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Week 7 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

We had some surprise defenses crack the top-10 in Week 6 with the Atlanta Falcons picking off Kirk Cousins seemingly at will and the Tampa Bay Bucs easily handling Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Even with that, we were able to get six of the top-10 defensive units, but the Indianapolis Colts may be showing some cracks in the armor, and Washington offensive ineptitude surprisingly flipped the script and allowed the Giants to finish as the only top-10 unit in that matchup.

I've been mentioning this for weeks, but it bears repeating that scoring and yards are at an all-time high this year. 4,621 points or 25.4 points per game so far this season and are gaining 363.3 yards per game, which are both the most through the first five weeks of any season in the Super Bowl era. With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 7 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 7 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 7 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 7. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 7 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 7 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Buffalo Bills Defense @ NYJ 13.9
2 1 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. NYG 13.5
3 1 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ DEN 12.3
4 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. CHI 11.8

Perhaps I'm about to be overly hard on the Bills as a life-long Bills fan, but their defense is concerning me right now. Yes, the Jets are a terrible offense. They rank 31st in passing yards, 26th in sacks allowed, 31st in drives ending in a score, and 15th in rushing and now are without Le'Veon Bell. But, as the Chiefs showed on Monday night, the Bills can be run on, even though Frank Gore and the Jets offensive line are not Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Chiefs unit. This is clearly not the same Bills defense that we've seen over the last couple of years. In addition to being gashed by the run, they are dead last in pressure rate. If you are not creating pressure, then you don't give yourself much chance to add fantasy points through sacks and turnovers. With Sam Darnold coming back, the Jets should become a little better on offense, though not much. I know you simply want to play defenses going up against the Jets, and the Bills have enough talented defensive players that you have to imagine they can take advantage of this matchup, but I could just as easily see the Eagles as the #1 DST this week due to their ability to create pressure.

The Eagles have started to get healthier on defense and are currently fourth in the NFL with 21 sacks. The Giants are 25th in the NFL with 17 sacks allowed, so I expect a healthy Eagles defensive front to get in Daniel Jones' face throughout the game which is good news since the Giants are already third-worst in the NFL with 18.4% of drives ending in a turnover. Even without the pressure, the Giants simply aren't a good offense right now. They're 27th passing yards, 28th in rushing yards, and 25th in drives ending in a score. If the Eagles are without Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz, who both left hurt on Sunday, the already sputtering offense will be even more short-handed which could lead to some short fields for the Giants. However, that's not enough to scare me off using this Eagles unit against one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

The Chiefs defense came to play Monday night against a solid Bills offense. The Chiefs send blitzes at one of the highest rates, and although they didn't sack Josh Allen, they were in his face all night long. Kansas City is 7th in the league in pressure rate, tops in quarterback knockdown rate at 1o.6%, and 9th in quarterback hurries. That will be useful against a Denver offensive line that is 22nd in sacks allowed and 5th-worst in the league with 16.7% of drives ending in a turnover. Obviously, having Drew Lock, Melvin Gordon, and Phillip Lindsay back will help the Broncos offense overall, but they don't have the firepower to keep up with the Chiefs and their defense is too banged up to keep the Chiefs from scoring. That will mean the Broncos will be forced to pass in the second half, which will lead to more blitzes, sacks, and turnovers for the Chiefs defense.

The Rams had been riding high on defense before falling short against the 49ers on Sunday night. However, maybe you're noticing a trend, but the Bears offense is simply not as good as the 49ers with all their pieces back. The Bears are 15th in sacks allowed, 18th in passing yards, 25th in rushing yards, and 27th in drives ending in points. While their sack numbers aren't egregious, the Rams defense is 5th in the league in sacks and 5th in drives ending in points against. With Jalen Ramsey likely shadowing Allen Robinson, I don't expect the Bears to be able to move the ball much in this game, which will allow more chances for Aaron Donald and company to get to a super immobile Nick Foles.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense  vs. LV 10.9
6 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense   @ NE 10.6
7 2 New York Giants Defense @ PHI 10.3
8 2 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ TEN 9.8

Tampa Bay thoroughly dominated Green Bay on Sunday, so it's not too much to expect a similar outing against a lesser-talented Las Vegas team. It's clear that losing Vita Vea didn't inhibit the Bucs' ability to stop the run. They're tops in the NFL with only 3.0 yards allowed per carry, which should help them against a Raiders' offense that relies heavily on Josh Jacobs. The Bucs are 3rd-best in pressure rate at 28.3% and second-best sack total, which means that, despite the Raiders not allowing many sacks this season, the Bucs should still be able to generate pressure on Derek Carr and the offense. That's good news considering Las Vegas is 9th-worst in the league in drives ending in turnovers. I expect Tampa Bay to score nearly at will against this Las Vegas defense, and even if the Raiders do put up points, they will also likely cough up a few turnovers. Tampa Bay is just playing too well to bet against right now.

The 49ers came to play on Sunday against the Rams, starting to look a little more like the playoff contenders they've been in recent years. Despite their rash of injuries, they are still fifth in the league in pressure rate, third in quarterback knockdowns and fourth in quarterback hurries. As we saw on Sunday against the Broncos, this is not the same Patriots offense, even with Cam Newton back. They are 17th in sacks allowed, 30th in passing yards, 7th-worst in drives ending in points, and worst in the league in drives ending in an offensive turnover at 19.2%. The Patriots are unlikely to put up lots of points against this 49ers defense, which raises their defensive floor and it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco can also notch a few sacks and force some turnovers.

I honestly can't believe I have the Giants this high, but here we are. They just finished as a top-10 unit against Washington and now will face an Eagles offense that will be without Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz and possibly still without Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson. This is also an Eagles offense that is dead last in sacks allowed, 26th in yards per play, and 27th in drives ending in a turnover. Also, this Giants defense hasn't been as bad as many think. James Bradbury has been great in shadow coverage against opponents' top receivers, and the team is 9th in pressure rate, 10th in sacks, and 10th in quarterback knockdowns. With the Eagles not even entirely sure who will be starting for them at right guard on Thursday, I expect the Giants to be able to get into Carson Wentz's face throughout what should be an ugly game with lots of turnovers.

The Steelers absolutely dismantled the Browns on Sunday. Now they will get a much stiffer test in the Tennessee Titans. I think the Steelers are the best defense in the NFL, but the Titans are no joke on offense, so it moves Pittsburgh down a little bit in our weekly ranks. The Titans offense is second in the league in drives that end in a score, fourth in the league in yards per play, and best in the league in sacks allowed. However, there is only so far down that I can drop a Steelers defense that is the best pressure defense in the NFL by a large margin. Their 38.9% pressure rate is well above the second-best rate of 29.2%. The Steelers blitz the most in the league (46.3%), have the most quarterback hurries, and are 2nd-best in yards per rushing attempt at 3.3 yards. Add to that the fact that the Titans just lost starting left tackle Taylor Lewan to a torn ACL, and I think the Steelers will be able to get some pressure on Ryan Tannehill in this game.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. JAX 9.3
10 3 Cleveland Browns Defense @ CIN 8.9
11 3 New England Patriots Defense vs. SF 8.6
12 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. CAR 8.3
13 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ LAR 7.7
14 3 Washington Football Team Defense vs. DAL 7.5
15 3 Green Bay Packers Defense @ HOU 6.9

The Chargers are fresh off the bye and have two weeks to prepare for a Jaguars offense that has been struggling with consistency of late. While Jacksonville is 6th in passing yards, Minshew has also thrown 11 interceptions, the offensive line has given up the 18th most sacks, and the Jaguars have the 7th-most drives ending in a turnover. The Chargers may only have eight sacks on the season, but they are 11th in pressure rate and 3rd in quarterback hurries. The Chargers are getting healthier on defense with Melvin Ingram and Justin Jones back both at practice. If either one of them, or both, is able to return on Sunday, it would be a big boost to a pass rush that could wreak havoc on an over-matched Jaguars offensive line.

As I mentioned above, the Browns got trampled on Sunday by the Steelers, but their defense had been playing good football up until that point. They will also face a much softer test this week. The Bengals are 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed, 24th in drives ending in points, and have an offensive line that has been below average in almost every blocking metric. The Browns defense is 6th in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing only 3.6 yards per attempt, but they have been destroyed through the slot. That means the Bengals only hope is Joe Burrow to Tyler Boyd. If the Browns can build an early lead against a bad Bengals Defense and force passing downs, it will give more opportunity for sacks for a defense that is 2nd in the NFL in quarterback hurries and 2nd-best in the league in drives that end in an offensive turnover at 18.2%.

The Patriots defense certainly wasn't the reason they lost to the Broncos on Sunday. They are 4th in the league in pressure rate and best in the league in drives ending in a defensive turnover. That pressure will be a factor on Sunday considering the 49ers are 27th in the league in sacks allowed and may not have as strong of a running game with Raheem Mostert out to keep the Patriots from coming after Jimmy Garropolo. What keeps me from pushing the Patriots into the top-10 is the fact that their defensive faults have been overshadowed a bit by the talent-level of opponents and gamescript. They are 18th in the NFL in yards per play allowed, 13th in yards allowed per carry, 15th in drives ending in a score, and 27th in yards allowed per pass attempt. The 49ers offense is middle of the road in drives ending in turnover and has been much better at protecting the ball with Jimmy G and Deebo Samuel back in the lineup. I expect them to take better care of the ball and scheme ways to take advantage of a Patriots defense that is giving up a fair amount of yards per play and surviving by slowing down the pace of play.

The Saints will come off their bye week with two weeks to prepare for a Carolina offense that is 19th in sacks allowed and just scored 16 points against the Bears. Teddy Bridgewater has been solid for the Panthers, but he also has five interceptions to only six touchdowns on the season. With the Saints offense expected to get Michael Thomas back, they should exploit a vulnerable Panthers Defense and force Bridgewater to have to throw often to keep up. That will leave open opportunities for a defense that had the bye week to get healthy. What this comes down to for me is simply that the Saints have been a strong defensive unit for a couple of years now and have too many good players to keep giving up this many yards and touchdowns through the air. With Sean Payton and company coming out of the bye week, I expect them to begin to right the ship.

The Bears defense showed up to play against a solid Panthers offense on Sunday, but this still a defense that is underperforming its previous levels. They are 21st in pressure rate, 24th in quarterback hurry percentage, and 15th in drives ending in an offensive turnover. The best way to slow down the Rams offense is to get pressure on Jared Goff. However, the Bears pressure rate matched up against a Rams offense that is 4th in the league in sacks allowed doesn't give me confidence that Goff will be under a lot of pressure. That means he can manage an offense that is 10th in yards per play and 4th in expected points contributed by the offense.

What we saw from the Cowboys offense on Monday night made me even more confident in playing the Washington defense against them. The Cowboys may be 21st in sacks allowed, but their cobbled together offensive line gave up a ton of pressure against the Cardinals, and the task won't be any easier against a Washington team that is 8th in sacks, 13th in pressure rate, and 11th in quarterback hurry rate. The Cowboys offense is 31st in the NFL in offensive drives ending in a turnover and clearly doesn't have the firepower to score quickly with Andy Dalton under center. I don't expect Washington to handle them the way Arizona did, but a few turnovers and sacks seem likely.

The Bills' offense set the league on fire for the first four weeks, but we've seen the return of frazzled Josh Allen. The strong-armed quarterback has continued to score points and gain yardage with his legs, but he has also begun turning the ball over a bit more and the Bills are now 25th in the league drives ending in a turnover. The Jets get pressure at a below-average rate and their offense continues to put the defense in poor positions, but if Josh Allen is trending towards past issues with inaccuracy and holding onto the ball too long, it's likely going to lead to some questionable decisions, sacks, and maybe turnovers.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ WAS 6.7
17 4 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. PIT 6.3
18 4 New York Jets Defense vs. BUF 5.9
19 4 Denver Broncos Defense vs. KC 5.1
20 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense vs. CLE 4.9
21 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ ARI 4.4
22 4 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. DET 3.9

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 7 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs. SEA 3.4
24 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. LAC 2.9
25 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense vs. TB 2.3
26 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ ATL 1.9
27 5 Houston Texans Defense vs. GB 1.1
28 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ NO 0.9
29 5 Miami Dolphins Defense BYE 0.0
30 5 Baltimore Ravens Defense BYE 0.0
31 5 Indianapolis Colts Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense BYE 0.0


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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Matchups and Start/Sit 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 6 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

I was riding high after predicting eight out of the top ten defenses two weeks ago, but we saw some craziness this Sunday (along with some top tier defenses postponed or canceled), which caused only a 50% success rate in identifying top-10 units. Miami throttling San Francisco was truly a surprise, as was a Kansas City defense that hadn't allowed more than 20 points in any game this season allowing 40 points to Las Vegas.

I touched on this last week, but teams have now scored 3,900 points or 25.6 points per game so far this season and are gaining 367.4 yards per game which are both the most through the first five weeks of any season in the Super Bowl era. With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 6 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 6 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 5 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 6. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 6 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 6 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ PHI 13.4
2 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. DEN 12.9
3 1 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. CIN 12.1
4 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. CLE 11.6

Yes, Philadelphia is set to get a little bit healthier on offense with the returns of Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, and they just put up 29 points on the Steelers, but they are also the third-largest underdog on the slate, according to Las Vegas.  The Eagles are still going to be hobbled on the offensive line, and Lane Johnson is getting a second opinion on his troublesome knee, which is an even bigger issue than their beleaguered receiving corps. Philadelphia has allowed the third-most sacks in the league, with 19 in only five games. The relentless pressure has also caused Carson Wentz to throw nine interceptions, which is the most in the league. As I mentioned above, I'm not really concerned if the Eagles are able to put up 20 points in this game since most teams are doing that relatively consistently this year. The Ravens defense hasn't been elite this year, ranking only 14th in pressure ate, but they are 6th in the NFL in sacks and should find themselves in the backfield consistently on Sunday, racking up sacks and causing a few interceptions. All of which makes them one of the best bets at DST in Week 6.

