We had a super high-scoring week when it came to fantasy football defenses and not entirely from the teams we've come to trust. The Chargers and Browns beat up on the Jets and Cardinals respectively, which we anticipated to a certain degree and had both inside the top 10. The Saints also put up a double-digit total while being ranked inside the top 10, and the Chiefs silenced any doubters by putting up 12 points against the vaunted Dolphins offense.
However, there were some surprises in there too. The Raiders took advantage of an early injury to Daniel Jones and crushed Tommy DeVito and the Giants, and the Ravens handled Geno Smith and the Seahawks way more easily than I expected. We also had the Colts, who had only 11 total turnovers all season, put up 26 points against the Panthers thanks to two defensive touchdowns.
Which brings me to one of my big points of the day: defensive touchdowns are fluky and we shouldn't chase them. There is really no way to predict what teams will score a defensive touchdown week-in and week-out. The best we can do is look at turnover rates and defenses that tend to make big plays and hope that we've identified units that are MOST LIKLEY to turn a big play into points.
So how has BOD been in regards to predicting those high-scoring defenses? So far this season, the top 10 highest-scoring DSTs by fantasy points per game are the Cowboys, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Chiefs, Bills, Jaguars, Seahawks, and Bengals. Eight of those teams also rank inside the top 10 in BOD with the Chargers at 16th and the Seahawks at 17th. During the week, I'll look at what BOD is missing when it comes to the Chargers and Seahawks, but perhaps the DST touchdowns are skewing things a bit. Still, I can't be upset with BOD nailing eight of the top 10 so far. Now we just have to calibrate the weekly matchup component as accurately as we can.
BOD Formula and Philosophy
Just a quick reminder of the BOD formula:
(Pressure Rate) + (Knockdowns) + (Pass Defense Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover)
(% Drives ending in a Score) + (Explosive Plays Allowed Per Game)
It's important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That's why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.
Special shoutout to Arjun Menon, who calculates the explosive plays per game formula. You can check him out on Twitter here.
Throughout the season I'll keep track of how many top 10 defenses we correctly predicted. I know it's not quite marking down if I nailed the number one defense each week or the number two, but it's the most logical way I can think of to keep track of how often a defense I predicted would be a good play actually wound up being a good play. I know we always want the top defense, but I think, more often than not, if we get one of the ten performing defenses of the week, we're not mad at the result.
SEASON RECORD FOR TOP 10 PREDICTIONS: 43-of-90 (47.8%)
So how do things stack up for Week 10?
At this point, it appears likely that Tommy DeVito will be under center for the Giants in Week 10, and so that makes the Cowboys a tremendous matchup. Yes, the Giants still have Saquon Barkley, and, yes, their offensive line is now finally healthy, but DeVito is simply not an NFL quarterback, and I hate writing something that disparaging. I just don’t love the prospect of him being in the pocket with Micah Parsons bearing down on him. This Cowboys defense is third in passes defended rate, fifth in opponent’s scoring rate, and eighth in turnover rate. I don’t expect this game to be particularly close.
The Ravens are one of the best teams in football, point blank. What’s wild to me is that they rank 28th in pressure rate but first in sacks. They only have 73 total pressures on the season but 35 of them have led to sacks. In comparison, the Eagles lead the NFL with 105 pressures and have 30 sacks. I had thought Baltimore was just getting lucky, but it also might just be that their defense is incredibly effective and efficient. Now they face a Browns team that I simply don’t have faith in with Deshaun Watson still looking like a shell of his former self. Cleveland allows the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing defense, and the Ravens rank third in knockdowns per game (sacks + QB hits), third in opponents' scoring rate, third in explosive plays allowed, and sixth in passes defended rate. These are two of the top three defenses in football in opponents’ scoring rate, so I expect a low-scoring slugfest, and I think this Baltimore defense will make some big plays.
