This article is part of our Streaming Defenses series.The goal of this column is to identify team defenses you can stream into your lineup on a weekly basis. We're only going to consider defenses available in more than 50 percent of leagues or more, based on ESPN and Yahoo ownership data. Here are the best options for this week:
How bad is the 49ers offense? They're last in the league in yards per play (4.7) and not surprisingly, last in yards per pass attempt (5.5), as QB Colin Kaepernick is 32nd in passer rating (67.7) with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Maybe worst of all, he has taken 14 sacks, third most in the league. In the team's last two games they've scored a total of 10 points, things are that bad. I would stream almost any defense against them on a given week. The fact that the Giants are great against the run, ranking first in yards per carry (3.1), is an added bonus, as it's about the only thing the 49ers can do well, ranking tied for fifth in yards per carry (4.4). If the G-Men can neutralize that part of the game, it's going to be very difficult for the 49ers to do anything, especially on the road.
WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin don't put much fear into me, when they're going up against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara. Smith is a nice deep threat, but he and Kaepernick have shown no chemistry. As for Boldin, he's physically tough to cover, but not fast at all, so he's no threat to break a big play down field. Really the only threat on this team is Carlos Hyde, but again, the Giants are a great team at stopping the run this season. If the Giants go up by double-digits in this game, they could really roll up the sacks, as the 49ers play catchup in the second half. My only fear is that I love this matchup too much and usually when you think you have the NFL figured out, it throws you a curveball. Vegas has this over/under set at 43 with the Giants favored by 7, which puts this at about a 25-18 game. Facing the 49ers at home, the Giants defense/special teams has an ownership of 4.7 percent at ESPN and 12 percent at Yahoo.
The most sacked QB this season? Russell Wilson, who is tied for first with Alex Smith at 18 sacks. It's not a huge surprise, if you watched MNF, where Wilson was running for his life and even then he took six sacks. Even the week before, a defensively challenged Bears squad took Wilson down four times. The run blocking is fine, it's the pass blocking that is well below average and that's something I expect the Bengals to exploit as well with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Getting the ball to Jimmy Graham figures to be a priority, to help Wilson avoid sacks and because he's an outstanding weapon, but he's been asked to block so much it's hindered his playmaking ability. Other than him, no one in the WR/TE corps scares me.
On the ground, we figure to see Marshawn Lynch back from his hamstring injury, though he may still not be 100 percent. Fred Jackson (ankle) will be out, meaning it's Lynch or Thomas Rawls, who has looked spry with a healthy 4.5 YPC. The Bengals rank tied for 20th in YPC (4.2), so I expect whoever is running the ball for the Seahawks to have some success. This game will really come down to how Andy Dalton handles the Legion of Boom. If he limits the turnovers, the Bengals can keep this game close and allow their defense to help dictate the tempo of the game, which figures to be slow. Vegas has this over/under set at 43 with the Bengals favored by 3, which puts this at about a 23-20 game. Facing the Seahawks at home, the Bengals defense/special teams has an ownership of 29.1 percent at ESPN and 29 percent at Yahoo.
When in doubt, fade Jameis Winston. The rookie QB is tied for the league lead in interceptions (seven) and is 31st in passer rating (71.2). He's got fine weapons in WR Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, but the two can only do so much, when Winston is running around willing to take any risk, if he things there's even a chance it could end up in positive yardage for his team. Anyone who watched him in his last season at FSU knows exactly what I'm referring to and isn't the least bit surprised he's carried over this part of his game to the NFL. The Jags rank tied for 14th in YPA (6.8) on defense, but will be without LB Paul Posluszny due to a high ankle sprain. His absence is a real blow to what has been a pretty effective defense, ranking eighth in yards per play (5.2).
