Fantasy owners will be without the services of the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, and Green Bay Packers D/ST units this week as all those teams are on bye. Although the Bears and Bengals defenses won’t be missed too much, owners of the Packers and Broncos defenses are advised to hold onto them if at all possible, especially the Broncos. Denver is far and away the top D/ST in fantasy with 106 points on ESPN, 44 more than the second-ranked Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, Green Bay is rated as the fifth-best defense so far in 2015. Be sure not to drop any player of substantial value though to hold onto the aforementioned defenses.
With that being said, let’s unravel the top five defenses owned in 50 percent or less or leagues to target in Week 7.
Miami Dolphins – (34.2% owned in ESPN) – vs. Texans – While the Dolphins had struggled mightily all season prior to Week 6, they exploded in epic fashion as they went on to rack up 25 fantasy points last week against the Tennessee Titans. After generating only one sack in their first four games, the Dolphins managed six sacks to go along with two interceptions (one pick-six) and two fumble recoveries. It appears inserting Dan Campbell as the interim head coach after firing Joe Philbin has rejuvenated the team as they played with increased effort in Week 6. While the Dolphins rank 31st against the run by allowing 141 rushing yards per game, they rank a respectable 12th against the pass by limiting opponents to 238.4 passing yards per game. Stopping Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins will certainly be a tall task, but the Texans are also starting a replacement-level quarterback in Brian Hoyer who is best suited as a game-manager. The Texans rank T-9th with 10 giveaways on the season and there should be plenty of opportunities for the Dolphins to force turnovers and sacks against a turnover-prone quarterback.
Minnesota Vikings – (42.6% owned) – at Lions – While Matthew Stafford is coming off his best performance of the season as he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, it has to be noted it came against the lowly Bears defense. I’m skeptical he’ll be able to keep it up considering he still owns a putrid 10:9 TD:INT ratio as his 9 interceptions are tied for the second most in the NFL. Outside of Calvin Johnson, the Lions don’t possess many threatening options on offense and they rank last in the NFL by averaging only 66.5 rushing yards per game. The Vikings D/ST is averaging 9 fantasy points over their last three games and make for a solid streaming option against a lousy Lions team.
Atlanta Falcons – (37.2% owned) – at Titans – With Marcus Mariota (MCL sprain) more likely than not to sit on Sunday, the Titans will be forced to insert Zach Mettenberger as the starting quarterback. The Falcons D/ST and fantasy owners alike should be licking their chops in anticipation of facing Mettenberger and the rest of the lackluster Titans offense that ranks 22nd on the year by averaging 340.4 yards per game. Not to mention the fact the Titans own the 28th-ranked rushing attack. In seven games last year, Mettenberger only completed 59.8% of his passes to go along with a 8:7 TD:INT ratio. Tennessee has also surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing defenses. When you combine all those points with the fact that Atlanta is tied for seventh with 10 takeaways, you have all the makings of a great matchup to target.
Pittsburgh Steelers – (24.6% owned) – at Chiefs – The Steelers had a decent fantasy outing last week as they forced three turnovers (2 INT, 1 FR) against the high-powered Cardinals offense and they will look to have another good performance this week against a much worse offense. Without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs offense struggled mightily in Week 6 as they were only able to generate 10 points and 57 rushing yards. To make matters worse, top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a concussion and is looking doubtful to play this week. Losing those two players for any amount of time would be a tremendous loss to the Chiefs, leaving them with guys like Travis Kelce, Charcandrick West, and Knile Davis as their best means of trying to move the ball downfield consistently. While Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is pretty stingy when it comes to limiting turnovers, the offensive line has allowed 24 sacks, good for the second-worst mark in the NFL. With five turnovers forced the last two weeks, it’s time to fire up the Steelers.
Washington Redskins – (18.0% owned) – vs. Buccaneers – Rookie quarterback? Check. Playing at home? Check. Good defense? Check. I think you’re starting to understand why this particular game is a good opportunity to stream the Redskins D/ST. Washington is averaging 7.7 fantasy points per game over the last three games and in Week 6, they forced two fumble recoveries, one interception, and scored a touchdown off a blocked punt. On the year, Washington has registered nine takeaways, good for T-11th in the NFL. On the flip side, Tampa Bay has turned the ball over 10 times already, tied for ninth-most. With turnover-prone Jameis Winston at the helm for the Bucs, more turnovers should be on the way this weekend. The rookie quarterback sports a hideous 56.6% completion percentage to go along with seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a fumble lost to his credit. While Washington is vulnerable against the run as they rank 23rd by allowing 118.2 yards per game, they rank eighth in both passing defense (222.5 Y/G) and overall defense (340.7 Y/G). Stopping a red hot Doug Martin should be the primary focus for Washington as the likes of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans have underwhelmed so far. This is a prime time to stream Washington and owners shouldn’t be afraid to do so considering how well they have played of late.
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.