Week 9 has another six teams on a bye, including two of the “must-start” Fantasy team defenses, the Cardinals and Seahawks, leaving owners scrambling to find suitable replacements for them.
Some of the choices out there are pretty obvious. The Broncos, for my money, own the best team defense in football, and showed just how good they are against the Packers last week. They should be started against the Colts.
The Falcons have a very good matchup against the 49ers, who turn their lonely eyes to Blaine Gabbert at quarterback this week.
The Patriots’ defense has a favorable matchup against the Redskins, whose offense has scored the 21st fewest average points per game this season (21.1).
The Panthers, another one of those “must-start” defenses, has an interesting matchup against the Packers. Although the Packers’ offense has the potential to explode at any time, if you own the Panthers D in season-long leagues, they need to be in your starting lineup.
From there it gets a bit dicey. If you don’t own shares in any of the team defenses previously mentioned, and have an empty spot in your lineup for your Week 9 matchup, I’ve got some suggestions for you. I’ve also done some additional research and identified five kickers that you might consider streaming this week as well. Read on and use your best judgement! If you have any feedback based on the contents of this article, reach out to me on Twitter @joegallina. Good luck this week!
Top Defensive Team Plays for Week 9
Matchup: home vs. Cleveland Browns
Weather: 77 degrees and mostly cloudy. South winds @ 7MPH
Fresh off of their victory against the Steelers, the Bengals take on the Browns, a team tied for having given up the third-most points to Fantasy team defenses. Why do Fantasy team defenses score so many Fantasy points against the Browns? Well for starters, the Browns have this nasty habit of turning the ball over. They’re third in the league with 17 giveaways, 14 of them by fumbles. By contrast, the Bengals are tied for sixth in the NFL in takeaways, and coincidentally, they are also tied for sixth in the league with 20 sacks, which works out nicely since Browns’ quarterbacks have been sacked 27 times, good for fourth-most in the league. Johnny Manziel, who’ll be starting in place of Josh McCown at quarterback for the Browns, has connected with wide receiver Travis Benjamin for three touchdowns in limited action, but may be forced to try and connect with backup receivers Taylor Gabriel and Dwayne Bowe due to concussion-related injuries to regular starters Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline. Browns tight end Gary Barnidge is a big offensive threat, but while the Bengals have had recent issues covering Charles Clay and Heath Miller, overall they’ve given up the ninth-fewest Fantasy points to opposing tight ends. The Bengals’ defense, which has given up the seventh-fewest average points per game, got a bit of a boost in Week 8 with the return of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Although the Browns have the second-worst rushing offense and on paper don’t pose much of a threat on the ground, Burfict can still help solidify the Bengals’ middling run defense in this matchup, and going forward as well.
Matchup: home vs. St. Louis Rams
Weather: 50 degrees and clear. SSW winds 14 MPH
The Minnesota Vikings’ defense continues to quietly put up some very impressive Fantasy statistics. They’ve given up the second-least average points per game (17.4) and face a Rams’ offense that has given up the fourth-most Fantasy points to opposing defenses. The Rams’ passing attack (well, it’s not really an attack, it’s actually pretty passive to put it mildly) is led by quarterback Nick Foles. To put it bluntly, the Rams own the worst passing game in football and average just under 180 yards per game through the air. Vikings’ corners Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman should be able to contain the Rams’ passing game, and keep receivers like Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt in check. So about the only thing left for Minnesota’s defensive unit to do is stop Rams’ running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has been on fire and has averaged 141.5 rushing yards in his last four games. Stopping him won’t be easy, but since Carlos Hyde ran wild over the Vikings in Week 1, players like sophomore LB Anthony Barr, rookie MLB Eric Kendricks and veteran DE Everson Griffen have joined forces and helped their unit’s run defense evolve. Since that first game against the 49ers, the Vikings have given up an average of less than 77 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs.
Matchup: @ Dallas Cowboys
Weather: 56 degrees and clear. ENE winds 5MPH
I’m a Giants fan, but I have to admit that you really have to tip your cap to the Dallas Cowboys. Yeah, I know that they play in the worst division in the NFC, but just the fact that they are still in the playoff picture after losing quarterback Tony Romo and top wide receiver Dez Bryant for several games, and then having to release Joseph Randle, the player that was penciled in as their primary running back at the start of the season, is pretty amazing. Yes, it’s amazing, but the fact remains that the Cowboys have scored an average of 14.5 points over their last four games. Matt Cassel is going to be the Cowboys’ quarterback this week, and while Bryant is able to play, it’s going to be a while before he plays like the dominant receiver you expected him to be when you drafted him in the preseason. All of that makes the Eagles’ defense a good streaming option for Week 9. Since taking the job at the start of the 2013 season, defensive coordinator Billy Davis and head coach Chip Kelly have reorganized the Eagles’ defensive unit, moving players into positions that give them a better chance to succeed in the new 3-4 scheme they introduced. Mychal Hendricks, originally a strong side linebacker in former head coach Andy Reid’s 4-3 scheme, is now playing on the inside. Brandon Graham was a defensive end in the 4-3 scheme but is now an outside linebacker. Walter Thurmond was converted from a cornerback to a safety and now leads the team with three interceptions. The consistency still isn’t all there. There are times when the Eagles’ defense can shut down opposing offenses for long stretches and then shortly thereafter, they’re giving up a long clock- consuming scoring drive. They do have the type of players that can transform their defensive team into one of the league’s elite units. Together Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton and Taylor Hart have been effective against the run. Rookie ILB Jordan Hicks has done a great job rotating with Hendricks and Kiko Alonso, and is tied for the team lead in tackles with 43. The Eagles’ secondary, led by Nolan Carroll and Malcolm Jenkins, has played extremely well, and Byron Maxwell, who got off to a tough start this season, has improved and will likely cover Bryant Sunday night. The Eagles lead the league with 19 takeaways and will likely limit the Cowboys’ scoring opportunities since they are 11th in the league with an average of 19.6 points allowed per game.
