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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


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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:

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Categories
2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 Team Defense (DST) Draft Sleepers

If last year proved anything, it's that a top-flight DST can be a league winner. According to ESPN, the Steelers were on 18.4% of league-winning teams, the Ravens on 18.1%, and the juggernaut Patriots DST was on 14.2% of teams.

However, as we've seen in seasons past, drafters can oftentimes overreact to a great season from a DST--which is what we saw last year with the Bears DST. Khalil Mack helped transform them into a juggernaut, and that turned them into a top-100 pick in some cases. Of course, DST success is fleeting and inconsistent from season-to-season. The Patriots benefited from a defensive touchdown rate that is almost certainly unsustainable, especially when you consider how much more difficult their schedule is this year.

That begs the question--how do we identify this year's DST sleepers before the season begins? We're going to examine a few factors that will influence how we determine a true sleeper from a hopeful guess.

 

Finding Team Defense (DST) Sleepers

Strength of Schedule (SOS): With 1 being the hardest, 32 being the easiest, we'll look at which teams' schedules contain opponents with the highest 2019 win percentages.

Pressure Rate: The percentage of QB pressures (hurries, knockdowns and sack plays) per dropback, as QB pressure has a direct influence on turnovers and obviously overall interference of an offense.

Average Points Allowed Per Game (PPG): While sacks and takeaways are the most important stats for fantasy scoring, keeping points off the board can also lead to high fantasy DST scores

Average 2019 Fantasy Ranking: While every league's scoring system can be different, these rankings come from FantasyPros' average ranking for Weeks 1-17.

 

1. Cincinnati Bengals Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
31 31 27th 22.9 31 14 26.3

Key Additions: DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, LB Logan Allen (drafted), LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (drafted)

Key Losses: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Darqueze Dennard

The Bengals immediately addressed the loss of Kirkpatrick and Dennard by adding two intriguing options at cornerback in the offseason in Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. These are cheaper options to be sure, and they may not represent a huge downgrade in talent. William Jackson III could return to superstar status if he can regain some of the promise he showed in 2017, and together with the two new imports he'll lead a secondary that has a pretty high ceiling heading into the season.

The Bengals are in the process of transforming their linebacking corps as evidenced by their 2020 draft, and they'll still have veteran stalwarts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap holding things down up front. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap are the potential X-factors for this defense, although they totaled just 84 combined total pressures last season. Their development in 2020 is going to play a huge role in how effective this unit can be in the pass rush.

With one of the easier schedules in the NFL and very little to lose in the way of playoff aspirations, this unit might be able to surprise some folks. Their fate is going to be influenced by the offense's ability to keep them off the field, and some of their young talent taking a step forward.

Streaming Highlights: Week 4 vs. JAC, Week 7 vs. CLE, Week 11 @ WAS, Week 12 vs. NYG, Week 13 @ MIA

 

2. Washington Football Team Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
25 23 28th 28.5 46 22 27.2

Key Additions: DE Chase Young (drafted), CB Kendall Fuller, CB Ronald Darby

Key Losses: CB Quinton Dunbar

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 Ronal Darby, whose play fell off a cliff in 2019. Landon Collins is a well-paid anchor in the secondary as well, but overall this team is built on potential more than proven talent from last season.

The strength of schedule is a big factor here. The NFC East is benefiting from a middling inter-conference schedule, and the Washington pass rush should have plenty of opportunities to show out and shut down over the course of the season.

Streaming Highlights: Week 3 at CLE, Week 5 vs. LAR, Week 6 @ NYG, Week 9 vs. NYG, Week 11 vs. CIN, Week 16 vs. CAR

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
19 24 22nd 25.8 47 19 24.8

Key Additions: LB K'lavon Chaisson (drafted), LB Joe Schobert, DE Cassius March

Key Losses: DE Calais Campbell, DT Marcell Dareus, CB A.J. Bouye

Losing Calais Campbell is obviously significant, but the Jaguars have a ton of young talent up front that can make the Jaguars reminisce about the unbelievable 2017 season. It'd be nice if they could figure out Yannick Ngakoue's contract situation, but even if they head into the 2020 season without him they can succeed with improvement from their younger players. Taven Bryan and Josh Allen are first-round talents who have yet to truly play like it, and this year's first-rounder K'Lavon Chaisson is a highlight reel waiting to happen. There is upside aplenty, but question marks define the front seven for Jacksonville.

Trading away A.J. Bouye was a relief from a contract perspective, and it allows the Jaguars to test first-round stud C.J. Henderson right away. The physical freak should make an immediate impact as a true shadow DB, and will likely track opposing teams' top wideouts given how fast, strong and physical he is.

A weaker schedule combined with some exciting young talent has my expectations up for this season in Jacksonville. If the offense can keep them off the field enough, this could be a unit that ends up being a top-10 DST option in some weeks.

Streaming Highlights: Week 3 vs. MIA, Week 4 at CIN, Week 5 @ HOU, Week 9 vs. HOU, Week 16 vs. CHI

 

4. Dallas Cowboys Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
17 19 30th 23.4 39 17 20.1

Key Additions: DT Gerald McCoy, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, NT Dontari Poe, LB Aldon Smith, DE Everson Griffen, CB Trevon Diggs (drafted), DL Neville Gallimore (drafted)

Key Losses: DE Robert Quinn, CB Byron Jones, DT Maliek Collins, S Jeff Heath

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 Gerald McCoy, 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. Chidobe Awuzie had 11 pass breakups last year, and is quietly a star in his own right

The middling pressure rate has a very good chance of increasing this year, especially given that the Cowboys have one of the easiest schedules in the league. There is as good a chance of the Cowboys finishing in the top seven of the league as any defense currently being drafted in the double-digit rounds.

Streaming Highlights: Week 1 @ LAR, Week 4 vs. CLE, Week 5 vs. NYG, Week 7 @ WAS, Week 12 vs. WAS, Week 14 @ CIN, Week 17 @ NYG

 

5. Cleveland Browns Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
24 20 29th 23.8 38 20 24.6

Key Additions: DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Andrew Billings, S Andrew Sendejo, S Karl Joseph, S Grant Delpit (drafted), DT Jordan Elliott (drafted), LB Jacob Phillips (drafted)

Key Losses: LB Joe Schobert, S Damarious Randall, LB Christian Kirksey, S Eric Murray 

The story in Cleveland is a combination of veterans stepping up and rookies showing out. Myles Garrett may be the best pass rusher on the planet (the Bosa brothers may certainly quibble about that point), and both Sheldon Richardson and Oliver Vernon will anchor the middle once again. Rookie Jacob Phillips will likely be asked to step in immediately as the strong side linebacker, and he and Mack Wilson should provide stability over the middle.

As of this writing, the fear is that rookie Grant Delpit tore his Achilles tendon during practice today (August 24th). That will certainly impact how the Browns' secondary shapes up, and places even more pressure on cornerback combo Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams to take it to the next level and for safeties Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph to play at a higher level.

Once again the strength of schedule plays a role here. The range of outcomes is extremely high on both sides of the ball in Cleveland, but in my eyes, on defense it comes down to whether or not their group of talented veterans can play to the top of their potential for a full 16 games.

Streaming Highlights: Week 2 vs. CIN, Week 3 vs. WAS, Week 7 @ CIN, Week 8 vs. LV, Week 12 @ JAC, Week 15  @ NYG, Week 16 @ NYJ



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Pierre Camus's 2020 All-Sleeper Team

What's fantasy football draft season without sleepers?

Don't worry, I won't waste your time with some convoluted explanation of what constitutes a sleeper. That's because these picks were created with specific guidelines I was given, so it removed some of the brainwork required and left more in the tank for me to elaborate on why I picked these players.

This isn't really a "team" so much as a list because it's too many players to make a starting lineup, even in Superflex, and too few to fill out an entire roster. All-Sleeper Team just makes for a catchier title; I'm sure you understand.

 

Criteria

FantasyPros recently invited its expert rankers to pick their top sleepers at each position based on the following criteria relative to the Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR).

"Each expert submits 13 sleepers at the following positions. For positions where multiple sleepers are entered (QB/RB/WR/TE), the expert must rank-order their picks.

  • 2 QB
  • 4 RB
  • 4 WR
  • 2 TE
  • 1 DST

We define Sleepers as players that fall outside of specific Expert Consensus Rank cutoffs. All experts have access to the same player selection pool that corresponds to the following:

  • QB: outside top 15 ECR
  • RB: outside top 45 ECR
  • WR: outside top 55 ECR
  • TE: outside top 15
  • DST: outside top 10 "

You may be tempted to stop reading as soon as you see Mitch Trubisky below but rest assured that stat-based rationales are forthcoming. Among the many players I'm targeting in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts this year, here are my top choices at each position.

 

Top Sleeper Picks for 2020

 

Quarterback Sleepers

Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears

Let's start with the selection that is sure to draw some pitchforks and torches from the fantasy community. This isn't a contrarian pick or simply done to justify the fact I still have Trubisky on my roster in the RotoBaller Dynasty Superflex league. I won't go so far as to call myself a Trubisky defender, but I have never thought he was quite as bad as everyone else seems to, so I guess I'm one of the few people on his side. I truly believe Trubisky can bounce back and be at least a top-20 fantasy QB, if not a serviceable streamer.

First, the Foles factor is vastly overblown. The guy had a great postseason run in Philly but has never succeeded elsewhere and was basically ditched in favor of a sixth-round pick who wasn't expected to even play last year (Gardner Minshew II). If you get outplayed by Uncle Rico, that should spell trouble.

Foles wasn't signed to replace Trubisky, who cost the team the second overall pick and three other mid-round picks back in 2017. Foles was brought in to push and mentor the young QB so that he would take advantage of what is effectively his last chance to retain the starting job in Chicago.

Trubisky gets ripped by fans and the fantasy community all the time, but it's not as if he was an unmitigated disaster last year. His 64.2% xComp% sits in the middle of the QB pack and was higher than both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He can also pitch in with his legs, having rushed for 421 yards in 2018 before tapering off last year.

Don't be surprised if Trubisky gets off to a hot start, especially if David Montgomery misses the first game or two, forcing the team to pass more often than they'd like. The start of the Bears' season has a tasty schedule for opposing passers. The first five weeks of 2020 they will face the Lions (#1 in passing yards allowed per game in 2019 - 284.4), Giants (#5 - 264.1), Falcons (#11 - 244.9), Colts (#10 - 248.9), Bucs (#3 - 270.1).

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Based on the above criteria, players like Jared Goff and Cam Newton qualify for this spot. I know Goff will likely end up with better numbers than Burrow but I can't consider him a sleeper after he's thrown for 4,600 yards two seasons in a row. Let's go with the better value in Joe Burrow, who is QB20 on RotoBaller's preseason rankings and going at 150 overall according to average industry ADP.

Relative to the competition, Burrow is worth a shot as your QB2. I predict a hard fall back to Earth for Ryan Tannehill, fewer pass attempts for Baker Mayfield, and as much as I like Daniel Jones this season, he has every bit as much risk. Even as a rookie, Burrow could be less turnover-prone than Jones.

There's no real way to know how Burrow will handle the transition to the pros but preseason reports have been positive.


With a healthy A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and second-round pick Tee Higgins, not to mention a strong all-around running back in Joe Mixon, Burrow has a great situation and upside that surpasses many of the aging veterans in the same tier.

 

Running Back Sleepers

Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans

This is the hill I will most likely die on as a fantasy analyst in 2020, aside from the fact I'm taking Cam Akers everywhere I can. I'm also targeting Evans as my RB4/5 as much as possible for the same reason - opportunity.

It goes without saying Derrick Henry is the workhorse and undisputed RB1. Then, Evans is the clear backup and passing-down back. After that comes... *checks Titans depth chart* Khari Blasingame? Senorise Perry?? Maybe Jeremy McNichols will finally stick with a team???

There's no way Tennessee gives Henry 300 carries again after investing $50 million in him. Evans will see the field more than you might expect, especially on passing downs which already gives him PPR value.

The biggest appeal is that he is automatically the most high-end insurance policy of all at RB if Henry were to get injured. That would leave a ton of touches available. Assuming that doesn't happen, Evans can at the very least fill the role Dion Lewis tried to the past two years, hopefully with more success. That could mean close to 1,000 scrimmage yards and 50+ receptions if he matches what Lewis did in 2018. If he proves to be better, you've got a weekly flex starter at the cost of a last-round pick.


Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

Resisting temptation to show his incredible SPARQ scores again, seeing as how that NFL Combine was six years ago, let's instead focus on the touches McKinnon could get in 2020.

As part of an RBBC in San Fran, McKinnon should at least take over Matt Breida's touches from last year. If he manages to stay on the field most of the season, it could be even more. I went into greater detail on McKinnon in my Bold Predictions for 2020, so just go straight to that article after you're done here.

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers

It's hard to believe the Bolts spent a third-round pick on a running back so he could sit behind Justin Jackson. Kelley will have to battle Jackson for the job but he has the goods to do so. He also won't usurp Austin Ekeler any time soon, but he could be the thunder to Ekeler's lightning and more than just a backup. Ekeler saw an average of 38.1 snaps per game while Melvin Gordon III took 36.1 on average in the 12 games he played. If Kelley continues to earn the coaching staff's trust, he could be that complementary back.

