Streaming Fantasy Football Defenses
Streaming Fantasy Defenses
We are three weeks into the NFL season and have learned quite a bit thus far. While there is still plenty of room for growth, we have a better idea of what teams are now than we did heading into the season.
I’m a big fan of streaming defenses, as I scour the waiver wire on a weekly basis to find my plug and play option of the week. I implement this strategy based on my belief that it is difficult to forecast fantasy defensive points, so I’d rather take my chances on a poor offense struggling in a big way, thus providing fantasy value to the opposing defense. You could take it on a week by week basis, but the odds that there are multiple owners doing the same thing are high, making it a risky proposition to rely on your ability to beat them to the waiver wire for the “flavor of the week” defensively.
I’ve had a productive defense that I was targeting snatched before I could use my waiver on them far too many times before, so I now map out my defensive game plan for the entire season. Obviously there is wriggle room, as injuries and hot offenses can make what looks like a favorable matchup now less than enticing, but I like to have a general plan. In this plan, I don’t necessarily target the defenses that I think will be the best for one week, but rather the units that will be useful for a few weeks at a time. This takes some of the risk out of drop/adding a defense every single week, but it also allows you to play the matchups.
In the following slides, I walk you through my initial blue print for navigating my way through the remaining fantasy weeks, targeting defenses that are owned in fewer than 50 percent of standard ESPN leagues.
Fantasy Football Defense: Weeks 4-6
Defense: Kansas City Chiefs
Rational: None of these offenses excel at protecting the quarterback, a big time problem when facing a defensive unit that leads the league with 15 sacks through three weeks. The Chiefs' pressure results in more than sacks, it results in poor decisions, and thus big time fantasy points. They’ve forced opposing quarterbacks to throw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns this season, and you could make the argument that two of their three opponents thus far (Mike Vick and Tony Romo) are more talented than all three quarterbacks they are facing over the next three weeks.
The Chiefs have had a bend don’t break run defense thus far, but the Giants and Raiders have struggled to open up any sort of holes this season, so that defensive flaw isn’t overly concerning to me. Any three game stretch where the defensive is already playing well, plays two home games at their vaunted venue, and faces an opponent that their head coach has spent the past 14 seasons facing twice a year has fantasy potential, and the fact that the Chiefs D/ST are available in over 58 percent of leagues is mind boggling to me.
Fantasy Football Defense: Weeks 7-8
Defense: Carolina Panthers
Rational: Fresh off of the most impressive defensive week, arguably in franchise history, the Panthers' defense should succeed against two offenses that lack a true identity. The Rams looked good in Week 1, but have looked progressively worse as the weeks have passed. I don’t think the Dallas Cowboys defense is anything special, yet they held the Rams to a mere seven points, as Sam Bradford averaged fewer yards per attempt than DeMarco Murray. They have nice “potential” at all their offensive skill positions, but they aren’t built to win right now, something I expect the aggressive Panthers' defense to feast on.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, have been a mess all season long. Their head coach felt the need to announce the safety of his starting quarterback, indicating that there are real problems. They rank 31st in total passing yards and dead last in completion percentage, so the fact that Carolina ranks in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed and are giving up only 3.7 yards per carry puts the Bucs in a no win situation.
Fantasy Football Defense: Weeks 9-11
Defense: Buffalo Bills
Rational: This defense is really good when healthy, and by this point they should be. While Alex Smith has been successful thus far, this isn’t an explosive offense, and doesn’t scare me from a defensive standpoint. I expect the Bills' front line to make Smith very uncomfortable, and with his unwillingness to throw the ball down the field, I expect the physical Bills' secondary to approach this game with an aggressive mindset (ideal for fantasy owners).
The Steelers are a team currently headed in the wrong direction, and while I think they will improve, this offensive line simply isn’t good enough. The run game is ineffective, thus allowing the Bills to bring big time pressure to the face of Ben Roethlisberger. His ability to keep plays alive has resulted in some highlight touchdowns, but it also has gotten him into trouble early this season, and could very well do so in this matchup as well. Buffalo’s banged up defensive was torched by the Jets this past weekend, but with increased health and more film on Geno Smith, the Bills will be much better in the rematch. Buffalo simply has more talent, when healthy, on the defensive side of the ball than the Jets do on offense, and with a mistake prone rookie signal caller, there is a good chance the Bills' defense finds its way into the endzone this week.
Fantasy Football Defense: Weeks 12-13
Defense: Cleveland Browns
Rational: You may not want to admit it, because we are so used to the Browns being a bad football team, but this defense is legitimate. They can make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable, something the Steelers can’t stop, and the Jags enter every week with, and have a lockdown corner in Joe Haden, who can erase an opponent’s top option. The Steelers struggle to consistently move the ball as it is, but if Antonio Brown is shut down, they aren’t going to approach their 310 yards of total offense per game (fifth worst in the league). We’ve seen what the Jags are without Justin Blackmon already -- yikes. Neither opponent has established any sort of running game to keep the Browns' front line honest, which means a long day for the starting quarterbacks. If you can stop the run game and take away the top pass catcher, you force an offense to become one dimensional, and neither the Steelers nor Jags can succeed if their play calling is forced to become predictable.
Fantasy Football Defense: Weeks 14-16
Defense: New York Jets
Rational: Once you get into the winter months, these games in upstate New York get increasingly hard for offenses, thus leaving the door open for fantasy defenses. Much like the Browns, the Jets, as a team, aren’t very good, but this defense could well be a top 10 unit. The first two opponents boast athletic quarterbacks that can make plays, but their playmaking ability is extremely limited if the defense doesn’t respect a single aspect of your offense. The Jets have enough talent in the secondary to single cover every receiver any of these teams have, thus allowing them to press the line of scrimmage. Both Terrelle Pryor and Cam Newton showed flashes of greatness last week, but neither is capable of “throwing open” receivers, and with the Jets physical brand of defense, that’s a big problem.
You’ve probably noticed a theme with these recommendations; I tend to roll with defenses opposing offenses that can’t move the ball on the ground. It’s not a fancy formula, it’s a simple fact. Unless you have an elite quarterback, keeping the defense guessing is half the battle. The defenses I’ve recommended have the talent it takes to punish their opponents for becoming one dimensional, something that can reward you as a fantasy owner in a big way.
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