After three weeks, who should we be streaming against in fantasy?
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One week’s a blip, two’s a trend, and three is a pattern. We’re extremely early in the fantasy football season but there are patterns that we can begin to trace together even this soon. And when patterns emerge, it is only in our natural instinct to hunt the weakest outliers in fantasy football. Yes, there’s already not a lot of reason to believe in some of these offenses and defenses, and it’s time to use it to win some matchups and make some money.
In the spirit of sticking to numerology for the sake of a column gimmick, let’s take that three and look at three offenses and three defenses that you should be targeting as we get into the separation weeks of the full-season slate.
The defenses to stream against
Jacksonville Jaguars: Even after being handed a 13-7 lead at halftime, the Jaguars allowed 17 more points and Trevor Lawrence put a pick-six up for Arizona’s defense. The Jaguars have allowed at least 291 passing yards to each of the three quarterbacks they’ve faced, and two of them are Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater. Their offense is turnover-prone and creates short fields. Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen has never been an NFL coordinator before and it has shown.
The Jaguars backed off to more zones against Arizona after losing their blitz gambles to try to create pressure in their first two games, but there’s just not a lot of established high-level talent here. The gambles will likely continue. They were a bad defense in 2020 and after a lot of draft investment and a few moderate free-agent signings, they are a bad defense now.[[ad:athena]]
Week 4-6 opponents: @CIN, vs. TEN, vs. MIA
Kansas City Chiefs: While it’s only been three games, and two of them are against premier AFC North run-first teams, it’s preposterous how bad Kansas City’s defense has been. Justin Herbert didn’t throw a pick and threw for 275 yards and four scores. Baker Mayfield averaged 11.5 yards per attempt against them while the run offense of the Browns averaged 5.9 yards per carry. The Ravens pounded them for 6.1 yards per carry and 251 total rushing yards. Now, it’s one thing to absorb those numbers and say “okay, but the Chiefs have good defensive players and Steve Spagnuolo is a reputable defensive coordinator.” But you can also look at a team that finished 22nd in defensive DVOA in 2020, including second-to-last in rush defense DVOA, and see this as one big powder keg for shootouts. The Chiefs made an emphasis on the offensive line after last year’s embarrassing Super Bowl defeat, and maybe rightfully so, but they also allowed 31 points in that game and not all of it was about field position.
Week 4-6 opponents: @PHI, vs. BUF, @ WAS
Tennessee Titans: Carson Wentz only threw for 194 yards against this defense, but I’m here to tell you that on zero strong ankles his performance was not really NFL-caliber. The Colts endangered him and his own instincts of self-preservation took over at times. In each of their other two games, the Seahawks and Cardinals lit the Titans up for a bushel of yards. Heck, the Colts ran for 4.8 yards per attempt despite a disastrous minus-seven yard carry and the fact that Wentz’s ankles let the Titans stack up against it whenever they wanted to.
This defense was bad last year. The Titans spent heavily on Bud Dupree, Denico Autry, and Janoris Jenkins to try to fix what ailed them in a hurry. But they brought back embattled Shane Bowen as defensive coordinator, and only Wentz playing quarterback like he had each leg stuck in a Fisher-Price Car has not made mincemeat of this unit. Well ... Zach Wilson might make them look good too.
Week 4-6 opponents: @NYJ, @JAX, vs. BUF
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The offenses to stream against
New York Jets: When we send out headlines on the main Twitter account like “Unwatchable Jets make eyes bleed in shutout loss,” we don’t use these words lightly. The Jets are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t scored 30 points since the 2020s begun, and nothing in Zach Wilson‘s first three starts should give us any faith that will change soon. Wilson was picked twice by the Broncos and sacked five times. He was supported by a running game that had 12 non-quarterback carries for 41 yards and was often having to fight backfield penetration to even get back to the line of scrimmage. First-time OC Mike LaFleur has not exactly called a great game plan, but the Jets came into this year with no real backup plan for Wilson not being an instant success and they are now suffering for it. That means it’s our job to feast on it.
Week 4-6 opponents: vs. TEN, @ ATL, BYE
Chicago Bears: Well, I mean, it’s hard to not talk about a team in a negative light when they manage one net passing yard in 20 dropbacks. The interesting thing about this situation to me is that the Bears have bounced back from being a garbage offense before, as recently as last year, when Matt Nagy gave the controls to Bill Lazor and Lazor fixed the run game and rode an easy schedule to a string of wins. But of course there was no talk about that after the game, and instead there was Nagy issuing the typical vague coachspeak paraphrases of “it’s on me.”
I don’t think the Bears are hopeless with Justin Fields, but whatever’s not working here is baked in to the coaching itself in such a way that it’s hard to imagine real change without accountability. Such as Nagy giving up the play-calling duties again. Monitor press conferences on a weekly basis, but as long as Nagy is spouting his weird platitudes where he pretends that the starting quarterback is a scheme question, it’s probably safe to keep streaming against the Bears.
Week 4-6 opponents: vs. DET, @LV, vs. GB
Atlanta Falcons: I know, there are a lot of more notable quarterback situations to pick on. Davis Mills is out there, why aren’t we targeting him? But folks, the Falcons have cracked 17 points once in three games. Matt Ryan has thrown two pick-sixes and his average target distance through three weeks of data is just 4.6 air yards, which is lower than any qualifying quarterback not named Andy Dalton. That stat tells a lot about a major problem: Ryan’s offensive line has been decimated. Ryan has taken at least six quarterback hits in each of the three games Atlanta has played, and only his acumen at getting rid of the ball on time has kept this from being a full-on sack party. And when this team max protects, they remove Kyle Pitts from the route tree which makes them even less threatening.
Arthur Smith knows a lot more about offensive football than I do, and that’s one reason to be nervous about streaming against the Falcons. But if you can’t make the entire plane out of play-action, and the personnel you have creates situations like “six targets for Olamide Zaccheaus,” that’s not a great place to anchor an offense to. Regardless of how good Ryan is.
Week 4-6 opponents: vs. WAS, vs. NYJ, @ MIA