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Minkah Fitzpatrick
AP
Getting Defensive

Getting Defensive: Week 10

by Gary Davenport
Updated On: November 10, 2020, 2:31 am ET

What the holy heck has gotten into the Miami Dolphins?

After stunning the Cardinals in Arizona, the Dolphins are 5-3 and nipping at the heels of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. And while most of the talk about the Dolphins the past couple of weeks has centered on young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Miami defense is doing their part as well.

Yes, the Dolphins allowed 31 points in Arizona. Plenty of teams are allowing plenty of points to Kyler Murray and the Redbirds. But the Dolphins still finished the week well inside the top-10 fantasy defenses, thanks to the team's third non-offensive score in the last two games.

After nine weeks, the Dolphins are fourth in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 20.1 points per game. Miami is tied for third in the league with 14 takeaways. A pass rush keyed by Emmanuel Ogbah has amassed a respectable 20 sacks. And Miami ranks inside the top-five fantasy defenses for the season in most scoring systems.

As a matter of fact, since Week 5 the Dolphins are the highest-scoring fantasy defense overall by a sizable margin—and that's with Miami's bye week mixed in.

This week's home date with a Chargers team that sits in the bottom half of the NFL in fantasy points given up to defenses in 2020 isn't ideal. But given how hot the Dolphins have been over the past few weeks, if you have Miami rostered in fantasy leagues, you're rolling them out.

 

THE NO-DOUBTERS

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)

OK, so we won't spend too much time bemoaning what appeared to be a fantasy bonanza for the Steelers last week in Dallas. But really Pittsburgh? Two lousy sacks and two takeaways against a Cowboys team with injuries all over the offensive line and a fourth-string quarterback starting the game? Really? Of course, the Steelers aren't any happier with that defensive performance than fantasy managers were, and that could set up an angry defense looking to right the ship against a Bengals team that is second in the NFL in sacks allowed and seventh in fantasy points per game given up to defenses.

Baltimore Ravens (at New England Patriots)

Compliments of a Chuck Clark fumble return for a touchdown last week, the Baltimore Ravens are the No.1  defense in more fantasy scoring systems than not this season. And as edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue becomes more acclimated to his new team, that defense should only get better. The Patriots did a better job of taking care of the football against the Jets in Week 9, but the New England offense remains wholly unimpressive. If you need a stat to tell you how far the Pats have fallen in 2020, try this one—the team ranks fourth in fantasy points surrendered to defenses in 2020.

Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Giants)

The Eagles had to be happy to see their Week 9 bye arrive—it marked the first Sunday since the beginning of September that the Eagles didn't lose four players to injuries. At 3-4-1, the Eagles are in first place in the NFC (L)East ahead of this week's matchup with a Giants team that has two wins on the season—both against Washington. These teams met back in Week 7, and the Eagles fared pretty well defensively for fantasy managers—three sacks and an equal number of takeaways. Nine weeks in, the Giants are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to team defenses.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Carolina Panthers)

On some level, this might appear a sketchy play—the Buccaneers just got demolished at home by the New Orleans Saints, and the Carolina Panthers just gave the Chiefs all they could handle, scoring 31 points in Kansas City. But fantasy managers reluctant to trust the Bucs after last week's dud should take a breath and chillax. We've seen this movie before—back in Week 2, the Buccaneers sacked Teddy Bridgewater five times and forced four turnovers in a 14-point win in Tampa. The Buccaneers led all NFC defenses in fantasy points that week.

Washington Football Team (at Detroit Lions)

The WFT (guys, pick a name or everyone is going to start typing WTF) lost a disappointing game to the New York Giants in Week 9, but the defense continued to be a solid source of fantasy production. Washington got to Daniel Jones five times in the game, and the team (with less than no help from the offense) has been a top-10 unit in 2020. The Lions are reeling (because Lions), allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to team defenses over the past two weeks. Detroit could also be without both quarterback Matthew Stafford (concussion) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) in this game.

