The fantasy world has successfully survived nine turbulent weeks and the playoff push is beginning with just four weeks of play left in the fantasy regular season. This week’s column will mark our tenth gathering to discuss fantasy kicker and D/ST options, and we will continue to hunt the most opportune matchups that will produce fantasy point totals to make opponents weep in defeat.
Bye weeks won’t cause any fantasy heartburn this week, as none of the four defenses with Week 10 byes warrant wasting a roster spot to carry them to Week 11. The 2015 fantasy contributions of the Falcons, Colts, Chargers, and 49ers are all below average, so feel free to boot these four defenses to the curb as they take the week off. Now, let’s jump in and check out the best Week 10 kicker and D/ST options in the latest installment of Getting Defensive.
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The following three D/ST choices are top 2015 performers and also have favorable Week 10 matchups.
The (1) Denver Broncos (vs Kansas City) had a lapse in defensive effectiveness last week at Indianapolis, and the team’s first loss of 2015 was the result. The Broncos defense failed to record a turnover and sacked Andrew Luck only once, while allowing an uncharacteristic 365 total yards. Despite the dud in Week 9, the Denver D/ST is our top Week 10 fantasy option as they return home to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver has allowed just three offensive touchdowns in 12 quarters at home this season, and has given up just 14.3 points per game while on their home turf. In addition, Kansas City has allowed Alex Smith to be sacked 29 times this season, the third-highest mark in the NFL. Despite the one week hiccup in performance, the Denver defense is still the top unit in the NFL and should produce for fantasy owners in a nice Week 10 matchup.
Week 9 was fairly disappointing for the (2) St. Louis Rams (vs Chicago) D/ST, as they recorded just one sack and one interception while losing at Minnesota. Despite the lack of fantasy-relevant playmaking, the Rams D/ST did allow only 293 yards to the Vikings offense and has still allowed just two touchdowns over the last three weeks. The moral of the story is that although the St. Louis defense failed to create any splashy defensive plays in Week 9, they still turned in a respectable defensive performance and are one of the NFL’s most fearsome groups. Week 10 brings a home matchup with the Chicago Bears, and the Rams D/ST will be top fantasy play as they have allowed just two offensive touchdowns in four 2015 home games.
The (3) Carolina Panthers (at Tennessee) defense is 11th in NFL scoring defense, a respectable mark, but have made their fantasy contributions through creating sacks and turnovers. The Panthers D/ST is fourth among NFL defenses in both the sack and turnover categories and will look to continue this trend in Week 10 at Tennessee. The Titans’ offense is markedly different with Marcus Mariota under center rather than Zach Mettenberger, but Tennessee still clocks in at third among NFL teams in turnovers, coughing up the ball 17 times so far in 2015. The Titans are also averaging a mere 15.8 points per game at home this season, so don’t let the road factor sway you from starting the Panthers D/ST this week.
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Respectable Week 10 Choices
The five D/ST options below are a cut below our top three but have some enticing qualities in their 2015 performance and/or Week 10 matchup.
The Week 10 opponent is the target of the (4) Green Bay Packers (vs Detroit) D/ST this week, as the Detroit Lions have been generous to fantasy defenses in 2015, leading the NFL in turnovers and registering 9th in sacks allowed. The Lions are coming off a bye, and hopefully they spent their off week preparing to run new OC Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, as the team managed just 10 points and 276 total yards in their first game under Cooter’s leadership. The main knock on the Green Bay defense, stopping the run, is partially negated in this matchup due to Detroit’s inability to run the ball at all in 2015. The Lions average just 69.6 rushing yards per game which checks in at 12.7 yards per game lower than any other NFL team.
