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Gary Davenport

Getting Defensive

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Getting Defensive: Week 7

Monday, October 15, 2018


Sometimes in fantasy football, things don't go even a little according to plan.

 

Heading into Week 6, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars were set for a big day. An angry Jaguars defense that had just allowed 30 points to the Kansas City Chiefs was set to travel to face a Dallas Cowboys offense that entered the week toward the bottom of the NFL in a number of categories.

 

Things were set up nicely for a big-time rebound by the Jags defensively—and a good day for the team's fantasy owners.

 

That is most assuredly not what happened.

 

Rather than a rebound, the unfortunate souls who started Jacksonville were treated to an implosion. The Jaguars did manage to amass three sacks, but that was just about the only good news—the team was scorched for 378 yards and 40 points in the week's most surprising beatdown.

 

It just goes to show you that sometimes what looks like a quality matchup isn't. That sometimes playing the probabilities blows up in your face in spectacular fashion.

 

And yet, the same fantasy owners who were just torched by the Jags should be willing to roll them out again in Week 7.

 

On Sunday, the now-reeling Jaguars will host a Houston Texans team that has won three straight to get back in the mix in the AFC South. But while the Texans are riding a winning streak, the team also hasn't exactly been tearing it up offensively. Through six weeks, the Texans are a so-so 17th in the NFL in scoring. The Texans have scored more than 20 points just twice in six games. And only the Cleveland Browns have allowed more sacks than the 25 Houston has given up.

 

Playing at home, with their backs against the wall, it's short-memory time. Take a deep breath, and start the Jaguars as you would have before last week's mess.

 

If they faceplant again, then you can panic.

 

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THE NO-DOUBTERS

 

Los Angeles Rams (at SFO)

 

Over the first three weeks of the 2018 season, the Rams lived up to their preseason billing—the team ranked third in fantasy points at the position over that span. However, after some injuries hit the team the Rams have fallen way off—Los Angeles is 25th in fantasy points over the last three games. That plummet has made it difficult to trust the Rams at this point, but fantasy owners who were loyal (or just incredibly stubborn) are about to be rewarded. The Rams and 49ers were flexed out of the Sunday night slot because San Francisco is an injury-ravaged dumpster fire offensively—only two teams have given up more fantasy points to the position in 2018.

 

Denver Broncos (at ARZ)

 

The Denver defense isn't exactly tearing it up in 2018—the team ranks well outside the top-20 in fantasy points in most scoring systems after allowing 23 points to the Los Angeles Rams in a Week 6 loss. But this week could be more than a little different. The Arizona offense barely qualifies as one—the Cardinals are dead last in the NFC in both passing yards and scoring (just 13.7 points per game) and last in the entire NFL in total offense. That offensive futility has led the Cardinals to be a highly favorable fantasy matchup—only three teams are allowing more fantasy points to the position this season.

 

Houston Texans (at JAX)

 

The Houston defense was the star of last week's win over the Buffalo Bills, with Johnathan Joseph taking an interception back for the game-winning score. Led by super-duper-star JJ Watt, the Texans have been riding a nice little hot streak defensively—over the last three weeks the Texans are the top-scoring defense in many fantasy scoring systems. Complements of error-prone quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jags are now among the top-10 teams in fantasy points given up to team defenses and lead the league in giveaways. There's a bit of concern with the game being in J-Ville, but with the way the Jags are playing offensively it's a small bit.

 

Buffalo Bills (at IND)

 

It's gone largely unnoticed amid the struggles of the Buffalo offense, but the Bills actually sport a pretty solid defense. Buffalo ranks third in the NFL in total defense (311.7 yards per game), third in the league in sacks (19), fifth in takeaways with 12 and third in fantasy points. All of those numbers bode well this weekend in Indianapolis—the Colts have done a good job keeping Andrew Luck upright but are second in the NFL in giveaways and eighth in fantasy points given up to team defenses. This game has the feel of a relatively low-scoring affair.

 

Minnesota Vikings (at NYJ)

 

The Minnesota Vikings entered 2018 as one of the most sought-after defenses in fantasy football—a talent laden squad loaded on all three levels. And to date that Vikings team hasn't exactly lived up to expectations—the Vikes rank toward the bottom of the top-12 on the season. But this week the Vikings square off with an inconsistent Jets team that ranks sixth in fantasy points allowed to defenses this year. Those Jets have been hot of late and have been prone to making big plays this season, but they've also been prone to giving them up—Gang Green has surrendered 13 sacks and ranks third in the league with 12 giveaways.

