Here's the thing about team defenses in fantasy football. Sometimes it works out—and sometimes it most assuredly does not.
For the season, the New England Patriots are far and away the highest scoring defense in fantasy. As a matter of fact, the Patriots remain a top-10 player overall in many scoring systems. But in Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Pats came back to earth with a thud—the team allowed 37 points and barely landed inside the top-15 defenses for the week.
The Patriots weren't alone in disappointing fantasy owners in Week 9. The NFC's No. 1 defense didn't fare a bit better. By virtue of their 28-25 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers are the only undefeated team left in the league. But the 49ers also allowed 357 yards of total offense and had just one sack and no takeaways.
San Francisco actually finished with even fewer fantasy points than the Patriots had. And while they remain a no-doubt fantasy start, it won't be any easier next Monday night in Seattle against the Seahawks.
You can look at the talent on a defensive unit. You can examine the matchup. Everything can appear to be falling into place.
But the NFL is a tricky place, and in any given week weird things happen. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who just got rolled by the Los Angeles Chargers.
Nothing makes sense anymore.
Baltimore Ravens (at Cincinnati Bengals)
The exploits of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens Offense earned most of the headlines in Sunday night's big win, but the Baltimore defense had themselves a day as well, sacking Tommy Terrific twice and returning one of New England's two turnovers for a score. The Ravens should perform even better defensively in Week 10 against the winless Bengals. Cincinnati's offensive line is hot garbage, the Bengals are fourth in the league with 15 giveaways, seventh in fantasy points allowed to defenses and will be rolling out a rookie quarterback making his first career start.
Buffalo Bills (at Cleveland Browns)
The Cleveland Browns were the most-hyped team in the NFL in the offseason, but after falling in Denver last week to drop to 2-6 on the season all that hype has been replaced by a big fat ball of they stink. Halfway into the 2019 season, the Browns lead the AFC with 17 giveaways and have been a top five fantasy matchup for team defenses. The Bills have been relatively consistent fantasy producers this season, ranking inside the top half of the NFL in takeaways and the top-10 in the league in fantasy points. Stout defense meets struggling offense—what could go wrong?
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New York Giants (at New York Jets)
The New York Giants are not a good defensive football team by NFL standards…heading into their Monday night affair with the rival Cowboys the G-Men ranked 28th in the NFL in total defense, allowing upwards of 390 yards a game. But from a fantasy perspective the Giants have been quietly solid, riding big plays and favorable matchups to a top-10 ranking in some scoring systems in terms of fantasy points per game. In Week 10, the Giants get the gift that keeps on giving, a New York Jets team that ranks dead last in total offense and scoring offense, second in sacks allowed and first in fantasy points given up to team defenses.
Los Angeles Rams (at Pittsburgh Steelers)
To their credit, the Pittsburgh Steelers have rallied the troops since losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and starting the season 1-4, peeling off three wins in a row to get back to .500. But Mason Rudolph and company are about to face their stiffest test in a while in a Rams team that has had an extra week to get right, get healthy and acclimate cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the defense. The Steelers admittedly haven't been a great fantasy matchup this year, but the Rams have been a top-five fantasy unit even with Aaron Donald getting off to a slow start and Ramsey not on the team.
Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit Lions)
The Chicago Bears are in disarray, and the chaos encircling the team has had an impact on the defense as well. It's not that the Bears aren't still a very good defensive football team—the Bears rank inside the top-10 in total defense, scoring defense and fantasy points. But the big plays haven't come with the same frequency as a season ago, and Chicago's offense isn't doing the team any favors by consistently putting the defense's backs up against the wall. The Lions aren't an especially good matchup for opposing defenses though, so Chicago will probably land in the 8-10 range among defenses in Week 10.
New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
There are a couple of higher-end weekly starters on defense who have questionable-looking matchups in Week 10. The Carolina Panthers take their NFC-best pass rush to Green Bay to face a Packers team trying to figure out what the heck just happened in Los Angeles. And the New Orleans Saints come out of the bye hosting an Atlanta Falcons that has just one win but also possesses the NFL's ninth-ranked offense. Of the two, the Saints are the preferable play by a wide margin—they're playing at home against a Falcons team giving up the ninth-most fantasy points per game to defenses.
