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Getting defensive

Posted Nov 21, 2017

Fantasy defenses won a lot of fantasy games for their owners this week, with the Ravens, Chargers, and Jaguars leading the way


It’s not very often that a fantasy defense will outscore an entire team in fantasy scoring, but that is what happened not once, not twice, but three times in Week 11! We all knew the Jaguars’ elite defense would have a field day against the Browns offense, so that one is really not a surprise. But there were two more defenses that brought their A-game this weekend—the Chargers and Ravens.

The Los Angeles Chargers were my start ‘em defense for Week 11, and I did that because they were facing a rookie QB in Nathan Peterman. The Bills offensive line is not very good, and their WRs have simply not stepped up and been a factor in games. The only aspect of their offense worth mentioning is the running game behind LeSean McCoy. But when a defense knows you will just run the ball 7 out of 10 plays, the game plan is not that hard to design.

The Ravens always have a good defense, but they really did a number on Packers QB Brett Hundley, sacking him 6 times, snatching 3 interceptions, recovering 2 fumbles, and not allowing a single point to be scored on them. The Ravens have a pretty good defense, but the Packers offense is lost without Aaron Rodgers. Stream whoever plays the Giants, Browns, and Packers for defenses.

 

Winners

Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: It’s been a frustrating season for Big Ben and his owners, coming into Week 11 with a season-high of just 2 touchdown passes in a game. The Titans had been doing fairly well against fantasy quarterbacks this season, allowing just one 300-yard passing game and never more than 2 TDs in a game.

However, both of the touchdown milestones for the season were breached when Roethlisberger tossed 4. He also racked up 299 passing yards, which is frustrating since he needed just a single yard to reach 300 for an additional fantasy bonus in some formats.

With the Steelers facing the Packers at home in Week 12, Big Ben is an early must-start.

Andy Dalton – Bengals: Dalton threw the ball only 25 times on Sunday, completing 15 of them for 154 yards and 3 touchdowns. With the Broncos offense not moving the ball effectively, the Bengals didn’t start with terrible field position often. Because of that, Dalton didn’t need to put up big yardage numbers to win this one.

Dalton has now thrown 7 TDs and 0 INTs over the last 4 games, and he has a plus matchup in Week 12 with Cleveland heading to Cincinnati. Dalton too will be an early start ‘em candidate.

Samaje Perine – Redskins: Perine finally had a game worth mentioning in fantasy circles, running the ball 23 times this week, totaling 117 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. Perine now becomes the unquestioned starter for the Redskins with Chris Thompson suffering a broken fibula that requires season-ending surgery.

Perine has largely been a bust this season, with his 117 yards more than doubling his season total (210) heading into this week. But with Thompson out of the picture, and nobody to push him for snaps at RB, the Redskins will have no choice but to rely on him full-time. They could move Ryan Grant back to RB, but it’s more likely they just stick with Perine and Byron Marshall in the backfield.

Latavius Murray – Vikings: The Vikings backfield has been a frustrating one to try and figure out, with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon splitting carries almost evenly. From a fantasy standpoint the back to own seems to be Murray, with his scoring 4 TDs over the past 4 games while McKinnon has scored once over that span.

This week Murray racked up 95 yards and 2 TDs on 15 carries, finishing 3rd for fantasy RBs in Week 11. Next he gets the Lions on Thanksgiving, making him a mid-range RB2.

Keenan Allen – Chargers: Allen was once thought of as a must-start WR1, but low yardage totals for much of this year had fantasy owners wondering if they could trust him heading into Week 11. I knew they could with Allen facing a shaky Bills secondary, and he did not disappoint.

Allen hauled in 12 of 13 passes for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns in an easy win. Allen’s career-high for catches is 15, and I bet he could have topped it if the Chargers didn’t take their foot off the gas in this one. With the Cowboys up next on the road on Thursday, Allen will again be a must-start WR.

Kenny Stills – Dolphins: The key for success with Kenny Stills seems to be pretty simple: play Matt Moore. Regardless if it is Moore starting or coming in for an injured QB, Stills has his best games of the season whenever he is tossing the pigskin around.

This week Stills reeled in 7 of 8 targets for 180 yards and a touchdown. The TD marks the 5th time he has visited the painted grass this season, 2nd-most on the team behind Jarvis Landry’s 6. His value in Week 12 depends on who the Dolphins QB is. If Jay Cutler is back, then he is a WR4; if Moore is starting, he becomes a streaming option at WR.

Ricky Seals-Jones – Cardinals: The virtually unknown tight end for the Cardinals came out of nowhere to catch 3 passes for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Texans. This one isn’t even worth talking about more than to say we all missed out on the one good game the rookie will have all season. Don’t go chasing stats by picking him up this week.

Los Angeles Chargers defense: It’s not often you will see a fantasy defense give up 24 points and still be one of the best in all scoring formats that weekend. If you remember, I recommended the Chargers in my Week 11 article because I knew they would go off against the Bills and their rookie QB.

Bills QB Nathan Peterman managed to throw 5 INTs before halftime, with two of them taken to the house for touchdowns. On top of that, the Chargers also managed to record a sack and recover a fumble. I don’t want this to turn into a Bills conversation, but Peterman was SO bad, I was rooting for him to break the single-game INT record (8). But, he was pulled at halftime in favor of Tyrod Taylor.

The Chargers are on the road in Week 12, taking on a Cowboys team that looks completely lost on offense without Ezekiel Elliot. They are a sneaky streaming defense.

