​3 Fantasy Football Defensive Streamer Options for Week 8

The famous quote that everyone remembers from the movie Forrest Gump is “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” It’s close enough to the real thing, but the actual line uttered by Tom Hanks’s titular character is “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates…” and so on.

Moments like this take on lives of their own once they hit popular culture, from the Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker “I am your father” to even “Mirror, mirror, on the wall” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This collective misremembering is often not quite perfect but still fits in line with the original sentiment.

In the same way, as we venture further into the heart of the dreaded bye week season for fantasy football, you may find yourself looking at a waiver wire full of options that only vaguely resemble actual defenses. You may end up seeing recommendations to stream against teams that just a week or two ago would have been unthinkable. That’s the way it goes, though: who knows what our best-laid plans will look like once the collective effort known as the NFL season gets its hands on them? Thus, we stream, and we hope to get close to the original sentiment of finding under-rostered defensive units in good spots.

Which defenses under 40% rostership should you look to stream in Week 8?

Last Week

Miami D/ST vs. PIT: 12 points, t-5th
Tennessee D/ST vs. IND: 19 points, 2nd
New York Giants D/ST at JAX: 5 points, t-14th

This has been our best week of streaming by far. Even the defense I opted to fade in favor of the New York Giants as a deep league dart throw -- the Arizona Cardinals -- posted a top-tier week (albeit due to defensive touchdowns).

The Miami Dolphins are still not particularly good in and of themselves, but they are the poster children for opportunism. They stuck Pittsburgh with three interceptions and two sacks, holding an opponent to less than 24 points for just the third time this year. Miami is usable in only the best of matchups, but they get the job done when in a favorable spot.

With three sacks, three turnovers, and a defensive score against flailing and since-benched Matt Ryan, the Tennessee Titans continue to impress despite mediocre peripherals. They are extremely usable against bad offenses (averaging 11.0 fantasy points in four games against the Giants, Washington, and two versus Indianapolis) but should be considered unplayable against higher-upside passing games (0.0 average versus Buffalo and Las Vegas).

The Giants were exactly what was expected: a low-ceiling option that could scoot you through a tough situation on the waiver wire this past week. They’re unlikely to keep forcing fumbles at this rate (eight in seven games), but they present a high floor due to allowing just 18.3 points to opponents this year.

Indianapolis Colts

vs. Washington Commanders
Spread: IND -3
Total: 40.5
Roster Percentage: 36%

A titanic battle takes place this week between two teams who have benched their injured, possibly washed, veteran quarterbacks: the Sam Ehlinger-led Indianapolis Colts and Taylor Heinicke's Washington Commanders.

It’s not ideal for #TheProcess to start a fantasy defense from a team starting a sixth-round quarterback who has never attempted a professional regular-season pass -- typically, teams who will get out to a big lead and force desperate, reckless play from the opponents are ideal -- but the fact that both teams are on the same footing helps a lot. By virtue of playing hosts, the Colts are currently getting spotted a 3.0-point favorite status, and the raw nature of both Ehlinger and Heinicke contributes to the low total of 40.5 points.

Take the small sample size with a grain of salt, but Washington’s Heinicke has historically been a compelling quarterback to play fantasy defenses against. Opposing D/ST units scored an average of 8.9 fantasy points against Heinicke when he was a starter in 2021; extrapolated out to a full season, Heinicke gave up a fantasy point total that would’ve been the fifth-highest among defensive units.

This season, with just one start under his belt, he’s already back on the same trajectory. If he had enough drop backs to qualify, Heinicke so far would have both the highest turnover-worthy play rate (per PFF) and allowed pressure rate among the 40 quarterbacks to drop back 50 times or more this year. The only blemish on streaming against him is a third-highest big-time throw rate, meaning he attempts downfield passes more often than most.

Our model projects the Indianapolis D/ST for 7.9 fantasy points, the sixth-most among defensive streamer options in Week 8. The Colts are average or better in all peripheral defensive metrics, with a top-10 pressure rate, as well. This matchup gives them a high floor and an even higher ceiling if they can get ahead early and put Washington into panic mode.

Jacksonville Jaguars

vs. Denver Broncos (London)
Spread: JAX -3
Total: 39.5
Roster Percentage: 27%

I’ll be honest: I’m less comfortable about this recommendation than the Colts one if Denver Broncos starter Russell Wilson plays. If Wilson sits, there is plenty of reason to be encouraged about the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8.

The biggest positive is context and game environment. This contest takes place in London, so both the Jaguars and the “visiting” Broncos will be at a slight disadvantage in terms of rest. Short weeks and intense travel schedules typically result in lower-scoring performances for teams, so that’s a good start. Add in that Denver will be traveling two time zones further than Jacksonville will, and you have another slight advantage. In addition, London has been a frequent destination for the Jaguars, and there is a small but passionate fanbase for the spotted cats abroad, so Tottenham Stadium should play more like a home game for the Jags than it will for their opposition.

That’s all anecdotal, however; here’s the data to back up this recommendation. Games in London from 2018 to 2021 have scored 5.6 fewer combined points per game than stateside ones, had a 1.01% higher pressure rate (9.6 pressures per game vs. 9.3), and 0.5 more turnovers per game. Travel matters, and it matters that all of this adds up to a 3.0-point favorite status in the betting markets for the Jaguars and a basement-floor 39.5-point total for the game.

Our model projects the Jacksonville D/ST for 7.7 fantasy points, the seventh-highest fantasy projection of the week. I’d normally caution you away from starting a D/ST against a team with as much potential talent as the Broncos have, but backup quarterback Brett Rypien has the lowest big-time throw rate, third-highest turnover-worthy play rate, and fourth-highest allowed pressure rate among Week 8 projected starting quarterbacks. Jacksonville’s top-half pressure rate and top-third adjusted net pass yards per attempt (ANY/A) allowed make this a smash spot.

Seattle Seahawks

vs. New York Giants
Spread: SEA -3
Total: 44.5
Roster Percentage: 6%

The Seattle Seahawks' defense is bad. Let’s not kid ourselves. By our Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Seattle ranks fourth worst; on the ground, they’re sixth from the bottom. Despite this, they make for a compelling deep-league desperation stream this week as they take on the Giants.

The G-Men are helmed by quarterback Daniel Jones, who comes into Week 8 as the sixth-most favorable quarterback matchup among Week 8 starters by my model. Among the 40 passers who have dropped back 50-plus times so far, he allows the fourth-most pressures and offers the sixth-lowest big-time throw rate. The Giants aren’t the joke on offense that they used to be, however, as Jones is about league-average in turnover-worthy play rate and the ground game ranks first by our metrics thanks to Saquon Barkley and Jones' rushing ability.

Still, Seattle has interesting enough peripherals to make them worth a look. They are league-average in both pressure rate, pressure-to-sack conversion rate, and ball-hawk rate (interceptions plus passes defended per drop back faced). You’d love for them to have a better-than-bottom-third ANY/A allowed, but Jones’s 6.3-yard average depth of target is second-lowest among Week 8 starting passers. Due to this, Seattle's glaring flaw shouldn’t be as exploitable for Jones as it would for more accomplished passers.

Our model projects the Seattle D/ST for 7.3 fantasy points this week, 10th in our rankings for defenses. They have an incredibly low floor but just enough upside to be worth a look over better defenses in worse matchups for Week 8.