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Kansas City Chiefs (at Tennessee Titans)
Just like last season, in terms of yards and points allowed the Chiefs aren't a good defensive team—the Chiefs are 22nd in total defense and 19th in scoring defense. But just like last year, the Chiefs are a top-10 fantasy unit. The Chiefs have amassed 11 takeaways, rank seventh in the NFL with 26 sacks and have scored a pair of defensive touchdowns on the season. The Titans have been better offensively with Ryan Tannehill under center, but the team has allowed a league-high 38 sacks in 2019 and ranks inside the top 10 in fantasy points given up to defenses.
Indianapolis Colts (vs Miami Dolphins)
The good news for the Miami Dolphins is that the team finally notched their first win of the 2019 season Sunday against the New York Jets. The bad news for the Miami Dolphins is—everything else. The Dolphins are 30th in the NFL in total offense, 31st in scoring offense (at less than 13 points per game), third in the NFL in sacks allowed with 32, third in the NFL in giveaways with 17 and second in fantasy points per game given up to opposing team defenses. Other than that though, things are really looking up on South Beach.
Detroit Lions (at Chicago Bears)
This call has very little to do with a Lions Defense that has struggled big-time of late—after allowing 31 points and 450 yards of offense to the Oakland Raiders in Week 9, the Lions rank last in the NFC in total defense and 25th in scoring defense—a pair of numbers that do not reflect well on head coach Matt Patricia. But the Chicago Bears are in complete disarray offensively—the Bears rank in the bottom-five in the league in both total offense and scoring offense. Even Detroit's rotten defense might not be enough to make Mitchell Trubisky look like an NFL quarterback.
Cleveland Browns (vs. Buffalo Bills)
As a Browns fan, every time I hear the team talk about how all they need to do is execute, I'm reminded of the old John McKay quote. While McKay was head coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when asked about his team's execution, McKay deadpanned, ,"I'm in favor of it." The Browns are a mess, but the defense is actually OK. Cleveland ranks eighth in the NFL with 25 sacks and is 18th in total defense. That latter number is hardly cartwheel-inducing, but neither is a Bills Offense that's giving up the 10th-most fantasy points per game to defenses in 2019.
Los Angeles Chargers (at Oakland Raiders)
Will the real Los Angeles Chargers Defense please stand up? On Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the Chargers looked as good as any defense in football, allowing just one touchdown and under 200 yards of total offense. But just a few weeks ago, the Chargers were blown out of their own building by a Pittsburgh Steelers team led by a third-string quarterback known more for his duck calls than his play on the field. This is admittedly a high-risk streaming play, but if the Chargers bring the same effort level as a week ago it could pay off quite nicely.
Arizona Cardinals (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Sometimes, streaming defenses in fantasy football involves give-and-take. Being willing to overlook statistics that do not inspire confidence in favor of those that do. Or just flat-out rolling the dice and hoping for the best. With the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10, it's as much that last one as anything—the Redbirds are a bottom-three scoring defense and a bottom-five fantasy defense. However, the Cardinals have shown at least a modicum of ability to exploit a favorable fantasy matchup, and through nine weeks this season the Buccaneers rank inside the
Buffalo Bills (at Miami Dolphins): The Bills are coming off a good defensive effort against the Redskins and draw the error-prone Browns in Week 10. Follow that up with a Week 11 tilt with the one-win Dolphins, and you have about as good a three-week schedule stretch as you're going to see.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): The Colts are in the midst of quite the three-week stretch of their own. They weren't able to take advantage of a Week 9 tilt in Pittsburgh though, so if they struggle again against Miami most of the shine will come off this matchup.
Washington Redskins (vs. New York Jets): The Redskins are not an especially good defensive football team, but they'll be at the top of many a waiver claim list in Week 11 given their home matchup with the pathetic Jets.