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Fantasy Football Rankings 2013: Defense/Special Teams Rankings

They might not be the highest priority in your draft-day planning, but completely ignore defenses and special teams at your peril, my friend.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I'm on record as saying not to bother with a fantasy defense before the second-to-last round of a draft. That's true. My points that it's hard to predict which defenses will be good, that it's hard to recoup value with the early defenses, that you can get better value drafting a skill player early and streaming defenses all season - those all still apply.

But defenses still matter.

Maybe your leaguemates will all subscribe to my theory, and you will get a primo defense late. Maybe you want to take the plunge. Maybe I'm actually wrong here (gasp!), and defenses should go earlier.

(I'm not wrong, but nobody likes it when you're cocky, so I included that last "Maybe.")

Anyway, in fantasy, the defense position (and special teams, which we all forget to say, but we should never forget to consider) is more of a crapshoot than anything that isn't kicker, so ranking those defenses and special teams is equally crapshoot-like. Vagaries in defensive performance. Injuries. Bad matchups. It's crazy.

Seriously, Scottie Gerhart got to rank the quarterbacks. How hard is it to say "Aaron Rodgers good, Christian Ponder bad"? (I kid, of course; Scottie did a great job.)

How much do we penalize the Broncos for losing Elvis Dumervil for the whole season and Von Miller for six games? For me, I knocked them a fair amount; they're going fifth in ESPN's average draft, and I slot them in at 10th. In addition to penalties for Dumervil's absence and Miller's quasi-absence, I find it hard to imagine multi-released Trindon Holliday repeats his late-season heroics of last year. Additionally, this is a team that is going to score a lot of points, which will lead to teams throwing a lot against them. While many of those throws might turns to picks, a lot of them will likely also turn into points.

I think everyone would agree that the best defensive division in the league is the NFC West, with all four division members slotting into my top 11. Out of conference this year, the Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, and Rams get to play against the AFC South, which is happy times. The Texans and Colts will have decent offenses, but nothing destructive, while the Titans and Jaguars will be pitiful and sad. Sure, the NFC West also plays the offensive powerhouses of the NFC South, but still, these defenses will all make you happy.

The Ravens' D has slid down in many rankings with the departures of Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams, Edgar Allan Poe, Babe Ruth, and Omar from The Wire. For me, though, I see a team that has added Dumervil and others, and will theoretically have full, healthy years out of guys like Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb, and I slot them in at seventh. Considering the Ravens are bar-none my least favorite team in the world, both last year's playoffs and this ranking hurt me.

On the bottom side of the rankings, just shake your head patronizingly at the Raiders, Jaguars, Titans, and Saints defenses. They are terrible, they just want to be loved, and no one will do it. Poor guys.

Other thoughts I didn't think needed their own paragraphs: The Chiefs defense will be improved this year. If nothing else, they'll have less to battle against, as Alex Smith isn't great, but he doesn't turn the ball over, and that means fewer chances to score against KC...The Bears' defense will miss Brian Urlacher, but their ball-hawking ways still keep them really high overall...The Buccaneers' addition of Darrelle Revis should help, but this is still a 28-year-old coming off a torn ACL, and they can't all be Adrian Peterson. I like the group, but I don't totally trust them...After years of excellence on defense, the Jets are going to be the epitome of mediocrity this year. They won't kill you, and they'll have some good weeks, but overall - yawn.

Ranking Team Bye Week
1 Seattle Seahawks 12
2 San Francisco 49ers 9
3 Houston Texans 8
4 Chicago Bears 8
5 Cincinnati Bengals 12
6 New England Patriots 10
7 Baltimore Ravens 8
8 Arizona Cardinals 9
9 Pittsburgh Steelers 5
10 Denver Broncos 9
11 St. Louis Rams 11
12 Green Bay Packers 4
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5
14 Dallas Cowboys 11
15 Cleveland Browns 10
16 Kansas City Chiefs 10
17 New York Giants 9
18 Miami Dolphins 6
19 New York Jets 10
20 Carolina Panthers 4
21 Atlanta Falcons 6
22 San Diego Chargers 8
23 Minnesota Vikings 5
24 Philadelphia Eagles 12
25 Detroit Lions 9
26 Indianapolis Colts 8
27 Washington Redskins 5
28 Buffalo Bills 12
29 New Orleans Saints 7
30 Tennessee Titans 8
31 Jacksonville Jaguars 9
32 Oakland Raiders 7

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