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.
Week 5 was by in large a big fail for streaming defenses, if you were looking for a big score. The Giants were the biggest slam-dunk of the week, but despite all the stars seemingly aligning, they were a disappointment. In fact, it was the generic fantasy D/STs that ruled the roost. The Packers, Broncos, Cardinals, Eagles, Patriots, and Seahawks were among the group that scored 14 or more fantasy points. All six carry at least a 77.3 percent ownership on NFL.com.
Either way, the vast majority of 2015 evidence suggests that D/ST scoring is one of the most widely-variant in fantasy football, and a nightmare to try and predict with 100 percent weekly accuracy. However, we march onward with several Week 6 suggestions.
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 6. We'll go highest to lowest in terms of NFL.com ownership percentage.
The Jets were on their bye last week, and could very well have been dropped in your league, as they were in 9.9 percent of those on NFL.com. Prior to Week 5, New York was a top-10 rated D/ST, and had all the ingredients of a top-end unit, with a good enough offense to build and hold leads. We're excited they are back on our streaming radar.
Washington put up a decent fight against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome in Week 5. However, whether it was his fault or not, Kirk Cousins still ended the game with a pick-six in overtime. The opposing Atlanta D/ST finished with 12 fantasy points, and met streaming expectations. Washington goes on the road again to face a fresh Jets team off the bye. That offense is still well outside our circle of trust, and one we'll continue to target for opposing defenses.
We've been riding the Falcons as a streaming D/ST, and we'll give them another go in Week 6. They've averaged 12 fantasy points per game the last three weeks, taking advantage of bad quarterback play throughout. Dan Quinn has this team swarming to the ball, and they held a talented Washington backfield to 2.13 yards per carry on Sunday.
Drew Brees isn't sinking to the level of the last three quarterbacks that Atlanta squared off with, but he hasn't led an effective offense with any consistency this season. In the first three quarters of yesterday's game, he averaged 6.0 yards per pass attempt, and completed a mere 53.8 percent of his throws. The Eagles sacked him five times, picked him off once and held the offense to 10 points when the game was in question. Atlanta has served us well, and could again in a road tilt against a disappointing offense. Of course, Brees could easily turn things on back in the comforts of his own dome away from the harsh outdoors. But we'll at least entertain the idea that the new reality is the Falcons D/ST is a strong streamer, and that the Saints offense just isn't that good, is legitimate one.
The more I've stared at this one, the less I've liked it. The Lions are the biggest train-wreck of the 2015 season thus far, and it's hard to attach yourself to any part of that team while sleeping easy at night. The only appeal here is that they are at home, which may not matter considering how bad they are, and Jay Cutler is coming to town. The Chiefs D/ST reached double-digit fantasy points on the back of just one Cutler mistake, a fumble in the end zone for a score, despite playing poorly most of the game. The Lions could have similar success, and have flashed some remnants of potential at times this season.
The Vikings are another team coming off their bye week, and were low-owned to begin with. They've had their moments this season, including a four sack thrashing of the Chargers in Week 3. We trust Mike Zimmer as a defensive guru, and talented young players like Eric Kendricks and Trae Waynes are set for more playing time over the next few weeks.
The Chiefs just lost about 85 percent of their offense yesterday when Jamaal Charles went down for the season with a torn ACL. Actually, to be fair, he's accounted for 68.5 percent of their offensive yards this season. In previous years, it was never a good idea to stream against the Chiefs, because Alex Smith was so mistake-free. The game has changed; his interception percentage is up 0.35 percent from his previous average with the Chiefs, and his sack rate is up 2.85 percent.
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.
The Titans defense shows spurts of playmaking ability. They've finished with less than nine fantasy points in only one of their four games thus far. This is also a play on targeting what's been a completely flat Dolphins team so far. Could they come out with a revived effort with a newly assigned interim head coach on Sunday? It's happened before. This is only worth a look if you're truly desperate.
Don't look now, but the Bears defense is getting better. After allowing touchdowns at an alarming rate in the first two games of the season, the D/ST recorded point totals of 8.0, 8.0 and 12.0 the last three weeks. This secondary still has holes, and Calvin Johnson lit up Kyle Fuller twice last season, but the Lions present a tasty matchup this Sunday.
Matt Stafford turned the ball over three times and got himself benched in Week 5. The offense never pushed the ball down the field until Dan Orlovsky entered the game, and the backfield is mostly an un-rhythmic mess. The Bears unit is the least owned D/ST on NFL.com, but could sneakily prove to be the defense start of the week. We'll see, but sometimes streaming defenses is as simple as starting the unit playing the team on "highest dumpster fire alert". Detroit is right at the top of that list.