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Getting Defensive

Getting Defensive: Week 4

by Gary Davenport
Updated On: September 28, 2021, 12:52 pm ET

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According to the ADP data at Fantasy Pros, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the first defense drafted on average in fantasy football this season. The Washington Football Team came off the board fourth. Both picks were understandable. The Steelers led the league in sacks last year (again) and paced all defenses in fantasy points. Washington features maybe the NFL's best defensive line on paper and added talent at linebacker and in the secondary in the offseason.

Um, yeah…about that.

Last week in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were rolled at home for the second week in a row—this time by the Cincinnati Bengals. As if that wasn't bad enough, due in part to the absence of star edge-rusher T.J. Watt, the Steelers failed to record at least one sack for the first time in an NFL-record 75 straight games.

Mind you, this was against a Bengals team that allowed nine sacks over the first two weeks of the season.

It has been that much worse in the nation's capital. Last week in Buffalo, Washington was flat-out embarrassed by the Bills, allowing 481 total yards and 43 points in a blowout loss. Through three weeks, Washington ranks 31st in total defense, 29th in scoring defense and 29th in fantasy points.

Ouch.

Odd though it sounds, of those two disappointing performers, it's Washington that deserves at least some consideration from fantasy managers—not because of what they've done but because of who they play. Sunday Washington travels to face an Atlanta Falcons team that ranks 27th in total offense, 29th in scoring offense and leads the NFC in fantasy points surrendered to defenses.

So far as the Steelers, who are on the road at Lambeau Field Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers?

Thanks, but no thanks.

 

THE NO-DOUBTERS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at New England Patriots)

To be fair, the Buccaneers haven't played especially well defensively—the Bucs remain next to impossible to run on, but Tampa's pass defense is the worst in the league after getting lit up by Matthew Stafford and the Rams. But the Buccaneers aren't taking on a veteran quarterback and a loaded wide receiver corps in Week 4—Tom Brady's counterpart for next week's much-ballyhooed duel between Tommy Terrific and Darth Hoodie is a rookie in Mac Jones who threw three picks last week against the Saints—one of which was returned for a touchdown.

 

New Orleans Saints (vs. New York Giants)

The Saints are one of the harder teams in the league to figure out, largely because of the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the team's quarterback. But the Saints have quietly played excellent defense and sit just behind the Arizona Cardinals in fantasy points atop the leaderboard. In two of three games, the Saints have held their opponents to less than 14 points. The Saints have also tallied six interceptions and half a dozen sacks ahead of a matchup with a New York Giants team that struggled mightily to move the ball against the Falcons in Week 3. Also, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has yet to throw an interception in 2021, so you know at least one is coming Sunday.

 

 

Buffalo Bills (vs. Houston Texans)

Most of the fantasy focus in Buffalo is rightly aimed at Josh Allen and the offense. But the Bills defense is quietly off to a top-five start to the season in fantasy points after shutting out the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. We could see a similarly dominant effort from that Bills defense at home against the Houston Texans in Week 4. Head coach David Culley deserves some credit for how hard the Texans have played to date this season, but Houston remains maybe the most talent-deficient offense in the league led by a rookie quarterback who looked overmatched against the Carolina Panthers last week.

 

Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit Lions)

OK, just block out last week's horrible offensive effort from the Justin Fields-led Bears. Go ahead and block out whatever the hell Adam Gase is doing too. Here's what you need to focus on. Robert Quinn, Khalil Mack and the Bears defense has logged 10 sacks over the past two weeks. Two weeks ago against the Bengals, the Bears secured four takeaways and scored a touchdown. The Lions have also struggled to move the ball offensively the past two weeks, failing to hit the 20-point mark in either contest. In a week that's short on sure things, this is what passes for a no-doubter.

