Fantasy Doctor: Don’t look long term for defenses and kickers

How important are defenses and kickers in fantasy?

In a draft, the first few rounds are dominated by three positions — quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. They are the playmakers that make you rich with points as the season goes on. So unless you’re a rookie to the game, you probably didn’t take a defense or kicker until late in the draft. Some may have even just let themselves autodraft for both positions.

But then why would you even bother with a defense or kicker?

If they seem so insignificant in fantasy numbers, do they really impact your game very much? In short, yes — both can be deciding factors in your game. What’s important to remember, though, is that you shouldn’t get too attached. While your superstars can be expected to rack up the points each week, defenses and kickers are more situational. They depend more so on the week-to-week matchups.

Take the upcoming game between Chicago and Green Bay, a matchup I’ve come to dread as a Bear fan over the last few seasons. In the first meeting of the season between these two divisional rivals, recent history seems indicted that the Packers are going to score — a lot. As a fantasy owner, this tells me two things: I need to sit the Bears defense, and I hope I can pick up and start Mason Crosby (the Packers kicker).

Both positions are heavily influenced by the schedule. Yes, takeaways are nice and can be an essential part of owning a successful defense, but the key factor is points allowed, and all too often that’s dependent on which offense your defense has to stand up to that weekend.

It’s similar for kickers. If your guy is kicking against either a terrible, terrible defense — let’s just say the Giants — or just one that clamps down in the red zone, you’re in good shape. Typically, the teams with the best red zone defenses are the best matches for kickers, as it usually requires them to kick more field goals.

I know, it sounds like a lot of work. I don’t blame you for not wanting to look into defenses and fretting over kickers each week. But if you’re that team who always seems to be losing by just a bit, a weekly cycle of defenses and kickers could be exactly what you can do to reel in a few more W’s as the playoff picture starts getting clearer and clearer.

Is Indy going to be the team to finally bring Denver to its knees? Can Houston get through its rough patch and put the first dent in Kansas City’s undefeated record? The hell if I know, but I do that I’ve got another week of starts and sits for you, as a good fantasy doctor should.

STARTS

Jay Cutler (quarterback, Bears, 102 points in ESPN leagues) — Cutler might be known for his pick tendencies, but he’s been more consistent than anyone anticipated this season. He finally has a strong set of receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The addition of Martellus Bennett also gives Cutler a great quick option when the defense makes the offensive line look like fools. Sure, Cutler can usually be expected to throw a pick or two, but his average two touchdowns and 271.7 yards per game more than make up for the occasional point deduction — especially against a Washington defense that averages 272 passing yards per game.

Eddie Lacy (running back, Packers, 33 points) — Lacy is back and cleared for takeoff in his third week back. In two weeks, he’s notched 21 points on 46 carries for 219 yards. Though he’s yet to get a touchdown since Week 1, injuries to Randall Cobb and James Jones could mean heavily reliance on Lacy in the red zone. Even so, the Packers are staying consistent enough with him to make him a hot option.

SITS

Alex Smith (quarterback, Chiefs, 87 points) — While the Chiefs’ undefeated record may endure a Houston invasion, Smith isn’t likely to have big numbers against the league’s leading pass defense. He’s dipped into the single digits in the last two weeks, and last week he put up a meager 128 yards. His lack of red zone production is too hit and miss for league owners to have much faith in starting him. Andy Reid may have found a winning strategy with Smith at the helm, but fantasy owners would be wise to steer clear.

Stevan Ridley (running back, Patriots, points, 38 points) — Don’t you dare let him trick you. Ridley showcased his talent for the very first time last week with an impressive 20 carries for 96 yards, two touchdowns and 22 points, but 16 points is all he could generate in the first five weeks. It’s a mirage. Just because he finally found the end zone doesn’t mean fantasy owners should strand themselves in the desert by starting him — especially against the No. 4 Jets rushing defense.

J.J. is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Wilsonable07.