unit (especially with linebacker Kiko Alonso going down in the preseason), but they've been stellar, averaging 3.5 sacks and 1.5 interceptions a game. The Dolphins boast a fearsome pass rush, and they get to play the Jets twice in the second half. The Broncos may allow more points than other squads, but the tandem of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and an opportunistic secondary put them firmly in my top three.
David Gonos: 1. Lions 2. Texans 3. Bills -- Only five teams have more picks than Detroit (nine), and six teams have more sacks (23). The Lions offense will improve, forcing more teams to come from behind, giving the defense more shots at interceptions/sacks. The Texans DST has been excellent -- and No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney should be a boost in the second half. The Bills already lead the NFL in sacks and interceptions, but don't have any defensive touchdowns yet. That has to change going forward, especially considering they’ll face the Jets in Week 12, Browns in Week 13 and Raiders during Week 16.
Bette Marston: 1. Lions 2. Dolphins 3. Bills -- Not only has Detroit given up the fewest yards per game so far this season, but after their bye this week, the Lions DST faces some of the weakest offenses in the NFL -- to be specific, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Chicago and Green Bay in Weeks 14-17. If I’m making a playoff run, I want to have them on my team. If I’m out of it, I’m selling them high. The Dolphins earn my vote again based on schedule -- they get the Jets twice in the second leg of the season, and Miami will feast on them without doubt. The Bills DST has been one of the most surprising in fantasy this season. They lead the league in sacks and interceptions, and I don't think they're going to slow down anytime soon.
Eric Single: 1. Bills 2. Texans 3. Lions -- The Bills lead the NFL in sacks and interceptions through eight weeks, and offensive continuity should be even harder to come by as it gets colder for a slate of visiting opponents that includes the Jets, Chiefs and Browns. Another lap around the AFC South should boost the Texans' value down the stretch, and surely J.J. Watt has another couple of touchdowns in him before the regular season is through. As for Detroit, the league's No. 1 scoring defense at midseason has back-to-back tough trips to Arizona and New England, but the Lions' following four games include three home dates and two encounters with turnover machine Jay Cutler.