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Getting Defensive: Week 3

Parsons was 'one-man wrecking crew' vs. Jets
Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss Micah Parsons' dominant showing against the New York Jets and why the Dallas Cowboys star could be in MVP contention in 2023.

Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way for the New York Jets . The team made arguably the biggest splash of the entire offseason by trading for Aaron Rodgers . The Jets offense was going to be more prolific and less punchline.

But then Rodgers went down with an Achilles tear - and Zach Wilson became the team’s starting quarterback again.

Last year, with Wilson running the show part of the year, the Jets were 25th in the league in total offense and 29th in scoring offense. Eighth in fantasy points allowed to team defenses. The year before that, they were seventh.

Last week against the Dallas Cowboys , that inept offense was back at it. The Jets managed just 215 yards of total offense. New York turned it over four times. Wilson was sacked three times. The Cowboys were fantasy’s third-highest scoring defense.

The Jets have become an offense to target aggressively with fantasy defenses again. With edge-rusher Matthew Judon and the New England Patriots coming to MetLife Stadium in Week 3, last year’s highest-scoring fantasy defense is one of this week’s top plays.


Dallas Cowboys (at Arizona Cardinals)

At this point, you can just about Gorilla Glue Micah Parsons and the Dallas defense into this section of this column - two weeks into the season, the Cowboys have outscored their opponents 70-10 and Dallas has been all but unstoppable defensively. Edge-rusher Micah Parsons can’t be blocked, Stephon Gilmore and Trevon Diggs might be the best duo at cornerback in the NFL. While the Cardinals have been more competitive than most expected, we’re still talking about a winless team that will be a massive underdog.

San Francisco 49ers (vs. New York Giants)

It’s gotten lost somewhat in how well Dallas has played defensively this year, but the 49ers are nothing to sneeze at defensively either. Granted, the team came down to earth a bit last week against a feisty Rams squad, but these are still the same 49ers who went into Pittsburgh in Week 1 and obliterated the Pittsburgh Steelers . It’s still pretty early to give this season’s fantasy points against data too much weight, but after opening the season with six quarters of truly atrocious football, only the Chicago Bears have given up more fantasy points to defenses this season than the G-Men.

Philadelphia Eagles (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

We are about to find out just how good the Baker Mayfield-led Buccaneers are - after two wins over teams with a combined 0-4 record, this week the Bucs have to take on the defending NFC champions. After logging a pair of sacks and three takeaways in last week’s shootout win over the Minnesota Vikings , the Eagles are fourth among defenses in fantasy points, and while this Eagles defense isn’t piling up big plays at last year’s breakneck pace, it was never realistic to expect them to. The Tampa offensive line is going to have its hands full with Philly’s loaded defensive front.

Buffalo Bills (at Washington Commanders)

After getting stunned by the Jets in the season opener, the Bills looked more like the AFC heavyweight we expected them to be last week against the Raiders. In throttling Vegas 38-10, the Bills held the Raiders under 250 yards of offense, gave running back Josh Jacobs the single worst game of his entire career, forced three turnovers and finished the week eighth among all defenses in fantasy points. The Commanders put 35 points on the Denver Broncos last week, but the gulf in talent between the two defenses is significant.

New York Jets (vs. New England Patriots)

The Jets cracked defensively last week in Dallas, and to be fair there are going to be weeks that will happen - where the offense will leave the defense in such an untenable position that they just can’t hold up. But in the season opener against a quality opponent in the Buffalo Bills , the Jets logged five sacks, forced four Josh Allen turnovers, scored a touchdown on a punt return and posted one of the biggest fantasy scores of the week. Don’t count Quinnen Williams and Co. - especially against an up-and down offense like the Patriots that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to defenses.

Baltimore Ravens (vs. Indianapolis Colts)

It’s only two weeks into the 2023 season, but as things stand now the Ravens look like the class of the AFC North - and the defense deserves quite a bit of the credit for that. Two weeks ago against the Houston Texans , the Ravens logged five sacks and a takeaway on the way to a solid fantasy line. It’s not yet known whether rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson will clear the concussion protocol ahead of Sunday’s trip to Baltimore, but whether it’s Richardson or Gardner Minshew , this is still a solid matchup for the Ravens.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (at Las Vegas Raiders)

Will the real Pittsburgh Steelers defense please stand up? In Week 1, the Steelers were throttled at home by the San Francisco 49ers . In Week 2, the Steelers gave up 408 yards of total offense and 22 points, but the team piled up plays galore. The Steelers sacked Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson six times. Forced four turnovers. And took two of those turnovers (a fumble and an interception) back for touchdowns. That landed the Steelers the most fantasy points of any defense in Week 2, and now they face a Raiders team that was just blasted in Buffalo and which hasn’t scored 20 points in a game yet this season.

Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Chicago Bears)

Last week, there wasn’t a game with a bigger Over/Under in Las Vegas than the meeting in Jacksonville between the Jags and Chiefs. Now, part of the Jaguars’ offensive struggles in that one lie at their own feet, but spurred on by the return of Chris Jones , the Chiefs allowed just 271 yards of total offense and got to Trevor Lawrence four times. Chicago’s supposedly improved offense is once again a one-dimensional, turnover-prone mess, and last week against the Bears the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got to Justin Fields six times and logged a pick-six.

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Houston Texans)

The Chiefs weren’t the only defense that played surprisingly well last week in Jacksonville - the Jaguars held Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to just 17 points while logging three takeaways. Now the Jaguars go from playing one of the best teams in the NFL to playing arguably the worst, and while the Texans showed some signs of life last week against the Colts, we’re still talking about a Houston team that has allowed a league-high 11 sacks and the sixth-most fantasy points to defenses. Until we see otherwise, the Texans are a matchup to target defensively.

Green Bay Packers (vs. New Orleans Saints)

Green Bay’s defense is smarting after playing a part in blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead last week in Atlanta, but in a plus matchup with the Chicago Bears in Week 1 it was a different story - four sacks, two takeaways and a defensive touchdown. The New Orleans Saints will come into Lambeau Field undefeated, but they also roll in as a team that has struggled offensively and has been a decent matchup for opposing defenses - two weeks in, the Saints rank 10th in fantasy points allowed to the position and 25th in scoring offense.

Miami Dolphins (vs. Denver Broncos)

On the surface, this might not appear that favorable a fantasy matchup - the Dolphins have already been involved in one shootout this season, and the Broncos just dropped 33 points on the Washington Commanders. But after struggling defensively against the Chargers, the Dolphins looked much better defensively against the Patriots in Week 2, sacking Daniel Jones four times and logging a pair of takeaways. While Denver’s offense played well last week, against the Raiders in Week 1 they managed just 16 points and 260 yards of offense.

Tennessee Titans (at Cleveland Browns)

Not that long ago, this recommendation would have been flipped, with the Browns being hailed as a matchup play against a Titans team that looked awful offensively in the season opener. But once Nick Chubb got hurt against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Deshaun Watson fell apart, and that came after a pick-six on his first throw of the game. No team in the NFL was harder to run on last year than Tennessee, and the cold, hard truth is the last time we saw Watson carry an offense with any level of competence was in 2020. The Titans are a sneaky matchup play in Week 3.

Have a question about another team defense? Ask Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks