Having a strong defense/special teams part of your fantasy football team is important. This goes whether you are in a season-long fantasy football league, or a weekly one. Here is DraftStreet.com‘s choices for the top sleeper picks for defense and special teams.

Denver Broncos

Halfway through the season, the Denver Broncos were in first place in the AFC West with a 5-3 record. In his first season in Denver, quarterback Peyton Manning has gotten much of the credit for the Broncos success. But the Broncos’ defense and special teams have also played a big role in the team’s three-game winning streak going into Week 10.

In the Broncos’ 31-23 win over the Bengals in Week 9 (their eighth game), Trindon Holliday ran back a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. It was Denver’s fourth defense/special teams touchdown of the season, which tied them for second-best in the NFL. Denver had five sacks in the game, leaving them tied for eighth with 24 sacks. Denver also picked up its eighth interception of the season. While Denver had no forced fumbles, they were tied for fifth in that category with nine.

It was Denver’s second game in the last three that the defense/special teams came through for fantasy owners. In their sixth game, a 35-24 win over the Chargers, Denver’s defense racked up two touchdowns. Tony Carter recovered a fumble by Charger quarterback Philip Rivers and went 65 yards for a touchdown. Later, Chris Harris intercepted a Rivers pass and went 46 yards for a score. Denver forced six turnovers in the game – four interceptions and two fumbles. They also sacked Rivers four times.

After Week 9, Denver was 14th in points allowed per game and 10th in yards allowed. But the ability to bunch together big plays made the Broncos defense/special teams more dangerous than their overall statistics would suggest.

New England Patriots

The Patriots were just 22nd in yards allowed per game through Week 9 and only had one defense/special teams touchdown, a six-yard return of a fumble recovery by rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower in his first professional game. But their 20 turnovers (nine interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries) led the AFC and was third best overall. The Patriots points allowed per game was 12th best. The Patriots were seventh in rushing yards allowed per game, with most of the yards against coming through the air (28th best).

Half of the Patriots’ last eight games were against teams ranked 25th or lower in passing yardage, so the Patriots’ defense may have an easier time in these games.

In fantasy championship Week 16, the Patriots will play the Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked dead last after Week 9 in both points and yardage.

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