Getting Defensive: Week 5

Gary Davenport
Rotoworld

We have a new candidate for no-doubt matchup status where team defenses are concerned in fantasy football.

The New York Giants weren't exactly a hot commodity on waiver wires last week, and with good reason—over the first three weeks of the season New York ranked outside the top 25 in both total defense and fantasy points at the position.

Then came Sunday's home tilt against the Washington Redskins.

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The Redskins were absolutely pathetic on offense, amassing just 176 yards of total offense in a 24-3 loss. The Giants forced four turnovers, tallied three sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown. All told, the Giants posted the largest stat line of the week among defenses.

Whether it's rookie Dwayne Haskins or journeyman veteran Colt McCoy under center Sunday, the Redskins are now a prime matchup for opposing defenses.

So of course Washington is hosting the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 5, who just so happen to sport the highest-scoring fantasy defense in the league by a ridiculous margin.

It's unfair, really.

If you aren't the luck duck who hit the Team Defense lottery in Week 5 with the Patriots (again), then here are some other relatively sure bets and streaming options.

THE NO-DOUBTERS

Chicago Bears (at Oakland Raiders) (London)

The Bears were without three defensive starters last week against the Minnesota Vikings, including a pair of Pro Bowl-caliber players in defensive end Akiem Hicks and inside linebacker Roquan Smith. You wouldn't have known it from the team's level of play—Chicago allowed just 222 yards of total offense and six points while amassing six sacks and forcing a pair of turnovers. The London games have been known to get sloppy, but if nothing else that simply benefits the defense more. The Bears are going to feast across the Pond Sunday.

Tennessee Titans (vs. Buffalo Bills)

I will confess there isn't a more frustrating team for me personally in 2019 than the Tennessee Titans. If I think they're going to win, they lose. If I think they're going to lose, they win. It's frankly quite rude. But four weeks into the season, the Titans have quietly posted top-10 fantasy numbers defensively after putting the clamps on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4. The Buffalo Bills may be a 3-1 football team, but they're also a plus matchup for fantasy defenses, ranking inside the top-five in many scoring systems. If Josh Allen can't clear the concussion protocol, this matchup goes from good to great googly-moogly.

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Buffalo Bills (at Tennessee Titans)

Given who the Bills played in Week 4, they were probably shown the door by quite a few fantasy owners. But while the Bills did come up short against the New England Patriots, it wasn't for lack of trying by the defense. The Bills allowed just 224 yards of total offense in the game, and the only touchdown the Patriots scored in the game was on a blocked punt. Four weeks into the season, only the Patriots have surrendered fewer yards per game than the Bills, and Buffalo is tied for sixth in the NFL in points allowed. If they're on your waiver wire, they shouldn't be.

Minnesota Vikings (at New York Giants)

The Vikings were beaten soundly in Week 4 by the Chicago Bears, but that can't be blamed on a Vikings Defense that gave up just 269 yards and 16 points. Through four games this year, the Vikings are sixth in the National Football League in both scoring defense and total defense, ninth in sacks and tied for fifth in takeaways. The Giants are a better team offensively under Daniel Jones than they were under Eli Manning, but the team still committed four turnovers in last week's win over the Redskins and leads the NFC with 10 giveaways.

Houston Texans (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

The Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are both in more than a little trouble after losing Week 4 tilts to teams that appeared on paper to be inferior opponents. And to be fair, I'm not brimming with confidence about Houston's ability to contend for another AFC South title in 2019. But the Falcons are an even bigger mess than the Texans—Atlanta managed just 10 points in last week's loss to the Tennessee Titans and have been unable to run the ball with any consistency. Atlanta ranks inside the top-10 in fantasy points given up to defenses in 2019. Take advantage of that.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. New York Jets)

Granted, most of New York's offensive stats (which are well and truly offensive) have to be taken with a grain of salt—Sam Darnold missed two games with mononucleosis and the Jets were forced to turn to their third-string signal-caller. But Darnold or no Darnold, the Jets have been among the best matchups for fantasy defenses dating back to the beginning of the 2018 season. The Eagles are flying high after downing the Green Bay Packers and watching the Cowboys lose on Sunday night—this is a game that could get out of hand in a hurry.

