In the realm of fantasy football, the practice of “streaming” players at certain roster spots on a weekly basis truly is an art form. I’ll do my best not to ramble on as I explain this, but if you are only here looking for a D/ST to stream this week then feel free to scroll down. If not, stick around. You might just learn something.
- When it comes to team defenses, the art of streaming the position takes its shape in three ways. The first is recognizing your weekly win conditions. To briefly illustrate: let’s say your opponent this week took the Jacksonville defense in the 9th Round while you took Ronald Jones instead. Well, this already puts you winning your weekly matchup in hot water from the start for a few reasons. Firstly, the Jacksonville defense is very consistent, very good, in your opponent’s lineup, and a good bet to meet their weekly scoring projection while Jones has yet to play this season and you most likely won’t be playing him this week either. Edge: Seemingly Savvy Jags Defense Draftee. Okay, not a good start. Now odds are, your RJII draft capital investment resulted in you possibly having less stable value elsewhere in your starting lineup this week with you now also struggling to match the value that the Jags defense will likely provide versus whatever Joe Schmo defense you drafted in the final rounds of your draft (which unless you drafted the Jags, Ravens, Rams, Texans, or Eagles in an earlier round were left to do) or have picked up since the season started. All hope is not lost however, because let us assume both teams are projected for similar point totals outside of the FLEX and D/ST spots with you picking up Chris Godwin off waivers to make for a solid FLEX/WR3 this week while your opponent is stuck starting Derrick Henry in their FLEX spot. Edge: You, The Waiver Wire Wizard. This leaves you in the position to only really need a team defense that can equal or, maybe, out-produce the Jags defense rather than try to outscore your opponent’s D/ST across multiple lineups spots. Rather than needing to meet multiple win conditions: outscore their FLEX and outscore their D/ST, you are now left with a single win condition – match their D/ST scoring. This was possible because you made sure you had the better FLEX play that week, thus taking a lineup letdown elsewhere in your lineup out of the equation. Sure, your RBs might combine for zero touchdowns and you end up losing but at least you won’t be able to say it was because your defense scored 16 points. In fantasy football, it is better to set yourself up for success beforehand rather than be forced into taking a high risk-reward approach across different spots in your lineup at the last minute. When looking for a defense to stream, ask yourself this question: what does my D/ST need to do for me to win this week? Once you have an answer, adjust your lineup accordingly. If you have the right defense in your lineup, you might not need to start that boom-or-bust WR or TD-dependent RB after all. Just something to think about.
- The second is situational awareness. Let’s look at the guy in your league who thinks the D/ST spot it stupid and who also thinks it is still 2009 so he just drafts the Ravens defense every year. In theory, I admit this is not the worst approach. To no surprise, the best NFL defenses in real life are also pretty good in fantasy football as well most of the time. You can draft the Vikings defense if you want, but they will still face the Packers and Aaron Rodgers twice a year. Spoiler alert: the Vikings probably won’t sack ARod seven times and score a pick-six like they will probably do when they play the Bills this year. You can also lock the same D/ST in your lineup all season if you prefer, but I’m sure a couple of your losses could have been wins if you had tried to use whichever D/ST had the Browns lining up across from them last year. That brings up why it is necessary to become familiar with how D/STs score points in your league. If sacks are worth three points, look to play the D/ST with a good pass rush that is matching up with the league’s worst offensive lines. That is a recipe for sack city, baby. Know what kind of defense you need and know how you need to get your points to win that week. Simply put: be aware of the situation.
