Fantasy Football 2012: The Art of Playing Matchup Defenses
In fantasy football it can be tempting to grab an elite team defense such as the San Francisco 49ers or Pittsburgh Steelers in the middle rounds of your draft, granting your team a measure of security with the knowledge that you have a defensive unit that you can safely plug into your lineup on a weekly basis.
However, savvy fantasy owners can use that same pick to bolster their depth at an offensive position, waiting until late in their drafts to pick their team defense while getting the same fantasy production by playing the matchup game.
The rules of this game are actually quite simple. Find a lower-ranked defense, or even one that might not generally be drafted at all, that has a very favorable matchup for the first week or two of the season.
Then, when those favorable matchups dry up, simply jettison that defense to the waiver wire and pick up another that has a tasty matchup for the upcoming week, repeating the cycle throughout the season.
In fact, often the quality of the defense itself isn't as important as the matchup. Matchups against anemic offenses are good. Matchups against anemic offenses that have a tendency to turn the ball over or give up sacks (the biggest contributors to fantasy production in most scoring formats) are even better.
Then there's the added bonus of rookie quarterbacks. Not only do rookie quarterbacks almost always play on bad teams (or else they wouldn't be starting as rookies), but they also have a tendency to hold the ball too long (which leads to sacks) and make mistakes (which equate to turnovers).
For example, the Minnesota Vikings may well go undrafted in many fantasy football leagues this season, but the team opens the season at home against a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that ranked dead last in the NFL in total offense and allowed 44 sacks last season.
The Vikings then travel in Week 2 to face the Indianapolis Colts, who won all of two games last season, had one of the NFL's worst offenses in 2011 and will feature a rookie under center in first overall pick Andrew Luck.
Then, when the Vikings' gravy train dries up, you can stay in the Hoosier state, grabbing a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that was a surprising sixth in the National Football League in total defense a year ago when they come to town to face Luck and the Colts in Week 3.
And so on and so forth, right on into the fantasy playoffs.
So, while the allure of linebacker Patrick Willis and the 49ers dominating defense may be appealing, consider taking a different track, playing the fantasy defense matchup game and reaping all the rewards that an elite defense brings with it for a fraction of the cost.
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