Welcome to the start of a new season. I, as a Bears fan, couldn’t be much more excited to tell you that football is back. This Thursday will be the centennial season, and I cannot wait to see Khalil Mack and my Bears trying to improve upon last season. Plenty of teams have Super Bowl aspirations, others dream of merely making the playoffs, and some are just excited to see if they’re getting Tua Tagovailoa of Trevor Lawrence. I will be joining you once again this season to break down the best defensive streaming options this year.
If you’re new to QBList, I wrote a weekly column about streaming defenses last year as well. Here’s the gist: If you don’t want to spend up on an elite defense, you can instead play matchups. You switch defenses each week, always looking for a good matchup as opposed to the best unit. When it works, you can come up with some truly surprising results. How did we do last year? Picking one team each week, we managed to finish better than the Bears defense in total fantasy points. While this should hardly be the weekly expectation, we saw that this method is more than viable. So, how do we pick a streamer?
The first thing I look for is an under-owned unit that might be hiding on waivers. I’ve seen top-5 defenses owned in 90% or less of leagues at the beginning of the season. Even if it’s only a one in ten chance, check. A great defense is a great defense and it could become an important piece moving forward. The other thing I look for is sleeper defenses. Last year, the Bears were fresh off of a top-10 finish and added Khalil Mack. Still, they were owned in a surprisingly low percent of leagues. Even after week one, when they nearly killed Aaron Rodgers, they were still below 70% ownership. Pay attention to those first couple weeks and make your move. You can find steals out there.
Poor Quarterback Play
When I line up my weekly streams, I love to pick on bad quarterbacks. There are certain guys who just seem to know how to disappoint. They throw picks, fumble the ball, and generally struggle to keep their offense on the field. Last year, we started hot with a matchup against Nathan Peterman. He helped Baltimore end up as the third-best defense that week in an ugly loss that should have surprised no one.
Remember, though, that we can still finish strong by picking mistake-prone players. Rookies do a solid job of coughing the ball up, and most of them can be targeted as they learn the ropes. This year, I expect to be attacking the Dolphins (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen), the Giants (Eli Manning, Daniel Jones), the Bills (Josh Allen), and the Buccaneers (Jameis Winston). Again, I don’t predict all of these offenses will fail. In the case of Tampa Bay, I simply expect 1-2 turnovers a game strictly from the QB. With all of this said, let’s jump into it…
Week 1 Options
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all defenses chosen as “streamers” are owned in 50% or less of all Yahoo leagues. Some defenses that are under-owned will be highlighted as well each week. They will not count as weekly streamers however.
Philadelphia Eagles (73%)
Let’s start the show off with an under-owned team. The Eagles were considered a top-5 defense before last season and they finished as a top-10 unit. They have improved the running game, Carson Wentz is healthy, and the defense should be as strong as ever. The pass rush was rated #1 by PFF, the secondary was ranked 21st, and they have a great opponent in week 1 to boot: the Washington Redskins. I expect the Eagles to start fast and be the most added team after week one. Grab them now if you are lucky enough. You will be happy you did.
Seattle Seahawks (63%)
Why should we trust Seattle’s defense? They don’t look to have a particularly amazing pass rush or secondary. They aren’t a team I would be hunting out right now in a neutral matchup. However, they are a team I like at home, and they are a team I like with a good matchup. The Bengals are traveling across the country to take on the Seahawks, they have a lousy offensive line, and I don’t trust Andy Dalton. Would you be surprised to see Dalton throw 2 picks in a 14 point home win for Seattle? I sure wouldn’t. Look for Seattle’s defense if Philly isn’t available.
Denver Broncos (60%)
The Denver Broncos already have an excellent pass rush and secondary, but they also have something more: an elite defensive coach. Vic Fangio is the new HC in the Mile-high city, and he was responsible for turning a good Bears defense into an elite one. Sure, Khalil Mack helped. Fangio was instrumental, though. Now, he heads to Denver. I’m guessing he makes at least a minor improvement on the squad that finished top-5 last year. To top it all of, Denver faces Oakland in week 1. Now maybe the Raiders are a changed team. With all the time Antonio Brown has missed, however, I’ll target them in week 1. Give Denver a shot and see what they can do for you. I’d select them over Seattle if you want a squad that might break out.
Kansas City Chiefs (35%)
Kansas City was all offense and no defense last year. We all know this. What if I told you that their defense finished sixth overall last season? They really did! When you can pound opponents into submission early, you force them to become one dimensional. The Chiefs were amazing at this, and they return almost every weapon from last year. The Chiefs are our first sleeper candidate, and I’ll admit that for me they are simply a matchup play this week. They face Jacksonville, and I’m not ready to believe in Nick Foles leading a team for 16 games. I think he’ll make some mistakes, and Kansas City could capitalize big time. Watch for a Chiefs win and hope for a defensive score. Either way, this unit has a great matchup in the first week.
Buffalo Bills (46%, stream of the week)
The Bills had some excitement last season as Josh Allen showed off his big arm and his surprising scrambling ability. They are anchored by a near-elite secondary and a strong pass rush. This defense only gave up 19 points per game over the last six games of 2018…when Allen was starting and the team went 3-3 (6-10 on the season). I expect the Bills defense to put up another good showing, and the Jets aren’t exactly a league-winning offense. Maybe Darnold has taken a step forward, but he still threw multiple interceptions in a third of his starts along with 5 fumbles and 30 sacks on the season. Darnold played decently against the Bills in one game last season, but not well enough to scare me. Expect a couple sacks, an interception, and this one could be promising. Did I mention that the Jets have a bottom-5 offensive line? Add it all together, and Buffalo is my stream of the week.
New York Jets (14%)
What if you believe in the Jets? You could do worse than targetting the Bills offense. The Jets are top-20 according to PFF in both pass rush and secondary strength, and they added bell-cow running back Le’Veon Bell in the offseason. If the Jets can successfully run, they could keep the score low and look to take pressure off of their sophomore QB. Josh Allen, like Sam Darnold, made plenty of mistakes in his own rookie season. In 12 starts, he had 5 games with multiple interceptions. He also fumbled the ball a frighteningly-high eight times. This game might really come down to who blows it first. Do you trust Darnold or Allen more to play smart? I actually think the Jets are the better offense, and they have a chance to take this one. If you dislike Allen more than Darnold, consider taking the Jets defense instead.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)