Getting Defensive: Week 9

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·9 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.



The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

After eight weeks, it was already abundantly clear that the Los Angeles Rams possessed one of the better defenses in the NFL. The Rams have the defending Defensive Player of the Year in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and arguably the best cornerback in the league in Jalen Ramsey. The Rams rank 11th in the league against the run, 10th in scoring defense and fifth in turnover differential.

On Monday, the rich got richer.

As Jeff Legwold and Lindsey Thiry reported for ESPN, the Rams sent a pair of Day 2 picks to the Denver Broncos in exchange for eight-time Pro Bowl edge-rusher Von Miller. Miller, who has 110.5 sacks and a Super Bowl MVP award on his NFL resume over 10-plus years in Denver, tallied 4.5 sacks over the first four games of 2021 but had struggled with injuries of late.

While speaking to reporters Monday night, Rams head coach Sean McVay was over the moon about adding a player of Miller's quality in-season.

"He brings an element, obviously an incredibly unique football player that not only is a great pass-rusher, but he's a complete football player that can really affect and influence an offense in a negative way on all three downs," McVay said. "You can utilize him in a variety of different ways."

The move gives the Rams another proven commodity off the edge opposite Leonard Floyd and raises a dilemma for opponents. Double -team Donald inside, and Miller and Floyd are going to feast on single-teams of their own. Help out on the edge, and you have to hope that your interior linemen can hold their own against a three-time DPOY.

Either way, you're rather screwed—something the Titans will likely find out soon enough.

THE NO-DOUBTERS

Buffalo Bills (at Jacksonville Jaguars)

The only reason that the Rams don't have the top spot in this week's column is that fantasy football's No. 1 defense after eight weeks is squaring off against a Jaguars team that just got their heads kicked in by the Geno Smith-led Seattle Seahawks. No team in the NFL has more takeaways this season than the 18 the Bills have amassed, while the Jaguars are tied for the third-most giveaways in the league with 13 and have surrendered the second-most fantasy points per game to team defenses this season. This game will probably be all kinds of out of hand by halftime.

Los Angeles Rams (vs. Tennessee Titans)

Eight weeks into the 2021 fantasy campaign, the Rams have been good but not great for fantasy managers—eighth in fantasy points for the year. But in addition to gaining Von Miller, the Rams also draw a reeling Titans team Sunday night that has to figure out how to move the football with both Derrick Henry and possibly Julio Jones sidelined. It's not going to be easy—if Jones sits the Rams can have Ramsey shadow A.J. Brown and essentially dare anyone else on the Tennessee offense to beat them—all while teeing off with their new-look pass-rush.

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Chicago Bears)

After a 1-3 start to the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are back above .500 for the first time since Week 1—and the engine for that resurgence has been T.J. Watt and the defense. Pittsburgh ranks 11th in total defense, seventh in scoring defense, 10th in sacks and 10th in fantasy points per game among defenses. From Week 5 on during Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak that fantasy production is even higher, and Sunday the Steelers will play host to a Bears team that leads the NFL in sacks allowed and leads the NFC in fantasy points surrendered to defenses.

Arizona Cardinals (at San Francisco 49ers)

For most of the 2021 season, the Arizona Cardinals ranked at near the top of the fantasy leaderboard among defenses. But some of the shine came off the team in last week's loss to a short-handed Green Bay Packers team in a game where the Redbirds knew the run was coming and just couldn't stop it. However, the Cardinals are still second among team defenses in total fantasy points, fourth in total defense and third in scoring defense. In the first meeting between these teams this year, Arizona allowed just 10 points while notching two sacks and forcing a turnover.

Dallas Cowboys (vs. Denver Broncos)

The 6-1 Dallas Cowboys are one of the more surprising teams in the NFL this year—not because the Cowboys are in first place necessarily, but because the Dallas defense has played every bit as big a part of the team's success as the offense. Last week against one of the better offensive teams in the league in the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys surrendered just 278 yards of offense and 16 points while logging one sack of Kirk Cousins. Given the success Dallas has had with takeaways this season, it's not a stretch to imagine them notching a couple against an inconsistent Denver offense.

