Fantasy football leagues grow more intense with each passing week, victory, and Monday Night Football nail-biter. This means roster spots are at a premium, with underperforming players getting the boot in favor of more productive options from the waiver wire. The fantasy special teams world is no different, with owners looking ahead to the regular season stretch run and identifying ways to maximize their weekly scores. With that in mind, the D/ST tiers below will look similar to previous weeks but we will now reach out further into the future for defenses to swipe from the waiver wire in anticipation of juicy matchups to come in our revamped “Looking Ahead” section. Tighten up those laces and buckle your chin strap as we break down the top fantasy defense and kicker options in fantasy football.
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The Fab Five
The top tier for Week 7 contains five fantasy defenses with welcoming matchups that can be trusted in all leagues.
Fantasy football’s top defense is back in action after a Week 6 bye, as the Minnesota Vikings (at Philadelphia) hit the road to take on the Eagles. Minnesota has been a top-10 fantasy defense in all five games so far this season, and the Vikings are allowing an absurd 12.6 points per game, the best mark in the NFL. The Week 7 matchup between Minnesota and Philadelphia has the lowest expected point total on the board according to the friendly folks in Las Vegas, so fantasy owners can expect another low point total allowed by the Vikings, which is paired nicely with a heaping helping of sacks.
The Denver Broncos (vs Houston) return home in Week 7 to face the Houston Texans and QB Brock Osweiler, who has thrown at least one interception in every game this season. A matchup with the quarterback responsible for the second-most interceptions in the NFL is a juicy spot for the heralded Broncos D/ST and this group has stacked up at least two sacks and a turnover in each game this season. The only potential roadblock in this matchup is the slumping Denver run defense, but even a solid game from Lamar Miller won’t prevent Osweiler from handing the Broncos D/ST valuable fantasy points.
As if life couldn’t get better for the New England Patriots (at Pittsburgh), Ben Roethlisberger is now dealing with a knee injury that will force backup QB Landry Jones into the starting lineup this week. The timing couldn’t be worse for the Steelers, who will host the Patriots this week as large home underdogs. Jones threw four interceptions last season in just 55 pass attempts, and showed similar flair for turning the ball over this preseason, where he threw four interceptions in 59 attempts. The Patriots will be playing with a lead throughout this game with ample opportunity for big plays.
Since Week 2, the Buffalo Bills (at Miami) have been playing at a high level defensively, stacking up 15 sacks and 10 turnovers in four games. Week 7 brings a trip to Miami, where the Bills will tee off on Ryan Tannehill. Tanny has chucked seven interceptions already this season and has been sacked 17 times, the third-most among NFL quarterbacks. Miami wasn’t a pushover at home for Pittsburgh last week, but the Bills D/ST is a far better group.
2016 has been disappointing for the Cincinnati Bengals (vs Cleveland), who have held just one of six opponents under 22 points. Week 7 should be a spot for the Bengals to improve however, when they host the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland has allowed its carousel of quarterbacks to be sacked 19 times this season, good for second-most in the NFL, and ran for a whopping 40 yards last week at Tennessee. Cody Kessler won’t overpower the Cincinnati defense at home, so Geno Atkins and his pals should have a field day.
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Tier Two Six Pack
The second tier of Week 7 defensive options is a mixed bag of mediocre defenses in gravy matchups and more impressive units dealing with less appealing opponents.
Coming off back-to-back six sack performances, the Tennessee Titans (vs Indianapolis) are licking their chops as they prepare to host the Colts and Andrew Luck, who has been sacked a league-high 23 times. The Indianapolis offense is light on playmakers at the moment and shouldn’t find too much offensive success while dealing with Tennessee’s pass rush. The Titans D/ST is available in 40 percent of Yahoo leagues and has a home date with Jacksonville in Week 8 as a nice sprinkle on top of your streaming pie.
The New York Jets showed the world their offensive ineptitude on Monday night as they managed a single field goal in a loss at Arizona. This week, the Baltimore Ravens (at NY Jets) will host the Jets, who are led by interception machine Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz leads the league with 11 interceptions this season, which plays right into the hands of the Ravens D/ST that is tied for fifth among NFL defenses in turnovers. The Ravens will miss LB Terrell Suggs (biceps) this week, but this unit has forced multiple turnovers in four of the last five weeks and should have plenty of opportunity for more against the Jets.
The run defense of the Green Bay Packers (vs Chicago) was blown to shreds in Week 6 by Ezekiel Elliott, but Week 7 should be much friendlier for the Packers when the Chicago Bears visit Lambeau Field. The Packers are huge favorites in Vegas at the moment and although the line on this game will likely drop some as Thursday approaches, the wise guys in Sin City do know a few things about the NFL. Teams playing as large home favorites are prime fantasy D/ST targets, and although Brian Hoyer has been very responsible with the football this season, the Green Bay defense is worth a look at home this week.
A tricky matchup awaits the Seattle Seahawks (at Arizona) this week when they travel to the desert to face the Cardinals. Seattle gave up a season-high 24 points in Week 6, but still helped fantasy owners with two turnovers and a four-pack of sack dances. The Seahawks have recorded three or more sacks in four of five games this season, a total they will attempt to add to while pressuring Carson Palmer. A road matchup against a top-10 offense isn’t the most inviting spot for a fantasy defense, but Seattle has won its last two games at Arizona by a combined score of 71-12.