The Athletic's Daniel Popper claimed that Kelley “might be having the best training camp of any player on the roster” and is "already looking like a mainstay in the Chargers' running back room." It's not a guarantee he sees a ton of usage and it may not come until later in the season, but this is the type of player that could emerge at the right time and become a waiver-wire must-add. If Justin Jackson's preseason toe injury keeps him on the shelf, Kelley could emerge sooner than later. For the time being, stash him on your bench and save yourself the in-season FAB.

Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars

I'd like to say this wasn't a late addition to my sleeper list but that would be mostly fibbing. I've picked Thompson in a couple of best-ball leagues for the same reason he becomes a more viable fantasy presence now that Leonard Fournette is gone. He is a reliable pass-catcher with a defined role that will now grow larger. He was brought in by new OC Jay Gruden, who coached him in Washington.

Thompson has even been seeing red-zone work throughout training camp. Although he didn't score a single TD last year, he should have done better. FantasyPros' Touchdown Regression rankings have him as the leader among RB in projected positive TD regression. There may not be many scores to go around in Jacksonville this year but there will be plenty of playing from behind, which works in a pass-catching back's favor. Thompson could be a solid RB3 each week, even if he isn't a league-winner.

 

Wide Receiver Sleepers

Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

To be clear, I am not drinking the Tompa Bay Kool-Aid anywhere else. I have Gronk as a bust, Brady as overvalued, and will not reach for any Bucs running back, including Leonard Fournette.

I am buying the preseason hype on Miller. Ignore this as a cliche of the diminutive white slot receiver becoming Brady's target of choice, but it's based on years of factual evidence as well as very recent beat writer observations.


For the cost of a last-round pick, why not take a chance?

Also this:

Breshad Perriman, New York Jets

Somebody's got to catch passes for the Jets, right? With Denzel Mims sidelined throughout training camp, his rookie year could be a wash if he doesn't recover soon. Recently signed Chris Hogan is listed as a starter opposite Perriman with Lawrence Cager, Josh Malone, and Jehu Chesson backing them up on the outside. Yeah, Perriman's going to see a ton of targets. His recent MRI is disconcerting but thankfully revealed no serious injury, so he may be ready for Week 1 and may even see a drop in ADP as a result.

While Jamison Crowder is a solid pick, he's also the type of boring player that won't win you a week, much less a league. Michael Florio is on board with this, as he advises Perriman is the type of player to target while avoiding Crowder based on limited upside.

We talk a lot about advanced stats and regression in baseball but it applies equally to football. Perriman wasn't a YAC monster in 2019, falling in the middle of the pack at 4.2 yards after catch. He was the biggest underperformed in that category compared to xYAC/R, as NextGenStats say he should have averaged 6.2 YAC, which would have placed him eighth among wide receivers. For what it's worth, A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith both massively overachieved in this stat, with Corey Davis also at +1.5, so expect a major step back for Ryan Tannehill's yardage totals. Just sayin'

Perriman is the type of home run threat you want as a backup receiver. There are plenty of boring slot receivers that you can stream throughout the season if he turns back into a pumpkin.

Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers

Opportunity is everything in fantasy, right? Lazard has the WR2 role in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers at QB. I know we've said that to build up other Packer receivers before but this is the guy to watch in 2020.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling ranked last among qualified receivers in catch rate at 46% and moved backward in his second NFL season. Ignore Rodgers trying to build him up in the media - he has no other choice at this point.

Without other reliable options at receiver or tight end, Lazard should be Rodgers' clear No. 2 option near the sidelines and in the red zone. Jimmy Graham and Geronimo Allison leave 18 RZ targets vacant. With Devin Funchess opting out, nobody else is inheriting those precious throws. His value will be higher in standard than PPR but Lazard is a great plug-and-play option for byes and injuries throughout the year.

Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders

I felt good about this pick when I drafted Edwards in a dynasty rookie draft and traded for him in an FFPC Startup draft back in May. I felt really good about it when he was announced as the starting X receiver for the team about a week ago. Now that Tyrell Williams is on IR, it's nice to see that he's finally getting on some fantasy radars before the final weekend of draft season.

Edwards has a great chance to not only outsnap and outproduce first-round pick Henry Ruggs on this team, he has a legit shot to be a top-three rookie receiver in 2020. That's saying something considering the depth of this class. It isn't the most pass-happy offense, finishing 22nd in pass plays per game and 25th in pass play percentage last year. For that reason, we can't expect huge volume. Nonetheless, Edwards could be a solid WR4 with a high weekly floor.

 

Tight End Sleepers

Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

I changed my second pick here several times. First, it was Jack Doyle but my growing interest in Trey Burton made me think to replace him. Then I realized two tight ends on the same team might cancel each other out, so it was between Ian Thomas and Jonnu Smith. Finally, I gave in to the conclusion that Blake Jarwin is just too great a value to ignore.

Chris Herndon, New York Jets

It troubles me that I have not one but two Jets players on this list. On the other hand, if Perriman gets hurt or busts, then that just means more receptions for Herndon, right?

He's catching on as a sleeper in the fantasy community, partly due to the injuries across the Jets' WR corps. Also, he's a great athlete at tight end and could finally fulfill the promise of a year ago before suspension and injury cost him essentially all of 2019. As much as I don't trust Adam Gase's offense, he praised Herndon quite a bit upon first arriving in Gotham and the team still has big plans for him. They'll have no choice at this point.

You may be thinking, "Didn't the Jets target the tight end just 11.6% of the time last year at the third-lowest rate in the NFL?" True, but that's largely because they were without Herndon and had precious little depth behind Ryan Griffin. As I stated previously with Chris Thompson and the Jags, this team may be losing quite a bit and have no choice but to air it out and Herndon might wind up being the best target Sam Darnold has outside of Jamison yawn Crowder.

 

Team Defense Sleepers

Tennessee Titans Defense (D/ST)

The original pick here was the L.A. Chargers but the news that safety Derwin James would be out for the season changed my mind quickly. The Titans are an underrated defense that has been streamable but not a weekly lock in fantasy. The Titans finished 12th in total DST scoring last year, which placed them as a fringe starting unit. That may change this year.

Young players Jayon Brown, Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans, and Adoree Jackson are all 25 or younger and coming into their own. The addition of second-round pick Kristian Fulton out of LSU solidifies the secondary further. If pass-rusher Vic Beasley can get on the field, that could give them a nice boost as well. Recent reports indicate that the Titans may have an offer out for Jadveon Clowney as well.

Tennessee has a favorable strength of schedule (.498) and face divisional opponents like Jacksonville and Indy twice. Philip Rivers tossed 20 INT last year and the Jags are just going to be terrible. For Weeks 13-15, a.k.a. fantasy playoff time, they face Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Detroit. You may want to find a better option for Week 16 though, as they travel to Lambeau to play the Pack.

With Henry toting the rock and Ryan Tannehill limiting turnovers, the defense can rest easy and do its thing. Although the star of this team is really going to be Darrynton Evans...



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Cincinnati Bengals Defense (D/ST, CIN) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

CURRENT ADP: Rd. 45.8 (22nd D/ST)

ANALYSIS: The Bengals immediately addressed the loss of Kirkpatrick and Dennard by adding two intriguing options at cornerback in the offseason in Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. These are cheaper options to be sure, and they may not represent a huge downgrade in talent. William Jackson III could return to superstar status if he can regain some of the promise he showed in 2017, and together with the two new imports he'll lead a secondary that has a pretty high ceiling heading into the season.

The Bengals are in the process of transforming their linebacking corps as evidenced by their 2020 draft, and they'll still have veteran stalwarts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap holding things down up front. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap are the potential X-factors for this defense, although they totaled just 84 combined total pressures last season. Their development in 2020 is going to play a huge role in how effective this unit can be in the pass rush.

With one of the easier schedules in the NFL and very little to lose in the way of playoff aspirations, this unit might be able to surprise some folks. Their fate is going to be influenced by the offense's ability to keep them off the field, and some of their young talent taking a step forward.

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Cleveland Browns Defense/ST (D/ST, CLE) - 2020 Fantasy Football Draft Sleeper

CURRENT ADP: Rd. 28.1 (11th D/ST)

ANALYSIS: The story in Cleveland is a combination of veterans stepping up and rookies showing out. Myles Garrett may be the best pass rusher on the planet (the Bosa brothers may certainly quibble about that point), and both Sheldon Richardson and Oliver Vernon will anchor the middle once again. Rookie Jacob Phillips will likely be asked to step in immediately as the strong side linebacker, and he and Mack Wilson should provide stability over the middle.

As of this writing, the fear is that rookie Grant Delpit tore his Achilles tendon during practice today (August 24th). That will certainly impact how the Browns' secondary shapes up, and places even more pressure on cornerback combo Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams to take it to the next level and for safeties Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph to play at a higher level.

Once again the strength of schedule plays a role here. The range of outcomes is extremely high on both sides of the ball in Cleveland, but in my eyes, on defense it comes down to whether or not their group of talented veterans can play to the top of their potential for a full 16 games.

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Washington Football Team Defense (D/ST, WAS) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

CURRENT ADP: Rd. 40.6 (25th D/ST)

ANALYSIS: 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 Ronal Darby, whose play fell off a cliff in 2019. Landon Collins is a well-paid anchor in the secondary as well, but overall this team is built on potential more than proven talent from last season.

The strength of schedule is a big factor here. The NFC East is benefiting from a middling inter-conference schedule, and the Washington pass rush should have plenty of opportunities to show out and shut down over the course of the season.

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Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (D/ST, JAX) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

CURRENT ADP: Rd. 34.3 (26th D/ST)

ANALYSIS: Losing Calais Campbell is obviously significant, but the Jaguars have a ton of young talent up front that can make the Jaguars reminisce about the unbelievable 2017 season. It'd be nice if they could figure out Yannick Ngakoue's contract situation, but even if they head into the 2020 season without him they can succeed with improvement from their younger players. Taven Bryan and Josh Allen are first-round talents who have yet to truly play like it, and this year's first-rounder K'Lavon Chaisson is a highlight reel waiting to happen. There is upside aplenty, but question marks define the front seven for Jacksonville.

Trading away A.J. Bouye was a relief from a contract perspective, and it allows the Jaguars to test first-round stud C.J. Henderson right away. The physical freak should make an immediate impact as a true shadow DB, and will likely track opposing teams' top wideouts given how fast, strong and physical he is.

A weaker schedule combined with some exciting young talent has my expectations up for this season in Jacksonville. If the offense can keep them off the field enough, this could be a unit that ends up being a top-10 DST option in some weeks.

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New England Patriots Defense (D/ST, NE) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

CURRENT ADP: Rd. 22.3 (5th D/ST)

ANALYSIS: The Patriots had a dominant defense in the first half of 2019 (partly due to them playing very weak opponents), but the unit still finished as the top-ranked fantasy defense at the end of the season. It’s best to temper expectations heading into this season though, as the Pats lost LB Elandon Roberts, S Duron Harmon, DT Danny Shelton, LB Kyle Van Noy, and LB Jamie Collins. In addition, LB Dont’a Hightower and S Patrick Chung have opted out of the season, which is a huge blow to this unit. The Patriots still do return talent in 2020, which includes CB Jason McCourty, S Devin McCourty, and CB Stephon Gilmore. Last year, this unit was simply phenomenal.

They ranked first in fantasy points per game, first in points allowed, first in picks per game, eighth in fumble recoveries per game, eighth in sacks per game, first in total interceptions, first in fumble recoveries, eighth in sacks, ninth in quarterback hits, and first in defensive touchdowns.

These stats are based on the collection of talent that was present on the unit last season. For 2020, New England has lost a lot of key defensive pieces, so the unit is not a top-three fantasy defense. However, with Bill Belichick’s coaching and a strong secondary, there is a silver lining with this unit, so consider them a top-six to top-seven fantasy defense heading into 2020.

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Dallas Cowboys Defense (D/ST, DAL) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

CURRENT ADP: Rd. 28.8 (4th D/ST)

ANALYSIS: 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 Gerald McCoy, 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. Chidobe Awuzie had 11 pass breakups last year, and is quietly a star in his own right

The middling pressure rate has a very good chance of increasing this year, especially given that the Cowboys have one of the easiest schedules in the league. There is as good a chance of the Cowboys finishing in the top seven of the league as any defense currently being drafted in the double-digit rounds.

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Team Defense (DST) Top Draft Targets

Often times, the defense may be an underlooked component on owners’ fantasy teams. Due to the fluctuating strength of the competition, many defenses may not resemble weekly starters. Because of this, owners may become lax when it comes to drafting a solid defense.

Nevertheless, several defenses in the NFL do represent quality starting options (in mostly all weeks) for fantasy and some team defenses have even single-handedly led some fantasy teams to victory during certain weeks. An NFL team's defense could be composed of multiple talented players who may bring value to fantasy teams through sacks, interceptions, and defensive touchdowns.

Every year, some sleeper defenses do emerge, but there are still some units owners should be targeting in drafts. The targeted defenses should feature strength all over the unit as well as a proven ability to come up clutch in fantasy. Let’s look at several team defenses you should be targeting for your upcoming draft.

