It seems like it’s getting harder to find a good D/ST. Last week looked like it offered a bunch of worthwhile streamers, and while several did provide decent numbers (Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Colts), they were hardly worth the waiver wire move you used to get them. Instead, a few teams surprised (as always), and even more disappointed (as always). A quick glance at our Week 5 fantasy defense rankings features few notable top options and even fewer high-upside sleepers, so you know the start ’em, sit ’em decisions are going to be a nightmare.
Let’s start with the potential streamers. The Raiders (vs. Bears), Cowboys (vs. Giants), Cardinals (vs. 49ers), Titans (vs. Jaguars), and Vikings (vs. Lions) all have solid matchups on paper, though the Titans let everyone down in an even better matchup last week against the Jets. The Vikings have disappointed most of the year, too. The Packers (@ Bengals), Falcons (vs. Jets), and Eagles (@ Panthers) are also in play based on fantasy points allowed to D/STs, but none are particularly strong defensively. Perhaps the Falcons-Jets game being in London gives the Falcons an extra boost, but they’re a start-at-your-own-risk unit.
Injuries to a couple starting QBs could be a major factor this week. If Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) is out, the disappointing Steelers look significantly better. We’re currently ranking them as if Drew Lock (and his inevitable interceptions) is starting. The same goes with the Cardinals, who will draw rookie Trey Lance in his first NFL start. As much upside as Lance has, he’ll still likely make a few big mistakes. Take advantage.
Unfortunately, several top D/STs drop in our rankings because of bad matchups. The Rams (@ Seahawks) are still on the start-sit bubble, as Seattle is prone to giving up sacks and Thursday night games are notoriously sloppy, but clearly their ceiling is lower like it was last week against the Cardinals and the week before against the Bucs. However, the Bills (@ Chiefs), Browns (@ Chargers), and Colts (@ Ravens) simply can’t be trusted, as tough as that is to hear for Bills owners. You can try your luck against Patrick Mahomes, as he’s been a bit more turnover-prone this year, but don’t be surprised if you wind up with low single-digit points.
Washington (@ Saints) continues to play horribly, so as much as we’d like to give it the benefit of the doubt against a Jameis Winston-led offense, we can’t put it any higher than middle of the pack. Even that is probably too generous. The Dolphins (@ Bucs), another preseason favorite, also continue to disappoint, and they’re a complete no-go with with their matchup this week. Both of these D/STs can be dropped.
We know at least one or two D/STs will have return TDs or randomly get a bunch of takeaways. It might even be the Dolphins or Bills. You can’t predict that kind of stuff, so you’re better off sticking with talent combined with matchup. Take into account new injuries, and go from there. Offenses seem better than ever, and fantasy D/STs are suffering as a result. You’re not alone if you get mediocre results, so just be happy with a middle-of-the-pack showing and hope you don’t go against the one or two monster defenses that week.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings as needed throughout the week. so check back for the latest movement and analysis.
Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 5: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football
|1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. MIA|
|2||Pittsburgh Steelers vs. DEN. If Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) returns for this game, the Steelers will drop, as they’ve largely been disappointing and the Broncos have an efficient offense under Bridgewater. If Drew Lock starts, then the Steelers will be all systems go. Lock took three sacks and threw an INT in one half of action against Baltimore last week.|
|3||New England Patriots @ HOU|
|4||Denver Broncos @ PIT|
|5||New Orleans Saints @ WAS|
|6||Carolina Panthers vs. PHI. It’s tough to say what kind of matchup the Eagles are. They haven’t turned it over in three-of-four games and haven’t allowed more than three sacks in a game all year. However, they’ve scored fewer than 16 offensive points twice and generally seem incapable of running. The Panthers were exposed by the Cowboys last week, but they’ve still shown they can take advantage of mediocre offense. Back at home, we expect them to pressure Jalen Hurts into a few mistakes and keep the score low, and with Carolina’s big-play defenders, it could turn into a big day.|
|7||Baltimore Ravens vs. IND. Baltimore came to life with five sacks last week, and they’ve allowed just 24 offensive points in the past two weeks combined. Carson Wentz hasn’t turned it over much, but he’s always capable of bad mistakes. We saw that in Week 2 when he took three sacks and threw two INTs against the Rams. Expect a low-scoring affair where the Ravens have a chance for a few big plays.|
