Seven weeks of NFL action have already cruised by and the fantasy football regular season is headed downhill toward the finish line. Whether you are perched high atop your league standings or have work left to do before reaching the playoffs, we will be breaking down the best fantasy D/ST and kicker options for Week 8 to help guide your team to the winner’s circle.
Before we start this party, let’s spend a quick moment on roster management. Four teams are enjoying byes this week and unlike previous weeks, none of these options are worth burning a roster spot to hold through the bye. Buffalo, Philadelphia, Washington, and Jacksonville are all replaceable groups, so grab your bifocals and dig through available waiver wire options to find a worthwhile Week 8 replacement. The four Week 8 teams on bye also soften the D/ST ranks this week, as E.J. Manuel, Sam Bradford, Kirk Cousins, and Blake Bortles have all been recent targets of our streaming D/ST choices.
Below you will find Week 8 D/ST tiers, options to keep an eye on for Week 9, as well as fantasy kicker rankings. Let’s get to work.
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Week 8 Heavy Hitters
These five D/ST options are top 2015 performers in great Week 8 matchups.
The (1) St. Louis Rams (vs San Francisco) came out of their bye in Week 7 and turned in a fantastic performance at home against Cleveland, racking up four sacks to go with four fumble recoveries and a touchdown. The Rams defense is tied for second among NFL teams with 23 sacks on the year and has another mouthwatering home date this week as the San Francisco 49ers visit the Edward Jones Dome. Through seven weeks, the 49ers are 32nd in total offense, which is unfortunate considering there are only 32 teams in the NFL. Coming off a three-point effort at home against Seattle, this San Francisco team will be no match for the St. Louis D/ST.
Matt Cassel is the Week 8 target of the (2) Seattle Seahawks (at Dallas), who travel to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys. Cassel made his first start of the season last Sunday and promptly completed three passes to the New York Giants. This week, the defensive opposition will be much more difficult and the Seattle defense is fresh off a smothering performance at San Francisco in Week 7. Fire up the Seattle D/ST, who will be well-rested after playing on Thursday last week, without hesitation.
Week 7 was tough on the (3) New York Jets (at Oakland), as a trip to Gillette Stadium led to the first game of the season in which the Jets D/ST gave up more than 20 points. We won’t ding this group too much considering they were facing the NFL’s top-scoring offense which contains Rob Gronkowski, who was artificially created in a laboratory by NASA scientists. The bright side of the Jets’ performance last week is they did force the Patriots to throw almost exclusively, as Bill Belichick opted to avoid the fierce Jets defensive front. This week, the Jets D/ST can be trusted again as they head to Oakland to face Derek Carr and the Raiders. A matchup with the Raiders in 2015 isn’t quite as enticing as it was in recent seasons, but the Jets D/ST has been tough outside of Week 7 and is a fine on Sunday.
The (4) Carolina Panthers (vs Indianapolis) have been a solid fantasy D/ST option this season and that trend will continue in Week 8 when they host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Panthers have been tough on opposing passers, allowing just 229.8 passing yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt, the second-best mark among NFL defenses. This does not bode well for Luck, who has thrown two or more interceptions in four of five games this season. The Colts’ offense is also second in the league in turnovers, coughing up the ball 15 times so far in 2015, so the Carolina D/ST will be a fine option at home on Monday night in the comfy confines of Bank of America Stadium.
With Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown nursing a shoulder injury, the (5) Arizona Cardinals (at Cleveland) could be facing Johnny Manziel this week as they take on the Browns. Cleveland has a limited running game and has allowed 26 sacks this season, the second-highest total among NFL teams, so Manziel will be forced to carry the load against the Arizona defense this week. Johnny Football’s 54.5 career completion percentage and 1:1 career touchdown-to-interception ratio will be overwhelmed by the Cardinals D/ST, the NFL leader in interceptions.
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Tier Two Material
The second-tier of D/ST options this week is a bit light with four recent streaming targets (Buffalo, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and Washington) on bye.
The (6) Denver Broncos (vs Green Bay) are a tough nut to crack this week as they host the Green Bay Packers. Staring at the face of Aaron Rodgers across the line of scrimmage is generally not something we like our fantasy defenses to experience, but the Broncos D/ST has shown no reason to abandon ship this season. The Denver defense leads or is near the lead in almost every imaginable defensive statistical category through seven weeks of the NFL season, and has erupted with fantasy production every week. Picking fantasy defenses is largely a product of spotting weak quarterbacks to feast on, but this is a case where the defense is too good to sit.
This is hard to say, but the (7) Green Bay Packers (at Denver) are a solid Week 8 fantasy option as they face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The Denver offense is averaging just 325.8 total yards per game this season and is led by Manning, who has thrown seven interceptions in his last three games and is tied for the NFL-lead in interceptions with 10. The Packers are also allowing just 16.8 points per game, which leads the NFL, and are second among NFL defenses with 23 sacks. Quietly turn your Peyton Manning bobble head around to face the window and slide the Packers D/ST into your starting lineup.
Brian Hoyer hasn’t been quite as turnover-prone this season as he has been in previous years, but he is still a worthwhile target for fantasy footballers starting the (8) Tennessee Titans (at Houston) D/ST this week. Hoyer has thrown only three interceptions in 180 attempts this season, but he is completing a dismal 58.9 percent of his pass attempts and went just 23/49 passing last week at Miami in a garbage time infused game. The Houston offense was actually somewhat effective earlier this season without Arian Foster in the lineup, but the Tennessee D/ST that is allowing just 195.2 passing yards per game this season should be able to contain Hoyer and the running back tandem of Alfred Blue and Chris Polk.
