Three of the top-seven scoring fantasy defenses are on bye this week, leaving the top-tier of Week 5 options a bit thin as we dig into the matchups on the NFL calendar this week. With four weeks of play already in the books, we are getting a better feel for the weekly start-worthy D/ST groups and the offenses to feast upon each week while perusing waiver wire and making roster decisions. Below is a breakdown of all 28 NFL defenses in action this week, a quick glimpse at Week 6, and kicker rankings for your fantasy football special teams needs.
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The top Week 5 defensive option is none other than the (1) Denver Broncos (at Oakland), who are playing some insanely good football through four games of the 2015 season. The Broncos lead the NFL in sacks with 18 and have forced 11 turnovers on the season, which is good for second in the league. Denver also registers near the top of the NFL in most defensive yardage statistical categories and are fantasy football’s top scoring defense through four games. By now, you should get the picture that I am furiously painting so roll out the Denver defense this week as they travel to Oakland to face the Raiders.
The (2) Arizona Cardinals (at Detroit) are ranked second among fantasy defenses this season and should keep their success going in Week 5 at Detroit. The Cardinals have been easier to beat on the ground than through the air in 2015, but the Lions haven’t had a running back run for more than 50 yards in a game yet this season. Matthew Stafford was interception-free in Week 4 for the first time this season, but he won’t be so lucky against Arizona this week.
Before their Week 4 bye, the (3) New England Patriots (at Dallas) sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times in three weeks and will look to continue bringing defensive pressure this week against Brandon Weeden and the Dallas Cowboys. The yardage totals the Patriots have allowed this season haven’t been stellar, but two of their three games had significant garbage time statistics involved. I fully trust that Bill Belichick will have his defense ready to play after a 13-day break and as a near double-digit favorite, New England should force Brandon Weeden to air it out this week, which will increase the turnover potential in this matchup.
The Seattle Seahawks have scored just five offensive touchdowns and allowed 18 sacks in four games this season, as they struggle with horrendous offensive line play. This week, they hit the road to face the (4) Cincinnati Bengals (vs Seattle) who have recorded 11 sacks through four games and will be looking to keep their perfect record intact. While the Bengals gave up 21 points last week, they did keep the Chiefs out of the end zone for all 60 minutes. Andy Reid jokes aside, this game is a fantastic spot for Geno Atkins and the Cincinnati defensive line, as Russell Wilson should be facing heavy pressure all day. With Marshawn Lynch’s playing status still unknown, the Bengals D/ST should be successful in a low-scoring game at home while helping fantasy teams along the way.
The (5) Seattle Seahawks (at Cincinnati) D/ST has been helped this season by the return skills of rookie Tyler Lockett, in addition to their ability to hold opposing offense to low yardage and points totals. While this defense has been successful overall, they have recorded just six sacks in four games and have yet to haul in an interception. The sack and turnover totals will rise as the season progresses, but a road date with the red-hot Bengals offense is not the best spot to use this top-flight defense. Cincinnati’s lowest single game total yardage output in this season is 389 yards, which is impressive considering only five NFL teams average a higher mark than that on the season. Fantasy owners won’t need to worry about benching the Seattle D/ST but this is far from the best matchup for them.
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Tier Two Options
The (6) Philadelphia Eagles (vs New Orleans) are having a difficult season up to this point, but return home after a tough loss to face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. This Saints offense is a far cry from the high-octane groups of previous years, and the Saints are averaging under 20 points per game this season with Drew Brees under center. Brees also historically plays far worse on the road than at home in New Orleans, and the Eagles have been opportunistic in the interception department this season, as they are tied for sixth in the NFL with five. The Saints have also allowed ten sacks this year, making this a matchup with decent sack and turnover potential for fantasy purposes.
The (7) New York Giants (vs San Francisco) benefit from a great matchup this week, as they host the San Francisco 49ers as large home favorites. The 49ers have been a wreck on offense this season and have scored in exactly one touchdown in their last eight quarters of play. The New York Giants D/ST hasn’t been outstanding this season, but they do lead the NFL in run defense, meaning we could be about to witness yet another week of Carlos Hyde being shut down and Colin Kaepernick drowning as he attempts to support the San Francisco offense on his own.
Second in the NFL with 17 sacks, the (8) Green Bay Packers (vs St. Louis) are a solid fantasy D/ST play this week. Green Bay isn’t great against the run, so the impact of Todd Gurley is a bit worrisome, but the Rams are averaging just 287.8 total yards of offense per game this season. Nick Foles will not come close to repeating his 16 completion, three touchdown performance of Week 4 so start the Packers D/ST without worry this week.
The (9) St. Louis Rams (at Green Bay) D/ST turned in a decent fantasy performance in Week 4 on the road at Arizona, so the daunting trip to Green Bay shouldn’t completely frighten fantasy owners. The Rams defensive front is very good, as illustrated by their 17 sacks this season, so this group will always remain in the conversation among top fantasy defenses no matter the matchup. After the Rams escape Lambeau Field, their schedule lightens up significantly, with Cleveland, San Francisco, Minnesota, and Chicago on tap. This group will be residing in the top-tier of these rankings from Week 6 on, and is still a startable option against Aaron Rodgers and company.
The (10) Tennessee Titans (vs Buffalo) are still a top-10 scoring fantasy option this season despite already enjoying their bye week, and Week 5 brings the Buffalo Bills to Tennessee. Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, and the scuffling Andrew Luck failed to create a “Murderer’s Row” of opposing quarterbacks, but the Titans have been solid against the pass through three games, allowing 194.7 yards and just a 53.8 completion rate to opposing passers. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is coming off a mediocre start at home in Week 4, and the pass defense of the Titans could certainly continue that trend.
