Week 5 Defensive Field of Streams
October 7, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Wait, isn’t this the guy who writes ridiculously long waiver wire columns with outdated pop culture references? Yup, TheFakeFootball is streaming me in for the Week 5 D/ST streaming column. The goal for both of us is to find a solid one-week fill-in that doesn’t crash and burn. Wish us luck.
Two things to keep in mind when streaming D/ST. First, D/ST scoring is more random than other positions and doesn’t correlate very well to real life performances. Second, outside of the few elite defenses (Denver, Minnesota, Seattle), it’s more about targeting a bad offense than finding a good defense. What this all boils down to is looking for bad quarterbacks who will throw a lot, leading to opportunities for sacks, turnovers, and god—willing—touchdowns. Points allowed matters too, but it’s secondary.
For example, last week I liked the Cincinnati Bengals (against Miami), seeing a bad quarterback behind a discombobulated line paired with a Miami defense that made Cody Kessler look passable in his first start. It played out exactly to script. A.J. Green torched the Dolphins early and often, putting Cincinnati in the lead the entire game. By the 2nd half, Tannehill was forced to throw and it was a predictable disaster. Cincinnati racked up 5 sacks, 1 INT, and 1 fumble, scoring 13 points and finishing as D/ST 4 for the week.
They won’t all work out as well, but that’s the target.
Chalk Em’ Up
New England (@ CLE, 96% Yahoo, $3,700 DraftKings)
Is this a trap? I’m a little wary of the too-obvious play, but on paper everything lines up. The Patriots of course get Tom Brady back and should have no problem putting up points on Cleveland’s defense. Everyone knows the Browns are on their 3rd starting quarterback, but just as important for defensive streaming purposes, they’ll be on their 3rd starting center. The lack of continuity, especially at center, can kill an o-line. That should help New England’s pass rush, which has only 7 sacks thus far. On the other side of the ball, Cleveland has been running well but giving up plenty of turnovers, including on 3 consecutive drives last weekend (one of those turnovers was a phantom fumble, but still…).
If you like narratives, the Patriots have about a billion former Browns players on defense, and, of course, Bill Belichick was unceremoniously dumped by Cleveland 20 years ago. New England will be a chalky cash game play on DFS, but it’s probably worth paying up.
Pittsburgh (vs. NYJ, 79% Yahoo, $3,500 DraftKings)
Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing like a quarterback from the Ivy League, already with 10 interceptions and 4 fumbles on the year. It might get worse before it gets better; Eric Decker is almost certainly out again this week, and Brandon Marshall has only 7 receptions on 22 targets after hurting his knee in Week 2. Meanwhile, after managing just 1 sack in its first 3 games, Pittsburgh finally found a way to bring more pressure, racking up 4 on Sunday night. Positive game script? Yeah, that should be manageable. With Le’Veon Bell back, the Steelers easily put the Chiefs away in the 1st half, and should be able to do so again against a Jets secondary that is no longer scaring anyone. In fact, their defense is giving up 6.2 yards per play, 5th worst in the league.
Philadelphia (vs. Detroit, 79% Yahoo, $2,900 DraftKings)
Philadelphia’s defense is playing great under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and, just as importantly, without Chip Kelly grinding them into the ground by rushing the offense to 3-and-outs. Fresh off their bye, the Eagles are giving up the fewest points per game in the league. They’ll face Detroit, a team that does plenty of throwing regardless of the situation, but one that should be especially pass-heavy with their top two rushing RBs out injured. Unfortunately, Stafford’s top weapons are also ailing (Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron), and the other options (Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin) only move horizontally. Stafford’s recent resurgence has been a combination of easy strength of schedule and the fact that people really like to say “Jim Bob Cooter.” Count me in on the latter, but the former won’t help Sunday in Philadelphia.
Buffalo (@ LA, 75% Yahoo, $3,100 DraftKings)
We all made fun of the Bills after they fired their offensive coordinator following a 37-31 loss to the Jets, but you know what? It worked! The defense is fixed! Buffalo has given up 18 total points (including last week’s shutout) and forced 6 turnovers since their Thursday night beatdown. Hard to say it’s a trend after just 2 games, but the Bills have run 19 more plays per game since firing Greg Roman, which has no doubt helped the defense stay fresh. On top of that, Pro Bowler Marcell Dareus is back from suspension, boosting the Bills’ defensive line against a bad, bad Rams offensive line. If the Bills can take a lead and Todd Gurley continues to struggle, you’ll get the benefit of Case Keenum passing. His inaccuracy (55.4% completion percentage, 32nd in the league) is prime for turnovers if the Rams fall behind and can’t hide him. Throw in the fact that a Jeff Fisher team at 3-1 is due for a correction, and I like the Bills’ chances.
