Five weeks of the NFL season have wrapped up and bye weeks are now in full swing. Before we dig into Week 6 D/ST and kicker options, let’s take a brief minute to discuss the defenses that are on bye this week. Fantasy owners won’t pay much mind to the Dallas, Oakland, and Tampa Bay defenses but the St. Louis Rams have the potential to cause a roster conundrum while not playing this week. When debating whether or not to hold a fantasy defense through a bye week, the past performance of the defense and their upcoming schedule are the two main components to be cognizant of. The Rams are seventh in fantasy scoring so far in 2015, and will come out of the Week 6 bye with Cleveland, San Francisco, Minnesota, and Chicago in weeks 7-10. With the sack prowess and overall talent of the St. Louis defense combined with a friendly post-bye schedule, I would advise holding this group as long as it does not mean cutting a productive player for a replacement defense. Any questions on this topic can be thrown in my direction on Twitter at @Jeff_Brubach.
Now, let’s check out what Week 6 has to offer in the world of fantasy football special teams.
Week 6 Six-Pack
The (1) Denver Broncos (at Cleveland) continue to roll and Week 6 should be no different. Among the many statistical successes of the Denver defense this season, their 22 sacks through five games is awfully impressive and will be a major problem this week for a Cleveland team that has allowed 18 sacks this season, good for third-worst in the NFL. Yes, the Cleveland offense has been humming recently under Josh McCown but Denver has a far more imposing defensive unit than the teams occupying Cleveland’s recent schedule.
The (2) New York Jets (vs Washington) are back after a bye, and will take on Washington and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins threw two interceptions last week, giving him three games this season with multiple picks. The Jets defense should have no problem capitalizing on Cousins and the Washington offense, as they have been near the top of the NFL in nearly all defensive statistics this season since Week 1. The Jets are second in total yardage and passing yardage per game, while allowing 13.8 points per game, the lowest mark in the NFL. An interception-prone quarterback with a running game averaging just 88.7 yards per game over the last three weeks sounds like an excellent spot for the Jets D/ST.
Leading the NFL in interceptions is the defense of the (3) Arizona Cardinals (at Pittsburgh), who must have been licking their chops as they watched Pittsburgh’s Michael Vick throw the ball on Monday night. Vick completed just 13 of 26 passes in Week 5, and has just a 63.8 completion percentage while filling-in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger. This matchup is an excellent spot for the opportunistic Arizona defense to take advantage of an inaccurate passer and chip in a nice point total for fantasy teams.
The defense of the (4) Seattle Seahawks (vs Carolina) folded like a lawn chair late in Week 5, but looked solid through three quarters on the road at Cincinnati. As we know, the Seattle defense is a different beast at home and they return home to face the Panthers in Week 6. Carolina is 25th among NFL teams in total offense and simply doesn’t have the weapons to move the ball against Seattle at home. The turnover totals haven’t been what we are used to seeing from the Seahawks, but this group will be tough at home where they have allowed ten total points in two games this season.
The (5) Green Bay Packers (vs San Diego) have been solid in pass defense this season, allowing just 186.2 passing yards per game, good for fourth-best in the NFL. Run defense hasn’t been as easy for the Packers, but San Diego has not had much success running the ball in 2015 and recorded just 52 rushing yards against Pittsburgh in Week 5. The Packers defense is second behind Denver in sacks with 20 on the season, and should be a solid fantasy contributor at home as a large favorite against San Diego.
The offensive struggles of the Seattle Seahawks have been well documented, and the (6) Carolina Panthers (at Seattle) will attempt to keep Russell Wilson and his offense down in Week 6. Seattle is allowing sacks at an alarming rate this season, with Wilson being sacked 22 times in five games. The Panthers have also had solid success on the defensive side of the ball this season, allowing just 17.8 points per game, while holding the seventh-best slot among NFL defenses in stopping opposing running games. Playing on the road as a healthy underdog isn’t always the best spot for a fantasy defense, but this group is good enough to keep Seattle in check.
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Second Tier Material
The success of the (7) Tennessee Titans (vs Miami) defense is partially opponent infused, but this group still has produced solid numbers this season. The Titans are third in total yards allowed per game and lead all 32 NFL teams in pass defense, allowing only 166.5 yards through the air each week. This Sunday, the Titans face a Miami team that is fresh off a coaching change and the proud owner of the 28th worst offense in the NFL. As an added bonus, the Titans D/ST is just 4% owned in Yahoo leagues.
The (8) New England Patriots (at Indianapolis) are a bit of an odd bunch, as garbage time has often played a large role in the final defensive numbers from this group. Despite some hiccups in opponent yardage, the Patriots are still averaging a cool four sacks per game and have six interceptions in four contests. If Andrew Luck sits out again, you can bump the Patriots D/ST up even higher but while playing as a large favorite, this group is well worth a start in Week 6.
The Buffalo offense is scuffling of late, making the (9) Cincinnati Bengals (at Buffalo) a decent D/ST option this week. Buffalo has scored just 24 total points over the last two weeks while averaging a mere 261 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has also completed just 64.4 percent of his passes over the last two weeks after registering a 74.4 percent completion rate over the season’s first three games. The Bengals have been solid in the sack and turnover categories this year, so if they can keep Buffalo on its recent offensive skid, a worthwhile fantasy performance should be the result.
The (10) Philadelphia Eagles (vs NY Giants) are allowing just 13.5 points per game in two home games this season, and have had far more success at Lincoln Financial Field than on the road. This week, the Giants come to town and with the success of the Philadelphia defense in the running game, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry and 96.8 yards per game to opposing rushers, the Eagles could make the Giants one dimensional in a hurry. The Giants are just 26th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and forcing offenses to abandon half of their play book generally leads to good things for opposing defenses.
