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.
** Denver, Arizona, Carolina, and Minnesota all have good matchups and should be played over rent-a-defenses this week**
Week 4 Results
New England (vs Buffalo) - 2 sacks
Cincinnati (vs Miami) **Thursday** - 5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 7 pts allowed
Our hit of the rent-a-defenses this week. If it wasn’t for an improvised play that led to a long Kenny Stills touchdown, the Bengals would have shut out the Dolphins. We’ll continue to target this one-dimensional offense when they are facing good defenses.
A Look Ahead: @DAL @NE CLE - Dak Prescott is not the target we thought he could be when the Cowboys were forced to start him, so we’ll move on from the Bengals for now.
Washington (vs Cleveland) - 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries
Not too shabby in a quiet week for D/ST scoring. This game was competitive, but Washington took advantage of some fumble luck to create a solid score if you relied on them.
A Look Ahead: @BAL PHI @DET - The Ravens running game and offense is waking up, so this is probably a pass.
San Diego (vs New Orleans) - 2 sacks, 2 INT
The Chargers defense did enough to avoid being a loss as a rent-a-defense, but two late fumbles by the offense denied them a chance to pad the sack and takeaway stats. The quality secondary here is giving this D/ST a decent weekly floor.
A Look Ahead: @OAK DEN @ATL - Derek Carr is playing well and the Raiders are hosting this one, so we will pass.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Los Angeles (at Arizona) - 3 sacks, 3 INT, 2 fumble recoveries
D/ST’s don’t get points for knocking out the opposing quarterback, but that created the opening for Drew Stanton to get in and throw two picks to make the Rams the #1 D/ST of Week 4.
Atlanta (vs Carolina) - 1 sack, 2 INT, 1 DEF TD
Keeping with the theme of knocking out of the opposing quarterback and capitalizing on the backup’s play, the Falcons took Derek Anderson to the house in garbage time to make this a successful D/ST week.
Buffalo (at New England) - 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 0 pts allowed
It was bizarro week in Foxboro, as the Bills stifled the Patriots offense, including forcing a red zone fumble to keep the shutout intact. The Bills are a red hot D/ST heading to Los Angeles this week.
Week 5 Candidates
Philadelphia (at Detroit)
The Eagles should really be owned in most leagues, but they might have been dropped going into their bye. The Lions are in a tailspin and have no running game to speak of. It’s worth playing them on the road to have the option to keep them if they remain hot.
A Look Ahead: @WAS MIN @DAL - We’ll stay with a hot hand here if Philadelphia comes through this week
New England (at Cleveland)
A Look Ahead: CIN @PIT @BUF - If Brady is in mid-season form, we’ll likely stick with the Patriots because they will likely play from ahead at home against the Bengals.
Los Angeles (vs Buffalo)
The Rams have been a top 10 D/ST each of the last two weeks on the road, now they return to their new home to face the Bills. Buffalo has been soaring after a great pre-game speech from D-Line coach John Blake, but the offense could hit a wall called Aaron Donald in this one
A Look Ahead: @DET NYG BYE - If Matthew Stafford and the Lions continue to slide, we could go back-to-back with the Rams.
Pittsburgh (vs NY Jets)
The Steelers haven’t been a playmaking defense so far this year, but this week they get Ryan Fitzpatrick and his nine interceptions over the last two weeks. The offense is clicking with Le'Veon Bell so the Jets might be playing from behind and forced to take more risks at Pittsburgh.
A Look Ahead: @MIA NE BYE - The Steelers don’t have a lot of firepower on defense so we’ll only stick with them if they are red hot
Buffalo (at Los Angeles)
On the other side of the Bills-Rams is the hottest defense in the league. Jacoby Brissett is far from a stud quarterback, but Carson Palmer was flustered into four interceptions two weeks ago, and the Bills could stonewall Todd Gurley and force Case Keenum to throw. The Bills D/ST has been at least a solid play every week so far this year.
A Look Ahead: SF @MIA NE - The best part of getting the Bills D/ST this week is the 49ers matchup next week.
Week 6 Preemptive Pickups
If you like to devote two roster spots to a D/ST, or you suspect other teams are going to stream defenses this year, you might want to grab a top option for next week to stash away. Here are the best ones to target:
Buffalo (vs San Francisco)
Green Bay (vs Dallas)
Houston (vs Indianapolis)
Chicago (vs Jacksonville)
Oakland (vs Kansas City)