Let’s Stream Defenses: Week 3 (2021 Fantasy Football)
It feels like there have already been a lot of big injuries this year. There have been, but that’s also what we say every year. That’s just football. Importantly for us, there have been real impacts on some QB situations. Tyrod Taylor suffered a hamstring injury that should keep him out for several weeks, meaning third-round rookie Davis Mills is the starter for Houston. Tua Tagovailoa for the Dolphins and Carson Wentz for the Colts are both question marks for next week, though I’m currently operating under the assumption that they’ll both play. Andy Dalton is also uncertain for next week, but it’s looking like the Bears might hand the reigns to Justin Fields.
Speaking of rookie QBs, patterns are starting to emerge. As is New York Jets tradition, Zach Wilson has been bad and is a top target for opposing DSTs. Every season there ends up being one or two teams you’ll target every week no matter what, and the Jets are a leading candidate. Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars are not far behind. Lawrence’s issue is interceptions – he’s thrown five in two games. That’s great for opposing defenses, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him get it more under control as the season progresses. Mac Jones has been very quiet for the Patriots. He’s not putting up a lot of points, but he’s yet to throw an interception or fumble and has taken a league-average two sacks/game. If this pattern continues, he’s actually not a great DST target because the upside is very low.
This is an excellent week, with a few low-rostership teams in my top tier and three teams in my second tier in the single digits. That means it’s extremely unlikely you’ll need to reach very deep into these rankings to find an available defense. Rostership numbers are from Yahoo. If you have questions, you can find me on Twitter.
|The Start Them With Confidence Tier|
|The Still a fine Choice Tier|
|The Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier|
- DEN vs. NYJ: The Broncos are, much to my surprise, one of only two undefeated teams in the AFC. They have had a pretty easy schedule against The Giants and Jaguars so far, but that’s not changing this week against The Jets. Jets QB Zach Wilson improved quite a bit between the first two games, going from terrible to merely bad. He’s a premier QB target until further notice.
- CAR @ HOU: Tyrod Taylor sustained a hamstring injury last week that’s expected to sideline him for several weeks. Third-round rookie Davis Mills has taken over for the foreseeable future. Deshaun Watson is technically on the roster, but the Texans don’t seem interested in playing Watson amid his legal battles (not to mention his feud with the team that predates the allegations). Mills was fine, throwing one TD and one interception, but gave us no reason not to staple him to the top of our list of QBs to target, as we do with third-string QBs.
- NE vs. NO: The Saints melted down last week against the Panthers, with Jameis Winston throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. For their part, the Patriots’ defense has been good, holding both opponents so far under 20 points. We’ve already seen the full range of what Winston can do this season, and the game line implies that Vegas thinks the bad is more likely than the good.
- PIT vs. CIN: Going into the season, we expected Joe Burrow to be a sack machine, even if the rest of his game is passable. He’s lived up to the hype, with five and then 4 in the first two games. I would trust any competent defense to take advantage of that, and Pittsburgh certainly qualifies.
- ARI @ JAC: The story of Trevor Lawrence has been about interceptions so far. He’s thrown five so far, en route to two losses against not particularly good teams (though maybe the jury is still out on the Broncos?). The Cardinals had the shootout we expected with the Vikings last week, but I’m not worried about them against the less competent Jaguars.
- TEN vs. IND: Wentz is also in the category of average-to-below-average quarterbacks with a tasty sack rate, even if he’s a little bit scarier than the likes of Zach Wilson and Joe Burrow. Wentz is also playing through two sprained ankles. The Titans haven’t exactly kept points off the board, but it’s been against two strong offenses in ARI and SEA, so it doesn’t really worry me with respect to their outlook against Indianapolis.
- ATL @ NYG: This is unusual – a road underdog in my top 10. Honestly, 25 points feels high for the Daniel Jones-led Giants. The bigger factor for this projection, as is the theme this week, is that Jones takes sacks at a rate that outpaces the rest of his game. In his career, it’s uncommon for Jones to take fewer than three, and the upside is massive.
- BUF vs. WAS: This might seem low for a team with an implied points allowed of just 18.75, but Football Team QB Taylor Heinicke actually avoids sacks quite well. A backup for most of his career, he only has four total starts, and his sack total in those games is just five. My expectation against him is one sack, with two being the upside. He doesn’t really throw TDs either, so this is a pretty safe play, even if it’s low-upside. That’s actually pretty valuable – my second tier of defenses tends to have a lot of high-upside risky plays.
- CLE vs. CHI: It’s looking like Justin Fields, who has played a bit in both games, will get his first real start this week with Andy Dalton injured. That almost certainly means he’ll start for the rest of the season. As with the other rookie QBs in Week 1, I’m happy to start defenses against Fields until he proves I shouldn’t.
- LV vs. MIA: It is unclear if Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa will start this week after leaving last week’s game with a rib injury. I’m operating on the assumption that he will, but it won’t make a big difference to this rank if he doesn’t. Jacoby Brissett would fill in, and he’s one of the more solid backups in the league, so I don’t think it would be a huge downgrade for Miami.