The ranking of the (11) Baltimore Ravens (at San Francisco) this week is more about the matchup with San Francisco than the talent on the Baltimore defense. The 49ers may not have handed the New York Giants the fantasy D/ST performance we hoped for last week, but this is still the same offense that scored ten total points in weeks three and four with Colin Kaepernick behind the wheel. Even on the road, the Ravens D/ST is worth a look in this matchup with Kaepernick, who has thrown five interceptions and four touchdowns this season.
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The (12) Minnesota Vikings (vs Kansas City) have an interesting matchup this week with a deflated Kansas City team that just lost a heartbreaking game at home and their star running back in the same afternoon. The Vikings have not been good against the run, but with Kansas City’s ground game a sketchy proposition as Jamaal Charles undergoes surgery, perhaps this group can contain Charcandrick West and Knile Davis. The Chiefs are also tied for first among NFL teams in sacks allowed, so fantasy point potential is definitely present here. If the Chiefs’ running game doesn’t take off, Alex Smith, who has thrown two touchdowns in the last four weeks, won’t be able to tackle the Minnesota defense on his own.
Credit DC Joe Barry with the improvement of the (13) Washington Redskins (at NY Jets) defense this season, as this group is coming together quite nicely. Washington is sixth among NFL teams in total yards allowed, and has been quite stout against opposing passing games this season, registering eighth in the league with 216.4 passing yards allowed per game. Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown six interceptions in four games and at least one in each contest, so the potential for turnovers makes this game worth noting. A Vegas over/under of just 40.5 gives even more reason to look at the Redskins as a streaming target. The Washington D/ST is just one percent owned in Yahoo leagues.
Rex Ryan’s (14) Buffalo Bills (vs Cincinnati) have looked better on defense the last couple weeks but draw a tough matchup this week in the Cincinnati Bengals. Andy Dalton’s offense is second in the NFL with 421.4 total yards of offense per game this season and Buffalo was stomped at home by the only other quality offense they faced this year, as they lost to New England 40-32. I’m not ready to write this defense off but they won’t be of much use this week even at home.
The (15) Detroit Lions (vs Chicago) are coughing up 27.6 points per game and have been a wreck on both offense and defense this season. Although the Lions D/ST has given up points and yards by the bucket-full, they are in the top-10 among NFL teams in sacks and forced turnovers. Playing at home this week against a Chicago offense that doesn’t strike fear into opponents and has multiple wide receivers in varying stages of injury recovery, this could be a spot to give the Lions a shot if you’re in a deeper league.
The last two weeks have been kind to the (16) Atlanta Falcons (at New Orleans), as defensive scores have boosted the fantasy stock of the Falcons D/ST. This week, Atlanta hits the road to face the Saints and will have a tougher matchup on their hands. Atlanta has been tough against the run this season, but is still vulnerable to the pass and Drew Brees should be able to move the ball through the air at home. Brees has thrown for 347 yards per game since returning from his one week injury absence.
It is hard to endorse a defense that has forced just two turnovers in five games, and that is what we have on our hands with the (17) Houston Texans (at Jacksonville). Houston is also tied for 29th in the NFL with just six sacks on the season, and won’t be a useful fantasy option this week on the road.
The (18) Jacksonville Jaguars (vs Houston) were in a prime spot last week and promptly collapsed while giving up 38 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game where Jameis Winston completed just 13 passes. Playing at home against Houston would normally be a good spot to stream a defense but the Jaguars’ Week 5 implosion plus the relative success of Brian Hoyer last Thursday keeps this defense on the outskirts of Week 6 options.
Surprisingly, the (19) Chicago Bears (at Detroit) are trending the right way on defense, allowing an average of just 265 total yards per game over there current two-game winning streak. Derek Carr and Alex Smith may not be Joe Montana and Steve Young, but the improvement from the Chicago defense is encouraging. A matchup against the Detroit Lions, who gave the world a glimpse of Dan Orlovsky last week and are 26th in the NFL in total offense, is a decent spot for John Fox’s group.
These defenses either aren’t good enough to warrant fantasy consideration, face a high-scoring opposing offense, or both.
(20) New York Giants (at Philadelphia)
(21) Kansas City Chiefs (at Minnesota)
(22) Miami Dolphins (at Tennessee)
(23) Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Arizona)
(24) San Diego Chargers (at Green Bay)
(25) Cleveland Browns (vs Denver)
(26) Indianapolis Colts (vs New England)
(27) San Francisco 49ers (vs Baltimore)
(28) New Orleans Saints (vs Atlanta)
Here are a few defenses to keep in mind when looking a week ahead at potential juicy defensive matchups.
Seattle (Week 7 at San Francisco)
Washington (Week 7 vs Tampa Bay)
Buffalo (Week 7 at Jacksonville)
NY Giants (Week 7 vs Dallas)
Kickers Are People Too
1. Matt Bryant (at NO)
2. Stephen Gostkowski (at IND)
3. Mason Crosby (vs SD)
4. Brandon McManus (at CLE)
5. Adam Vinatieri (vs NE)
6. Chandler Catanzaro (at PIT)
8. Josh Brown (at PHI)
9. Steven Hauschka (vs CAR)
10. Cairo Santos (at MIN)
11. Robbie Gould (ate DET)
12. Josh Lambo (at GB)
13. Zach Hocker (vs ATL)
14. Nick Folk (vs WAS)
15. Caleb Sturgis (vs NYG)