 

Losers

Jared Goff – Rams: Goff and the Rams offense finally came crashing down to Earth, and all it took was going on the road to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Goff managed to complete 23 of 37 passes, but he totaled just 225 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

This is Goff’s 2nd-worst fantasy game of the season, narrowly beating his Week 5 performance of 288/0/2 against the Seahawks. The Rams take on the Saints in Week 12, making him a low-end QB1. If standout rookie CB Marshon Lattimore (ankle) can’t go, Goff’s outlook gets a little brighter.

Alex Smith – Chiefs: For the first time this season, Alex Smith failed to throw a touchdown pass in a game, and the Chiefs lost a game they should have won because of it. The New York Giants secondary isn’t known for shutting down QBs, allowing the 3rd-most fantasy points this season to QBs. But they sure had Smith’s number this week, allowing just 230 passing yards, no TDs, and 2 INTs.

The Chiefs started off the season hot, winning their first 5 games and beating the Patriots and Eagles in the process. But since then they’ve lost 4 of their last 5 games, with their lone win coming against the Broncos. The good news for the Chiefs is that the AFC West is the only division in the NFL with every team other than the division leader under .500.

Dak Prescott – Cowboys: The Cowboys offense is totally lost without Elliot toting the ball at running back, and Prescott’s shortcomings as a quarterback are becoming more evident than ever. This week Prescott managed to complete just 18 of his 31 pass attempts, and he compiled an unimpressive 145 yards, no TDs, and 3 INTs.

Without a running game they can lean on, a WRs corps that is Dez Bryant and everyone else, and a TE who may very well have landed in Dallas on Noah’s Ark, the Cowboys offense looks as lost as any in the NFL. I guess it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all… right Cowboys fans?

Javorius “Buck” Allen – Ravens: Well, the run of Buck Allen in fantasy circles has officially come to an end with the return of Danny Woodhead to the lineup. Allen’s fantasy value never materialized as we had hoped, with his scoring just 3 TDs this year spread out between Weeks 2, 5, and 9.

This week Allen managed just 3 carries for 8 yards and 1 reception for 9 yards. You can keep Allen on your rosters if you want a handcuff in case Woodhead reinjures his hamstring, but he looks fully healthy. If there is something you want off your waiver wire, Allen is the first guy I would cut to get it.

DeMarco Murray – Titans: If you’ve never owned Murray or Derrick Henry this season, then you have no idea the apathy their owners are feeling after watching more of the same from them in Week 11. Murray managed to run the ball 8 times for 10 yards (1.3 YPC), while hauling in 5 passes for 37 yards.

Murray’s 1.3 YPC this week were his lowest of the season, and the Titans offense has officially become one that fantasy owners simply can’t trust. Murray and Henry are talented, but the Titans abandoned the run with the Steelers getting into the end zone early and often. With the Colts up next for the Titans, Murray could be a bounce-back candidate in Week 12.

Jordy Nelson – Packers: What more can go wrong for Nelson and the Packers this season, with them first losing their Pro-Bowl QB in Rodgers to a broken collarbone, then losing both Ty Montgomery (ribs) and Aaron Jones (MCL)? One has to wonder if NFC North fans have a voodoo doll of the Packers and are using Google to kill any chance they have of making the playoffs.

With Hundley playing pitch-n-catch with the Ravens defense this week, Nelson managed to finish the game with just 2 catches (6 targets), 24 yards, and no touchdowns. The sad reality is Nelson and the rest of the Packers offense cannot be trusted unless Rodgers is able to hit the field just in time for the fantasy playoffs.

With the Packers going on the road to take on the Steelers in Week 12, I wouldn’t play Nelson, Devante Adams, or anyone else unless I absolutely had to.

Emmanuel Sanders – Broncos: Sanders and the Broncos offense looks as lost as the Cowboys, which is why the team fired OC Mike McCoy on Monday. That move smacks of scapegoating to me, but this is fantasy, not a reality commentary. The Broncos have no QB that should be anywhere near a starting lineup, and a running game that is as confused as any in the NFL.

Sanders managed to set a season-low with 15 yards this week, catching just 2 passes in the process. With Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian making up the Broncos QB depth chart, Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are TD-or-bust plays. Sanders has scored 2 times this season, while Thomas has scored 3 times.

The good news for the Broncos in Week 12 is they head to Oakland to take on a Raiders team that is the only remaining team in the NFL without an interception this season. Who wants to bet that changes this week?

Evan Engram – Giants: The Giants got the upset win over the Chiefs this week, but it was in no way due to Engram and Eli Manning, or the offense as a whole. Engram was a total bust by hauling in just 1 of 6 targets for 9 empty yards in Week 11.

Engram had scored in the previous 4 games, and things looked good for him from a volume standpoint with Sterling Shepard inactive due to migraines. However, the Chiefs clamped down on the passing game, and held Manning to just 205 passing yards on the day.

Engram is clearly going to have a future in the NFL, but the Giants WR corps is down to practice squad level players with all the injuries they’ve suffered this season. With that being the case, defenses know they don’t have to double-cover anyone, and that makes it hard for a QB to find the holes to exploit. He’s still a TE1, but there will be ups and downs to finish out the season.

Los Angeles Rams defense: Much like the offense this week, the defense simply laid an egg for its fantasy owners. The Rams gave up 24 points to the Vikings while failing to add a single sack, interception, or fumble recovery. It’s not often that Aaron Donald and that defensive line get shut out, but the Rams just didn’t seem to be up to the task on either side of the ball this week.

Next week the Rams are at home against the Saints, making them a defense I would try to avoid. Instead, give the Bengals, Redskins, or Panthers a look for Week 12.

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