Week 4 was not a great one for our defense rankings. We nailed just four of the top 10 defenses, with seemingly strong units like the Eagles, Cowboys, and Steelers all falling outside of the top 10. However, now that we're four weeks into the season, we're also starting to get more information that we can use to iron out some of the kinks in the rankings.
For starters, we need to stop picking on Arizona. Right now, the Cardinals are the 28th-most friendly matchup to opposing defenses. They give up, on average, just 3.3 points per game to opposing DSTs. That's fewer points that the Dolphins allow to opposing DSTs. Joshua Dobbs has been eluding sacks with his legs and has yet to throw an interception, and, as we've said all year long, if teams aren't turning the ball over or giving up sacks, they're not going to be a team we want to target.
Meanwhile, the top five teams we do want to target are the Giants, Bears, Commanders, Browns, and Patriots. I do think the Giants offense will get better once Andrew Thomas and Saquon Barkley return, but it's not going to be a magical fix. We know the Bears and Commanders also have offensive lines that give up a lot of pressure and playmaking quarterbacks who can often force the ball when they shouldn't. That's almost always a recipe for fantasy defense success and, what do you know, those teams play against one another this weekend.
Let's see if we can get back to our winning ways in Week 5.
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 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: 22-of-40 (55%)
So how do things stack up for Week 5?
Yes, the Bills are alone in Tier One this week, which should tell you just how weird this week is for defense rankings. Still, after what the Bills defense did to the Dolphins offense, it's hard to argue with them as the top defense heading into Week 5. Miami was discussed as one of the best offenses ever and was coming off of a 70 point game in Week 4. Against Buffalo, they gained 393 yards, but they turned the ball over twice and were sacked four times. They scored just six points in the second half as Buffalo ran away with the game. The Bills are now first in the NFL in sacks, first in turnover rate, and fourth in the rate of opponents' drives that end in a score. They get a solid matchup against a Jaguars team that has been inconsistent on offense and gives up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, but Tre'Davious White is out for the season, CB2 Christian Benford is banged up, and the Jaguars will have been in London for two weeks while Buffalo is traveling mid-week. Those are advantages for Jacksonville here, but not enough for me to move Buffalo out of the top spot.
This is where my rankings will differ wildly from consensus. I thought about adjusting some of them or going back over the BOD formula, but I have to trust what I've been doing for years, so I'm going to stick to my guns here with this tier of defenses.
At this point, we are attacking a Steelers' offense that gives up the 13th-most points to opposing fantasy defenses. Kenny Pickett has been bad, ranking dead last in success rate. He was also banged up in Week 4 with Mitchell Trubisky stepping in for him. Neither quarterback fills me with much confidence against a Baltimore defense that ranks second in yards per play, third in sacks, and fifth in the rate of opponents' drives that end in a score. With Pat Freiermuth also leaving Week 4 with a hamstring injury, I just can't trust this Steelers offense to put up many points.
It feels weird to have the Lions this high because they don't pop off the page in any one defensive metric other than ranking sixth in pressure rate. They're 10th in the rate of opponents' drives that end in a score, 22nd in turnover rate, and sixth in sacks. It's a bit of a varied profile, but it's that sack total and pressure rate that I think will be the difference in a matchup against a Carolina offense that gives up the seventh-most points to opposing fantasy defenses and looks mediocre at best. Bryce Young may wind up being good, but he doesn't seem ready right now. Miles Sanders is banged up and looked bad on Sunday, so I don't see a way Carolina can keep up with this Detroit team.
I think the Eagles are the best bet of a bunch of elite defenses in bad matchups. I know the Rams offense has been better than we expected, and there's a chance that Cooper Kupp will be back in Week 5; however, this is a solid Eagles defense that ranks fourth in pressure rate, fifth in turnover rate, and ninth in opponents' scoring rate. The Rams allow an average of five points per game to opposing fantasy defenses, so maybe the Eagles can push to eight, which might be enough to sneak into the top 10. Just like with Dallas and San Francisco, I think you're playing Philadelphia for a solid floor game.
I initially thought I'd have the Chiefs lower, but they've been a solid defense so far, even if Zach Wilson did look good in spurts on Sunday night. The Chiefs are third in opponent's scoring rate, 14th in turnover rate, and have 10 sacks in four games. However, that's more intriguing about this matchup is that Minnesota's offense actually hasn't been that good. They give up the 10th-most points to opposing fantasy DSTs at 9.3 points per game. The Panthers scored 12 against them last week, and the Chargers had eight the week before. I think the Chiefs have a better fantasy defense than either of those units, so that could equate to a double digit point week for Kansas City.
