Usually passed over until the final rounds of the draft, team defenses are usually an afterthought for fantasy owners. A good team defense can be the difference between taking home the victory and wallowing all week over your loss. Where do the Chicago Bears rank for 2013?
There are two major losses for the Bears heading into this season. Brian Urlacher cannot be replaced. D.J. Williams is serviceable, but there is just no easy way to replace the future Hall of Famer.
The second is the dual losses of Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli, two of the better defensive minds of the last decade. New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has done some solid work with far less talented teams, so I think the Bears won’t suffer too much at the loss of Smith and Marinelli.
The Bears do have some serious upside. Charles Tillman (who I profiled here) is coming off an incredible 10 forced fumbles. While the number of forced fumbles might not be sustainable, Tillman is still one of the top-five cornerbacks in the NFL. Lance Briggs defended 11 passes last season, and has had 100-plus tackles in all but two of his 10 seasons.
Tim Jennings also led the league in interceptions with nine to go along with 21 defended passes. Julius Peppers had 11.5 sacks, making it the eighth time in 11 years he has registered double-digit sacks. Devin Hester is one of the best punt and kick returners the league has ever seen, averaging over 1,800 yards combined on kick and punt returns per season. There are playmakers here.
Those offenses typically have a lot of possession time, and that leads to increased opportunity for the defense to make plays. While you might lose a few fantasy points due to the high scores Chicago could give up, plays like interceptions and sacks usually help more than points against hurt. The Bears have plenty of big play potential.
While I don’t see them replicating all their successes from 2012, the ceiling is too high to ignore. I have the Bears as a top-four unit with potential for challenging for the top spot. The Bears are about as surefire a safe play in terms of fantasy defense as there is.