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 assess which matchups are the most beneficial.
This just relays the point that D/ST scoring is one of the most widely-varied in fantasy football, and a nightmare to try and predict with 100 percent weekly accuracy. However, we march onward with several Week 5 suggestions. There's more than a few good matchups for home teams to take advantage of on this slate of games.
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 team's 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 against 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 5. We'll go highest to lowest in terms of NFL.com ownership percentage.
The Texans offense continues to mire in turnover, particularly behind center. Ryan Mallett led ineffective drives for three quarters and was pulled for Brian Hoyer late in the game. This unit continues to prove it's one we should target for streaming defenses, after giving the ball away four times against the Falcons. However, there are a few caveats here. The Texans will have a fully-fledged Arian Foster back in the fold in this game, after he played with some caution in his first game of the season on Sunday. He's the type of player to lift this offense from the league's worst, to just below average. The Colts will also be on the road on Thursday night. Not something we like out of a streaming defense.
Bottom line: matchup dictates that the Colts can get you through for another week if you already have them on your roster, but situation and circumstance are less than favorable. If you can find one of the other options on this list, you're probably better off.
The Chiefs defense has been a complete sieve the last two weeks, getting torched for negative fantasy points against the Packers and Bengals. While that's less than encouraging, remember those are two of the NFL's best and most talented offenses. The Chicago Bears got things going on Sunday with Jay Cutler's return, but are still far from a mistake-free unit. The Raiders D/ST accrued 12 points in a losing effort on the road against Chicago.
While the unit isn't performing up to snuff, the Chiefs do have talented players and are infusing Sean Smith back into the cornerback rotation. They'll also draw this matchup against Chicago, who let up three sacks on Sunday, at home. Arrowhead is a tough place to duel for the opposition, and the Chiefs' stop unit generally steps up with the crowd noise at their back. In the end, we're just really content knowing that Jay Cutler is always likely to chuck one into the teeth of whatever defense he's facing.
Don't look now, but the Giants are actually putting together a respectable defense. They've overcome plenty of personnel deficiencies to put together a unit that is vastly outperforming expectations. The Giants D/ST has 11 fantasy points in three of their four games played this season. They held what was a soaring Bills offense to 10 points, while getting two takeaways and a couple of sacks on the road in Week 4.
The 49ers are a complete offensive mess, and it starts with their quarterback. Outside of some flashes in Week 1 and fourth quarter garbage time against the Steelers, Colin Kaepernick's season has been an abject failure. He has a 66 passer rating on the road, and 37 rating on third down. The team as a whole has scored a combined 10 points the last two weeks.
The Falcons are another team with an underrated defense. Their solid fundamentals and aggressive play finally culminated in a 19-point outburst from the D/ST in Week 4. Atlanta's stop unit has generally been better at home than on the road this season. Dan Quinn has elevated this group to at least a league average squad, with a propensity for taking risks to get big plays.
With Washington up next on the schedule, a big week for defensive streaming is on the horizon. Kirk Cousins is coming off a "good game manager week," but we all know his propensity for epic collapses. His home vs. road splits are quite stark in the early portions of the 2015 season. Couins has a 91 passer rating home games, while sporting a 70 rating on the road. He's been as inefficient as usual driving the ball down the field, with a 6.0 passer rating when the team is trailing and there are 11 to 15 yards to go for a first down.
No streaming defense carries more bankable upside than the Falcons in Week 5. The only matchup advantage Washington has in its favor is Chris Thompson catching passes out of the backfield when the team falls behind. Their turnover-prone quarterback should send a few Atlanta's way to ensure the team is indeed trailing.
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 might be at least one option here I might like better than a few listed above.
However, if you're desperate, you might get a good week out of streaming them in Week 5. The Steelers offense certainly took a step back with Mike Vick under center in Thursday night's game against the Ravens. Vick ran a dink and dunk passing game (4.77 yards per attempt), and played safe enough to earn a 95.7 passer rating. However, we know he's capable of uncorking at any moment, and suffering a turnover-filled disaster. That could come on the road in the Chargers' stadium on the other side of the country.
Talk about desperate. Having the Jaguars defense in your lineup is never going to feel comfortable, especially after they didn't force a 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck into any errors on Sunday. However, Jameis Winston and his 71.2 passer rating has been more than generous to almost everyone he's played.
Opposing D/STs facing the Bucs this season have averaged 13 fantasy points per game. Most of those units were of superior quality than Jacksonville's, but the Jags' pass rush has looked a bit better overall of late. We'd like the unit a tad more if they were at home, but the matchup with Winston is quite enticing. This figures to be one of the lowest scoring games of the week, which elevates the floor of the Jaguars D/ST.
You can apply nearly the same logic from the Jaguars D/ST analysis section to using the opposing Bucs fantasy stop unit. D/STs facing the Jaguars offense have averaged 10.3 fantasy points per game, although a 25 point figure from the Panthers in Week 1 does skew that. This offense is still quite mistake-prone, and they aren't able to maximize some solid young talent into many scoring drives.
However, some of the Jaguars young talent on offense is playing well, particularly at wide receiver with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. There probably aren't enough horses on the Bucs defense to force Blake Bortles into a meltdown game. You can use the Bucs at home in a low-scoring game, but there's probably a better option out there.