Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 4 defense and special teams

None of the top four D/STs of Week 3 had a top-eight finish among them in the first two weeks. Who steps up in Week 4?

Six sacks for Cincinnati, six points allowed by the Jets, a pick-six for the Bengals, and six points on three interceptions for the Saints put those teams in a tie for best NFL fantasy D/ST performance in Week 3. Are these defenses on the rise? Or did they take advantage of weaker opponents? More importantly, will any of them offer you fantasy value in Week 4?

Start these guys: Tennessee Titans (at Houston)

Tennessee played far better last week than their one-point fantasy score would show. They gave up 13 points when they laid off the gas in garbage time. Seattle could not run effectively on them. They only came up with one sack, but they put lots of pressure on Russell Wilson and largely controlled the line of scrimmage.

Against Houston, they face another mobile quarterback, but a rookie mobile quarterback. The pressure could result in more mistakes, especially if Tennessee against shuts off the rushing option on Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman. An intangible could be the good showing against New England Patriots and mistakenly thinking it will not take as big an effort to beat Tennessee.

Sit these guys: Cincinnati Bengals (at Cleveland)

Wait a minute! We always recommend streaming the D/ST playing the Browns. Plus, the Bengals are coming off their first top fantasy defensive score against the Green Bay Packers, with Aaron Rodgers! Why will I sit the Bengals this week?

The Bengals ran up their fantasy score with six sacks and a rare pick-six against Rodgers. Those sacks won’t be there against the superior offensive line of Cleveland. The likelihood of getting a defensive touchdown two weeks in a row is not good. Then there is the emotional letdown of wanting to pull off the upset for your new offensive coordinator one week versus going against a team looking for their first win.

Cincinnati regresses this week and the Browns take advantage.

Start these guys: Baltimore Ravens (vs Pittsburgh)

Baltimore is coming off a rough week, but there are reasons to believe Baltimore’s defense will rebound from their disaster across the pond.

First, we have the reaction of the Ravens to their last game. They said nice things about Jacksonville and were eager to get back to work. They weren’t even mad that the Jaguars ran a fake punt when they were already winning by 37 points. Then we get the reaction of Pittsburgh to their upset loss in Chicago. Players are talking about wasting talent and not trying hard enough.

Baltimore is home. Chicago got to Ben Roethlisberger for three sacks, countless pressures, and a forced fumble last week. Games like that had Roethlisberger talking retirement not too long ago. Baltimore will get multiple sacks and turnovers in between giving up one or two big-play touchdowns. But it still adds up to another top-ten fantasy finish.

Sit these guys: Buffalo Bills (at Atlanta)

Always play the superior defense… except for this week. Atlanta just gave up 13 fantasy points to the Detroit Lions on three interceptions and a defensive touchdown. Meanwhile, Buffalo took a quarterback with two 26-point fantasy games and held him without a touchdown while sacking him three times and intercepting him twice.

But… Atlanta is not missing their starting left tackle. Matt Ryan is not Trevor Siemian. And Atlanta will not go away from their running game when they are averaging almost five yards per carry. The game will also be in Atlanta’s impressive new stadium and not in the friendly confines of Orchard Park, NY.

Buffalo plays well, but the Falcon’s superior offense does not make mistakes and overwhelms the Bills’ defense.

Play these guys: Seattle Seahawks (vs Indianapolis)

Many are saying the Seattle defense forgot how to play the run. But the majority of rushing yards has come on big plays by quality running backs. Indiana will come up with Frank Gore and Robert Turbin (I am assuming Marlon Mack is still unavailable). I like Jacoby Brissett, but Seattle will not let him escape the pocket as easily as the Colts did. Seattle takes out their frustrations this week on a rookie quarterback who can’t find open receivers in the Seahawk backfield.

Sit these guys: Philadelphia Eagles (at LA Chargers)

Through three quarters against the Giants Sunday, the Eagles were throwing a shutout with two interceptions and dominant line play. But when Eli Manning upped the pace, the injuries to linebackers and defensive backs showed itself. Philly hung on at the end, coming up with a stop that allowed the Eagles to kick the winning field goal as time expired.

Normally, momentum like that means a lot. But in Week 4, the Philadelphia Eagles travel across the country to play a very embarrassed and upset Phillip Rivers and the LA Chargers. It is possible Melvin Gordon will be limited by a bad knee which means the Chargers might let Rivers take out even more frustration on the weakened Eagles’ pass defense. The Chargers get a win in a big way and the Eagles defense can only watch.

Week 4 flash in the pan prediction

 It’s a party in Cleveland as the defense allows 200 yards and a touchdown to AJ Green and absolutely nothing else in their first victory of the season. Andy Dalton begs AJ McCarron to enter the game after his sixth sack, but McCarron reminds him it is only the first half and Dalton should take it easy on himself.

Full disclosure: I can explain!

None of my three start ‘ems came through for me in Week 3, but they were so close! Philadelphia ran out of gas and gave up 24 points in a span of five minutes in the last quarter. Tennessee turned off the jets in garbage time and faded out of the top ten. The only bad miss was Miami who did not show up against the Jets.

Two of my sits (Green Bay and Carolina) were good calls, and my third, the 5th-best Detroit Lions, gave up 30 points but overcame that effort with a pick-six among three interceptions.

Week 4 is totally accurate though. I am sure of it! But if you have any better ideas or questions, please send them to us at [email protected]. We’ll answer as many as we can each Wednesday in our Mailbag post.

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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.