Let’s Stream Defenses: Week 4 (2020 Fantasy Football)
The wild ride of football in 2020 continues. The league scored an incredible 52.2 points per game in Week 3, continuing the pace to make this the highest-scoring season in NFL history. The previous record was 47.2 points per game in 1948, and now 2020 is on pace for 51 points per game. You might expect that that would mean fantasy defenses have been hammered, but there have still been bad teams. The good teams have just balanced them out and then some on a league-total basis, but you were never starting defenses against the Chiefs anyway.
The bigger news, which really makes all the scoring seem unimportant, that the Tennessee Titans have had three players and five personnel test positive for Covid-19. The Titans have suspended in-person activities, as have the Minnesota Vikings, their Week 3 opponent. There’s a real possibility that PIT@TEN and MIN@HOU are suspended if more players test positive throughout the week. From a fantasy perspective, that’s more likely to be a problem for the rest of your team than for your defense, since Pittsburgh is the only team of those four that I have ranked as a startable DST.
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I only have two teams in my top tier, but with four teams rostered in less than 30% of leagues, you should be able to find a good defense on waivers this week. Rostered numbers are from Yahoo. Feel free to grill me about my rankings on Twitter.
|The Start Them With Confidence Tier|
|The Still a Fine Choice Tier|
|The Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier|
- LAR vs NYG: The Giants have allowed top-6 fantasy defense performances all three weeks this season. Granted, they have all been non-terrible defenses in PIT, CHI and SF, but the Rams aren’t bad either. With the lowest implied point total of the week, this is a no-brainer.
- BAL @ WAS: After three interceptions and a fumble against the Browns last week, Dwayne Haskins’ job is in jeopardy. While Haskins will get another (last?) chance this week, this kind of turmoil is candy for opposing defenses. Baltimore is better on defense than anyone Washington has faced yet, so this should be a massacre.
- DEN @ NYJ: It’s not uncommon for both sides of a particularly terrible game to be viable fantasy defenses, and no game fits the description better than the Thursday night meeting of the 0-3 teams. Between the two, Denver gets the higher rank because Vegas favors the Broncos despite being on the road, and the Broncos defense has actually kept them in games despite their offense being in shambles. Sam Darnold might not throw multiple pick-sixes as he did against the Colts, but there’s a good chance he does throw multiple interceptions that don’t make it all the way back.
- TB vs LAC: After a good debut in Week 2, Justin Herbert’s Week 3 was more in line with what we expect from a rookie QB in his second start, with two turnovers and only one TD. He still has potential and might develop into someone we’re scared of later in the season, but at this point, I’m happy to start defense like Tamba Bay against him.
- NYJ vs DEN: At the time I’m writing this on Tuesday morning, we don’t know who is starting at quarterback for the Broncos. It will either be Jeff Driskel or recent practice squad graduate Brett Rypien. My projections assume Driskel, but either one is an excellent target. It could still be several weeks until Drew Lock returns, and the Broncos are an every-week target until then (and may still be afterward).
- SF vs PHI: Eagles head coach Doug Peterson is known for his creativity, but even by his standards, the choice not to put any linemen between Carson Wentz and the opposing defense is a bold one. The 49ers defense is extremely banged up, but that doesn’t stop them from being able to take advantage of a good matchup like they did last week against the Giants.
- PIT @ TEN: According to Football Outsiders’ Defensive Efficiency Ratings, the Steelers have the second-best performing defense so far this season. If you break it down further, they are merely great against the pass, and the best by a significant margin against the Run. Running is the only thing the Titans know how to do well, so this is a good if a low-upside spot for the Steelers. (Low-upside because a run-first offense limits opportunities for turnovers, even if they aren’t running particularly well.) With a handful of Titans players testing positive, it’s possible that this game gets suspended. If it doesn’t, the lack of in-person practices this week for Tennessee might lower their stock – and raise Pittsburgh’s.
- NO @ DET: Matthew Stafford has allowed four sacks in back-to-back games now. That provides a solid floor, but he’s unlikely to have a total meltdown and throw more than one interception, which is why the Saints are low-end starters this week.
- SEA @ MIA: Ryan Fitzpatrick has made a decent case so far for not giving his job to Tua Tagovailoa, but the wheels always come off sooner or later. If you’re projected to lose this week and need to shoot for the moon, I don’t hate betting that it will be this week against Seattle.
- CIN vs JAC: Somehow, there never seem to be 32 quarterbacks in the NFL that are good enough to be in the top 32. Gardner Minshew certainly isn’t one of them. “Jacob, what are you talking about? The Bengals are horrible!” I imagine you saying. Bad as they are, the Bengals’ defense is within sniffing distance of average. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have the worst defense in the league, and Minshew made them a top-5 fantasy DST last week. He can do the same to the Bengals, and at 2% rostership, they’re extremely likely to be an option.
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Jacob Herlin is a Senior Data Analyst for FantasyPros. For more from Jacob, check out his archive and follow him @jacoblawherlin.