NFL Fantasy: Start ‘em, sit ‘em defense/special teams

Houston tries to adjust to life without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus this week. Does their opponent keep them in the ‘start em’ side of the ledger?

There were some surprising scores, but few shocking defensive performances in Week 5. We already knew the Jacksonville Jaguars had the best passing defense and I’m not streaming the Dolphins this week based on their shutdown of Matt Cassel. Houston will sort out their new defensive roles against the hapless Browns, so they are still a start-able unit. 

But what about those of us who are forced to look for streaming options in Week 6? Here are some thoughts about which D/STs we’d say start ‘em and sit ‘em to on Sunday. 

Start these guys: Atlanta Falcons vs MIA

With or without DeVante Parker, Jay Cutler had to be able to pass against the Tennessee Titans. He couldn’t. He won’t against the Falcons, either, as they come off a bye week trying to keep up with the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South. Cutler looks like he is having second thoughts about passing up that comfortable chair in the television booth for the Dolphins gig. At least he won’t have to listen to fans chanting for his backup as Atlanta’s defense helps him continue his streak of inept play. 

Sit these guys: Pittsburgh Steelers at KC 

Pittsburgh has one of the top defenses in the league, but Kansas City will put a dent in that standing this weekend. Alex Smith won’t stand in the pocket and take on the second-rated pass defense, but he will get points on the board with more of the innovative designs the Chiefs have shown over the first five weeks. A healthy dose of Kareem Hunt, now kept fresh with an occasional dose of Charcandrick West, will help the cause. Stream another option this week. 

Start these guys: Washington Redskins vs SF

Another team coming off a bye week, the Redskins defense gets the San Francisco 49ers who seem to have some internal matters to resolve. Washington boasts a top ten NFC defense against rushers and quarterbacks, and they are number one against wide receivers. Against the likes of Kansas City, Oakland (with Derek Carr), Rams and Eagles, that has only resulted in a D/ST-12 ranking. The 49ers are not bringing an offense on par with any of those teams. The Redskins will treat their fans to a defensive show against their West Coast opponent. 

Sit these guys: Kansas City Chiefs vs PIT 

Ben Roethlisberger threw over 2000 passes without having an interception returned for a touchdown before it happened twice in four passes last week. He never threw over three interceptions without at least one touchdown in a game in his career, before throwing five picks without a score Sunday. He might be thinking about retirement, but not this week. This week, he is going after one of the most generous pass defenses in the league. The Chiefs are the eighth-ranked NFL fantasy defense with 14 sacks and 7 turnovers. They get none of either this week in Big Ben’s big bounce-back barnburner. Avoid the Chiefs’ D/ST this week. 

Start these guys: Chicago Bears at BAL 

Lost in the excitement of the debut of Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky was the continued good play of their defense. Their new passer seemed to put an extra lift in everybody’s step. But for one long run and one quarterback scramble, the Bears virtually shut down one of the highest-yardage teams in the league. The Bears’ defense will have a relatively easy time of it in Baltimore as they help Mitchell Trubisky grab his first NFL victory Sunday. Turnovers by Joe Flacco and running back Alex Collins will turn Chicago’s near-shutout into a top-ten D/ST fantasy score in Week 6. 

Sit everybody here: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints 

Detroit owns one of the top two NFL fantasy defenses behind 11 turnovers and three touchdowns. New Orleans’ D/ST threw up D/ST-1 and D/ST-3 rankings in the two games before their bye week. But any thoughts of a defensive showdown are premature. This game also features one of the greatest NFL fantasy football quarterbacks of all time going against a quarterback getting paid like he is the greatest quarterback of all time. Both are desperate for a victory. The top receivers on both teams might be held in check, but other than that, start anyone in the game but the D/STs in Week 6. This just feels like a 45-42 type of contest to me. 

Week 6 flash in the pan prediction

Tom Brady is feeling the heat… and the aches and pains this season. He has already been sacked as much in 2017 as he was in all of 2016 and is on pace for 51 on the year. He sat out practice to recover today. Sunday, the Jets continue the onslaught with four more sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. A punt return touchdown gives them a top ten D/ST finish. Brady still throws four touchdown passes and the Patriots take their rightful spot on top of the AFC East.

Full disclosure: about last week

Last week, I mentioned how good teams’ defenses rise to the occasion when their quarterback is hurt. Well, the Raiders did no such thing, finishing with zero points after I started them. The Jets and Bills tied for the D/ST-10 spot. I sat the Browns at D/ST-18, but I also got beat by Miami’s continued offensive ineptitude when I sat Tennessee. Overall, it was a 50-50 performance in Week 5, but Week 6 is going to be great! I can feel it!

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Pat Opperman


Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.