Getting Defensive: Week 4

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It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Los Angeles Chargers.

In each of the last two weeks, the Chargers have lost nail-biters after blowing a lead late, with the latest setback a 27-20 loss to the Houston Texans that dropped the Bolts two games behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Over that two game skid, the Los Angeles defense has been a significant letdown. Three weeks into the year, the Chargers are 19th in points allowed, 16th in points allowed, 28th in sacks, 23rd in takeaways and well outside the top 20 in fantasy points.

And yet, there won't be a more popular defense in the league on waiver wires in Week 4—because on Sunday the Chargers will travel to Hard Rock Stadium to take on the five-alarm dumpster fire that is the Miami Dolphins.

Three weeks into the 2019 season, the Dolphins have been outscored 133-16 in three losses. The team is averaging just 222.3 total yards and less than six points a game. Led by a poo-poo platter at quarterback of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, the Dolphins are tied for the NFL lead with eight giveaways and have surrendered 13 sacks.

No team in the NFL has given up more fantasy points to defenses this year—and it isn't close.

If the Chargers aren't available in your fantasy league, here are some other team defenses to consider in Week 4.

THE NO-DOUBTERS

New England Patriots (at BUF)

As if the Patriots weren't already infuriatingly good enough, the team now appears to have one of their better defenses in quite some time. Sure, the stats are inflated a bit by games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, but that doesn't change the fact that the Patriots lead the league in both total defense and fantasy points. There's also the small matter of the fact that New England still hasn't given up an offensive touchdown in 2019—the 14 points the Jets scored at Gillette Stadium last week came on a muffed punt and a pick-six.

Jacksonville Jaguars (at DEN)

After a quiet start to the season, the Jaguars exploded defensively against the Tennessee Titans. Keyed by a massive game from defensive lineman Calais Campbell, the Jaguars sacked Marcus Mariota nine times and completely shut down the Titans Offense. Fresh off that big outing the Jaguars head west to face a reeling Broncos team that has dropped three straight to open the season. The Broncos rank 20th in the NFL in total offense at this point in the season, but they've had a terrible time putting points on the board. Only three teams have scored fewer points per game than Denver's 15.3.

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Los Angeles Rams (vs. TBB)

In 2018, the Rams were driven to a Super Bowl berth by a high-octane passing game and the running of Todd Gurley. Through three games this year, it's been Aaron Donald and the defense who have carried the team. The Rams rank third in the NFL in total defense, allowing just 285,7 yards per game. The Rams are also seventh in the league in scoring defense, tied for 12th in sacks and rank inside the top-10 in takeaways. Sunday at the Coliseum, the Rams play host to an error-prone Tampa offense that has turned it over five times and surrendered 10 sacks so far in 2019.

Baltimore Ravens (vs. CLE)

The Ravens are coming off their worst defensive performance and first loss of the season. But there's no shame in allowing 33 points to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The stage is set for a big-time rebound from Baltimore against the floundering Browns in Week 4. After another moribund offensive effort against the Los Angeles Rams, the Browns have now scored 14 points in a game just once—and that was against the Jets. The Browns have also allowed the sixth-most sacks in the league and rank inside the top 10 in giveaways.

Chicago Bears (vs. MIN)

It's possible that this matchup won't turn out to be as favorable as it might otherwise appear—in two of three contests this season the Minnesota offense has looked really good, largely due to the running of young tailback Dalvin Cook. But for all the problems the Bears have had this season, the defense hasn't been one of them—the Bears put the clamps on Kirk Cousins and the Vikings twice in 2018 and notched two sacks and three takeaways in a 25-20 win the last time these two teams met at Soldier Field. Until we see otherwise, the Bears remain an every-week fantasy start.

Minnesota Vikings (at CHI)

This was admittedly written before the Bears played at Washington on Monday night, so it's possible that the Bears put up 40 points and robbed this matchup of much of its luster. Of course, it's also possible that I'll win Powerball and Mega Millions in the same week—it's just not especially likely. Through two games this year, the Bears were averaging fewer than 10 points per game and Mitchell Trubisky had yet to throw a touchdown pass. With Trubisky struggling and Minnesota playing well defensively, it's not hard to like the Vikings Defense in Week 4.

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. CIN)

Let's see, how can I put this as diplomatically as possible? The Pittsburgh defense rather sucks. Had it not been for five turnovers by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, the Steelers probably would have gotten rolled by an offense that no one's going to confuse with San Fran's Joe Montana/Jerry Rice heyday. But this week the Steelers get a prime matchup against a Bengals team that is tied for the NFL lead in giveaways with eight and tied for the sixth-most sacks allowed with 11. If ever there was a week for the Steelers to get right, this is it.

Seattle Seahawks (at ARZ)

Given the pasting that was just laid on the Seahawks at home by a Saints team that was without quarterback Drew Brees, plenty of fantasy owners are probably ready to rage-drop the defense. However, it's worth pointing out that of the 33 points Seattle allowed in a Week 3 loss, 14 came on a defensive touchdown and special teams score. It's also worth pointing out that through three games rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals lead the NFC with 16 sacks allowed and that Murray was reckless with the football in last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. OAK)

From a statistical standpoint, the Colts have been average defensively in 2019—the team ranks 18th in total defense, 21st in scoring defense, 12th in sacks, have averaged just one takeaway per game and sit well outside weekly starter territory in terms of fantasy points. But this recommendation says more about the matchup than it does about the Colts themselves. Since a strong showing in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, the Oakland offense has sputtered, averaging just 12 points a game. Look for the Colts to post their best defensive effort of the young season.

Atlanta Falcons (vs. TEN)

Like many of the streaming plays in Week 4, the Atlanta Falcons aren't a good defensive team—three weeks into the 2019 season the Falcons are 1-2 and 22nd in scoring defense and 23rd in sacks. But like so many of these Week 4 streamers the Falcons also get a rock-solid matchup—the Titans are coming off a nightmarish game in which Marcus Mariota was sacked nine times and Tennessee scored just one touchdown for the second week in a row. That 43-point explosion in Week 1 says more about the Cleveland Browns than it does about the Titans.

Cincinnati Bengals (at PIT)

You think the Steelers are bad defensively? The Bungles make them look like the 1985 Chicago Bears. Cincinnati is admittedly a bit better than Pittsburgh in terms of yardage allowed this season, but the Cincinnati defense has now allowed well over 400 yards per game dating back over a year. That stat makes the Bengals something of a desperation play, but if you saw any of Pittsburgh's loss to the 49ers last week you know that the first start of the Mason Rudolph era ended with Pittsburgh failing to gain even 250 yards of offense while allowing a pair of sacks and two turnovers.

LOOKING AHEAD

We're going to try something a little different this week. There aren't really any higher-end team defenses with matchups that make me especially nervous in Week 4—and I've been asked a few times of late to take a look a little farther down the road at some defensive matchups of note in Week 5.

If you like to play the long game on the waiver wire, here are a few teams to consider making a pre-emptive play for if they're available—or consider holding onto if they're already on your roster.

Buffalo Bills (at TEN): With the Bills facing the Patriots in Week 4, they may well be dropped in more than a few leagues. Scoop them up for this matchup the following week against a Titans team that may soon be looking to drop its quarterback.

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. DEN): Assuming that the Bolts don't get lit up by Miami (which would absolutely be a portent of the Apocalypse), consider holding on to the Chargers for another week and a home tilt with the struggling Broncos.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. NYJ): The bad news in Week 5 is that the Miami Dolphins are on a bye. The good news in Week 5 is that the Jets will be back. Admittedly it will probably be with Sam Darnold back, but this is still a plus matchup.