The Arizona Cardinals (vs Seattle) turned in a fantastic defensive performance in Week 6, holding the Jets to a lone field goal in four quarters. Division rival Seattle will visit Arizona in Week 7, a much more difficult matchup for the Cardinals. Arizona is third among NFL defenses in sacks and although Seattle features a shaky offensive line, Russell Wilson has only been sacked 10 times this season. As noted above, Arizona has had issues with Seattle in their two previous meetings in Glendale but this fantasy defense has three top-3 fantasy finishes in six weeks and is still worth a start.
The blazing hot start of the Philadelphia Eagles (vs Minnesota) was dealt a blow in Week 6, as Washington racked up 493 total yards on the previously surging Eagles defense. Despite Philadelphia failing to record a sack and allowing 27 points, the Eagles D/ST was bailed out in a big way by a special teams and a defensive score. The Philadelphia defense may not be quite as stout as the first five weeks of the season promised, but the Minnesota offense isn’t scaring anyone and this matchup should be very low scoring.
The following four defenses are longer shots for production, but are widely available in fantasy leagues.
The Washington Redskins (at Detroit) are sixth in sacks through six weeks of play and will take on the Detroit Lions in Week 7, who have allowed Matthew Stafford to hit the turf 15 times already this season. The main issue with the Redskins defense is their lack of run stopping ability, but Detroit’s banged up group of running backs won’t be any cause for alarm this week. Washington has held three consecutive quarterbacks to under 230 passing yards and will look to continue that trend on Sunday.
2016 has not been kind to the defense of the New York Giants (at Los Angeles), as the team spent big free agent money on a defense that has just six sacks and three turnovers in six outings. Despite the lack of production from this group, Los Angeles QB Case Keenum is a fine streaming target and the Rams are 31st in the NFL in total offense. The Giants are owned in just 15 percent of Yahoo leagues and are worth a look for the streaming crowd.
Yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at San Francisco) have been smashed for 28.4 points per game this season and yes, they are playing on the road in Week 7. While this all may be true of the Tampa Bay defense, the San Francisco 49ers are an awful football team and present an interesting matchup for the Buccaneers D/ST. Tampa Bay is coming off a bye week and did turn in a solid performance against Derek Anderson and Carolina before taking Week 6 off. The 49ers have allowed 37.0 ppg since Week 1 and with Tampa Bay free to move the ball on offense as they please, the Bucs defense should have plenty of chances for impact plays. This one is not for the faint of heart, but the Buccaneers D/ST is available in 97 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The defense of the Oakland Raiders (at Jacksonville) has been a colossal disappointment in 2016, but a meeting with Blake Bortles is enough to kick start any defensive group. A combination of seven interceptions and 14 sacks through five games makes Bortles an attractive target for streaming a defense, and the Raiders D/ST is available in 57 percent of leagues after their slow start.
Below you will find a battle plan for the next few weeks, including how to handle defenses on bye, future streamers, and lesser-owned DST options with attractive upcoming schedules.
Week 7 Byes: Neither Dallas nor Carolina warrant rostering through the bye week. Adios.
Week 8 Potential Streaming Candidates
Tennessee Titans (Week 8 vs Jacksonville)
Kansas City Chiefs (Week 8 at Indianapolis)
NY Jets (Week 8 at Cleveland)
Cleveland Browns (Week 8 vs NY Jets)
D/ST Watch List
Kansas City (61 percent owned): The Chiefs draw a tough Week 7 matchup against New Orleans, but follow that game with a month of solid matchups at Indianapolis, vs Jacksonville, at Carolina, and vs Tampa Bay.
Tennessee (60 percent owned): Not only is Tennessee a quality streaming option in Week 7, but the Titans are home against Jacksonville in Week 8 as well.
Baltimore (34 percent owned): Baltimore is on bye in Week 8, but will return with a Week 9 home matchup against Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger, followed by a home date with Cleveland.
NY Jets (23 percent owned): The Jets are a wreck defensively at the moment, but have an interesting string of matchups beginning in Week 8 at Cleveland, followed by Week 9 at Miami and Week 10 at home against Los Angeles.
Take Your Kick
The top-16 kickers for Week 7 are ranked below. The Week 7 slate features multiple games with high expected point totals, giving us plenty of quality kicker options for the week.
1. Stephen Gostkowski, NE (at Pit)
2. Matt Bryant, ATL (vs SD)
3. Mike Nugent, CIN (vs CLE)
4. Cairo Santos, KC (vs NO)
5. Mason Crosby, GB (vs CHI)
6. Josh Lambo, SD (at ATL)
8. Brandon McManus, DEN (vs HOU)
9. Ryan Succop, TEN (vs IND)
10. Jason Myers, JAX (vs OAK)
11. Wil Lutz, NO (at KC)
12. Roberto Aguayo, TB (at SF)
13. Blair Walsh, MIN (at PHI)
14. Dustin Hopkins, WAS (at DET)
15. Steven Hauschka, SEA (at ARZ)
16. Dan Carpenter, BUF (at MIA)