This article is part of our Streaming Defenses series.
I'm not normally one to brag… or maybe I am. Either way, you won't find a fantasy football column with a better track record than this one. Week 8 continued a prolonged run of success, with each of our five recommendations finishing t-11th or better in D/ST scoring.
A quick look at the Week 8 leaderboard reveals three of our picks at the very top, with New England (20 points) followed by Cincinnati (19) and then Washington (15). The Steelers (seven points) and Cardinals (eight) may have been relative disappointments, but they were still useful pieces in fantasy lineups.
Week 9 presents us with our greatest challenge to date, as the six teams on bye include a trio of highly favorable matchup opponents (ARI, NYG, JAX). What's more, the coveted Buffalo matchup goes to a Chicago defense that's already owned in 96 percent of leagues. The good news is that we still have decent depth in our streaming options, albeit without the obvious high-end selections that were available last week.
Note: These recommendations are limited to D/ST units with under 60 percent ownership on Yahoo as of Tuesday morning. Any references to fantasy points are based on Yahoo standard scoring.
Top Streaming Options for Week 9
1. Dallas Cowboys (vs. Tennessee Titans)
15% Yahoo ownership
The Dallas defense hasn't done much from a fantasy perspective, but it's only a matter of time until the solid performance translates to a big day on the stat sheet. The Cowboys entered a Week 8 bye ranked 12th in Football Outsiders' DVOA, and they now sit top three in the league for both points (17.6) and yards allowed (313.7). A ball-control offense is obviously a big factor in the last two stats, but we can at least all agree the Dallas defense is above average, which should be more than enough to get the job done against a moribund Titans squad ranked 30th for both yardage (280.9) and scoring (15.1). Vegas supports the notion of a possible blowout, as the game line gives us implied totals of Cowboys 23.75 - Titans 17.25.
2. Carolina Panthers (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
46% Yahoo ownership
Disappointing for most of the season, Carolina's defense finally came up big in a 36-21 win over the Ravens on Sunday, notching three takeaways and two sacks against Joe Flacco before a garbage-time touchdown from Lamar Jackson made the final score look semi-respectable. The Week 9 matchup could lead to another dominant performance from one of the NFL's more balanced teams, with Carolina favored by seven points in game that has the third highest over/under (54) of the week. Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't been quite as friendly as Jameis Winston from a matchup perspective, but the Bucs have still allowed an average of 8.3 fantasy points to team defenses in four Fitzmagic starts. The team's utter lack of balance leads to a wealth of opportunities for sacks and turnovers, allowing for a solid fantasy performance from the opponent's defense even when the Bucs pile up yards and points.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (at Cleveland Browns)
32% Yahoo ownership
This is another instance where we expect the defense to give up some points but also have every reason to believe they'll notch sacks and takeaways while playing with a lead. The Chiefs have already capitalized on this scenario numerous times in 2018, ranking 13th in D/ST scoring average (7.8 points) and 31st in yards allowed per game (432). They now get to face a Browns team in obvious turmoil after the firing of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley on Monday. It simply isn't reasonable to expect immediate improvement under new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, who finds himself in charge of a unit with an obvious lack of reliable pass-catching threats behind Jarvis Landry. It's no wonder Baker Mayfield ranks 25th among 34 qualified quarterbacks in sack rate (8.2) and 22nd in interception rate (2.7). Cleveland is listed as the second biggest underdog of the week at 7.5 points.
4. Miami Dolphins (vs. New York Jets)
11% Yahoo ownership
This one is about matchup and matchup alone, pitting a struggling Dolphins defense against a Jets offense that's even worse. There's no reason to watch this game unless you're a diehard fan of one of the teams, so we'll settling for capitalizing on some of the ugliness in our fantasy lineups. Gang Green surprisingly has given up just the 12th most points to team defenses, but it's hard to imagine how they'll stay out of the top 10 by season's end. With Bilal Powell (neck) on injured reserve and both Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle) banged up, ice-cold Sam Darnold doesn't have much of anything to work with. The Jets are listed as three-point underdogs with one of the lower implied totals (21 points) of what should otherwise be a high-scoring week.
5. Denver Broncos (vs. Houston Texans)
54% Yahoo ownership
The Broncos quietly rank seventh among all defenses with 8.6 fantasy points per game, benefiting from a massive two-TD performance against Arizona a couple weeks ago. While one big game obviously distorts the average, we also need to consider that Denver has already played the Chiefs twice and the Rams once, allowing a respectable average of 26.7 points in those three games. Led by outside linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, the Broncos are tied for second in the NFL with 24 sacks. Meanwhile, the Texans are tied for 27th with 26 sacks allowed, as Deshaun Watson has struggled through some tough weeks behind a shaky offensive line. Houston has nonetheless managed to field a solid attack, but the task will be more difficult with Will Fuller (knee) out for the season and Keke Coutee (hamstring) no lock to return this week. The team has a modest implied total of 22.25, listed as 2.5-point underdogs for a trip to Denver.
Week 9 D/ST Rankings
1. Chicago Bears (at BUF)
2. Dallas Cowboys (vs. TEN)
3. Houston Texans (at DEN)
4. Carolina Panthers (vs. TB)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (at CLE)
6. Miami Dolphins (vs. NYJ)
7. Denver Broncos (vs. HOU)
8. Minnesota Vikings (vs. DET)
9. Washington Redskins (vs. ATL)
10. Buffalo Bills (vs. CHI)
11. Seattle Seahawks (vs. LAC)
12. Baltimore Ravens (vs. PIT)
13. Los Angeles Chargers (at SEA)
14. San Francisco 49ers (vs. OAK)
15. New York Jets (at MIA)
16. New Orleans Saints (vs. LA)
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (at BAL)
18. Tennessee Titans (at DAL)
19. Los Angeles Rams (at NO)
20. Oakland Raiders (at SF)
Looking Ahead to Week 10
1. New York Jets (vs. BUF)
2. Green Bay Packers (vs. MIA)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (vs. ARZ)
4. Los Angeles Chargers (at OAK)
5. Chicago Bears (vs. DET)
6. Los Angeles Rams (vs. SEA)
7. Philadelphia Eagles (vs. DAL)
8. Indianapolis Colts (vs. JAC)
9. Washington Redskins (at TB)
10. New England Patriots (at TEN)
11. Jacksonville Jaguars (at IND)
12. San Francisco 49ers (vs. NYG)
13. New Orleans Saints (at CIN)
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. CAR)
15. Buffalo Bills (at NYJ)
16. Detroit Lions (at CHI)
17. Atlanta Falcons (at CLE)
18. Cleveland Browns (vs. ATL)
19. New York Giants (at SF)
20. Cincinnati Bengals (vs. NO)
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Chicago Bears
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Houston Texans
5. Washington Redskins
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. Philadelphia Eagles
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. New England Patriots
11. Los Angeles Chargers
12. Tennessee Titans
13. New Orleans Saints
14. Carolina Panthers
15. Denver Broncos
16. Dallas Cowboys
17. Cleveland Browns
18. Green Bay Packers
19. Pittsburgh Steelers
20. Miami Dolphins