Gary Gramling
Friday November 5th, 2010

We give you three team defenses to consider if you're in need, as well as the risers and fallers among individual defensive players. Analysis is based on the four main statistics for most IDP leagues (solo tackles, sacks, passes defensed and takeaways) in three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).

1) I'm actually pretty intrigued by the Colts D this week. They're exactly the kind of defense that can contain Michael Vick: speed, speed and more speed. When they've struggled it's been against big, power-running backs, and that's not LeSean McCoy. Michael Vick's ability to keep plays alive also leads to a fair amount of sacks (11 through three and a half games), and healthy or not, Jason Peters doesn't stand a chance against Dwight Freeney. If you need a bye week fill-in, this is about as good as it gets.

2) We touched on them last week, but the Bears are so bad that I'd absolutely recommend the Bills at home against Chicago if you need a bye week fill-in. Buffalo is still susceptible against the run, but that's certainly not the Bears' strength. Any time Jay Cutler throws to Johnny Knox (12 times in their past game, Week 7 in Washington), it turns into a 50/50 ball as Knox won't exactly fight to make a catch. The Bills have only one interception this season, but this is the week they'll turn it around.

3) Even though your instincts might say to go with Atlanta at home against Tampa, I'm not thrilled with the Falcons' matchup. They're going to see a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount, and this is a team that was burned by Rashard Mendenhall and Tim Hightower earlier this year. A run-heavy attack for Tampa, plus a Falcons pass rush that just isn't very good, and you have a the recipe for an awfully empty line from Atlanta.

Defensive lineman: Cliff Avril, Lions

For the past two seasons, Avril has just been taunting IDP owners. On pure ability, he's a potential superstar. But since a flurry to finish his rookie year in 2008, he's been injured and inconsistent. Last week he showed another flash, though, recording two sacks and four solo tackles against the Redskins. He had just one sack before the Washington game, but does have nine hurries and three QB knockdowns on the year, so he hasn't been a Jared Allen-sized bust this year. If you're brave, now's the time to roll the dice on Avril (again). He's a risk, and Detroit will continue to rotate Turk McBride with Avril more often than they do with Kyle Vanden Bosch. But Avril is a 12-sack talent sitting on your waiver wire right now. You might not get a chance to pick him up next week.

Linebacker: Tamba Hali, Chiefs

Hali continues to be a riddle wrapped in an enigma this year. He had another 1.5 sacks last week, and as a pass rusher he's been great, Defensive Player of the Year consideration great, with 7 sacks, 14 QB knockdowns and 10 hurries. Against the run, though, he's been non-existent: 15 solo tackles, six assists. He's actually been shut out across the board twice this year. The bottom line: He deserves a roster spot in leagues with sack-heavy scoring formats, but until he shows something, anything, against the run, he doesn't warrant a starting spot.

Defensive back: Devin McCourty, Patriots

The Pats don't offer much of a pass rush, so teams will continue to test their young secondary. McCourty, a first-round pick in April, has been the biggest beneficiary so far. He came into the league with a reputation for poor ball skills, but Bill Belichick defenses always emphasize ball skills. McCourty has delivered interceptions in back-to-back games, he had six passes defensed in four October games, and he's a willing participant in run support. I'm not sure the INTs will keep coming, but he has enough of an all-around game, as well as enough opportunities, to be a solid DB2 over the season's second half.

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