The (9) Minnesota Vikings (at Chicago) have quietly had a solid season on the defensive side of the football and have held five of their six 2015 opponents to 20 points or less. The Vikings are also coming off a seven-sack performance in Week 7 against Detroit and have been nearly unstoppable in run defense since giving up a huge performance to Carlos Hyde in Week 1, allowing just 81.2 yards on the ground since opening weekend. The Chicago offense looks more formidable with Alshon Jeffery back in the mix, but the Minnesota defense has been playing well enough to be trusted in this NFC North matchup. The Vikings D/ST is owned in only 31 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The Miami offense has been blazing hot over the last two weeks, but the (10) New England Patriots (vs Miami) should offer a test this week in Foxboro. The Patriots have recorded 21 sacks this season, good for fourth among NFL defenses, and should be playing with a lead as a 7.5 point Vegas favorite. The main concern here is Lamar Miller burning the New England run defense, but playing the Patriots D/ST at home is always a nice option with the potential for Tom Brady and his crew to open up a big lead and let the Patriots’ defense open up the pass rush.
These three Week 8 options are worth checking out on your waiver wire if in need of a replacement.
Jameis Winston has managed to stay interception-free over the last two weeks, but he still provides a reasonable streaming target and faces the (11) Atlanta Falcons (vs Tampa Bay) this week. The Falcons D/ST is owned in 52 percent of Yahoo leagues and is a nice option for folks searching for a Week 8 fill-in. The Atlanta defense is struggling in the sack department, but has eight interceptions on the season and turned in two great fantasy performances at home in weeks four and five. The Falcons return home this week to face Tampa Bay and will look to continue their opportunistic ways in the Georgia Dome.
The (12) Houston Texans (vs Tennessee) D/ST is owned in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues based on preseason expectations alone, as this group has struggled in 2015. Week 8 brings the Tennessee Titans to town, who will potentially be led by quarterback Zach Mettenberger again with Marcus Mariota dealing with a knee injury. The Titans managed just seven points at home last week with Mettenberger under center and are a decent target for owners able to pick up the Texans D/ST.
D/ST streamers can also take a look at the (13) Kansas City Chiefs (vs Detroit in London) D/ST unit that is owned in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues. Detroit has turned the ball over 18 times in seven games and has struggled to move the ball effectively with nearly zero running game. The recent firing of OC Joe Lombardi was a result of the poor performance of this offense, but a new OC will likely be unable to patch-up the root of the problem, which is the Detroit offensive line. A home (in London) favorite against a turnover-prone offense is a nice place to take a stab at a streaming D/ST option.
Not Great, But Worth Watching
If Ben Roethlisberger does indeed play this week, the (14) Cincinnati Bengals (at Pittsburgh) D/ST will take a hit, so they will be a middling option this week until we get further clarification on Large Ben’s status. The potential for a matchup with Pittsburgh quarterback Landry Jones, who was 16/29 passing with two interceptions last week, makes this group worth monitoring despite Roethlisberger being a decent bet to play.
The defense of the (15) Miami Dolphins (at New England) has been as hot as their offense over the last two weeks, but New England is where fantasy defenses go to die. Week 7 saw the Patriots handle the stout New York Jets defense with ease, and starting a fantasy D/ST against the NFL’s highest scoring offense in a road game is an ill-advised move no matter how the group is playing.
The (16) Oakland Raiders (vs NY Jets) have been surprisingly tough against the run this season and have the ability to turn in a decent fantasy performance if they can force the Jets to throw with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown an interception in five of six games this season. The Raiders gave up just six points through three quarters last week at San Diego and although they struggled mightily in the final period, they could be a decent long-shot play this week if they can contain Jets running back Chris Ivory.
You Can Do Better
(17) Dallas Cowboys (vs Seattle)
(18) Detroit Lions (at Kansas City in London)
(19) Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Cincinnati)
(20) New York Giants (at New Orleans)
(21) Baltimore Ravens (vs San Diego)
(22) Chicago Bears (vs Minnesota)
Hopefully Your Week 8 Opponent Shops Here
(23) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Atlanta)
(24) San Diego Chargers (at Baltimore)
(25) Indianapolis Colts (at Carolina)
(26) San Francisco 49ers (at St. Louis)
(27) New Orleans Saints (vs NY Giants)
(28) Cleveland Browns (vs Arizona)
Cincinnati (Week 9 vs Cleveland)
New England (Week 9 vs Washington)
NY Jets (Week 9 vs Jacksonville)
Atlanta (Week 9 at San Francisco)
Kickers Are People Too
1. Stephen Gostkowski (vs MIA)
2. Steven Hauschka (at DAL)
4. Brandon McManus (vs GB)
5. Graham Gano (vs IND)
6. Josh Brown (at NO)
7. Chandler Catanzaro (at CLE)
8. Cairo Santos (vs DET, London)
9. Matt Bryant (vs TB)
10. Josh Lambo (at BAL)
11. Chris Boswell (vs CIN)
12. Mason Crosby (at DEN)
13. Robbie Gould (vs MIN)
14. Dan Bailey (vs SEA)
15. Kai Forbath (vs NYG)