In most leagues, only about 12-14 D/ST’s are on rosters leaving owners with a palatable amount of options if they are in need of a defense. Streaming your defense based on opponent strength and expected game script can give fantasy owners untapped upside on their roster.
Here are four lower-owned (below 40%) options for Week 5:
Buffalo Bills (at Los Angeles Rams)
The death of the Bills’ defense has been greatly over-exaggerated. Over the past four weeks, HC Rex Ryan’s unit has held opposing teams to less than 18 points and has garnered three or more sacks in 3-of-4 contests. Even though they allowed 37 points at home to the Jets in Week 2, the Bills’ are allowing the 13th-fewest rushing yards per game (96.0); but they are permitting the 13th-most passing yards per game (281.0). That may not matter in Week 5. With Case Keenum at the helm – his high watermark for passing yards on the season is 261 – the Rams’ likely can’t threaten the Bills’ main vulnerability at home. Sure, Todd Gurley has been held in check so far and is always liable to bust a big run, but the Rams’ offensive line has been atrocious to-date and their offense is still completely inept. In fact, Los Angeles scores 1.19 points per drive (lowest in NFL) and has managed just 57 first downs (also lowest in NFL) because it goes three-and-out on a league-high 40 percent of its drives, nearly twice the league average (21 percent). Even though the Rams are 3-1 this year, they still own an incredibly anemic offense. On the road, the Bills’ should be able to get home early and often against Keenum and the Rams’ shaky front-five. The Bills’ DST is available in 60% of ESPN leagues and they are over 80% available on NFL.com.
Friday Update: The Bills’ are still inarguably a top-8 DST play this week, but we need to note the Rams offense is incredibly healthy and do not have any noticeable injury leaks. Still, Los Angeles has been slightly above average in pass protection (12th per FootballOutsiders) while Buffalo owns the fifth-best adjusted sack rate in the league (8.6%). Fire up the Bills’ defense with confidence.
Pittsburgh Steelers (home vs. New York Jets)
This streaming call is rather easy. The Steelers defense has been really solid this year outside of one poor game in Week 3. Despite getting demolished on the road in Philadelphia and allowing 34 points, Pittsburgh's D/ST has held opposing teams to 16, 16, and 14 points so far this season. Even though the Steelers' front isn't generating a ton of pressure -- Pittsburgh is second-to-last in sacks (5) -- Ryan Fitzpatrick has been awful over the last two weeks. He has nine interceptions in Week 3-4 and 10 total on the season after throwing just 15 in 2015. Even though the Steelers’ are no longer “Blitzburgh”, they may have a few more sacks than usual in Week 5. Kansas City and Seattle both have better pass rushers than Pittsburgh, but they combined for 6 (2, 4) sacks in their individual matchups with the Jets in Week 3-4. With Fitzpatrick's turnover upside always in play, the Steelers are arguably a top-12 play this week. The Steelers' D/ST is available in over 60 percent of ESPN and NFL.com leagues.
Friday Update: Both of these teams are incredibly banged up heading into Week 5. Jet receivers Eric Decker (shoulder; OUT) and Quincy Enunwa (knee; questionable) are injured while starting RG Brian Winter (concussion) is very questionable. With a depleted core of weapons, the Jets may struggle to move the ball a bit on the road in a near must-win game in Pittsburgh. Fortunately for New York, the Steelers’ secondary is also dealing with a ton of injuries on defense. CB Justin Gilbert, S Robert Golden and LB Ryan Shazier were all ruled out on Friday. Pittsburgh will need their depth players on defense to step up, but luckily, the Jets are just as banged up. The Steelers are still a top-8 options despite all of their injuries.
Miami Dolphins (home vs. Tennessee Titans)
With offensive point totals of just 16, 16, 17 and 20 on the season, the Titans offense is an easy streaming target every single week. Miami's 10 sacks ranks sixth this season while Tennessee has surrendered weekly fantasy scoring totals of 17 (vs. Min), 6 (vs. Det), 4 (vs. Oak), and 10 (vs. Hou) to opposing D/ST's. While Marcus Mariota doesn’t really have any receiving weapons outside of TE Delanie Walker, the Dolphins’ shoddy cornerbacks should not be test too much in Miami. The Dolphins’ clear strength is with their pass rush and front-7 while their secondary is prone to leaks. Because the Titans simply don’t own the personnel or scheme to exploit Miami’s main weakness on defense, this provides a very usable fantasy floor. Sure, the ‘Fins D/ST has not put up huge totals this year – their high watermark in fantasy points scored is just 5 points and the unit is 23rd in cumulative points – they can still provide a solid fantasy floor against the league’s slowest and most inept offense in Tennessee. Miami's fantasy defense is widely available across all platforms.
Friday Update: Despite being terrible on offense, the Titans are actually very healthy on both sides of the ball. G Jack Conklin (shoulder) missed practice earlier in the week but he was upgraded to full practices on Thursday and he will play in Week 5. While Miami may not have elite sack upside in Week 5, Tennessee has consistently proven it is incompetent on offense. Miami is a very strong streaming option this week.
Philadelphia Eagles (at Detroit Lions)
While the Lions' offense is always capable of hanging a big number against opposing teams -- especially at home -- the Eagles' defense is quietly red-hot coming out of their Week 4 bye. With at least three sacks forced in each game so far (and just 10, 14, and 3 points allowed), the Eagles' defense could generate a ton of pressure on the road against the Lions. Detroit has surrendered the 5th-most sacks to-date (10). The Eagles' D/ST floor is low due to a possible shoot-out, but they aren't a horrible option in this ugly Week 5 slate. Once more, the Eagles are averaging two turnovers per contest. Matthew Stafford – while he has been great with new OC Jim Bob Cooter – is still prone to mistakes. In fact, Stafford has thrown at least one interception in three straight games since Week 1. While Detroit’s offensive line has played better than last year, they are still no match for the Eagles’ front-7. Right now, Philadelphia owns one of the league’s best units. To mask their deficiencies at cornerback, the Eagles are dialing up pressure and a lot of it. The Eagles’ defensive line is actually just behind the Broncos’ (10.2%) in adjusted sack rate at 9.2%. Detroit is certainly capable of scoring, but the Eagles have a ton of sack- and turnover-based upside this week if they can get to Stafford early and often. Philadelphia is available in 59% of ESPN.com leagues and they are over 70% available on NFL.com.
Friday Update: Outside of TE Eric Ebron (ankle, knee), the Lions are fairly healthy on offense. With Ebron OUT for Week 5, QB Matthew Stafford will be without one of his favorite weapons at home vs. Philadelphia. This makes Stafford’s sledding even tougher, as the Eagles’ secondary has not allowed a passing touchdown all season and the unit is allowing just 6.9 yards/attempt (12th-lowest). Coming off their bye, the Eagles are very healthy for Week 5. Just like Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Miami – Philadelphia is a top-notch option this week.