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Getting Defensive: Week 6

Von Miller

Von Miller

JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK

This is a good stretch of the fantasy schedule to have a high-end defense. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys (at Los Angeles Rams), Buffalo Bills (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) and San Francisco 49ers (at Carolina Panthers) all posted top-five weeks in Week 5 thanks to favorable matchups. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta Falcons) cracked the top 10.

For some teams, the fun will continue in Week 6. The 49ers will travel to face the Falcons. The Buccaneers go to Pittsburgh to face the reeling Steelers. But for one elite fantasy defense, this is a week to think long and hard about either exploring another option or readying yourself for a less-than-ideal stat line.

Because this Sunday, the Bills are off to Kansas City to face the Chiefs.

The last time the Bills and Chiefs met in Kansas City was in last year’s Divisional Round. In that game, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen combined to throw for just over 700 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. The game featured 974 yards of offense, 53 first downs and 78 points. Each quarterback was sacked twice, but neither team turned it over.

This isn’t to say that you should drop Buffalo—that’s kooky talk. And there’s always a chance for a pick-six or punt return score that could salvage a decent fantasy output. But in Week 6 it appears far more likely that the Bills will finish outside the top 20 than inside the top five.

Sometimes you just have to eat a bad week.

Pass the Frank’s Hot Sauce. I put that **** on everything.

THE NO-DOUBTERS

San Francisco 49ers (at Atlanta Falcons)
There could be a little trouble brewing for the 49ers defensively—star edge-rusher Nick Bosa injured his groin last week, and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley tore his ACL in last week’s win over the Panthers. But the 49ers are the only team in the league allowing less than 250 yards per game. San Francisco leads the league in run defense, is tied with the Bills for the top spot in scoring defense, leads the NFL with 21 sacks and has more fantasy points than any other defense in the league. Other than that though, the Niners have just been OK defensively so far this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Buccaneers still haven’t hit their stride offensively, but Tampa’s defense has been in midseason form pretty much from the jump. The Buccaneers rank sixth in the league in total defense, sixth in pass defense, sixth in scoring defense, tied for third in takeaways with nine, third in sacks with 19 and fourth among team defenses in fantasy points. Those numbers make Tamps a solid play in just about any matchup. But in Week 6 the Buccaneers travel to take on a floundering Steelers offense that ranks 28th in yards per game, 30th in points per game and fourth in fantasy points allowed to defenses.

Los Angeles Rams (vs. Carolina Panthers)
Fantasy managers who invested in Aaron Donald and the Rams defense this year haven’t gotten the return on investment they expected—five weeks in, the Rams rank outside the top 15 in fantasy points. But if ever there was a week for the Rams to show up, this is it. So far this season, no team in the NFL has averaged fewer yards per game than the Panthers. Carolina fired Head coach Matt Rhule Monday. With Baker Mayfield banged up, P.J. “DynoMITE!” Walker will start at quarterback for the Panthers. And Carolina has surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to defenses so far this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars (at Indianapolis Colts)
There’s no sugarcoating this—the Jaguars laid a big fat egg last week against the Houston Texans, managing just one sack and failing to force a turnover in a 13-6 loss. But forgiveness is an important character trait, so we’ll give the jags one more shot. Even after that turkey, the Jaguars are still a respectable seventh among defenses in fantasy points for the season. And this week the Jags square off for the second time against a Colts team that leads the AFC in fantasy points allowed to defenses. When these teams last met in Week 2, the Jags tallied five sacks and three picks in a 24-0 shutout.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
The Eagles are the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team, and the Philly defense deserves plenty of credit for the hot start. Philadelphia ranks fourth in the league in total defense, fifth against the pass, 10th against the run, seventh in points allowed per game, fourth in sacks, tied for first in takeaways and third among all team defenses in fantasy points. The Cowboys are far from an ideal matchup—Dallas has surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to defenses this year. But the way the Eagles are playing defensively right now, you have to roll them out.

