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Fog Bowl: Defense wins championships

Andy Behrens
Yahoo Sports

We're beginning to see a few of these: *.

The * is no insignificant thing. If you get one, it means you've made the playoffs. And if you've made the playoffs, this is no time for humility. Don't hide your *. Wear it around the office, like Lou Dobbs with his little flag, or this dude with his AJ Hawk pasties.

If you've clinched a playoff spot in a Yahoo! public league, you're not going to be involved in a meaningful matchup until mid-December. There's no playoff bye week to pursue; it's not like public league fantasy baseball. Sure, you might have an opportunity to affect the positioning of rival owners, but that's not what you should be focused on right now.

Once you've got the * next to your team name, then Weeks 15 and 16 are all that really matter.

We've discussed this before, with special attention paid to quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs. Those aren't the only positions that deliver fantasy points, though. Most of us have settled on a tight end and kicker for the remainder of the season, but, in 10-team leagues, there are probably 17 or 18 free agent defenses available right now. Start looking at end-of-season matchups, and consider potential add/drops.

During much of the regular season you'd rather not be burdened by two defenses, but at this point, if you're planning for the final weeks, it's not unreasonable to create a small strategic reserve. The market for skill position offensive players tends to be relatively efficient – you won't find any elite running backs in the free agent population – but there are often useful defenses available throughout the season. For example, the top-scoring defense in public leagues, Detroit (121 points), is only 76.6 percent-owned.

Here are three respectable team defenses owned in fewer than two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues, with their total fantasy points, relevant defensive stats, and their Week 15 and 16 opponents:

Widely available defenses
Team YTD pts Own % Int FFum Sack Pts/G Week 15 Week 16
Kansas City 90 32.8 12 11 25 18.6 TEN (25) at DET (25)
Tampa Bay 89 22.4 11 12 20 15.1 ATL (13) at SF (21)
Arizona 85 10.8 12 8 25 22.2 at NO (21) ATL (13)

The numbers in parentheses next to those Week 15 and 16 opponents indicate total year-to-date turnovers. Quality-of-opponent obviously tends to influence defensive scoring in no small way. There's a decent chance that someone in your league has actually been playing the waiver wire for defenses all season. Since, um … the Bears haven't exactly worked out.

At this point, if you're officially in the playoffs, you should be willing to drop your fourth quarterback, fifth receiver, or second tight end for any of the defenses above, if for no other reason than to keep them off an opponent's roster at the end of the fantasy season.

Jared Allen alone might account for 10 fantasy points at Detroit in Week 16; Jon Kitna has already endured 40 sacks this season and fumbled 11 times, losing five. Arizona is a terrific play in Week 12, as colleague Brad Evans mentions today, and the Cardinals should be an excellent start at home against Atlanta in championship week. The Tampa defense just put up 22 fantasy points in their mauling of the Falcons last Sunday. They were really the difference in thousands of Week 11 fantasy matchups, and they're likely to be a factor in December, too.

And if you've got the *, December is all you need to care about.

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