|8||Dallas Cowboys vs. NYG. With two INTs in every game and at least two sacks in three-of-four games, the Cowboys have about as consistent of a floor as you’re going to find. The Giants have turned it over just three times all year, a sharp departure from past seasons, but we know this is an inconsistent offense that is prone to sacks and mistakes. When you put the two together, you have a top-10 D/ST in a tough week.|
|9||Las Vegas Raiders vs. CHI. The Bears bounced back with a solid showing in Week 4, allowing just one sack a week after giving up nine. However, they were playing the Lions, so take it all with a grain of salt. This offense still has a ways to go whether Justin Fields or a banged-up Andy Dalton starts. The Raiders haven’t put up huge fantasy stats, but they’ve been solid on defense and should be able to generate pressure against Chicago’s leaky line.|
|10||Arizona Cardinals vs. SF. The Cardinals have been the definition of “boom-or-bust” this year, posting monster outings in Weeks 1 and 3 and subpar showings in Weeks 2 and 4. The 49ers are among the league leaders in fewest fantasy points allowed to defenses, but an inexperienced rookie making his first NFL start (on the road, no less) changes the equation. Trey Lance was the definition of “efficient” in college, turning the ball over twice in 17 games, but this isn’t the FCS. We still think he can produce yards and a decent number of points, but the Cardinals should be able to pressure him into some mistakes, too.|
|11||Minnesota Vikings vs. DET. The Lions seem friskier than they are, perhaps because of their usual ability to get a score in garbage time. Still, they’ve scored fewer than 18 offensive points in three straight games and have allowed 10 sacks and five takeaways on the year. The Vikings have held down opponents the past two weeks (31 total offensive points) while averaging over three sacks per game this year. Minnesota’s floor is higher than you think in this one, and the potential for a backbreaking Jared Goff pick-six gives them a fairly high ceiling, too.|
|12||Tennessee Titans @ JAX. Tennessee flopped in a highly favorable matchup against the Jets last week (one sack, one INT, 27 offensive points allowed), but keep in mind the Jaguars had turned it over nine times before a clean Week 4. At the very least, there’s a high ceiling here even if it comes with a fairly low floor.|
|13||Green Bay Packers @ CIN. The Packers have posted multiple takeaways in three straight games with seven sacks in that span. The Bengals offense has gotten a lot more efficient since a poor first two weeks, allowing just one sack and one takeaway while scoring 48 total offensive points against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. Cincinnati’s fantasy points allowed numbers are still inflated by the 10 sacks, four turnovers, and D/ST touchdown allowed in Weeks 1 and 2, so this isn’t necessarily a “favorable” matchup for the Packers, but given their recent performance, they’re still in play as a low-end starting D/ST.|
|14||Los Angeles Rams @ SEA. The Rams have had three sacks in all four games this year, and even though the takeaways have dried up against elite offenses the past two weeks (Bucs, Cardinals), the Rams always have the potential for a big game. The Seahawks still allow sacks (11 this year), so talent alone — plus the potential for Thursday night sloppiness — makes the Rams potentially playable despite the low-ceiling matchup.|
|15||Atlanta Falcons vs. NYJ. It doesn’t get much worse than the Falcons, but no team was more generous to fantasy D/STs than the Jets through three games. New York played well in Week 4, but a trip across the pond to London could revive some of that sloppiness. Zach Wilson has thrown at least one INT in each game, and even after scoring 27 points last week, the Jets are averaging a paltry 11.8 points per game. Consider the Falcons a classic high-risk, high-reward play.|
|16||Philadelphia Eagles @ CAR. The Eagles defense started out hot, allowing just 23 offensive points in the first two weeks. The past two weeks, they’ve allowed 77 points. Of course, that’s what happens when you face two of the NFL’s best offenses, Dallas and Kansas City. Their true talent is somewhere in between, but with just two takeaways all year, there aren’t many reasons to get excited about the Eagles. The Panthers have been solid this year, but mistake-prone Sam Darnold reared his ugly head last week with two INTs and five sacks allowed.|
|17||Washington Football Team vs. NO. Washington has been terrible this year, so perhaps we’re still giving it too much credit, but Jameis Winston is no stranger to a horrible INT or two. It looks like he’s turned a corner, but in a week with few upper-tier D/STs, Washington is a potential boom-or-bust sleeper based on what their hypothetical strong pass rush can do and Winston’s perceived recklessness.|
|18||Cleveland Browns @ LAC|
|19||Buffalo Bills @ KC|
|20||Cincinnati Bengals vs. GB|
|21||Indianapolis Colts @ BAL|
|22||Miami Dolphins @ TB|
|23||San Francisco 49ers @ ARI|
|24||Seattle Seahawks vs. LAR|
|25||New York Giants @ DAL|
|26||Houston Texans vs. NE|
|27||New York Jets vs. ATL|
|28||Los Angeles Chargers vs. CLE|
|29||Chicago Bears @ LV|
|30||Kansas City Chiefs vs. BUF|
|31||Detroit Lions @ MIN|
|32||Jacksonville Jaguars vs. TEN|