The (5) Cincinnati Bengals (vs Houston) have been on a bit of a heater in recent weeks, allowing just two touchdowns and 20 total points over their last two games. The Bengals D/ST is also fifth among NFL defenses in sacks this season, and is slowly shaping into a solid group. Week 10 brings the Houston Texans to town, who are an interesting matchup. Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer has seemingly ditched his turnover-prone ways this season as he sports a solid 13 touchdown to three interception ratio, but the Texans are now without star running back Arian Foster. After losing Foster in Week 7, Houston scrounged up just 56 rushing yards in Week 8 and will be reliant on Hoyer to move the football for the remainder of the season. A home matchup with a potentially one dimensional team is reason enough to give the surging Bengals D/ST a shot this week.
Week 9 was productive for the (6) New York Jets (vs Buffalo) D/ST, as they stacked up six sacks and four turnovers against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The opportunistic performance was encouraging, as it followed a two-game road trip where the Jets defense was dismantled by New England and Oakland. Week 10 will bring the Buffalo Bills to MetLife Stadium, where the Jets D/ST will be a solid fantasy option. The Bills rely on the running game as they are second among NFL offenses, racking up 141.6 rushing yards per game this season. The strength of the Jets’ defense is stopping the run however, so this matchup should play right into the hands of DC Kacy Rodgers’ group.
The defense of the (7) Seattle Seahawks (vs Arizona) has been stout this season, although their diminutive sack and turnover totals have prevented this unit from contributing in the fantasy world as expected. The overall performance of this defense shouldn’t be discounted despite the lack of turnovers, and the Seahawks D/ST should be fully healthy and rested after enjoying a bye in Week 9. The offense of the Arizona Cardinals is nothing to sneeze at, but Seattle is historically tough at home and should be able to turn in a strong performance in what is essentially a must-win game for their divisional hopes. The Seattle defense has allowed five field goals and zero touchdowns over the last two weeks, so feel free to trust this group in the face of a tough matchup.
The (8) Arizona Cardinals (at Seattle) defense is near the top of the NFL in almost every defensive statistic, with the exception of sacks. That issue may be remedied this week as Arizona travels to Seattle for an exciting Sunday night matchup with the offensive line that is allowing the most sacks among all 32 NFL teams. The Cardinals D/ST has been a productive group in fantasy leagues this season, and that level of performance should continue this week against the Seahawks, who are just 24th in the NFL in scoring at 20.9 points per game.
Back End Options
These two defenses are on the road but warrant consideration and the back end of the top-10 this week.
A Week 10 matchup at Oakland is no layup for the (9) Minnesota Vikings (at Oakland) defense, but this group has been surprisingly solid this season and deserves our attention. The Vikings D/ST is third in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 17.5 points per game, and is allowing 220.6 passing yards per game, the sixth-best mark among NFL defenses. With Oakland running back Latavius Murray dealing with concussion issues this week, the pass defense of the Vikings will be put to the test by Derek Carr, who has been outstanding in 2015. The road matchup is not pretty as the Oakland offense is far from the usual punching bag it has been in past years, but the Vikings D/ST is still worth consideration this week.
The offense of the (10) New England Patriots (at NY Giants) often overshadows their defense, but the Patriots D/ST has been a respectable bunch recently, allowing just 17 total points over the last two weeks. The recipe of the Patriots taking an early lead and then bringing heat on opposing passers has worked for this defense, as the Patriots are tied for second among NFL defenses with 27 sacks in eight games. The Giants don’t allow sacks at a high clip, but with their offense averaging under 97 rushing yards per game and facing a high-octane offense, opportunities should be plentiful for the Patriots D/ST to make plays this week.
The five options below make solid Week 10 options for fantasy owners looking to stream a defense. They all come with warts, but have just enough potential to make them noteworthy this week.
The (11) Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Cleveland) don’t boast a world-beating defense by any means, but this group has played at a respectable level in 2015 and faces a cushy Week 10 matchup in the Cleveland Browns. Whether Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel is under center, the Browns check in at third among NFL teams in turnovers with 17 giveaways this season. Couple that unfortunate statistic with the fact that Cleveland owns the 31st-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, and we have ourselves a prime target for streaming defenses. The Steelers D/ST is owned in 42 percent of Yahoo leagues, so give them a shot if you’re on the prowl for a Week 10 streaming option.
