It’s often been said that the NFL season, and the fantasy football season, is a marathon and not a sprint. While that may be true, I believe it’s more of a battle of attrition. A tumultuous Week 5 was a perfect example of that. Offensive skill position players were dropping like flies and the defensive side of the ball was also hit hard.
The loss of certain players can absolutely alter the “streaming defense/special teams” landscape, and there are plenty of examples. The Giants defense without defensive end Olivier Vernon failed to register a sack and the team dropped its fifth straight game. This was thought to be a unit poised to wreak havoc on quarterbacks that is now floundering.
A defense that seemed poised to break out was the Houston Texans, and that has all changed following the Sunday night game. J.J. Watt (left tibial plateau fracture) and Whitney Mercilus (torn pectoral) are both done for the season. That makes it very hard to imagine a scenario where this defense is a streaming option even against a weak Cleveland offense this week.
That said, we press on regardless and take a look at some defense/special teams that are primed for productive fantasy games in Week 6.
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New Orleans Saints (vs. Detroit)
It’s time to start streaming defenses against a Lions offense that simply cannot protect quarterback Matthew Stafford. Detroit has allowed six sacks in back to back games and an alarming 28 quarterback hurries as well as four hits. The absence of tackle Taylor Decker is really starting to show up and Stafford was visibly hobbled following during the loss to the Panthers last week. The Saints will have had two weeks to prepare for this struggling offensive line so look for big weeks from Cameron Jordan and Hau’oli Kikaha with the strip-sack definitely being in play.
Atlanta Falcons (vs. Miami)
Let’s keep chasing Jay Cutler for as long as the Dolphins keep rolling him out under center. The Dolphins managed to win last week, but Cutler threw for fewer than 100 yards and has managed just three touchdown passes in four games. Miami’s offense is still a mess, and just as the Saints had extra time to prepare the Falcons are afforded the same luxury. The Falcons have 11 sacks on the season while Miami has allowed eight in the past three weeks. With little to fear from the passing attack, Atlanta will pin their ears back and get after Cutler all game long forcing him into multiple rushed throws and big-play opportunities.
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. LA Rams)
There isn’t a hotter defense/special teams than the Jaguars as they come off a five-interception performance with a pair returned for touchdowns. They took advantage of a sloppy Steelers offense to move into the top spot for fantasy purposes. This is a unit firing on all cylinders at all three levels of the defense. Jacksonville has put up 20 sacks and 15 turnovers and scored four defensive touchdowns. They’ve had a defensive lineman (Dante Fowler Jr.) score a touchdown as well as two linebackers (Telvin Smith and Myles Jack) and a safety (Barry Church). They are spreading the wealth and remain a streaming option this week against the Rams.
The Buccaneers defense hasn’t been playing great football from a fantasy perspective on the season but did manage to sack Tom Brady three times last week and added a pair of turnovers. It’s the matchup this week that makes this unit a viable streaming option. The Cardinals are not playing good football this season and allow 3.8 sacks per game to opposing defenses. Without David Johnson the offense struggles to move the ball consistently and Carson Palmer has just six touchdown passes with five interceptions. Throw in the fact that Tampa could conceivably get Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, Keith Tandy, and/or T.J Ward back for this game and the Buccaneers are in for a big day.
While it’s yet to be seen if the Patriots defense has turned any type of corner with their victory over Tampa Bay last week, this matchup is too good to pass up. In the past two weeks the Jets have allowed eight sacks and turned the ball over three times while also giving up a defensive score. Josh McCown was sacked three times by an underwhelming Browns defense last week and New York had less than 25 rushing yards. With injuries to both Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, the Jets will be hard-pressed to move the ball on the ground in Week 6. McCown has not had a terrible year but when he’s turned into the focus of the offense bad things tend to happen.
Los Angeles Rams (at Jacksonville)
Yes. This matchup has the potential to produce a pair of productive fantasy defenses. The Rams have quietly put up top-five fantasy numbers through the first five weeks of the season. They are among the top-10 in sacks, fumble recoveries, and interceptions, as well as defensive scores. The return of Aaron Donald has really helped the defense as he’s been credited with 20 quarterback hurries and five hits in the last month. With Blake Bortles under center there is always the chance for a huge defensive game due to untimely turnovers. Even in last week’s big win at Pittsburgh, Bortles failed to reach 100 yards passing or throw for a touchdown while throwing his fourth interception.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Pittsburgh)
This is a battle of two teams heading in opposite directions. The Chiefs are a top-10 fantasy defense/special teams while the Steelers offense is in a free falling downward spiral. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coming off one of if not the worst game of career, having thrown five interceptions (two returned for scores) against the Jaguars. Roethlisberger’s confidence appears shaken as he stated “Maybe I don’t have it anymore.” following the loss. That’s not good. Now Pittsburgh heads to Kansas City to face the undefeated Chiefs and their rock-solid defense/special teams. Led by Justin Houston and his 5.5 sacks, Kansas City has racked up 14 on the season while also forcing seven turnovers. Speedster Tyreek Hill is a threat to take any punt to the house further boosting this unit’s value.