Fantasy Football Defensive Streaming: Week 3 Edition

Much like Week 1, defensive scoring was fairly prolific in Week 2 with five different units scoring a touchdown. Who can come through in Week 3?

In a lot of ways, last week made me question a lot of the feelings and assumptions I hold for fantasy football. This existential crisis is a small one in the grand scheme of things, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t wake up on Monday morning feeling a bit lost.

The lowly Raiders put up 37 points against Baltimore, a team that one week prior held the Broncos in check for the majority of their matchup. Jacksonville racked up 290 yards of total offense in the first half against a stout Miami defense. And the New Orleans Saints, favored by 10 points at home, struggled to do much of anything against a Tampa Bay defense that looked ready for relegation following their Week 1 performance.

In the midst of all the chaos that occurred last Sunday, our streaming D/ST picks didn’t fare too poorly, all things considered.

The Bengals sacked Philip Rivers four times and forced three turnovers, finishing as the sixth best fantasy unit on the week. Minnesota was also respectable, forcing three turnovers and registering one sack against Matthew Stafford and the division-rival Detroit Lions. And finally the Saints, a play that looked like complete disaster early on, clawed their way back to finish tied for 14th best fantasy finish on the week.

Let's move on to Week 3.

Cleveland Browns

Owned – ESPN: 13.7%, Yahoo: 18%
numberFire Positional Rank: 3rd

The Browns are coming off a tremendous defensive performance against the Tennessee Titans last week. Marcus Mariota came back down to earth, absorbing seven sacks and losing three fumbles. The Browns' defense created consistent pressure on the rookie signal-caller, an encouraging sign for us using them as a streaming option in the future.

The Browns square off against Oakland this week, and even though the Raiders crushed the hopes and dreams of Baltimore owners last week, there are reasons to believe Cleveland will present a tougher test.

The Raiders are travelling across the country for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff which can result in a team coming out flat (San Francisco last week, for example). The Browns are also 3.5-point favorites playing at home. Derek Carr has done a good job limiting turnovers thus far, but in a game where he is likely to see pressure from a ferocious Browns front-seven, there's a good chance he makes multiple mistakes. 

Another factor is the kick return ability of Travis Benjamin. Defensive touchdowns are almost impossible to predict and I’m certainly not calling for one here, but Benjamin is a dangerous return man, and the Raiders are fairly devoid of overall talent which often trickles down to special teams. Don't bank on another score, but keep it in mind. 

Minnesota Vikings

Owned – ESPN: 24.1%, Yahoo: 11%
numberFire Positional Rank: 20th

For the second consecutive week, I feel confident rolling with the Vikings as a top-end streaming option.

Last week against Detroit, the Vikings forced three turnovers and sacked Matthew Stafford once. They also displayed a suffocating run defense, allowing just 38 yards on 16 carries and were in firm control for the majority of the game. They Vikings offense recommitted to the run game -- 29 carries for Adrian Peterson -- which limited the amount of plays for the Lions offense.

Defenses that have faced the San Diego Chargers -- Minnesota’s Week 3 opponent -- have both finished as top-8 weekly options and averaged 12 fantasy points per game. And despite being the 6th most efficient quarterback thus far according to numberFire’s Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, Philip Rivers has thrown an interception on 4.3 percent of his attempts this season and has also been sacked six times.Interceptions and sacks are the key to D/ST scoring.

This matchup is looking like a favorable one for the Vikings, too. Minnesota is currently 2.5-point home favorites, representing one of the better lower-owned streaming options for Week 3. 

Indianapolis Colts

Owned – ESPN: 10.9%, Yahoo: 31%
numberFire Positional Rank: 6th

Much like the New Orleans Saints last week, this recommendation comes with a fairly high level of risk. The Colts defense isn’t good. Not only that, but depending on how Vontae Davis moves through the league’s concussion protocol this week, they may be missing their three best cover corners for their Week 3 matchup with Tennessee.

But the fact that they play the Titans this week makes them an intriguing option worth considering.

It’s true that Marcus Mariota has yet to throw an interception this season and that he leads the NFL in passer rating. However, he suffered seven sacks and lost three fumbles against Cleveland in Week 2. The lack of talent along the Titans offensive line was on display, and now their best interior lineman, Chance Warmack, is likely out this week.

The Colts offense has also done their defense no favors by consistently turning the ball over, putting the defense in poor situations. But things are likely to change when Andrew Luck and company face a pretty horrendous Titans defense this week. It’s not that crazy to assume a negative game script for Mariota and the Titans offense, one that forces him to make some mistakes typical of a rookie quarterback.

There certainly are red flags surrounding this pick, but the upside exists for a top-10 finish this week.