The (12) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs Dallas) aren’t particularly great on the defensive side of the football, but they do draw a decent Week 10 matchup that should provide streaming interest for fantasy footballers. The Bucs will host Dallas and quarterback Matt Cassel this week, who chucked a trio of interceptions in his only road start of the season in Week 7. Cassel was decent in Week 9 but has been terrible in his other two 2015 starts and is the type of quarterback that can provide a defense with playmaking opportunities. The Cowboys will lean on the run with Darren McFadden as they have in recent weeks, but the Buccaneers D/ST allows only 3.7 rushing yards per attempt to opposing runners and is just 4 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, so this group may provide a useful Week 10 performance for fantasy owners in a bind.
The (13) Tennessee Titans (vs Carolina) D/ST was locked in a high-scoring affair in New Orleans in Week 9, but salvaged their fantasy efforts with four sacks and a pair of turnovers. The Titans are tied for seventh among NFL teams with 22 sacks on the season, which makes them intriguing from a fantasy perspective despite the fact that they are a mediocre defense from most other angles. The Tennessee defense does register sixth in total yards allowed per game at 329 yards, so this group at home in a game with a relatively low Vegas total of 43.5 is worth a look. The Titans D/ST is owned in just 9 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The (14) Baltimore Ravens (vs Jacksonville) have been getting roasted defensively this season, but streaming fantasy targets are largely based upon matchups and the Ravens host Blake Bortles and the Jaguars in Week 10. Bortles began the 2015 season respectably in the turnover department, but has been on an interception binge in recent weeks with six picks over his last three games. The final score of this game will likely reach high levels but the potential for turnovers is definitely present. The Ravens D/ST is owned in 33 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The magic pixie dust that interim coach Dan Campbell sprinkled on the (15) Miami Dolphins (at Philadelphia) after their Week 5 bye rubbed off in a hurry, as his defense has been slaughtered over the past two weeks. The Dolphins have allowed a total of 69 points in two road games and will be away from home for a third-straight contest in Week 10 when they visit Philadelphia. The Miami D/ST does have a few appealing factors this week, mainly in Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford who has thrown 10 interceptions this season. As a team, the Eagles are fifth in the NFL in giveaways and make the Miami defense, owned in 34 percent of Yahoo leagues, worth a look for desperate fantasy owners.
Thanks, But No Thanks
(16) Philadelphia Eagles (vs Miami)
(17) Dallas Cowboys (at Tampa Bay)
(18) Buffalo Bills (at NY Jets)
(19) Cleveland Browns (at Pittsburgh)
(20) Kansas City Chiefs (at Denver)
(21) Jacksonville Jaguars (at Baltimore)
(22) Oakland Raiders (vs Minnesota)
(23) Chicago Bears (at St. Louis)
(24) Houston Texans (at Cincinnati)
(25) New Orleans Saints (at Washington)
(26) Detroit Lions (at Green Bay)
(27) Washington Redskins (vs New Orleans)
(28) New York Giants (vs New England)
These five D/ST will be near the top of the Week 11 leaderboard. Plan accordingly.
Seattle (Week 11 vs San Francisco)
Carolina (Week 11 vs Washington)
NY Jets (Week 11 at Houston)
New England (Week 11 vs Buffalo)
Tennessee (Week 11 at Jacksonville)
Kickers Are People Too
1. Stephen Gostkowski (at NYG)
3. Brandon McManus (vs KC)
4. Josh Brown (vs NE)
5. Steven Hauschka (vs ARZ)
6. Blair Walsh (at OAK)
7. Chandler Catanzaro (at SEA)
8. Cairo Santos (at DEN)
9. Kai Forbath (at WAS)
10. Robbie Gould (at STL)
11. Sebastian Janikowski (vs MIN)
12. Mason Crosby (vs DET)
13. Dustin Hopkins (vs NO)
14. Caleb Sturgis (vs MIA)
15. Mike Nugent (vs HOU)