Chicago Bears (at Minnesota Vikings)

That the Bears are over .500 at all is a testament to how good the team's seventh-ranked defense. But to date this season, that hasn't translated to fantasy success due to a lack of splash plays—the Bears barely rank inside the top 20 in fantasy points among defenses this season. However, this week could be something of a "get right" opportunity. The Vikings have played better of late, but the team still sits just outside the top-10 in fantasy points given up to defenses and has been prone to turning it over in 2020. If Chicago can get any kind of handle on Dalvin Cook, they could be a sneaky-good fantasy play.

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STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

New Orleans Saints (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

Given that the Saints entered Week 9 20th in fantasy points among defenses and had a rough matchup on tap against the Tompa Bradyneers, New Orleans is probably available on quite a few waiver wires. After holding the Bucs to three points, picking Brady off three times, and sacking him three times to finish as a top-five unit, not so much. If you are that lucky duck (quack) who lands the Saints off the wire in Week 10, roll them out with confidence—they host a 49ers team this week with a ridiculous number of injuries that couldn't move the ball last week against Green Bay until garbage time.

Green Bay Packers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Packers might be the best team in the NFC, but the defense has taken a step backward—at least where big plays on defense are concerned. Last year, the Packers tallied 41 sacks—a number the team is on pace to come up significantly short of in 2020. Green Bay also has just six takeaways this season—second-fewest in the league. So, what makes the Packers a great streaming option in Week 10? Luton Lunacy, baby! Yes. Sixth-round rookie Jake Luton played well in his NFL debut against the Houston Texans last week. But we're still talking about a first-year quarterback for a one-win team making the first road start of his professional career. Green Bay will hit the top-five in Week 10. Book it.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Houston Texans)

The Browns admittedly are not a fantasy play for the faint of heart. The Browns are 26th in the league in scoring defense, surrendering a hair under 30 points a game. The Houston Texans have the offensive firepower to approach that number on the shores of Lake Erie this weekend. But the Texans continue to have issues protecting Deshaun Watson, allowing 24 sacks through eight games in 2020. Conversely, Cleveland's Myles Garrett is rather good at the whole rushing the passer thing. The Browns also rank toward the top of the NFL in takeaways, And the Texans have been kind to team defenses this season, ranking inside the top-10 in points per game allowed.

New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)

Speaking of plays that aren't for the faint of heart. The New York Giants are admittedly not a good football team—except when they play Washington. But the New York defense has quietly been OK, ranking in the middle of the pack in both yards and points allowed. This matchup is more about New York's opponent anyway—the Eagles have been an error-prone mess offensively that ranks dead last in sacks allowed (32) and next to last in giveaways (17). To no one's surprise, that has resulted in the Iggles being a favorable fantasy matchup defensively—eighth in points allowed.

Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Denver Broncos)

I can feel your stares, intrepid reader. Granted, the Las Vegas Raiders are not a great defensive football-team—23rd in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. The Raiders are also not a great fantasy defense—only four teams have fewer fantasy points this season. But this desperation play is all about the matchup against a Denver Broncos Offense that ranks third in the NFL in both giveaways and fantasy points per game surrendered to defenses. If the waiver wire in a deeper league has been picked over, the Raiders are at least a decent in case of emergency break glass play.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

Los Angeles Rams (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

The Rams are an excellent defensive football team—Los Angeles ranks second in total defense (291.9 yards per game) and scoring defense (19 points per game), fifth in sacks with 25 and inside the top-12 in fantasy points. Seattle also allowed five sacks and turned it over four times in last week's loss to the Buffalo Bills—numbers that landed Buffalo inside the top five defenses for the week despite allowing a 390-yard passing game to Russell Wilson and 34 points to Seattle. But if the Rams don't log a bucket full of big plays in the game, you could easily be staring down a doughnut.

Indianapolis Colts (at Tennessee Titans)

The Colts are where they are at the halfway point of the 2020 season because of their defense—Indy leads the NFL in total defense, ranks third in scoring defense and is right there with the Steelers and Ravens as the top fantasy defense nine weeks into the season. The problem in Week 10 is the matchup—in most scoring systems the Titans are dead last in fantasy points given up to defenses this year. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked just 12 times in eight games, and the Titans have all of four giveaways all season long.

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.