 

San Francisco 49ers

This one should be no surprise. The 49ers rode a ball-hawking and dominant defense to the Super Bowl last year and it’s hard to point out any flaws on this unit heading into 2020. I mean, they have talent all over this side of the ball which includes DE Nick Bosa, CB Richard Sherman, DE Arik Armstead, LB Kwon Alexander, DE Dee Ford, S Jimmie Ward, etc.

Last season, San Fran finished third among fantasy defenses. The unit averaged 10.2 fantasy points per game, nearly one fumble recovery per game, and three sacks per game, along with having 12 picks, 15 fumble recoveries, 48 sacks, and five defensive touchdowns.

Among fantasy defenses, they ranked third in fantasy points per game, fourth in fumble recoveries per game, fifth in sacks per game, 17th in picks, fourth in fumble recoveries, fifth in sacks, and fifth in defensive touchdowns.

With no major turnover on this unit from the offseason, lock the San Fran defense in as a solid choice to draft as you can always rely on them to show up week in and week out because of the firepower and talent they have. The 49ers field a top-two fantasy defense heading into 2020.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers may have had a lot of QB issues last season after Big Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury, but their defense was legitimate. Heading into 2020, Pitt is boasting a unit that features LB T.J. Watt, DE Cameron Heyward, LB Devin Bush, CB Joe Haden, S Terrell Edmunds, and S Minkah Fitzpatrick and there is no shortage of talent and any reason to believe this unit can’t thrive once again.

In 2019, Pittsburgh finished as the second-best fantasy defense. They averaged 11.4 fantasy points per game (2nd), allowed 18.95 points per game (5th), averaged 1.25 picks per game (2nd), 1.13 fumble recoveries per game (1st), and 3.38 sacks per game (1st), along with having 20 picks (2nd), 18 fumble recoveries (1st), 54 sacks (1st), 116 quarterback hits (2nd), and four defensive touchdowns (6th). The Steelers ranked top-five in pretty much all important categories, and that adds fuel to the notion they could easily be the top-ranked fantasy defense heading into the 2020 season. Consider them one of the strongest options to draft.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Not only do the Baltimore Ravens have an explosive offense that never seems to run out of juice, but they also have a formidable defense. They now have DE Derek Wolfe, DE Calais Campbell, and rookie LB Patrick Queen, along with the returns of CB Marcus Peters, S Earl Thomas III, LB Matthew Judon, and CB Marlon Humphrey.

Like their division-rival Pittsburgh, the Ravens have an elite defense that proved to be a fantasy stud last season. They finished fourth in fantasy. Baltimore recorded 9.63 fantasy points per game (4th), allowed 17.6 points per game (3rd), averaged 0.81 picks (12th) and 0.75 fumble recoveries per game (6th), and had a total of 12 fumble recoveries (6th), 111 QB hits (4th), and six defensive touchdowns (3rd). The Ravens may have lost CB Brandon Carr and S Tony Jefferson this offseason, but they did replenish their unit through free agency signings. Because of this, Baltimore still has a robust defense that should be considered top-five in fantasy.

 

Buffalo Bills

Under coach Sean McDermott, the Bills have become a defensive stalwart. Finishing 12th among fantasy defenses last season may seem like the team isn’t that fantasy-relevant, but the unit has the talent and coaching to field a top fantasy defense in 2020. After all, Buffalo has DE Trent Murphy, DT Ed Oliver, DE Jerry Hughes, LB Tremaine Edmonds, CB Tre’Davious White, and S Micah Hyde.

Last season, the Bills had 8.4 fantasy points per game (11th), allowed 16.2 points per game (2nd), averaged 0.88 picks (8th) and 2.75 sacks per game (12th), along with having 14 total picks (9th) and 44 sacks (12th). The Bills bring huge potential as a fantasy defense based on the talent they possess and the decent stats from last season. Consider them a top-five option for 2020.

 

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints may have come up short of the Super Bowl the past few seasons, but their roster is one of the most complete on paper. Though Drew Brees and company get most of the credit for their wins, this defense is not to be undermined. NOLA finished a respectable ninth among fantasy defenses in 2019.

They are also talented on all three levels of the defense, featuring DE Cameron Jordan, DE Marcus Davenport, LB Demario Davis, CB Janoris Jenkins, S Malcolm Jenkins, and CB Marshon Lattimore.

As a unit last season, the Saints had 8.94 fantasy points per game (8th), 0.81 picks per game (13th), 0.63 fumble recoveries per game (10th), 3.2 sacks per game (3rd), 13 picks (12th), 10 fumble recoveries (10th), 51 sacks (3rd), 110 quarterback hits (5th), and four defensive touchdowns (7th).

The New Orleans defense fielded some generally decent stats last season, and the talent on this unit should help them have another stellar campaign. The Saints have been one of the most consistent teams in the past few years, so this defense is trustworthy. Consider them a top-six to top-seven fantasy defense.

 

New England Patriots

The Patriots had a dominant defense in the first half of 2019 (partly due to them playing very weak opponents), but the unit still finished as the top-ranked fantasy defense at the end of the season. It’s best to temper expectations heading into this season though, as the Pats lost LB Elandon Roberts, S Duron Harmon, DT Danny Shelton, LB Kyle Van Noy, and LB Jamie Collins. In addition, LB Dont’a Hightower and S Patrick Chung have opted out of the season, which is a huge blow to this unit. The Patriots still do return talent in 2020, which includes CB Jason McCourty, S Devin McCourty, and CB Stephon Gilmore. Last year, this unit was simply phenomenal.

They ranked first in fantasy points per game, first in points allowed, first in picks per game, eighth in fumble recoveries per game, eighth in sacks per game, first in total interceptions, first in fumble recoveries, eighth in sacks, ninth in quarterback hits, and first in defensive touchdowns.

These stats are based on the collection of talent that was present on the unit last season. For 2020, New England has lost a lot of key defensive pieces, so the unit is not a top-three fantasy defense. However, with Bill Belichick’s coaching and a strong secondary, there is a silver lining with this unit, so consider them a top-six to top-seven fantasy defense heading into 2020.



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2019 RotoBaller Fantasy Football Awards

Welcome to the official 2019 Fantasy Football Awards Show, presented by RotoBaller.

While no one can fill Michael Scott’s shoes, I’ll try to make he and The Dundies proud as we look back on 2019, look forward to 2020, and maybe just learn something along the way. Or get a hankering for Chili’s. Either way, we’ll have some fun honoring some of the fine football players, coaches and teams who have had outstanding (for better or worse) performances in the 2019 season.

It’s always a bittersweet affair when the fantasy football season ends, as we all come down from the high of chasing championships and mainlining Gus Hansen on Red Zone every Sunday. Let’s hope for some fun playoff games to get us through these trying times.

 

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Most Valuable Player: Lamar Jackson

When you get the QB1 with some RB2 legs combined in one package, you typically finish as No. 1. Jackson made 2019 his own not only with his 1,206 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but passing for 36 touchdowns against just six interceptions alongside 3,127 passing yards. This season would’ve been MVP-caliber even if he was the consensus first-overall pick back in August, let alone the insane profit margins available as a late-round flyer. The only “dropoff” was that he sat in Week 17, punishing the poor souls in fantasy leagues that errantly utilize it. The hype was real, and it was spectacular.

 

Rookie of the Year: Josh Jacobs

Jacobs came out swinging in Week 1, tagging Denver’s stout front for 113 total yards and two touchdowns en route to RB RoY honors. He topped 100 total yards nines times in just 13 games, including Week 15 where he suited up with a broken shoulder. He would total 1,150 rushing yards on just 242 carries, good for a 4.8 YPC, alongside a respectable 166 receiving yards on 20 receptions. The injury threw cold water on the hot rookie campaign, but we know he did everything he could to get back out there for us (and Oakland.) A gamer through-and-through, he’ll be a solid second-round pick come 2020 drafts. Hopefully, we’ll soon see him boosting those TD numbers with an offense/coach that can actually move the ball.

 

Playoffs MVP: Kenyan Drake

Hate or love the Drake, Kenyan got his down the stretch and hit the nitro on his stat line at just the right time. He was limited to a touchdown-less 174 rushing yards across six games with Miami, but was then dealt to Arizona and set free while the ghost of David Johnson haunted our rosters. Drake exploded in his Cardinals debut, posting 162 total yards and a score on just 19 touches against none other than San Francisco -- a decent defense, if you ask me. In true Cardinals fashion, Drake was underutilized and quiet in Weeks 10-14 before humiliating the Browns with a whopping 22-137-4 rushing line in Week 15. This single-handedly vaulted many fantasy owners, who hoped for maybe 10-12 PPR points, into the finals. He would follow that up with a 24-166-2 line at Seattle, which fueled many a championship effort in Week 16. Aaron Jones and Michael Thomas both finished two votes back of Drake.

 

Comeback Player of the Year: Devante Parker

Parker edged out former teammate Ryan Tannehill by one vote here. Alas, Parker came alive in Week 4 and Tannehill didn’t draw a start until Week 7. It was Parker who scored a touchdown or topped 50 yards in 14-of-16 games this season, leading to a stellar 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns on the 2019 Miami Dolphins. You could argue Ryan Fitzpatrick earns a share of this award, as Fitzmagic’s relentless aggression helped Parker see double-digit targets in six of Miami’s final eight games.

 

Biggest Flop: David Johnson

Remember when Johnson put up 82 rushing yards alongside 55 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 1? Week 2 against Baltimore was awful for nearly all Cardinals, but then Johnson came back with 462 total yards and three touchdowns over his next four games. I realize the injury and ice-cold finish to the season made things look absolutely bleak, but he wasn’t that bad in the early going.

And then that ankle injury that Kliff Kingsbury said was just fine seemed to sideline him against the Giants, only to see Chase Edmonds step up and deliver a three-touchdown performance. Edmonds then got hurt himself, only for Arizona to trade for the aforementioned Drake. Johnson would never exceed six touches in a game again.

Also, I’m surprised not one vote came in for Brandin Cooks. Jus’ sayin.

 

Wake Me Up, I Can't Wake Up: Dante Pettis

Not just a hilarious song lyric, this line epitomizes a popular “sleeper” pick being physically unable to spring into action and actually do something during the season. Pettis was being drafted as the 42nd WR off the board in August after finishing 2018 on a hot streak. If I showed you the 49ers success in 2019 and nothing else ahead of your August draft, you probably would’ve leapt even higher for Pettis. But he would finish behind Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Marquise Goodwin and Richie James, not to mention the midseason acquisition, Emmanuel Sanders. He caught only 11 of his 24 targets for 109 yards, but he had two exciting touchdowns!! Sigh. That 45.8% catch rate -- easily the lowest on the team -- wasn’t going to encourage further playing time. Yes, many were trapped in Dante’s Inferno in the early going of 2019, but at least he had the courtesy of being so terrible that he was droppable early on.

 

Midseason Savior: Ryan Tannehill

Full disclosure, DeVante Parker also won this but I don’t think that’s fun. I’ll let his “higher” award supersede this so I can wax poetic about Tannehill and tangentially rope A.J. Brown in too. When Tannehill took over late in Week 6, we had no reason to believe he’d catch fire. The offense went through Derrick Henry, and of course Delanie Walker got hurt early in Week 7.

Well, Tannehill threw egg on all our faces by completing 70.3% of his passes to collect 2,742 yards with a 22/6 TD/INT mark on just 286 pass attempts. He even sprinkled in 185 rushing yards with four ground TDs just to show off (and maybe win the game, we’ll never know his true intent.) He never had a start with fewer than two touchdowns, despite the low passing volume. That’s what a lofty 9.6 Yards-per-Attempt mark can do when you’ve got A.J. Brown hauling in a quartet of 40-yard TDs as a rookie.

 

Most Consistent: Christian McCaffrey

Don’t worry, Michael Thomas did get a decent slice of the pie here, but CMC takes it home. He had one bad game, Week 2 against Tampa Bay with 6.3 points in half-PPR, but otherwise he was a force. His next-worst game was Week 13 with 13.7 points, and beyond that it was 19 points or more in the other 14 contests. With 19 TDs, 1,387 yards rushing, 1,005 yards receiving and a gaudy 116 receptions, it’s safe to say the initial reports of McCaffrey’s work being scaled down didn’t come to fruition. Given his leaping abilities, the sky is truly the limit for the Stanford stud.

 

Most Underappreciated: John Brown

Brown finished as a top-20 WR despite carrying a WR59 ADP tag back in August (in half-PPR) and operating on a Buffalo team that rushed the ball 54% of the time. The 1,060 yards are a career-best, topping his 1,003-yard campaign on the 2015 Cardinals. He was Buffalo’s de facto WR1 to open the season, but Josh Allen’s erratic arm didn’t inspire confidence and Brown had little recency bias in his corner after dealing with Lamar Jackson’s growth as a thrower in 2018. Brown would have one “wow” game, the 9-137-2 line against Miami in Week 11, but was rarely talked about on the national scene. The NFL Fantasy channel didn’t put the spotlight on him whenever I had it on during a treadmill run. He just put his helmet on and got to work, and we are so happy that he did.

 

Biggest Headache: Odell Beckham Jr.

