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Getting Defensive

Getting Defensive: Week 3

by Gary Davenport
Updated On: September 22, 2020, 10:04 am ET

So, Week 2 of the 2020 fantasy football season was … something.

The dominant storyline in fantasy football is no doubt the injuries that swept like a cyclone through the league on Sunday. Any number of prominent offensive players are either already hurt or went down in Week 2—including the first wide receiver and first two running backs taken in most fantasy drafts this summer.

One of those running backs (New York's Saquon Barkley) is done for the season with a torn ACL.

The defense wasn't spared the wrath of the injury gods either—including one elite defense in particular. On consecutive plays against the New York Jets, defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas were carted off the field with knee injuries. Bosa's has already been confirmed as a season-ending ACL tear. As of this writing, the team is still waiting on word on Thomas—because their MRI machine broke down.

It's been that kinda year in San Francisco.

The Niners signed edge-rusher Ezekiel Ansah on Monday, but combined with injuries to the likes of cornerback Richard Sherman and edge-rusher Dee Ford, San Francisco has gone from the first defense off the board in many drafts and an every-week fantasy start to a banged-up matchup play—at best.

And yet, the Niners lead off this edition of Getting Defensive—because the team they face Sunday got hit even harder than San Francisco did.

 

THE NO-DOUBTERS

San Francisco 49ers (at New York Giants)

The San Francisco defense is admittedly all kinds of chewed up by injuries defensively. But even short all those players on that side of the ball the 49ers still have considerable talent. The same can't be said for a Giants Offense that lost Barkley and wide receiver Sterling Shepard. It's not like the Giants were playing great offensive football before Barkley got hurt, but now it's a one-dimensional team with a bad offensive line. Against the Jets in Week 2, the 49ers didn't do much in the big play department, but the team did allow just one touchdown and less than 300 yards of total offense.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. New York Jets)

Fantasy managers who rolled the dice on the Colts in Week 2 after a less than impressive outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the opener were handsomely rewarded—the Colts piled up three sacks, three takeaways and a safety while allowing less than 200 total yards against the Minnesota Vikings. Now the Colts get to follow that up with a meeting against arguably the worst offense in the NFL in the New York Jets. The Jets led the NFL in fantasy points allowed to defenses in many scoring systems in 2019, and not a lot has changed in that regard this season.

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Carolina Panthers)

The Los Angeles Chargers didn't get the win last week in Justin Herbert's professional debut against the Kansas City Chiefs, but blame for that loss can't be laid on a defense that played the Chiefs about as well as you will see an opponent do it. This week the matchup is just a tad more favorable—a winless Carolina Panthers team that won't have the engine that drives their offense in running back Christian McCaffrey. Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times in last week's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it's not hard to imagine Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram pinning their ears back here with CMC on the sideline.

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Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Houston Texans)

There was a time when a matchup with Deshaun Watson and the Texans might have landed a team on the "Caveat Emptor" list for the week. But that was when DeAndre Hopkins was on the team. Without him, the Texans Offense has looked—average. Watson is averaging just 260 passing yards a game and change; he's thrown just two touchdown passes and he's already been sacked eight times in just two contests. The Steelers let the Denver Broncos back in the game last week, but Pittsburgh also tallied seven sacks and forced a pair of Denver turnovers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Denver Broncos)

The Buccaneers aren't without talent—the team led the NFL in run defense last year and features a front seven that includes tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge-rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul and linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White. But this matchup is less about Tampa's defensive personnel and more about their Week 3 matchup. The Broncos are another team that has been savaged by injuries—in Week 3 Denver will be without their starting quarterback in Drew Lock, their top wide receiver in Courtland Sutton  and arguably their best running back in Phillip Lindsay. Giddyup.

New England Patriots (vs. Las Vegas Raiders)

The Patriots Defense just got their heads handed to them by the Seahawks in Seattle—the Patriots allowed as many touchdown passes to wide receivers in that one game (four) as the team surrendered all of last season. But this week's matchup with the Raiders isn't against Russell Wilson and one of the league's most lethal passing attacks. It's against Derek Carr and an Oakland offense that didn't exactly tear it up through the air in 2019. Look for the patriots to focus on stopping Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller at Gillette Stadium Sunday in an effort to bait Derek Carr into making mistakes.

