There is perhaps no better indication of how wild it is to rank fantasy defenses than what happened to the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. The Cowboys defense had put up 37 points through two weeks of the NFL season and were facing an Arizona Cardinals team that lacks a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball and is without their star quarterback. It seemed like a smash spot for Dallas. They were universally ranked as the top defense of the week.
They lost the game outright 28-16.
There will be weeks like this and games like this. The Jaguars defense held Kansas City in check just to get rolled by the Texans. The Saints defense collapsed in the fourth quarter to a Packers offense without multiple stars. Sometimes the results aren't always actionable for future weeks. Sometimes we have to trust that the choices we made were based on solid intelligence and both data and common sense, and they just didn't work out.
And even after all of that, we got six of the top 10 defenses correctly last week. As I said last week, we're bound to miss some calls as the year goes on, but if we can learn from it and adapt, that should make our teams that much stronger down the home stretch.
BOD Formula and Philosophy
Just a quick reminder of the BOD formula:
(Pressure Rate x 2) + (Sacks) + (QB Hurry Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)
(% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Yards per play)
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.
While there are BOD rankings below based on Week 1, it's important to remember will likely take about three weeks for us to have enough information to start to see which DSTs we can trust and which offenses we want to attack. Until then, we want to mitigate risk by relying on defenses that have clear talent advantages, track records of success, or offenses that we know are short-handed.
Throughout the season I'll keep track of how many top 10 defense 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 I 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: 18-of-30 (60%)
So how do things stack up for Week 4?
It's the same three defenses in tier one for me, even after only one of them even landed in the top three all of last week. The simple reason why is that I believe in the talent in all three defenses, and I think the matchups are all strong, so I'm going to continue to trust them, even after they disappointed in Week 3.
The Washington offense just gave up a 69.2% pressure rate to Buffalo in Week 3, which is the second highest rate ever since Next Gen Stats started tracking pressure rate. In the face of that pressure, Sam Howell threw four interceptions and took 10 sacks. It's not going to get any easier against an Eagles defense that's second in the NFL with eight turnovers and has the defensive front to easily get into this backfield. Now, Eric Bieniemy is a smart coach and will likely change up the gameplan, but you're still starting the Eagles with confidence.
I'm putting Dallas back into tier one because I believe in the talent on their defense. I know they lost Trevon Diggs for the season, and I do think that happening so late in the week impacted their performance against the Cardinals, but the Cowboys will have a full week of practice to regroup, and I expect them to come out firing on Sunday. I'm also not in the least bit scared of this Patriots offense . Yes, they beat the Jets but they put up just 15 points and were led in rushing and receiving by Ezekiel Elliott and Pharaoh Brown , respectively. I just don't think they have enough talent on the offensive side of the ball to truly challenge this Cowboys defense , which is still tied for second in sacks, fourth in pressure rate, and third in turnover rate.
Yes, we're picking another team to attack the Cardinals. I know it didn't work out last week, but we can't let one sample change everything we do. No, we don't need to play any defense against Arizona; they've made that clear. But we do still like them as a matchup when we get an elite defense against them like the 49ers. San Francisco is fifth in the percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score, sixth in turnover rate, and ninth in sacks. I think the Cardinals' win over Dallas put these other teams on notice, and I don't see it happening again this week.
This Browns defense has been elite through three weeks. They rank first in the NFL in the percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score, first in pressure rate, and first in yards per play allowed. Meanwhile, this Baltimore offense has struggled to get much going and has also had to battle myriad injuries. If Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum are able to play this week, I may knock the Browns down a little, but without them, this offensive line is giving up a lot of pressure and that will be a problem against Myles Garrett and company.
The Jets have made it clear that they don't want Zach Wilson to throw the ball, and that makes sense. But they may not have a choice this week if they can't keep Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City out of the end zone. If the Chiefs put up points against this strong Jets defense then the Jets will have to let Wilson drop back to throw and also try to push the ball down the field. That has historically led to opportunities for the defense to get sacks and turnovers, which I think makes the Chiefs a solid play again this week since they have seven sacks and three turnovers in the two games that Chris Jones has played. (And we can really call that one and a half games, since they took their foot off of the gas considerably in the second half against the Bears.)
What a day for the Steelers defense against Las Vegas with four sacks and three interceptions. This is a fast and talented defense that's first in the NFL in sacks, second in pressure rate, and fifth in turnover rate. I think they're blitz-heavy scheme will be a challenge for rookie C.J. Stroud . Stroud has looked great so far, and the Texans are not a cake walk matchup (as they proved last week), but Pittsburgh is a veteran unit led by smart and experienced coaches, and I think they'll make it hard for the Texans this week, especially with Houston down multiple offensive linemen.
Through three games the Ravens have a solid 11 sacks, but have just a 5.7% turnover rate. They've also allowed points on over a third of their drives. However, I think this Browns offense has looked fairly mediocre outside of one game against a weak Titans defense . The Browns have allowed 12 sacks through three games and rank 28th in turnover rate with seven turnovers so far this season. As usual when these two teams face off, I think it will be a hard fought game and I expect both defenses to come up with some big plays; however, the Ravens will need to get any of Marlon Humphrey , Marcus Williams , or Odafe Oweh healthy in order for me to move them up. FRIDAY UPDATE: If Deshaun Watson isn't able to play then Baltimore becomes a solid top 10 option.
