3 Fantasy Football Defensive Streaming Options for Week 1
It may be hard to believe, but we've made it to the part of the year where we're measuring the start of the NFL season in days. That means fantasy lineups will need to be set in short order, and for many of you, that D/ST position is a dreaded portion of the lineup. Fantasy Twitter often calls for its removal altogether.
I'm certainly not in the "Ban D/STs" camp; in fact, I'm not even in the dread camp. I actually enjoy streaming defenses, and there's a few reasons for that: I'm confident I have a significant edge over my league-mates on a weekly basis, it's a chance to tweak your team every week, and you get to root for an entire team rather than an individual player.
I realize my enthusiasm for the D/ST position is a rarity, so in lieu of you spending as many hours thinking about defense streaming as I have, you can simply keep reading as I've outlined a few defenses I'm interested in this week. If you want to delve further into this topic, consult our projections.
Assume the order the teams are listed in is the order of preference. Note that odds are courtesy of the FanDuel Sportsbook, and availability is according to ESPN's platform.
Spread: Eagles -6.5
Implied Total Allowed: 18.50
ESPN Roster Percentage: 40%
The Philadelphia Eagles hit the road to take on the Washington Football Team this week. The Eagles' defense disappointed a year ago, but football is a highly random game and defense even more so, meaning we should be careful when trend-watching as it could be just the aforementioned randomness in disguise.
For what it's worth, the Eagles' defense has improved this offseason, most notably upgrading their porous secondary with Darius Slay Slay is the type of player who can instantly upgrade a whole unit. His matching up with top receivers will give Philly's other cornerbacks easier assignments. This is important as there's growing evidence that coverage is actually more important than pass rush, and the Eagles struggled with coverage last year.
One reason behind coverage potentially mattering more than pass rush is that quarterbacks likely have some impact on their pressure rate. Dwayne Haskins did himself no favors in this regard last season with a 12.5% sack rate in addition to his 3.4% interception rate. Both figures were among the worst in the league. Haskins will likely improve in Year 2, but his rookie campaign was so bad that he still projects as one of the league's worst starters.
In a year in which quarterback play looks relatively strong league-wide, Haskins looks to be an exception. That's valuable in DS/T streaming. We have Philly as the top defense of Week 1.
Kansas City Chiefs
Spread: Chiefs -9.5
Implied Points Allowed: 22.0
ESPN Roster Percentage: 33%
The Kansas City Chiefs aren't known for stout defensive play, but that isn't necessarily the only thing that matters for D/STs. Opportunity is also important, and in defensive streaming terms, opportunity means pass attempts against. Obviously, pass attempts are the only way to get sacks and interceptions, but more counter-intuitively, they're also the play most likely to result in a fumble. Of the 20 most common fumblers, all 20 were quarterbacks, with only Chris Carson cracking the top 26 as a non-quarterback.
Houston coach Bill O'Brien is normally an establish-the-run type, but facing a deficit -- which is the expectation here with the Houston Texans nearly 10-point 'dogs -- will force him to throw. While Deshaun Watson is a tremendous quarterback -- and I like him this year -- he takes a bunch of sacks. The tendency is to blame the offensive line, but that may not have been the case last year.
The Texans are the only team whose entire 2020 offensive line finished with a 2019 pass block grade north of 70.
Laremy Tunsil: 88.2 (3rd LT)
Max Scharping: 74.0 (13th LG)
Nick Martin: 82.3 (6th C)
Zach Fulton: 77.0 (6th RG)
Tytus Howard: 70.4 (15th RT) pic.twitter.com/iyk3HTEBVC
— PFF HOU Texans (@PFF_Texans) May 25, 2020
The likelier truth is that Watson simply induces a lot of pressure, It's OK. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers share this trait. It doesn't mean Watson isn't a great quarterback; it does mean, however, that the Kansas City D/ST has a higher ceiling in this spot because of the way Watson plays.
Start the Chiefs and hope for them to run up the score while also running up the sack (and hopefully turnover) total. Our model ranks KC's defense 10th for Week 1.
Spread: Lions -3.0
Implied Points Allowed: 20.5
ESPN Roster Percentage: 4%
In a year that looks to be mostly bereft of really poor quarterback play, the Chicago Bears have gifted defensive streamers with Mitchell Trubisky. Nick Foles may never relive his Super Bowl MVP days, but he's better than Trubisky in sack and interception rates. But it's Trubisky who is going to start the opener.
The Detroit Lions were hapless as a team defense a year ago, but a lot has changed since then. Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah were brought in, but perhaps more importantly, Matthew Stafford has returned at quarterback. With Stafford back in the lineup, the Lions can feasibly build a lead more often, giving them more chances to amass sacks and turnovers.
There is exactly one scenario in which seeing Trubisky throw is enjoyable, and that's starting a D/ST against him. With the Lions almost universally available, many readers of this article can be in that situation in Week 1. We project Detroit as a ninth-best defense in Week 1.