Holding the Chiefs offense in check the way the Patriots did during the first half last Monday night was a truly impressive feat; however, I'm not sure we should have expected much different from Bill Belichick. Yes, the Chiefs wound up with 26 points and the win, but their offense was stalled way more than usual. Belichick has always been an incredible defensive coach, but now his task gets significantly easier on Sunday, even if the Denver Broncos get Drew Lock back under center. The Patriots may only have six sacks on the season, but they are second in the NFL in pressure rate at 30.9% and third in the league with 26 quarterback hurries, numbers that are more impressive when you consider that three of the four teams the Patriots have played are in the top-13 in pressure allowed. Meanwhile, the Broncos were 28th in the league with 13 sacks allowed before missing this Sunday with a "BYE" and simply don't have the playmakers to scare these Patriots defenders. Yes, Jerry Jeudy will be good, but he's not somebody that is going to consistently get the better of Stephon Gilmore, who should be back from his COVID diagnosis on Sunday. I expect the Patriots to control this game and cause lots of problems for the Broncos offense.

The Colts are the second-largest favorite according to Vegas odds, but this game will hinge on the health of their defense. Star linebacker Darius Leonard missed Sunday's game against the Browns with a groin injury and, despite playing, fellow linebackers Anthony Walker and Bobby Okerele were banged up during the week and came into the game hobbled. As a result, the Colts gave up 385 yards to the Browns and lost 32-23. The Colts were able to pick Baker Mayfield off twice, but only got one sack against the Browns stalwart offensive line. It will be a much different story on Sunday against a Bengals offensive line that has been one of the worst in football, allowing a league-leading 22 sacks, including seven last week to a Ravens team that has consistently gotten less pressure on the quarterback than Indianapolis. That's good news for a Colts defense that is 8th in the NFL in pressure rate and 9th in quarterback hurry percentage. With Phillip Rivers more likely to find success against the Bengals Defense than he did against the Browns, and the Bengals likely playing this game without A.J. Green (who admittedly wasn't really productive when in) the Colts should get up early in this game and take advantage of a weak Bengals offensive line.

As I mentioned above, the Browns don't give up a lot of sacks, but Baker Mayfield is still one of the more turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league. Only 53.2% of his passes have been on target, according to Pro Football Reference, and he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league last year when pressured. So far this season, he has only been pressured on 13.5% of dropbacks and has been hurried a total of 13 times in five games. That has allowed him to curtail some of his mistakes (even though there have been a few head-scratching throws); however, the Steelers have the third-highest blitz percentage at 38.7% and the best pressure rate in the league at 38.1%. Since the Steelers are second in the league with only 3.3 yards allowed per rush, the Browns may have to turn to Baker more often than they want. If he is not able to stand in a clean pocket, he's more liable to make mistakes that lead to turnovers. Pairing that with the likely low-scoring total in this division rivalry, and I like the Steelers as a high floor offense with a good chance at a defensive touchdown.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Miami Dolphins Defense  vs. NYJ 11.3
6 2 Washington Football Team Defense @ NYG 10.4
7 2 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. HOU 10.2
8 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ SF 9.8

The Dolphins defense just manhandled a near-full strength 49ers team, so it makes sense to have faith in them to put up a similarly inspired effort against an undermanned Jets team. Le'Veon Bell came back, but his usage continued to be questionable. Sam Darnold missed last week, as did left tackle Mekhi Bechton, but they may return this weekend which would be a boon for the Jets. The Dolphins as a unit have been fairly average on the year, ranking 13th in pressure rate and 16th in hurry percentage despite being tied for 7th in sacks. This pick is really more about the ineptitude of the Jets offense that is 25th in the league in sacks allowed and 28th in total yards.

If we're attacking the Jets, then we should also be attacking the other New Jersey (sorry, New York) team. The Giants put up 30+ points against the Cowboys, but that is more about Dallas featuring one of the worst defenses in the league than the Giants all of the sudden becoming a strong offense. Devonta Freeman lacks explosiveness and Darius Slayton gives the Giants one consistent weapon on the outside, but he doesn't have much help. Washington got Chase Young back this Sunday, which is great news for a pass rush that suffered a bit without him. However, on the year, they are 3rd in the league in interceptions, sixth in the league in sacks, 12th in quarterback hurry rate, and will now face a Giants team that is 27th in total yards and 26th in sacks allowed. I think Washington will be a surprisingly high-scoring defensive unit this week.

As of this writing, the Titans have only played one half of football in two weeks, but they look pretty good for a team that was a bit short-handed due to their COVID designations. Another week should allow them to get talented players that Kristian Fulton and Jeffrey Simmons back in the fold. Coming into Tuesday night's game, they are fourth in the league in pressure rate and first in quarterback knockdowns, despite having only four sacks. That tells me that a big week is coming, and who better to have it against than a Texans offensive line that is 28th in sacks allowed. The Titans defense is 7th in the league in drives ending in points, so I expect them to keep this from turning into a truly high-scoring affair, especially with Derrick Henry grinding down a weak Texans Defense, so I feel more confident in using the Titans this weekend.

As I mentioned above, the Dolphins defense held the 49ers to 259 yards of offense, picked off two passes, and registered five sacks. They've also consistently generated a worse pass rush than the Rams throughout the season. That makes me a little bullish on a Rams defense that is 9th in the NFL in pressure rate and tied for first in sacks. The 49ers are 29th in the league in sacks allowed and are clearly discombobulated right now as they recover from a slew of injuries, which means it's the wrong time to have to face Aaron Donald. The Rams defense has been steadily improving on the season, so I look for Los Angeles to take advantage of a beaten-down 49ers team.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 New York Giants Defense vs. WAS 9.1
10 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ BUF 8.9
11 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ CAR 8.4
12 3 New York Jets Defense @ MIA 8.1
13 3 San Francisco 49ers Defense  vs. LAR 7.9
14 3 Denver Broncos Defense @ NE 7.6
15 3 Cleveland Browns Defense @ PIT 7.1

OK, we all know the Giants defense is not that good, but Washington's offense may be worse. They benched Dwayne Haskins and got even worse production from Kyle Allen and Alex Smith. It was great seeing Smith back on the field, but he was hit constantly and he clearly doesn't have the mobility that he used to. The Giants are 11th in pressure rate and 12th in sacks, but this play is simply about attacking one of the worst offenses in the NFL. If Alex Smith starts again, which should be expected, the Giants really only have to worry about stopping Terry McLaurin and can go to work on an offensive line that is 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed with 21 in five games.

The Bills offense has been an elite offense this season, but they looked relatively mediocre in a first half without John Brown and both starting right guard Jon Feliciano and his back-up Brian Winters. That's not a great sign against a Chiefs defense that is 7th in the league in pressure rate. Josh Allen has gotten away with a few questionable throws heading into Tuesday night, and then had those decisions come back to bite him against the Titans on national television. The Chiefs were exposed against the Raiders on Sunday, but this is still a strong defensive unit that blitzes the 6th-most in the league and could cause problems for replacements on the Bills'offensive line. I think this game will be fast-paced and involve a fair share of sacks and turnovers.

The Bears defense has so far lacked the bite of recent seasons, ranking 18th in pressure rate, 16th in sacks, and 23rd in quarterback hurry percentage. They're also 12th in the number of drives ending in scores and will face off against a surprisingly strong Panthers offense that has the fourth-most yards in the league. The Panthers have allowed the 15th-most sacks in the NFL, so it's likely that the Bears bring down Bridgewater a couple of times, but this isn't the slam dunk game people would have assumed once Christian McCaffrey went down.

I know we don't want to pick on the Dolphins offense after what they just did to San Francisco, but we've seen enough of Ryan Fitzpatrick to know that turnovers are always on the table when he takes the field. The Jets' secondary has struggled, but they are 9th in the NFL with five interceptions, tied for third in quarterback knockdowns, and are 17th in the NFL in pressure rate, so they still have a little bit of pep, unlike the offensive side of the ball. Maybe I'm alone here, but I think we could just as easily see the Dolphins throw two interceptions and yield three-plus sacks as I can see them turn in another rout.

This hasn't been a great season for the 49ers, and they've lost some key pieces on the defensive line, but they are still 5th in the NFL in pressure rate and 7th in quarterback knockdowns, which means they're getting after the quarterback. The Rams have only allowed seven sacks total on the season and are third in the league in total yards, so they will score points and keep the 49ers from putting up a massive fantasy total, but we all know how Jared Goff's play diminishes when he's under pressure, so there's a chance we can see Bad Goff on Sunday in a messy game overall. I think the 49ers are too well-coached to come out and lay another egg.

An extra week means the Patriots will most likely be starting Cam Newton in this game instead of Jarrett Stidham, which is, as I'm sure you know, a massive difference. The Broncos defense is still 6th in the NFL in pressure rate and 5th in quarterback hurry percentage, but they banged up enough that I'm not sure they can contain a well-coached Patriots offense for the entire game. I just don't see a lot of upside in the matchup, especially with how the Broncos offense put their defense in bad positions throughout the entire game against the Jets. However, I think the Broncos can get to Cam a couple of times, and I can't envision this being a high-scoring, or exciting, football game.

The Browns have played really solid defense of late, including a strong game in limiting an admittedly average Colts offense. The Steelers have a near-elite offensive line that has allowed only six sacks in four games and should have little problem with a Browns pass rush that has a mediocre 19.6% pressure rate. However, the Browns do lead the league in quarterback hurries with 30, which could cause problems for Ben Roethlisberger since the veteran loves to hold the ball a little longer than he should. Chase Claypool was superb last week, but if Diontae Johnson misses next week, Claypool will really need to deliver against since JuJu Smith-Schuster will likely get a heavy dose of Denzel Ward. I expect this to be a grinding, low-scoring game that should keep the fantasy DST floors relatively safe.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Buffalo Bills Defense vs KC 6.9
17 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ TB 6.3
18 4 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. CHI 6.1
19 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ IND 5.3
20 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. GB 4.9
21 4 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ DAL 4.5
22 4 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. DET 4.2

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 6 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Houston Texans Defense @ TEN 3.8
24 5 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. BAL 3.1
25 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ JAX 2.7
26 5 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs ARI 2.1
27 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ MIN 1.2
28 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. ATL 0.9
29 5 New Orleans Saints Defense BYE 0.4
30 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense BYE 0.3
31 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Seattle Seahawks Defense BYE 0.0


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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Matchups and Start/Sit 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 5 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

After successfully predicting eight out of the top ten defenses last week, we may be starting to hit our groove. Some of them felt a bit like gimmes, but the Jets in the top-10 was the subject of criticism and watching the Bills round into form a bit was also nice. The only two outliers here were my faith in the Seahawks Defense to capitalize on Ryan Fitzpatrick's mistakes, and my belief that the Cardinals Defense could curtail the Christian McCaffrey-less Panthers. However, the Cam Newton news on Saturday (after the rankings were published) also drastically shifted the defensive landscape.

Now four weeks in, certain stats have started to stabilize and we have a good idea that the limited preseason may be impacting defenses more than offenses. Entering Monday night, teams had scored 3,151 points, which was already the most through the first month of any season in the Super Bowl era. On top of that, there has been a combined average of 13.65 penalties per game, down from an average of 18.54 through the same stretch last season. All of this is causing offenses to put up video game numbers, which means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weakpoints and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 5 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 5 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 5 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 5. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 5 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 5 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense  vs.PHI 14.1
2 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. DEN 13.4
3 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. CIN 12.1
4 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ WAS 11.4

Having a game postponed due to positive COVID tests is never a good thing, but it did give the Steelers an extra few days to gameplan for Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Coming into Sunday's victory over to the 49ers, the Eagles offense was a shell of itself. Repeated injuries to their offensive line, as well as to Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, and Jalen Reagor left Wentz with practice squad wide receivers. Even though the Eagles scored 25 points and won the game on Sunday night, they only gained 267 yards of total offense against a defense that has been decimated by injuries. Alshon Jeffrey may come back next week, but he's going to be incredibly rusty, and the Eagles offensive line will still be the walking wounded, especially with the revelation that Lane Johnson will have to play the entire season through injury. Through four games, the Eagles are allowing a tremendous amount of pressure, tied for 29th in the NFL in sacks allowed, and the Steelers lead the league in blitz percentage (51.2%) and pressure rate (46.5%). San Francisco was able to get to Wentz three times despite losing yet another defensive lineman (Ezekiel Ansah) to injury, so I expect the Steelers to make his life miserable this weekend.

Holding the Chiefs offense in check the way the Patriots did during the first half on Monday night was a truly impressive feat; however, I'm not sure we should have expected much different from Bill Belichick. Yes, the Chiefs wound up with 26 points and the win, but their offense was stalled way more than usual. Belichick has always been an incredible defensive coach, but now his task gets significantly easier on Sunday against Brett Rypien (most likely) and the Denver Broncos. Fresh off of throwing three interceptions and almost giving the game away against the Jets, Rypien looks like fresh meat to the Patriots coaching staff. The Patriots may only have six sacks on the season, but they are sixth in the NFL in pressure rate at 26.9% and seventh in the league with 19 quarterback hurries, numbers that are more impressive when you consider that three of the four teams the Patriots have played are in the top-13 in pressure allowed. Meanwhile, the Broncos are 28th in the league with 13 sacks allowed and simply don't have the playmakers to scare these Patriots defenders. Yes, Jerry Jeudy will be good, but he's not somebody that is going to consistently get the better of Stephon Gilmore right now. I expect the Patriots to control this game and cause lots of problems for Rypien. UPDATE: Stephone Gilmore recently tested positive for COVID, which will likely downgrade this defense, slightly, when I update the rankings after Thursday's game. 

The Ravens surprisingly allowed 343 total yards to Washington in their 31-17 victory on Sunday, coming away with only one sack and one turnover against Dwayne Haskins, who had been on the verge of demotion before the game began. To make matters more troubling, Washington is currently 25th in the league with 13 sacks allowed, so the fact that the Ravens couldn't get to Haskins often is mildly concerning and a microcosm of their larger issues. On the season, the Ravens are tied for a disappointing 15th in the league with nine sacks and are 22nd with only a 20.4% pressure rate. Those numbers simply aren't going to do it. However, the Bengals may be just what the doctor ordered. Despite their victory against Jacksonville, and Joe Mixon's big day, the Bengals offensive line has been horrendous. They get very little push in the running game and are 31st in the league with 15 sacks allowed. I'm betting on the talent the Ravens have on defense, and if they can't come away with multiple sacks this weekend, it may be time to move them out of the elite tier.

