Kill your darlings.
That phrase, uttered by William Faulkner, was meant to remind writers that it’s sometimes your favorite sentences, words, and turns of phrase that must be trimmed from the prose you see as genius — utterly beyond reproach. Killing your darlings means trimming the fat, shaving the literary excess in order to get to the point of what, exactly, you’re writing.
No one wants to kill their darlings. It hurts to see them vanish from the page. They look so pretty there, standing out as a tribute to how wonderfully a writer manipulates the language. Murdering your darlings without remorse, however, is the key to clear, concise writing — to communicating with the reader.
I thought of Faulkner’s unpleasant — but incredibly useful — writing tip last week when readers asked one simple and important question: What to do with the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense?
The Chiefs’ defense, fantasy football’s No. 1 defense by a giant margin through nine weeks, has been the MVP for most owners who snagged them from the waiver wire in early September. They’re on bye this week, causing unspeakable consternation in fantasy circles.
It’s time to apply Faulkner’s sage advice to fantasy, as he likely intended. Kill your darlings. Drop the Chiefs’ defense to the waiver wire if you’re in a 10 or 12-team league, have a short bench, and hold an unshakeable religious belief in the viability of streaming defenses.
Even better: trade away the Chiefs’ defense this week. Use the massive equity to patch a weak spot on your roster. I think you’d be shocked to see how many league mates would offer real value for the Chiefs’ defense averaging 15.8 fantasy points per week.
This will undoubtedly prove psychologically agonizing for anyone who has watch KC’s fumble recoveries, interceptions, punt returns, and defensive touchdowns buoy their fantasy squads, week after week. It’s important to remember that, no matter how incredibly the Chiefs’ defense has performed through two months, it is still a defense, and extraordinarily volatile by its very nature.
Kansas City’s remaining schedule is a murderer’s row that includes Denver and Peyton’s Perfect Machine in Weeks 11 and 13, along with the Colts and Chargers. All three offenses are among the 10 stingiest to opposing defenses. Indianapolis has held opposing defenses to less than three points in five games.
The Chiefs’ special teams and defensive touchdowns are the definition of fluky, unpredictable, unreliable. Don’t be among the fantasy owners who come to grips with that reality a couple weeks too late. Kill your darling defense.
Now to find a replacement for your beloved Chiefs’ defense.
Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Pay no mind to the Rams shredding Tennessee on the ground last week. St. Louis’ running attack is rejuvenated, while Jacksonville’s is as plodding and ineffective as ever.
The Jaguars have allowed double-digit points to enemy defenses in three of their four away games, thanks in large part to Chad Henne’s errant throws and myriad miscues. The Titans sport the league’s fifth best pass rush, according to Pro Football Focus, along with a top-4 secondary.
The Titans’ cornerbacks and safeties, without Justin Blackmon to worry about, will surely be able to keep Cecil Shorts in check. Tennessee is a locked-and-loaded top-5 Week 10 defensive play.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers: This recommendation comes with an asterisk: you’re only using Philly’s defense if Aaron Rodgers sits with the shoulder injury he suffered on Monday night.
A key to streaming is exploiting inept backup quarterbacks, and that’s precisely what we find in Green Bay, where Seneca Wallace was only meant to be a warm body listed as No. 2 on the Packers’ depth chart. He was predictably terrible against Chicago, finishing 11-for-19 for 119 yards and a pick while absorbing four sacks.
The Eagles’ run defense is a top-5 unit through nine weeks, so let’s please stop projecting “good matchups” for opposing running backs. The Packers were still somehow able to run amok on the Bears — the worst run defense in the league, per PFF. That won’t happen against Philadelphia, if and when Rodgers is declared out.
Oakland Raiders at New York Giants: This recommendation makes me throw up in mouth a little bit. It’s tough to roll with a defense that allowed Nick Foles to post the greatest quarterback stat line in NFL history.
It’s also tough to ignore the Giants, one of our ever-reliable streaming targets. Gaze upon this statistic and be shocked: Big Blue has allowed more than 12 points to defensive opponents five times in 2013. Fantasy defenses are piling up 14.8 points per game against Eli Face and company.
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers: This play, along with Oakland, is a desperation streaming play reserved for those in large leagues. Deploying the Bills’ defense means you trust that the Steelers will continue to give up turnovers and sacks to defenses, as they’ve done all season.
Pittsburgh’s offense has generated more points of late — scoring 21.8 points over their last four games — posing real concern for those who roll with Buffalo.
The Steelers are ranked 19th in pass blocking, while the Bills are a top-10 pass-rushing unit. The Bills’ defense is a top-5 Week 10 option, according to rotoViz’s helpful Streaming D app. I’ll rank them in the top-12.