Getting Defensive: Week 11

Gary Davenport
Rotoworld

I get asked as much on social media about the teams who aren't listed in this article as the ones who are.

In some cases, if a team's not listed in Getting Defensive, it's because smart fantasy owners want no part of them. Take for instance the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11. The Chargers' defensive play has improved of late—two weeks ago they dominated the Green Bay Packers in L.A. But with Patrick Mahomes back under center for the Chiefs, next Monday night's Mexico City showdown between the Chiefs and Chargers has the makings of a high-scoring shootout that's great for the offensive fantasy options—but offensive for the defensive ones.

Then there are those defenses that rather fall into a gray area—they're owned in a large enough percentage of leagues that they don't qualify as a streaming option, but they don't qualify for no-doubter status in a given week.

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In Week 11, the Baltimore Ravens fall into that latter category.

The Ravens have been on quite the roll of late—over the past month only the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have averaged more fantasy points per game defensively. The Ravens have scored a staggering five non-offensive touchdowns over their last three games.

But Baltimore's Week 11 matchup at home against the Houston Texans isn't a favorable one. The Texans have a talent-laden offense led by an MVP candidate at quarterback in Deshaun Watson. The team ranks outside the top 20 in fantasy points per game given up to team defenses.

If you own Baltimore, you're rolling them out this week. They've earned every-week starter status. Just don't be shocked if Earl Thomas, Patrick Onwuasor and company have a down week compared to their last few outings.

Here's a look at the rest of the team defense landscape in Week 11. It's a week heavy on relatively sure bets and light on streamers.

THE NO-DOUBTERS

Pittsburgh Steelers (at Cleveland Browns)

At 5-4, the Steelers have peeled off four straight wins to get back into the playoff picture in the AFC, and the credit for that surge lies mostly with the defense. After beating the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10, the Steelers now lead the AFC in sacks, rank second in the NFL in takeaways and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has found the end zone in back-to-back games. The Steelers are now the second-highest scoring fantasy defense in the AFC, lead the league in fantasy points over the last three weeks and draw a Cleveland Browns team Thursday night that's been turnover-prone most of the season.

San Francisco 49ers (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

This article was admittedly written before San Francisco's big Monday night showdown with the Seattle Seahawks, but frankly how the 49ers do in that game has next to no bearing on this recommendation. The 49ers rank at or near the top of the NFL in just about every defensive category, whether it's total defense, scoring defense, sacks, takeaways and (most importantly) fantasy points. The Cardinals are just a middling matchup for fantasy defenses in 2019, but this game has all the makings of one where the Niners win with ease and the Redbirds look the part of a last-place team.

Los Angeles Rams (vs. Chicago Bears)

The Rams have more than a few problems of late, but the play of the defense isn't really one of them—after nine games the Rams rank just outside the top-10 in both total defense and scoring defense and have climbed to 10th in the NFL in sacks and tied for sixth in takeaways. However, this recommendation has more to do with how bad the Bears are offensively than how good the Bears are on defense—the Bears have the sixth-worst scoring offense in the NFL and the fourth-worst offense in terms of yards gained per game. As matchups go, this is an excellent one.

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Buffalo Bills (at Miami Dolphins)

The Bills enter Week 11 trying to wipe off the stink from a disappointing Week 10 loss to the Browns in Cleveland. Luckily for Buffalo, next up is a trip to Miami to face a 2-7 Dolphins squad that looked like the worst team in the league for much of the season. The Dolphins have upped their level of play over the past month, but Miami still leads the AFC in giveaways with 19, has surrendered the third most sacks in the NFL with 35 and rank 31st in the league in total offense. Only the Jets have given up more fantasy points per game to team defenses in 2019.

Chicago Bears (at Los Angeles Rams)

The Bears were able to get back to the business of winning in Week 10, but Chicago remains a flawed offensive team hanging onto its postseason aspirations by a thread. The thing is, the same thing can be said about the Los Angeles Rams, who have lost four of six after a 3-0 start. The Rams can't get Todd Gurley and the ground game untracked, the offensive line is a mess and the added pressure being placed on Jared Goff has the young quarterback seeing ghosts. The Rams had all kinds of problems with the Pittsburgh defense. There's little reason to think it will be different this week against the Bears.

Minnesota Vikings (vs. Denver Broncos)

The Minnesota Vikings have quietly emerged as a legitimate contender in the NFC, and while Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and the offense gets most of the headlines, the defense has stepped up as well. The Vikings are ninth in the NFL in scoring defense, seventh in the league in sacks and tied for fifth in takeaways. The Broncos played relatively well in Week 9 with Brandon Allen at quarterback, but we're still talking about a signal-caller with one career start to his name going on the road behind a shaky offensive line to face a stout defense. Odds are good that the Vikes will feast here.