After getting shellacked in the first half against the Bills, the Rams defense has really started to wake up. They were getting no pressure on the quarterback early in the season, but are now fifth in the NFL in sacks and 17th in pressure rate, which is a major improvement over the last two weeks. They now get to face the aforementioned Washington offense, which should be no contest for this Rams defense. With Jalen Ramsey more than capable of making life hard on Terry McLaurin, Haskins will need to consistently move the ball with his other options on offense. I simply don't seem that happening against a Rams defense that is playing fast and hungry. They got to Daniel Jones five times on Sunday, and I expect more of the same this week. Remember, Dwayne Haskins was on the verge of being benched for Kyle Allen. One mediocre game doesn't all of the sudden make him a much better quarterback.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense  vs. MIA 11.1
6 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ CHI 10.6
7 2 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. CLE 10.1
8 2 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ NYJ 9.8

As I mentioned above, the 49ers just suffered yet another defensive injury, but they are also second in the NFL with a 30.9% pressure rate and held the Eagles to under 300 yards of total offense. The good news for the 49ers is that there is a chance they get linebacker Dre Greenlaw and cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley, K'Waun Williams, and Ahkello Witherspoon back in time for the game against Miami. While those won't help their decimated pass rush, getting some starters back in the secondary will be crucial for a match-up against pass-happy Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins. The Harvard graduate as thrown the third-most interceptions in the league, but the Dolphins have only allowed six sacks per game, so that San Francisco pressure rate will be put to the test. I expect the 49ers to grind this game out on the ground, not giving Miami a chance to run as many plays as they did this weekend. That will lead to this being a low-scoring game with a Fitz interception or two thrown into the mix for a solid overall game at the office of the Niners defense.

While the Chargers put up 31 points against the Bucs on Sunday, only 24 of those came against the defense, and, as mentioned above, scoring is up across the league, so we can't judge a defense only by the amount of points they give up. The Bucs limited the Chargers to 324 total yards; yet, 125 of them came on two touchdowns passes by Justin Herbert. Now, those still count, but that means, outside of two big plays, the Bucs held the Chargers to 199 yards on 48 plays, or 4.1 yards per play. The only reason I bring that up is that the Chicago Bears with Nick Foles are not the kind of explosive offense to take advantage of the Bucs' tendency to give up big plays. However, they also aren't the type of offense to give up a ton of sacks, as they held the Colts high-pressure defense to only one. They also only put up 11 points in a loss. I don't think the Bears are going to do much damage on offense and the Bucs are currently fourth in the NFL in sacks and 3rd in pressure rate (29.9%), so they'll likely get to Foles once or twice and at least pressure him into some bad throws since I expect the Bears to be playing from behind.

Losing Nick Chubb is a major blow for the Browns offense. Yes, they still have Kareem Hunt, but those two as a tandem never gave the defense a chance to breathe. While Hunt is explosive, he doesn't have Chubb's power inside and isn't as effective in goal-line situations. The rushing offense is absolutely crucial to the Browns' success because it puts less pressure on the erratic play of Baker Mayfield. In Sunday's win, the Browns ran for 307 of their 508 total yards. That's going to be a lot harder to do against a Colts defense that is 6th in the NFL with 3.6 yards allowed per attempt and tops in the league by allowing only 26.7% of drives end in points. If the Browns aren't able to control the game on the ground and use it to set up play-action then Mayfield is going to have to put more weight on his own shoulders against a Colts defense that is 4th in the league in pressure rate (27.9%), tied for 8th in sacks, and tied for 10th in quarterback hurries. A game where Baker throws more usually means more interceptions and less high-scoring offense, especially against a defense that isn't allowing many points to begin with.

It's pretty clear after four weeks that you play your defenses against the Jets. Even the Browns Defense that had lost nearly every impact starter other than Bradley Chubb still put up a reasonable performance. Believe it or not, this Cardinals defense is better. They are tied for 6th in the league with 11 sacks and are 15th in drives that end in a score. They're relatively average in both rushing and passing defense, but they have been a bit weaker against the run this year,  a fact which shouldn't hurt them much against Frank Gore and the Jets. The Cardinals will also likely get safety Budda Baker back this week, which only makes them a stronger play. On the other side of the ball, I simply can't see the Jets Defense stopping Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, provided the veteran receiver is healed enough from a foot injury that clearly hampered him against Carolina. If the Cardinals are scoring points, that will put the Jets in catch-up mode, and they simply don't have the offensive line to consistently protect Darnold in that situation. The young signal-caller has made some great plays this year, but is also making more head-scratching mistakes as a result of his dismal supporting cast. I expect more of the latter on Sunday.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Buffalo Bills Defense @ TEN 9.5
10 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. LV 9.4
11 3 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. BUF 8.5
12 3 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. IND 8.2
13 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. LAC 7.9
14 3 Denver Broncos Defense @ NE 7.4
15 3 Houston Texans Defense vs. JAX 7.1

The Bills defense is starting to come around. They kept Raiders star Josh Jacobs in check for much of Sunday afternoon and stifled an admittedly banged up Raiders offense until a garbage-time touchdown at the end of the game. However, this is a different task. The Bills are still only 16th in the NFL in yards allowed per carry with 4.4, and the Titans will bring bruiser Derrick Henry with them on Sunday. Now, the Titans offensive line hasn't been great and they're currently 27th in the league with only 3.8 yards per attempt, but we know Henry's talent and the Bills also lost linebacker Matt Milano to injury on Sunday, so if he's unable to play, this advantage swings even more to Tennessee. With news that wide receiver A.J. Brown is on track to return Week 5, this becomes a more dangerous Titans offense. Considering they've only allowed four sacks on the year, I don't expect the Bills to get to Ryan Tannehill that much, which means this could be a slow, low-scoring game that won't yield too many fantasy points. UPDATE: With more Titans testing positive for COVID, this game has a real chance to be postponed or outright canceled (with Tennessee forfeiting) since the Titans have already had a bye. Get a back-up option ready. 

The Chiefs just came out of that Monday night game with a dominating win over the Patriots, even though it was a version without Cam Newton. However, the Chiefs defense is 9th in the NFL in pressure rate, fifth in the NFL in sacks, and third in interceptions. That opportunistic nature is going to be important against a Raiders offensive line that's banged up and looked to tire in the second half against the Bills. What's more, it's unclear if the Raiders will get Henry Ruggs or Bryan Edwards back for this game, leaving Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow as the main pass-catching options. If that's the case, the Chiefs defense may move up in the rankings, but I think Derek Carr will be throwing in catch-up mode all game long, which will lead to garbage points, but also a lot of turnovers and sacks.

The Bills offense has been on fire to start the season, but they've also not played a defense that is the same caliber as the Titans. Add to that that the Titans had extra days to prepare for this Bills team, and you could see the first rough Sunday for this Buffalo offense. The Bills offensive line is without Jon Feliciano and also lost Brian Winters on Sunday; that's not great for a line that is already 18th in the league in sacks allowed. The Titans may only have four sacks, but they are 5th in the NFL in pressure rate and second in quarterback knockdowns, so they are likely going to be in Josh Allen's face. The quarterback's near-injury and horrible fourth-quarter sack on Sunday show that there are still chinks in his armor. If the Titans can get pressure on him, they can turn some of that Hero Ball mentality into some turnovers, which will be crucial in what should be a low-scoring game. UPDATE: With more Titans testing positive for COVID, this game has a real chance to be postponed or outright canceled (with Tennessee forfeiting) since the Titans have already had a bye. Get a back-up option ready. 

The Browns defense is decidedly average when it comes to pressure rate (16th) and quarterback knockdowns (30th), but they are tops in the league in quarterback hurries and 8th in yards allowed per rushing attempt at 3.9 yards. Those last two stats are particularly important in this game because Phillip Rivers remains relatively immobile, and the Colts will try to win this on the ground. TY Hilton has looked like a shell of his former self and has yet to top 87 yards in a game since Andrew Luck retired. If the Colts can't get Jonathan Taylor going against a solid run defense, then I expect a fair share of stalled drives and punts. The Colts offensive line is good enough to prevent many sacks, but I expect an interception from the Browns and a really ugly game without many points scored.

The Saints secondary is beyond banged up right now, and Justin Herbert actually looks pretty good. However, the loss of Austin Ekeler hurts the Chargers offense enough to keep the Saints in play in deeper leagues. The Saints had done a decent job containing the Lions, limiting them to 281 yards on the day, 112 of which came on two scoring drives when the game was essentially already decided. Still, this is a team that's 27th in the league in pressure rate and 28th in drives ending in points allowed with 53.1%, so there is cause for concern. If the Saints secondary, particularly Marshon Lattimore, can come back healthy on Sunday, then I like them to take advantage of a banged-up Chargers team and a rookie quarterback. If not, I would stay away from this game.

This ranking is assuming that Cam Newton misses another week since he was diagnosed with COVID-19, which has a 14-day quarantine period. With Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham under center, this offense simply isn't scary. The Broncos defense is banged up enough that I'm not sure they can contain a well-coached Patriots offense for the entire game, so I just don't see a lot of upside in the matchup, especially with how the Broncos offense but their defense in bad positions throughout the entire game against the Jets. However, I think a few turnovers are in store with those either of those players at quarterback, and I can't envision this being a high-scoring, or exciting, football game.

Don't look now, but we have a Replacement Coach Narrative. After the Texans fired Bill O'Brien, there was a report that the Texans players felt a sense of relief. They will now be playing for Romeo Crennell, the defensive coordinator, who appears well-loved in the locker room. However, that's not reason enough to want to play them. What is the reason is that the Jaguars are 27th in the league in sacks allowed and the Texans are tied for 10th in the league in sacks. The Texans blitz the 7th most in the league, which could confuse a mediocre Jaguars offensive line and cause issues for Gardner Minshew, who already has four interceptions on the year. I expect the Texans to be fired up and think they could dominate the Jaguars in this game.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. NYG 7.0
17 4 New York Jets Defense vs. ARI 6.6
18 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. MIN 6.5
19 4 Chicago Bears Defense vs. TB 5.2
20 4 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ PIT 4.9
21 4 Washington Football Team Defense vs. BAL 4.5
22 4 Miami Dolphins Defense @ SF 4.2

Yes, I know the Cowboys are playing the Giants, but they just gave up over 500 yards to the Browns and have given up 1,722 yards through four games, over 430 per game. The fact that they're playing the Giants gives them some upside for sacks and turnovers, but this is also a really bad defense that could give up 20+ points easily in this game.

The Jets run defense is solid, but they're secondary is not equipped to handle Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. They may notch a sack or two, which can keep them interesting in super deep leagues, but this isn't a match-up I would be targeting.

Jamaal Adams appears to be another week away from returning, so that makes the Seahawks secondary vulnerable to Adam Thielen and emerging Justin Jefferson. I expect the Seahawks to score at will against Minnesota, which will lead to lots of garbage time points and yards for the Vikings offense. The Seahawks will likely get enough sacks to keep them in deep league consideration, but I don't love the play this week.

The Bears defense simply doesn't have the bite it's had in year's past. They are 28th in the league in pressure rate and have a mediocre eight sacks over four games. They rarely blitz and simply aren't getting pressure with their front four, especially against a Bucs offensive line that has allowed five total sacks in four games. With the way Tom Brady just torched a better Chargers secondary, I wouldn't feel comfortable lining up the Bears against him this week, even with Chris Godwin likely to miss another week.

The Eagles defense woke up against an injured Niners team on Sunday night, and I think this defense is one to keep an eye on now that they're starting to get healthy. I'm just not interested in them this week. Facing Nick Mullens, Jerrick McKinnon, and the Niners, even with George Kittle, is much different than facing this Steelers offense. Additionally, I think the Steelers defense is going to have a field day with the Eagles offensive line, which will likely lead to turnovers and a lot of bad spots for the Eagles defense. That's never good for fantasy production.

Michael Thomas is likely to return this week, and the Chargers just allowed 38 points to a Tampa Bay offense without Chris Godwin. Are you really confident in rolling them out against a fully healthy Saints offense?

Washington gets a tremendous amount of pressure, which keeps them from the bottom tier, but this isn't going to be a game you want to play them. They are banged up on the defensive line and don't have the secondary talent to keep this Ravens team from running up 30+ points.

The Dolphins squeeze into the bottom of this tier because we still don't know who is suiting up for San Francisco. If Jimmy Garropollo, Raheem Mostert, and/or Deebo Samuel come back, this is an entirely different offense and one that I am not comfortable attacking with the Dolphins and their mediocre pass rush.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 5 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ NO 3.9
24 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. CAR 3.1
25 5 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ BAL 2.5
26 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ HOU 2.4
27 5 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. ATL 1.5
28 5 New York Giants Defense @ DAL 0.8
29 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ SEA 0.4
30 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense @ KC 0.3
31 5 Detroit Lions Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Green Bay Packers Defense BYE 0.0


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Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

More Fantasy Football Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




Categories
2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Matchups and Start/Sit Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 4 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Another week, and another six out of the top 10 defenses correct. Some of the top ones were gimmes, and I'm a little surprised by how the Chargers Defense laid an egg versus Carolina and the way the Bills Defense just seemed totally lost against the Rams in the second half. I'm happy I trusted my gut with Cleveland despite most experts having them in the mid-teens, and it's becoming clear which teams we really want to target now with our defenses.

