This is getting ridiculous.
All season long, the New England Patriots Defense has feasted on opposing offenses. It's not just that New England leads the AFC in total defense and leads the NFL in scoring defense at just 7.6 points allowed per game. The Patriots also lead the league with 31 sacks and lead the NFL in takeaways (25) by a massive margin.
Add in four defensive touchdowns, and you get a fantasy defense that leads the position by over 80 fantasy points in some scoring systems. That's a difference over eight full fantasy points per game. In the scoring system I'm using for reference here, the Patriots are the fourth-highest scoring player at any position.
It's unheard of. And the Pats were right back at it in Week 8, allowing just 13 points against the Cleveland Browns while piling up five sacks and adding three turnovers and a fumble return for a touchdown.
However, that unprecedented outburst has come against a menagerie of some of the league's worst teams. In Week 9, the Pats face their most difficult test of the season—second-year phenom Lamar Jackson and the 5-2 Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots have benefitted this year from a series of outstanding fantasy matchups for defenses. For instance, the Browns entered Week 8 sixth in fantasy points per game allowed to defenses in that same scoring system I referenced.
The Ravens, on the other hand, have not been so kind to the position—only six teams have given up fewer fantasy points per game to defenses in 2019 than the Ravens.
The Patriots are a must start and then some—but it's possible (maybe even likely) that this miraculous run comes back to earth a tad in Week 9.
San Francisco 49ers (at Arizona Cardinals)
They haven't piled up the ridiculous fantasy production that the Patriots have, but the 49ers have been a defensive powerhouse in their own right. San Francisco ranks first in the NFL in total defense, second in the league in scoring defense, second in takeaways, fourth in sacks and second to the Patriots in fantasy points. If you watched the Niners completely destroy the Carolina Panthers in Week 8, you know just how well Nick Bosa and the 49ers defense is playing right now. With the Cardinals banged up at running back and playing on a short week, the 49ers are going to feast in the desert on Thursday night.
Buffalo Bills (vs. Washington Redskins)
The Buffalo Bills are no doubt seething defensively—a usually stout Buffalo defense was gouged by the Eagles for 218 rushing yards last week in a 31-13 loss. Still, even after that disappointing effort the Bills still rank third in the NFL in total defense and passing defense eight weeks into the NFL season and inside the top-12 in fantasy points. If the Bills are looking for payback it shouldn't be all that hard to find against the floundering Redskins, who are dead last in the NFC in total offense and who have surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses in 2019.
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Carolina Panthers (vs. Tennessee Titans)
Yes, the Tennessee Titans have won two games in a row since they replaced Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. And yes, the Carolina defense just got demolished by the San Francisco 49ers to the tune of 51 points allowed. But the Titans are most assuredly not the undefeated 49ers, and even after that Week 8 faceplant the Panthers still lead the NFC in sacks and rank third among all NFL teams in fantasy points defensively. Also, despite Tennessee's recent success, the team still slots inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to the position.
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Chicago Bears)
The Eagles are coming off one of their better defensive efforts of the season in a big win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 8, tallying four sacks with a takeaway while surrendering just 13 points and 253 yards of total offense. But this recommendation has more to do with who the Eagles are playing than the team's defense itself. The Bears were finally able to engineer some success running the ball against the Chargers last week, but it's not going to be easy to do that against and Eagles Defense giving up less than 91 yards per game on the ground. That means Mitchell Trubisky throwing the ball. Enough said.
Dallas Cowboys (at New York Giants)
Surprise surprise, there's an NFC matchup in primetime this week. The Dallas Cowboys haven't played especially well as a whole defensively this season, but the team's coming off its performance of the year in a blowout loss over the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago. This matchup has as much (if not more) to do with the Cowboys opponent anyway. Daniel Jones and the Giants have hit the skids of late, losing four straight games. One of the biggest reasons for that slump is turnovers—no team in the NFL has more giveaways than the Giants, who rank inside the top five in fantasy points given up to team defenses this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
This article was admittedly written before the Monday night slopfest between the Steelers and Miami Dolphins, but I'm going to go way out on a limb and assume that the Steelers put forth a solid defensive effort against the flaming bag of poo that is the Dolphins Offense. The Colts are a much better team—some might even say that Indy's the second-best team in the AFC. But Indy struggled offensively last week, and even with the beatdown the Steelers absorbed in Week 1 in Boston the team's a top-10 fantasy defense in 2019. Take that away and they jump to third at the position in terms of fantasy points per game.
STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
Denver Broncos (vs. Cleveland Browns)
The Cleveland Browns have no shortage of talent on offense. Among AFC running backs, only Leonard Fournette has more rushing yards than Nick Chubb. And rumor has it that Odell Beckham is pretty good at the whole being a wide receiver thing. But the Browns have also been their own worst enemy this year—Baker Mayfield is tied for the NFL lead with 12 interceptions and the Browns lead the AFC in giveaways with 17. Denver might not have the field day against Cleveland that New England did, but they remain a rock-solid fantasy start in Week 9.
Cleveland Browns (at Denver Broncos)
There hasn't been a lot to cheer about in Cleveland this year, but the defense has had its moments. End Myles Garrett is tied for the NFL lead in sacks and is a legitimate DPOY candidate. The Browns have also been stout on the back end despite a number of injuries, ranking inside the top 10 in pass defense. But this call's more about the Broncos and their struggles offensively. The Broncos rank 26th in total offense, 27th in scoring offense and haven't scored more than 20 points in a game since Week 4. Denver also ranks just outside the top 10 in fantasy points per game allowed to team defenses.
Seattle Seahawks (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
It may seem a bit strange to see the Seattle Seahawks Defense here after the team allowed over 500 yards of total offense last week to an Atlanta Falcons team that was led by Matt Schaub's corpse, but this is another recommendation that has a lot more to do with who Seattle is playing than the Seahawks themselves. Back in Week 6, Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston piled up a staggering six turnovers in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, he added four more. He's single-handedly making the Buccaneers a good fantasy matchup for team defenses.
Green Bay Packers (at Los Angeles Chargers)
I've mentioned the Green Bay defense more than once in this space this season, and as often as not I've been disappointed. Such was the case in Week 8, when the Packers managed just two sacks and fumble recovery while surrendering 24 points to the Matt Moore-led Kansas City Chiefs. But sometimes you just have to put your head down and keep trudging, and that's what I'm going to do with the Pack as they head to Los Angeles to face the floundering Chargers. The Chargers have been a hot mess offensively over the past month or so, and nothing we saw Sunday in Chicago indicates that's about to change.
Tennessee Titans (at Carolina Panthers)
Something happened in Tennessee's Week 8 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that hadn't happened all season—the Titans allowed over 20 points in a game. For the season, the Titans are quietly the ninth-ranked total defense and the eighth-ranked scoring defense, and the team ranks inside the top-15 in fantasy points at the position for the season. The bloom came off the rose where Kyle Allen's concerned in last week's loss in San Francisco, and it's possible that opposing defenses are starting to figure the youngster out. This is far from a sure bet—but streaming defense plays rarely are.
New York Jets (at Miami Dolphins)
This recommendation isn't for the feint of heart. Or for people with a weak stomach. The Jets are a one-win garbage can of a football team that just traded one of its best young defensive players in end Leonard Williams. But the Miami Dolphins are so, so bad. The Dolphins and Jets rank in the bottom-two in the NFL in both total offense and scoring offense, and the two teams rank first and second in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to defenses this year. A slightly better offense gives the Jets the edge here, but the Dolphins are also on the streaming radar in Week 9 if you're desperate. Now I feel dirty.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. MIA): The Colts narrowly missed inclusion as a streaming play in Week 9 against the Mason Rudolph-led Pittsburgh Steelers. But it may be worth rolling the dice there for the fantasy bonanza that will come the following Sunday in Miami.
New Orleans Saints (vs. ATL): After getting Week 9 off the Saints return to action against a one-win Falcons team that may not have Matt Ryan Back at quarterback. It's also entirely possible that Dan Quinn will no longer be the team's head coach.
New York Giants (at New York Jets): If there's a battle for New York but no one cares does it make a sound? Sam Darnold's turning the ball over at a Jameis Winston-esque pace, and while both defenses are bad the Giants are the better Week 10 streaming play.