The old saying that “defense wins championships” doesn’t usually apply in fantasy football.
The Denver Broncos might be an exception.
They’ve been the hands-down top team defense in fantasy, racking up an NFL-leading 30 sacks while surrendering the fewest yards and points. And that has translated into a heck of a positional advantage for Denver owners.
Consider: my longest-running Yahoo league — scoring two points for takeaways, one for sacks and 10 for shutouts — has Denver averaging 14.13 points per game. That’s nearly four full points better than No. 2 St. Louis, the kind of weekly edge Rob Gronkowski owners were hoping for at tight end.
It’s no surprise then that Denver’s defense ranks high on the list of players most commonly appearing on top teams. In Yahoo, Denver ranks sixth (35.2 percent) between Gronkowski and star rookie runner Todd Gurley.
Denver’s lockdown of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers illustrated this unit’s potential to impact even the biggest of stars. This week, the Broncos get a Kansas City offense without Jamaal Charles, though AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver reported they’re preparing to play without pass rusher DeMarcus Ware (back) along with cornerback Aqib Talib (suspension).
From there, there are also dates with Chicago’s Jay Cutler (turnover prone) and San Diego’s Philip Rivers (behind a porous line). But the unit will also be tested with games against New England, an improved Oakland offense, Pittsburgh and unbeaten Cincinnati.
If you’ve got top-tier players going against this squad, be prepared for a downtick in production. And it might be worth sitting your WR3 or flex guy based on the matchup if you have enough depth.
THOUGHTS ENTERING WEEK(END) 10
— New England receiver Brandon LaFell has had 24 targets from Brady in the past three games and last week had five catches for 102 yards. A worthy start with that workload.
— Now it’s James Starks’ turn to lead the backfield for the Packers — He’ll start ahead of ineffective Eddie Lacy. Lacy proved last year he could emerge from a slow start, but it’s time to fire up other options if you’ve got ‘em — though you should hold onto him just in case.
— A coaching change in Miami has salvaged Lamar Miller’s season. The running back has averaged 22.3 points with six touchdowns over the past four games entering a trip to Philadelphia.
— He doesn’t get the same volume as Gronkowski, but Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert has nine touchdowns — most among tight ends — entering Monday night’s game against Houston. He’s an every-week start and his development as a red-zone threat is a key part of the Bengals’ unbeaten opening.
— After concerns about his health and the loss of Jimmy Graham, New Orleans’ Drew Brees has looked like his old self. After throwing for 505 yards and seven touchdowns in Week 8, he threw for 387 yards and three scores last week. The Saints play Washington this weekend.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is out at least two weeks with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle, and could be out up to six weeks. If so, that would put Luck’s status for fantasy playoff games starting in Weeks 13 and 14 in jeopardy.
If you’re one of the frustrated owners who burned a high pick to grab the fourth-year pro, you might as well hold onto him for now to see how things shake out. But you had also better make other plans — hint, Tony Romo is due to return Week 11 from a broken collarbone — if Luck’s up-and-down play hasn’t already sunk you from playoff consideration.
Aaron Beard is an Associated Press sports writer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s in his 14th season of obsessing over lineup decisions in fantasy football. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s NFL site at http://pro32.ap.org .