Week 4 might have been the masterpiece, the masterstroke, the crowning achievement of defensive streaming. We dreamed of streaming, and through our anxiety-laden trust of the numbers and matchups, we saw streaming options capture four of the top five spots.
And the angels sang, and you danced before the glow of your laptop screen.
Take a look at the chart below, and pat thyself on the back. There were fantastic streaming options screaming for your attention, and you listened.
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Beyond the Titans, Colts, and Chiefs coming through for streamers last week, I think there were a couple other key takeaway for those tracking defensive trends and planning ahead.
The Browns’ defense might — just might — be more than a streaming option, especially at home. They suffocated Cincinnati’s offense in Week 4, applying unrelenting pressure to Andy Dalton and largely snuffing out a pretty good ground attack. Even more encouraging was Joe Haden’s shutting down of all-world pass catcher A.J. Green.
Having a cornerback who can be left all by his lonesome against the league’s elite pass catchers frees the other 10 guys on the defensive side of the ball to do what they were meant to do. There was almost no adjustments made to help Haden with Green last Sunday. This is great news for fantasy’s No.8 overall defense.
We also learned that injuries matter. The Bengals, seen as a consensus No. 1 Week 4 fantasy defense early last week, were down three starters in their usually solid secondary against Cleveland’s suddenly lively aerial attack. I bumped the Bengals’ defense down to No. 7 upon hearing that news. Clearly, that wasn’t nearly enough.
Part of consistent fantasy success is adjusting, remaining flexible, and making lineup changes, sometimes in the final hours before game time. We’re accustomed to keeping one unblinking eye on the injury report for offensive players. It’s almost as important to watch for key defensive injuries as well.
St. Louis Rams vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Rams’ defense isn’t in the realm of decent. Most of their secondary gets pushed around by wide receivers and tight ends and their front seven put inconsistent pressure on the passer. The Rams are being shredded to the tune of 133.5 rushing yards per game. They’ve given up 30.3 points per game.
None of that matters in Week 5, as St. Louis welcomes our streaming target de jour: Blaine Gabbert and the thing that Jaguars call their offense.
Jacksonville had allowed double digit fantasy points to every team they’ve played this season, thanks in large part to eight turnovers. The best thing about streaming a defense against the Jags is that you’re not simply crossing your fingers and hoping to a couple picks and a fluky defensive score. Jacksonville’s offense has a sever allergy to the end zone. They’re averaging 5.8 points per contest.
Only the Giants have allowed more fantasy points to defenses through four weeks.
I don’t have St. Louis pegged as Week 5′s best upside play, however. The Ram’s defense has forced five turnovers through the first month of the season. Only one NFC team — the Falcons — have forced fewer.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Jets: The Falcons, while far from Week 5′s safest defensive streaming option, is among the choices with the most upside. Examining an offense’s propensity for turnovers is how we determine this, and almost no one gives the ball away like Gang Green.
Geno Smith and company has committed 12 turnovers through four games (eight interceptions and four fumbles), and now sport the NFL’s 26th ranked offense, per Pro Football Focus. The Jets’ offensive line has proven more than shaky through much of September, allowing 14 sacks — the fourth most in the AFC.
Atlanta is by no means an ultra-safe Week 5 play simply because the Falcons’ defense stinks. See below for an explanation.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus
Atlanta is a top-12 Week 5 streaming option. Just know that you’re banking on turnovers here, not solid, reliable defensive play.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans: I feel obliged to list the Chiefs because — inexplicably — they’re still unowned in 35 percent of leagues. Please, for the love of drubbing your competition, pick up the Kansas City defense — fantasy’s No. 1 defense by a good margin. The Titans’ incredibly conservative offense doesn’t surrender the ball very often — they’re allowing 2.5 fantasy points to opposing defenses — but the Chiefs might reverse that trend with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals still haven’t logged 100 yards rushing in a game this season — seemingly good news for a Carolina rush defense ranked 18th by Pro Football Focus. The Cardinals, in other words, are going to have nowhere to run against a Panthers’ defense allowing 93 yards per game on the ground. That’ll force old man Carson Palmer to the air, which has proven effective for almost every defense Arizona has played in 2013. The Panthers are allowing just 223 passing yards per contest. Expect that underrated defensive unit to feast on an offense that has turned over the football eight times this year. I’ll have Carolina in my top-10 Week 5 defenses.
Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills: The Browns won’t be in my top-10 defenses for Week 5, but you could do a whole lot worse. Buffalo, despite scoring in the 20s in all four games this year, is giving up 5.9 fantasy points per game to defenses. The Bills have turned over the ball three times to Baltimore last week, and if not for a couple fortuitous bounces, it could’ve been more. Cleveland has forced six turnovers since Week 2.