Yes, the Raiders looked energized and alive on Sunday with Josh McDaniels not in town. Historically speaking, that “Just Fired the Head Coach” juice doesn’t last multiple weeks, and the Jets defense is a much stiffer test than the Giants. Aidan O’Connell looked fine against the Giants, but this is a guy who was just an average quarterback at Purdue, so I’m going to see a lot more to believe he can really move the ball against a defense like the Jets, who rank fourth in passes defended rate, fifth in pressure rate, and ninth in knockdowns per game.
SUNDAY UPDATE: I forgot the Saints in the initial write-up, but the short answer here is that the Saints have been a really solid defense all year and are going up against a Vikings offense that will be without Justin Jefferson and KJ Osborn and has T.J. Hockenson on a pitch count with an injury. Josh Dobbs has been fine this year, but he's still a downgrade on Kirk Cousins, so this team is basically just him and Jordan Addison. No, I don't believe in Alexander Mattison.
Seattle’s defense is so hard to pin down. One week, they can look like one of the most explosive units in the league, and the next, they can lay a huge egg. On the season, they rank eighth in knockdowns per game and 12th in turnover rate, but 17th in pressure rate and 20th in explosive plays allowed, so they’re outside of the top 10 in BOD for me despite performing as a top-10 scoring fantasy defense. They go up against a Commanders offense that gained over 400 yards against the Patriots but allowed three sacks and turned the ball over twice. I think Seattle will score often, which will cause Washington to pass to keep up and lead to opportunities for picks and sacks. The Commanders have fixed a few issues on offense this year, but they give up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, so the Seahawks are a solid play here. SUNDAY UPDATE: The most recent weather reports say that this could get wet/sloppy by the second half. That's usually a good thing for defenses, and we already like this matchup.
The Raiders defense handled business against Tommy DeVito and the Giants last week and while we don’t want to read too much into that, they now get Zach Wilson and the Jets. The Jets offense had been playing better and they have some elite playmakers in Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson, so this is certainly not as good of a matchup as the Giants. However, you couldn’t have watched Monday night’s game and come away with positive thoughts about the Jets offense. The Raiders, who are averaging 11.3 fantasy points per game over the last four weeks, will remain a solid play this week against a Jets offense that gives up the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
It has not been a great season for Jordan Love, and that’s a problem against a Steelers defense that ranks second in turnover rate, sixth in pressure rate, and seventh in knockdowns per game. You can run on the Steelers, they rank 27th in yards allowed per carry, so Aaron Jones could likely be leaned on heavily here, but that will also bleed the clock and likely lead to a lower-scoring game, but the Packers allow 7 points per game to opposing fantasy defenses, so I think the Steelers could sneak 8-10 points here, especially if Christian Watson were to miss this game.
Jacksonville and San Francisco is a battle of two solid defenses, both coming off a bye. That added time to prepare often makes us think of offensive game-planning, but it can also have a positive impact on the defense. The Jaguars defense has played better to date, but with Deebo Samuel coming back, I just don’t feel confident in them being able to contain the San Francisco offense. Both of these plays are risky, but I think the 49ers defense is a bit safer, especially since Jacksonville has been the more giving offense, allowing the 13th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, while the 49ers allow the fewest points to opposing defenses at just three per game.
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This Colts defense had been wholly mediocre coming into last week. They had just 11 turnovers all season and were in the bottom third in pressure rate. Then they ran into a brutal Panthers offense and recorded three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. They now get another plus matchup against a Patriots offense that has nobody on offense that really makes you scared. I think Mac Jones is better than what we’re currently seeing from Bryce Young, but that's not saying much. Still, banking on defensive touchdowns to carry over week-to-week is always a bit dangerous, so I think we need to be careful with a Colts defense that ranks 15th in turnover rate, 25th in pressure rate, and 25th in opponent's scoring rate. They should still be able to be on the fringe of a top ten unit this week, but I can't go much higher, even if I think this Patriots offense is bad.
