Somewhere high above, someone is watching over us. Well, not all of us, just those who own the Kansas City defense.
You see, the best fantasy defense in all the land — one that’s scored 129 fantasy points, good enough for an overall rank of 10th when compared to players at all other positions — has once again been looked upon with grace and good fortune. The Chiefs oppose the Buffalo Bills this week, a team with an offense that was already without its regular starting quarterback E.J. Manuel, though Thad Lewis has performed well or at least much better than you expected from Thad Lewis in his absence. But alas, he suffered a rib injury and is now listed as doubtful (Lewis returned to practice Friday, but in a limited capacity and didn’t throw), and the doomed duo of Matt Flynn and Jeff Tuel have split practice snaps this week.
That means a defense in its own postal code while leading the league in sacks (36, and the second-place, um, Bills have 27), intercepting 10 passes, and scoring four defensive touchdowns could face either another undrafted rookie, or Matt Flynn. Both options are roughly equal in their incompetence.
The holiday season is still a little ways out, but Chiefs defense owners can feel free to begin repeatedly singing Joy To The World while kneeling to our fantasy overlords. If Lewis sits as expected, this is how the Chiefs opposing quarterbacks will look over the past three weeks: Matt Flynn/Jeff Tuel, Jason Campbell, and Case Keenum. Going back a little further, they’ve also had the pleasure of facing Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blaine Gabbert.
So go ahead and celebrate while the rest of us plebs sift through the murky depths of defensive streaming. I have a few ideas…
1. Indianapolis Colts @ Texans (percentage owned: 53%)
You’ve heard of Robert Mathis, yes? He’s the charming old fellow who, at 32 years young, leads the league in sacks with 11.5, and he’s also forced three fumbles while recording a safety. Quick very related semi-digression on that before we forge ahead here: we all need to check ourselves and recognize the awesomeness of what Mathis is doing. He has that league-leading sack total through just seven games after finishing with only eight last year, which was still a fine total for an aging pass rusher who missed four games. Now he already has three multiple-sack games, and he’s on pace for 26.2 overall, which would easily smash the single-season sack record of 22.5.
So anywho, Mathis and his incredible feats of strength will be unleashed against undrafted rookie quarterback Case Keenum. Yes, he fared pretty alright overall in his first NFL start against the Chiefs and their similarly brutish pass rush led by Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, averaging 10.8 yards per pass attempt. But that number means much less to us here than this one: five. That’s how many times Keenum was sacked, three of which came from Hali and Houston. Mathis is equal in his elite-ness, and now he gets to tee off on Keenum, and an offensive line that’s allowed 22 sacks overall and 51 quarterback hits. Most recently, Indy sacked Peyton Manning four times, and prior to that he had gone down only five times throughout Denver’s previous six games.
While Keenum’s mobility and arm may lead to some passing yards and points while connecting with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, the bending through the air may not lead to breaking, as the Colts have allowed only eight touchdown passes. Then if all that isn’t enough, there’s this glorious cluster-mess: both of the Texans’ top running backs are hurting. Ben Tate will play, though he practiced on a limited basis all week due to his four cracked ribs, and he’ll surely be limited Sunday night too. But there’s much more uncertainty around Arian Foster with his hamstring injury. He’ll be a game-time decision, which is a disastrous mess on a Sunday evening fantasy owners should avoid until/if we hear anything more concrete. But you, the prospective Colts defense owner, can feel joy.
2.Washington Redskins vs. Chargers (Percentage owned: 5%)
The resurrection of Philip Rivers done by quarterback whisperer Mike McCoy has been another remarkable storyline through midseason. A year ago it looked like Rivers wasn’t long for this league as his decision-making became increasingly questionable, and his TD:INT ratio was a puke-inducing 10:9. Now that’s improved dramatically to 15:5, and Rivers is also completing 73.9 percent of his passes. That percentage won’t just easily be a career single-season high if he continues at this pace (his previous high was 65.3). If the season ended today, he’d be seventh on the all-time single-season completion rate list. Not bad.
Rivers and his comfort in McCoy’s system is a reason for you to be scared of a Redskins streaming play, but ease those fears. His improvement will lead to yardage (the Redskins are giving up 8.4 yards per pass attempt), points (they’re averaging 32.7 points allowed, with over 40 in each of their last two games) and perhaps a score or three through the air (they’ve given up 15 of those), all of which are ungood things. But as is often the case with defensive streaming plays, we’re not seeking perfection here. We’re focusing on one specific area the Redskins have excelled in, or at least recently: takeaways.
Last week the Redskins picked off the great Peyton Manning three times, and prior to that game he had throw only three picks throughout the entire season. They also forced a fumble, and now over their last three games the Redskins have six takeaways, which has fueled their wonderful ability to score off of said turnovers. They’ve done that quite a bit, leading the league with five defensive touchdowns. Yes, there’s randomness to that, and a lot of it. But here’s my hot math take: your chances of scoring off of a turnover greatly increase if you’re creating more of them, and Rivers can still relapse into his former wayward self.
3. Tennessee Titans @Rams (percentage owned: 56%)
Speaking of the hottest takes, here’s another one: Kellen Clemens sucks.
Maybe that was a little harsh, as he was still able to make an OK throw every now and then during an awesomely comical let down against the Seahawks this past Monday night. But he was generally horrific, completing only 48.4 percent of his passes with two interceptions, while averaging just 5.1 yards per attempt with a passer rating of — wait for it — 36.8. Those are some pretty putrid digits, and they mean that if the defense Clemens is opposing this week is even remotely available, it becomes a top steaming option.
The Titans fit that description since they’ve on the waiver wire in nearly half of Yahoo leagues. Over their last four games Tennessee has given up only an average of 12.5 fantasy points to starting quarterbacks, a stretch that’s included difficult matchups against mobile QBS in Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, and less challenging games against Alex Smith and Geno Smith. Led by Alterraun Verner with his four interceptions and 13 passes defensed already, the Titans are tied for the second fewest passing touchdowns allowed in the league (six).
Honorable mention quick hits:
- If you’re lucky enough to have the Panthers available in your league (owned in 70% of Yahoo leagues), change that immediately and keep hating on the Falcons. That strategy worked well last when Matt Ryan threw four interceptions, and he was sacked four times.
- Which Nick Foles will we get? Will it be the scattered quarterback who completed only 37.9 percent of his passes (Week 7 against the Bucs), or that other guy whose completion percentage was at 71.0 the previous week? Who the hell knows, but finding out while rolling with the Raiders as a deep streaming option might end well.
- Geno Smith is also wildly inconsistent, and this week his opponent is quite rightfully more widely owned. But if you’re in one of the 30% of leagues where the Saints can be had for a nominal fee of nothing, jump on that.