Dreaming of Streaming: Favoring The Favorites August 15, 2014  |  C.D. Carter

Anyone familiar with this space in 2013 will remember that I spilled quite a bit of digital ink on Vegas point spreads and what the all-knowing odds makers were trying to tell us about that week’s NFL games.

The premise, to put it simply, was to identify games that Vegas had tabbed as decidedly low-scoring affairs, and using defenses from those contests. Targeting defenses in these grind-em-out sort of matchups was an unapologetic attempt to avoid the week’s high-scoring games — the ones that presumably lead to streaming nightmares.

I’m going to shift that Vegas-based focus in 2014. Instead of being singularly focused on total point projections from the masters of odds in Sin City, we’re going to concentrate on streaming defensive options that are favored and/or at home.

Why, you might ask, am I turning away from the analysis of point totals in favor of point spreads? The answer is a simple one: Successful fantasy defenses force turnovers, even when they hemorrhage yardage to the opposing offense.

If the goal is to find defenses most likely to collect interceptions, fumbles, and sacks, then it makes the most sense to target teams that could — or should — have big leads on Sunday afternoon.

It’s a bit on the anecdotal side for my taste, but think about what happens when a team gets down by two or three scores in the second half of a game: They throw and throw and throw some more while the defense pins back its collective ears and gets after the quarterback. Pressure is applied when an offense becomes totally one dimensional.

Jonathan Bales has taken a close look at the correlation between pressure and turnovers and found that teams that apply the most pressure to opposing signal callers record far more forced fumbles and interceptions than defenses that record the fewest quarterback pressures. This is hardly mind boggling, I know.



In fact, you can explain almost half of NFL interceptions with how often teams pressured the passer. That, as Bales wrote, is incredible (And it’s why I’ll take closer looks at sack and turnover-related prop bets).

Prioritizing defensive streaming options whose teams are favored by quite a bit and/or at home won’t serve as a firewall for flame-out streaming performances. Many of our targets will be playing in games expected to be among the highest scoring in a given week. We’re going to run into our share of duds because, well, the football is oblong.

I think moving our focus from total point projections to point spreads will improve our season-long process, and really, process is all that matters in this silly, little game.

This isn’t just a theory bouncing around my degenerate head. Take a look at the below results from the 2013 NFL season and the frequency of Vegas favorites finishing the week as a Top 12 (startable) defensive unit.


Week Top 12 D/STs who were favored Percentage of Top 12 D/STs who were favored
1 7 58.3 percent
2 9 75 percent
3 7 58.3 percent
4 8 66.6 percent
5 7 58.3 percent
6 7 58.3 percent
7 8 66.6 percent
8 8 66.6 percent
9 5 41.6 percent
10 7 58.3 percent
11 9 75 percent
12 7 58.3 percent
13 7 58.3 percent
14 8 66.6 percent
15 9 75 percent
16 9 75 percent
TOTALS 122 63.6 percent


That’s right: If you simply chose a defense that was favored by Vegas during a given week, you had a 63.6 percent chance of notching a Top 12 performance. It’s amazing, really. I realize that not every defense is available on the waiver wire — sometimes only 15 or 16 are on the wire — but these numbers are, at worst, encouraging (and probably most actionable for daily fantasy purposes).

I think (I hope) with a look into turnover rates, quarterback pressures, and secondary performance, we can whittle down the week’s waiver wire options and pinpoint the best streamers with some consistency.

As lovely as the above numbers are, take a look at the below breakdown to see how often a winning team — not necessarily favored in Vegas — was a startable fantasy defense.


Week Top 12 D/STs whose team won Percentage of Top 12 D/STs who won
1 7 58.3 percent
2 8 66.6 percent
3 9 75 percent
4 11 91.6 percent
5 10 83.3 percent
6 10 83.3 percent
7 10 83.3 percent
8 10 83.3 percent
9 10 83.3 percent
10 9 75 percent
11 11 91.6 percent
12 10 83.3 percent
13 8 66.6 percent
14 8 66.6 percent
15 11 91.6 percent
16 11 91.6 percent
TOTALS 153 79.6 percent


Whelp, as they say. If you’re pretty good at picking winners on any given NFL Sunday, you have a pretty good shot of coming up with a dreamy streamer.

We should simplify fantasy football any way we can, and I think favoring the favorites and listening to Vegas will be a key to working the wire and coming up with consistently finding defenses that post decent fantasy outputs. This will be an improvement of our collective process, and that, in the end, is all that matters.


8 Responses

  1. Judgeshredd says:

    Wow, this is the type of stuff that will take fantasy footballers who are willing to do the research to the next level.
    Really awesome, thanks.

  2. Bryan says:

    Great article but couldn’t you use the same argument as proof for picking a defense early such as Seattle or Denver because both of those teams will be favored in most, if not all of their games so they are almost a lock to be a top defense every week?

    • c.d. carter says:

      I suppose that would make sense if you were willing to burn a seventh rounder on the Seattle defense. Matchups still matter, so I’m not going to determine streamers only by who is favored by the most in a given week.

  3. Max says:

    In a .5 for ppr should I trade Cruz , Joique Bell, Colston and Big Ben for Drew Brees and Toby Gerhart ? I currently start big ben with Dez, Cobb, McCoy and Bell and Cruz as a flex.

  4. c.d. carter says:

    Thanks for reading Mychal. I see your point, but I think the info is still actionable because we know that a Vegas favorite has a solid chance of notching a top-12 defensive performance.

    • Mychal says:

      Indeed, the correlation is clear regardless. Looking forward to your recommendations using this. Read your stuff every week last year and now I wouldn’t dream of not streaming!

      • c.d. carter says:

        Thanks again. And yeah, I could’ve have done this your way and come out with similar results. I think targeting favorites will be a boon in spotting reliable streamers.

  5. Mychal says:

    “If you simply chose a defense that was favored by Vegas during a given week, you had a 63.6 percent chance of notching a Top 12 performance”

    I am a little confused by this and possibly interpreting it wrong, but the numbers seem to indicate that the conclusion should be “If you end up with a Top 12 defense, there is a 63.6 percent chance it was favored by Vegas that week.”

    Which isn’t much use to us before the fact, right?

    In other words, the denominator you seemed to use to arrive at the percentages is 12, when it should have been 16, which is the total number of Vegas favorites in a no-bye week, assuming no “even” matchups.

    Again, this is possibly much ado about nothing, and I could just be misinterpreting it. If so, please disregard. :)

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