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE

Cleveland Browns (at San Francisco 49ers)

After giving up 43 points to the Tennessee Titans in a blowout loss back in Week 1, the Browns Defense became persona non grata to many fantasy owners. However, since that game the Browns have held the New York Jets to just three points and held their own against two of the league's better offenses in the Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Ravens. Over the last three weeks, the Browns have quietly been a top-five fantasy defense, and this week Cleveland gets a San Francisco 49ers team that has been erratic offensively despite a 3-0 record.

New Orleans Saints (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

That's right, I'm listing the Saints despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just dropped a double-nickel on the Rams in Los Angeles. The thing is, even after that explosion the Buccaneers rank inside the top five in fantasy points allowed to defenses this year—largely because Jameis Winston's lone interception against the Rams was returned for a touchdown. The Saints just held one of the best offenses in the NFL to a single touchdown, and as it always is the Superdome will be rocking Sunday. The Buccaneers come back to Earth here.

Baltimore Ravens (at Pittsburgh Steelers)

You may be wondering why the Ravens are listed here heading into a matchup with a Pittsburgh Steelers Offense that has mostly floundered since Ben Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury. Or maybe you aren't after watching the Ravens get shredded by Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb in a 40-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Here's the thing—there's no denying this has the makings of a favorable matchup on paper. But Baltimore's defense—the same defense that was first in the NFL in 2018—is allowing 7.0 yards per play in 2019. No team is surrendering more.

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Denver Broncos)

The Chargers were the latest team to be gifted a matchup with the pit of misery (Dilly Dilly!) that is the Miami Dolphins, and while the Bolts got right with a 30-10 victory the stat line produced by the defense was just OK—five sacks and one takeaway. Still, if you picked up the Chargers for the Miami matchup, they're worth holding onto in Week 5 as well—the Broncos have improved a bit offensively of late, but the Broncos are still just 19th in total offense, 25th in scoring and possess the second-worst turnover differential (-5) in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Carolina Panthers have become just about impossible to figure out offensively—they couldn't win a game with Cam Newton at quarterback and now they can't lose a game with Kyle Allen under center. But this much we do know about the defense. The Panthers can rush the passer—they're tied for the NFL lead with 18 sacks. The Panthers have the size on the defensive front to match up well with bruising running back Leonard Fournette. And in cornerbacks James Bradberry and Donte Jackson, they have the size and speed to play man coverage outside against the Jags.

Seattle Seahawks (vs. Los Angeles Rams)

The Seahawks have been up-and-down defensively of late—the defense looked mostly awful two weeks ago at home against the Saints but rebounded somewhat in Sunday's win at Arizona. And there's significant risk in rolling out Seattle against a Rams team that just piled up over 500 yards of total offense and 45 points in last week's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the Rams are also second in the NFL in giveaways this year with nine. Jared Goff is pressing and making mistakes, and that could mean some big plays for the Seattle D on Thursday night.

LOOKING AHEAD

Washington Redskins (at MIA): This isn't a Week 6 play for the faint of heart, and God knows you should under no circumstances actually watch this game, but no team has allowed more fantasy points to defenses in 2019 than the Dolphins.

Los Angeles Chargers (at PIT): Maybe the Steelers will blow up offensively against the Cincinnati Bengals and rob this matchup of some of its shine. Or maybe I'll win Mega Millions this week and won't be back for Getting Defensive: Week 6 anyway.

Dallas Cowboys (at NYJ): The Cowboys don't have a great matchup this week with the Packers, but Week 6 is another story. Again, Sam Darnold may make the Jets better offensively, but he's not a miracle worker.

Los Angeles Rams (at SFO): A lot's going to depend on what happens over the next seven days, but I don't think the Rams are as bad defensively as they looked in Week 4 or that the 49ers are as good offensively as their record indicates.

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