After three weeks, we're starting to get a better sense of which offensive lines are truly weakpoints and which teams are playing at a pace that's too slow to really capitalize on for defensive streamers. We're starting to learn which teams are going to be blitz-heavy and which offenses may consistently put their defenses in bad positions. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 4 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 4 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 4 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 4. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 4 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 4 pickup or add.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

UPDATED FRIDAY MORNING 9:30 AM ET

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense   @ WAS 14.1
2 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense  vs. PHI 13.0
3 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense  vs. LAC 12.1
4 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. NYG 11.9

A week after facing the Kansas City Chiefs and giving up 517 total yards, the Baltimore defense gets to get back to work against Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Football Team. For two weeks, Haskins looked moderately better than what we saw in 2019, and the team was showing some signs of life, but he really crashed down to earth against the Browns on Sunday, throwing three interceptions and finishing with a 30.8 QBR. While the Ravens were unable to get much pressure on Patrick Mahomes on Monday night, we know not to judge a defense solely by how it handles the Chiefs. The Ravens Defense is filled with talent and should absolutely capitalize on Haskins and an offense without many playmakers. Look for the Ravens to take out their frustration repeatedly on Sunday.

The 49ers defense may be banged up, but this team still has tons of talent and finished as the 5th ranked defense after limiting the Giants to nine points while notching two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. The 49ers suffered yet another injury on Sunday as starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley left with a concussion, but the Eagles will come into this game with a similarly hobbled offensive line that has allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL through three games. To add insult to injury, the Eagles' receiving corps took a hit on Sunday after both DeSean Jackson and Dallas Goedert were unable to finish the game. Goedert is expected to miss "some time," and Jackson seems unlikely to play Sunday, which will mean that, since Alshon Jeffrey still seems like he's another week or so away, the Eagles will face San Francisco with Zach Ertz and Greg Ward and little else. Doug Pederson is already talking about ways to get Carson Wentz out of his own head, and the Eagles have looked like a sloppy mess all season, even allowing Cincinnati to finish as the 13th ranked defense, fueled by three sacks and two interceptions. Even injured, this 49ers defense is worlds better than what the Bengals are putting out on the field. If the Eagles can't get healthy in time for Sunday, it's going to be a long day.

So let's see, the Carolina Panthers just held the Chargers to 16 points and finished as the 7th ranked defense after getting shredded by the Bucs and Raiders. Justin Herbert may have an exciting future ahead of him, but he's clearly still prone to rookie mistakes, and it cost the Chargers last week. Tampa Bay is an elite run defense, giving up only 2.9 yards per carry, so the Chargers will need to rely on Herbert to move the ball through the air. That's going to open him up to a Bucs pass rush that is second in the league in blitz rate (43.8%), third in the NFL in sacks, and second in the league in tackles for a loss. Bryan Bulaga (back), Mike Williams (hamstring), and Trai Turner (groin) all left Sunday's game injured and have been unable to practice so far this week, which is only going to make Herbert more vulnerable against an opportunistic defense.

The Rams may have been burned by Josh Allen repeatedly on Sunday, but that defensive line also tormented him in the second half of the game. That's a good sign since this defense has underperformed in terms of pressure so far this season, registering only a 19% pressure rate and seven sacks on the season. However, the matchup is too good to ignore. The Giants don't have a strong enough running game to keep the Rams' defensive line honest, which means Aaron Donald and company can come after an offensive line that is 24th in the NFL with nine sacks allowed on the season. The Rams' secondary has issues, but the Giants offense doesn't have near the same firepower as the Bills do to take advantage of issues. In fact, Daniel Jones has thrown four interceptions already this season, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him add to that total on Sunday.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Indianapolis Colts Defense  @ CHI 11.3
6 2 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ MIA 11.1
7 2 Denver Broncos Defense vs. NYJ 10.4
8 2 Buffalo Bills Defense @ LV 10.2

I said last week that the loss of Malik Hooker could prove detrimental to the Colts when they face an offense that can really air it out against them; however, potentially getting starting corner Rock Ya-Sin back could help. Even with Nick Foles, I'm not convinced the Bears are that offense. Foles certainly looked more competent than Mitchell Trubisky, but he has his own flaws as a passer, and the Colts are currently 2nd in the NFL with a 35.5% pressure rate and seventh in the league with nine sacks through the first three games. If the Colts secondary was in better health, I'd be even more confident about this, but the Bears just lost a dynamic weapon in Tarik Cohen and Anthony Miller seems to have been demoted to a non-factor, so the offense is basically David Montgomery and Allen Robinson with Foles. There's some talent there, but I expect the Colts' pressure to make Foles uncomfortable and create a few turnover opportunities in what could turn into a low-scoring slugfest between two solid defenses with good running backs.

The Seahawks may have given up 31 points to the Cowboys on Sunday, but they finished as the 8th ranked defense thanks to two sacks, two interceptions, a safety, and a blocked field goal. All of which just goes to show what an opportunistic defense they are and how even average or slightly above average defenses can be helped by their elite offense piling on points and forcing teams to keep up. That's especially true this week. I expect the Seahawks offense to dismantle the Dolphins Defense while the Seahawks defense, which is third in the NFL with only 3.0 yards per carry allowed, shuts down the Miami running game. That will put gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick in catch-up mode against a team that's best in the league in quarterback knockdowns, tied for second in the league in interceptions, and tied for eighth in quarterback hurries, despite only notching five sacks. Fitzpatrick may throw for tons of yards and a handful of points, but he's going to get sacked and likely turn the ball over a few times. UPDATE: With Jamaal Adams and starting linebacker Jordyn Brooks likely out for this game, it downgrades the Seahawks a little since the Dolphins will clearly try to get Mike Gesicki involved frequently in the middle of the field now. 

It's pretty clear after three weeks that you play your defenses against the Jets, but the Broncos defense just hasn't been great to start the season. There is still talent on that defense, but losing Von Miller, A.J. Bouye, and now Jurrell Casey takes a bit of the teeth out of a once-ferocious unit. Still, the Jets offense is truly inept, and, to make matters worse for them, starting left tackle Mekhi Bechton is being evaluated for a shoulder injury and may miss this Sunday's game, which would damage an already fragile offense. The Broncos defense is tied for 9th in the league in quarterback knockdowns, so despite their mediocre pressure and sack totals, they may be able to create some pressure against a depleted Jets offensive line. What this ranking really comes down to is that this is likely to be an ugly game that few people will actually enjoy watching, but should be low-scoring enough to lead to a solid defensive night for the Broncos. WHOOPS. The defense played relatively well last night, but a blown sack led to a long Sam Darnold touchdown and Bretty Rypien's repeated mistakes put the defense in bad positions throughout the night. 

Something is not right with the Bills defense. A lot of it is health-related. Tremaine Edmunds came back on Sunday, but was out of the game and being monitored by the training staff a few times, and the Bills also lost Micah Hyde in the middle of the game to an ankle injury. However, both men are expected to play on Sunday after practicing this week, and it seems like the Bills may also get starting cornerback Josh Norman back, which would be huge news for a defense that has really struggled with its CB2 play. That is especially important with a banged-up Raiders passing attack coming to town. The Raiders are currently top-five in quarterback rating and expected points contributed by the passing offense; however, both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards and likely to miss this Sunday's game, leaving the starting wide receivers as Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones (Revenge Game?). The Patriots also provided a clear blueprint for how to defend this passing attack, and the Raiders have the most fumbles lost in the NFL through the first three weeks, so it's possible that the Bills defense can capitalize on the injuries and mistakes. With how dominant the Bills defensive units have been since this coaching staff has taken over, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can right the ship.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ CAR 9.7
10 3 New York Jets Defense vs. DEN 9.1
11 3 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. TB 8.3
12 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs NE 8.2
13 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ SF 7.6
14 3 Chicago Bears Defense vs. IND 7.4
15 3 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense  @ CIN 7.1

I know the Panthers won last week without Christian McCaffrey, but let's not all of the sudden forget the way in which losing him saps this team of so much firepower. We've also started to see that this Cardinals defense is not the doormat that many people assumed it would be because of the popular narrative of how they were unable to contain tight ends last year. Arizona is fifth in the league with 11 sacks despite a mediocre pressure rate and quarterback knockdown totals, which tells me that they're not getting consistent pressure but are making the most of the pressure they get. Still their secondary has been strong, allowing only 6.2 net yards gained per pass attempt, which is good for 13th in the league. With Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense likely to score early and often against the Panthers Defense, Teddy Bridgewater will be under a lot of pressure to push the ball down the field, and he's yet to show that he can be a consistent playmaker. I expect a couple of turnovers in this game for the Cardinals defense and I'd be surprised if the Panthers score over 20 points.

The Jets may be bad on offense, but their defensive line is certainly still solid. The Jets are 12th in the NFL with a 24.3% pressure rate and sixth in the league with 12 quarterback knockdowns. They will now be facing a Broncos offensive line that is 30th in the league with 13 sacks allowed and just lost their starting right tackle Elijah Wilkerson, who was already a back-up thrust into action due to COVID opt-outs. With Brett Rypien now looking like the starting quarterback for the Broncos, this should be an ugly game between two of the worst offenses in the NFL. The Jets defense may actually keep this team in the game and be a sneaky fantasy play. They gave up a lot of points and surprisingly got gashed by a big Melvin Gordon run at the end of the game, but the interceptions and defensive touchdown are always something you like to see. 

Yes, the Chargers just suffered a shocking loss to the Panthers. However, that doesn't change the talent that this defense possesses and the fact that they have the fifth-best pressure rate in the NFL (27.3%) and the second-most quarterback hurries at 22. If there's one thing we all know about Tom Brady, it's that he hates being pressured and hit. With Chris Godwin leaving Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, there's a good chance that Brady is down one elite weapon against two Pro Bowl corners in Casey Heyward and Chris Harris Jr., provided Harris Jr. is fully recovered from his own foot injury. The Bucs still have the pieces to put points on the board, but they only scored 23 points in Week 1 when Godwin left early and 28 points last week, which included a Godwin touchdown, so it's not as if this offense is setting the world on fire. In fact, they are 23rd in total yards and 21st in percentage of drives that end in a score, so it's not a given that they are going to hang a huge amount of points on a good defense. Don't be surprised if the Chargers get to Brady for a few sacks and maybe an interception as well.

The Chiefs just came out of that Monday night game with a dominating win over the Ravens in which they held Baltimore to 20 points, 228 yards of total offense, and sacked Lamar Jackson four times. If they can do that to the Ravens, then why not the Patriots? Yes, Cam Newton has looked good, and the Patriots are 3-0, but they've also played two poor defenses in the Dolphins and Raiders, and got into a shootout with an average Seahawks defense. The Patriots don't have the rushing attack that the Ravens do and have only slightly better receivers. Plus, you can make a strong case that the Ravens defense is better than New England's defense which means the Patriots offense, which is 21st in the NFL in possessions that lead to points, will be chasing 30+ points as well. The Chiefs Defense is fourth in the league in pressure rate, sixth in sacks, and seventh in quarterback hurries, so I expect that they make this hard on Cam Newton and likely force a couple of turnovers to go along with some sacks. However, if Chris Jones, who has only had limited practices this week, is unable to go, it would be a big loss against Cam.

The Eagles defense is starting to get healthy and they had eight sacks against the Bengals last week, plus 10 tackles for a loss, and 18 quarterback hits. They will face a 49ers team that just lost another offensive weapon as Jerrick McKinnon seems unlikely to play this week with a rib injury. Nick Mullens looks good in relief on Sunday, and the team should get George Kittle back, so this won't be a cakewalk. Plus, I expect the Eagles offense to put the defense in some bad spots on Sunday; however, I think the defense can create some pressure, which will raise the floor of their fantasy point total.

The Bears had a rough task against the Falcons on Sunday, and will likely be in another slugfest this week; however, I expect this one to be slower and more focused on the Colts' dominant offensive line and rising star Jonathan Taylor. The Colts throw the eighth-fewest passes of any team in the NFL and have the eighth-most rushing attempts. The Bears have also allowed the 7th-most yards per carry in the league at 5.0, so it makes sense for the Colts to pound the ball. To make matters worse for the Chicago defense, the Colts have only allowed three sacks on the year, and the Bears have had below-average pressure metrics with the 31st ranked 10.4% pressure rate despite seven sacks on the season. Like the Steelers above, the pace of this game is likely going to limit the Bears' chances for sacks, but it should keep the game relatively low-scoring, and there is always a chance for a Phillip Rivers interception to shift the tide of the game.

As I mentioned above, the Eagles were in the backfield a ton against the Bengals on Sunday. On the season, the Jaguars are better than the Eagles with a 24.2% pressure rate (13th in the league) and 11 quarterback knockdowns (tied for 7th). If the Eagles were able to do that to the Bengals, then I expect the Jaguars to be able to do something similar; however, their upside is limited by the fact that Joe Burrow still threw no interceptions despite the pressure, and the Jaguars secondary could get burned by his up-tempo Bengals offense that is healthier than what the Eagles trotted out onto the field last Sunday.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense vs. JAX 6.9
17 4 New Orleans Saints Defense @ DET 6.4
18 4 Houston Texans Defense vs. MIN 6.2
19 4 New England Patriots Defense @ KC 5.9
20 4 Washington Football Team Defense vs. BAL 5.4
21 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. CLE 4.8
22 4 New York Giants Defense @ LAR 4.4

The Bengals are 28th in the NFL in pressure rate with a 14.9% rate and have only five sacks on the year and one quarterback knockdown on the year. However, they finished as the 13th ranked defense in Week 3 against the Eagles and will now face the Jaguars, who are 28th in the NFL in sacks allowed with 10, only one fewer than the Eagles. I basically expect this game to play out much like the Eagles game did last Sunday, which keeps the Bengals on the radar in deep leagues.

Kenny Golladay is back for the Lions, which makes this a little bit less of an appealing matchup than it would have been earlier in the season. The Saints also have an alarmingly low 17.2% pressure rate (27th in the league), and 53.1% of the offensive drives against them have ended in a score, the 5th-worst mark in the league. With the secondary playing well below levels of previous years, this could be a high-scoring game against Matthew Stafford and a healthy Lions receiving corps.

The Texans' defense has been bad, allowing scores on 58.6% of offensive possessions, which is second-worst in the league. They are also 23rd in the league with a 19.4% pressure rate and have only seven sacks, four quarterback knockdowns, and nine hurries on the year. However, as we mentioned with the Titans, facing the Vikings can do wonders for a team's defense. Kirk Cousins has already thrown six interceptions and the offense has an 8.2% sack percentage, which is 26th in the league. JJ Watt alone should be able to make Cousins' life miserable on Sunday, which will make the Texans a sneaky defensive option.