Stream Em’ Up
Miami (vs. TEN, 12% Yahoo, $2,900 DraftKings)
The Titans have scored 16, 16, 10, and 20 points to start the season. Somehow a quarterback who thrived in an innovative spread offense is struggling in a 1990s “exotic smashmouth” scheme. Mike Mularkey had such a good track record too! It’s all very stunning.
In any event, Marcus Mariota is having a “leave Britney alone” level breakdown. He’s bottom ten in completion percentage (58.8%), interception rate (3.7%), TD rate (2.9%), and an adjusted yards/attempt (5.7). He’s not getting much help either. I bought into the Tajae Sharpe preseason hype, but it hasn’t carried over, and 32-year-old tight end Delanie Walker (suffering through a hamstring injury) remains the only reliable passing target. The Dolphins defense is bad, but remember, we care more about finding deficient offenses than proficient defenses. Miami is a 3.5 point favorite at home with 10 days rest. They can do this.
Oakland (vs. SD, 45% Yahoo, $2,400 DraftKings)
After 2 weeks Oakland looked like the worst defense in the league, having given up the most points and yards by a considerable margin. In retrospect, is it really so bad to be torched by the Saints in New Orleans? Or by the Falcons, who just put up 48 points and almost 600 yards against the Panthers?
As Chris Raybon pointed out, the Raiders’ cornerbacks are playing well, and they’ve changed up personnel to remove a few of the sore spots. And while the Raiders are bottom 5 in sacks coming into Week 5, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin combined for 20.5 sacks last year and can get going at any time. The Raiders’ offense is clicking (their 6.3 yards per play is 2nd in the league), and as 3.5 point favorites at home against a team that just lost its best defensive player, we can hope for a positive game script. Philip Rivers isn’t the type of quarterback I typically target for streaming D/ST, but the Chargers are once again Spinal Tap Drummering their way through the season with a depleted receiving corps and an offensive line plagued with injuries.
Chicago (vs. IND, 2% Yahoo, $2,200 DraftKings)
Remember what we said in the intro: you want quarterbacks who throw a lot, who turn the ball over, and who take sacks. In other words, you want to go against Andrew Luck. Especially this version of Andrew Luck and the Colts offense. Against Jacksonville, nobody was getting open downfield, forcing Luck to either dump the ball off to his running backs (19 freaking targets) or take sacks (6). T.Y. Hilton is the only aerial threat, as Phillip Dorsett did nothing outside of a blown coverage. The Colts also have a banged up offensive line that has given up a league high 15 sacks. The Bears can exploit this matchup if the strength of their defense (front 7) can dominate the Colts’ weakness (offensive line) and the Bears’ weakness (secondary) can just hold its own against Hilton. I’d have them higher, except the Bears also have injury problems—I think Bobby Engram is their only healthy receiver—and are actually 4.5 point home dogs. That seems optimistic given how the Colts have played, coming straight from London, and may reflect incorrect public perceptions of these two teams, but consider this a GPP/punt play.
New Orleans (Bye, 1% Yahoo)
If you’re ever going to use New Orleans’ defense, their bye week is the time to do it.
Tampa Bay (@ CAR, 4% Yahoo, $2,400 DraftKings)
This is a lower percentage play (and doesn’t even help you in GPPs because it’s the Monday night game), but in deeper leagues or if you’re desperate enough to make fantasy decisions based on outdated memes, YOLO with the Buccaneers. Mostly, I’m including this so I can write about how much I hate Derek Anderson. He’s a jerk. And he’s terrible. Wildly inaccurate but willing to trust his big arm, Anderson has a career 3.6% INT percentage (for context, Ryan Tannehill’s 3.6% INT rate is 7th worst this year) and routinely bounces passes 5 yards in front of his receivers or sails them 5 yards over their heads. Playing with Larry Fitzgerald in 2010 (i.e., one of the greatest receivers ever, in his peak), Anderson caused Fitzgerald’s catch percentage to drop from 63.4% to 52.0%.
Tampa’s defense is lousy, giving up the 2nd most points through 4 weeks. HOWWWWEVAAAAA (I’m going Stephen A. Smith because I freaking hate Derek Anderson), their 5.5 yards per play is middle of the pack, so some of that scoring may be bad luck. As a funnel defense (great against the run, bad against he pass), expect them to bottle up a Carolina run game missing its two best rushers, forcing high volume from Anderson. Newton also has the 2nd highest sack percentage among quarterbacks (due in part to tough matchups and Newton’s style of play), so Tampa should be able to get to Anderson.