Projected points are based on traditional fantasy scoring systems, where you get 1 point for 20 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving; and 6 points for a touchdown. When I post my Top 150, I'll have lists for traditional, PPR and touchdown leagues. I'll also have notifications if a player is better or worse in one of those scoring systems.
A key for these notifications is at the bottom of the page.
Updated Aug. 30
Lots of sacks should once again create tons of interceptions for Marcus Trufant and turnovers for Lofa Tatupu. You'll score billions of fantasy points when the Seahawks play the 49ers and Rams.
AUG. 18 UPDATE: Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill had a monstrous game for the Seahawks, collecting four tackles, one sack and an interception in the first half alone. Seattle's starting defense, arguably fantasy football's second-best stop unit, ate Chicago's offense alive. Meanwhile, Justin Forsett did a good job in the return game, taking two kicks back for 40 and 37 yards.
The Vikings should be one of the first defenses chosen in your fantasy league draft. If Jared Allen plays at least 14 games, there's a potential for 50 sacks, 20 interceptions, eight touchdowns, and perhaps a shutout or two. They'll eat offenses like the Bears and Lions alive.
San Diego Chargers
Tons of sacks. Tons of picks. Some kick-return touchdowns. What more could you want?
AUG. 23 UPDATE: Shawne Merriman has a tear in his PCL and could be out for the year. Stay tuned - but definitely don't spend a mid-round pick on the Chargers' defense until we find out what's going on.
The Cowboys have a devastating pass rush and consequently force tons of turnovers. Guess whom they play in Week 16? The RAVENS!
The Steelers saw their sack total rise last year, and with the development of LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, that can only increase. That will lead to more turnovers and tons of fantasy points. They play the Ravens in Week 15, which should be your semifinal.
The Ravens had 60 sacks and 28 interceptions in 2006. Last season, those numbers dropped to 32 and 17. This year figures to be more like the latter, with most of the defense either rapidly aging or coming off injury. I'd start Baltimore against the likes of Miami (Week 7) and Oakland (Week 8), but that's pretty much it. Someone in your league is going to draft them higher than they should.
AUG. 25 UPDATE: Tom Zbikowski made an impact against the Rams. He blocked a punt in the first half and picked off Bruce Gradkowski in the fourth quarter.
No surprise that Yamon Figurs returned the first kickoff of the game for 37 yards, close to midfield. Figurs is one of the top return specialists in the NFL, making Baltimore's defense more intriguing in fantasy football.
New York Giants
Steve Spagnuolo's defense registered 53 sacks last season. Now that every defender is entering his second season in Spagnuolo's scheme, the Giants' stop unit could be even more potent.
AUG. 25 UPDATE: Osi Umenyiora is out for the year with a knee injury. Paging Michael Strahan! If the Giants can't get Strahan on the defensive line, you can knock their projected sack total down by at least 10.
As long as Albert "The Hamstring" Haynesworth is healthy, the Titans will keep scoring totals low and get to the quarterback, meaning the secondary will notch some turnovers.
Chicago's defense will be on the field a lot, so that means they'll give up more points than they should. That may also mean more chances for sacks and turnovers when they play another team with an inept offense. Oh, and don't forget that Devin Hester is bound to score on at least five returns.
AUG. 22 UPDATE: While the effectiveness of both offenses surprised everyone, the most shocking thing to me was how horrendous Chicago's defense looked. On the first drive of the game, the Bears surrendered runs of 11, 28, 4 and 16 (the final one to Zak Keasey). Frank Gore and Keasey combined for 73 yards on just 12 carries. And this isn't a fluke; the Bears had problems containing Larry Johnson two weeks ago and allowed a significant amount of yardage to Julius Jones in a short span last Saturday. Furthermore, how do you allow J.T. O'Sullivan to go 7-of-8 for 126 yards and a touchdown? Where was Mike Brown on the Jason Hill touchdown? A frustrated Brian Urlacher vented about his defense's terrible performance just one week after he predicted that his stop unit would match the 2006 version.
No surprise that Devin Hester dropped the ball on Chicago's first drive. I said it once, and I'll say it again. If utilizing Hester on offense even takes away 10 percent of Hester's potency on special teams, Lovie Smith is making a huge mistake. Hester is arguably the best return specialist of all time, and he's such a sub-par wideout; it just doesn't make any sense.