Bill Belichick is an elite defensive mind and completely shut down the Raiders offense last week. Yet, going into Arrowhead and stopping Patrick Mahomes and crew is a whole other ballgame. I expect the Patriots to make this a game and cause a mistake or two, but I don't think they have the firepower to stay with the Chiefs. The Chiefs have also allowed only two sacks on the year and Mahomes has thrown zero interceptions, so it's going to be hard for the Patriots defense to add many extra points to their fantasy total in this one.

Washington has a tough task on its hands on Sunday, but the Chiefs showed that it can be done, sacking Jackson four times. Washington's defense may not be great overall, but its pass rush is near the tops in the league, with the seventh-best pressure rate (26.1%), the second-most sacks (13), and the ninth-best hurry rate (11.8%). I expect the Ravens to score and win this game, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Washington defensive line caused a few problems along the way.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense vs. BUF 4.1
24 5 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. ATL 3.3
25 5 Cleveland Browns Defense @ DAL 3.1
26 5 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. ARI 3.0
27 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ HOU 2.8
28 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ GB 1.5
29 5 Detroit Lions Defense vs. NO .4
30 5 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. SEA 0.3
31 5 Tennessee Titans Defense BYE 0.0
32 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense BYE 0.0


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Week 3 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

About ten minutes into Week 2, it became clear that the week for fantasy teams would simply be a matter of luck and survival. Some of the NFL's top players on both offense and defense went down with season-ending or multi-week injuries, drastically changing a number of matchups in mere minutes. While injuries are part of the nature of football, it was a particularly devastating week of injuries and one that will have us re-evaluating many of the defensive rankings in weeks to come.

With the chaos in mind, I'm relatively satisfied with getting six of the top 10 defenses correctly for the week. In hindsight, I wish I had trusted the Colts' Week 1 pressure rate a little more against a mediocre Minnesota offense, I may have been too high on the Titans new-look defensive line, and the Bills' defensive injuries impacted the overall scheme more than I had anticipated. So, we will readjust using the new information at our fingertips, and see if we can get a little more accurate this week.

Remember that picking the right defense is not about identifying who will allow the fewest points, but who will cause the most turnovers or tally the most sacks since that has a higher correlation to weekly fantasy DST leaders. That means that, as much these rankings are about the talent on the defensive side of the ball, it is equally about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side.

 

Week 3 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Below are my Week 3 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 3 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 3. I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 3 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 3 pickup or add.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

UPDATED: THURSDAY 4:00 PM

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense  vs. HOU 14.1
2 1 Indianapolis Colts Defense  vs. NYJ 13.6
3 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense  @ NYG 12.7
4 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense  @ DEN 11.7

Yes, the Steelers haven't played the best offenses with wins over the Giants and the Courtland Sutton and Drew Lock-less Denver Broncos, but you can't argue with the talent on this defense. They're first in the league with a 42.6% pressure rate (according to Pro Football Reference) and second in the league with 10 sacks through two games. They're also second in the league with three interceptions. They now face a Texans offense that is 21st in the NFL with an 11.1% turnover rate and has allowed a league-high eight sacks. Even if Deshaun Watson winds up putting points on the board, the Steelers are going to be in the backfield all game, which will lead to sacks and turnovers and that is what we want to target when choosing a fantasy defense.

Man, the Jets are not a good football team. The 49ers were already without George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, but they lost their starting quarterback, starting running back, and two starting defensive ends in the first half of the game against the Jets and still won 31-13. Without Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder, there simply wasn't enough to keep the 49ers guessing on defense. It's possible that Crowder is back on Sunday, but the Jets also lost Chris Hogan and Breshad Perriman to injury this week, which means they would still be extremely short-handed when they take on a Colts defense that is 4th in the NFL with a 33.3% pressure rate and third in the league with seven sacks. Considering the Jets also lost their starting center, Connor McGovern, on Sunday, the Colts' pressure rate could be even more of a factor. While the Colts did lose Malik Hooker to a torn achilles tendon, it likely won't impact the team's ability to stop the undermanned Jets; however, it's a major blow to their long-term outlook.

Talk about two teams limping into a game against one another. The New York Giants, much like the Panthers, just lost their top player in running back Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL; however, the 49ers had defensive stars Joey Bosa and Solomon Thomas leave the game early with apparent ACL injuries, and they're already missing pass rusher Dee Ford. it's a brutal blow to both teams. However, I think the 49ers' defense is better positioned to absorb the losses given the depth on their defense. The Giants without Saquon are just an entirely different offense and one in which the 49ers won't have to fear the run. That will put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Daniel Jones, and while he may put up a lot of yards and some points, he will likely be on his back a lot since the Giants are second-worst in the league with seven sacks allowed through two games. A young quarterback behind a bad offensive line with no running back help is almost always going to lead to poor decisions and turnovers.

Tampa Bay is an elite run defense. They proved that last year and continue to show it this year by allowing only 2.9 yards per carry on 58 rushes, despite also facing Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and Christian McCaffrey for three quarters before he got hurt. In addition to that, the Bucs have registered a slightly below-average 21% pressure rate (18th in the league) but have six sacks (tied for fourth). On Sunday, they will face a Broncos team that is second-worst in the league with seven sacks allowed and will be without Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, and Phillip Lindsay. Even at full strength, the Broncos were likely going to find it hard to run on the Bucs, but now they will also have to try to beat them through the air with two rookie wide receivers and Jeff Driskel at quarterback. That's a matchup that you're going to want to target.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Buffalo Bills Defense  vs. LAR 11.5
6 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. CAR 11.4
7 2 Washington Football Team Defense @ CLE 10.3
8 2 Cleveland Browns Defense  vs. WAS 9.9

The Bills defense has played only two quarters this season with star linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards. The impact was obvious on Sunday as you watched Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki just toy with thee backups. However, both men have gotten limited practices in to begin the week so there is optimism that they will be back in time for the showdown against the Rams. That's good news for the Bills, who rely on their linebackers to not only cover the middle of the field but in their blitz packages. The Bills have blitzed the 6th-most in the NFL so far, so getting those weapons back will be crucial for them. While the Rams are currently 2-0, with wins over the Cowboys and short-handed Eagles, let's not forget who Jared Goff has proven himself to be in his NFL career. With a clean pocket, he is a talented passer; however, he is prone to collapses and boneheaded throws. A healthy Bills defense will be a much bigger test than anything he has seen so far this season, especially after starting right guard Joe Noteboom left Sunday's win with a calf injury and didn't return.

The Chargers defense was impressive in keeping the Chiefs offense off the scoreboard for much of Sunday afternoon, and they are also 5th in the league with a 29.9% pressure rate and have two sacks in each game. The talent on this defense is clearly top-notch and they will now get to face a Carolina team that won't have its best player after Christian McCaffrey suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday. So the defense that just held Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins to 289 passing yards will face Teddy Bridgewater, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson. That offense is no match for a Chargers secondary that just added Chris Harris Jr. to a secondary that already featured Pro Bowl CB Casey Heyward. With the Panther likely being forced to pass more, the Chargers can sell out on the pass rush, and I don't think Bridgewater will be able to make them pay.

Washington may not be a great football team, but it's really their offense that still has a fair amount of improving to do. The Washington defensive line is elite and their secondary was much-maligned coming into the season, but they put up a respectable showing against Kyler Murray and a high-powered Cardinals offense by limiting him to 278 yards passing and picking him off once. Yes, they were also taken advantage of on the ground, particularly by Murray, who ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns. However, Washington still sacked Murray three times and is 11th in the NFL with a 24.7% pressure rate and first in the league with 11 sacks through two games. That sack rate is clearly not sustainable, and they will now face a Browns team that has only given up two sacks total on the season, but Baker Mayfield is prone to making head-scratching throws, and this Browns offense is as inconsistent as they come. There will be ample opportunity for Washington's elite pressure rate to cause sacks and poor decisions which will lead to turnovers and fantasy points.

You may be thinking: "the Browns in the top 10? Are you crazy!?" The answer is that I hope not. The Browns have always had talent on their defense but have underperformed or been let down by their offense. That hasn't been the result so far, even though beating up on the Bengals on Thursday isn't exactly a high threshold to meet. However, through two weeks, the Browns are sixth in the NFL with a 28.6% pressure rate. That has only turned into five total sacks, but some of that can be attributed to Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball out in time and Joe Burrow scrambling around more than many quarterbacks will. The Browns will now bring their elite pressure rate into a matchup with Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Football Team, who are tied for second-worst in the league with seven sacks allowed in two games and just lost Brandon Scherff, one of the best guards in football, to a knee injury. With the Browns likely to get lots of pressure, I would be shocked if that didn't lead to a Haskins turnover or two, which only makes Cleveland a more attractive defense in Week 3.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. CIN 9.5
10 3 New England Patriots Defense  vs. LV 9.0
11 3 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ BUF 8.4
12 3 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. CHI 7.6
13 3 Tennessee Titans Defense @ MIN 7.5
14 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs. DET 7.4
15 3 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @PHI 6.9

 

The Eagles defense certainly hasn't looked great to start the year; however, I believe this has more to do with an offense that has allowed eight sacks and turned the ball over six times in two games. The offense has repeatedly put the defense in terrible situations and kept the defense on the field, causing the players to get tired and worn down. Fortunately for Philadelphia, their opponent on Sunday has been equally as giving on offense and might not have the firepower to make the Eagles pay for their mistakes. The Bengals have allowed six sacks in two games and have turned the ball over three times. The Eagles are only 15th in the NFL with a 22.7% pressure rate, but they just got Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, and Derek Barnett back for the first time on Sunday against the Rams. With a full week of practice under their belts, I expect those three talented defenders to put up a much better showing against a mediocre Bengals offensive line and put pressure on rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

The Patriots may no longer be the favorites to win the AFC East, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a good football team. They are 3rd in the NFL with a 33.8% pressure rate, and while that has only led to three sacks, it has led to 12 quarterback hurries and contributed to picking off three passes against Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1. Week 2 was not as kind, but the Seahawks are going to be a tough matchup for anybody now that they're letting Russell Wilson cook. The Raiders allowed zero sacks in their Week 1 blowout, but the game against the Saints was a big step up in competition. The Saints were able to get to Carr three times, and the Raiders offense only gained 375 total yards, but they did put up 34 points on a good defense, which indicates that they could be a challenge for opposing defenses. The Patriots gameplan without Tom Brady appears to be to slow the game down and use Cam as a runner (unless they're forced to play catch-up). This will likely mean fewer plays, which knocks them down the rankings a little bit, but I also expect Belicheck to scheme a way to stop Josh Jacobs and force Derek Carr to beat them through the air, which could lead to a few sacks from that high pressure rate and a turnover or two.

The Rams defense is underperforming their talent so far. They're 26th in the league with a 15.7% pressure rate and have only three sacks in two games. That's particularly troubling considering one of those games was against the Philadelphia Eagles, who lead the league in sacks allowed. The Bills offense has allowed four sacks in two games, and Josh Allen has looked tremendous, but he's also prone to stupid mistakes and nearly lost another fumble last week when he tried to take on a linebacker and then a defensive end to fight for a first down. The Rams defense will be a big step up for Josh Allen and company, and I would imagine Sean McDermott will try to slow the game down and keep the Rams offense off the field if he can. This could mean fewer scoring opportunities for the Bills.

Yes, Atlanta blew a massive lead to Dallas and most people will scoff at the idea of using their defense. However, facing Dallas and Seattle is not exactly an easy task for an opposing defense, and the Falcons were playing really well in the first half before going on cruise control. They are 9th in the league with a 26.7% pressure rate with four sacks and ten quarterback knockdowns despite playing two incredibly mobile quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. On Sunday they will face Mitch Trubisky. The Falcons run defense is currently 9th in the league, allowing 4.1 yards per carry to two elite run defenses, so I expect them to be able to stop the Bears on the ground and face Trubisky to beat them through the air. That is going to lead to sacks and turnovers.

I have not been impressed by the Titans' defense so far. They've allowed 803 total yards, which is 24th in the league, have only two interceptions and two sacks on the season, and are 20th in the NFL with an 18.8% pressure rate. They also lost Jonathan Joseph to injury last week after already being without Adoree Jackson, so this secondary is really beat up. The only reason I have them this high is that the Vikings are not a talented football team and Gary Kubiak, their offensive coordinator, came out this week and suggested that their team needs to run the football more. Yes, they have Dalvin Cook, but running the ball more isn't going to all of the sudden make this offense scary, and it also doesn't take advantage of the injuries on the Titans. Perhaps this is a get-right game for a defense that has a talented line.

The aforementioned Cardinals are now 2-0 and making good on their promise to be one of the breakout teams of 2020. However, they've been doing it as much with their defense as with their high-flying offense. The Cardinals are 12th in the NFL in pressure rate with a 24% rate and are tied for third in the league with seven sacks. However, the Detroit Lions will likely get star wide receiver Kenny Golladay back this week, which is a massive upgrade for their offense. They're currently 21st in the NFL with five sacks allowed through two games, but I think this is likely going to be a high-scoring game, and with Golladay in tow, Stafford has more weapons to throw to, which could limit the time he needs to spend in the pocket. If the Lions can also get D'Andre Swift more involved in the passing game, that could severely limit the Cardinals' sack chances.

Surprisingly, the Bengals are 8th in the NFL in pressure rate with a 27.6% rate. They have only two sacks on the year, but their 13 quarterback hurries are 4th in the NFL. That's enough to make me intrigued by them in deeper leagues since they are going up against an Eagles team that leads the league in sacks and pressure allowed. The Eagles also lost another offensive lineman on Sunday when guard Isaac Seumalo went down for what is likely to be the rest of the season. That means Jason Kelce is the only presumed Eagles starter on the offensive line that has survived the first two weeks. I expect the Bengals to be in the backfield often this week.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 New York Jets Defense vs. IND 5.9
17 4 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. GB 5.5
18 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense  @ BAL 5.2
19 4 New York Giants Defense vs. SF 5.0
20 4 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. KC 4.5
21 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ NO 4.4
22 4 Chicago Bears Defense @ ATL 4.0

The Jets may be bad on offense, but their defensive line is certainly still elite. The Jets are currently 7th in the NFL with a 28% pressure rate. They have six sacks on the season, to go along with 11 quarterback knockdowns. While their numbers against the run aren't great, those are skewed by two big plays against the 49ers, one of which was when the game was already out of reach. The Jets defensive line certainly has the personnel to keep Jonathan Taylor from running wild, which will lead to more passing attempts for immobile Phillip Rivers who is throwing to a depleted Colts receiving group with TY Hilton looking like a shell of his former self and Parris Campbell and Jack Doyle both out. I expect the Colts to score points, and probably win, but I think the Jets will notch a few sacks and give themselves a chance at a decent fantasy day.

