Dreaming of Streaming: Week 15 Update
December 12, 2014 | C.D. Carter
The very basics of streaming defenses — the guts of pinpointing matchups ripe for exploitation — told us to beware the St. Louis Rams’ defense Thursday night against the Cardinals.
It’s Arizona’s offense, after all, that has allowed precisely one good week to an opposing defense all season.
Perhaps Week 15’s Streaming Scores were trying to tell us something about the Thursday night throw down between Arizona and St. Louis: The Cardinals’ defense, which finished with 13 fantasy points, had a much higher Streaming Score than the Rams’ defense, which posted five points against Bruce Arians’ offense.
I had the Rams pegged as a top-6 play for fantasy semifinal week, so if you rolled with St. Louis over options like Tennessee and the Jets, I think you did the right thing. Your process was solid. If, however, you went with St. Louis over Kansas City or the Giants, I think that was a case of placing results — specifically, the Rams’ recent defensive domination — over process.
Here are a few notes about Week 15’s best defensive plays, along with a preview of Week 16 streamers that will win and lose fantasy title games.
* It doesn’t matter all that much whether Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III get the start for Washington against the Giants on Sunday. McCoy has shown how vulnerable he is in matchups against the Colts and Rams — both defenses finished as top-7 plays. Infighting and another lost season in Washington has left the team in turmoil once again, and while we can’t measure the impact of that sort of internal disaster with algorithms, I think it’s more than fair to say that the team’s dysfunction makes them much less likely to suddenly find a functional offense. Washington is committing an average of 1.8 turnovers a game, while Big Blue’s defense averages 1.8 takeaways every week. Washington’s secondary can’t stop anyone right now, meaning Jay Gruden’s offense will be forced to the air early and often. That’s what we want: inaccurate signal callers forced to make plays. Only the Jaguars, when adjusted for strength of schedule, allow more fantasy production to opposing defenses.
* The Bengals‘ defense is officially the sneaky play of the week. The talk around the Browns-Bengals tilt revolves around one and only one guy: Johnny Fudging Football. Cincy makes for a sensible play because, well, Browns’ coaches have said they’re going to let Manziel play his game, which includes a lot of ad libbing and and general mayhem. That could very well lead to great numbers from the rookie quarterback and his various pass catchers while also bringing fantasy joy to the Bengals’ defense. I don’t see this as an either/or situation: Manziel and the Cincy defense could be great fantasy options. I wouldn’t blame anyone for using the Bengals’ defense over the Jets or Titans in Week 15.
* Now on to Week 16, where the options for many fantasy footballers seems to boil down to the Dolphins, who will face the Vikings at home, and the Titans, who play the Jaguars in Jacksonville in what could be the most odious Thursday night game in history. Miami is a fine play, and one with a good floor for Week 16. But beware: Minnesota hasn’t given up double digit points to a defense since mid-October. Defenses are averaging 2.9 fantasy points against Teddy Bridgewater’s offense over the past six weeks. There’s a reason for this: Bridgewater is careful with the football, avoiding big mistakes that we look for in streaming defenses. The Vikings also run the ball a lot, taking to the ground on 42 percent of their offensive snaps. That limits opportunity for opposing defenses. The Dolphins will be a top-7 play for me; I’m simply not bullish on them as an elite option. It’s the Jaguars’ defense that I’m picking up in leagues this week, looking ahead to their home matchup against Tennessee. The Titans have transformed into a streaming dream, giving up 14, 8, 16, 12, and 25 fantasy points over their past five contests. Jacksonville’s defense, meanwhile, has shown real signs of life. They managed 11 fantasy points against Indianapolis three weeks ago, and thanks to two defensive scores in Week 13, notched 22 fantasy points against the Giants. The Jags’ improved secondary is allowing a measly 6.8 yards per pass attempt at home. Jacksonville has recorded 10 sacks in the past three weeks. I see the Titans as a team begging for our streaming attention. That’s why I’m playing the Jags against them next week. Pray for my Twitter mentions.