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.
Jacksonville's D/ST scored the second highest point total of the week with 24, but I'd challenge you to find anyone that recommended them. They were the second lowest started (only to the Bears on a bye) defense in NFL.com leagues at 0.8 percent. Otherwise, streamers came up big with the Dolphins scoring 12 points against the Texans, and the Giants snagging 22 against the Matt Cassel-led Cowboys.
While still proving a chore to try and predict with 100 percent weekly accuracy, streaming defenses is the way to go. We march onward with several Week 8 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 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 8. We'll go highest to lowest in terms of NFL.com ownership percentage. Fair warning: this is a dark week for streamers. There are very few good defenses available in a ton of leagues that meet our qualifications. Handle with care.
The Falcons nearly gagged away a victory against the Titans. However, their defense was a big catalyst for walking away with the win. They snared two interceptions from mistake-prone Zach Mettenberger, and only allowed seven points. Overall, their pass rush is regressing as the season goes on, but they've still been one of the better fantasy defenses this season.
The Buccaneers offense really got on track in Week 7, with Jameis Winston throwing a clean 29 attempts, and Mike Evans finally back to full-form. However, the Washington defense is quite banged up right now, especially in the secondary, and don't have talents like Desmond Trufant or Robert Alford in tow. Behind a still leaky offensive line in the Georgia Dome, Winston could throw a few into the teeth of this Atlanta secondary. The Falcons will be a home favorite looking to get back on track after two inconsistent outings.
The Vikings continue functioning as a strong playmaking defense when all their players are available. Everson Griffen's return to the lineup made big difference, as he collected 1.5 of the team's seven sacks against the Lions in Week 7. When they're in a good spot, this is a widely available defense worth streaming. The increased playing time given to rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks is a massive boost as well. The young player looks like a true difference maker.
We'd like the Vikings D/ST a bit better if they were at home, but this should be, at worst, a push game against the Bears. The Chicago defense is leaky, and Teddy Bridgewater could build on a solid outing with a good game here by getting out to an early lead. That will give the Minnesota defense a chance to tee off against Jay Cutler and force him into mistakes.
The Lions get a bump because they're a visiting team in technicality only, as this game takes place in London. Detroit's stop unit isn't what it once was, and gave up a ton of ground in Week 7 to Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs. However, they can still get after teams, and when they've had usable fantasy weeks, they've been big. They put up a combined 49 points in their three good outings.
They could be in contention for one of those blow up games when they travel to London in Week 8 to face the Chiefs. While the Steelers defense didn't barnstorm the Chiefs like many expected, this is still an offense we'll look to target. Their pass protection leaves plenty to be desired, and Alex Smith is still Alex Smith (48 passer rating on passes with 11-15 yards to go).
We'll only look to exploit the Texans more now that Arian Foster is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon injury. They looked most functional in the previous two weeks with Foster and DeAndre Hopkins working in conjunction. The Titans defense did do a solid job in holding the Falcons to 5.5 yards per play. They can hold up their end of the bargain here, especially if Marcus Mariota is back to offer a competent offensive performance.
This is a bit of a longshot play, but the Raiders are in a good spot here. The Jets travel across the country to square off with Oakland in their building. New York's offense is massively improved with two excellent starting receivers and competent quarterback play. Nevertheless, the long road trip could set up for a letdown game by them. Ryan Fitzpatrick is good for a turnover-filled game every now and again.
The Raiders defense displayed bouts of solid play this season, and took the Chargers to the woodshed on Sunday. San Diego averaged a measly 5.2 yards per play and collected almost all of their work in garbage time. They collected 23 of their 29 points in the fourth quarter. The Raiders offense is firing on all cylinders right now, especially at home. They can force the Jets off their game script, and send Fitzpatrick into a pass-heavy flow. While that can work in Fitzpatrick's favor, it could just as easily lead to a few picks sent Oakland's way.