Antonio Brown is right there, but again, at least he was a headache we could get rid of relatively quickly. OBJ had similar preseason hype given his new uniform and the Bakermania Dream Team that was set to crush 2019. Things looked promising with a 6-161-1 line against the Jets in Week 2, but he clearly just liked being back at Metlife Stadium. He wouldn’t catch another TD until Week 12, finishing the year with just four scores that added seven years to the lives of those who rostered him. 

He only had two 100-yard games and exceeded six catches twice, punishing anyone who leaned on him as a WR1. We learned he was playing through a sports hernia, so perhaps we need to rename this award, and OBJ said he’d ‘been banged up all year since whatever happened in camp.” Fewer practices meant worse chemistry and weak results, but Freddie Kitchens couldn’t whip up a zesty offense either. He should be a sound investment in 2020, but the only thing his ‘19 was good for was Advil sales.

 

Tinder Ghost of the Year: Sammy Watkins

This award is to honor those in the fray of online dating who are overcome with joy and excitement upon receiving a new match. You get a couple messages deep and things appear promising -- for one night, you’re on fire. The GIFs are perfect, the jokes are landing, they’re dropping 40-plus points with three touchdowns to open the season.

And then they’re gone. Poof. Like it meant nothing at all, you’ve been ghosted.

Anyway, that’s essentially what Watkins did to us all in 2019. He wouldn’t score another TD in the regular season after the Week 1 hat trick, topping out at 64 measly yards despite seeing eight or more targets in six additional games before KC wised up to his being lousy. Go on, Sammy, go break someone else’s heart.

 

Best Fantasy Team: Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson shouldered much of this load, but Mark Ingram delivered on his ADP as the No. 8 RB in half-PPR while Mark Andrews finished as a top-five TE. The WR corps was spotty, but Marquise Brown had his splash plays here and there. Justin Tucker provided fantasy owners with a top-three kicker while the defense supplied a top-five scoring unit. While I’d love for this to go to Tampa Bay, I can see why Baltimore claims this.

 

"I'm Not Drafting Him in 2020": Antonio Brown & James Conner

AB is in his own league at this point and I truly hope he gets some help. I don’t think anyone is going to seriously entertain him as a relevant pick in 2020 given what we currently know, so I’ll focus on Conner.

Frankly, I hope my fellow writers are speaking for all of you because I’ll happily take Conner at a discount in ‘20. I understand his playing 13 games in ‘18 and 10 in ‘19 play into the headache here, but much of this also comes down to Ben Roethlisberger being injured. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges cannot lead an offense, no matter how good the line is and how monstrous T.J. Watt can be on the other side of the ball. 

The 116-464-4 rushing line feels miraculous given the offense, as I’d expect them all to have averaged well under four yards per carry. I do wish he saw more passing work, as 71 targets in ‘18 turned into 38 here with only three fewer games, but I point back to no Big Ben affecting the volume.

This leads nicely into…

 

2020 Comeback Player of the Year Award: JuJu Smith-Schuster

Well, alright then. Bury Conner but lift up JuJu, what do I know? Poor JJSS suffered mightily at the hands of store-brand QBs, eclipsing 100 yards just once and tallying three TDs and 552 yards on 42 catches. He battled injuries and incompetence alike, all but did have five games of 75 yards or more in his first seven games. He’ll turn 24 in the middle of next season and surely hopes Roethlisberger is back to 100% for the Roaring Twenties 2.0.

 

The Bermuda Triangle Award: The Pittsburgh Steelers

I don’t think I need to explain much, as the last two blurbs extol the horrid efforts of Pittsburgh’s fantasy appeal across 2019. This is where many a fantasy team’s hopes disappeared off the radar, never to be heard from again. The Jets, Redskins and Bengals all received several votes as well, but the expectations were lower with them to start. The importance of a reliable backup QB cannot be overstated.

 

The Oprah Winfrey Generosity Award: Jameis Winston

You get a football, and you get a football, everyone gets footballs! Jameis is just a progressive dude that doesn’t see color (of uniform) and wants to make everyone on the field feel loved with a souvenir. With an insane 5,000-yard season with 33 TDs and 30 INTs, Winston was out to make sure nobody left the game empty-handed. 

 

The Rex Grossman +Jay Cutler Award For Achievement In Chicago Bears Quarterbacking: Mitch Trubisky

Technically, he did play quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Shoutout to Joey Christopoulos for the award suggestion.

 

The Fred the Fish Award: Will Fuller

Fuller entertains us with flashes of greatness, only to have them rudely interrupted with a leg injury. In four seasons, Fuller has maxed out at 14 games played in a season. With 20 games missed over his last three years, I pretty much expect to hear “My Leg!” yelled out whenever I see him. I don’t mean to make light of a dedicated athlete trying to perform at the highest level, but this is getting ridiculous. Besides, I’m not calling him the Mr. Glass guy.

 

The Whitest Sneakers Award: Harrison Butker

This Pam Beesly-inspired award goes to the best kicker of the season, Mr. Butker. He just edged out Wil Lutz for the honor, who I guess wins the Roy Anderson Award as runner-up here? Anyway, Butker impressed by nailing all 13 of his field-goal attempts from the 40-49 yard range and leading the NFL with 34 overall field goals made. That said, he did miss three extra points...so don’t get a big ego over this, Butker.

 

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Week 16 Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Okay, this is it. If you're still alive, you can't afford to miss out at ANY position, including DST. In fact, ESPECIALLY DST. If you've made the championship, you've likely got a pretty good set of skill players, so DST is that one last magic cog that could be the difference between a title belt or ultimate defeat.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 16 playoff defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 16 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 16. 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 16 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 16 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 16 RotoBallers!

 

Week 16 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

My rankings are pretty pure this week. Many of the top defenses have solid matchups, and their ranking reflects that. If you're still somehow streaming in the championship matchup, my top streamers are below:

Rank DST Week 16 Opponent
1 Denver Broncos Defense vs. DET
2 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. JAC
3 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ OAK
4 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. CAR
5 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ CHI
6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. HOU
7 Washington Redskins Defense vs. NYG
8 Houston Texans Defense @ TB
9 Detroit Lions Defense @ DEN
10 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. CIN

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 16 Opponent
1 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. BUF
2 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ NYJ
3 1 New York Jets Defense vs. PIT
4 1 Denver Broncos Defense vs. DET

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 16 Opponent
5 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. LAR
6 2 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. JAC
7 2 Buffalo Bills Defense @ NE
8 2 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. ARI
9 2 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ CLE

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 16 Opponent
10 3 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ OAK
11 3 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. CAR
12 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ CHI
13 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. HOU
14 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. DAL

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 16 Opponent
15 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ PHI
16 4 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ SF
17 4 Washington Redskins Defense vs. NYG
18 4 New Orleans Saints Defense @ TEN
19 4 Houston Texans Defense @ TB
20 4 Detroit Lions Defense @ DEN
21 4 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ ATL
22 4 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. CIN

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 16 Opponent
23 5 Green Bay Packers Defense @ MIN
24 5 Oakland Raiders Defense @LAC
25 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. GB
26 5 New York Giants Defense @ WAS
27 5 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ MIA
28 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ IND

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Week 15-16 Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Still doing things a little differently this week--for those of you who are still alive. I want to take a look at the playoffs as a whole (and in this case we are considering Weeks 14-16) and determine which DSTs you can ride all the way through and which ones you should stream this week. Those streamers will be likely options in multiple weeks of the playoffs.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 15-16 playoff defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 15 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 15 and beyond. 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 15 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 15 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 15 RotoBallers!

 

Playoff Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Breakdowns don't make a ton of sense here since my analysis will be different for each team each week, so I've gone with pure rankings in order of confidence in that team over the remaining two weeks of the playoffs.

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. NYJ @ CLE
2 1 New England Patriots Defense @ CIN vs. BUF
3 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. BUF @ NYJ

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
4 2 Buffalo Bills Defense @ PIT @ NE
5 2 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ CAR vs. ARI
6 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. ATL vs. LAR
7 2 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. DEN @ CHI
8 2 Houston Texans Defense @ TEN @ TB
9 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ DAL @ SF

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
10 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ WAS vs. DAL
11 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. LAR @ PHI
12 3 Washington Redskins Defense vs. PHI vs. NYG
13 3 Cleveland Browns Defense @ ARI vs. BAL
14 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. IND @ TEN
15 3 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ OAK @ ATL
16 3 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. CHI @ MIN

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
17 4 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ SF vs. JAC
18 4 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. MIN @ OAK
19 4 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ LAC vs. GB
20 4 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. HOU vs. NO
21 4 Detroit Lions Defense vs. TB @ DEN

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
22 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ DET vs. HOU
23 5 New York Jets Defense @ BAL vs. PIT
24 5 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ NO vs. CAR
25 5 Miami Dolphins Defense @ NYG vs. CIN
26 5 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. SEA @ IND
27 5 Denver Broncos Defense @ KC vs. DET
28 5 New York Giants Defense vs. MIA @ WAS

 

Week 15 Streaming Defenses: Rankings

These are all DSTs who are owned in 50% or fewer of ESPN leagues (the ownership percentages are typically pretty similar regardless of platform). 

Rank DST Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
1 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ CAR vs. ARI
2 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. DEN @ CHI
3 Houston Texans Defense @ TEN @ TB
4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. LAR @ PHI
5 Washington Redskins Defense vs. PHI vs. NYG
6 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ SF vs. JAC
7 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. MIN @ OAK
8 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. HOU vs. NO
9 Detroit Lions Defense vs. TB @ DEN
10 New York Jets Defense @ BAL vs. PIT
11 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ NO vs. CAR
12 Miami Dolphins Defense @ NYG vs. CIN
13 Denver Broncos Defense @ KC vs. DET
14 New York Giants Defense vs. MIA @ WAS

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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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis 2020 Fantasy Football Waiver Pickups List Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 14-16 Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

The playoffs are here, and that means we're going to do things a little differently. I want to take a look at the playoffs as a whole (and in this case we are considering Weeks 14-16) and determine which DSTs you can ride all the way through and which ones you should stream this week. Those streamers will be likely options in multiple weeks of the playoffs.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 14-16 playoff defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 14 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 14 and beyond. 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 14 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 14 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 14 RotoBallers!

 

Playoff Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Breakdowns don't make a ton of sense here since my analysis will be different for each team each week, so I've gone with pure rankings in order of confidence in that team over the ENTIRE three-week playoff schedule.

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 14 Opponent Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ ARI vs. BUF @ NYJ
2 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ BUF vs. NYJ @ CLE

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 14 Opponent Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
3 2 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. LAC @ OAK @ ATL
4 2 New England Patriots Defense vs. KC @ CIN vs. BUF
5 2 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. NYG @ WAS vs. DAL
6 2 New York Jets Defense vs. MIA @ BAL vs. PIT

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 14 Opponent Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
7 3 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ LAR @ CAR vs. ARI
8 3 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. WAS vs. CHI @ MIN
9 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ CHI vs. LAR @ PHI
10 3 Houston Texans Defense vs. DEN @ TEN @ TB
11 3 San Francisco 49ers Defense @ NO vs. ATL vs. LAR
12 3 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. BAL @ PIT @ NE
13 3 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. CIN @ ARI vs. BAL

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 14 Opponent Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
14 4 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. SF vs. IND @ TEN
15 4 Washington Redskins Defense @ GB vs. PHI vs. NYG
16 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ NE vs. DEN @ CHI
17 4 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. DET @ LAC vs. GB
18 4 Tennessee Titans Defense @ OAK vs. HOU vs. NO
19 4 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ JAC vs. MIN @ OAK
20 4 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ TB @ NO vs. CAR

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Week 14 Opponent Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
21 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ ATL vs. SEA @ IND
22 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. IND @ DET vs. HOU
23 5 Denver Broncos Defense @ HOU @ KC vs. DET
24 5 New York Giants Defense @ PHI vs. MIA @ WAS
25 5 Miami Dolphins Defense @ NYJ @ NYG vs. CIN
26 5 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. SEA @ DAL @ SF

 

Week 14 Streaming Defenses: Rankings

These are all DSTs who are owned in 50% or fewer of ESPN leagues (the ownership percentages are typically pretty similar regardless of platform). 

Rank DST Week 14 Opponent Week 15 Opponent Week 16 Opponent
1 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ LAR @ CAR vs. ARI
2 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. WAS vs. CHI @ MIN
3 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ CHI vs. LAR @ PHI
4 Houston Texans Defense vs. DEN @ TEN @ TB
5 Washington Redskins Defense @ GB vs. PHI vs. NYG
6 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ NE vs. DEN @ CHI
7 Tennessee Titans Defense @ OAK vs. HOU vs. NO
8 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ JAC vs. MIN @ OAK
9 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ TB @ NO vs. CAR
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. IND @ DET vs. HOU
11 Denver Broncos Defense @ HOU @ KC vs. DET
12 New York Giants Defense @ PHI vs. MIA @ WAS
13 Miami Dolphins Defense @ NYJ @ NYG vs. CIN

More Fantasy Football Analysis


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!


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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis 2020 Fantasy Football Waiver Pickups List Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 13 and Playoff Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

This is your last shot at the playoffs--don't miss out because you neglected something as important as your DST! That's only half-sarcastic. Below are RotoBaller's Week 13 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 13 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 13. 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 13 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 12 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 13 RotoBallers!