At some point, we have to rank the Browns. Their defense is just too good, even in a tough matchup against the Ravens. Cleveland ranks first in opponents’ scoring rate, third in passes defended rate, fifth in pressure rate, and sixth in knockdowns per game. We’ve seen the Ravens put up poor offensive performances before, so I think the Browns may have a safer floor this week than we want to admit.
The teeth of this Buffalo Bills defense has certainly been taken out with injuries to Matt Milano, Tre White, and DaQuan Jones. They also lost their next best linebacker, Terrell Bernard, to a concussion on Sunday night, and their CB2, Christian Benford, to a hamstring injury. Even with that, they held the Bengals to three second half points. I’ll be checking the injury report to see if I can keep the Bills this high, but the matchup with the Broncos in Buffalo in a do-or-die situation is one where I think the Bills will respond. They still rank fifth in knockdowns per game, seventh in pressure rate, seventh in turnover rate, and seventh in opponent's scoring rate and the Broncos give up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. SATURDAY UPDATE: I had to move the Bills down with both Micah Hyde and Christian Benford out. I still like the matchup, but this Bills defense is down six starters, including three Pro Bowlers, and you just can't feel as good about them.
This Panthers and Bears showdown is a weird one. It’s two defenses I would never want to play, facing off against two offenses that we really like playing defenses against. I simply can’t trust either of these defenses to rank them inside the top 10, but I do think you can roll the dice on the Bears in deeper formats. I'd prefer the Panthers since they rank higher in BOD and the Bears give up the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, so they could be a 12-team option if you're hurting.
Many people may want to rank the Falcons higher but with Kyler Murray back this week for the Cardinals, I think we need to recalibrate how we view their offense. No, they’re not going to become world-beaters, but it will be night and day versus having Clayton Tune at quarterback. This is a Falcons defense that’s third in pressure rate, 10th in explosive plays allowed, 11th in opponents scoring rate, and in turnover rate. All of which is to say, they’re a solid unit that may be better in real life than in fantasy and I think they’ll give us a solid but not electric performance against Murray and the Cardinals.
The Packers have been an inconsistent defense this season, but they had a solid game on Sunday against a Rams team led by Brett Rypien. However, as bad as everybody thinks the Pittsburgh offense is, they rank just 17th in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses, so they’re not a true plus matchup for fantasy. We also have a Packers defense that traded away their best cornerback at the deadline, so this is a bit of a riskier play than people think, and I can see myself moving them towards the bottom of this tier as the week goes on. SATURDAY UPDATE: Jaire Alexander and Quay Walker are out, so even if we like this matchup, we just covered about that it's not an elite matchup and now Green Bay is down two star defenders and a third if you count Rasul Douglas, who is now in Buffalo.
The Chargers absolutely destroyed the Jets with eight sacks and a defensive touchdown on Monday night. However, this is a defense that still ranks seventh in turnover rate, 12th in knockdowns per game, 13th in opponent's scoring rate, and 28th in explosive plays allowed per game, so we want to keep their performance against Zach Wilson in perspective. They now get a Lions offense with David Montgomery coming back that will be an entirely different animal. The Lions allow the 19th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, so it's a tough-ish matchup and I’d be a bit hesitant to roll the Chargers out this week outside of deeper leagues.
The Bengals defense is good, so this ranking is certainly not a knock on them. However, the Texans allow the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses. That’s FEWEST. This is a Texans offense that is not only pretty good but also doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I think they’ll find the going tough against the Bengals, but I think the ceiling is lower for the Bengals this week than we’d like, even if Nico Collins misses.
I know people want to play the Bucs, but I can't do it. Their secondary looks awful and Carlton Davis will likely be out. I just don't see the upside here.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice. Especially the ones on bye.
As I mentioned above, I will update and repost this article on Sunday morning in case there are any changes with injuries or weather reports, etc. Until then, good luck to all this week!