Matchup: home vs. Oakland Raiders
Weather: 49 and clear. NNW winds 3 MPH
The Steelers are another team whose offense has at times, been depleted. Between the injury to QB Ben Roethlisberger and suspensions to RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant, the Steelers have had to rely on their defense to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. Under the leadership of new defensive coordinator Keith Butler, the Steelers have allowed just 18.4 points per game, good for fifth in the NFL, and they are the only team that has managed to hold the Patriots’ offense to less than 30 points in a game. They have figuratively laughed in the faces of some of this seasons’ most productive quarterbacks. They held the Cardinals and Carson Palmer to 13 points, and the Bengals and Andy Dalton to just 16 points, both season lows for each team and quarterback. Although they’ll be challenged by a good Raiders’ offensive line that has allowed their QB Derek Carr to be sacked just 10 times, the Steelers should be able to keep the pressure on the second-year signal caller. They’re ranked fourth in the NFL with 22 sacks and sixth in the league with 49 team defensive hurries. Overall, with an average of just over 265 yards per game, which is good for 10th in the NFL, the Raiders have a healthy passing game, and although the Steelers might not have the best secondary, players like cornerbacks Ross Cockrell and Antwon Blake, who have three interceptions between them, have a knack for making big plays. The Raiders are 20th in the league in rushing yards per game, and with the Steelers giving up the third-fewest Fantasy points to opposing running backs, who are averaging just 97 yards per ground against them, it doesn’t look like it’ll get much better for the Raiders’ run game in Week 9.
Matchup: home vs. Miami Dolphins
Weather: 44 and partly cloudy. WNW winds 6 MPH
Coming off a bye week, it will be interesting to see how Rex Ryan and the Bills’ defense react to the calls to simplify the defensive scheme, get down to basics, and let the defensive players do what they do best. In previous columns we’ve talked about how the Bills’ pass rush, which led the league with 54 sacks last season, has been hampered by Ryan having top ranked defensive linemen like Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus dropping into coverage more this season, and how that has cut into their sack totals. As a whole, the Bills have the third fewest sacks in football with 11. The Bills’ defensive personnel have vocalized their desire for Ryan to simplify his system through the media, and it remains to be seen whether or not he does, but with Dolphins’ right tackle Ja’Wuan James out this week, look for Williams to take advantage of Miami’s weak right side as he looks to apply pressure to QB Ryan Tannehill. The Bills have done a great job against the run, giving up the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game (91.9), and they are seventh in the league with 11 takeaways. Other than the Bills’ unexpected lack of a pass rush, the other surprise has been the early season play of their secondary. Overall they are ranked 20th against the pass, however, since Week 2, when they were shellacked by the Patriots, the Bills’ pass defense has allowed less than 220 passing yards per game. Their secondary, led by Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore, who have 26 passes defended between them this season, matchup well against Dolphins’ receivers Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills.
Fantasy Football Kickers to Stream for Week 9
Dustin Hopkins, Washington Redskins
Matchup: @ New England Patriots
Weather: 51 degrees and clear. NW winds, 11MPH
If the Patriots jump out to a big early lead against the Redskins, as they often do against their opponents, look for Bill Bellichick and company to give up some late game garbage time scores as they revert to a prevent defense. If that happens, Redskins’ kicker Dustin Hopkins should be able to capitalize and pad his already impressive stats. Hopkins has made 11 of 12 field goal attempts (his only miss was from 53 yards), and he is a perfect 13 for 13 on extra point attempts.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
Matchup: home vs the St. Louis Rams
Weather: 50 degrees and clear. SSW winds 14 MPH
The Vikings are the third-worst at converting their red zone possessions into touchdowns and the Rams’ defense has allowed the lowest percentage of their opponents’ red zone possessions to be converted into touchdowns. Based on those stats, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who has made 17 of his 19 field goal attempts and has three straight games with double-digit Fantasy points should see plenty of scoring opportunities.
Nick Folk, New York Jets
Matchup: home vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Weather: 50 degrees and clear. NW winds, 10MPH
The Jaguars have given up the second-most points to Fantasy kickers. At this point it looks like Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will try to play on Sunday, but he could be hindered, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall is dealing with an ankle injury. With the possibility that Jets touchdowns may be tough to come by on Sunday, look for Nick Folk to get his fair share of scoring opportunities.
Caleb Sturgis, Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup: @ Dallas Cowboys
Weather: 56 degrees and clear. ENE winds 5MPH
The Eagles are ranked ninth when it comes to converting their offensive red zone possessions into touchdowns this season. They face the Cowboys, who have given up the sixth-most points to Fantasy field goal kickers, which bodes well for their kicker, Caleb Sturgis, who has made nine field goals in his last three games.
Josh Lambo, San Diego Chargers
Matchup: home vs the Chicago Bears
Weather: 64 degrees and clear. W winds 8MPH
In what should be a high scoring game, the Chargers take on a Bears team that has given up the fourth-most points per game overall, and the seventh-most Fantasy points to field goal kickers this season. Chargers’ kicker Josh Lambo has made 11 straight field goals dating back to Week 4, and has a very good chance of adding to that streak with this matchup.