I've also included a bonus list of my top playoff streamers--I'm not including the top dogs who likely aren't available in most leagues (less than 50% owned in ESPN).

 

Top Playoff Defenses To Start & Stream: Rankings

DST Week 14 Week 15 Week 16
New York Jets Defense vs. MIA @ BAL vs. PIT
Dallas Cowboys Defense @ CHI vs. LAR @ PHI
Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. NYG @ WAS vs. DAL
Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ NE vs. DEN @ CHI
Seattle Seahawks Defense @ LAR @ CAR vs. ARI
Oakland Raiders Defense vs. TEN vs. JAC @ LAC

Week 13 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 New York Jets Defense @ CIN 11.55
2 1 New England Patriots Defense @ HOU 10.65
3 1 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ ARI 10.1

Holy cow, never thought I'd see the Jets up here. The pieces all add up though--the Bengals have allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL (40), while the Jets have tallied 13 across their last three games. The Jets are coming off three huge fantasy weeks against bad opponents, and they'll now get the winless, 29th-ranked Cincy offense. Some slight caution here--Andy Dalton's return to the starting lineup may invigorate the offense a bit (especially Tyler Boyd), but he was benched for a reason. Bengals aren't getting their first win here.

Prior to running into God Mode Lamar Jackson (from whom none are safe), the Rams DST had rattled off four great outings in a row. I expect them to bounce back in a big way against the Cardinals, who should be near full health minus David Johnson. With Kenyan Drake, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and Chase Edmonds all at his disposal, Kyler Murray will look to push the ball down the field early in this one--but Arizona has allowed the eighth-most sacks in the NFL (36). The Rams front seven should make life difficult for the talented rookie all day.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. WAS 9.5
5 2 Chicago Bears Defense @ DET 9.2
6 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ DEN 8.95
7 2 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ MIA 8.7
8 2 Cleveland Browns Defense @ PIT 8.35
9 2 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. CLE 7.6

If there was ever a get-right spot for the Bears defense, it's here. On the short Thanksgiving week, they'll get either a banged-up Jeff Driskel, who's coming off a three-INT performance, or they'll get undrafted rookie David Blough under center. I know, I had to Google him too. If they can't get to double-digit fantasy points in this one...I just don't know.

The Chargers DST has been the definition of mediocre this season, as they sit right around 15th in the total points category. I have high expectations for them against Denver, as the Bills just showed a blueprint for how to baffle Brandon Allen (and the Bills aren't the only team to do it). Allen simply can't move the ball down the field effectively, and between his ineptitude and the injured Joe Flacco's, it's no wonder the Broncos have the 26th-ranked offense in football. Start the Chargers with confidence here, hope Courtland Sutton doesn't haul in a couple big bombs.

The Steelers defense got back to their dominant ways against the lowly Bengals in Week 12, but in the last week of the fantasy regular season they'll get a much more challenging draw. Baker Mayfield has the Browns offense as a whole rocking at the moment, with Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. all stepping it up in the last few weeks. I still like the Steelers as a top-10 option thanks to the talent they trot out every week, but my expectations are tempered.

The Browns on the other hand get Mason Rudolph, who is #notgood. This one certainly has the makings of a vicious AFC North grinder on both sides of the ball, so you can start either DST with relative confidence that this won't devolve into a shootout. Maybe someone tries to run Baker over with the injury cart, who knows what'll happen?

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
10 3 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. SF 7.2
11 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. BUF 6.9
12 3 Buffalo Bills Defense @ DAL 6.75
13 3 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. TB 6
14 3 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. MIN 5.85

The Ravens defense has been red-hot, and they're coming off a savage beatdown of the beleaguered Rams offense heading into Week 13. This will truly be a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, as the 49ers offense has also been on a tear, and is coming off a whooping of the Green Bay Packers. Ultimately I've got the Ravens as a top-10 option, as they've simply been too good as a whole since Marcus Peters joined the secondary. Good luck keeping pace with Lamar, Jimmy Garoppolo!

The Bills are 8-3, and they've got a chance to make a major statement on national television as they travel to Jerry World for Thanksgiving. This defense is loaded with young talent, from Shaq Lawson, Ed Oliver, and Tremaine Edmunds to soon-to-be-Pro Bowler Tre White, and they're going to make it a game against the Cowboys no matter what. Unfortunately, I also think that the Bills' offensive struggles aren't going to stop on the road in a short week. Josh Allen has been much more careful with the ball in the last month and a half, and Devin Singletary has certainly arrived on the scene, but the offense still stalls in the red zone far too often. I think either defense is an acceptable play this week, as I foresee something like a 17-10 final.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ NYG 5.45
16 4 San Francisco 49ers Defense @ BAL 5.15
17 4 Detroit Lions Defense vs. CHI 4.9
18 4 New Orleans Saints Defense @ ATL 4.4
19 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. OAK 3.7

The 49ers are lucky to still be in this tier given that they've got Lamar Jackson on deck, but it's impossible to ignore how truly dominant they've been. As I mentioned before, it'll be an unstoppable force versus an immovable object, and unfortunately I see this one going the way of the Ravens offense. I don't think the 49ers allow Jackson to put up video game numbers like the Rams just did, but I don't see them holding that offense under 21 points.

I would love to rank the Saints higher, but they were just smashed by the Falcons in Week 10 and showed us a collapse for the ages against the Panthers in Week 12. My confidence in this unit simply isn't high, and with the Falcons offense starting to look capable once again it's hard to like much about the Saints this week. They're a desperation streamer at best, and you better hope Julio Jones' apparent injury is real or that Matt Ryan has an off day.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
20 5 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. TEN 3.25
21 5 Tennessee Titans Defense @ IND 2.6
22 5 Washington Redskins Defense @ CAR 2.15
23 5 Denver Broncos Defense vs. LAC 1.8
24 5 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ SEA 1.15

More Fantasy Football Analysis


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!


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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 12 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Almost out of time to make that last push for the playoffs--no time like the present to squeak out a win because you picked the right defense.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 12 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 12 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 12. 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 12 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 12 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 12 RotoBallers!

 

Week 12 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ CIN 13.2
2 1 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. DEN 12.65
3 1 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. CAR 12.1

The Steelers swung and missed against the Browns on Thursday, but it's hard to take a Thursday game into account when projecting for the future--they're always kinda wonky. This week we have a top-three fantasy scoring DST going up against a bottom-five offense that's still starting Ryan Finley, who is averaging 141 passing yards a game and has a sexy 1:4 TD-turnover ratio through two starts.

Brandon Allen has played capably since taking over for Joe Flacco, but the Denver offense as a whole is still just 25th in the NFL in total yards per game. An underwhelming receiving corps comprised almost entirely of terrific Courtland Sutton play handicaps the upside of this offense, and they're find tough sledding against the Bills at home in Orchard Park. The Broncos have allowed the ninth-most sacks (32) in the NFL while the Bills pass rush has stepped up recently with 13 sacks across their last three games.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ LAR 11.5
5 2 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ TEN 11
6 2 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. GB 10.5
7 2 Chicago Bears Defense vs. NYG 9.85
8 2 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. MIA 9.2
9 2 New England Patriots Defense vs. DAL 8.35

The Jaguars feasted on the Marcus Mariota-led Titans in Week 3, racking up nine sacks while holding the Tennessee offense to just seven points. They may not find as much success against Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the surging Titans, who have won three of their last four games while averaging over 26 points scored per game. Tannehill's 8:4 TD-INT ratio isn't groundbreaking, but between his ability to push the ball down the field and a rejuvenated Derrick Henry running wild, the Titans should be able to keep the Jags on their heels a bit. Don't get it twisted though--this is still the 26th-best offense in football right now, even if they are weighed down by Mariota's awful start to the season. The Jags are firmly in starting territory and have upside, but if there's one trap game for a top DST this week, this is my pick.

Many referred to the Ravens as the "first real test" for the Patriots defense, and sure enough they melted under the blazing heat of God Mode Lamar Jackson. The Pats bounced back nicely in Week 11, holding the Philly offense to just 10 points while tallying five sacks and a fumble recovery. This week's matchup will present an interesting measuring stick--did they simply run into Lamar Jackson on the wrong day, or can they really not hang with elite offenses like Baltimore or Dallas? Dak Prescott is riding an unbelievable stretch right now, and it'll be up to the Patriots to figure out how to contain him if they're going to hold onto their claim as an elite fantasy DST, and not merely a good team with a laughable schedule.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
10 3 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. TB 7.9
11 3 New York Jets Defense vs. OAK 7.2
12 3 Houston Texans Defense vs. IND 6.45
13 3 Detroit Lions Defense @ WAS 6.15
14 3 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. JAC 5.55
15 3 Oakland Raiders Defense @ NYJ 5.1

Just when you thought the Falcons defense might be the worst in the NFL...they turn around and post two dominant performances. In Week 10 they beat up on Drew Brees and the Saints offensive line, notching six sacks and holding the powerful Saints offense to just nine total points. They followed that up with a beatdown of the Carolina Panthers, adding another five sacks while picking off Kyle Allen four times--and even added a special teams touchdown. I'm still wary of their LONG track record of being torn up by middling and elite offenses (averaging over 26 points allowed per game), but given they have a date with pick machine Jameis Winston up next, they deserve a spot in my top 10. They should be widely available as well, making them a terrific streaming option in Week 12.

The Raiders present a similar opportunity this week. They've been gashed all season by the pass (262.2 passing yards per game) but over their last two games they've put up ten total sacks and five total turnovers. Granted, those two games were against Philip Rivers, who is literally disintegrating in front of our eyes, and a Ryan Finley-led Bengals offense. There is some optimism here given the overall futility of the Jets offensive line (third-most sacks allowed with 41), but with Sam Darnold averaging a 65% completion rate and and 6:2 passing touchdown ratio over his last four games I am playing it safe. The Raiders are a streamable option this week, but temper your expectations.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
16 4 Washington Redskins Defense vs. DET 4.65
17 4 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ HOU 4.2
18 4 Denver Broncos Defense @ BUF 3.75
19 4 New York Giants Defense @ CHI 3.1

The Colts DST has been modestly productive over their last three games, posting five turnovers and averaging just over 16 points allowed per game, but those stats came against the Steelers, Dolphins and Jaguars. They'll truly be tested by Deshaun Watson and the Texans this week, but I'm interested to see how that offense bounces back after getting absolutely thrashed by the Ravens in Week 11. They managed just a single touchdown in garbage time, and yielded seven total sacks. This is a Thursday night game, which typically feature some outlying performances on both sides of the ball, and with the return of Will Fuller a possibility, I'm probably skipping on the Colts DST.

The Giants DST has been brutal for fantasy purposes all season, but there is the possibility that they'll be usable this week given that Matt Nagy has once again committed to Mitch Trubisky as the starter--assuming his hip injury clears up in time. The Bears offense simply struggles under Trubisky--they're 30th in total yards per game--which gives some optimism for the Giants defense. I expect this to be a low-scoring affair, but I'd be much more optimistic if the Giants hadn't yielded 25 or more points in each of their last six games. If you are desperate, and I mean DESPERATE, you can consider the Giants in Week 12.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
20 5 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. SEA 2.65
21 5 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ NE 2.2
22 5 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. BAL 2.15
23 5 Carolina Panthers Defense @ NO 1.7
24 5 Green Bay Packers Defense @ SF 1.2

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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 11 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Below are RotoBaller's Week 11 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 11 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 11. 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 11 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 11 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 11 RotoBallers!

 

Week 11 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ CLE 11.15
2 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. ARI 10.7
3 1 New England Patriots Defense @ PHI 10.65
4 1 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ DET 10.2

Since their Week 7 bye the Steelers have feasted, with at least four sacks and three turnovers in each game. That's not to say they weren't playing well before then--they've been elite for pretty much the entire season. This week they'll get the Browns, who are coming off a decent game against the Bills in Week 10. Nick Chubb was able to gash the weak Buffalo run defense, and Baker Mayfield connected with Jarvis Landry nine times for nearly 100 yards as well. They will find no such space against Pittsburgh--the Steelers are a slam-dunk this week.

The Cowboys defense has been hit-or-miss all season, posting some big games against bad teams and faltering against elite offenses. Against a fully healthy Lions offense, they'd likely find themselves in Tier 3 at best, but with no healthy running backs and Jeff Driskel under center instead of Matthew Stafford? There is big-time potential here.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. CHI 9
6 2 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. DEN 8.55
7 2 Buffalo Bills Defense @ MIA 8.4

The Vikings are coming off two tough matchups, as they yielded 26 and 24 points to the Chiefs and Cowboys, respectively. The Brandon Allen-led Broncos offense is considerably less imposing. The Vikings rank seventh in the NFL with 29 sacks, and they should be able to provide a high floor against the Broncos' 28th-ranked scoring offense. Allen should act as a game manager yet again, a role he filled admirably in Week 9 against the Browns (193 yards, two TDs, 0 INTs).

