Dreaming of Streaming: Week 16 Update
December 19, 2014 | C.D. Carter
The defensive Streaming Score assigned to the Carolina Panthers this week isn’t reflective of their matchup, which could very well be the best of Week 16.
I don’t think it was anything close to lunacy for fantasy footballers to deploy the Jaguars’ defense on Thursday night even if Carolina’s defense was available on the local waiver wire. The Titans had given up almost three turnovers per contest over the past month, with an offensive line that ranks among the NFL’s worst. Tennessee was a clear and present streaming target.
But then there’s the Johnny Manziel-led Browns’ offense, which gave up an eye-popping 17 fantasy points to the Bengals in Week 15. They sacked the mobile Manziel thrice and picked off two of the worst passes you’ll see thrown by an NFL quarterback. Cincy focused its efforts on shutting down the Browns’ middling ground attack and forced Money Fingers to beat them.
It worked. It worked well.
We can expect more of that approach in Week 16 from the Panthers, per beat writer reports. Not only did Manziel miss on some fairly routine throws against the Bengals, but he also failed to see an open Josh Gordon on at least two occasions. I thought part of JFF’s appeal was that, much like Brian Hoyer, he’d be locked on to Gordon. I was wrong, and I think Manziel is worse for it. Opposing defenses, meanwhile, are much better for it.
Even worse for Manziel and the Cleveland offense, Luke Kuechly and the Carolina linebackers are some of the best coverage guys in the league, meaning Manziel might not have the easy check down throws on which many inexperienced quarterbacks rely. I think this is the sort of factor that makes the Panthers’ defense a decidedly high-floor Week 16 option: JFF should struggle to chip away at the Panthers with short, safe tosses.
“You can tell he’s a great student of the game,” Browns head coach Mike Pettine said of Kuechly. “He knows things are coming. He’s probably one of the best at gathering pre-snap info and sliding to where the play is going to go.”
Carolina’s defensive home-road split are also worth noting as we head into Week 16.
The Panthers best defensive performances have all been at home in 2014, including a Week 2 domination of the Lions, Week 5’s wrecking of Jay Cutler and company, and last week’s three turnover performance against Tampa Bay. Carolina, meanwhile, has been ripped on the road in 2014. Those defensive disasters include an incredible four performances of less than one fantasy point.
This all bodes every well for the Panthers as they prepare to play against the irrepressible Money Fingers and company on Sunday. I have the Panthers ranked as this week’s No. 5 defensive play, and I wouldn’t quibble with anyone who uses them over any team not named the Seahawks.
Here are a couple more defensive streaming thoughts headed into fantasy championship week…
* The 49ers make for a suddenly tasty option against a Chargers’ offense devastated by injury. Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen aren’t expected to suit up on Saturday against San Francisco, leaving a beat-up Philip Rivers with a skeleton crew on a short week on the road. The Chargers, after being among fantasy football’s stingiest teams against defenses, has now allowed 11 or more fantasy points to opposing defenses in three of their past four contests. Only five teams sport a worse pass-blocking offensive line than San Diego, per Pro Football Focus, while the 49ers have a top-half pass rush through 15 weeks. The 49ers’ Streaming Score is among the week’s lowest, but that wouldn’t dissuade me from using them as a top-12 play.
* Probably I’m in the vast minority in saying that the Lions’ defense has a lower Week 16 ceiling now that King DGAF, Jay Cutler, has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen. It was Cutler, after all, who led all players in turnovers, so replacing him theoretically takes away a turnover machine and replaces said machine with a potentially serviceable signal caller who could do what Josh McCown did in 2013: manage the game, stick to Marc Trestman’s game plan, and safely move the ball down the field. Clausen could — and likely will — commit a turnover or two on Sunday. That offers the Lions a decidedly nice fantasy floor. But if you’re looking for a nuclear performance for Week 16, I’d lean toward defensive plays like the Rams, Giants, Panthers, Eagles, and Patriots.