I don't know what to make of the Texans defense. They looked good against Baltimore in Week 1 but then laid a massive dud in Week 2 against the Colts. Then they scored 14 fantasy points against Jacksonville and 11 against Pittsburgh. They now get a Falcons offense that looks lost with Desmond Ridder at the helm. Atlanta gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses at 10.8 points per game. Meanwhile, Houston ranks 11th in opponents' scoring rate, 12th in turnover rate, and 14th in pressure rate. All of them indicates they may be a borderline top-10 fantasy defense, so that's enough for me to slide them into the back of the top 10 against a vulnerable Atlanta offense
I may be foolish, but I still believe in this Commanders defense. It's been a rough two weeks against the Bills and Eagles, but I don't think we should hold it against Washington that they didn't have a strong performance against two of the leagues' best offenses. That's certainly not the Bears. Washington still ranks 13th in turnover rate and tied for sixth in sacks, so I think their defensive line pressure will be a problem for a Chicago offense that has given up 17 sacks and given away eight turnovers in four games.
Miami's defense did not look good against Buffalo on Sunday, but I think that had far more to do with Buffalo's offense than anything. The Dolphins are certainly not a great defense, but they're an average one for fantasy purposes and have some strong defensive line members in Bradley Chubb and Christian Wilkens. If they face a Giants team that is without Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas, then I believe Miami is a solid play in deep leagues and I will likely move them up into the back half of the top 10. However, since those guys did practice a bit last week, I would expect at least one to return in Week 5, which dings Miami a little bit. FRIDAY UPDATE: It looks like the Giants might be without both Andrew Thomas and John Michael Schmitz due to injury. This offensive line is already struggling, so to be down two starters now would be a huge issue. However, there is some optimism that Saquon Barkley will play, which may move Miami down into tier three.
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In this tier we have two elite defenses who are all in matchups I don't love. The Cowboys and 49ers are both top ten defenses and will square off against each other. I think it's hard to drop either one of these units and good defenses tend to show up in big games, so I think you could be looking at solid floor games from each team here. The 49ers receiving corps is really banged up (yes, I know they won despite this last week), but they'll face a much tougher defense on Sunday, and Dallas run game has been fairly average, with just 4.1 yards per carry and ranking 16th in the NFL in expected points contributed by the run defense. At the end of the day, it will be strength versus strength with these defenses against these offenses, so I'm expecting a hard fought game where neither defense really gets outplayed too much.
The Saints were a popular defense in drafts because of their easy early schedule. So far, things haven't worked out exactly as planned. Yes, the Saints have been solid, but they have put up scores of 11, eight, 10, and three in traditional scoring formats. You're not mad about the first three games, but they're not carrying you and the three point total is less than enticing. The Saints have just nine sacks in four games and rank 16th in opponents' scoring rate, 19th in pressure rate, and ninth in turnover rate. However, I have them ranked this high because I simply don't believe in Mac Jones and the Patriots offense. I don't think they have enough talent to put up a big number on offense against the Saints.
However, the Saints offense is also a bit of a mess which makes the Patriots defense a play here as well. Derek Carr tried to play last week and simply didn't look healthy. If he's not able to drive the ball down the field than that takes a huge element away from this offense. Having Alvin Kamara back is nice, but this is still a solid New England defense, ranking seventh in pressure rate and 12th in opponents' scoring rate. The results haven't fully been there, but I believe in the talent and coaching on the defensive side of the ball against a wounded Saints offense.
It was trendy to pick on the Titans last week with the Bengals defense, but I think Tennessee proved that they're not really a doormat. Derrick Henry still looks good, DeAndre Hopkins has some juice, and as long as Ryan Tannehill is just average. I don't think we want to go out of our way to attack the Titans, and this Colts defense has been just slightly above average which makes it hard for me to rank them too high. They're 13th in opponents' scoring rate, 16th in turnover rate, and 19th in pressure rate. However, they do have 14 sacks, which has kept their defense afloat. I worry they may just be an above average unit taking on a slightly below average offense in what could wind up being a fringe top 10 day.
I hope we believe me now about the Denver defense. Yet another week where they face a bad offense, but I will not rank them in the top 10. A defensive touchdown did allow Denver to put up 11 fantasy points, but they scored four against the Raiders, one against the Commanders and -1 against the Dolphins. I know this Jets offense isn't great, but they let Zach Wilson play outside of the pocket a little more on Monday night, and he actually looked pretty good. This Jets offense has more playmakers than the Bears, so as long as Wilson plays similar to how he did on Monday, I'd actually prefer to play the Jets defense than the Broncos.
This Jets defense has made both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen look flustered. They're 10th in turnover rate, seventh in pressure rate, and boast a number of talented playmakers that I think will be more than up to the task against a Broncos offense that could very well be without Javonte Williams on Sunday.
A little fun fact for people who still want to attack the Texans offense: they are giving up the 27th-most fantasy points to opposing DSTs at just 3.8 per game. In fact, that's just one spot worse than the Cardinals. These are maybe not two offense that we NEED to play defenses against, especially with the Texans getting back two of their starting offensive linemen.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice. Especially the one who don't have a game.
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!