This is a list of the top Defense targets for NFL games based on potential production and price. The teams are split into three tiers based on likelihood of success. Remember that these rankings take potential production and price into account, so some teams may be higher up on the list despite having a lower projected score if the price point is favorable. Here are some options to consider:
Cream of the Crop
Baltimore Ravens vs. Oakland Raiders ($2900) – The Ravens are stout against the run. That takes Latavius Murray out of play like they did to CJ Anderson last week. David Carr hurt his hand and may not play, which would make a bad situation go worse. If Baltimore forces them to pass, since running is futile against the team with the least amount of points allowed to fantasy running backs in 2014, then we should see a bunch of attempts to get some sacks or turnovers and score some points. The loss of Suggs last week is a big deal, but they have a lot of talented players on that defense. I do not respect the Oakland offense much, so this is a great spot to look at the Ravens who were tough on Peyton Manning last week too.
St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins ($3100) – The Rams were able to get 6 sacks and a pick against the Seahawks on their way to pulling out a victory, which also included a big fourth down stop to end the game. This defense is legit, and they face a shaky offense that only played well in spurts during opening weekend. Kirk Cousins had a lot of picks thrown last year. He was OK for most of the game in Miami, but this defense might be even better at creating pressure. Washington also lost one of it’s weapons in Desean Jackson, so that does not make things any easier. I think the Rams should be able to bottle up the run as they held Marshawn down last week and he is a much better back. If they can force Washington into passing situations, then they will be able to bring the pressure and create turnovers. That is what we need in fantasy.
Miami Dolphins v. Jacksonville Jaguars ($3300) – The Dolphins did not have the huge game many expected in week 1, but they were still one of the higher scoring defenses. This week they have an even better matchup against a young QB who has been very turnover prone in his young career. They are a 5 point favorite in a game with a low expected total. If they can force Jacksonville into abandoning the run, they should be able to create a turnover or two with the pressure they can apply. Add a few sacks or turnovers to the points they should get from holding the score down and it can add up to a pretty big day.
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings ($2900) – The Lions run D is stout. If you want to move the ball against them, you really need to look to the air attack. The Vikings run game looked bad against the 49ers, so that could be a huge problem. If Peterson is not able to get the run game going for Minnesota, it could force the Vikings to have to throw. Bridgewater did most of his damage in garbage time, so don’t let the stats fool you. They could not move the ball during the first part of that game at all. The Vikings faced Phillip Rivers in the opener and still managed to sack him and force some turnovers. Bridgewater is no Rivers, so this one could be ugly for the Vikings. Detroit really needs to get the lead many think they will have. If they do, the defense should be able to generate pressure and create positive scoring plays for DFS purposes.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills ($2900) – New England has a habit of confusing young quarterbacks. I know everyone was giddy with the performance of Taylor at near minimum price last week, but this is a much tougher test. New England does not have a dominant defense, but they have always been good at creating timely turnovers. This game has a low total of 45, so they should also be able to get some points that way. I don’t expect a huge score out of them either as field position will be an important part of this game early. They may be able to get up a score or two and force Buffalo into a one dimensional team, which is where I envision them paying off their salary with some sacks and turnovers.
Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns ($3000) – Fresh off a big game against Jameis Winston, they may get a chance to feast on Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football had a slew of turnovers against the Jets last week when he came on for Josh McCown. Either way I like the Titans chances to put some pressure on him, get a lead, and make some more plays late in the game. They also may keep Cleveland off the board or limit them to field goals, which would make the defense points bonus a big positive as well.
Middle of the Pack
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($2800) – It was only one start and I do not want to pick on him, but Winston looked horrible. He made some bad decisions and threw some easy passes to pick off and take to the house. While I almost never have the Saints ranked this high, it warrants discussion today because I do. They do not have a great pass rush, so the sacks might not be there. Winston was sacked about 8 times in the preseason in limited snaps, so maybe it will. The chances for sacks, for picks, and the likelihood of forcing the Bucs into a one dimensional passing team late all seem reasonable assumptions. That would make this a great spot for a team that had some real upside against a rookie quarterback.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers ($3100) – The Seahawks unit was not great last week. A punt return on top of a few sacks and a fumble for a TD really saved the day. The fact they yielded 30 something points does not matter when they score touchdowns for you. This is a much tougher spot though. Rodgers does not turn it over much at all. They may be able to get a few sacks on him, but he also does a great job of avoiding pressure and getting rid of it quickly. Seattle has a strong run defense, so maybe they can limit the points scored here, but I still think Green Bay finds ways to move the ball and I do not see them having a ton of chances to create positive events to offset the points they allow. It is not the best spot to use one of the league’s best defenses.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears ($2800) – Arizona has some speed rushers, but Brees was able to neutralize that with his quick release and short passing attack. Those swing passes and screens effectively act like long handoffs and helped keep him from getting sacked. The Bears would be smart to replicate that. It would likely mean a big game catching passes for a Matt Forte, but if the Cardinals get the lead, it would also mean Cutler is a sitting duck. This game could go either way, so I can not foresee that definitely happening, but they could rack up points if it does. Makes them mostly a GPP option for me if anywhere.
Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans ($3100) – There may be a little QB controversy brewing as Hoyer was horrible and Mallett came on late in that game. It was against prevent defense, so it should have been easy, but it still looked a lot better when the switch occurred. Either way, I see a good chance for a decent defense to score a few fantasy points against an offense that has some weapons but is missing the key pieces. The Panthers lost MLB Luke Kuechly who has been a tackle machine the last few years. It definitely makes them weaker against the run. Hoyer is not going to move that offense seamlessly and will turn the ball over though, so there’s reason to be optimistic about their upside and floor here.
New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts ($2800) – The Jets defense is much improved, although Cromartie may be out at a bad time. Indy loves to throw the ball and the Jets are stout against the run, so guess where the game plan points. That means they should have a lot of chances for turnovers and sacks, although Luck is good at limiting them both. The Vegas line expects some points out of the Jets and although the positives are not huge, they also could have a good showing, so they make the middle of the list. Buffalo did a number on this offense last week and the Jets have some very good players on defense as well.
Rest of the Field
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego Chargers ($3000) – The good news is that Rivers drops back to pass a lot which gives them chances for sacks, but the bad news is Rivers drops back to pass a lot which gives him a chance to pick them apart. Rivers has a ton of weapons and they were all on display last game. Cincy’s defense looked good last week, but I want to see them against a much better offense before I buy into them. The Chargers have a much better offense so they should be able to put up a few points. Vegas has a low total on this game too, so I think they also believe it will featured a lot of runs and less overall plays, limiting the defenses chances to rack up fantasy points.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers ($2800) – Big Ben is tough to sack, so that is not good. The Steelers will likely look to throw, but they throw a lot of quick passes that are high percentage. San Fran will also likely give up a few more points. Even though the Steelers are not full strength, they still are more high powered then the Vikings were on Monday. I like them a little more then the Steelers D, but neither looks too appealing to me.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Jets ($2900) – Indy may be able to force the Jets to throw late, but can they generate enough pressure. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been around the league for awhile, so he is not a rookie you can rattle. He also has good weapons in Decker and Marshall on the outside who can make plays and have size to in jump balls. Indy may be able to get a few sacks though as Fitz does not move very well. The Jets are not expected to score a bunch of points either so you have a chance for that bonus as well.
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots ($2900) – The Bills have a great defense, but they are going up against a great offense here too. Brady does not get sacked often and also does not turn over the ball a ton. That limits scoring opportunities for the defense. New England is likely to be favored, so they will bleed the clock and run the ball a lot late in the game. They also put up points and despite the low total here, I think they are capable of scoring. All that means a tough day, even for a good defense.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys ($2900) – The Eagles face a Tony Romo led team without Dez Bryant. Have to think they try to keep it on the ground as much as possible here. That will slow the game down and hopefully make it a shorter game than the Eagles are used to. If I thought Romo was going to go toe to toe and sling it 55 times, I would be all over them getting some turnovers, but a run heavy game script is not good for fantasy points. Eagles were the highest scoring fantasy defense last season, but I do not think this one favors them.
Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks ($3000) – I really do not like this spot for the Packers defense. They got beat up by the Bears who many felt would struggle. They also play a team that very rarely turns the ball over. Lynch almost never fumbles and Wilson rarely makes bad decisions, so that really limits any potential upside they may have. The pass rush was not great against the Bears, so they will need to generate more pressure if they want to force turnovers. They may win this game and play big as they have some talented players, but the odds are not in their favor to do so.
Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams ($2700) – The Redskins did not have a good first game. It seemed like the Dolphins were able to move the ball at will after the first quarter. The score was kept low by the redskins controlling the clock, but they never really were able to generate a lot of pressure on Tannehill. The Skins had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year. It did not look like much was improved. St. Louis had a few fumbles in the opener, but that was because of the pressure the Seattle D generated. If Washington let’s Foles sit in the pocket, he can pick them apart. That is if the Rams do not have a lead and rely heavily on the run game.
New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons ($2600) – The Giants did not really play great defense in their opener either. They did manage to pick off Romo and create a few turnovers, but they also gave up a bunch of points and a last second drive to beat them. Atlanta had no trouble moving the ball against Philly and I see more of the same here. The good thing is this game is likely to be up tempo and feature a lot of throwing, so they may be able to salvage some points with a sack or a pick, but the other options mentioned are just so much better.
Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers ($2900) – I do not see the upside of paying for them in what will likely be a slow paced run heavy defensive type battle that ends in a low score. That was my initial read on the game and it was confirmed by the Vegas total of only 41. If they can get a lead, maybe they can score some points late, but this game is likely to feature a lot of running on both sides and two teams who attempt a low number of plays and a low percentage of that number being pass plays. That is not the recipe for a big fantasy score.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants ($2700) – Philly played fast and lit the Falcons up for a lot of points. They finished with only 4 fantasy points and that is not a good haul. The Giants also play fast, having ran the fourth most plays in the league last year, so expect more of the same. This is one of the higher total games on the day and should be a bit of a shootout. Since they generate little pressure, they won’t have many sacks. Eli has been known to toss a few picks though, so they will likely get a turnover or two. The problem is they will also likely allow some points so they would need a lot of positive events to offset that negative.
San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals ($2800) – The Bengals are going to look at the way Ameer Abdullah ran all over that defense and give the Chargers a healthy dose of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. That means less scoring chances for the defense. Even when they do drop back to throw, that pass catching crew is dynamic. Eifert showed elite athleticism last week on his touchdown catches. AJ Green is one of the best in the game. Sanu and Marvin Jones are both solid WR options as well, which gives Dalton a lot of weapons. He should be able to put up some points here, although I think Hill will do most of the damage.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions ($2800) – This is a horrible spot for them. They could not stop the run against San Fran, so I expect the lions to give them a heavy dose of it. When teams run, the defense scores no fantasy points as they get no sacks, no interceptions, and a lower chance of fumbles. They also are likely to give up some points here as they will struggle to stop a guy like Abdullah who is explosive. That means a low score and no fantasy upside.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles ($2900) – The Cowboys let the Giants hang 26 on them and this Eagles offense has more explosiveness. They will run a lot of plays, so the chance for scoring plays will be there, but I just do not see it. Matthews should be able tohave a good game here the running backs also should be running wild. I just do not see the upside case as being likely.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Francisco 49ers ($2700) – The 49ers really want to establish the run, so they will be doing that early and often. The Steelers had a rough opening game on defense, but they faced a much more prolific Patriots offense. Kaepernick played well in the opener, but was not asked to throw much at all. He will likely have to do a little more here to keep up with Big Ben. That could create some chances for the Steelers defense to score points, but the majority of this game from San Fran will be about controlling the clock and keeping it on the ground. Not the best environment for fantasy points.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Miami Dolphins ($2600) – The total is not huge, but Jacksonville s a pretty big dog at -5 anyway. It is likely that Miami gets a lead and they see a heavy dose of clock draining runs in the second half at some point. They are also likely to give up 25+ points so between the low chances for scoring plays and the points negative, I do not see a good return here.
Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans ($2900) – This whole team is a mess. Tennesee looked awesome last week, so I have to believe they are at least decent. The Browns defense was beaten through the air and on the ground for a few touchdowns each, so I do not envision them putting up much of a fight here. Titans should have a lead and run it late, thus sealing the deal on a low scoring day.
Chicago Bears vs. Arizona Cardinals ($2600) – They bottled up Green Bay early, but eventually that horrible pass defense came out and Rodgers torched them for a few scores. Palmer has a lot of weapons in the pass game too, so I expect the same from him. Chicago did not get a lot of pressure on Rodgers and finished with a negative fantasy score in that game. If things do not change, that is the likely outcome here too.
Tampa Bay Bucs vs. New Orleans Saints ($2600) – The bucs got torched by air and by land against Tennessee. New Orleans will start by air, but will quickly turn to the ground with a lead in the second half. That limits the upside chances here and makes them a non-play.Continue Reading This Week’s Rankings SeriesNFL Quarterback Rankings: Week 2
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