The Bills still rank third in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (304.2), but they've stumbled a bit in the fantasy scoring area. They have zero interceptions and just a single fumble recovery over their last three games, and they now face a...hot?...Dolphins team. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still perfectly capable of helping out opposing defenses, the Dolphins still have virtually no run game, and the Bills offense should--SHOULD--be able to keep the Dolphins Defense on their heels and create good field position all game.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
8 3 Chicago Bears Defense @ LAR 7.85
9 3 New York Jets Defense @ WAS 7.5
10 3 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. JAC 6.9
11 3 New Orleans Saints Defense @ TB 6.25
12 3 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. ATL 5.8

The Bears opened the season red-hot, and it looked like we were in for another dominant season. Since their Week 6 bye, they've done a 180. They've managed just two turnovers in the four games since then, along with a very modest eight total sacks. They've got some potential to rebound against Jared Goff and the Rams, who looked completely lost in their Week 10 loss to the Steelers. Jared Goff has proven completely incapable of standing up to any kind of legitimate pass rush, and that's what I expect the Bears to focus on in Week 11.

The Panthers present an interesting case in Week 11. For starters, they've hemorrhaged points to just about everyone they've played--while also leading the league in sacks (36). The Falcons looked like a completely different offense against the Saints this past Sunday, hanging 26 points and allowing just a single sack. Atlanta might be without Devonta Freeman, although I hardly expect that to slow down the offense--they'll be looking to beat Carolina with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. That puts the Panthers just on the fringe of starting territory.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
13 4 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ IND 5.2
14 4 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. HOU 4.5
15 4 Washington Redskins Defense vs. NYJ 4.15
16 4 Oakland Raiders Defense vs. CIN 3.95
17 4 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. BUF 3.6
18 4 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. NE 3.25

Note: my ranking of the Jaguars is made under the assumption that Jacoby Brissett is healthy enough to play. If it's Brian Hoyer under center, bump the Jaguars up to the top of Tier 3.

The Ravens are a popular stash candidate for fantasy playoffs, but you might be better off keeping them on the bench until we get there. This week they draw Deshaun Watson and the fourth-ranked Texans offense, which should immediately cap their fantasy potential. While the Texans are in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of sacks allowed (25), they've been much better at keeping Watson upright over their last few games. With at least 10 fantasy points in each of their last three games (two of which were against Seattle and New England) the Ravens DST remains in the conversation as a starting option, but I'll be looking elsewhere if I can help it.

The Raiders DST has been a predictable weak play for most of the season, but with Ryan Finley and the Bengals coming to town this might be the one time you can consider them. The Bengals are 29th in the NFL in points per game with just over 15, and Finley looked exactly as shaky as you'd expect a rookie making his first NFL start to look in the Bengals' Week 10 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens. Oakland's brutal pass defense is what's holding them back in my rankings here, as there is still just enough talent in the Bengals offense (Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Tyler Eifert in the red zone) to put some points on the board.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
19 5 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. PIT 2.9
20 5 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ LAC 2.5
21 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. KC 2.25
22 5 Denver Broncos Defense @ MIN 1.8
23 5 Houston Texans Defense @ BAL 1.3
24 5 Detroit Lions Defense vs. DAL 1.1

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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 10 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

We've arrived at the dreaded six-team bye week, so there are even fewer DST streaming options out there than normal. That's not to say there aren't some real winners to be found, but almost none of them are surefire streaming studs at first glance.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 10 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 10 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 10. 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 10 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 9 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 10 RotoBallers!

 

Week 10 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ CIN 13.4
2 1 Buffalo Bills Defense @ CLE 12.75

The Ravens have pieced together a nice little run, holding each of their last three opponents--two of whom are the Seahawks and Patriots--to 20 points on the scoreboard or fewer. They've got at least one interception in each of their last five games as well, but we all know what this ranking is about. Ryan Finley will be stepping in for the recently-benched Andy Dalton, and you simply can't expect a kid making his first career start with that offensive line (29 sacks allowed) protecting him to do well.

Baker Mayfield barely looks like an NFL quarterback, the Bills defense is third in yards allowed per game, third in points allowed per game and have at least three sacks in three of their last four games. The only red flag here is that the Bills have been gashed on the ground lately, and with Nick Chubb on deck they're going to need to clean that up in a hurry.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
3 2 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. ATL 11.6
4 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ PIT 11.1
5 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ OAK 10.5
6 2 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. MIA 10.15
7 2 Detroit Lions Defense @ CHI 9.45

The Chargers pass rush is starting to shine once again, with Melvin Ingram returning to the field and Joey Bosa continuing to be a dominant force. They abused Aaron Rodgers and the entire Packers offense on Sunday, and should have some success again this week. They fall outside the top three due to the unexpectedly good offensive line play of the Raiders, which has been a big factor in the rise of Josh Jacobs, and the intelligent play of Derek Carr, who has a 7:1 TD-INT ratio over his last three games.

The Lions will rarely find themselves any higher than Tier 4, but with Matt Nagy continuing to commit to Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, you have to take notice of any defense he faces. He's barely able to manage over 150 yards in any game, and if David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen don't move the ball, the Bears offense as a whole barely moves. Honestly the worst case scenario for the Lions this week is Trubisky being benched for veteran Chase Daniel--which I'd wager happens at half time.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
8 3 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. SEA 8.65
9 3 Carolina Panthers Defense @ GB 8.2
10 3 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. LAR 7.55
11 3 Chicago Bears Defense vs. DET 6.95
12 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. MIN 6.3

The 49ers boast a truly elite defense, which is why you'll still find them as a startable option here. However, they draw MVP front-runner Russell Wilson and the fourth-ranked Seattle offense this week, which knocks them down to Tier 3. Wilson and Tyler Lockett are one of the best QB-WR duos in football right now, and with DK Metcalf ascending into the #2 spot in the passing attack the Seahawks are all of a sudden extremely explosive. An immovable object meeting an unstoppable force scenario here, and unfortunately that means the 49ers a merely an average DST option this week.

The Bears, like so many defenses before them, have faltered just one year after a remarkable season. They've managed double-digit fantasy points in just three of eight games in 2019, and they've seen their counting stats plummet across the board. They're at home this week, which is of certainly a plus for them, but their opponent is intimidating. The loss of Kerryon Johnson has unleashed the full potential of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, turning that offense into a more one-dimensional yet explosive aerial attack. I'm not feeling especially confident in the Bears right now.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
13 4 New York Giants Defense @ NYJ 5.5
14 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ TEN 5.1
15 4 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. CAR 4.6
16 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ SF 4.1
17 4 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ DAL 3.45

The Chiefs defense has done enough to win games this season, and that's about it. They're 15th in interceptions (6), 15th in points allowed per game (22.7), and 14th in fumble recoveries (5). They do have 26 sacks on the season, which is good for seventh in the NFL, but remember that nine of them came in one bloodbath against Denver in Week 7. The upside is limited, especially with Ryan Tannehill providing a boost to the Tennessee offense.

The Vikings have been a top-flight DST option for much of the season, and the pass rush has been particularly effective lately, as they've notched nine total sacks in their last two games. That was against the Redskins and Chiefs though--they'll find much tougher sledding this week against Dallas, who just wrapped up dismantling the Giants as I write this. The Cowboys have done a terrific job keeping Dak Prescott upright, as they've allowed just 10 total sacks on the season. Their offensive attack is balanced, with Ezekiel Elliott keeping defenses honest and Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup doing damage over the top. Ultimately I just see a very low ceiling for the Vikings in Week 10.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
18 5 Oakland Raiders Defense vs. LAC 2.8
19 5 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. KC 2.25
20 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. ARI 1.7
21 5 New York Jets Defense vs. NYG 1.5
22 5 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ TB 1.15

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

Week 9 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Whereas last week was troublesome because there were so many usable DSTs, this week I did a lot of juggling because many of the typical top options have horrendous matchups.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 9 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 9 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 9. 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 9 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 9 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 9 RotoBallers!

 

Week 9 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense @ ARI 10.55
2 1 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. WAS 9.7
3 1 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. CHI 9.45

Nick Bosa is a monster. The 49ers have allowed just 21 total points in their last four games. They are the best defense in the NFC, and it's not particularly close for me. The Cardinals on Thursday night without David Johnson OR Chase Edmonds aren't much of a threat. Kenyan Drake can't possibly learn the offense in four days, and even if he does--it's the 49ers.

The Eagles have struggled to keep points off the board this year, but they did step up last week against the Bills with a nice four-sack outing. This week they'll get the miserable Bears offense at home, who are averaging just 18.3 points per game. Mitch Trubisky has been declared the starter for Week 9 already, and between his ineptitude and Matt Nagy's brutal play-calling, that can only be a good thing for the Eagles. David Montgomery is the only real threat here, but the Eagles interior defense should be able to keep him from running wild. High floor for the Eagles this week.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 New England Patriots Defense @ BAL 8.9
5 2 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. TEN 8.65
6 2 Cleveland Browns Defense @ DEN 8.1
7 2 Denver Broncos Defense vs. CLE 7.75
8 2 Chicago Bears Defense @ PHI 7.25
9 2 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ KC 7.1

I don't think I need to go into too much detail about the historic season the Patriots DST is posting. They are undoubtedly a top defense every week until someone stops them. With that said, it's difficult for me to put them in Tier 1 when they take on Lamar Jackson and the #2 scoring offense (30.6 points per game). They can't possibly keep scoring defensive touchdowns, right? Right? Guys?

The Browns have been a disappointment for many reasons this season, and the defense is high on the list. Fortunately for them, they'll draw Brandon Allen at quarterback, in for the injured Joe Flacco. The Broncos offense was bottom-five to begin with, but with Allen under center they're even less intimidating. The Browns are tied for ninth in sacks (22) so there is some fantasy scoring upside on top of the nice floor they're walking into.

I'm not sure what to make of the Chiefs offense right now, and therefore I struggled to rank the Vikings defense this week. Matt Moore has played much better than anyone expected in Patrick Mahomes' stead, and he should be locked in for at least one more start with a full, healthy contingent of weapons. Even a game-managing Moore can do plenty of damage with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at his disposal, and LeSean McCoy has effectively ousted Damien Williams from the starting RB gig. The Vikings have at least one INT and two sacks in each of their last four games, and ultimately I think they're a startable option with some upside--just not a top-flight option due to the Chiefs offense's potency.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
10 3 Washington Redskins Defense @ BUF 6.5
11 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ NYG 6.35
12 3 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. HOU 5.9
13 3 Green Bay Packers Defense @ LAC 5.6
14 3 New York Jets Defense @ MIA 5.15

The Cowboys defense trounced the Eagles in Week 7, and now they'll draw the Giants coming off the bye. The big concern here is Daniel Jones finally getting a healthy corps of weapons around him--Saquon Barkley is back and lethal as ever, Sterling Shepard looks like he's about to return, Golden Tate is back, and Evan Engram is back to 100%. I think this game has some slight shootout potential, and with just three total INTs on the season the Cowboys will need to rely on Daniel Jones mistakes to come up with turnovers. They're still a streamable option, but this one has me wary.

The Jaguars have bounced back in a big way after a small rough patch in October. They've held each of their last three opponents to 17 points or fewer while tallying seven turnovers and 13 sacks in that time frame. This week they'll be tasked with stopping Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense, which is still a top-six scoring offense in the NFL. The Texans offensive line has still been leaky, as they've allowed 24 sacks already, so that provides the Jags with a decent little floor before turnovers and points allowed. Ultimately it's tough to rank them any higher than the third tier going up against Watson and DeAndre Hopkins (even if Hopkins hasn't been as explosive as in years past) but they'll definitely still be a startable option in 12+ team leagues.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 Tennessee Titans Defense @ CAR 4.9
16 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. TB 4.45
17 4 Indianapolis Colts Defense @ PIT 4.1
18 4 Detroit Lions Defense @ OAK 3.8
19 4 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. IND 3.5
20 4 Houston Texans Defense @ JAC 2.7

The Titans are the most interesting option in this group as they draw Kyle Allen and the Panthers, who are coming off an absolute whooping at the hands of the 49ers. The Titans are NOT the 49ers. However, that was clearly Kyle Allen's worst start of the year, and I'm interested to see how he bounces back after a three-interception performance. The Titans are quietly top-10 in the NFL in yards allowed per game, tied for 10th in sacks and top-10 in turnovers, so I think there is a pretty decent floor here. The key will, of course, be stopping Christian McCaffrey.

I was ready to move the Colts defense up after the Steelers' first half on Monday night, but Mason Rudolph and the entire Steelers offense rebounded in the second half and played to the potential they're capable of. James Conner's status looks uncertain, but Jaylen Samuels should be able to step in and not bring down the offense much, if at all. Ultimately the ranking here is based on the away matchup and the Colts lack of excellence in any category--they're 22nd in interceptions, 16th in sacks, 15th in yards allowed, and tied for ninth in points allowed. They're probably fine as a start in 12+ team leagues, but there's very limited fantasy upside here.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
21 5 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. NYJ 2.3
22 5 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. GB 2.1
23 5 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. NE 1.8
24 5 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. MIN 1.25
25 5 New York Giants Defense vs. DAL 1.1

 

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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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 8 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

This was a REALLY difficult week to rank, because there are so many usable DSTs this week. There are usable options all the way down to Tier 4 this week, and you're going to have something available to you on the waiver wire in even the deepest of leagues.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 8 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 8 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 8. 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 8 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 8 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 8 RotoBallers!

