Unless most of the teams in your league carry a backup defense, more than half of the league should be available to you every week. Perhaps instead of playing one above average defense every week, regardless of matchup, we should instead target the widely available waiver wire defenses with the best matchups in any particular week? You can always make exceptions if your rent-a-defense gets hot - heck, you might find a team worth starting all year by accident. Even if you don't, good matchups will continue to get greater in number as more QBs get injured or yanked as the season goes on. You can steal some points from bad weather come December. Each week I'll list the startable fantasy defenses on most waiver wires and rank them.
**Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, and Chicago all have good matchups in Week 4 and should be played over rent-a-defenses but are assumed to be rostered**
Week 3 Results
Tampa Bay (vs Pittsburgh) - 3 sacks, 1 INT
Had the wrong side of this one. The high-scoring game created looser offensive play, but it was the Steelers racking up interceptions with a pick six to boot. The Bucs weren’t a total loss, but disappointing nonetheless.
A Look Ahead: @CHI @ATL CLE - Mitchell Trubisky has been shaky, but this isn’t a preferred Week 4 play.
Houston (vs New York Giants) - 4 sacks
JJ Watt is back! Unfortunately the rest of the Texans defense did not play to Watt’s level and the Giants for the most part got their Week 4 offensive line problems fixed. This one didn’t work out.
A Look Ahead: @IND DAL BUF - If Watt continues to play like this, we’ll consider them in Week 5
Cleveland (vs New York Jets) - 2 sacks, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery
This counts as a hit in the quiet D/ST Week 3 scoring landscape. The Browns defense is for real behind Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward’s efforts and they should stay in lineups until further notice with the extra lift from Baker Mayfield.
A Look Ahead: @OAK BAL LAC - At Oakland will do with the Browns coming in as a Top 5 D/ST
Miami (vs Oakland) - 3 sacks, 2 INT
Xavien Howard and a solid performance from the defensive line gave us a moderate hit here.
A Look Ahead: @NE @CIN CHI - We’ll throw the Dolphins back this week
New York Jets (at Cleveland) - 4 sacks
A Look Ahead: @JAX TEN IND - Blake Bortles could work his way back onto our rent-a-defense target list yet...
Kansas City (vs San Francisco) - 4 sacks
Justin Houston had his first big game of the year, but no splash plays ensued. I'm not ready to give up on Kansas City's D/ST yet.
A Look Ahead: @DEN JAX @NE - Case Keenum has been loose with the ball… this could have potential
Baltimore (vs Denver) - 3 sacks, 1 INT
The Ravens had a pick six called back by a penalty in this one or they would have been one of the best D/ST’s of the week
A Look Ahead: @PIT @CLE @TEN - We’ll go back to the Ravens when they return home.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Buffalo (at Minnesota) - 4 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, 6 pts allowed
The D/ST that helped Footballguys staffer Steve Buzzard win a million dollars in DFS. No, really. https://twitter.com/tipandpick/status/1044008292815708161
Seattle (vs Dallas) - 5 sacks, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery
You can change the names, but the Seahawks D/ST at home is still a good play. Well, at least when they play zero-dimensional pass offenses.
Carolina (vs Cincinnati) - 2 sacks, 4 INT
Andy Dalton lost AJ Green in this one and had too many ill-advised throws
Pittsburgh (at Tampa Bay) - 3 sacks, 3 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
For at least a half, Fitzmagic wore off.
Week 4 Candidates
**Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, and Chicago all have good matchups in Week 3 and should be played over rent-a-defenses but are assumed to be rostered**
Los Angeles Chargers (vs San Francisco)
Welcome back CJ Beathard! The 49ers will be dejected for this one, and the Chargers have the ballhawks to make hay with a young quarterback forced out of his comfort zone trying to come back from a deficit.
A Look Ahead: OAK @CLE TEN - If they come through this week, the Chargers will be a good Week 5 option.
Green Bay (vs Buffalo)
Minnesota D/ST blew up in everyone’s face as the Bills were dominant in Week 3, but that doesn’t mean that Josh Allen won’t have some rookie teaching moment games in him. The Packers are always better at Lambeau and the Bills should come back to earth this week.
A Look Ahead: @DET SF BYE - We might come back to the Packers in Week 6 against the 49ers.
Cleveland (at Oakland)
This isn’t that outlandish of a call with the Browns D/ST dwelling in the top five after three weeks. Derek Carr has had too many lapses and the Raiders could be on the verge of collapse, while the Browns are clearly going in the other direction.
A Look Ahead: BAL LAC @TB - If they put up a good score this week, we’ll stick with the Browns against Flacco.
Kansas City (at Denver)
The Chiefs didn’t have a D/ST bonanza in Week 3, but it’s coming eventually if Justin Houston continues to round into form and Patrick Mahomes stakes the defense to big leads. Case Keenum is not among the most careful quarterbacks...
A Look Ahead: JAX @NE CIN - Neither is Blake Bortles...
Indianapolis (vs Houston)
The Colts defense has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Deshaun Watson has had a few throws he’d like back, and Andrew Luck is keeping the Colts in games. This could be a good one for a unit that has at least four sacks+takeaways in every game this season.
A Look Ahead: @NE @NYJ BUF - We’ll throw them back next week with an eye towards Week 7.
Seattle (at Arizona)
Did you know the Seahawks have multiple takeaways in every game this year? Despite all of the turnover, they have not been the problem. Josh Rosen’s first start could yield a big D/ST game even though it’s not in Seattle.
A Look Ahead: LAR @OAK BYE - We may come back to Seattle D/ST later this year, but not in Week 5.
Detroit (at Dallas)
Two of Dallas’s three opposing D/ST’s have had good games, and they aren’t making any changes in their impotent offense. Even through the Lions are on the road, they are hot right now and worth a look if you have to dig deep for your D/ST.
A Look Ahead: GB BYE @MIA - We’ll abandon them next week, but may come back to the Lions later
Week 5 Preemptive Pickups
**The Los Angeles Rams have a good matchup in Week 5 but are assumed to be rostered**
Kansas City (vs Jacksonville)
NY Jets (vs Denver)
Cleveland (vs Baltimore)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs Oakland)