As Fantasy Week rolls along here on the NFC East blog, I thought I'd take a look at where our division's teams rank in the preseason team defense/special teams rankings. It's ... well, it's not good:
12. Dallas Cowboys
15. New York Giants
Which makes the Cowboys' the only NFC East team whose fantasy defense you should start in a 12-team league (or a 14-team league, for that matter), and not a good one at that. This can't be a huge surprise, as defense wasn't exactly an overall strength of the division last year. Those teams on that list finished 19th, 31st, 28th and 15th in the NFL in yards allowed last year and 24th, 12th, 22nd and 29th in points allowed.
Moreover, especially in the case of the Eagles and Cowboys, these were particularly poor fantasy defenses. You get fantasy points from a team defense for turnovers, and the only teams in the league that forced fewer turnovers last year than the Cowboys' 16 were the Colts, the Chiefs and... yep, you guess it, the Eagles with 13.
And when all else fails, I like to look at sacks when I pick my fantasy defense. The NFC East teams in the order listed above finished 20th, 22nd, 23rd and 25th in the league last year in sacks.
So really, not much to like about any of them.
Now, moving forward this year, is there hope for any of them to be useful fantasy defenses? Sure. The Cowboys and Eagles have new defensive coaches and schemes and frankly, in terms of creating turnovers, really can't do any worse. The Redskins get their best pass-rusher, Brian Orakpo, back from injury. The Giants ... well, they at least know there's a pass rush problem and have a history of finding ways to address it.
If I had to bet, I'd pick the Cowboys as the most productive fantasy defense in this division if everybody stays healthy. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer coming off the edge, Sean Lee roaming the middle and the two best cornerbacks in the division. They have the best chance to be a useful fantasy defense this year. But I think the message here is that you shouldn't go out of your way to draft any NFC East team defense in fantasy this year. Wait and see whether there's improvement, then pick one up for a bye week or a soft part of the schedule. If you want NFC East players on your fantasy team, look for wide receivers.