The Fantasy Fool: Today's defenses can be downright offensive

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Doesn't anybody play defense anymore?

Miami's top-ranked run defenders just surrendered 162 yards and a touchdown to the Rams, a team that has been struggling to run effectively all season.

The woeful Titans offense, piloted by octogenarian Matt Hasselbeck, put up 26 points on a Steelers defense that clearly doesn't travel well.

Tom Brady and Wes Welker torched Seattle's so-called "elite" pass defense.

Carson Palmer lit up a heretofore-stout Falcons secondary for 353 yards and a touchdown.

The Giants obviously weren't intimidated by the mighty 49ers defense as they traveled cross-country to deliver a 26-3 whooping. Ahmad Bradshaw even racked up 116 yards and a TD on what used to be the league's stingiest rush defense.

Dez Bryant had his best game of the season, and Tony Romo rebounded from a poor three-game stretch, against a Ravens defense that was on the decline well before Ray Lewis was lost to a season-ending triceps injury. Meanwhile, Dallas' beleaguered rushers ran roughshod over the home team for a season-high 227 yards. Going forward, there may be few defenses more vulnerable than Baltimore's depleted unit.

And to top it all off, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and James Jones embarrassed Houston's championship-caliber defense with six aerial scores in a Sunday night shellacking of epic proportions.

What does all of this tell us?

For starters, next week's Ravens-Texans contest should be a high-scoring affair.

Second, we are reminded of the age-old fantasy maxim: Never bench your studs, regardless of the matchup.

And last, we've learned that even second-tier players no longer must be automatically relegated to the sidelines, even in bad matchups. Because, frankly, no defense is impenetrable these days, thanks primarily to rules that overwhelmingly favor the offense.

Perhaps the Bears, who enjoyed their bye this weekend, will be the exception. I certainly wouldn't rush to start Matt Stafford against Chicago's ball-hawking secondary next Monday night; but that's more a reflection on the disappointing quarterback than the defense's dominance.

FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns. Hardesty has never had a legitimate chance to fulfill his lofty potential because he's perpetually injured. In fact, he finally scored his first career touchdown in Sunday's relief duty. If Trent Richardson's sore ribs cost him playing time, the backup will be called upon again. Hardesty is worth adding as insurance.

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys. Jones piled up 92 yards and a TD and looked better than he has in ages, albeit against a sorry Baltimore run defense. DeMarco Murray's owners should latch onto Jones in the event that the starter's sprained foot proves to be serious. Just don't be shocked if Jones disappoints -- his days appeared to be numbered after he arrived at training camp out of shape -- and keep in mind that third-stringer Philip Tanner could be given a chance as well.

Don't be fooled

Baron Batch, RB, Steelers. When Rashard Mendenhall was knocked out of Thursday's contest, Batch got the majority of the carries. Fortunately, Mendenhall's Achilles injury is not expected to keep him out long, with a Week 7 return entirely possible. Besides, Pittsburgh has proven it can't run effectively without him. Don't drop Isaac Redman just yet, but let someone else waste their waiver priority on Batch.

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions. He is now eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list; but haven't we seen this movie before? The poor kid just can't stay healthy, and a series of concussions is nothing to be trifled with. I'm not adding him to my bench as a "preemptive move," as many have advised. I can't foresee being desperate enough to trust him in my starting lineup.

Ladd Biro has been named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011). Follow all his advice at the Fantasy Fools blog, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro). fantasy


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