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STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

In what may or may not be a harbinger of the Apocalypse, the Cincinnati Bengals are a top-10 fantasy defense three weeks into the season—the Bengals are allowing just 18 points per game, have sacked opposing quarterbacks 10 times and have amassed four takeaways. That last number has an excellent chance of increasing Thursday night against Trevor Lawrence, who has thrown multiple interceptions in all three games this season—including an awful pick-six against the Cardinals in Week 3. Given how poorly the Jaguars are playing, they are an every-week D/ST target.

 

Tennessee Titans (at New York Jets)

Speaking of playing poorly, how about those J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets? If rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and the Jets were playing any worse, you'd think that Adam Gase was still the head coach. Coming off last week's blowout shutout loss to the Denver Broncos, the Jets are 30th in total offense and dead last in scoring, averaging less than seven points per game. The Jets have also allowed 15 sacks and turned it over seven times in three games. The fact that Tennessee isn't a good defensive football team isn't even really relevant—that's how putrid the Jets have been on offense.

 

Green Bay Packers (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

The Packers aren't a great defensive team—while Green Bay ranks in the top-10 in yards per game allowed, they also rank in the bottom-10 in points per game allowed. But like so many matchup plays; this is about who the Packers play against at Lambeau Sunday. The Steelers offense is a mess—Pittsburgh can't run the ball any better in 2021 than they did in 2020, the offensive line is awful and the added pressure on Ben Roethlisberger is causing the veteran quarterback to make bad decisions with the ball. Other than that, though, everything is fine.

 

Indianapolis Colts (at Miami Dolphins)

The 2021 season has started in miserable fashion for the 0-3 Colts, and the defense deserves its share of the blame—a team that ranked in the top-10 in multiple defensive categories last year sits in the middle of the pack in yards allowed and Indy has allowed almost 27 points per game. However, Week 4 could present a "get right" opportunity for the Colts defensively—the Jacoby Brissett-led Dolphins gave the Raiders all they could handle in Las Vegas in Week 3, but half the team's points came courtesy of turnovers and/or short fields.

 

New York Giants (at New Orleans Saints)

It's admittedly difficult to become enthused by anything Giants after the team mucked up Eli Manning's Ring of Honor ceremony last week with an ugly loss to the Falcons. But the defense tallied three sacks with a takeaway in that game while allowing just 17 points—numbers that produced a decent fantasy stat line. So long as Jameis Winston is the quarterback for the Saints, there's going to be at least some argument for starting team defenses against them—you never know when "Bad Jameis" might show up and turn the ball over four times.

 

Miami Dolphins (vs. Indianapolis Colts)

Given that the Dolphins have now allowed over 30 points in each of the last two games, some fantasy managers may find it difficult to get behind the idea of trotting out the Miami defense in Week 4. But streaming defenses is as much (if not more) about opponents than the defenses themselves. To be blunt, the Colts have looked like poo on offense for most of their 0-3 start—the team hasn't scored more than 18 points offensively in a game this season and Indianapolis presently sits 21st in the NFL in total offense and 24th in scoring offense.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

Fantasy managers who made an investment in the Rams as an every-week starter on defense need to be willing to take the bad with the good—and after allowing 446 yards last week without a takeaway in a huge win over the Buccaneers, this sets up as another "bad" week. The Arizona Cardinals got off to a slow start in the first half last week, but for most of the first three weeks of the 2021 season Kyler Murray and Co. have been as dangerous as any offense in the league. This feels like yet another Sunday shootout at SoFi Stadium.

 

Carolina Panthers (at Dallas)

Over the first three games of the 2021 campaign, the Carolina Panthers have been a revelation for fantasy managers—the Panthers lead the NFL in total defense, lead the NFC in scoring defense, rank among the top five defenses in fantasy points and have piled up 14 sacks. But those stats haven't exactly come against a Murderer's Row of opponents—the Panthers have played the Jets, Texans and Saints so far this season—and got the aforementioned "Bad Jameis" in that last one. Week 4 brings a trip Dallas—and a Cowboys team that just dropped 41 on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gary Davenport

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 2017 and 2019 FSWA awards for Football Writer of the Year. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.