Let's say I'm building a lineup that heavily prioritizes running backs and/or wideouts. Once I've fit in, say, Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, and Randall Cobb, I find myself needing to save dramatically on my defense. Luckily for me, this week could feature a few backup quarterbacks under center to provide me with some additional, cheap defensive options. Which defense are you more interested in, assuming the opposing starter can't go, and why?
Ravens @ E.J. Manuel (Derek Carr is out)
Dolphins v. Matt Cassel (Marcus Mariota is day-to-day)
David Dodds: I am not interested in either of these options even against the bad quarterback play. Most of my action will be rostering the Eagles on defense.
Dan Hindery: I think both of these defenses are somewhat attractive, but the Raiders and Titans are both going to try to lean heavily on their running games. They should be able to do so unless the Ravens and Dolphins, respectively, are able to jump out to big early leads. We haven't seen anything from the Baltimore or Miami offenses to believe that is likely.
There are a number of other cheap defenses that I am interested in, however. Both defenses in the Jets-Browns matchup have upside. Bonnema already detailed the reasons to like the Browns. It is also worth noting that Cleveland's defensive focus is stacking the box to limit the run game and forcing opposing offenses to beat them through the air. Josh McCown trying to win the game by throwing 30+ times is a solid recipe for an opposing defense to have takeaway opportunities. The Jets defense has been playing well for the past two weeks and faces a Browns team that is among the leaders in turnovers and sacks allowed. DeShone Kizer has been overly-aggressive with the ball at times and also has a tendency to hold onto it too long.
Another cheap defense I am targeting for GPPs is the Los Angeles Chargers facing the New York Giants. The Giants have no run game to speak of and are forced to drop back to pass way too much (Manning has 47 and 49 attempts in the past two weeks). With the Giants’ horrible offensive tackles, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III could have field days rushing off of the edge.
Justin Bonnema: Of the two you mentioned there, I'm more intrigued by the Ravens defense against Manuel. The Ravens lead the league in interceptions and have allowed only 20 points per game (despite being blown out twice), and are the second-ranked pass defense per Football Outsiders' DVOA. Even if they're road underdogs against a backup quarterback, I wouldn't expect a lot of offensive fireworks from either team. Low-scoring game in order.
Another wild card I'll throw out is the Browns hosting the Jets. It sounds like Myles Garrett is going to make his regular season debut, which only means a tough defensive line is about to get a lot tougher. As it stands, they lead the league in tackles for loss (h/t Justis Mosqueda) and are setting up to be traditional funnel defense. Their secondary is terrible, so big pass plays are certainly a concern. But with Josh McCown coming to town, how worried do we need to be? Only 6 teams have allowed a higher sack rate than the Jets, and only 11 teams have scored fewer points per game. The Browns’ $4,300 and $3,000 salary on FanDuel and DraftKings respectively makes for some interesting options elsewhere in your lineups.
James Brimacombe: I have been impressed with the Bills defense so far this season, and the fact that they have only given up one passing touchdown (to Justin Hardy of all people) is an incredible stat that not enough people are talking about. They have a big task this week against A.J. Green, but if they can shut him down to, let’s say, 6-8 catches, they should be in good shape containing the Bengals’ other lackluster options.
The Dolphins will also have my interest if Marcus Mariota is indeed out this week. This will be the Dolphins’ first home game and we are already in Week 5. They had to deal with a quarterback injury and then Hurricane Harvey, so maybe now they can balance everything and come out with a strong defensive showing. The Titans offense looked bad without Mariota last week, so if he can't go, I like the Dolphins’ chances of turning around their play in their first home game of the season.
Jason Wood: I'm not interested in the Dolphins at all, but the Ravens are one of my top DST plays this week, on both FanDuel and DraftKings. As Justin noted, the Ravens lead the league in interceptions and have been reasonably effective in spite of the offense leaving the defense in awful situations. I'm of the mind that Oakland's offense is in real trouble. Even with a healthy David Carr, they weren't performing to expectations. Marshawn Lynch has been a part-timer and unimpressive in his role. Michael Crabtree is great, but is hurt. Amari Cooper may have been overrated by all of us (again). So if you're telling me this same unit will suddenly perform cohesively under EJ Manuel's watch? No way, no how.
Justin Howe: I agree with Jason that the Dolphins defense isn’t one to target, even with Cassel under center. Through three games they’ve generated just 4 sacks and 1 takeaway, and while it seems they’d better those numbers against Cassel, that’s a low bar that doesn’t make us think of a 10-point performance. I’d be much more inclined to roster the Ravens. E.J. Manuel isn’t atrocious: he looked competent last week, and he did post two big-numbers games in relief for the Bills in 2015. The Raiders could certainly hit 20 points with him. Still, he tends to hemorrhage sacks and giveaways, and the Ravens look able to capitalize. They posted 8 interceptions 8 sacks over Weeks 1 and 2.