 

Week 8 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. CLE 12.75
2 1 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. MIA 12.15
3 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. CAR 11.5

Patriots DST. Rinse and repeat.

The Steelers have been tremendous for most of the season both in generating pressure and forcing turnovers. As of this writing they sit tied for third in interceptions (eight), second in fumble recoveries (seven) and tied for fifth in sacks (20). In a home matchup against the tanking Dolphins, this is an absolute slam-dunk, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick back there instead of Josh Rosen.

Guess who leads the NFL in total yards allowed per game (Monday Night Football pending)? WRONG. It's the 49ers with just 223.5 total yards allowed to opposing offenses. They also have at least three sacks in each of their last three games, and on the season they're tied for fourth in takeaways (13). They're an every-week option these days, and the Panthers on the road don't scare me enough to take the 49ers out of Tier 1.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. WAS 11
5 2 Chicago Bears Defense vs. LAC 10.65
6 2 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. NYJ 10.5
7 2 Carolina Panthers Defense @ SF 10.35
8 2 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. DEN 9.7
9 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. CIN 9.4
10 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ CHI 8.6

As I mentioned above, there are a ton of great DSTs this week. There is a lot less separation than usual between the top and bottom teams in this tier, as any of them will be a great option for you in Week 8. I'm going to highlight the Vikings here, who are notoriously a better real-life defense than a fantasy one. I think they're going to be in good shape against the Redskins offense, which is 29th in the NFL in yards per game and 30th in points per game. The Vikings are starting with a high floor at home, and when you consider that they're tied for seventh in the NFL in INTs, they make for one of the safest bets of the week.

The Bears are coming off a pair of unimpressive outings, but Khalil Mack and company should have a field day against the free-falling Chargers, who just suffered ANOTHER loss in their offensive line. Guard Forrest Lamp broke his ankle and won't be back for the remainder of the season, leaving Philip Rivers even more unprotected than he has been. Melvin Gordon isn't running well at all since his return, averaging a brutal 2.3 yards per carry, so if the Bears contain Austin Ekeler, this one could be a bloodbath.

On the other side of the field, the Bears offense has been even more brutal. They're 30th behind only the Dolphins and Jets in yards per game, which is astonishing, frankly. Mitch Trubisky is literally unstartable at this point (unless you want to plan on garbage time saving you like last week), and the Chargers pass rush should continue to make life miserable for him given how poorly he deals with blitzes.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
11 3 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. PHI 8.25
12 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ BUF 7.7
13 3 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. ARI 7.2
14 3 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. TB 6.9
15 3 New York Jets Defense @ JAC 6.45
16 3 Houston Texans Defense vs. OAK 5.95

Still would feel totally fine starting any defense in this tier, for the record. It took an onside kick return for a touchdown, but the Bills got a respectable fantasy day against the Dolphins in Week 7. This week they'll get Carson Wentz and the Eagles, who are coming off a brutal Sunday night showing against the Cowboys. The Eagles have, surprisingly, been a bottom-10 offense this year, and they'll travel to Orchard Park, New York to take on the third-best overall defense. Bills should finish with a nice day, but given Josh Allen's knack to play hero ball from time-to-time the Eagles should also be a valid option.

The Titans defense is one of the highest-variance plays on the slate because of the opponent--do they get good Jameis Winston or Very Very Bad Jameis? We've seen both evolutions of the former first overall pick this year, and his last outing before the Week 7 bye was a five-interception nightmare. Understand that if you're starting the Titans, you're betting on Chris Godwin and/or Mike Evans not taking over the game, a bet that is essentially a crapshoot these days.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
17 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ ATL 5.35
18 4 Green Bay Packers Defense @ KC 4.6
19 4 Washington Redskins Defense @ MIN 3.9

A lack of sacks has kept the Seahawks out of the DST1 conversation for most of the year, and in a potential shootout against the Falcons I'm not sure they've got enough going for them to justify starting. The question here is what version of the Falcons are they going to get--the one that absolutely lit up the Cardinals in Week 6, or the one that was embarrassed by the Rams in Week 7? Matt Ryan sprained his ankle last week, so his status will be worth monitoring. If he's out, the Seahawks will instantly jump to the top of the third tier and become very startable.

The Redskins have started to generate some real pressure in the last two weeks, and were they not playing a suddenly-resurgent Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs I'd have them ranked higher. As it is, I don't think they have the weapons to stop the Vikings if the passing game AND Dalvin Cook are all on. Adam Thielen is dealing with an injury, but even if he sits out the Thursday night matchup I don't feel any different about the Redskins.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
20 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ TEN 3.35
21 5 New York Giants Defense @ DET 2.8
22 5 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. GB 2.5
23 5 Denver Broncos Defense @ IND 1.9
24 5 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ NO 1.25

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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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Football NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 7 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Below are RotoBaller's 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. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 7.

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 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. Good luck in Week 7 RotoBallers!

 

Week 7 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. MIA 13.15
2 1 New England Patriots Defense @ NYJ 12.4
3 1 San Francisco 49ers Defense @ WAS 11.65
4 1 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ CIN 11.1

There are just two teams in the AFC with fewer than two losses. One is the Patriots, and the other? The Buffalo Bills. They likely aren't running into their second loss this week against the horrendous Dolphins offensive line, and regardless of whether it's Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen under center, the Bills should absolutely feast here.

The Jets looked downright dangerous with Sam Darnold back, but he's going to have to prove that explosiveness the offense showed is real. He has the ultimate test in the New England Patriots this week, and ultimately the Jets aren't enough to scare me off the Pats right now.

Ohhhhh helloooo Niners. The upstart defense is second in the NFL in yards allowed per game, tied for eighth in sacks, and tied for fourth in interceptions. Against the Redskins offense? They'll improve on all of those numbers.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ TEN 10.5
6 2 Chicago Bears Defense vs. NO 9.9
7 2 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. OAK 9.25
8 2 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. CHI 9.1

I was wrong about the Chargers last week--dead wrong. So why not double down, right? They're in a get-right spot against a Titans offense that is dead last in the NFL in sacks allowed (29) and also has a quarterback controversy. Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota--I'm not sure it matters here. Don't make me look foolish twice, Chargers.

The Saints DST has had some solid outings over the first month and a half, and they should be in for another one here against the 30th-ranked Bears offense. Mitch Trubisky may be cleared to play by the time these two teams square off, but regardless of whether it's him or Chase Daniel under center, this game should have a low point total and provide a nice floor for the Saints.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ DET 8.5
10 3 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ DAL 7.95
11 3 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. LAC 7.3
12 3 Detroit Lions Defense vs. MIN 6.8
13 3 Houston Texans Defense @ IND 6.6
14 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ DEN 5.95

The Vikings DST hasn't racked up much in the way of big games--another year of a better real life defense than a fantasy defense. That's not to say they haven't produced a decent floor; they've got ten turnovers through six games and have posted four sacks on three different occasions. I think that's what they're looking at here--probably 2-3 sacks, two turnovers, and somewhere in the 17-24 points allowed range.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions have had a number of fantasy-successful games this season thanks to a peculiarly high eight fumble recoveries through just five games. It's a lot harder to predict fumbles than interceptions, but fantasy points are fantasy points. Kirk Cousins' newfound ability to...well, pass the football along with Dalvin Cook's explosiveness limit the ceiling for the Lions here, but I've got them just on the fringe of startability.

The Colts offensive line has been the key to their success this year, and I'm interested to see them clash with the Texans' pass rush this weekend. The Colts have allowed the second-fewest sacks this season (six) while the Texans have tallied 16 sacks so far, good for 11th overall. Ultimately I think Jacoby Brissett stays upright for a majority of the game and the Colts pull this one out, and I've got the Texans tagged for a low ceiling.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 New York Giants Defense vs. ARI 5.1
16 4 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. PHI 4.5
17 4 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ ATL 4.25
18 4 Washington Redskins Defense vs. SF 3.5

The Giants DST simply isn't going to bring much most weeks, but they have posted at least three sacks in each of their last five games. The offense will likely be controlling the ball a lot more with Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard returning, which bodes well for keeping the defense off the field. Rookie phenom Kyler Murray has been excellent, but his game is not without flaws. I'm not advising starting the Giants, but of the teams in this tier I think they have the best shot at a usable fantasy day.

The Rams have been just...so disappointing. Two or fewer sacks in four of six games, over 25 points allowed per game on average, only two games with multiple turnovers--it's all been bad. Aaron Donald can't be everywhere, you guys. This week will be a good measuring stick, as Matt Ryan and the Falcons are coming off a pair of big games through the air. The Rams are placing Aqib Talib on IR, which is a hit their secondary could not afford to take. Until we see them put a good outing together the Rams are pretty much unstartable for me.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
19 5 Oakland Raiders Defense @ GB 2.45
20 5 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ SEA 2.25
21 5 Denver Broncos Defense vs. KC 1.8
22 5 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. HOU 1.15

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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Football NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 6 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

If this season has proved anything, it's that DSTs can not be dismissed. This past week the Eagles threw up 35+ points in most formats, and you can bet that was the difference in plenty of matchups. The Patriots have proven that the right defense with the right schedule can be as valuable as a running back or a wide receiver. While there may not be 30-point outings to be found every week, there are ALWAYS streaming options out there that can make a legitimate difference in your week. Now let's go find them!

Below are RotoBaller's Week 6 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 6 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 6.

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 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. Good luck in Week 6 RotoBallers!

 

Week 6 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. PIT 11.3
2 1 New England Patriots Defense vs. NYG 10.55

Following the stomach-churning hit on Mason Rudolph in Week 5, the Steelers may be looking at UDFA Devlin Hodges starting under center in Week 6. That's a slam-dunk for the talented and balanced Chargers defense. Even if Rudolph clears the concussion protocol, I still really like the Chargers for a big day. They're a top-three play for me no matter who is at QB.

Ever since his Week 3 arrival, Daniel Jones' production has dropped in each week. That first big game came against the eminently beatable Tampa Bay secondary, and last week he was barely mediocre against the talented Viking secondary. This week he'll draw the NFL's top defense, and I predict this will go similarly to how all the other Patriots games have gone this year, especially given the short week. It's worth watching whether or not Saquon Barkley returns from his ankle sprain (hint: he shouldn't if the Giants know what's good for them), but even if he's 100% and active I'm not taking the Pats out of Tier 1.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
3 2 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ NYJ 9.75
4 2 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. CIN 9.2
5 2 Carolina Panthers Defense @ TB 8.5
6 2 Tennessee Titans Defense @ DEN 8.1
7 3 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ CLE 7.75

Through one route or another, the Panthers DST has posted start-worthy production in each of the last three weeks. This week presents an interesting matchup, as the Buccaneers offense has had a few explosive games this season, but there's still plenty of upside for the Panthers. Jameis Winston is always a risk for turnovers, although he's done a nice job taking care of the ball since Week 1. The big factor I'm looking at is the Panthers pass rush. They're averaging four sacks per game while the Buccaneers have allowed the fifth-most sacks through five weeks (18). The floor should be nice and high for the Panthers as long as they can keep Chris Godwin and Mike Evans relatively contained.

I'm watching this Monday night game finish as I write this, and to be frank Baker Mayfield looks downright bad. Part of his poor performance tonight is due to the surprisingly stellar 49ers Defense making his life hell, but he has been a shell of what we saw last year from a production standpoint. The Seahawks DST has been very hit-or-miss, posting two games with four or more sacks and three games of one or fewer. I think I feel comfortable betting against Baker at the moment, even if the Browns offense is loaded with other studs like Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
8 3 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. DET 7.5
9 2 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. PHI 7.15
10 3 San Francisco 49ers Defense @ LAR 7
11 3 Denver Broncos Defense vs. TEN 6.65
12 3 New Orleans Saints Defense @ JAC 6.2
13 Washington Redskins Defense @ MIA 5.95
14 3 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. NO 5.75

I'm here to raise my hand as a non-believer when it comes to the 49ers. I thought that despite the early returns, they were not as playable a fantasy DST as they appeared. I was wrong. This unit is up-and-down talented, and while they have been fortunate in their opponents so far, I think the fantasy production is sustainable. The Rams offense has regressed in 2019, which was a near-certainty given how dominant they were in 2018. I don't see a high ceiling for the 49ers here against Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp, but Jared Goff has been turning over the ball at a decent clip this season. I think the 49ers are definitely startable this week, and you can likely stream them in most formats.

Holy hell, the Broncos are alive! After notching their first sacks of the season in Week 4 (costing them Bradley Chubb), the Broncos came back in Week 5 and not only held the Chargers to just 13 points, but also recorded their first turnovers of 2019 as well. They did go right back to not sacking the quarterback, to be fair. This week their value lies entirely in the matchup--they get to host the NFL's 27th-ranked offense in the Tennessee Titans. If they can keep a lid on Derrick Henry, the Broncos should provide a usable fantasy outing for those looking to stream.