We got the full Jameis Winston experience on Sunday as the Saints offense just collapsed with him under center. He completed 10-of-16 passes for 101 yards, but he also took foolish sacks and couldn't sustain a long drive. If we get a full game of Jameis Winston against the Bucs, I think that's a huge boost for this Tampa Bay unit that was able to pick off Jalen Hurts twice and notch one sack. It certainly wasn't an elite showing, but this Eagles offense is way more explosive than the Saints, even with Alvin Kamara back. However, if we do get Derek Carr back for this game, I will likely bump the Bucs down into tier three. SUNDAY UPDATE: It looks like Carr will play, but we know his shoulder is hurting. How will he throw? What happens if he takes a sack? There are enough questions that I'll keep rolling with Tampa's defense in the top 10.
On the other hand, I also think the Saints are a solid play. Yes, they let up in the loss to the Packers, but I think that had a lot to do with a poor offensive performance keeping the defense on the field often and in bad spots. I know this Bucs offense has been solid, and Baker Mayfield has looked good, but he remains a mistake-prone player, and we saw on Monday night what happens when they face a good defense. The Bucs gained just 174 total yards while turning the ball over twice and allowing two sacks. I think the Eagles have a stronger defense than the Saints, but I think New Orleans remains a solid play here.
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The Colts had a great performance against the Ravens and have shown a revamped pass rush that has led to 12 sacks, which is good for second in the NFL. The Colts also rank seventh in the rate of opponents' drives that end in a score; yet, they're just 14th in turnover rate and 16th in pressure rate despite the high sack total, so we don't want to get overly excited. However, this Rams offense hit a bit of a road block against the Bengals on Monday night and allowed six sacks while turning the ball over twice and gaining just 290 total yards. I think this Colts defense is better than the Bengals unit, so it could be another mediocre outing for the Rams offense .
Tier three also features a matchup where you can play both sides. The Jaguars offense was meant to be explosive, but Trevor Lawrence has not looked great to start the season. As a team, Jacksonville ranks 25th in scoring rate and 18th in yards per play. Meanwhile, this Falcons defense has been solid, ranking sixth in pressure rate and eighth in the rate of opponents' drives that end in a score. I know the Falcons only have three sacks, but I think that pressure rate is an indicator that they're getting in the backfield and sacks will come. Perhaps even this week.
On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars defense let us down against the Texans, but this Falcons offense is also pretty bad. Bijan Robinson looks great, but not so much for Desmond Ridder . With the Falcons wanted to run the ball, their games tend to be low-scoring and quick, which means the opposing fantasy defense has a safe floor since there are so few plays run. When they are forced to throw, they can't seem to do anything. That means you're not playing Jacksonville here for a big score, but playing them because they have a solid floor of about five or six points. That's fine if you just need a fringe top-10 play in deep leagues.
The Bengals looked pretty solid on Monday night against the Rams and will now get a Titans offense that is without key offensive lineman and Treylon Burks. There is still some talent here for Tennessee, so I think Cincinnati is more of a 15-team league play, especially because they didn't look great in their first two games, but the Tennessee injuries have made this a better matchup.
The Packers and Lions game also features two defenses that I think you can play on a short week on Thursday night. The Packers defensive front has been really good so far, ranking eighth in pressure rate and tied for 10th in sacks; however, I'm less confident in them this week. The Lions defense also looked great in Week 3 against the aforementioned Falcons, notching seven sacks and holding them to 183 total yards. Early indications that the Packers will get back both Aaron Jones and Christian Watson on Thursday; however, they will still be down two offensive linemen, so I like the Lions a bit more here.
Seattle moves into tier three with the knowledge that both Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas are unlikely to play for the Giants. I don't love Seattle's defensive consistency right now, so I can't move them too high, but this has now become a really good matchup for them.
Man, the Bills were great on Sunday, but they get a much different task against the Miami Dolphins this week after Miami put up 70 points against Denver. Miami is now going into Buffalo against a hungry team and a crowd that will be extraordinarily loud and hostile. Given that, Buffalo's talent and recent success against Miami, I think you can play the Bills defense in deeper leagues, but I don't love it and would just be hoping for a solid floor game here. FRIDAY UPDATE: Jordan Poyer is out for this matchup, which downgrades the Bills a bit.
I have always been a proponent of not moving a bad defense too high just because of a good matchup. That's exactly why I have Denver ranked down here. I know Chicago is bad, but I also know that Denver's defense is bad. It would not surprise me at all for the Bears to gash Denver on the ground just like Miami did, especially if they let Justin Fields run more. I think you can take a chance on Denver in deeper leagues, but I don't really not want to play them in 12-team formats considering they've allowed scores on 59.4% of their defensive possessions and have just four sacks in three games.
SUNDAY UPDATE: I know that Jimmy Garoppolo will miss this game, but the Chargers will be without Derwin James and Joey Bosa, so I can't recommend moving the Chargers defense up much higher than this.
Tier Four is pretty large this week, but there are a lot of defenses I think you can talk yourself into in deeper formats, but none that I really trust in traditional 12-team leagues.
The Patriots are a strong defense that falls into tier four because I don't love their matchup against the Cowboys, but I can see playing them in deeper formats. The Patriots have just a 5.4% turnover rate and seven sacks through three games, but they and ninth in the rate at which opponents' drives end in a score, so they are doing their part in keeping points off of the board. Without the sacks and turnovers, I just don't love the upside here.
The Jets are strong defense that they simply hasn't delivered so far this season. They Jets have just an 11.1% turnover rate and six sacks through three games, while allowing scores on 39% of their drives. I know much of that is on the offense, but I simply can't trust this unit against Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce .
Minnesota could be a sneaky DFS play against a Carolina team that allows the most pressure in the NFL, especially if Bryce Young starts, and Miami could also be a good DFS defense if you believe their offense will score so many points that Josh Allen will be forced to play Hero Ball and look like he did in Week 1. I just don't want to play either team in season-long formats.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice.
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!