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Fantasy football Defense/Special Teams rankings for Week 4

Kevin C. Cox

Defense scoring is one of the most unpredictable things in fantasy. Now read on as I try to predict it!

If you'll indulge me for just a moment, a line graph, presented without any helpful information like "words":

Pick any of those lines. I don't care which. The pink one? The green one? Whatever. Pick one, and tell me where it will fall on the fourth data point. I double-dog dare you to do that with any confidence.

In what ought to come as no surprise at all - since, you know, this is the weekly defense and special teams rankings - that graph is the scoring of all 32 units in the NFL through three weeks. Exactly zero teams have scored the same point total twice. Green Bay has had a 25-point swing from high (21, Week 3) to low (-4, Week 1); Baltimore's swing has been 28 (22, Week 3, to -6, Week 1). Probably the most consistent defense has been San Diego's, which has scored zero, -5, and -3 points so far. That's helpful as far as predictability, but not so much as far as, you know, fantasy usefulness.

This is not to say we can't figure anything out. The Seahawks - the consensus No. 1 defense in fantasy drafts - is the only defense to score in the double digits all three weeks, scoring ten against Carolina, 21 against San Francisco, and 12 against Jacksonville. (I wonder what kind of odds you could have gotten on Seattle's defense scoring 75 percent better against Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco than they would against Chad Henne and Jacksonville.) The Chiefs, undrafted in almost all leagues, have been stout; the coveted 49ers have been very ordinary.

Woe is me, right?

That wasn't really the point I set out to make. I just wanted to point out that defenses lack the consistency you often expect out of other positions. Which, as I've said many times, is all the more reason to stream the defenses. If you have Seattle, great. Smile. If you have just about anyone else, be ready and willing to drop them and play the matchups. It's smart.

A look at some of this week's units:

Kansas City Chiefs (No. 2) - Interestingly, the Chiefs are currently first in the NFL in sacks, and tied for last in the NFL in overall tackles. The best I can do as far as insight for that stat, though, is preface it with "interestingly." Only Seattle has allowed fewer points. It's still relatively early in the season, but there seriously isn't anything not to like about the Kansas City defense. This week, they face a New York Giants team that couldn't possibly have looked worse without putting on Jaguars' jerseys. While it's hard to imagine that a team with Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and Hakeem Nicks could be as bad as it's looked so far, there's still every reason to believe Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and friends could have a big game in store.

Arizona Cardinals (No. 8) - A running theme in my defense rankings is often that who you are playing against is more important than who you are. The Cardinals are playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, a team that just went from we-know-he's-awful Josh Freeman at quarterback to Tampa's-last-resort Mike Glennon. Vincent Jackson might be out or limited with injury. Unless Doug Martin just runs wild (which, sure, is always possible), how will Tampa Bay get yards against a competent Arizona defense? It's hard not to love Arizona this week.

Tennessee Titans (No. 9) - The Titans are like the Chiefs, in that they went largely undrafted in the preseason, yet have produced strongly so far. They've averaged an interception a game, are one of only ten teams to have allowed fewer than 1,000 total yards so far, and are still only 33 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. This week, they get a New York Jets offense that is 2-1, sure, but quarterback Geno Smith has thrown six interceptions to go with only three touchdowns, and has only 801 passing yards. Tennessee is a heck of a good stream option if you have Carolina on a bye. (Or Green Bay, but why would you do that to yourself?)

Philadelphia Eagles (No. 30) - After a not-awful Week 1 matchup against Washington, the Eagles defense has been worthless against San Diego and Kansas City. They've now allowed the third-most yards in the league. Their saving grace as a unit is their kickoff return game: only the Chicago Bears (*cough* Devin Hester *cough*) have more return yards. If the Eagles can break off a big return, maybe that changes something, but come on; this is an awful defense, and this is an awful defense playing against the mega-offense Broncos in Denver. If you are starting Philly, you lost a bet or something.

Here are the overall rankings for Week 4:

Rank Team Opponent
1 Seattle Seahawks at Houston
2 Kansas City Chiefs NY Giants
3 Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland
4 Denver Broncos Philadelphia
5 Chicago Bears at Detroit
6 Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo
7 Dallas Cowboys at San Diego
8 Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay
9 Tennessee Titans NY Jets
10 New England Patriots at Atlanta
11 New York Jets at Tennessee
12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Arizona
13 Houston Texans Seattle
14 San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis
15 Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville
16 New Orleans Saints Miami
17 Cleveland Browns Cincinnati
18 St. Louis Rams San Francisco
19 Atlanta Falcons New England
20 Buffalo Bills Baltimore
21 Miami Dolphins at New Orleans
22 Minnesota Vikings Pittsburgh
23 Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota
24 Detroit Lions Chicago
25 New York Giants at Kansas City
26 Washington Redskins at Oakland
27 Oakland Raiders Washington
28 Jacksonville Jaguars Indianapolis
29 San Diego Chargers Dallas
30 Philadelphia Eagles at Denver

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