Fantasy owners will be without another four defensive units this week as the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and St. Louis Rams are all on bye in Week 6. Unless you’re an owner of the seventh-ranked Rams D/ST though, you likely won’t be feeling the pain of losing out on the potential streaming services of the 21st-ranked Cowboys, 20th-ranked Raiders, or the 17th-ranked Buccaneers. With that being said, be sure to scour the waiver wire in case any defenses like the Carolina Panthers or New York Jets were dropped last week due to their bye as both defenses are locked in as top-six units for the rest of the season.
Without further ado, let’s examine the D/ST landscape for Week 6.
Minnesota Vikings – (27.3% owned in ESPN) – vs. Chiefs – The Vikings look like the best defense to stream this week as they get to face the shellshocked Chiefs who are only 1-4 and just lost All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles due to a torn right ACL. While the Vikings have struggled defending the run this year as they rank 26th in that category, the Chiefs will have to turn to Charcandrick West and Knile Davis in the backfield and it remains to be seen how the duo will fare. On the flip side, the Vikings own the 12th-ranked pass defense as they are only surrendering 232.2 passing yards a game. Normally risk-averse Alex Smith will have to become more aggressive in the aerial attack as the running game is sure to suffer without Charles and interceptions are likely to follow. Over the last four weeks, Smith has only thrown two touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. Additionally, the Chiefs are T-32 in terms of allowing sacks (22) so the Vikings should be able to generate an ample amount of pressure up front. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are the only dependable receiving options Smith has and if the Vikings can shut the running game down, a successful fantasy outing is likely to follow.
Cincinnati Bengals – (36.4% owned in ESPN) – at Bills – The Bills are coming into their Week 6 matchup against the undefeated Bengals really banged up as notable offensive weapons like Tyrod Taylor (knee), Sammy Watkins (calf), Karlos Williams (concussion), and LeSean McCoy (hamstring) are all dealing with a variety of ailments. As of this writing, Watkins looks like the only one of the four that will for sure play, although it appears it will be in a limited capacity. Taylor plans to play, but it remains to be seen how effective he will be, especially on the ground as his running ability is so vital to his game. While the Bengals have only forced two turnovers the last two weeks, they have also accumulated nine sacks during that timeframe. It’s worth noting the Bills have struggled in pass protection so far this year as they have already surrendered 14 sacks. Facing the 24th-ranked offense who will likely be missing a few key weapons in a game script that sets up quite favorably for the home team, the Bengals make for a quality streaming option.
Philadelphia Eagles – (48.2% owned in ESPN) – vs. Giants – At first glance this doesn’t appear as a particularly appetizing matchup to stream the Eagles in as the Giants have only given up a grand total of eight fantasy points to opposing defenses, but hear me out here. Philadelphia is coming off a fine performance against the Saints as they forced four turnovers (3 FR, 1 INT) in addition to compiling five sacks. So far in 2015 the Eagles are allowing only 96.8 yards per game on the ground, good enough for the 10th-best mark in the NFL. Coincidentally, the Eagles are tied-first with the Giants in terms of yards per carry allowed (3.5). The Giants rank 26th with only 91.2 rushing yards per game and the Eagles should have little trouble containing the underwhelming trio of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen. With that in mind, also consider the fact that Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle are both dealing with hamstring injuries and neither are sure bets to play. Even if they do play, there is no telling how effective either of them will be on the field. If OBJ were to miss the game on Monday night, it would obviously be a huge downgrade to the prospects of Eli Manning and the entire Giants offense as a whole. Make sure to monitor the status of the aforementioned players in the days leading up to the game.
Atlanta Falcons – (32.9% owned in ESPN) – at Saints – The Falcons defense has been rolling the last two weeks as they are averaging 15.5 points during that time and they’ll look to extend their streak of double-digit performances to three against the Saints in the Superdome this weekend. Atlanta had two interceptions, one of which was a game-ending pick-six, and a sack against the Redskins in Week 5. Atlanta ranks T-6th with 10 turnovers forced while the Saints rank T-30th with 10 giveaways. The Falcons also own the top-ranked run defense in the NFL as they are only allowing 78.4 rushing yards per game while the Saints are the 29th-ranked run offense as they have only averaged 85.4 rushing yards per game. Keeping Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, and Khiry Robinson in check will be vital in trying to make the Saints a one-dimensional team. Let’s not overlook the fact the Falcons are the 29th-ranked team defending the pass, but at the same time it’s obvious that Drew Brees and the entire Saints offense is no longer as fearsome as they were in years past. While the Saints will likely have decent success moving the ball by passing, they lack a true deep threat on the roster and have to dink and dunk their way down the field. It shows as they rank 21st by averaging 20.6 points per game. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead are the top two options in the passing game for the Saints and while they certainly aren’t scrubs by any means, they aren’t the most threatening wide receiver duo. Atlanta may not possess the upside they have shown the last two weeks in this particular matchup, but they should be started until they cool off.
Tennessee Titans – (21.3% owned in ESPN) – vs. Dolphins – While the Titans defense isn’t necessarily considered a standout D/ST unit, they are averaging a tidy eight fantasy points per game through their first four outings. Let’s give credit where credit is due though, as the Titans are the top team against the pass as they have only given up an average of 166.5 passing yards a game, 19 yards per game better than the next closest team. They also rank third in terms of YPG allowed. In Week 5 against the Bills, the Titans had an interception to go along with three sacks. Tennessee has registered at least two sacks in every game and Miami ranks in the middle of the pack with 10 sacks allowed so owners can likely pencil in a handful. Miami is 31st in PPG (16.2), 31st in rushing yards per game (69.2), and is the 28th-ranked offense overall. Ryan Tannehill and Lamar Miller have regressed from 2014, although slot maven Jarvis Landry is a stud and limiting his output will be easier said than done, even if the Titans own the top pass defense. Even so, the Dolphins are coming off a coaching change during their bye week and have lacked any sense of continuity on offense this year, making this a prime matchup to start the Titans defense.
Thanks to NFL.com, Rotoworld, and ESPN for providing the statistical information. Be sure to comment below with any questions or remarks. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions.