Week Eight Start/Sit: Time to re-evaluate defenses, kickers

Every inch matters. (That is, in fact, what she said.)

It’s a mantra that has been driven into our heads in all realms of life, but particularly in football. It’s never been put more eloquently than Al Pacino’s spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing speech in ““Any Given Sunday.””:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO4tIrjBDkk)

In fantasy football, though, it’s not every inch that matters. It’s every point (well, unless you’re busy taking a 181-89 beatdown like I did in one league last week).

This is why, halfway through the fantasy regular season, it’s time to re-evaluate the two afterthought roster spots in your lineup: defense/special teams and placekicker.

Discussing defenses and kickers is one of my least favorite conversations in fantasy football. I can never justify taking either of the two before the last two rounds of the draft or spending more than $1 on them in an auction, yet every year you see owners taking the supposed top defenses as high as the 10th round.

I will never understand it. It fluctuates too much from year to year. Through seven games this season, only half of ESPN’s preseason top 10 defenses are currently top five fantasy scoring defenses. The same ratio is true for kickers.

But, now that we have a good chunk of the season under the belt, it’s very important to consider how your defense and kicker are performing and if you need to make a change. If you’re still starting a defense like San Diego based on preseason expectations, it has been constantly dragging your scoring totals down, having posted double-digit numbers only twice all year while scoring fewer than six points four times. Compare that with San Francisco, which is averaging almost 13 points per game in fantasy despite being ranked preseason No. 20.

At this point, the upstart San Franciscos of the league are likely already owned, but you can still find good values on the waiver wire as other owners may be forced to drop high-scoring defenses on bye weeks.

If you still can’t find a consistent defense that way, you can employ a strategy I like to call “The David Carr Approach.” It’s quite simple. I first developed this strategy during Carr’s rookie season in 2002, in which he was sacked an NFL-record 76 times (almost five per game). Every week that I could, I simply picked up whichever defense was facing Carr and the pitiful Texans offensive line and was essentially guaranteed double-figure points. It worked wonders.

Obviously, the NFL sack record isn’t set every year, but you can employ the sister of the David Carr Approach by picking up and start a defense solely based on a bad quarterback they are playing. I highly recommend this strategy against Carson Palmer and the Raiders, but bad quarterbacks are abundant in the league this year.

But don’t just sit there and do nothing. You’ll be missing out on those extra points. And that’s the difference between winning and losing! BETWEEN LIVIN’ AND DYING! OK, I’m going to watch that clip again then run through three brick walls.

*Start*

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: Flacco had an absolutely abysmal game against Jacksonville on Monday night. The good news? It fit perfectly in his pattern of alternating horrible performances with good ones. In order, Flacco’s six point totals this year are 23, 9, 32, 5, 18, 8. See the difference? He’ll continue that trend against a soft Arizona secondary this week.

The Saints backfield: No disrespect to DeMarco Murray, but if he can rush for 253 yards against the Rams defense (can we still call it a defense?), what can a New Orleans offense that exploded for 62 points last week do? Darren Sproles is a must-start. If Mark Ingram is able to gut out his heel injury and play, he belongs in lineups as well. If Ingram can’t go, Pierre Thomas deserves the same respect this week. But even if Ingram plays, Thomas remains a viable flex start option.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: It’s do or die at this point for Johnson, whose lack of production has been astounding all season long. If he fails to produce against a Colts defense that has allowed 151 yards per game on the ground (31st in the league) and nine rushing touchdowns (tied for last), it might be time to stick a fork in CJ2K’s fantasy prospects this year.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Few receivers have been as consistent as Green this season. At this point he’s like “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. Not exactly Oscar material, but you know what you’re getting, and if you’re looking for something that is strictly entertaining (seriously, go watch this scene and tell me you’re not hooked), there’s few better options. They might throw in a dud here or there (Green’s Week Three performance, “Tokyo Drift”) but generally just bang out solid performances on a regular basis.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Gates returned from a four-week injury absence last Sunday and caught five balls for 54 yards and a touchdown, appearing completely healthy. He’s once again a must-start going forward.

Fred Davis, TE, Redskins: The injury to Santana Moss leaves Davis as the top target in Washington, and the big tight end was already putting together solid performances with Moss in the lineup.

*Sit*

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: The Chargers offense hasn’t looked right all year, and neither has Rivers. Suddenly, San Diego is playing for the division lead this Sunday in Kansas City. The Chiefs always seem to play the Chargers close, and I expect this game to be a low scoring contest.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: I don’t question his talent, but playing from behind can kill any good running back’s chances to produce points. And no team has played from behind more this season than St. Louis, whose -115 point differential is the worst in the league.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: Through six games, Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have had only one week where they both scored more than 10 fantasy points. This week I like Maclin. He’s been more productive of late and will likely see less attention, as Jackson burned the Cowboys for 210 yards and 52.5 yards per catch last season and will draw more attention from the Dallas secondary.

_Daniel is a junior in Media. Contact him for fantasy/relationship advice at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @danielmillermc._