May 28, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) warms up with defensive tackle B.J. Raji (90) during Rookie Orientation Camp and Organized Team Activities at the Don Hutson Center in Green Bay. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Last Season: 348 Points Allowed, 41 Sacks, 9 Fumble Recoveries, 18 INTs, 3 Safeties, 4 Defensive TDs, 2 Kick/Punt Return TDs; 137.00 fantasy point
I’m going to say something surprising: this defense was good last year!
Now in terms of overall play and statistics, they were lackluster on average and were vulnerable against the run — especially at the start of the year. But for fantasy purposes they ended up being one of the more productive units in the league; at the end of the season, they ranked #2 in overall fantasy points!
How could they be so high up when as a whole they weren’t great, especially with how bad they looked before their bye week?
It’s simple: the things they were bad at don’t affect their fantasy potential.
The biggest issues with this defense were their propensity for allowing big rushing performances and giving up bundles of points on the tail end of blowouts.
Yardage means nothing to a defense in fantasy football; a team could give up 500 yards every week and it wouldn’t matter.
The points they gave up did matter, but not nearly as much as other aspects so that tended to not hold them back in total fantasy points.
Aug 3, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive tackles Mike Daniels (76) and B.J. Raji (90) warm up during training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
What does make a fantasy defense strong is gathering sacks, racking up turnovers, and scoring; Green Bay did well in each area.
The Packers tied for 10th in total sacks (41), forced a combined 27 turnovers, and got credit for 6 scores (4 defensive, 2 return) and 3 safeties.
On the strength of those spots, the Packers made themselves a useful unit to fantasy squads that owned them.
I’m not sure if they’ll manage to be as productive in terms of those spots, but the outlook is definitely positive.
Under Dom Capers, they’ve routinely been capable of high turnover production on an annual basis; that should continue again in 2015.
The problem areas for the defense last year should also be shored up, meaning that the team should surrender less yardage (and hopefully less points too).
This week is a perfect time for them to show that improvement.
Chicago has a few decent weapons of note on offense, but plenty is working in favor of Green Bay here.
First off, many of their receivers are injured; Alshon Jeffery has had issues that could slow him, their 1st-round rookie Kevin White may not play the whole year, and outside of the capable-but-unexciting Eddie Royal there isn’t another proven option in the bunch.
The offensive line isn’t great either, especially with their best player being moved out of his best spot (guard Kyle Long is set to play tackle this season).
And, of course, Jay Cutler is the quarterback and he just loves to give the ball away to Green Bay; in his career he has 23 INTs (1 INT in the postseason) vs the Packers.
Cutler’s propensity for game-changing mistakes will undoubtedly be taken advantage of yet again.
That will overshadow any positives Matt Forte and the run-game can manage, giving Green Bay yet another productive outing against Chicago, both in fantasy and reality.
Week 1 Prediction: 17 Points Allowed, 3 Sacks, 3 Forced Turnovers (2 INT, 1 Fumble); 10.00 fantasy points
Verdict: Start Without Hesitation