Let’s Stream Defenses: Week 8 (2020 Fantasy Football)
Bye weeks are getting ugly. If you went with my top pick of the Eagles last week, you lucked into a good situation this week with Andy Dalton likely to still be in concussion protocol, but outside of that, the landscape of available defenses with solid matchups is barren. Fortunately, we’re getting to the point in the season where we have a good idea of the quality of each offense (with the notable exception of Miami, who are giving Tua Tagovailoa his first start despite Ryan Fitzpatrick playing well).
If you’re looking at stashing a defense for Week 9 (maybe you have an OBJ to drop, like most of my teams), I have some ideas, in no particular order:
- Football Team: On bye this week, vs. NYG in Week 9. Washington’s defense is quite good according to Football Outsiders’ Defensive Efficiency Ratings, and the Giants are a great matchup.
- Giants: Not usable vs. TB this week, @ WAS next week. I’m much more interested in WAS, but New York should also be viable from this game.
- Titans: A solid start @CIN this week, they get to host the flailing Bears in week 9.
- Steelers: You can’t play them @BAL this week, but they get to face the Cowboys (with Andy Dalton the likely starter) in Week 9.
- Patriots: Like the Steelers, I’m not really interested in using the Patriots @BUF this week, but I’ll start just about anyone against their Week 9 opponent, the Jets.
This week is rough. We have three defense-friendly offenses, HOU, JAC, and WAS, on bye (in addition to ARI). My top-three defenses all fee like home runs, but unfortunately, they all have pretty high rostership, and there is a massive drop-off between ranks three and four. I generally define my second tier to be teams projected for between 6.5 and 7.5 points, and there isn’t a single team in that range this week! My second tier is filled with teams that are in the top 10 this week, but under normal circumstances, they would be on the very low end of starters. If you have questions, you can find me on Twitter.
|The Start Them With Confidence Tier|
|The We’re Skipping to Only-If-You-Have-To Tier|
|The Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier|
- KC vs. NYJ: Sometimes the stars just align. The Jets are a wildly dysfunctional team that you’ll start any defense against. The Chiefs have a top-10 defense. The Jets have a rock-bottom point projection of 14.5. The Chiefs are favored by a sky-high 19 points. At 96% rostership you’re probably not streaming KC, but if you have them, starting the Chiefs this week us as sure a thing as you can find in fantasy football.
- PHI vs. DAL: Cowboys’ backup quarterback Andy Dalton took the dirtiest helmet-to-helmet hit since Vontaze Burfict was in the league last week, so I expect that he won’t start in Week 8. It will likely be seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci. He only played 15 snaps in relief of Dalton in Week 7, but that included three sacks on only six dropbacks. Until DiNucci surprises us and becomes the next Gardner Minshew, I’m ready to start any defense against the Cowboys.
- TB @ NYG: The Giants have been one of the best DST matchups, as they’ve allowing 9 or more fantasy points every week this year but one (and the one was Washington). The Buccaneers have the best real-world defense in the league. Tampa Bay is worth starting in average matchups, and this is one of the best.
- TEN vs. CIN: This is where things start to get shaky. Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow has been quite good for a rookie, but importantly for fantasy, he still takes the most sacks per game of any quarterback starting this week. He’s also had at least one turnover in every game but one. (Week 3 @ PHI) Despite an implied point total of 24.25, right around the maximum, I’m willing to start a defense against, this adds up to a projection line that would normally be a low-end start, with a decent floor and not much of a ceiling. The lack of other good options, however, means Tennessee ends up ranked 4th, with a projection that is more typical of teams in the low teens.
- BUF vs. NE: After a promising start that saw Cam Newton score four rushing touchdowns through the first two weeks, the wheels have fallen off for New England. Newton only has two passing touchdowns all year, and he had a three-interception meltdown against San Francisco last week. The Bills aren’t nearly as strong on defense as SF, but their skill set matches up well against Cam — they’re much better against the run than against the pass.
- IND @ DET: This is another team that would be a very low-priority start: an excellent defense in an average matchup. Matthew Stafford’s worst performance this year involved one interception and four sacks (Week 2 @ GB), and I think that kind of outcome is realistic against the toughest opponent on his schedule.
- LAR @ MIA: Most of this tier is filled with teams with decent floors but limited upside. The Rams will take on Tua Tagovailoa in his first start, so the range of possible outcomes is huge here. Tua could be great, but rookies always have a shot at being bad in their first start, even ones as hyped as Tua.
- LAC @ DEN: Denver is one of those teams with a solid quarterback (Drew Lock) left out to dry with no supporting cast at all. While KC had two DST touchdowns (a pick-six and a kickoff return) against Denver last week, I wouldn’t ever expect defensive touchdowns to repeat. That said, after starting his career with an excellent interception rate (only three in seven starts), Lock has thrown two picks in back-to-back games now. He also set a new career-high against KC for sacks allowed (with three). So while I wouldn’t bank on touchdowns, the last two weeks have shown that Lock has the ability to be friendly for opposing DSTs.
- NO @ CHI: The Bears have been bad under the leadership of Nick Foles. Week 7 was an absolute disaster, but I wouldn’t expect a meltdown of that magnitude to repeat. The Saints certainly belong in the category of “good defenses on Chicago’s schedule,” alongside IND, TB, and LAR, who have all held Chicago to 20 points or fewer.
- CAR vs. ATL: Thanks to the lack of good options this week, and none of the better (but still “meh”) defenses having very low rostership, there’s a high likelihood that some of us will be starting Carolina. Atlanta’s Week 5 game against Carolina was their worst of the season, with an interception and only 16 points scored. This week Atlanta has the additional disadvantage of being on the road, so I think it’s reasonable to hope for a similar outcome.
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