Defenses in fantasy football are a fickle beast to figure out. Case in point, the four highest scoring fantasy defenses last year (Kansas City, Seattle, Carolina and Cincinnati) all rank outside the top 20 seven weeks into the 2014 season. This is why many fantasy players are fans of the "streaming defenses" strategy. If you've been playing for years, this is nothing new to you, but for those unaware, what this entails is using a waiver claim most weeks to acquire a defense with an enticing matchup. This doesn't always work, but for many players it's a better option than saddling up with an average defense week after week and receiving minimal points.
So with this in mind, I'm here to serve up a couple options if you're looking to stream defenses heading into Week 8. Let's get to it.
The Dolphins have quietly posted four nine-plus fantasy point weeks on the season, with their only forgettable games coming against Buffalo (a surprise) and Green Bay (not a surprise). On Sunday they manhandled the Bears upfront, sacking Jay Cutler three times, forcing him to fumble once, and intercepting him once as well. They also sacked Aaron Rodgers three times the week prior, as Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby and Cameron Wake are playing some fantastic football.
This week, their defense faces a Jaguars team that has allowed the most sacks in the NFL (29) and is starting a rookie quarterback under center (Blake Bortles) who has thrown 10 interceptions to just five touchdowns in his first five starts. The Dolphins rank just 12th in sacks (17) but Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the third-most effective pass-rushing unit. The sacks will come ... likely in bunches on Sunday against Jacksonville. Get Miami in your lineup if you can.
Don't look now, but the Colts defense might just be for real. This unit hasn't scored less than nine fantasy points since Week 2, crossing into double digits four times in the last five weeks. Head coach Chuck Pagano was a defensive coordinator back in the day, and it appears he might finally have the pieces in place to put together a championship-caliber (and fantasy-relevant) unit. They completely dominated the Bengals in a shutout-performance on Sunday, and look dangerous moving forward.
On paper, a matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers might not seem super-enticing for the Colts, but a deeper dive reveals that it could be a good opportunity for fantasy. The Steelers have put up single-digit point totals twice already on the young season, and have struggled mightily against solid defenses, including the Ravens, Browns and Jaguars. The Colts secondary is one of the best in the league in shutting down opposing wide receivers, and if they take away Antonio Brown from Ben Roethlisberger, things could get ugly.
Even though they lost their defensive coordinator this offseason, the Bills defense has not lost a step. They're in or around the top 10 in most key defensive categories, and they next face an offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in most key categories and was shut out a mere two weeks ago in the New York Jets.
While we don't know if Percy Harvin will play next week (or how much), what we do know is that the Jets are a team that is prone to turning the ball over. They're tied for fourth-most turnovers so far this season, giving up the ball 12 times. Meanwhile, the Bills are tied for the third-most turnovers forced in the NFL with 12 as well. The Bills boast one of the NFL's stoutest defensive lines, and that's reflected in how they only allow 80.4 rushing yards per game. If the Bills can shut down the Jets' rushing attack and put the game on Geno Smith's shoulders, odds are they'll be able to force a turnover or two. This makes the Bills a nice option if you're looking for a defense to stream.
I was among the many fantasy players who streamed the Browns defense on Sunday, and while it didn't work out perfectly (since Brian Hoyer was abysmal), I'm likely sticking with the Browns this weekend as well. Their defense notched two sacks and three interceptions against rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, and now they get to face another rookie on Sunday in Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders.
The concern here is that Carr has looked impressive in recent weeks, and could exploit the Browns' secondary. That being said, I have faith in Browns head coach Mike Pettine to get his unit in shape for a big game to put his team back over .500. Part of why the Browns defense struggled was because Hoyer couldn't move the offense and had two turnovers himself. Had he been his typical effecient self the Jaguars could have been forced into more turnovers trying to play catchup. So I guess you could say I'm believing in Hoyer and the Browns defense for at least one more week.
Frisky and risky streaming plays: