It was bound to happen sooner or later. It does every year. At some point, a defense with a cherry matchup was going to lay a big fat egg.
Said egg came in London on Sunday afternoon (or evening, depending on which side of the Atlantic you're on).
The Chicago Bears appeared to be set up about as well as fantasy owners can reasonably expect in Week 5. Not only were the Bears facing an Oakland Raiders team that ranks in the bottom half of the NFL in total offense, but the Raiders were playing without their best wide receiver in Tyrell Williams.
However, the fact that Oakland ranked outside the top-25 in fantasy points allowed to defenses over the first four weeks of the year was a red flag. We should have paid more attention to it—the Bears didn't register a sack, notched just two turnovers and surrendered almost 400 yards of total offense and 24 points in a stunning three-point loss.
Does that setback mean the Bears are waiver wire fodder? Of course not—Chicago's one of a select few defenses worth holding through their Week 6 bye. But it's a reminder that no matter how great a fantasy matchup looks on paper, NFL games aren't played on paper.
Now let's shake off the stink of that putrescent performance and take a look at the team defense landscape in Week 6.
New England Patriots (vs. New York Giants)
If you picked up the Patriots Defense before the season started, you hit an unexpected gold mine. The Patriots aren’t just the No. 1 scoring fantasy defense through five weeks—they've more than doubled up the No. 2 defense in many scoring systems and have scored on-par with a top-five running back or wide receiver in terms of fantasy points per game. Granted, it's partly been due to a schedule that's a who's who of the NFL's tomato cans, but the Patriots are first in the NFL in total defense. And scoring defense. And in sacks. And in takeaways. The Giants aren't the worst team the Pats have faced this year, but they ain't good either—and the game's at Gillette on a short week. Giddyup.
Dallas Cowboys (at New York Jets)
Speaking of washing off the stink, the Cowboys will be scrubbing Aaron Jones' footprints off their foreheads until Wednesday at least after the Packers wrecked Dallas at Jerruh World. Luckily for the Dallas defense, Week 6 brings a cure for all that ails them in the form of the giant poo-pile that is the New York Jets. The Jets didn't even hit 150 yards of total offense Sunday in Philadelphia and allowed two defensive touchdowns. It's entirely possible that Sam Darnold will be back under center for the Jets at Met Life Stadium provided that his spleen cooperates, but an angry Dallas defense is going to tee off on whatever poor schmuck is playing at quarterback.
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Denver Broncos (vs. Tennessee Titans)
Big things were expected from Vac Fangio's defense in 2019, but it took the Denver Broncos almost a month to notch their first sack and five weeks to get their first takeaway of the season. However, the Broncos are coming off their best defensive effort of the season—246 yards and zero offensive touchdowns allowed on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5. The Broncos tallied three takeaways against the Bolts as well, and it appears Fangio's unit is coming together just in time to face a Tennessee Titans squad that is sputtering offensively of late. In two of their last three games, the Titans have scored just a single touchdown.
Green Bay Packers (vs. Detroit Lions)
To the Lions' credit, the team's been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019 season—Detroit gave the Kansas City Chiefs all they could handle in Week 4 and have rebounded well from squandering a lead late in Arizona back in Week 1. But the Packers are playing that much better—especially defensively. Through five games, the Packers rank inside the top-10 in the NFL in sacks, lead the NFC with 11 takeaways and are a top-five fantasy unit after notching three sacks and three takeaways in last week's big win in Dallas against the Cowboys. If Green Bay can be fantasy-relevant on the road against the Cowboys, there's no reason to think they can't be at home against the Lions on Monday night.
Baltimore Ravens (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)
The Baltimore Ravens are 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North, but a defense long known as being among the best in the NFL is having all kinds of problems this year. In fact, only the miserable Dolphins have allowed more yards per play than the 6.7 a pop the Ravens are giving up in 2019. Still, the Ravens caught a break from the schedule in Week 6, when they'll host a winless Bengals team that's done very few things right in 2019. The Bengals are 26th in total offense, 29th in scoring offense at just 16 points per game, have allowed the fourth-most sacks and fantasy points to team defenses and have the worst turnover ratio of any team in the AFC not named the Miami Dolphins.
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Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Chargers lost "No-Doubter" status on Sunday against the Broncos—they were absolutely gashed by Phillip Lindsay and allowed a long touchdown pass from Joe freaking Flacco is a loss to a previously winless Denver team. But the Chargers are still very much on the streaming radar this week against a Steelers team that just can't catch a break this season. After Mason Rudolph was forced from last week's loss to the Ravens by a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit, the Steelers were forced to turn to an undrafted rookie at quarterback. It will more likely than not be Devlin Hodges under center when the Steelers travel to face the Chargers on Sunday night.
Washington Redskins (at Miami Dolphins)
Week 6 brings with it a matchup so butt-ugly that its own mother slapped a bag over its head—the 0-5 Washington Redskins (who just fired head coach Jay Gruden) at the 0-4 Miami Dolphins. There isn't enough tequila on this planet to make this game watchable. But there could be a silver lining in it for fantasy owners with bye week issues defensively—a pair of rotten defenses playing even more rotten offenses. Of the two, give me the Redskins (said no one ever)—the Dolphins have managed just 225 yards of total offense and a pathetic 6.5 points per game while allowing the most fantasy points to team defenses by a sizable margin.
Carolina Panthers (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Most of the conversation regarding Carolina's three-game winning streak has centered on young quarterback Kyle Allen and the exploits of tailback Christian McCaffrey. But the Panthers Defense has done its part as well. Through five games, the Panthers are eighth in total defense, lead the NFC with 20 sacks, are tied for fourth in the NFL with eight takeaways and rank well inside the top 10 in fantasy points in most scoring systems. There's some risk involved in trusting any defense in London (as we found out last week with the Bears), but the Buccaneers rank inside the top-five in fantasy points allowed to the position.
San Francisco 49ers (at Los Angeles Rams)
This isn't a great week for streaming options defensively—as evidenced by the fact that the 49ers are included here in a matchup with the defending NFC champions. Of course, the Los Angeles Rams haven't exactly played like a Super Bowl contender of late. The Rams are tied for the NFL lead in giveaways with 11 and rank inside the top-10 in fantasy points surrendered to team defenses. If starting the 49ers isn't your speed, the flip side of the coin is a similar matchup—the Niners haven't been quite as good a fantasy matchup this season, but the Rams are playing at home and have no shortage of defensive talent. Both are rather dart throws—but it's that kind of week.
Miami Dolphins (vs. Washington Redskins)
Admittedly, this recommendation requires certain amount of bravery. Or maybe an entire bottle of root beer Schnapps. The Miami Dolphins have allowed a staggering 472 yards of offense and almost 41 points per game this year. That's…not good. But if there's one week this year when the Dolphins Defense might actually have a modicum of fantasy value in 2019, it's in Week 6. The Washington Redskins are almost as bad as the Dolphins are this year—so bad that Jay Gruden was called into the office at 5 AM on Monday and told to turn in his whistle. Only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to defenses this season, and no team in the NFL has more turnovers than Washington's 11.
Buffalo Bills (vs. Miami Dolphins)
The Bills are 4-1 in no small part because of a stout defense that's especially difficult to throw the ball against. With this primo matchup coming up in Week 7, the Bills are another defense that's worth a roster spot even with the team taking Week 6 off.
San Francisco 49ers (at Washington Redskins)
An argument can be made that the 49ers are worth rolling the dice on Sunday against the Rams if only because in Week 7 they draw the raging dumpster fire of a team that is the Redskins. Good luck with all that Bill Callahan.
Los Angeles Chargers (at Tennessee Titans)
Again, I will freely admit that I don't trust the Chargers Defense. Or the Chargers as a team—their penchant for playing down to their opponent is positively maddening. But the Titans are a mess offensively, giving LA another solid matchup in a stretch filled with them.