​3 Fantasy Football Defensive Streamer Options for Week 4

Expecting the unexpected is an important part of playing fantasy football.

Before your drafts, you can spend hours picking through beat writers’ reports to try to pin down exactly who’s going to break out this season and who’s in the doghouse with their coaching staff. During your draft, you might spend the entire night wheeling and dealing to move around your board and be in the optimal positions to snap up the players you’ve set your heart on. Afterward, you might end up poring over data to make your waiver claims and set the perfect lineup.

Even still, you might miss on some projections, whiff on players you liked, and lose winnable matchups thanks to one bounce of that cursed oblate spheroid we call a “football.”

Football sometimes sucks, and it’s unpredictable far more often that it is bad. Still, we keep at this analyzing and predicting thing because going through an intelligent process makes it much more likely that we end up with positive outcomes. Would you rather flip a completely random coin and hope you call the right side, or would you prefer to know that another will land on heads a little more often?

Which defenses under 40% rostership should you look to stream in Week 4?

Last Week

Chicago D/ST vs. HOU: 6 points, t-15th
New York Giants D/ST vs. DAL: 0 points, 31st
Philadelphia D/ST at WAS: 18 points, 1st

The results for our streamers ran the gamut this week, with both the top defensive unit of the week and also the second-worst.

As expected, the Chicago Bears played safe enough against the Houston Texans in a duel of the rebuilding franchises. One sack and two takeaways were exactly the kind of thing that we were hoping for as a floor play, but Houston racked up too much yardage to allow this fantasy unit to be a top-tier option in a week with multiple defensive/special teams scores and blocked kicks.

The New York Giants played a first-half snoozer on Monday night that saw just nine total points between them and the Dallas Cowboys before the break. Everything went downhill from there, however, as the G-Men earned no sacks against a reshuffled Dallas offensive line (even with the Giants' young edge rushers healthy) and picked up no takeaways.

The Philadelphia Eagles were my least-sure call for Week 3, but they paid off their managers’ faith in them with a whopping nine sacks, one takeaway, and just six points allowed. Even Philly’s banged-up pass-rush was able to rag-doll the Washington Commanders, and that’s a good thing to note going forward (not that they’ll be available in your league).

New York Giants

vs. Chicago Bears
Spread: NYG -3
Roster Percentage: 11%

This season has seen a lot of swingy performances for defenses. It seems that it will behoove us most going forward to try to identify units with the most upside. If on any given week just about any defense can blow up (or get blown up), it makes more sense to aim high and hope for the best than try to pinpoint a floor.

That said, I can’t quit on these New York Giants just yet. I fully understand if you feel too burned by underwhelming outputs to this point in the year, but they are on the precipice of becoming -- I don’t know --passable at worst.

The G-Men had young pass-rush phenoms Azeez Ojulari (47% of the team’s defensive snaps) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (58%) out there only part-time in this most recent contest, fresh off of true game-time call questionable tags. With another week of rest and rehab, they could impact the game much more profoundly in Week 4. The Giants are admittedly bad against the pass without those two; currently their ranking of eighth-worst in team pressure rate trails only their placing in adjusted net yards per passing attempt (ANY/A; seventh-worst). With two more competent pieces clicking into place, however, that should set off a chain reaction to improve everything else.

The real selling point here is the matchup against the Bears, who allow a top-12 average fantasy score to opposing defenses after three weeks. The Bears have been horrendously inept on offense, with their passing attack grading out fourth-lowest by Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). Quarterback Justin Fields just can’t connect with his receivers -- of which there have been barely any to begin with -- meaning the most effective choices they have are either to A) run the ball or B) run the ball with Fields.

Chicago also presents easily the best D/ST target due to a pressure rate allowed of 38.5% (highest) and Fields possessing a turnover-worthy play rate (per PFF) of 9% -- a mark 50% higher than the next-worst quarterback to drop back at least 40 times.

We’ll stubbornly give the New York Giants D/ST one more chance, only because of a cake early-season schedule. A bundle of turnovers might not be in the mix, but a limited ceiling of yardage and points should float them into startable territory this week. The game has a total of 39.0, the lowest on the slate, and the weather in New Jersey looks to be chilly and wet -- which should help to dampen the offensive environment. Our model projects the Giants' defense for 8.5 fantasy points, the third-most among Week 4 defensive options.

Detroit Lions

vs. Seattle Seahawks
Spread: DET -6
Roster Percentage: 1%

I’m not entirely sure of what to make of the Dan Campbell-led Detroit Lions, but, man, they are fun to watch again.

The kings of the jungle Motor City have been surprisingly competent as an NFL team in 2022 despite the fact that they have let up an average of 29.0 points per game as a defensive unit. Still, this isn’t the Lions' defense you have gotten used to dismissing every week; Detroit currently holds a top-10 team pressure rate and is starting to come into their own as a secondary. Former first-round defensive back Jeff Okudah's progression to a true lockdown cornerback has the potential to get the Lions out of the fantasy D/ST basement going forward against mediocre offenses.

“Mediocre offenses” is the cue for this iteration of the Seattle Seahawks to enter the stage. They are also not the team that you might remember. Sure, the ‘Hawks have an elite wide receiver duo for secondaries to wrangle, but the quarterbacking under Geno Smith this year has been somewhere on the spectrum from “uninspired” to “fine.” Smith’s 5.2% turnover-worthy play rate actually ranks fourth-worst among 43 quarterbacks to start the year, meaning he’s been more reckless than the results would show. In addition, he’s getting pressured on 30.3% of his drop backs -- the seventh-highest rate among his peers.

Our model projects the Detroit D/ST for 7.7 fantasy points, the sixth-most among possible Week 4 streamers (and the eighth-most overall). You never love to see a 50-point total, but the potential shootout atmosphere of this game and the fact that Detroit is a strong favorite means a lot of potential for turnovers against a turnover-prone quarterback. The Lions are a high-reward, high-risk play in their attempt to #RestoreTheRoar.

Indianapolis Colts

vs. Tennessee Titans
Spread: IND -3
Roster Percentage: 35%

I’m either going to look like a genius or a moron after this week, but you’re just going to have to hold your nose on this one and take the plunge with me. The Indianapolis Colts are coming off of a big win in Week 3 where they made the perennial AFC contenders in Kansas City look mortal -- forcing two takeaways, a sack, and holding KC to just 17 points. Indy makes for a compelling upside play in Week 4.

The franchise formerly from Baltimore has been without star linebacker Shaq Leonard since the preseason but has cobbled together a solid showing from veterans Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin, while star defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue anchor the front-four of this defense. The Colts are admittedly one of the weaker defensive teams in the NFL but are about average in team pressure rate and ANY/A. Where they need to improve is in converting the pressures they get to sacks, and that’s a quality that their matchup should help them with in Week 4.

The divisional rival Tennessee Titans are a sight for sore eyes for this Indianapolis team. Stalwart left tackle Taylor Lewan is injured, leaving a major gap in protection for quarterback Ryan Tannehill -- who also hasn’t shown much of his typical playmaking spark. Tannehill is tied for fourth among qualifying passers in pressure rate allowed this season already, a mark that should only get higher the more his line is eroded. He also has assembled the 13th-highest turnover-worthy play rate through the first three weeks of the year and is well below average in big-time throw rate.

The real threat here will be running back Derrick Henry, but I’m willing to take that risk against the personnel in Indy, especially with the Colts favored at home.

Our model projects the Indianapolis D/ST as the 10th-best defensive fantasy option, with a projection of 7.4 fantasy points. The total is a middling 43 points, and the Colts are field-goal favorites -- all good indicators for D/ST success.