Redskins at the Dolphins should be an absolute barn-burner, and I for one can't wait to see these two explosive offenses go at it. LOL. For real, neither team has the playmakers necessary to make much noise from a fantasy perspective. What's possible here is that either/both teams' offenses are bad enough to make either/both defense startable, but for my money I'm trusting the Redskins over the Dolphins, who have been a literal gift for opposing fantasy DSTs this year.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ MIN 5.15
16 4  Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. SF 4.5
17 4 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs. ATL 4.1
18 4 Miami Dolphins Defense vs. WAS 3.65

The Los Angeles Rams were undoubtedly drafted as one of the first few DSTs off the board in August/September. Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Marcus Peters...hey, I get it. In reality, fantasy owners have been absolutely heartbroken. They've hemorrhaged points all season, allowing more than 25 points per game on average. They've got just seven turnovers and 11 total sacks across five games, and now they'll get a 49ers offense that has been particularly good on the ground, limiting the potential for interceptions. You're likely still starting them this week, but they're now pretty firmly outside my top 12 DSTs overall.

I'm tempted to start just about anybody against the free-falling Falcons, but the Arizona Cardinals simply don't have the juice to make an impact. They've tallied just three turnovers all season, and have only exceeded two sacks in two games. You'd have to be pretty desperate to give them a go.

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
19 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ LAC 3.15
20 5 New York Jets Defense vs. DAL 2.75
21 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. CAR 2.25
22 5 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. SEA 1.9
23 5 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. HOU 1.45
24 5 Houston Texans Defense @ KC 1.1

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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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Football NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 5 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

That Patriots have to play a legitimate offense at some point, right? This week they've got...sigh. Never mind.

Below are RotoBaller's 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. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 5.

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 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. Good luck in Week 5 RotoBallers!

 

Week 5 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've got four weeks of data to work with now, so we're going to be able to be a bit more precise basing our ratings on hard numbers.

On bye this week: Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins (thank goodness)

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 New England Patriots Defense @ WAS 12.7
2 1 Chicago Bears Defense @ OAK 12.25
3 1 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. DEN 11.8

The Patriots DST is quite literally a league-winning asset right now. That shouldn't stop against the Washington Redskins and either Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins. Neither QB has enough talent or weapons around them to surprise this defense.

The Bears are top-five in total defense, the Raiders are bottom-10 in total offense. The Bears have a dominant front seven and they should harass Derek Carr all day. Slam-dunk here.

The Broncos offense has flashed capability through the first month of the season, but can't seem to cash in; they're 19th in total yards per game, but 26th in total points per game. I don't see any reason for optimism against a fierce Chargers pass rush. A long day for Joe Flacco is on the horizon.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 Buffalo Bills Defense @ TEN 11.1
5 2 Tennessee Titans Defense vs. BUF 10.95
6 2 Houston Texans Defense vs. ATL 10.25
7 2 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ PIT 9.6
8 2 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. NYJ 9.1

I don't have any stats to back it, but this Bills/Titans game feels like a trap. The Bills defense should dominate--after watching them almost completely shut down Tom Brady, Marcus Mariota should be like a day at the beach. On the other side of the field, the Titans are a solid play given the Bills' woeful offense and Josh Allen's mistake-prone play through four games. That's dependent on if Allen even clears concussion protocol. If not the Titans will stare down Matt Barkley, whose conservative play might actually make it more difficult for the Titans DST to score points. This has all the makings of a 13-10 yuck-fest, which is why I think it's a trap. Not anything I would actually analyze or advise, just a gut feeling, ya know?

There was a time when you would run from a matchup against the Falcons, especially when they were home. Now you can almost stream against them (not that the Texans DST is available in most leagues). Through four weeks they are 26th in the NFL in points per game, and for all the talent that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley have, this offense simply isn't clicking right now. The Texans should take this game easily, and keep points off the board as long as Julio doesn't get going.

My Eagles ranking is dependent on who starts at QB for the Jets. As of this writing, Sam Darnold has been cleared for non-contact drills and appears to be on the path to playing. If he can't gain full clearance, it'll be Luke Falk under center once more, and the Eagles will become a top-five streamer for me.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ NYG 8.5
10 3 Carolina Panthers Defense vs. JAC 8.1
11 3 Green Bay Packers Defense @ DAL 7.65
12 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. TB 7.15
13 3 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. GB 6.5
14 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ NO 6.2

The Vikings defense is still up-and-down phenomenal on paper, and they've posted the stats to back that up. They're sixth in the NFL in total defense, but have a modest six turnovers and 11 sacks through four games. This matchup is really interesting because it will pit that defense against an offense that is still figuring itself out, but that seems to be skyrocketing thanks to new quarterback Daniel Jones, or"Danny Dimes" to some. I'll still take the Vikings in this one, as Wayne Gallman is not Saquon Barkley, and Jones has so far beat up on the shoddy Tampa Bay and Washington secondaries. This will be his first true test, and I don't think he comes out of it silky smooth.

The Saints did a great job shutting down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in an ugly affair on Sunday night, and now they'll tangle with Jameis Winston and a Buccaneers offense that just hammered the Rams Defense for 55 points. That game served as a showcase for how good Winston's weapons are--he played very well, but with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to throw to, he doesn't need to be a superhero. Winston is coming off of back-to-back games with 380 yards or more, three or more touchdowns and only one pick in each, so he's settling into his groove. The Saints are still a streamable option given the matchup at home and Winston's historic propensity for turnovers, but they're on the fringe.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ CAR 5.7
16 4 New York Jets Defense @ PHI 5.5
17 4 New York Giants Defense vs. MIN 5.15
18 4 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. LAR 4.9
19 4 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ SEA 4.45
20 4 Cleveland Browns Defense @ SF 3.85
21 4 San Francisco 49ers Defense vs. CLE 3.55
22 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense vs. IND 3.1

It's not often you'll find the Jaguars way down in Tier 4, and I admit I may be overreacting slightly. But I feel snakebitten by this defense's subpar performance against the Broncos in Week 3, and I am incredibly wary of chalking them up as a "must-start" DST moving forward. This week they'll get Kyle Allen, who was horrendous last week after a stellar debut. I think this game boils down to whether or not the Jags let Christian McCaffrey beat them. Apply the pressure to Allen early and often and they could be in business--I'm just not sure that's how it plays out.

The Jets DST has looked good on paper, but their stats are a bit misleading. In Week 1 they did a good job exploiting Josh Allen's erratic game play while also keeping points off the board, but managed just one sack. They weren't so fortunate in Week 2, as they mustered a single turnover and yielded 23 points despite three sacks. Their Week 3 fantasy value was salvaged by a pair of garbage time defensive touchdowns, salvaging the whooping that Tom Brady was putting on them--and again, just one sack. Take those two touchdowns out against the Patriots and the Jets have been a below-average defensive unit that doesn't seem to be able to generate a ton of pressure. They're a low-end streaming option for me against Carson Wentz, especially given that he should have Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders all well-rested from the long week and ready to roll.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
23 5 Arizona Cardinals Defense @ CIN 2.9
24 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. BAL 2.35
25 5 Oakland Raiders Defense vs. CHI 1.9
26 5 Atlanta Falcons Defense @ HOU 1.25

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 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Football NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 4 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

The main story of Week 3 was the fill-in quarterbacks...and how effective some of them were. That's going to throw a lot of our analysis of defenses into turmoil, and we've gotta be ready for Week 4.

Below are RotoBaller's 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. In case you missed it, this is our seventh 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 4.

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 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. Good luck in Week 4 RotoBallers!

 

Week 4 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. The first few weeks I obviously have less data to work with, so the defense's personnel and matchups matter more significantly.

On bye this week: San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Los Angeles Chargers Defense @ MIA 12.75
2 1 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense @ DEN 11.6
3 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense vs. CLE 11.2
4 1 Minnesota Vikings Defense @ CHI 10.6

For all the weapons and the hype, the Browns are the 26th-ranked scoring offense in the NFL. Baker Mayfield has played poorly so far, with a 3:5 TD-INT ratio and some brutal completion numbers. Put simply, I don't fear them this week, especially when they're on the road against a Ravens defense that was shredded by Patrick Mahomes in Week 3. In an intra-divisional early-season matchup, I'll take the defense here and bet against Baker figuring things out.

I have to include the Vikings in this tier despite Mitch Trubisky showing he still knows how to play football on Monday night. That was the Redskins Defense--he BETTER be able to step up against them. I don't see him having anywhere near as much luck against the fearsome Vikings D. Matt Nagy's play-calling is brutal from what we've seen through three weeks, and despite the offense scoring on Monday he didn't dissuade that opinion. The Vikings are tied for fifth in sacks (10), sixth in takeaways (6) and are averaging just over 15 points per game allowed. This should be a fruitful outing for Minnesota.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 New England Patriots Defense @ BUF 10.15
6 2 Los Angeles Rams Defense vs. TB 9.9
7 2 Chicago Bears Defense vs. MIN 9.15
8 2 Carolina Panthers Defense @ HOU 8.75

The Patriots are far and away the best fantasy DST so far, which is a big reason why I still have them in my top five. The reason they're not in Tier 1 is because we haven't seen them step up against a "good" team yet. They beat up on an incredibly out-of-sync Steelers offense in Week 1, had the Dolphins debacle in Week 2 and then got handed Jets' third-string QB Luke Falk on a silver platter in Week 3. Not to take away from what they've done, but if that's what your opponents have looked like, you BETTER come away with big outings. They now have to travel to Orchard Park, where they will find a hot and hungry Bills team that is not going to be a pushover. This is the first real test for the Patriots, and while I think they'll still come out of it with a W and some fantasy points given that Josh Allen will play hero ball from time-to-time, I don't think another monster game is in store here.

The Panthers have yielded at least 20 points in each of their first three games, but last week they impressed with a whopping eight sacks against the Arizona Cardinals. They generated an effective pass rush on a mobile quarterback, a feat which they'll need to replicate in Week 4 against Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Fortunately, the Texans have yielded 12 sacks already this season, and therefore the Panthers can be started with confidence given that their floor is going to be high.

 

Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Green Bay Packers Defense vs. PHI 8.1
10 3 Atlanta Falcons Defense vs. TEN 7.55
11 3 Indianapolis Colts Defense vs. OAK 7.2
12 3 Seattle Seahawks Defense @ ARI 6.8
13 3 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ DET 6.45
14 3 Houston Texans Defense vs. CAR 6.1

The Green Bay Packers are 3-0, but it has very little to do with Aaron Rodgers. This defense has been outstanding through three weeks, and it's yielding some really juicy returns from a fantasy perspective. They're allowing just over 11 points per game, and while two of their opponents have been the Bears and the Broncos, their win over Minnesota in Week 2 was legitimately dominant. The Packers are tied for third in the NFL in sacks (12) and have forced an NFL-best eight turnovers through three games, and I'll continue to trust them until I see any signs that this breakout isn't real. They're still in my top 10, but given that their opponent is Carson Wentz and the ninth-ranked Eagles offense, my expectations are mildly tempered.

I had the Colts in my top 10 facing the Raiders' bottom-five offense, but with Malik Hooker now on the shelf for an extended period and Darius Leonard currently in the concussion protocol, I bumped them down a spot. This is a talented defense, but they haven't put it all together for a full game yet. In Week 1 they had four sacks and two turnovers, but yielded 30 points; Week 2 was four sacks and only 17 points allowed, but no turnovers, etc. They should find some success here against the weak Raiders offense, but my expectations are tempered given Derek Carr's conservative play and the Raiders' average offensive line.

I admit I struggled to rank the Seahawks for this road matchup against Arizona. From a fantasy perspective, there hasn't been much of anything to talk about for the Seahawks defense--just six total sacks (five of which came in Week 1), one interception, and at least 20 points allowed in every game. Kyler Murray has been impressive in the early goings, but he has thrown three picks already. The big factor at play here is the Cardinals' abysmal offensive line--they're second in the NFL for most sacks allowed (16). The Seahawks just barely make it into "startable" range, but they are in fact there thanks to the high sack floor.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense vs. CIN 5.95
16 4 Cincinnati Bengals Defense @ PIT 5.5
17 4 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. DAL 4.7
18 4 Buffalo Bills Defense vs. NE 4.25
19 4 New York Giants Defense vs. WAS 3.8
20 4 Denver Broncos Defense vs. JAC 3.4

This Bengals/Steelers matchup has that "9-6 Final" stink all over it. Mason Rudolph didn't impress anybody filling in for Ben Roethlisberger last week, and the 0-3 Bengals have only brief flashes of competence. I think you can start either DST in a deeper league, but I also don't think there are a ton of turnovers or sacks--just a lot of futile offensive drives.

The Bills defense has been playing extremely well, and should find themselves in the top three tiers in many upcoming weeks. With Tom Brady and company coming to town though, you'd have to be a fool to think you're going to get a useful fantasy day out of them. Somebody screenshot that, because now it'll definitely happen.

It's insane to think that a defense with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb can have zero sacks and zero turnovers through three games, but here we are. The Broncos will host the ascendant Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars in Week 4, and it's incredibly difficult to trust them in any capacity right now.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
21 5 Tennessee Titans Defense @ ATL 2.65
22 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense @ LAR 2.1
23 5 Dallas Cowboys Defense @ NO 1.9
24 5 Philadelphia Eagles Defense @ GB 1.55
25 5 Cleveland Browns Defense @ BAL 1.2

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.