On the ground, good luck to Doug Martin, as the Jags are the best run defense, allowing just 3.1 YPC. He ripped off over 100 yards last week against the Panthers, but before that performed pretty modestly against the Saints and Texans (3.7 and 3.3 YPC respectively). I'm more fearful of Charles Sims, who is great at pass blocking and can be a real weapon on plays designed for him in space, such as on screens. Vegas has this over/under set at 42 with the Bucs favored by 3, which puts this at about a 23-20 game. Facing the Bucs on the road, the Jaguars defense/special teams has an ownership of 0.8 percent at ESPN and 2 percent at Yahoo.
The Chargers have one of the more beaten up offensive lines in football right now with left guard Orlando Franklin (ankle), left tackle King Dunlap (concussion), center Chris Watt (groin), and right guard D.J. Fluker (ankle/chest) all battling injuries. The Steelers rank fifth in sacks per game (3.5) and I'll be pretty surprised if they don't give QB Philip Rivers a hard time all game long. To his credit, Rivers has played very well this season, ranking fourth in YPA (8.91). Of course he's fifth in sacks taken (12) though because of his porous line. WR Keenan Allen has been a target monster this season and is likely to draw most of the coverage his way, which should help TE Antonio Gates, who returns this week from suspension. Outside of a Week 1 matchup with Rob Gronkowski, the Steelers have been solid against tight ends, so I wouldn't expect Gates to have an explosive game. RB Danny Woodhead is of more concern, as he's a very capable receiver. The Steelers rank 11th in YPA (6.6) overall, but have improved to eighth (6.0) the last three weeks, since playing the Patriots.
RB Melvin Gordon is still looking to get going this season, as he averages just 57 yards per game. He's seen more carries than Woodhead, but is still looking for his first TD. The unit as a whole is averaging 3.9 YPC, which is 21st in the league. The Steelers give up just about the same on defense (4.0 YPC), so this should be a fairly even matchup. The biggest concern in this game is Michael Vick and his play, as the Steelers have to keep their offense on the field long enough to give their own defense time to rest. Considering they played last week on Thursday and this is a game on Monday night, the extra prep time should only help them. Vegas has this over/under set at 45.5 with the Chargers favored by 3, which puts this at about a 24-21 game. Facing the Chargers on the road, the Steelers defense/special teams has an ownership of 9.6 percent at ESPN and 11 percent at Yahoo.
The Broncos have the second worst offense in the league, averaging just 4.8 yards per play. QB Peyton Manning ranks 31st in YPA (6.29) and fourth in interceptions (five). Not surprisingly to those who have watched him play, he's 18th in completion percentage (63.6) as there is no zip on his passes, when he's aiming the ball and throwing it up for grabs, hoping his WR comes down with it. The offensive line has had it's share of injuries and moving parts, forcing Manning to go to the pistol formation more and more, so he can see the rush coming and get the ball out of his hands on time. The Raiders have been below average against the pass, ranking 22nd in YPA (7.3), so this may be a game where WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both go off, though I'd be somewhat surprised, as Manning just is not the same Manning we've seen in season's past.
The Broncos running game is disjointed as C.J. Anderson continues to be the starter, despite averaging just 2.7 YPC. Ronnie Hillman is the more explosive back at this point and should start to see the majority of carries soon, if not this week. The Raiders rank tied for seventh in YPC (3.8), which is promising considering where they've been in seasons past. LB Khalil Mack should have a productive game and maybe this is the week we finally see the old Aldon Smith back, wreaking havoc on the field as he did with the 49ers. The Broncos defense is elite and could really shutdown the Raiders forcing them to play from behind and take more chances, swinging this game in favor of the Broncos, but when Peyton Manning is on the field, it's looking less and less like he should be feared. Vegas has this over/under set at 43.5 with the Broncos favored by 4.5, which puts this at about a 24-20 game. Facing the Broncos at home, the Raiders defense/special teams has an ownership of 7.0 percent at ESPN and 6 percent at Yahoo.
Here are my rankings for this week, the next four weeks, and the remainder of the season:
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