 

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Arizona Cardinals (vs. Detroit Lions)

This is Arizona's second straight week in this section—last week's 315 yards, 15 points, two forced turnovers and four sacks in a win over the  Washington Football Team was a solid effort from Vance Joseph's unit. It can be argued that the Lions have more talent offensively than Washington, but it can also be argued that the Lions are a worse team overall after getting drilled in Week 2 in Green Bay. With the way that the Cardinals are cooking on offense, the Lions are going to be pressured to play catch-up. And that sort of pressure leads to mistakes.

Washington Football Team (at Cleveland Browns)

The Washington Defense didn't have the success in Arizona that they enjoyed the week before against the Philadelphia Eagles, although rookie edge-rusher (and all-around monster of a football player) Chase Young got to the quarterback for the second straight week. The Cleveland offense looked a lot better against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 than it did the week before in Baltimore, but pass protection remains a question mark in Cleveland mark—as does Baker Mayfield's decision-making after he tossed his second interception in as many weeks against Cincy.

Tennessee Titans (at Minnesota Vikings)

The Tennessee Titans haven't played especially well defensively in 2020—this is a defense that just got gashed by the Jacksonville Jaguars to the tune of 480 yards of total offense and 30 points. But this isn't about the Titans. It's about the 11-alarm dumpster fire that was the Minnesota Vikings a week ago. The Vikings couldn't even manage 200 yards of offense against the Indianapolis Colts. Kirk Cousins was 11-of-26 passing for 113 yards and three picks. Minnesota allowed three sacks. And the team didn't find the end zone until well into garbage time.

Philadelphia Eagles (vs, Cincinnati Bengals)

The Philadelphia Eagles need a hug—the defending NFC East champions are 0-2, largely because they decided to get a head start on the injuries that have swept through the NFL. The defensive line in Philly was hit particularly hard, but if you watched Cincinnati's Week 2 loss in Cleveland you know that Philly's second-teamers will probably get home with regularity Sunday against Joe Burrow. Burrow isn't your typical rookie quarterback based on his first two games, but this is absolute desperation time in Philadelphia. A proud Eagles Defense will come up big and the Iggles will get win No. 1 of 2020.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Washington Football Team)

The flip side of Sunday's matchup in Cleveland is another viable streaming start defensively for many of the same reasons. Like Washington, the Browns boast a loaded defensive front that features one of the league's best edge-rushers in Myles Garrett. The Browns also face a young quarterback in Dwayne Haskins who is both not especially mobile (by which I mean he's a statue) and who occasionally makes curious decisions with the football. In totality the Browns aren't a good defensive team, but they don't have to be to have a successful fantasy outing against Washington's up-and-down offense.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

Baltimore Ravens (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)

The Ravens have opened the 2020 season playing very well defensively—the Ravens rank inside the top-five in fantasy points after two weeks in most scoring systems. But starting any defense against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs is asking for trouble—even with the Chiefs coming off a less-than-stellar offensive showing against the Los Angeles Chargers. When these teams met in Week 3 a year ago, the Chiefs prevailed at Arrowhead 33-28—in a game where Kansas City piled up 503 yards of total offense and didn't turn it over.

Chicago Bears (at Atlanta Falcons)

The Atlanta Falcons, after blowing a big lead in Dallas in the most Atlanta way imaginable, are 0-2 and reeling. The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, are the most surprising 2-0 team in the NFL. The thing is, while I have no problem believing the Falcons are bad, I'm not buying that the Bears are good—this is a team that was down 23-7 to Detroit in Week 1 and almost let a putrid Giants team back in the game in Week 2. The Falcons racked up 39 points last week against the Cowboys and have no shortage of offensive firepower. Chicago might win this game, but the defensive stats likely won't be great.

Gary Davenport

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report and a contributing author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2017 and 2019 FSWA awards for Football Writer of the Year. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.