Week 1 Defenses to Stream (Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Sep 4, 2017

Streaming defenses is a common season-long fantasy practice, and this weekly article will highlight my favorite streaming options. Competition for streaming choices could be fierce in Week 1 with two of the better fantasy defenses, the Chiefs and Seahawks, in games with high/over under totals. The gamers who drafted those two defenses might jump in the streaming mix, but don’t worry, I’ve got a super-low owned option highlighted below in the event you’re stuck digging a little deeper.

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*Spreads and totals from Pinnacle and 2016 statistics and ranks from Pro-Football Reference in the tables below.

Rams

Opponent Spread/Total Ownership
ESPN/Y!
2016 Points Allowed (Rank) 2016 Turnovers Forced (Rank) 2016 Sacks (Rank)
 vs. IND -3.5/41.5  27.8%/52%  394 (23rd)  18 (T-23rd)  31 (T- 24th)

 
The spread opened with the Colts as 3.5 point favorites, but confirmation of Andrew Luck’s Week 1 absence has flipped that position to the Rams. The point total also dropped from 48 down to 41.5. Last week, the Colts acquired Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots in a trade, but since he’s new to the offense, Scott Tolzien should be viewed as the Week 1 starter in Luck’s absence. In nine games played, Tolzien has completed just 61.7% of his passes while throwing seven interceptions and two touchdowns. It’s not going out on a limb to anoint him the worst starting signal caller in the opening week of the 2017 season.

Aaron Donald continues to hold out and appears likely to miss the season opener at this point, but the Rams should have little trouble shutting down a Colts offense with Tolzien under center. Furthermore, the defense got a huge addition in the offseason, and it wasn’t a player. Wade Phillips was brought in to serve as the defensive coordinator. The 70-year-old is a defensive guru who most recently served in the same position for the elite defenses of the Broncos the last two years. I’m not sure Jared Goff is capable of hanging points in bunches to create a massive lead for the defense to take advantage of, but I do think he and Todd Gurley can put the Rams in the lead and allow their defense to tee off on Tolzien.

Falcons

Opponent Spread/Total Ownership
ESPN/Y!
2016 Points Allowed (Rank) 2016 Turnovers Forced (Rank) 2016 Sacks (Rank)
 @ CHI -7/50.5  15.2%/48%  406 (27th)  22 (16th)  34 (T- 16th)

 
Atlanta’s offense was prolific last year in route to the Super Bowl, and their defense was below average. Having said that, they did play at a high level in the postseason before melting against the Patriots. With the offense already loaded, the team addressed the defense in the draft spending the 26th pick on defensive end Takkarist McKinley, their second pick (75) on linebacker Duke Riley, and their fourth pick (149) on cornerback Damontae Kazee. McKinley’s proven to be quite the impressive pass rusher in the preseason, and he recorded 10.0 sacks in his last season of college ball at UCLA. Another pass-rushing threat should help the Falcons move up the sacks leaderboard this season. The Falcons also added Dontari Poe to their interior defensive line after a dreadful season with the Chiefs, but the former first-round pick has played well in previous seasons and could benefit from a change of scenery as well as cutting weight in the offseason.

Atlanta’s defense’s stock is up, but most importantly, they draw a cupcake to feast on in Week 1. The Bears offense is the Jordan Howard Show with little else to provide the Falcons a challenge. Mike Glennon is a placeholder at quarterback, and he’s struggled with taking sacks having been sacked 56 times in 19 games (18 starts) his first two seasons in the NFL as a starter. Chicago’s offense lost their top wide receiver when Cameron Meredith tore the ACL in his left knee in the third game of the preseason, and the cupboards are now mostly bare at wide out for the Bears. The top two receivers for the Bears are now Kevin White and Kendall Wright. That’s not exactly the most terrifying one-two punch in the NFL. The offense should hang points in bunches on the Bears, and when they’re forced to throw, Glennon makes for an immobile tackling dummy for Atlanta’s defense.

Bills

Opponent Spread/Total Ownership
ESPN/Y!
2016 Points Allowed (Rank) 2016 Turnovers Forced (Rank) 2016 Sacks (Rank)
 vs. NYJ -9.5/40.5  11.2%/36%  378 (T-16th)  18 (T-23rd)  39 (8th)

 
The Bills DST check two important boxes this week. They’re at home, and they’re the biggest favorites by point spread. In addition to checking those boxes, the Jets are projected to be the lowest scoring team in Week 1. The Jets are the runaway favorites to pick first in next year’s NFL Draft, and the offense is devoid of weapons and led by Josh McCown.

McCown has frequently struggled with turnovers and taking sacks in his career, and he’s been sacked a whopping 189 times in 82 games (60 starts) in his career. He took 41 sacks the last two years combined in 11 games played (13 starts). The Bills did a great job of rushing the passer last year with Rex Ryan as the head coach. The Bills moved on from Ryan to another head coach with a defensive background, Sean McDermott. The change of coaches resulted in a change from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3, but the club’s best pass rushers all return including 2016 surprise performer Lorenzo Alexander and his 12.5 sacks. The Bills are a safe defense selection with ample upside as well.

Buccaneers

Opponent Spread/Total Ownership
ESPN/Y!
2016 Points Allowed (Rank) 2016 Turnovers Forced (Rank) 2016 Sacks (Rank)
 @ MIA  -2.5/45  3.3%/12%  369 (15th)  29 (3rd)  38 (T- 9th)

 
If you have to dig real deep at defense, the road-favorite Bucs look viable. They did a great job of forcing turnovers and getting after the quarterback last season while finishing in the middle of the pack in points allowed. They added reinforcements to the defense in the offseason drafting safety Justin Evans in the second round (50) and linebacker Kendell Beckwith in the third round (107). Beckwith recovered from a torn ACL in just eight months, and he played well in the preseason. At the least, he should add an athletic option to the linebacker rotation, and it’s possible he earns a starting job. That’s not where the additions end, either.

The team also signed interior defensive lineman Chris Baker, who earned an above average grade at Pro Football Focus (PFF) last year and ranked 18th among interior defensive lineman. They also signed T.J. Ward after he was somewhat surprisingly cut by the Broncos a few days ago. Ward is coming off of his lowest PFF graded season, but as Aaron Jones of PFF notes, Ward has traditionally graded out extremely well. It’s possible Ward won’t be thrown right into the fire in Week 1 since he’ll have such little time to acclimate to his new defense, so it’s probably best to temper enthusiasm about him for this week, but it’s possible he helps their fantasy point scoring this week.

Jay Cutler came out of his brief “retirement” to reunite with Adam Gase in the wake of Ryan Tannehill’s season-ending injury. Cutler sported his second lowest INT% (2.3%) in 2015 with Gase serving as his offensive coordinator, but his track record includes more turnover-prone seasons than ones in which he’s taken care of the football. Last year, Cutler was healthy for just five games (all starts) and took 17 sacks while throwing five picks. He’s thrown 16 picks in his last 20 games played (all starts) over the last two years, and that 20-game stretch follows tying for the NFL lead in interceptions with 18 in 15 games (all starts) in 2014. I like the odds of the opportunistic Bucs defense forcing a few turnovers and sacking Cutler a few times this week.


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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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