The Saints may have allowed 34 points to the Raiders on Monday night, but they actually did a good job with Josh Jacobs, holding him to 88 yards on 27 carries. The Raiders receivers were also relatively ineffective, as the only offensive player to really do damage was tight end Darren Waller. The Packers don't have that kind of weapon at tight end. Davante Adams will be back, but may be at less than 100%, and will have to square off against Marshon Lattimore. The Saints have six sacks on the season and will be facing a Packers offensive line that has already lost two starters in Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor.

You never really want to recommend defenses playing against Lamar Jackson and company, which is really the only reason the Chiefs are so far down on this list. They're an opportunistic defense that is 4th in the league with a 26.7% pressure rate, tied for 4th with six sacks, and also has two interceptions on the young season. While Lamar Jackson is elusive and a dangerous playmaker, the Ravens have allowed a combined six sacks in the first two games of the season, so it's not as if the Chiefs will be held to a blank slate on Sunday. I expect the pace of play to be high here, so the more plays the offenses will run, the higher the chances of sacks and turnovers become. That gives this Chiefs Defense a chance to put up a decent number of points despite the tough matchup.

The Giants get the benefit of facing a 49ers team that will be without Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Jimmy Garropolo, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman. Yes, they will likely still lose that game, but it's not an offense to be incredibly scared of. The Giants currently have a respectable six sacks and 19.1% pressure rate, so they could notch a few sacks in what should be an ugly and low scoring game.

The Baltimore Ravens are currently the favorite in their Monday night showdown with Kansas City, but I'm not as optimistic about their defense for fantasy purposes. They're still a tremendously talented group, and a top play against most opponents, but the Chiefs have allowed only two sacks total on the season 12.2% pressure rate is 22nd in the NFL. It's possible that the blowouts they've had in both games have led to more defensive substitutions, which has led to decreased production, but I don't love their chances to put up a massive sack total against the Chiefs. The Ravens also lost starting cornerback Tavon Young to a season-ending knee injury, and while they have the depth to replace him, losing cornerback depth right before playing the Kansas City Chiefs is never an ideal situation. In the end, I think the Ravens will get a couple of sacks and maybe a turnover, but the Chiefs are also going to put points on the board so I don't see a ton of upside in this matchup.

As we saw on Monday night, the Saints are not as dynamic an offense without Michael Thomas. They simply lack the big-play ability, and Drew Brees has an exceptionally low average depth of target (aDOT) as he uses his running backs more in the passing game. They can still put up points, but I don't think this is a team that is going to score 30+ until Thomas comes back, which raises the floor for defenses playing against them. The Packers are 13th in the NFL with a 23.2% pressure rate and have six sacks in two games, so they can raise the fantasy floor a little bit; although, I don't think there is really high upside in this contest.

The Bears have a shockingly low 12.8% pressure rate, which is 30th in the NFL. They've managed five sacks on only 12 total pressures, which is a tremendous rate, but is also showing that they're not getting to the quarterback that much. They've been solid against the pass, currently 10th in the league in yards allowed per attempt, but they've also played the Giants and Kenny Golladay-less Lions, so the competition hasn't been incredibly strong. This Falcons offense is another animal and if the Bears aren't going to get into the backfield and put pressure on Matt Ryan then I can't be too confident in them as a play.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. DAL 3.9
24 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. MIA 3.7
25 5 Houston Texans Defense @ PIT 3.3
26 5 Miami Dolphins Defense @ JAX 3.1
27 5 Denver Broncos Defense vs. TB 2.5
28 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense @ NE 1.7
29 5 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ SEA 1.5
30 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ LAC 0.6
31 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. TEN 0.55
32 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ ARI 0.4


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Week 2 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Man, it was fun to watch NFL football again. In addition to just enjoying the games, we got to get a more clear understanding of the talent that teams are putting out onto the field and who might have stronger offensive or defensive units than we initially anticipated. Remember that picking the right defense is as much about the talent on the defensive side of the ball as it is about taking advantage of the lack of talent on the offensive side.

Below are my Week 2 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 2 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our eighth year now writing this weekly column. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 2. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker.

Below I've broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 2 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 2 pickup or add.

 

Week 2 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating, which Bill Dubiel started last year, is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account: opponent injuries, home-field advantage, weather (which will be updated during the week), etc. We still have only one game of in-season data to work with, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. NYJ 14.75
2 1 Buffalo Bills Defense @ MIA 13.1*
3 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. DEN 12.7
4 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ HOU 11.5

Yes, the 49ers took a surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday; however, that doesn't stop them from being one of the league's top defenses. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray feeling more confident in his second year in the offense, the Cardinals were always a trendy pick to take a big leap forward this year. Don't overreact to one game. Instead, imagine what the 49ers are going to do to Adam Gase and his inept offense. The Jets put up 276 yards against the Bills in Week 1 and 69 of them came on one busted play for Jamison Crowder. The rest of the time, the Jets were unable to sustain any drives, except after the game had been put away in the 4th quarter, and, to top it off, Le'Veon Bell left the game early with a quad injury. If the Jets have to go forward with only Frank Gore and Breshad Perriman to help Crowder and Sam Darnold, it's going to be a very long day.

The Bills defense thoroughly dominated the Jets on Sunday. As mentioned above, they allowed 207 yards if you take away one busted play to Jamison Crowder. The Jets gained 86 additional yards on their final drive of the game when the Bills were up 27-10 with less than six minutes to play. With three sacks and an interception added on top, the Bills showed just how elite a unit they can be. Certainly, one with way more talent than the Dolphins' offensive unit possesses. However, a key will be to monitor the health of the Bills linebacking corps. Four of the Bills six active linebackers, including starters Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards, left the game with an injury. *If one or both of them isn't able to suit up against the Dolphins, it would be a blow to the Bills defensive ranking and really test their depth.

The Steelers lost Javon Hargrave in the offseason, and some wondered what type of impact that would have on their defensive unit. None. This team is stacked. Listen, I know the Giants haven't been good in a while, but their offense has scored points. The Steelers putting the clamps on them was not a given, but it was a good sign that there will likely not be any dropoff in this unit. Now they get another young, inexperienced quarterback and don't have to gameplan for a dynamic talent like Saquon Barkley (although Courtland Sutton isn't a slouch). I expect it to be a low-scoring affair and wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers came away with a few turnovers and a handful of sacks as the cherry on top.

As we mentioned in Week 1, the Baltimore Ravens have perhaps the most balanced defensive unit in football, and they made Baker Mayfield and the Browns look awful on Sunday. While they only recorded two sacks, they forced three turnovers and had the Browns disoriented all game. You may look at the Texans and say that they are a stiffer test, but I'm not entirely sure that's true. Without DeAndre Hopkins, this offense is not much different from the Browns. Yes, Deshaun Watson is much better than Mayfield, but the Browns backfield and wide receiver corps are vastly superior to what the Texans trot out there, and that's before we get to the offensive line. On Thursday night, the Chiefs had 18 QB hurries, 25 pressures, and a 62.5% pressure rate against these Texans. That's an absurd stat and makes me think that the Ravens defense is absolutely going to feast on this Texans offensive line.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. LAC 10.95
6 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ PHI 10.5
7 2 New Orleans Saints Defense @ LV 10.2
8 2 Tennessee Titans Defense vs JAX 9.6

As mentioned above, the Chiefs' defensive unit was in the backfield at will on Thursday. They dialed up 13 blitzes, hit Watson seven times, sacked him four, and picked off one pass. This is, in part, because the Chiefs offense is so dynamic so their defense knows teams have to throw to keep up. That gives them the freedom to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback, which means that even if they let up a decent amount of yards and points as a unit, they still can finish with a huge fantasy day. I expect that to continue against a Chargers offense that looked totally punchless against a poor Bengals team. Tyrod Taylor has the legs to avoid taking too many sacks, but if the Chargers need to throw the ball to keep up with the Chiefs, it's going to take Tyrod out of his comfort zone and led to forced throws and turnovers.

Despite being a massive underdog, the Washington Football Team allowed only 265 total yards to the Eagles while sacking Carson Wentz eight times and forcing two interceptions. The performance was partially an indication of the talent on Washington's defense but also just a clear warning sign of how banged up the Eagles are on offense. They were without three starting offensive lineman, plus Miles Sanders and Alshon Jeffrey. Sanders and Lane Johnson will "try to do more in practice" this week, but this is still going to be an under-manned offense that will allow tons of pressure, which is horrible news against a defense line of Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and Leonard Floyd. The Rams held a strong Cowboys offense in check on Sunday night while also sacking Dak Prescott three times. The Cowboys offensive line - and offense in general - is much better than what the Eagles will trot out on Sunday, and this could be another game where the defense feasts on the birds.

We expected the Saints defensive unit to finish in the top 10 but were a little worried about what the new-look Bucs defense would do. It turns out, it simply didn't matter. The Saints allowed only 325 yards of total offense while sacking Brady three times and picking him off twice. The Las Vegas Raiders boast some talent on the offensive end, but it's not anything close to what the Bucs put on the field, and the Saints dismantled that unit. If the Saints can do that to the Bucs offense, I love their chances of handling the Raiders on Sunday.

The Tennessee defensive line is scary. After signing Jadeveon Clowney, they added him to a defense that already features Jeffrey Simmons, Vic Beasley, and a dynamic secondary. The Titans were a little banged up in Week 1 without Beasley and cornerback Adoree Jackson (who will be out three weeks), and the Jaguars put up a solid performance in a 27-20 win against the Colts but that was mainly on the back of their defense, which sacked Phillip Rivers four times and had the league's highest pressure rate. While the Colts' defense is solid, this is more of a sign that the Jaguars haven't quite fixed all of their offensive line issues from last year. The Titans have a superior defensive line and should be able to get in Gardner Minshew's face just as much as the Colts did. The Titans offensive gameplan will also slow the game down and give the Jaguars offense less time on the field, which should lead to fewer yards and, potentially, fewer points than the 27 they hung on the Colts. All of which makes me inclined to buy into the Titans this week.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs WAS 9.1
10 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ NYG 8.9
11 3 Denver Broncos Defense @ PIT 8.1
12 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. CAR 7.9
13 3 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. MIN 7.5
14 3 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. NE 7.1
15 3 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. BUF 6.9

Well, the Cardinals certainly rose to the challenge in Week 1 against the defending NFC champions, holding the 49ers to 20 points and sacking Jimmy Garroppolo three times. I don't all of a sudden think that this is a ferocious unit, but Dre Kirkpatrick is a fine complement to Patrick Peterson and both Chandler Jones and newly-signed Jordan Phillips can push the pocket. Where the Cardinals shine for me this week is their matchup. Washington may have won Week 1, but their offense didn't look inspiring at all. They simply capitalized on a banged-up Eagles team. The Cardinals offense should do much better against Washington, which will force Dwayne Haskins to play catch-up and take more chanced through the air. That's where the sacks and picks will come, and a big reason the Cardinals could put together another stellar defensive performance.

The Bears did not look great against the Lions this week, but the Lions are a solid offense with Matthew Stafford under center, even without Kenny Golladay. Still, this is not the same elite Bears unit. They do have impressive top-end talent in Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, plus an experienced corps of linebackers, but it's not a unit to win you your week like they used to be. The good news for the Bears is that the Giants' offensive line has its own share of weaknesses and Daniel Jones still takes a few too many chances with the ball, which means some sacks and turnovers could add fantasy value despite the Giants being able to move the football and score.

The Broncos have lost Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller, so even though they gained A.J. Bouyeand Jurell Casey and got back Bradley Chubb, this is not as dynamic a unit as it could have been. Still, the were able to hit Tannehill eight times behind a strong Titans offensive line and showed some punch in a grinding Monday Night Football battle. It should be a knocked down, drag-it-out fight against the Steelers, but a Steelers offense with Ben Roethlisberger back is far more dynamic than the one led by Mason Rudolph. Keep an eye on James Conner's status because if he were to miss the game, it would elevate the Broncos a few spots, even though Benny Snell did look good in the win over the Giants.

The Tampa Bay Bucs may have come out flat in their showdown against the Saints, but it wasn't the defense's fault. There was some excitement surrounding the unit after they signed Ndamukong Suh and drafted Antoine Winfield Jr to pair with solid young players like Lavonte David, Devin White, and Vita Vea. The Bucs were an elite run defense last year and carried that over into 2020 allowing the Saints to gain only 2.4 yards per carry on 34 rushes. Everybody knows how Carolina wants to move the ball. If the Bucs can make it hard for Christian McCaffrey to get going, they can keep the Panthers in check and force them to make Teddy Bridgewater make plays.

As I mentioned above, the Colts had the second-highest pressure rate in the league after Week 1 and the highest sack percentage at 16.7%, which is good news because they spent a lot of resources on improving their defense in the offseason. The Colts also only allowed 264 yards of offense but were done in by a few Phillip Rivers turnovers in his own end. They now take on a Minnesota Vikings offense that features a dynamic running game but a passing attack that has lost some of its bite without Stefon Diggs. They totaled 393 yards in a shootout with the Packers but a lot of that was in playing from behind, and I don't think this is much more than a ball-control offense. They likely won't give up many sacks but the Colts should keep them from scoring too many points, which still makes them a solid unit for the week.

