Week 2 proved rather friendly to this space, with my recommendations finishing first (Bucs), T-2nd (Ravens), T-10th (Raiders), T-15th (Bengals) and 23rd (Chargers) in Yahoo! standard scoring for team defenses. Naturally, the Bengals and Chargers were the two defenses I used on my season-long teams, as the Ravens weren’t available (I’m from Baltimore) and I had the Bucs ranked last among the five recommendations (oops). Maybe this week I can combine solid recommendations with good decisions regarding my own teams...
Note: These recommendations are limited to D/ST units with under 60 percent ownership on Yahoo! as of Tuesday morning.
Top Streaming Options for Week 3
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. New York Giants)
27% Yahoo ownership
Jay Gruden said it best at the end of the Giants’ Monday night debacle: Philadelphia isn’t a place you want to go if you have issues in pass protection. That’s a troubling reality for a Giants team that’s allowed eight sacks in two games, regardless of whether you want to pin the results on Eli Manning or his offensive line. Manning has also thrown a pair of picks while completing just four passes of 20-plus yards, and the running game has squeaked out 97 yards on 30 carries. Even with a healthier version of Odell Beckham, the Giants are in real danger of fielding a bottom-five offense this season.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have piled up eight sacks in two games, despite drawing road matchups against teams that allowed the fourth and 11th-fewest sacks last season. With Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan providing an interior rush while Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett come off the edge, Philadelphia is among the favorites to lead the NFL in sacks. The one clear weakness of this defense is the cornerbacks, but Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Patrick Robinson have held up better than expected so far. Unfortunately, the Eagles do have a tough matchup around the corner, traveling to Los Angeles to face Philip Rivers in Week 4.
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Baltimore Ravens)
48% Yahoo ownership
My love for the Ravens will probably prevent me from streaming the Jaguars, but that doesn’t mean everyone else shouldn’t take advantage. Baltimore got by with extremely conservative game plans in Weeks 1 and 2, relying on an excellent defense to hide an offense that has no real strengths to make up for a clear deficiency on the line. Said deficiency got a whole lot worse with the news that Marshal Yanda -- who is universally viewed as one of the league’s two or three best guards -- will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle.
The Jacksonville defense came crashing back to earth in Sunday’s 37-16 loss to the Titans, but we still shouldn’t completely disregard the unit’s magnificent performance (28 fantasy points) in a 29-7 win over the Texans in Week 1. Few teams have a comparable collection of defensive talent, and while consistency may still be an issue, the Jaguars shouldn’t have any trouble shutting down the Baltimore running game and putting pressure on Joe Flacco. The Jags also figure to find success in Week 4 when they travel to New York to face the Jets.
Miami Dolphins (at New York Jets)
5% Yahoo ownership
The Jets have mostly been as advertised through two weeks, geting outscored 66-32. The only reason I’m not higher on Miami’s prospects is that the Jets have deployed an extremely conservative passing game, which limits the opportunities for opponents to come up with turnovers. Josh McCown has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 5.5 yards per attempt -- a stat line that suggests the Jets are trying to avoid embarrassment rather than taking an earnest shot at winning.
Granted, we can still view the Jets as a top-five matchup for opposing defenses, likely allowing the Miami D to bounce back strong from a difficult Week 2 road outing against the Chargers. This profiles as a mediocre unit, but that should be enough to get the job done against the Jets. You won’t want to hold onto the Miami defense for a Week 4 contest against the Saints.
Green Bay Packers (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)
24% Yahoo ownership
Coming off an ugly performance in Atlanta, the Green Bay defense figures to get back on track in a matchup with a Cincinnati offense that arguably has been the league’s worst unit through two weeks (with apologies to the Saints’ defense). After turning the ball over five times against Baltimore in their opener, the Bengals managed just nine points Week 2 versus Houston. Andy Dalton has already been sacked eight times while playing behind a line that lost its two best players in the offseason, making it difficult to take advantage of new weapons Joe Mixon and John Ross.
The Green Bay defense is far from spectacular and can easily be exploited by wide receivers, but the unit is typically a strong fantasy option at home, where it often benefits from Aaron Rodgers’ ability to produce early leads. Andy Dalton likely will be in for a long day if the Packers’ defense is able to pin its ears back and disregard the run. As a bonus, Green Bay makes for an excellent two-week streamer, facing the Bears at Lambeau Field next Thursday.
Tennessee Titans (vs. Seattle Seahawks)
11% Yahoo ownership
With their long-standing struggles on the offensive line seemingly at a nadir, the Seahawks no longer profile as a difficult matchup for opposing defenses. They’ve allowed six sacks and produced just 21 points through two weeks, though Russell Wilson does at least get some credit for keeping the team in games by avoiding turnovers. Of course, I expect that to change this week against a Tennessee team that should put up some points against Seattle’s excellent defense. Wilson isn’t the problem, but there’s not much he’ll be able to do if he’s facing a multi-score deficit behind that line, particularly if Jimmy Graham (ankle/knee) is unavailable.
The Tennessee defense is a middling unit on paper, but it’s seemingly good enough to take advantage of favorable matchups, as was the case in Jacksonville (two sacks, three takeaways) on Sunday. An ugly Week 1 showing against the Raiders should seem like the distant past by the team Seattle leaves town. The Titans also have appeal beyond Sunday, heading to Houston in Week 4 and later playing the Colts (Week 6) and Browns (Week 7). Stuck in between is a sub-optimal Week 5 matchup in Miami.
Honorable Mentions: Indianapolis Colts (vs. Cleveland Browns), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Minnesota Vikings)
Week 3 D/ST Rankings
1. Patriots (vs. HOU)
2. Eagles (vs. NYG)
3. Broncos (at BUF)
4. Ravens (at JAC)
5. Jaguars (vs. BAL)
6. Dolphins (at NYJ)
7. Packers (vs. CIN)
8. Vikings (vs. TB)
9. Steelers (at CHI)
10. Titans (vs. SEA)
11. Cardinals (vs. DAL)
12. Chiefs (at LAC)
13. Rams (at SF)
14. Buccaneers (at MIN)
15. Colts (vs. CLE)
16. Seahawks (at TEN)
17. Panthers (vs. NO)
18. Raiders (at WAS)
19. Giants (at PHI)
20. Bills (vs. DEN)
21. Falcons (at DET)
22. 49ers (vs. LA)
23. Redskins (vs. OAK)
24. Chargers (vs. KC)
25. Cowboys (at ARZ)
26. Bears (vs. PIT)
27. Lions (vs. ATL)
28. Browns (at IND)
29. Jets (vs. MIA)
30. Bengals (at GB)
31. Texans (at NE)
32. Saints (at CAR)
Looking Ahead to Week 4
As previously mentioned, the Packers host the Bears on Thursday Night Football.
The Jags win the “facing the Jets” lottery, though Blake Bortles might find a way to foul up the free win.
The Bengals will travel to Cleveland to face DeShone Kizer and the Browns.
The Bucs have a home date against a Giants team that likely will be 0-3 at that point.