 

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

 

Arizona Cardinals (vs. DEN)

 

Here's a breaking news flash. The Arizona Cardinals are not a good football team. However, in recent weeks the Cardinals have been a sneaky-good defense from a fantasy perspective—thanks largely to defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games. The Cardinals managed to place well inside the top-10 last week despite a matchup with one of the NFL's more potent offenses in Minnesota. This Thursday night, the Redbirds are at home against a reeling Denver team that has lost four straight led by a quarterback in Case Keenum who has been prone to turning it over in 2018.

 

Los Angeles Chargers (vs. TEN – London)

 

The Chargers haven't been close to an every-week start in fantasy football this year—the team barely ranks inside the top-20 fantasy defenses on the season. But over the last two weeks, the Chargers have averaged just 12 points allowed, with eight sacks and four takeaways over that span. I'll freely admit that I have never been a huge fan of trusting fantasy players in the London games, but it's hard not to like the Bolts against a reeling Tennessee offense that was shut out and barely managed to crack 100 total yards last week against the Ravens.

 

Detroit Lions (at MIA)

 

Yes, the Dolphins just lit up the Bears for 31 points in Miami. And Detroit isn't exactly a defensive powerhouse—the team ranks 18th in both total defense and scoring defense and outside the top 20 in fantasy points in most scoring systems. Here's the thing though—I don't trust the Dolphins even a little bit to back up last week's performance. It was a fluke. Brock Osweiler was not magically transformed by a fairy godmother into a good NFL quarterback. Frank Gore didn't discover the Fountain of Youth. And even after that performance, the Dolphins are still a top-10 fantasy matchup for defenses. Order gets restored to the universe here.

 

Indianapolis Colts (vs. BUF)

 

To say that the Colts aren't especially stout defensively is an understatement—Indianapolis ranks 23rd in the NFL in total defense and is one of three teams allowing 30 or more points per game this year. This recommendation is all about the matchup. The Bills are a hot mess on offense this year—Buffalo is dead last in the NFL in passing offense and scoring (just 12.7 points per game), third in the league in sacks allowed with 24, fourth in the league with 11 giveaways and first in fantasy points allowed to the position. Add in the possibility that Nathan "Never Saw an Interception He Didn't Like" Peterman may start at quarterback and this matchup is almost too good to be true.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. CLE)

 

No, I haven't taken up vodka in the morning—although I hear it can be quite refreshing. I'm well aware that Tampa ranks at or near the bottom of the NFL in many defensive categories. However, the Browns tend to make any defense they play look good. There isn't a more mistake prone offense in the NFL right now than Baker Mayfield and Cleveland. In four games this year, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft has turned it over seven times all by himself. No team in the league has surrendered more sacks than the Browns 26. And Cleveland's a top-10 fantasy matchup defensively after six games. If you need a spot-start in deeper league, don't sleep on the Buccaneers.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

 

Baltimore Ravens (vs. NOS)

 

The Ravens just put forth arguably the best defensive effort of the season. Heck, the last several seasons. Baltimore destroyed the Tennessee Titans in Week 6, allowing no points and just 106 total yards while piling up a jaw-dropping 11 sacks on the road. The associated fat fantasy stat line has made the purple and black a very popular commodity and in the eyes of many a must-start. And it's a good thing this game is in Charm City—Drew Brees isn't nearly as prolific a quarterback outdoors as under a roof. But this is still the Saints we're talking about, so there's more than a little risk involved in starting the Ravens Sunday.

 

Chicago Bears (vs. NEP)

 

Just like the Jaguars, the Chicago Bears had what looked like a tasty matchup in Week 6—a struggling Miami Dolphins offense on the road fresh off their bye. And just like the aforementioned Jaguars, the Bears laid a big, fat, rotten ostrich egg of a performance, allowing 31 points to Brock freaking Osweiler and Frank Gore's corpse. The Bears will be at home this week, but it's against a team that's exponentially better on offense than Miami. If you watched the Patriots carve the Chiefs to pieces Sunday night, you know what I'm talking about. Find another alternative. Stream the Colts, even. Trusting the Bears in Week 7 is begging to be disappointed.

 



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 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.
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