"0-2 teams make the playoffs 11 percent of the time." - Football Outsiders' Bill Barnwell.
Now I'm pretty convinced that Barnwell's research has to do with actual football, but I'm also pretty convinced that the odds aren't dramatically different in fantasy football. While we preach that it's early and premature to panic or overreact, it's also important to net some victories in these early weeks.
It's decidedly tougher to augment an offensive roster, considering that it likely requires trading and often some commodities are just unattainable, particularly early in the season. Thus, a great way to fortify your roster and improve your chances at a playoff run is to focus on tweaking your defensive talent. I've said it many times in the span of this column, but it really never gets old; you can, in most cases, find considerable defensive talent available on the wire or in free agency. Consider some of the names below as valid additions to said fluid defensive roster, and as always don't hesitate to hit me up with any questions, theories or concerns you may have.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
DC in NC: I touted this Dan Connor kid last week and he made good on the hype with a strong debut as the Carolina Panthers' starting middle man, accumulating double-digit tackles and a sack. If an offensive talent were to produce comparably, he'd certainly be owned in more than 14.5 percent of leagues. I'm also still in the business of hyping Derrick Johnson, a perceived bust in some senses who is finally making good on his considerable potential. Props to Romeo Crennel for utilizing Johnson's once dormant skill set.
Blond Hawk Down: A.J. Hawk, the fifth overall selection in 2006, has been effectively removed from the Green Bay Packers' defense and he's not so happy with it. Clay Matthews, on the other hand, is thriving and punishing quarterbacks on the regular. Clearly the Packers' brass needs a dominant linebacker with long blond hair, and Matthews, who is available in half of ESPN.com leagues, is the one you want.
Doubting DeAngelo: Don't overreact to the big game from DeAngelo Hall: it was a great outing, buoyed by an outstanding individual effort to strip tailback Tashard Choice for a decisive touchdown to close out the first half, but we can't count on such production from Hall on a weekly basis. Clearly we can't bank on touchdowns from defenders, but I don't regularly expect eight tackles from Hall, either. He's a worthy play in leagues that have distinct cornerback spots on the roster, but the real gem in the D.C. secondary is LaRon Landry, who did his best London Fletcher impersonation by posting 17 total tackles in Week 1.
The DT Market: For leagues that specifically roster defensive tackles (as opposed to the more common general defensive lineman spot), this was a solid first week for finding talent at the position. Proven vets like Haloti Ngata and Richard Seymour enjoyed nice outings while the long-awaited production from Glenn Dorsey finally materialized. The Arizona Cardinals' Darnell Dockett is arguably the best at the position, but don't sleep on the Buffalo Bills' duo of Kyle Williams and Chris Ellis, who should compile respectable tackle numbers at such a shallow position.
IDP Rankings Week 2: The Top 10 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (0.5), Tackle - Assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (2).
Bargain Bin: Worthy defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
Pat Chung not only has a cool name (he's on the Pats, he's named Pat, and follows it up with a Chung, just excellent naming work being done here), but a nice game, as well. His astounding Week 1 tackle numbers (16 total) were assuredly padded by the Cincinnati Bengals' pass-heavy comeback attempt. That said, with this potent New England Patriots offense likely to pace many of their opponents and engage in shootouts, we could see a nice surge in tackles for the New England secondary, namely Chung and Brandon Meriweather. The Arizona Cardinals' Greg Toler tallied 13 tackles and a forced fumble in his debut as a starter alongside the increasingly feared Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. With "DRC" blanketing his side of the field opposing arms will look to Toler, which should lead to some really nice tackle numbers. The Tennessee Titans' Michael Griffin is a proven ball hawk who is now adding healthy tackle production to his repertoire. He could do well chasing down Hines Ward and Heath Miller this weekend. The Jacksonville Jaguars' Daryl Smith was all over the field in Week 1 and his dynamic production should continue against a San Diego Chargers offense that figures to be on the field often.
Matt: I have Chris Long as my second D-lineman in my IDP league. As you know he did not score a single point last week. I did not get a chance to see the game, so I have no idea what's up. Should I keep him expecting the sleeper results to show up in Week 2, or should I put him on the trash heap and go to my third D-lineman, Derrick Harvey? (We only start two DL in our league).
Jim McCormick: Hey Matt, sadly, I did watch that game, and I wouldn't trust Long until he forces us to. He has little help on that line and hasn't shown the ability to post many, if any, transcendent individual performances. I'm not sure if Harvey is the next best bet for you, see if any guys like Calais Campbell or the Oakland Raiders' Matt Shaughnessy are available, both should out produce Long and Harvey for the season.
From last week's comments section. mike2espn: What percentage of ESPN leagues are IDP leagues (you can estimate or provide the actual figure if you know it), and why don't you think the format is more popular? Also, do you have any tips for IDP enthusiasts who are looking to get their buddies to give IDP a try?
McCormick: I queried Nate Ravitz for some metrics about IDP and he told me that from 2007 to 2009 about 10 percent of ESPN.com leagues were using IDPs, with no significant growth from season to season. I expected some measure of growth, but at the same time it's an admitted enthusiast sect of the larger fantasy culture. I can say that while the numbers might not reflect a growth in interest for the format, I've certainly witnessed an increase in e-mails and comments over the seasons, so passion might be increasing, if not participation.
In terms of getting your friends to try IDP, I would suggest opening up a side league in addition to the traditional league that you usually play with your pals and entice some of them to compete in it without much consequence. Essentially, make it easy for them to get into it without forcing the format into the league. Make sure to give them some tips on how to navigate the defensive market, so that they can enjoy some of the fun elements of managing a defensive roster. The IDP format is one that many feel they wouldn't enjoy given their assumptions about how much more work it is, but many swear by it once they attempt it.
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Washington Post's "Behind the Helmet" and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel. You can reach Jim with your questions and comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @JMcCormickESPN