An enormous percentage of your focus each week is involved with decisions about RBs, WRs, TEs, and signal callers. That makes the amount of planning that you dedicate to team defenses far less extensive. While that is understandable, it still behooves you to maximize your chances of winning by examining all of your existing options. A collection of defensive units that were afterthoughts during the draft process have performed effectively, which has diminished the number of your remaining options. As has the bye week which eliminates the Falcons or Dolphins from consideration. However, there are still three alternatives that should be available if you prefer to stream a defense in Week 6.
Steelers at Jets
The formidable Jet defense has been discussed in this column previously, yet you can still find them available in over 97% of all ESPN leagues. Why that is the case is somewhat mystifying considering how tough this unit has been on their opponents. But maybe their prime time performance in Atlanta will convince more owners to secure this sturdy unit. Gang Green currently ranks second in total defense, while permitting just 299 YPG. They are also second versus the run, while yielding just 79 YPG. Their resume in this category is commendable, as they held Doug Martin to just 65 yards in Week 1, and limited C. J. Spiller to nine yards on 10 attempts in Week 3 before he exited with the thigh issue. 59 of the 120 yards that the Bills registered in that contest were generated on one burst by Fred Jackson. Otherwise, the Jets held them to just 61 yards on their other 24 carries. They also contained Chris Johnson in Week 4, as he could only manage 21 yards on 15 attempts. Plus, they held Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling to a combined 56 yards on 21 attempts. Now, they will face a Pittsburgh offense that ranks 19th overall, and has averaged a paltry 58 YPG on the ground. Even though the Steelers’ rushing attack has improved with Le’Veon Bell in the lineup, they still rank just 31st in that category, and will likely attack the Jets through the air. But Rex Ryan’s group has frequently been formidable when their opponents choose to throw, and currently rank 13th versus the pass (223 YPG). Plus, Ben Roethlisberger has tossed five INTs in four games, and will be under intense pressure from a Jets’ pass rush that has already accumulated 16 sacks. You still have a chance to secure this unit, although your time is almost assuredly running out.
Other Favorable Matchups
Lions at Browns
Detroit finished 13th in total defense during the 2012 regular season, but only five teams surrendered more points per game than the 27 that they permitted. That compelled many owners to look elsewhere on draft day, and the Lions still have not created enough enthusiasm to depart the waiver wire. However, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairly, and Ziggy Ansah provide a formidable presence up front. LB DeAndre Levy is 12th in tackles, and the secondary has improved. They did yield 447 yards to Green Bay in Week 5, although 150 of those came on two huge plays. Plus, they limited Aaron Rodgers and the always explosive Packer offense to just two FGs in the first half. Their task will not be as daunting this Sunday, even though Cleveland has won three consecutive contests. Because much of the Browns’ success was the result of an effective passing attack that Brian Hoyer ignited in Weeks 3 and 4. But his knee injury has thrust former starter Brandon Weeden under center, and his previous performances have been far less inspiring. The second-year signal caller has thrown three INTs, while only completing 54% of his passes. Detroit is second in the NFL with eight INTS, and could easily add to that impressive total. The Lions are owned in just 6% of ESPN’s leagues, and might not appear to be a viable option when you initially peruse their stats. But they could be a strong start for you this week.
Panthers at Vikings
The Panthers’ embarrassing Week 5 performance after two weeks of preparation did not include their sturdy defense, as they harassed Carson Palmer into three INTs, while sacking the veteran signal caller twice. Carolina’s front seven continues to create problems for their opponents, and is primarily why they enter Week 6 ranked third in total defense, while permitting 301.5 YPG. The team is also third in scoring defense, while yielding just 14.5 points per game. The Panthers will certainly become a challenge to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings’ ground game, as they are now tied for seventh against the rush, and are allowing just 92 YPG. They limited Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards on 17 carries, and held David Wilson to 39 on 11 attempts. While the Panthers are comparatively vulnerable in their secondary, they still rank a respectable eighth against the pass. Plus, Minnesota lacks the resources to launch an all-out aerial assault. Greg Jennings leads the team with 252 receiving yards, which is a total that was surpassed by 34 other receivers heading into Minnesota’s Week 5 bye. But of course, the team’s primary issue offensively as at QB. Matt Cassel is at best a marginal upgrade over Christian Ponder, and in the highly unlikely event that Josh Freeman would see the field, he would not have any semblance of comfort level within an offense that he just joined. The Panthers are owned in 37% of all ESPN leagues, and can supply you with a feasible alternative if you are in need of a capable defensive unit.