- And the third is luck. A cop out answer, but it is true. Nobody wants to play the D/STs from a game between two mediocre teams, but because of how sloppy that game probably ends up playing out maybe one of those D/STs lucks into a pick-six and a punt return touchdown. At that rate, the other team could have put up 45 points on them and the D/ST that scored two TDs still had 12 points on the board that nobody in your league probably cashed in on because that D/ST that just put up 12-plus fantasy points that week in a blowout loss is on waivers. Or perhaps you were playing that one guy in your league who left his TE that is out with a pulled hamstring in his lineup that week, thus making it looks like an easy win for you, but he did somehow remember to pick up the Dolphins defense against the Cowboys as his bye week filler for the Rams D/ST in which the Dolphins took a fluky sack-fumble by Dak Prescott to the house in the first quarter before being outscored 28-10 the rest of the game. Contrast this with your sleeper TE who only went 3-25 that week leaving your delicately drafted lineup with a loss to the guy that didn’t even look at his lineup on Sunday. “He got lucky”, you say as your friends ask why you took that late round flier on Jake Butt in the first place. Because of the nature of football, it is simply impossible to predict just how many sacks, fumbles, and interceptions a defense will produce on any given week – but we can certainly try. With that said, here are the D/STs worth streaming in Week 2:
“I Just Need Some Points” (D/STs Owned In 70-20% Of Yahoo Leagues)
New York Jets – vs. Miami Dolphins
While having a rookie quarterback on offense doesn’t normally bode well for that team’s defensive performance, the Jets found a way to force five Lions interceptions on Monday after their own quarterback Sam Darnold opened the game throwing a pick-six. Heading into their matchup with the Dolphins, the Jets are in a good spot to frustrate a Dolphins offense that doesn’t quite have things together as well as the Jets do, at least after one week. In a game that shouldn’t be too high-scoring, the Jets have a good chance to come out on top in the turnover battle while controlling the tempo as well which should lead to a solid fantasy outing.
Detroit Lions – vs. San Francisco 49ers
Not the best spot for a defense coming off a blowout loss on Monday Night Football, but the Lions are facing a 49ers team that allowed three sacks and had four turnovers (3 picks, 1 fumble) against the Vikings in Week 1. With one of the league’s more underrated secondaries, the Lions could find some similar success against a 49ers team that is still getting accustomed to franchise quarterback Jimmy G under center. You could do worse in a matchup with two teams that haven’t established much of an offensive identity yet this season.
“So, You’re Saying There’s A Chance” (D/STs Owned In 20-10% of Yahoo Leagues)
Washington Redskins - vs. Indianapolis Colts
After playing up to expectations in a win over the Cardinals in Week 1, fantasy owners can take advantage of another good matchup play for the Redskins against the Colts this week. Outside of a crowded backfield and the return of Andrew Luck, one thing remains the same in the Colts offense – their offensive line is still not that good. The Redskins aren’t elite by any means, but they shouldn’t get ran over this week either. Could Andrew Luck show out and put up 400 yards and three touchdowns this week? Sure, but I think it is more likely that the Redskins build up a solid point floor throughout the game by getting to Luck and forcing a turnover or two while holding the Colts to a relatively manageable point total.
Tennessee Titans - vs. Houston Texans
After having the league’s worst offensive line in 2017, things didn’t look to have changed much for the Texans against the Patriots in Week 1 after giving up three sacks. Having arguably a better pass rush than the Patriots, the Titans are in a good spot to slow the Texans offense down a bit more than the Patriots last week while also giving Deshaun Watson a bit more trouble as well. If the Titans are forced to start Blaine Gabbert, they will probably lose much of their streaming appeal but against an offensive line this bad the potential for a D/ST fantasy points against the Texans is always there.
“You Might Want To Look Away” (D/STs Owned in <10% Yahoo Leagues)
San Francisco 49ers – vs. Detroit Lions
In a game between two quarterbacks that threw at least three picks in Week 1, odds are that one of these two offenses will have similar struggles again this week. The 49ers had the more difficult Week 1 matchup (Minnesota Vikings) by far, so against a Lions offense that struggled in Week 1 their young defense has a chance to score some fantasy points against an improving, but still not great Lions offensive line. Coupled with Matthew Stafford’s propensity for interceptions and the 49ers have chance to remain relevant in this game while also putting up a solid D/ST outing. Just don’t be surprised if 49ers offense underperforms again, leaving the Lions able to have their way with the 49ers defense. A risky play if the Lions can somehow put the pieces together this week, but you could do worse.
Miami Dolphins – vs. New York Jets
Your hope if you are playing the Dolphins this week is that they can take advantage of a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold playing in his second NFL game. Both teams will likely try to establish the run to help keep pressure off of their quarterbacks, but if the Jets struggle to score early the Dolphins could see themselves with opportunities to press the issue defensively against Darnold who showed a habit of turning the ball over in college, which continued with him throwing a pick-six on the Jets first drive last week. We have only seen each team play one game, so the Jets beating down the Lions on MNF might not hold much weight yet. This game has the potential for each team to stymie each other through offensive ineffectiveness, rather than through defensive prowess. You could end up with 10+ points or barely any at all. Buy beware.