For fantasy footballers who have been rolling out Carolina or the New York Jets each week, a bye week replacement may be of need. As far as available defenses are concerned, they don’t get any more available than the (11) Jacksonville Jaguars (at Tampa Bay), who are currently owned in 1% of Yahoo leagues. This streaming option is all about the matchup, as Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with seven. The Bucs also allow over two sacks per game, so if Jacksonville can register two picks and two sacks, this could be a useable week for this defense. Jacksonville has also been surprisingly strong against the run, and forcing Winston to be one dimensional could mean even more turnover potential in this game.
The (12) Atlanta Falcons (vs Washington) turned in a great defensive performance at home against Houston last week and host the Washington Redskins in Week 5. Playing at home as more than a touchdown favorite is a good spot for fantasy defenses, but this group does have their share of warts as they are allowing over 300 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. This week’s opposing signal caller is Kirk Cousins however, and he shouldn’t scare anyone from giving the Falcons a shot at a second-consecutive stout defensive performance. The Atlanta D/ST is just 4% owned in Yahoo leagues.
Missed The Cut
The Browns have averaged 393.5 total yards per game over the last two weeks and looked decent on offense in Week 4 at San Diego. The (13) Baltimore Ravens (vs Cleveland) get the Browns this week and although Cleveland has allowed 14 sacks in four games, the Ravens defense isn’t quite solid enough to reach the top tiers of our list this week.
The (14) Buffalo Bills (at Tennessee) have been getting hammered by opposing quarterbacks this season, as Rex Ryan’s defense is allowing 297.8 yards through the air each week. However, the Bills are allowing just a 57.3 percent completion percentage and a mere 6.3 yards per pass attempt. The Tennessee Titans have allowed four sacks per game this season as well, so Buffalo could find a bit of success in this road matchup.
The (15) Kansas City Chiefs (vs Chicago) have been a disappointment on defense this season, and although their three-game losing skid has come against some good offenses, this defense has struggled. The home matchup with Chicago as large Vegas favorites keeps Kansas City in the conversation this week, but the Chiefs will need to take the first step in improving their 28th ranked pass defense this week.
While he hasn’t been the most accurate passer, Blake Bortles has kept his interception total at a reasonable level so far this season. This week, the Jaguars host the (16) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs Jacksonville), who have been decent against the pass in 2015 but have only faced one quarterback in the top-20 in NFL passing yards (Drew Brees). The Bucs have also been particularly bad at home so far this season, allowing 79 points in two games. Although the matchup looks ok on the surface, the options above are better bets.
Only five sacks and three forced turnovers through four games for the defense of the (17) Indianapolis Colts (at Houston). The matchup with the wildly inaccurate Ryan Mallett is the only thing keeping the Colts D/ST out of the bottom paragraphs this week.
The (18) Pittsburgh Steelers (at San Diego) haven’t been great on defense this season, but they have racked up 14 sacks, good for fourth in the NFL. San Diego has given up 12 sacks through four games, and while the sack potential is promising, the Chargers offense is moving the ball well this season averaging 411 total yards per game.
Start At Your Own Risk
Fantasy owners rack up points with sacks and turnovers and the (19) Houston Texans (vs Indianapolis) have struggled with both, recording only two turnovers and six sacks in four games. If Andrew Luck sits out again, you can give this defense a healthy bump up this list, however. The (20) Detroit Lions (vs Arizona) turned in a solid defensive performance at Seattle on Monday night, but the offense of the Arizona Cardinals is quite a different beast. The run defense of the (21) San Diego Chargers (vs Pittsburgh) has been putrid so far this season and a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell is in store for this group with Ben Roethlisberger sitting out. The Browns just dropped 432 total yards on the road at San Diego, so this is a fantasy option to avoid. Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones have wrecked opposing defenses this season and the (22) Washington Redskins (at Atlanta) won’t change the trend. The (23) Cleveland Browns (at Baltimore) are coughing up 406.3 total yards to opposing offenses this season and a road game at Baltimore is waiting for them in Week 5.
The offense of the (24) San Francisco 49ers (at NY Giants) is so bad it’s leaving the defense, which is struggling anyway, in tough spots. Seven-point road underdog status won’t help this group. Allowing over 30 points per game is a recipe for disaster and a strong reason to avoid the (25) Chicago Bears (at Kansas City) for the foreseeable future. The (26) New Orleans Saints (at Philadelphia) are one of three NFL teams without an interception this season, and are allowing 9.8 yards per pass attempt this season, worst in the NFL. Brandon Weeden looked functional against this defense, so you know what to do. The Patriots are averaging a cool 39.7 points per game this season, so the (27) Dallas Cowboys (vs New England) need to stay on the waiver wire. The (28) Oakland Raiders (vs Denver) offense is looking better this season, but the defense is still a work in progress and draws Peyton Manning this week.
New York Jets (Week 6 vs Washington)
Denver (Week 6 at Cleveland)
Jacksonville (Week 6 vs Houston)
Baltimore (Week 6 at San Francisco)
Tennessee (Week 6 vs Miami)
Kickers Are People Too
1. Stephen Gostkowski (at DAL)
2. Brandon McManus (at OAK)
3. Chandler Catanzaro (at DET)
4. Matt Bryant (vs WAS)
6. Cairo Santos (vs CHI)
7. Mason Crosby (vs STL)
8. Adam Vinatieri (at HOU)
9. Josh Lambo (vs PIT)
10. Steven Hauschka (at CIN)
11. Josh Brown (vs SF)
12. Dan Bailey (vs NE)
13. Robbie Gould (at KC)
14. Mike Nugent (vs SEA)
15. Dan Carpenter (at TEN)