It's simple here: the Dolphins defense might not be great, but Josh Allen loves to turn the ball over. The Dolphins had two sacks and a fifth-best 9.5% pressure rate against the Patriots, and the Bills are without their starting right guard Jon Feliciano. The Dolphins could lose and still come away with a few turnovers.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Cleveland Browns Defense vs CIN 6.5
17 4 New England Patriots Defense @ SEA 6.2
18 4 Washington Football Team Defense @ ARI 5.15
19 4 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. DET 4.9
20 4 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs LAR 4.45
21 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs ATL 4.15
22 4 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ IND 3.9

Losing Mack Wilson is a bit of a blow for the Browns defense, and Olivier Vernon is still only practicing as a limited participant, which isn't great news before a Thursday game. On top of that, rookie cornerback Greedy Williams hasn't even been able to practice with a shoulder injury. That turned a potentially enticing streaming matchup against the Bengals into simply a solid, but not salivating opportunity.

The Patriots are a solid defensive team, but I'm not sure they're particularly elite. Yes, they picked Ryan Fitzpatrick off three times but what NFL franchise hasn't done that? They were also only able to get a 3.2% pressure rate against a mediocre offensive line, and I don't want to trust them after Russell Wilson looked lights out to start the season.

Guess who the number one fantasy defense is after one week? Yup, the Washington Football Team. While that is clearly a product of the Eagles limping into the game, this defense is loaded with former first-round picks, including second overall pick Chase Young, who had 1.5 sacks in his first NFL game. Washington had the third-best pressure rate last year, and also the third-best rate in Week 1. The secondary is still an issue, and I look for the Cardinals to put up a lot of yards and a fair few points, but I think Washington will record enough sacks and force a turnover or two, which will make this a startable defensive unit in deep leagues.

The Packers allowed almost 400 yards of offense to the Vikings and weren't able to get much pressure on Kirk Cousins. The Lions will feature perhaps a more dynamic offense (especially if Kenny Golladay returns), so this isn't a game that I'm excited to roster any defense.

The Eagles just lost Vinny Curry for four weeks on top of all of their other injuries. The offense will likely keep putting the defense in bad spots until they can get to full strength.

The Cowboys lost Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins in free agency and then lost Leighton Vander Esch for six weeks during a Week 1 loss. It's a banged-up unit set to face an elite offense. Even with some talent left on the Cowboys' roster, that's just not a match-up I can recommend attacking.

The narrative about the Minnesota Vikings being a top-notch defensive unit is outdated. They've seen a lot of talent leave town and they now have a collection of young talent learning how to play together. That inexperienced unit allowed 522 yards to the Packers while getting 0 pressures against a mediocre Packers offensive line. The Colts don't have the same offensive firepower, but their offensive line is one of the best in the league and won't make it easy for the Vikings to get any pressure.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 2 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. TEN 3.7
24 5 New York Jets Defense vs. SF 3.0
25 5 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ CLE 2.9
26 5 New York Giants Defense @ CHI 2.8
27 5 Detroit Lions Defense @ GB 2.5
28 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ DAL 2.1
29 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs KC 0.85
30 5 Las Vegas Raiders Defense vs NO 0.65
31 5 Houston Texans Defense vs BAL 0.55
32 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ TB 0.4


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Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2020 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

We're back and it feels so good. Below are RotoBaller's Week 1 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 1 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our eighth year now writing this weekly column.

Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 1. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker.

Below we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 1 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 1 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 1 RotoBallers!

 

Week 1 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account here--opponent injuries, home field advantage, weather, etc. We don't have any in-season data to work with in Week 1 obviously, so this week's rankings weigh schedule and personnel heavier than they will down the line.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 1 Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. NYJ 12.75
2 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ NYG 12
3 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. CLE 11.7
4 1 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ WAS 11.1

The Bills will be truly excellent all year as a DST option, but this week is as juicy as it gets. I'll spare you the Adam Gase humor here, but by all accounts Le'Veon Bell is not going to be treated as a clear RB1. Jamison Crowder is the top wideout, and after him and Chris Herndon it's dicey to say the least. The Bills might not have Bills Mafia in the stadium, but this is one game they shouldn't need them for.

The Baltimore Ravens boast maybe the most balanced defensive unit in football, and even the talented Browns offense isn't going to be enough to overcome that this week. Odell Beckham, Jr. will have to contend with one of the best one-two punches at cornerback in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, and new addition Calais Campbell is one of the best run-stoppers in football--so good luck, Nick Chubb. Matthew Judon leads the most blitz-heavy defense in football, and I don't see how Baker Mayfield is able to overcome all of this and have a productive day. The Ravens are going to be a slam-dunk most weeks, to be honest.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 1 Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. ARI 10.65
6 2 New England Patriots Defense vs. MIA 10
7 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ CIN 9.6
8 2 Denver Broncos Defense vs. TEN 9.4

The 49ers are going to be in Tier 1 most weeks given how easy their schedule is this year (4th-easiest based on opponent 2019 win percentage), but I'm wary about the Cardinals. The offense is loaded for Kyler Murray, as he'll have almost everyone return and has a new WR1 in DeAndre Hopkins. Kenyan Drake is suffering from a lower body injury (LOL a "precautionary" walking boot), but if he's out I don't think the Cardinals are in any worse shape with the explosive Chase Edmonds. If Kyler is on, the 49ers' upside is limited. However, with Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa and rookie Javon Kinlaw coming after him, life isn't going to be easy.

The Titans offense got extremely scary in the back half of 2019. The change of scenery turned Ryan Tannehill into a legitimate threat, A.J. Brown's ceiling is immeasurable, and Derrick Henry is one of the best runners in football--if you watched any of the games last year, you can see how they'd give defenses fits. The loss of Chris Harris, Jr. certainly hurts the Broncos secondary, but the arrival of A.J. Bouye should soften the blow. Bradley Chubb, Von Miller and Jurell Casey should keep the pass rush as fierce as last year, but the big question is if they can penetrate the Titans offensive line, which PFF ranked eighth in the NFL after last season.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 1 Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ DET 8.9
10 3 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ JAC 8.55
11 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. TB 8.5
12 3 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. GB 7.7
13 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. HOU 7.4
14 3 Tennessee Titans Defense @ DEN 6.85
15 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ LAR 6.4

With a 100% healthy Matthew Stafford, I think the Lions offense is actually pretty dangerous. The offensive line was tough to penetrate last year, and whether or not DeAndre Swift is healthy for Week 1 I expect Kenny Golladay to get plenty of love. The Bears still wind up in my top 10 because Khalil Mack is still one of the most singularly impactful players in football, and this year he won't be alone. The return of Akiem Hicks helps significantly with both the pass rush and run defense, and the Bears still both an experienced corps of linebackers. Doubtful the Bears return top-five value this week without a touchdown, but you won't be disappointed right away if you drafted them.

I still expect both the Saints defensive and offensive units to finish in the top 10. The pass rush will be anchored by Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and a hopefully healthy Sheldon Rankins, who missed huge chunks of last season due to injury. The secondary is similarly star-studded, with Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins and Marcus Williams leading the way there. The question for Week 1 is what we get from the Buccaneers. Is this offense all of a sudden lethal with Tom Brady under center? He should be a menace over the middle of the field with Chris Godwin and a theoretically healthy Rob Gronkowski in the mix, and you can never ever sleep on Mike Evans (if Brady can get it to him). This is one of the games I'm least sure about, and I'll be watching this one extremely closely.

The Cowboys suffered some major losses in free agency, but it's possible that they recovered so well they're in a better position. Losing Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins up front stings, but replacing them with upside veterans like Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen ensures that this pass rush will lose none of its edge. The return of Aldon Smith, who has been out of the NFL since 2017 for a bevy of legal troubles, could be a game-changing factor if he shows any of the elite talent that he displayed in San Francisco. In the secondary, it all comes down to whether or not Trevon Diggs can step in as a suitable replacement for Byron Jones. Diggs came into the draft as one of the best coverage DBs in the entire draft, and if he can use his size to break up passes the Cowboys will be in great shape. The middling pressure rate has a very good chance of increasing this year, and if that's the case then Jared Goff is in trouble right from the jump.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 1 Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Detroit Lions Defense vs. CHI 6.3
17 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ ATL 5.9
18 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ MIN 5.25
19 4 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. DAL 4.7
20 4 Las Vegas Raiders Defense @ CAR 4.45
21 4 Washington Football Team Defense vs. PHI 4.35
22 4 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. LV 3.9

The Rams have a brutal Week 1 matchup against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense, but they're still running out one of the more star-studded defenses in the league. The obvious names here are Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, who are the definition of game-breakers. After that, they'll look to sophomore safety Taylor Rapp and veteran Michael Brockers up front--and to some degree Greg Gaines and rookie Terrell Lewis in the pass rush. The tough part here is the sheer star power they're going up against. Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb...that's a ton to try to counteract.

The Washington defense is littered with former first-round picks, but easily the most exciting player here is defensive end Chase Young, who they drafted with the second overall pick this year. Young is widely regarded as one of the more transcendent talents in recent memory, and he'll step in to make an immediate impact in the pass rush. Washington actually ranked third in the NFL in pressure rate last year, and with Young now wreaking havoc this could be a truly elite unit in 2020. The question marks lie in the secondary. Quinton Dunbar was far and away their best player in 2019, but was traded for a middling pick to Seattle. Filling the void will be Kendall Fuller, who is returning to his original team after a disappointing season in Kansas City, and former Bills/Eagles standout Ronald Darby, whose play fell off a cliff in 2019.

The Eagles have talent all over the offense, particularly at tight end with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and dynamic sophomore Miles Sanders. We'll see the Washington Football Team higher in the ranks this season, but I'm tempering expectations for Week 1.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 1 Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Cleveland Browns Defense @ BAL 3.2
24 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. SEA 3
25 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ NO 2.9
26 5 New York Jets Defense @ BUF 2.6
27 5 Cincinnati Bengals Defense vs. LAC 2.45
28 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. IND 1.8
29 5 Miami Dolphins Defense @ NE 1.15
30 5 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ SF 0.6
31 5 Houston Texans Defense @ KC 0.55
32 5 New York Giants Defense vs. PIT 0.3


Win Big With RotoBaller

Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

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Categories
2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Players Poised To Start Strong With Soft Early Schedules

It's been more than two months since the NFL released the full 17-week schedules for the 2020 season. We have no idea if we will get to actually watch any football during the upcoming fall and winter, but here's to hoping. If we make it there, though, the strength of schedule will always make a huge impact on how successful your fantasy team performs in your league. In DFS football there are no worries about planning for season-long runs in contrast to redraft leagues. Each weekend you pick your brand new team trying to exploit the best matchups and run with it. Not so easy in leagues where you have to draft your squad prior to the start of the season.

Even if that's the case, early soft SOS should absolutely be taken into consideration when you draft your team, or at least when it comes to making late-round picks or snatching some free agents from the waiver wire to start the year. Although often overlooked, picking players expected to put on huge performances from Week 1 and during the first few matches can be key to lock up a playoff spot. The longer you hesitate on putting a player in your starting lineup, the worse. You need to be ahead of the competition as soon as you can.

That's what I'm doing here today. I'm highlighting three teams with the easiest schedules from Weeks 1 to 5 and the players that can benefit the most from that early stretch of games so you can go ahead and erase any doubt you have about drafting them, or in the case of those with "less" value, go ahead and pick them for free before any other fantasy GM does so. Let's get to it!

 

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners start 2020 with the softest five-week slate of games in the whole NFL. San Francisco will be facing the worst and second-worst averaged defenses against the run and the pass respectively. That's a cupcake start for the year right there, no matter how you look at it. The Niners, though, don't have many players with an ADP inside the top-12 or top-24 players at their position, which might make you pause before drafting some of them.

  • Tight end George Kittle is a must-draft player at his position if you want to invest a high draft pick on a TE. And I'm not talking just for the first few weeks, but rather the whole season. He's a known asset and PFF has him finishing 2020 as the TE1 with 251.1 PPR points. So there's that.
  • More pressing is Raheem Mostert's situation. While currently getting drafted as the RB24, he projects to finish the year as the RB12 (234.4 points) but he's allegedly asked for a trade and he might be out of San Francisco by the time the season starts. If something indicates a change in that position and he becomes a lock to retain the RB1 status on the Niners, then you can safely draft him inside the first six rounds. He would rack up huge points during the first weeks of the year so if he ultimately gets traded you'd be selling him as high as possible. Win-win situation.
  • While Deebo Samuel has the best WR-projection of any Niners' receiver he's currently injured and he might miss a few games. Fade Samuel given the unknowns he carries and the fact that he won't be able to fully exploit this early soft schedule.
  • Samuel's status opens the door to other players, namely WRs Brandon Aiyuk and Jalen Hurd. The greatest thing about these two is that their current ADPs are 142.3 and 230.8 respectively, getting off draft boards as the WR64 and WR122. That's like saying they're going mostly undrafted and available for free after drafts. Given the super-soft early schedule of San Francisco and the potential absence of Samuel, both Aiyuk and Hurd should be FLEX targets at the very least, with the upside of getting big numbers early boosting his price to flip them for something valuable after Week 5.
  • Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a lock to be the starter at QB, but he's also a middling fantasy option. He's currently the QB21 by positional ADP and PFF has him finishing the year as QB20. He's only draftable in two-QB leagues, so pass on him but don't hesitate to stream him during the first few games of the year if available for free once your draft is finished.

 

Chicago Bears

The Bears will benefit the most on the running side of the game during the first five weeks of the season. Chicago faces the second-softest SOS overall during that span only behind San Francisco, and that's made up of the softest opponents at stopping the run and the fifth-softest against the pass. That bodes well for Bears truthers, as the QB situation of Chicago is not exactly clear while the backfield should be.