New England Patriots (at Carolina Panthers)

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the New England Patriots are playing good defense. It's true in reality, where New England is eighth in the league in scoring defense at 20.5 points allowed. And it's true in fantasy football, where an Adrian Phillips pick-six last week against his old team propelled the Pats to a fat fantasy day and moved New England to sixth for the season in fantasy points among defenses. This week, the Patriots draw a Carolina Panthers team that has surrendered quite a few fantasy points to opposing defenses—the sixth -most, if you're into counting and whatnot.

Carolina Panthers (vs. New England Patriots)

After a 3-0 start the Carolina Panthers came crashing back to earth, but the team got back to .500 last week with a win over the Atlanta Falcons in which the defense gave up just 231 yards of total offense and a single touchdown while amassing three sacks and notching a pair of takeaways. As the season has progressed and Mac Jones has settled in, the Patriots have become a less favorable matchup for opposing fantasy defenses. But the team still ranks among the top 10 in fantasy points per game allowed to the position, and Carolina's pass rush could be an issue for the rookie quarterback.

Editor’s Note: Play for FREE! Download the NBC Sports Predictor app, make picks and win huge, weekly jackpots. Get started here!

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

The Saints probably aren't available in the majority of fantasy leagues—the team sits seventh in scoring at the position for the year. But New Orleans recently had their bye and may have gotten cut loose in some leagues ahead of last week's tilt with the Tampa Bay Tom Bradys. In that shocking win by the Saints, the defense turned a pick-six of their own into the second-best score of the week by a D/ST, and now the Saints get to play host to an Atlanta Falcons team that had all kinds of trouble generating offense last week without Calvin Ridley.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. New York Jets)

After watching the Tennessee Titans put 34 on the Colts last week while the New York Jets went completely bonkers on the Cincinnati Bengals, some fantasy managers may be second-guessing what looks like a highly favorable fantasy matchup Thursday night. Don't. Mike White isn't going to throw for 400-plus yards again…ever. Even after that game, the Jets are still 28th in total offense, 30th in scoring defense, second in giveaways and eighth in sacks allowed. Add that all up and you have the team that (still) leads the NFL in fantasy points per game allowed to team defenses.

Las Vegas Raiders (at New York Giants)

There may not be a more surprising team in the AFC this year than the Raiders, who come out of their bye week all alone in first place in the AFC West. But while an improved Raiders defense has played a role in the team's success, statistically speaking the Raiders rank in the middle of the pack in more categories than not. Of course, this recommendation has more to do with the opponent than the Raiders themselves—the New York Giants have given up the 10th-most fantasy points per game to defenses this season, and the offensive line remains an issue for the G-Men.

Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Cleveland Browns)

This is a recommendation that is no doubt getting the stink-eye from quite a few fantasy managers who rolled out the Bengals last week only to see them allow a staggering 511 yards and 34 points to the New York Jets, which is a sentence that still doesn't look right even though I watched it happen in horror. It must have been a Halloween thing. Still, from a matchup perspective there are things to like here defensively. If Cincinnati can load up the box and slow down the run game, the Browns are going to struggle (again) to move the ball—the passing "attack" in Cleveland is a mess from top to bottom.

Green Bay Packers (at Kansas City Chiefs)

So, this is where we're at in 2021. Eight weeks ago, the idea of targeting the Kansas City Chiefs on purpose as a matchup play for defenses would have gotten eye-rolls so big that corneas would be sprained. But the fact is the Chiefs are having trouble figuring out all the two-high looks that opposing defenses are throwing at them. That's causing Patrick Mahomes to press. And he's turning the ball over—a lot. The Chiefs don't rank well inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to defenses on accident. And their problems on offense won't magically fix themselves.

Miami Dolphins (vs. Houston Texans)

This recommendation comes with a caveat—if the Houston Texans get veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor back for this game, it knocks quite a bit of the shine off the fantasy matchup. But if it's Davis Mills under center one more time, then even a Dolphins defense that ranks in the bottom five in both yards allowed and points allowed enters the conversation as a desperation play for streamers. There have been a couple games this season when Mills has at least resembled an NFL quarterback. But there have also been multiple occasions when he most assuredly did not.