Fantasy football is a week to week proposition, not a season-long one, and the defense is the most matchup dependent play around. Playing the matchups and streaming is the way to go; taking a low cost/investment approach to the position. Of course, this requires a little more work, as you'll need to scour the waiver wire each week for a starting D/ST and assessing which matchups are the most beneficial. Luckily, we are here to help you with that last part.
Streaming defenses brought us some booms and busts. Streaming the Browns defense was suggested in Week 2's edition of this column, and they brought home the second highest score of the week. Even though Peyton Manning got it together, the Chiefs defense still scored 11 fantasy points. However, if you flew too close to the sun, and started the Saints of Titans D/ST, you got burned.
This strategy comes with inherent risk, but it's a big way to get a leg up on your leaguemates. Despite the wide range of turnover in defensive scoring week to week, fantasy owners keep rolling the same ones out. Only five D/STs were started in more than 82% of NFL.com leagues in Week 2. All five of them finished in the bottom 15 of scoring. Let's do the smart thing, and avoid this way of playing.
Some qualifications when searching for a streaming defense:
» Good matchups. Of course, this is where we look first. You'll want a defense playing a poor offense, particularly one with a lackluster quarterback.
» Home teams. The margin for error is smaller for defenses playing on the road, than it is for those in the comforts of their own stadium. That's not to say that a road team cannot be a useful streamer if the matchup is juicy enough, but you're safer to side with a home team, if all other factors are near equal.
» Favorites. This one is the biggest deciding factor. Last year, Denny Carter ran the numbers and found that teams favored to win on a weekly basis achieved Top 12 status 63.6 percent of the time in 2013. Logically, it checks out. When a team is winning, they have a better chance to create havoc for the opposing offense. Defenders can key off on the other teams now necessary pass heavy approach, creating sacks and turnovers. Predicting favorites is difficult, unless you can see the future, but you can go with a general idea.
» Good defenses. Ironically, this is the last part we look at. Inherently most of the week-in-week-out starting defenses are already owned by the other teams in your leagues. However, even if a somewhat superior defense is playing on the road, or a league average offense, we'll fade them for a lesser squad playing a poor offense at home. Of course, we'll still always break ties in favor of the better unit, but defensive production is historically volatile. Don't balk at using a poor defense as your fantasy streamer.
With that in mind, let's look at some of the best defenses to stream in Week 2. We'll go highest to lowest in terms of NFL.com ownership percentage.
The Panthers are owned in almost half of NFL.com leagues, so they're almost out of the streaming territory. However, if they didn't get added last week and are still on your wire, they make for a good stream this week facing the Saints in Carolina. With the news that Drew Brees may miss multiple games coming down Monday, we need to re-evaluate the Saints' offense. The unit was already declining and no longer eviscerating opponents, the last D/STs to face them finished 16th and seventh respectively. Now if Brees does indeed miss Sunday's game, Luke McCown (who hasn't seen game action since 2011) will start.
With the Saints offense taking a big step back, the Panthers will certainly be the favorite in this game. They'll also be playing at home, another one of our qualifiers. They make for a strong play if they're on your waiver wires. The Panthers D/ST should also be a good value in daily fantasy, as the sites won't have adjusted for the possibility of Brees not playing.
The Broncos are currently the best D/ST in fantasy football, and you can make a case they're the best stop unit in the NFL. Yet, for some reason, they're only owned in less than 40 percent in all NFL.com leagues. Seriously, let's fix that. You can't forward the excuse that they've had good matchups. Playing the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium has been historically stingy to opposing D/STs, but Denver still finished as the top scoring unit in Week 2.
On to their tilt this week, Denver draws a road matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Lions offense has talent, but is equally prone to mistakes. The coaching staff is only making mediocre use of their most explosive weapon, Ameer Abduallah, and their quarterback is prone to lapses in poor play. Going against the best defense in the league, we bet he has a potentially four quarter lapse. Adding to the misery, Matthew Stafford is reportedly a little banged up coming out of Sunday's game. Grab Denver if they're somehow still out there, stream them this week, and consider them as a starter every week thereafter.
Quietly, the Chargers offense is giving away fantasy points to the defenses they face. The Lions came away with a 13 point day in Week 1, and the Bengals posted 11 on Sunday. Philip Rivers has three interceptions through the first two weeks, and there isn't much of a vertical aspect to this passing attack. In daily fantasy, you may catch a leg up by playing the sure to be under-owned Vikings. The public won't think the Chargers are a team to target, but they've proven to be one early in the season.
After a Week 1 debacle in San Francisco, Mike Zimmer's stop unit looked much like the breakout D/ST we predicted they'd be in Week 2. At home for the second week in a row, Minnesota's defense is a sneaky good play.
The Raiders had a surprisingly 37-point win over Baltimore on Sunday. However, this coming Sunday feels like a come back to earth moment for Derek Carr and this offense. They won't outclass the Browns, but Cleveland has been a great pass defense the last two years, and should let some of the air out of the Raiders' passing stats.
The Browns defense was a big win for steamers last week who went with the home team over the popular Titans D/ST. They took a big step up after a steady ground game from the Jets sunk them in Week 1. Add in an explosive returner in Travis Benjamin, and this D/ST has a ton of potential. They're on next to no NFL.com rosters, but are a worthy start this week.
So you're desperate?
It's OK, it happens to all of us in every walk of life. Maybe you play in a league with a few jokers who roster a backup defense -- you should literally never do this in typical redraft leagues -- and your waiver options are limited. These few defenses are not recommended to the faint of heart. But if you're bold enough to dare, there's at least one option here I might like better than a few listed above.
Despite a let down by the Rams D/ST, we'll always look to target the defense facing Kirk Cousins. He remained turnover-free in Week 2, but this matchup with New York is his first road game of the season. The Giants stop unit hasn't played good ball this season, but they could pull off a big play or two against Cousins. The Thursday night start generally benefits the home team, adding to the Giants' allure.
This one you'll have to be really desperate to go with, as the Falcons D/ST is currently the eighth worst unit in fantasy. They showed some intensity in the first half of Week 1, but have generally been walked all over outside of that. However, they draw a great team matchup when they travel to Dallas. The Cowboys will start Brandon Weeden in Week 2, Terrance Williams is the no. 1 receiver and none of their running backs have stepped up to take over for the departed DeMarco Murray. This is one big longshot, and you don't even get a home field cushion, but Weeden has been generous to fantasy defenses since the moment he walked into the league. At worst, the Falcons D/ST makes for the contrarian of all contrarian plays in DFS.
Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter **@MattHarmon_BYB**.