Baltimore Ravens (at New York Giants)
In fairness, the Ravens have their issues defensively—five weeks into the season, no team in the NFL is giving up more passing yards per game than the 290.2 Baltimore has allowed. But the Ravens are a respectable 12th against the run, tied for ninth in the league with 11 sacks, tied for the league lead with the Bills and Eagles in takeaways with 11 and ninth among defenses in fantasy points. The Giants may be 4-1, but they don’t have the passing-game weapons to take advantage of the Ravens’ issues in the secondary. This is a sneaky-good spot for Baltimore—especially if they can get a lead and pin their ears back.

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Green Bay Packers (vs. New York Jets)
After blowing a double-digit halftime lead last week against the Giants, it’s a safe bet that the 10-hour flight from London to Green Bay was not an especially pleasant one. However, it gave the Packers time to seethe and plot their vengeance. Yes, the Jets are a better team this year than last. But last week’s beatdown of the Dolphins had more to do with Miami than New York. Zach Wilson isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, and when pressured he still tends to either turtle or make bad decisions with the ball. This a get-right spot for Green Bay’s fifth-ranked defense after last week’s second-half letdown.

Cincinnati Bengals (at New Orleans Saints)
You don’t usually see a lot written or said about the Bengals defense—Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and the offense get all the love. But the Bengals aren’t a bad defensive football team—Cincinnati ranks 13th in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, tied for fourth in takeaways and 10th in fantasy points. This call is more about the matchup than the Bengals themselves, anyway—the Saints have surrendered 14 sacks, lead the NFL in giveaways with 13 and have allowed the third-most fantasy points in the league to team defenses.

Chicago Bears (vs. Washington Commanders)
No one is going to confuse this year’s Bears defense with the ’85 squad—Chicago ranks 22nd in total defense, 15th in scoring defense, near the bottom of the NFL in sacks and a moribund 22nd among defenses in fantasy points. But the Washington Commanders are coming to town to fix all that ails Da Bears—through five weeks the Commanders are second in the league in sacks allowed with 20, sixth in the NFL in giveaways and fifth in fantasy points surrendered to defenses. Just don’t subject yourself to watching this game if you can help it—it’s not going to be pretty.

New Orleans Saints (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)
The Saints were able to get the win last week, but it was a rough day for the defense—New Orleans allowed almost 400 yards of offense and 32 points, and after five weeks only five defenses have fewer fantasy points than the Saints. The Saints have been OK in terms of yardage allowed, but they have given up the fifth-most points per game. Still, there are a couple of reasons to have at least a modicum of confidence in the Saints as a matchup play—the Bengals have surrendered the third-most sacks in the NFL this season and (largely as a result) are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to defenses.

Carolina Panthers (at Los Angeles Rams)
This is not a play for the faint of heart—the Panthers have already parted ways with their head coach, and when last we saw the Carolina defense it was getting embarrassed at home by the 49ers. But consider this—interim head coach Steve Wilks is a defensive guy. The Panthers aren’t without talent on that side of the ball. And the Rams have allowed the most fantasy points to defenses in the league thanks to the whopping 21 times Matthew Stafford has already been sacked and the team’s 12 giveaways—second-most in the NFL.

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

Dallas Cowboys (at Philadelphia Eagles)
Make no mistake—the Cowboys are 4-1 because of their defense, plain and simple. Dallas is seventh in the league in total defense. Seventh against the pass. Third in scoring defense. Second in sacks with 20. Tied for fourth in the NFL in interceptions. And fourth in fantasy points after a first-place finish in 2021. But the Eagles are a bad matchup for reasons that go beyond the fact that Philly has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to defenses. The Cowboys can be run on—and the Eagles are the fourth-best rushing team in the league. The Dallas D may be OK Sunday night—but don’t expect much more than that.

Denver Broncos (at Los Angeles Chargers)
While Russell Wilson and the Denver offense have been stinking up the joint, the Denver defense has been keeping the Broncos’ season from coming off the rails. The Broncos are third in total defense, lead the league in pass defense, rank fourth in points allowed and have tallied the fourth-most sacks and eighth-most fantasy points among defenses. But injuries are mounting in Denver, with cornerback Ronald Darby and linebacker Josey Jewell the latest casualties and Sunday the Broncos will head west to take on a Chargers team giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to defenses this season.

Have a question about a team defense not listed here? Hit me up on Twitter at @IDPSharks and I’ll make like a Magic 8-Ball.