AUG. 30 UPDATE: If it wasn't for New England's pathetic defense, I'd say Chicago's stop unit has been the most disappointing this preseason. The Bears have now let Brodie Croyle, Charlie Frye, J.T. O'Sullivan and Brady Quinn have their way with them. Quinn was 7-of-9 for 65 yards against Chicago's starting crew. That said, the Bears are definitely still draftable because of Devin Hester.
The Eagles lack talent at safety, but other than that, they have one of the top defenses in football. They can pressure the quarterback, which will allow Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard to accumulate tons of picks.
The Cardinals don't really have a great defense in real life, but they generally get tons of picks and a good amount of defensive touchdown. An effective return game makes them a quality starting unit.
AUG. 27 UPDATE: Looking at the box score, I was surprised to see that JaMarcus Russell was sacked just four times. Arizona's front seven seemed like it was in Oakland's backfield the entire evening. It was so bad for the Raiders' starting offensive line that they gave up two sacks to the Cardinals' second-string defenders.
The best time to start Indianapolis' defense in the past was against a team with a terrible stop unit. The Colts would usually establish a huge lead and then garner tons of turnovers from a scoring attack trying to mount a comeback. Well, things have changed. Tony Dungy's squad boasts one of the elite stop units in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Gaines Adams expected to turn into a double-digit sack artist, Greg White playing more often and Jovan Haye progressing, the Buccaneers are going to put tons of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This will lead to more turnovers. As an added bonus, they play the Panthers and Falcons in Weeks 14 and 15, the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs.
AUG. 27 UPDATE: Dexter Jackson had three return opportunities. One was a touchback. On the other two, he didn't get past the 15-yard line.
AUG. 30 UPDATE: Dexter Jackson scored a touchdown on a punt return. Though I'm sure there wasn't much gameplanning on either side for this Week 4 preseason contest, Jackson's play-making ability has to be exciting for Tampa Bay fans and Buccaneer defense owners.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay's defensive line gets to the quarterback, which means a troubled secondary should be able to force a decent number of turnovers. The Packers were also seventh in points allowed, so you'll also score that way.
The Jaguars have made it clear that they want to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season. If they manage to do that, they'll get more turnovers. If not, they're still a solid defense.
New England Patriots
The Patriots were a top fantasy defense because they forced a lot of turnovers when they jumped out to huge leads against weak opponents. Asante Samuel is gone, but the fact remains that the opposition will be forced to play catch-up early and often.
So, why are the Patriots sleepers? Well, for starters, publications like ESPN's Fantasy Football magazine have them ranked around 10th. They don't have elite talent in the back eight of their defense anymore, but their offense has the capability to establish such large leads that their defense can feast on opposing scoring units. New England's defense was one of the main reasons I won a championship in one of my leagues last season.
AUG. 18 UPDATE: The Buccaneers shredded New England's defense. Michael Bennett, Earnest Graham, Kenneth Darby and Warrick Dunn combined for 97 rushing yards on just 17 carries in the first half alone. Luke McCown and Brian Griese went a combined 15-of-17 for 120 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes. The Patriots, who look extremely archaic and slow, whiffed on tackle after tackle. It was pretty embarrassing.
AUG. 23 UPDATE: The Patriots couldn't contain the Ravens' starting offense two weeks ago. So, it was the first game. Big deal. The Patriots were trampled by Tampa Bay's rushing attack and watched Brian Griese complete almost every pass he threw. Another fluke? Well, the Patriots were also helpless against the Eagles, as their starting defense surrendered five scores on six drives if you include the Hank Baskett fumble in the end zone which resulted in a touchback. Donovan McNabb was 13-of-17 for 180 yards and a touchdown, and was seldom pressured. Brian Westbrook averaged 4.3 yards per carry (nine rushes, 39 yards). DeSean Jackson made New England's defense looked old (more on this later).
Even Kevin Kolb was able to led Philadelphia into the red zone by going 4-of-6 for 78 yards on a drive that culminated in a field goal. The big play on that possession was a 42-yard Kolb-to-Michael Gasperson connection, as Gasperson, a camp body, beat second-round rookie Terrence Wheatley, who was playing with the first-stringers, including Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel.
