This has been one of the toughest seasons in recent memory to navigate the murky waters of the bye week gauntlet, and we’re still in the thick of things. However, it is more than possible to emerge unscathed, and to actually benefit from the lack of depth during the byes.
As always, my recommendation for success at the DST position is streaming. While I caught some flak for my suggestion in last week’s column to only roster one team defense, I’m sticking to my story.
It’s much more advantageous to use that extra roster spot for an upside wide receiver or running back than it is to carry a second team defense that has a good matchup four weeks from now. Unless you’re in a crazy deep league, you can always find another defense. You can’t always find an upside running back or wide receiver.
So let’s check in on the matchups for Week 9. Remember that the following is breakdown of my thoughts on all of the 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 9. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
The Usual Suspects
Kansas City (at Buffalo) didn’t have a huge fantasy day last week, but it was still a strong defensive effort. They’re still locked in your lineup. ... Seattle (vs. Tampa Bay) just keeps on truckin’. ... Carolina (vs. Atlanta) doesn’t necessarily have the best matchup, but the Panthers have posted a combined 31 takeaways and sacks over their last five games.
Your solid fantasy defenses with a weekly matchup upgrade. They're just below the Usual Suspects tier.
1. Indianapolis (at Houston) – The Colts return from bye and get a juicy matchup against a Texans team that has yielded 15 sacks, 12 turnovers, and four scores over their last four games. Having Case Keenum under certain doesn’t do much to help the Texans’ cause.
2. Cincinnati (at Miami) – Two pick-sixes and four sacks propelled the Bengals to a 25-point outburst in Week 8, and they appeared poised to continue to roll in this one. The addition of LT Bryant McKinnie wasn’t much help for Miami, as the Dolphins still surrendered six sacks to New England, bringing their total to a league-leading 32 on the season.
3. Tennessee (at St. Louis) – Kellen Clemons didn’t exactly put on a passing clinic on Monday night. His erratic play bodes extremely positively for an opportunistic Titans secondary led by Jason McCourty and Bernard Pollard.
4. New Orleans (at NY Jets) – While the Saints aren’t a lights out fantasy unit, they face a Jets team that has given up double-digit fantasy points in four of their last five games. Mistake-prone Geno Smith threw two more interceptions last week. Only Carson Palmer and Eli Manning have thrown more picks than Smith has this season.
Dallas (vs. Minnesota) ran into a tough matchup last week against the Lions, but they’ll rebound against a floundering Vikings team that has yielded double-digit fantasy points in all but one of their games this season. ... New England (vs. Pittsburgh) has somehow remained a viable fantasy option despite losing Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. The turnover-prone Steelers bode positively for this opportunistic unit. ... When Baltimore (at Cleveland) faced the Browns back in Week 2 they posted five sacks and held Cleveland to just six points on offense. ... St. Louis (vs. Tennessee) racked up a whopping 16 sacks in their last three games and face a Titans team that has yielded double-digit fantasy points in each of their last three contests. ... Green Bay (vs. Chicago) has quietly posted double-digit fantasy points in four of their last five games despite being plagued by injuries. They’re an intriguing play against Josh McCown and the Bears.
You don't want to rely on these D/STs on a weekly basis, but their matchup is too juicy to pass up.
1. Oakland (at Philadelphia) – Don’t look now, but the Raiders have emerged as a decent fantasy option, and they get a faltering Eagles team with Nick Foles under center. Foles was sacked three times in his last start and is in for a long day against the potent Oakland pass rush of Lamarr Houston and Jason Hunter.
2. Philadelphia (at Oakland) – Terrelle Pryor is extremely dangerous, but this Raiders offense generally lacks pop and have turned the ball over nine times and given up two scores in their last four games. The Philly defense has turned things around over the last month, holding each of their opponents to 21 points or last, and last week did not allow a touchdown to the Giants. There are a lot of better options this week, but if you’re looking for upside you certainly could do a whole lot worse.
Middle of the Road
Pittsburgh (at New England) has improved over their last three games, but this probably isn’t the week to roll with the Steelers. ... The Seahawks are a better fantasy matchup than you might think, but Tampa Bay (at Seattle) has given up 31 points in each of their last three games and have managed a combined four fantasy points over that span. ... After a hot start to the season, Cleveland (vs. Baltimore) has cooled significantly, producing just on takeaway in their last three games. Their fantasy upside is limited against a Ravens team that has given up double-digit fantasy points just twice this season. ... San Diego (at Washington) has only put up one double-digit fantasy performance this season, and that came against the Jags. They have been solid in their last two outings, but you likely have better options elsewhere this week.
They shouldn't be dropped, but a tough matchup limits the fantasy upside of these units.
1. Chicago (at Green Bay) – There’s still upside with this unit, but the loss of Henry Melton and Lance Briggs has really softened up this Bears defense. Rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene will start for Chicago, and that bodes extremely positively for the Packers offense.
2. NY Jets (vs. New Orleans) – The Saints currently yield the third-least fantasy points per game to opposing defenses this season, and they have given up a combined one fantasy point to opposing defenses in their last four games.
3. Houston (vs. Indianapolis) – Losing Brian Cushing really hurts this Texans defense, so they’re also a downgrade for the season. They’re still going to have fantasy value in Weeks 12 and 14 against the Jags, but you want no part of Houston this week in this tough matchup.
4. Miami (vs. Cincinnati) – Opposing defenses have notched a total of one sack and two takeaways from the Bengals over the last two weeks, posting an ugly negative-seven fantasy points. While the Dolphins have been decent in their last three outings, it's best to avoid them in this one.
Bottom of the Barrel
Minnesota (at Dallas) has been generally uninspiring since their bye. They face a Cowboys team that has yet to yield double-digit fantasy points to an opposing defense this season. ... Washington (vs. San Diego) did manage four takeaways against Denver, but the 117 points they’ve given up over the last three weeks doesn’t bode positively for their fantasy stock. ... With the Panthers offense firing on all cylinders, Atlanta (at Carolina) doesn’t make for a very desirable fantasy play this week. ... Buffalo (vs. Kansas City) can provide fantasy upside in the right matchup, but this isn’t that matchup.
Can I Kick it?
Here are my top 12 kickers for Week 9:
1. Mason Crosby (vs. CHI)
2. Dan Bailey (vs. MIN)
3. Stephen Gostkowski (vs. PIT)
4. Garrett Hartley (at NYJ)
5. Adam Vinatieri (IND) at HOU)
6. Steven Hauschka (vs. TB)
7. Nick Novak (at WAS)
8. Ryan Succop (at BUF)
9. Justin Tucker (at CLE)
10. Caleb Sturgis (vs. CIN)
11. Kai Forbath (vs. SD)
12. Matt Bryant (at CAR)
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