Jacksonville Jaguars (at Indianapolis Colts)

Where the Jaguars slot on the list of no-doubters in Week 10 will depend largely on whether or not quarterback Jacoby Brissett's balky knee allows him to play Sunday. If it does, some of the shine will be knocked off this matchup. But if Brian Hoyer is pressed into action again in Week 11, the Jaguars become one of the best defensive plays out there. To be blunt, Hoyer was terrible in last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins, failing to complete half of his passes while throwing three picks. If the Dolphins can shut Hoyer's Colts down, the Jaguars should be able to as well.

New England Patriots (at Philadelphia Eagles)

For most of this season, the Patriots haven't just been the highest-scoring fantasy defense—they've been one of the highest-scoring fantasy players at any position. New England's Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was a setback in that regard, and this week's matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles isn't as favorable as the tomato cans the Patriots spent the first half of the season pounding on. Still, the Eagles have scuffled offensively at times this year, and the Pats probably spent the off week seething after they were embarrassed by Lamar Jackson and the Purple Birds.

Dallas Cowboys (at Detroit Lions)

The Cowboys haven't exactly been a fantasy bonanza in 2019—Dallas ranks outside the top-15 in fantasy points for the season and just had a less-than-impressive outing in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. But in Week 11 the Cowboys travel to face a Lions team that will likely be without quarterback Matthew Stafford Sunday. Two weeks ago the Cowboys showed what the team can do against an inferior opponent—in Week 9 the Cowboys piled up five sacks, three takeaways and scored a touchdown in a blowout win over the New York Giants.

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Oakland Raiders (at Cincinnati Bengals)

I'm not even a little bit sure what's gotten into the Oakland Raiders this year—especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, the Raiders had 13 sacks total as a team. Last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Bolts tallied five—and logged three takeaways, one of which was returned for a score. In his first NFL start, the Jeff Driskel-led Cincinnati Bengals allowed a pair of defensive scores in a blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a performance that has shot the winless Bengals into the top teams in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to defenses—and shot the Raiders to the top of the matchup play list in Week 11.

Washington Redskins (vs. New York Jets)

It's been a miserable season for the Washington Redskins, and to be fair the team's 21st-ranked defense deserves its share of the blame. But this week at least the Redskins have a good chance to be fantasy-relevant—courtesy of the dumpster fire that is the New York Jets. Yes, the Jets just scored 31 points in a win over the Giants, but entering Week 10 no team had been kinder to fantasy defenses this season. The Jets have given up 39 sacks this season, turned the ball over 17 times and rank dead last in the NFL in total offense and 30th in scoring offense.

New York Jets (at Washington Redskins)

That's right—both sides of Sunday's testament to misery loving company in the nation's capital have at least some appeal for hard-up fantasy owners. It's got nothing to do with the Jets Defense itself—it's an injury-ravaged mess of a unit that ranks toward the bottom of the NFL in a number of categories. But this week the Jets face a Washington team that ranks dead last in the NFL in scoring, at just 12 points per game. The Redskins also rank toward the top of the league in giveaways and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to defenses in 2019.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

This matchup play isn't a great one. The Colts haven't exactly taken advantage of a favorable schedule stretch of late defensively, and the return of Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles adds a measure of uncertainty to the matchup. But Foles hasn't played since fracturing his collarbone in Week 1, the Colts were able to post a top-10 defensive stat line in some scoring systems last week in some scoring systems, and for the season the Jags rank just outside the top 10 in fantasy points surrendered to team defenses. In a light week for streamers, the Colts are worth a look.

LOOKING AHEAD

Cleveland Browns (vs. Miami Dolphins): Had the Browns generated many big plays against the Bills, they'd have rated a hold right through Thursday's game with a limited Steelers Offense and into this primo matchup with the Dolphins.

Oakland Raiders (at New York Jets): If the prospect of a matchup with the winless Bengals isn't enough to whet your streaming appetite for the Raiders, perhaps a two-fer that includes a Week 11 tilt with a gangrenous Gang Green team will do the trick.

Washington Redskins (vs. Detroit Lions): It takes a certain level of bravado to roll out the Redskins Defense in fantasy football. But if you're going to do it once in a plus matchup, you might as well do it twice—provided that Matthew Stafford's absence extends into this Week 12 matchup.

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