AUG. 30 UPDATE: New England's defense - and I'm going to hit my CAPS lock key for this - REALLY SUCKS! The starting unit couldn't prevent David Carr from easily moving down the field on them. Carr, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Kyle Boller all abused the Patriots' first-string stop unit this preseason. Can you say 2002 St. Louis Rams?
Julius Peppers' 2.5-sack campaign scares me. If he doesn't bounce back to where he once was, the Panthers may go weeks without producing double-digit fantasy points.
AUG. 15 UPDATE: Tony Ugoh couldn't contain Julius Peppers. Now playing the right end in Carolina, Peppers blew by Ugoh on the third play of the game, sacked Jim Sorgi and forced a fumble that set up a touchdown. Peppers, who continuously abused Ugoh, is a darkhorse candidate to lead the league in sacks this season.
AUG. 26 UPDATE: Carolina's pass rush was very pedestrian last season, so it has to be a relief for Panther fans that their defensive line completely abused Washington's front. Early in the game, second-year left end Charles Johnson overpowered Jon Jansen for a sack on Jason Campbell. Later, Julius Peppers plowed Chris Samuels four yards into Campbell. Campbell was sacked four times in the first half.
The Bills had just 26 sacks last year because of multiple injuries to their defense. They'll be much better in 2008, though I wouldn't recommend starting them. They're a nice bye-filler against Oakland (Week 3), St. Louis (Week 4), Miami (Week 8) and the Jets (Week 10).
The Browns will get more sacks now that they've upgraded their defensive line, while their opportunistic safeties will pick off some passes. They're not a defense you should start every week, but I wouldn't mind having them in the lineup against Baltimore (Weeks 3 and 9).
The Broncos should be able to get more sacks this year, which could lead to more turnovers. That's all speculation, however, as Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder are unproven. Draft them only if your top defense's bye matches up well with the team Denver will be playing (i.e. Chiefs, Raiders).
Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye get plenty of sacks, but there's no one else who's going to apply any sort of pressure. The Texans are worth starting against opponents with weak offensive lines.
Theoretically, if the Raiders establish a solid lead, their back seven should be able to accumulate a lot of turnovers. That's all theory, however, as Oakland's offense is incapable of doing so. The Raiders' ineptness against the run doesn't help either. Use this stop unit only when it goes against teams with terrible offenses (i.e. Kansas City and Miami).
Let's see... about 25 sacks, 14 interceptions and tons of opposing 30-point outputs. No fantasy value here.
AUG. 28 UPDATE: Ted Ginn returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. At first, it appeared Ginn would suffer a huge loss because he moved backward, but Ginn outran and everyone to the left sideline and went upfield unscathed.
With two of Washington's better defenders coming off knee surgery, I'd look elsewhere. They could be worth starting against the Rams (Week 6) and Lions (Week 8).
If you're thinking about drafting Cincinnati's defense... Please, lay off the crack.
New Orleans Saints
Though they'll be better than they were in 2007, they still won't get many sacks or interceptions. Look elsewhere.
New York Jets
I'd stay away. There's no guarantee the Jets will accumulate much more than 30 sacks and they don't exactly force too many turnovers.
Two words if you plan on using Detroit's defense at any point during the 2008 season: fantasy suicide.
Kansas City Chiefs
Don't even bother; you won't even get Jared Allen's sacks this year.
San Francisco 49ers
Not enough sacks and turnovers. No reason to look here.
St. Louis Rams
Don't even think about it.
The Falcons would be a solid fantasy defense if they could get sacks, pick off passes and hold teams to single-digit scoring totals on occasion. They need to work on those things.
No point in trading for Cousins, there's almost no chance he succeeds. 0 WRs and TEs to throw it to, so it would just be a waste of his prime years. If Shanahan reealllly wants him, wait until next year since he seems to have a rift with the Redskins. Besides, next year's quarterback class is much better if they fail to sign Cousins in FA.
I don't agree on a lot. They have so many cuts on the OL you didn't mention including Dunlap and Franklin which will save them 12+ million. Stuckey is not worth 3 million. They can make on very solid move or a couple with draft help to protect Phillip. Cruz could be an interesting pair with Allen if he can return to prior form though.