  • While I expect QB Mitchell Trubisky to be in the starting lineup come Week 1, the word on the streets is that there will be an open competition between him and QB Nick Foles to see who gets the first start. I don't believe it and think Chicago will keep riding Trubisky until it becomes untenable, but we'll see. Same with Garoppolo above, don't waste a draft pick on either quarterback. Let them slip and, if anything, get them for free and stream them at some point during the first five-week span if your actual starter faces way strong competition and tough matchups.
  • Don't let the shaky quarterback situation move you away from WR Allen Robinson II. Robinson is a stud and seemingly QB-proof. He's getting drafted as the WR9 and although that might seem a little overboard (he's projected to finish 2020 as the WR24) he has the upside to play as a high-end WR2 or low-end WR1 all year long. Draft Robinson and enjoy the ride, more than anything during the first few games of the season.
  • Now what will matter the most around Chicago is its backfield. It will face the softest SOS for the first five weeks and it will feature two clearly contrasting RBs in David Montgomery (the rusher) and Tarik Cohen (the pass-catcher). Montgomery is currently the RB25 (ADP 61.9) and Cohen the RB38 (ADP 125.2). At those prices, both of them should return positive ROIs as they are projected to rank above their current draft positions. Montgomery projects to 218 carries (57.9% of Chicago's) for 167.4 PPR points, and Cohen is expected to see 72 targets (16.1%) to finish as the third most-targeted Bear while racking up 155.9 PPR points through the year.
  • Although already past his prime, Jimmy Graham (ADP 270.7) should be available for free while facing a soft early schedule.
  • Anthony Miller (ADP 157.0) could be a great late-round flier expected to get good points earlier in the year taking advantage of that easy five-game span to start the season.

 

New England Patriots

The regression that the Patriots will suffer after losing Tom Brady was expected to be huge before adding Cam Newton, and although the new Patriot QB will definitely raise the team's floor we'll have to wait until we actually see him to know his current form. No matter what, though, New England faces the third-softest SOS against the run and the seventh-softest against the pass. Not many teams will have it so easy against both those types of defense. Only Dallas and San Fransisco will have it easier against the run, and the Niners alone against the pass too.

  • Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room. Cam Newton's ADP slowly dropped from January (near-100) to June, when it touched the ground (above 250) and then suddenly started to rise in July after his signing with New England. He's currently getting drafted with an ADP of 142.1 good for QB21. No change here in comparison to either of the quarterbacks from the teams above, with Newton being a player with QB1 upside but so many doubts around his health that it doesn't make much sense to tab him as your No. 1 option in redraft leagues. You can use a late-round pick on him, though, as he is supposedly going to at least start the year healthy and the early schedule benefits him. Newton could be one of the strongest streaming options for the first few games of the season and (maybe?) droppable/tradable after that.
  • The Patriots receiving corps are slim at best, that's right, but that also works in your favor if you get any shares of their parts as they're about to rack up targets no matter what. WR Julian Edelman is going off the boards as the WR36 these days with an ADP of just 120.6, making him a great addition with a 10+ round pick and with clear WR1/2 upside whether Newton plays over expectations or not. Taking advantage of the soft schedule, though, N'Keal Harry (ADP 137.9) and Mohamed Sanu Sr. (ADP 266.7) are clear late-round fliers or waiver wire targets to snatch early, exploit, and then drop. Don't hesitate at running with them at least for the start of the year.
  • New England's backfield is the one poised to benefit the most during the first five weeks of the season. RBs Sony Michel and James White complement each other nicely, with the former being the clear carrier and the latter in on pass-catching situations. Michel is the RB39 and projects to finish as the RB34 with 192 rushing attempts for 150.4 PPR points. White is the RB35 and projects to end 2020 as the RB32 with 77 targets (third-most in NE) and 153.7 PPR points. Both of them are thus expected to return more than positive ROIs for those fantasy GMs using them all year long, with even more upside during the first few games of the year.



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RBs and WRs Impacted by 2020 NFL Schedule

RotoBaller fantasy football analyst Michael Florio discusses the RBs and WRs that have favorable schedules and those with tougher ones using 2019 fantasy PPG allowed!

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Stack 'Em - Players With Favorable Fantasy Schedules

Even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, we have to keep going. That is why the NFL put together and released the 2020 season schedule as usual. While it is still unclear when (and even if) the season will start, the league did its homework and created the path to the Super Bowl for the 32 teams that are part of this footballing circus. As always, it took us no time to go crunch the dates, teams, defenses, offenses, matchups, etc. in order to try to get a first idea of what is on the table and how the season might develop.

Translating the schedule properly to fantasy terms can be one of the key moves to find yourself on the winning side of things and at the top of your league come December. Stacking players to deploy them when they should have better chances to excel is a sound strategy to maximize value in fantasy football, which is made clear in DFS contests. For re-draft leagues that can be harder, but that doesn't mean that strategies such as streaming the correct players can't become a winning strategy.

With all of the 256 matches that we'll watch during the next regular season already laid out, I bring you some teams with schedules favoring their top players at some point during the upcoming season -- split into three regular-season spans, and one final postseason chunk. Pick their players at the right time and enjoy the taste of victory!

 

Favorable Early-Season Schedules (Weeks 1-5)

San Francisco 49ers

Cardinals, @ NY Jets, @ NY Giants, Eagles, Dolphins

The Niners will start the season with the easiest five-week schedule, although not by a great margin over the other team highlighted here. No matter what, though, San Francisco will face the worst and second-worst averaged groups of defenses against both the run and pass respectively -- only the Cowboys face a similarly favorable schedule against the pass, while the Bears are the only team to face worse defenses against the run.

Jimmy Garoppolo will have everything going his way to start the season as good as he could have imagined and he's far from a lock to being drafted in 12-team leagues, so he looks like a pretty reasonable streaming option. Along with him, George Kittle should also benefit from this start, the same as Deebo Samuel.

One player to keep an eye on: rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk. If he slips through the cracks of your league's draft, you might want to give him a chance for the first few games of the season given the soft SOS he'll face as part of the 49ers offense.

As for the running back corps, even if they'll face soft competition, I wouldn't advise on going with them as this backfield features at least two good backs in Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, which should share the workload reducing their fantasy value.

 

Chicago Bears

@Lions, NY Giants, @Falcons, Colts, Buccaneers

It is always going to be hard to trust Mitchell Trubisky from day one, but here we are. Chicago will face the second-softest SOS other than San Francisco to start the year. Looking a level deeper, it is the running game the one which could benefit the most by facing the best possible SOS to kick the year off (the Bears will also face the fifth-best SOS against the pass).

David Montgomery isn't getting drafted outside of the first five rounds in your re-draft league, that's guaranteed, but he looks like one of the best bets to start the year with a bang, even more, if Trubisky can't find his footing early. Fellow RB Tarik Cohen is not your typical rusher, but his pass-catching ability could benefit him and turn him into an under-the-radar option for those looking early at the waiver-wire for streaming options.

As far as receivers go, Allen Robinson is another mortal-lock to get picked earlier in drafts, but given how good the schedule looks for Chicago during the first five weeks, and assuming Trubisky will at least last those games as the starter, Robinson would have everything lined up to put up big numbers as he's rapport with Mitch is already there.

Other teams/players worth considering: Dallas (second-best SOS for RB), New England (third-best SOS for RB), Arizona (third-best SOS for QB/WR/TE).

 

Favorable Mid-Season Schedules (Weeks 6-10)

Los Angeles Chargers

NY Jets, @Dolphins, Jaguars, Raiders, BYE

I can't love this stretch of games more for the Chargers. By the time we get to mid-season games on Week 6 Los Angeles will (or at least should) already have figured out if they're running with Tyrod Taylor (the veteran) or with Justin Herbert (the rookie). That's one question mark out of the equation, and whoever profiles as the starter should be a terrific streaming option given the Chargers will be facing the softest SOS against the pass from Weeks 6-9 (they're on a bye on Week 10, though).

That, obviously, also bolsters Los Angeles' receiving corps for the mid-season stretch making Keenan Allen a must-have for this run of games and Mike Williams a potential under-the-radar candidate to boom. Hunter Henry is one of the best players at the position (watch out for those health issues though), but this could elevate him even more.

If the bad pass-defenses LAC will face trough those four games make you like their receivers, you would like their rushers even more. The Chargers will be going against the worst groups when it comes to stopping the running game, only equaled by Denver's soft-alike matchups.

Given the RBBC approach Los Angeles might take this season with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in tow, it might be better to not rely heavily on them even with this favorable set of games as they'd be sharing points between them. Which brings us to...

 

Denver Broncos

Dolphins, Chiefs, BYE, @Falcons, @Raiders

Somehow Denver was able to snatch Jerry Jeudy in the draft and sign Melvin Gordon III. QB Drew Lock is far from a great and proven fantasy (or real-life, for that matter) asset, but the Broncos have quite a promising group of players rostered for the 2020 season. Not only that, but they will also have the third-best SOS for the mid-year stretch facing the softest defenses against the rush and the third-worst group of defenses against the pass (if you wonder which will face the absolute worst, that's Washington, which I didn't even consider talking about in detail due to how bad they look on offense).

The Chargers' backfield might scare you if they truly go the RBBC-way in 2020, but Denver's is in a similar position, to say the least. Both Gordon and Phillip Lindsay are studs at the position, will eat big-time, and to that, you have to add the potential touch here and there from Royce Freeman. A two-man backfield brings fantasy tallies down; a three-headed monster destroys them.

Even with that, Gordon and Lindsay have massive upside each and every time they get a chance and will always be able to turn a single play into a touchdown and big fantasy points. That and the easy set of games they'll face here make both of them quite palatable options to play even if they share opportunities.

Other teams/players worth considering: Washington (best SOS for QB/WR/TE, second-best SOS for RB), Houston (fourth-best SOS for RB), Kansas City (fourth-best SOS for QB/WR/TE).

 

Favorable Late-Season Schedules (Weeks 11-14)

New York Jets

BYE, Dolphins, Raiders, @Seahawks, @Rams

We will never grow tired of talking about what the Jets are going to do with Le'Veon Bell. We will also never grow tired of wondering how good Sam Darnold truly is and where is his ceiling. Those thoughts are okay, but they are just that, thoughts. What is clear is that the Jets will be facing the most-favorable SOS during the last few weeks of the fantasy regular season against both the pass and the run.

Darnold is already an established NFL quarterback and although he's far from a fantasy darling he should be more than a reasonable option to stream down the road. I don't think I need to introduce you to Bell and his exploits. Sure, he's coming off a rather down year, but he's capable of much more than he's shown as of late. Just check his ADP. Bell isn't going off the boards later than the third round in most re-draft leagues and that speaks volumes of his abilities.

Throw in some other players at low prices (TE Chris Herndon, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Breshad Perriman) and the Jets profile as one of the teams that will provide the most waiver wire-goodies during this stretch with potentially huge returns on investment for those banking on them.

 

Miami Dolphins

BYE, @NY Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots

Started from the bottom, now we here. Miami untanked their 2019 season, finished the year with a relatively good record for what they put on the field, but got to draft their No. 1 target in Tua Tagovailoa anyway. Now they find themselves in a good position entering 2020.

The Dolphins have quite a nice SOS during the late-season stretch both against the pass and the run (both the second-softest) and with 10 weeks on his belt (whether learning from Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sidelines or playing himself) Tua should be more than ready to put on some good performances.

Nobody is drafting either either Miami quarterback in redraft, but I have always loved the boom/bust nature of Fitz and Tagovailoa should be a flier worth considering adding through waivers.

Who could also benefit from all of this? DeVante Parker had his best season ever in 2019 playing for a mediocre, losing team. We might be asking a lot from him going forward and in the short term, but there is no reason to think he can't keep it up this year. Mike Gesicki can only improve, and perhaps the most interesting players from Miami during this run are their new running backs, Matt Breida and Jordan Howard. Most people are sleeping on Preston Williams  because of his late-season injury and he's leaving draft lobbies undrafted, so he might be one free agent to target in your league midseason, especially before this end-of-the-season span of games.

Other teams/players worth considering: Las Vegas (third-best SOS for QB/WR/TE), Cincinnati (fourth-best SOS for QB/WR/TE), New York Giants (third-best SOS for RB), New Orleans (fourth-best SOS for RB).

 

Favorable Fantasy Playoff Schedules (Weeks 15-17)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

@Falcons, @Lions, Falcons

Congratulations to the conspiracy theorists out there, because you definitely must be dancing on pure excitement! The Bucs, that team that now employs both infinite QB Tom Brady and comeback-lord Rob Gronkowski will face the softest of schedules for the last three weeks of the season, just in case they need a little push to make the postseason, you know?

Jokes aside, the Bucs will end the year facing Atlanta and Detroit (and Atlanta again in Week 17, in case your league has some games left to be played by then). The Falcons look like the worst defensive unit overall (bad against the run, terrible against the pass) while the Lions are a bit worst against the run than against the pass but still horrific on average. Looks like some folks will be primed to rack up points in the sunny winter of Florida.

Just in case you are not keeping track, this is how Tampa Bay's offense looks like: Brady leading; Ronald Jones II and rookie-RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (most probably the second-fiddle to Jones) on the backfield; Mike Evans, Chris Godwinand Rob Gronkowski plus O.J. Howard just in case more firepower is needed.

Of the aforementioned players, all but Howard are being drafted inside the top-100 slots of most re-draft leagues and even he has a 12th-to-15th-round appeal for some fantasy GMs. This offense is stacked as no other in the league, and they should be running over the Falcons and Lions bodies by season's end.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Jaguars, NY Giants, @Bengals

The Ravens have the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson, a top-three tight end in Mark Andrews, a loaded backfield which features Mark Ingram II and rookie-RB J.K. Dobbins, and an explosive wide receiver in Marquise Brown. Same as in Tampa Bay's offense, all of those assets are top-100 picks at the time of this writing, and the drop off from them to the next player of the team in terms of ADP (Justice Hill, ADP 244) is of almost 150 slots (obviously undrafted in most leagues).

Baltimore will go against Jacksonville (an easy-to-predict tankity-tanking team) in Week 15, then face the Giants (which could very well be also throwing everything away by then) in Week 16. Finally, they close the season against Cincinnati which might also be on the losing path and not putting on much effort if things don't go well with Joe Burrow. That means the Ravens will see the second-softest set of defenses against the run and the third-most favorable one against the pass.

It will be hard to swing a trade for the likes of Jackson, Andrews, or Ingram, but you might still find a way to get Hollywood Brown or Dobbins on your roster late in the season and take advantage of this season-end cupcake on your way to a championship.

Other teams/players worth considering: Los Angeles Rams (second-best SOS for QB/WR/TE, and third-best SOS for RB), Washington (fifth-best SOS for QB/WR/TE).

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