Just like in real football, your defense has the potential to make you or break you in fantasy football.
Last week, the Colts played the Jags and put up 19 more fantasy points than the Bears did in a much tougher matchup against the Lions. That’s a significant difference, and is more than enough to push you over the top in most weeks. If you streamed the Colts last week, you likely won.
The key to streaming fantasy defenses is simple - take advantage of solid units in strong matchups. Let’s see what Week 5 has to offer us in terms of streamable units, but before we do, just a quick disclaimer. The following is a list of how I view all team defenses for the week, but is not my rankings. Feel free to shoot me a tweet if you have any specific questions about start/sit dilemmas that I don’t answer here.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 5. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
The Usual Suspects
Teams you’re not even thinking about benching this week include – Seattle (at Indianapolis) and Kansas City (at Tennessee).
Your solid fantasy defenses with a weekly matchup upgrade. They're just below the Usual Suspects tier.
1. Carolina (at Arizona) – The Panthers return from bye and get a great matchup against a Cardinals team that has given up five takeaways and five sacks in the last two weeks. Carolina is built to attack, and should have no problem applying pressure on Carson Palmer thanks to the suspect play of Levi Brown and Eric Winston.
2. San Francisco (vs. Houston) – One of last season’s toughest matchups, the Texans have given up a combined 33 fantasy points over the past two weeks. San Francisco struggled over the first three games, but they rebounding with a solid effort for fantasy owners last Thursday against the Rams. Take advantage of a struggling Matt Schaub in this one.
3. Cleveland (vs. Buffalo) – The Brownsremain one of the league’s most underrated units. They may not have a massive ceiling, but they’re a weekly high floor play. Cleveland has nabbed five takeaways in the last two games and get a rookie quarterback on a short week.
Baltimore (at Miami) faces a turnover-prone Dolphins team that has yielded double-digit fantasy points in each of the last two weeks. ... Likewise, the Bengals have given the ball away six times in their last two games, making New England (at Cincinnati) a solid play. ... A resurgent New Orleans (at Chicago) has posted 13 fantasy points in each of the last two games.
You don't want to rely on these D/STs on a weekly basis, but their matchup is too juicy to pass up.
1. Atlanta (vs. NY Jets) – The plug-and-plays aren’t for the faint of heart this week, but the Jets are yielding an average of three takeaways per game this season and are coming off a thumping from the Titans defense. Atlanta is banged up at linebacker, but their opportunistic secondary offers plenty of big-play upside against Geno Smith.
2. St. Louis (vs. Jacksonville) – The Rams have been far from inspiring as a fantasy defense this season, scoring no touchdowns and giving up 30.3 points per game so far this season. But they get the Jacksonville "bump" this week. Still, St. Louis is not a good defense. Don’t expect them to replicate what the Colts did against Jacksonville last week.
Willing to Gamble?
1. Philadelphia (at NY Giants) – This matchup pits two of the most fantasy friendly offenses against two of the worst fantasy defenses. The Eagles have posted negative fantasy points twice so far this season, but no team has given up more fantasy points than the Giants have to defenses in 2013. The G-Men have turned the ball over 16 times and Eli Manning has been sacked 14 times so far. If you’re desperate, you could do worse than Philly.
2. NY Giants (vs. Philadelphia) – Only the Chargers have scored less fantasy points than the Giants defense has this season. Philly can produce points and yards in a hurry, but they can also turn the ball over just as fast. While I’m not advocating starting the Giants, I could see making this play if you’re an underdog and need upside.
Middle of the Road
While I’m not crazy about these matchups, you can get away with starting Houston (at San Francisco), Buffalo (at Cleveland), and Arizona (vs. Carolina). I’d lean towards not starting Miami (vs. Baltimore), Indianapolis (vs. Seattle), Tennessee (vs. Kansas City), NY Jets (at Atlanta), Oakland (vs. San Diego), and Green Bay (vs. Detroit).
They shouldn't be dropped, but a tough matchup limits the fantasy upside of these units.
1. Dallas (vs. Denver) – Negative 23. That’s how many fantasy points the Broncos have yielded to opposing defenses this season. Enough said.
2. Chicago (vs. New Orleans) – This is now two weeks in a row that the Bears face a tough matchup. The loss of DT Henry Melton showed last week, as Reggie Bush carved up Chicago. The Bears have also failed to mount much of a pass rush this season with just six sacks so far. While Chicago still offers big-play upside, I expect them to struggle against Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints offense.
3. Detroit (at Green Bay) – The Lions have been a solid spot-play this season, posting double-digit fantasy points in two of their first four games. However, it’s tough to recommend them on the road in Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers and company.
4. Denver (at Dallas) – Though you probably wouldn’t know it, the Cowboys are the seventh-worst matchup for fantasy defenses this season. Denver has taken advantage of two good matchups against the Eagles and Giants this season, but they’re not the same matchup-proof unit without Von Miller.
5. Cincinnati (vs. New England) – New England continues to get better each week, and actually gave up negative fantasy points to the Falcons on Sunday night. While I still like the Bengals defense going forward, it’s tough to trust them against a Patriots team that has only turned the ball over once and yielded four sacks in the last three games.
Bottom of the Barrel
While the Rams have given up double-digit fantasy points in each of the last two weeks, it’s almost impossible to trust Jacksonville (at St. Louis). ... San Diego (vs. Oakland) was better last week, but they remain fantasy’s lowest-scoring unit.
Can I Kick it?
Here are my top 12 kickers for Week 5:
1. Stephen Gostkowski (at CIN)
2. Matt Bryant (vs. NYJ)
3. Matt Prater (at DAL)
4. Justin Tucker (at MIA)
5. Alex Henery (at NYG)
6. Nick Novak (at OAK)
7. Dan Bailey (vs. DEN)
8. Caleb Sturgis (vs. BAL)
9. Greg Zuerlein (vs. JAC)
10. Garrett Hartley (at CHI)
11. Phil Dawson (vs. HOU)
12. Randy Bullock (at SF)
D/ST Standard Scoring System
0 points allowed
Under 100 yards allowed
1-6 points allowed
101 to 199 yards allowed
7-13 points allowed
200 to 299 yards allowed
14-17 points allowed
300 to 349 yards allowed
18-27 points allowed
350 to 399 yards allowed
28-34 points allowed
400 to 449 yards allowed
35-45 points allowed
450 to 499 yards allowed
46+ points allowed
500- 549 yards allowed
550+ yards allowed