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Getting Defensive: Week 3

Gary Davenport

To say that Week 2 was a wild one across the NFL is an understatement and a half. But while the league was turned on its head all over the place, there's one immutable constant appearing in regard to the 2019 campaign.

The Miami Dolphins are the absolute worst.

The New England Patriots were the latest fantasy defense to feast on the festival of futility that is the 2019 Dolphins. Playing at Miami in Week 2, the Pats didn't allow a point to Miami, surrendered just 184 yards and piled up seven sacks and four takeaways.

Two of those takeaways were returned for touchdowns.

It marked the second time in as many weeks that the defense facing the Dolphins posted the biggest fantasy stat line of the week—by a wide margin.

In Week 3, it will be the Dallas Cowboys' turn to dine on the buffet of badness that is arguably the worst team in the modern history of everything. This game's in Dallas, too.

It's going to get ugly—quick. Or it's going to be beautiful, depending on whether or not you're one of the lucky ducks who will be rolling out the Dallas defense Sunday.

If you aren't, here's a look at the best (and worst) of the fantasy landscape defensively in Week 3.

 

THE NO-DOUBTERS

Chicago Bears (at Washington Redskins)

Through two weeks, the Bears don't much look like a team that win 12 games and the NFC North in 2018. But the fault for the Bears slow start can't be laid at the feet of a defense that has yet to allow 20 points in a game this season. The Bears rank fourth in total defense and third in scoring defense, giving up just 12 points per game against the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. The Bears have also piled up the third-most sacks in the league through two games, and Chicago remains an elite fantasy option ahead of Monday's trip to the nation's capital.

New England Patriots (vs. NYJ)

It's Tom Brady and the Patriots Offense that gets most of the headlines, but the defense has quietly been a big part of the team's hot start to the 2019 season. Through two games, the Pats have outscored opponents 76-3, and no team defense has more fantasy points over the first two weeks of the season. On Sunday the Patriots will play host to a Jets team that ranked well inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to defenses in 2018—and that was with Sam Darnold under center. With Trevor Siemian at quarterback, the matchup's that much more attractive.

Seattle Seahawks (vs. NOS)

After downing the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week, the Seahawks are 2-0—one of three NFC West teams that has yet to suffer a loss. To date, however, Seattle's defensive performance hasn't really translated to the stat sheet—the team ranks either just inside or just outside the top-12 fantasy defenses on the year. With that said though, the Seahawks are set up well to have their best fantasy effort of 2019 at home against the Drew Brees-less Saints. Teddy Bridgewater didn't find the end zone in three-plus quarters last week against the Rams, and this week he gets the toughest road venue in the NFL to play in.

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Minnesota Vikings (vs. OAK)

If Minnesota's Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers was any indication, the Vikings still have a major problem on offense—and that problem's name is Kirk Cousins. However, the defense has played well over the first two weeks of the season, surrendering just 16.5 points per game while piling up five sacks and half a dozen takeaways—numbers that rank the Vikes in the top-five of many fantasy scoring systems. In Week 3 the Vikings draw a Raiders team that's improved relative to 2018, but Oakland didn't score a point against the Chiefs last week from the second quarter on.

Tennessee Titans (at JAX)

Don't look now, but the Tennessee Titans have quietly played two very nice games defensively. After picking off Baker Mayfield three times and bringing one back for a score against the Browns in Week 1, the Titans held the Indianapolis Colts under 20 points and 300 yards of total offense while notching three sacks and a pair of takeaways. Through two weeks, the Titans are a top-five fantasy defense in most scoring systems, and on Thursday night Tennessee will travel to face a Jaguars team led by a rookie quarterback making the second start of his career.

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. TEN)

The Jaguars lost at Houston Sunday to fall to 0-2 on the season, but it wasn't the fault of the defense—the Jags only allowed 13 points, held the Texans to 263 yards of total offense and piled up four sacks. Thursday night the Jaguars will play host to a Tennessee Titans team that had problems of their own offensively in Week 2, managing just 17 points in a home loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The last time these teams got together in Jacksonville, they combined to score just 15 points in a three-point win by the Titans. Just don't watch the game—it's apt to be about as much fun as a dental cleaning.

 

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

San Francisco 49ers (vs. PIT)

Believe it or not, after two games there isn't a team in the NFC that has racked up more fantasy points defensively in most scoring systems than the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, those numbers are buoyed by a pair of Week 1 pick-sixes, but the Niners rank inside the top 10 in total defense, run defense, sacks and takeaways. This week the 2-0 49ers play host to a reeling Steelers team that will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the rest of the season and may not have tailback James Conner for this one. There isn't a better streaming option to be had in Week 3.

Green Bay Packers (vs. DEN)

Actually, you can make a pretty strong argument that the Packers belong in the no-doubter category—through two games the Packers have actually played better on defense than on offense—for reals. The Green Bay defense ranks inside the top-five in fantasy points so far this year after piling up four turnovers and a sack in a five-point win over the Minnesota Vikings. The 0-2 Denver Broncos have looked pretty pitiful offensively, and within the friendly confines of Lambeau Field the Green Bay defense should post a third straight solid stat line.

Buffalo Bills (vs. CIN)

In what may be the fourth portent of the impending Apocalypse, the Buffalo Bills are 2-0 after taking it to the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium on Sunday—their second win in as many weeks in that venue. The Bills finally get to come home Sunday to face a Bengals team that came crashing back to Earth last week at home against the 49ers. The Cincinnati defense is once again a dumpster fire, and that's going to regularly place the Bengals in untenable positions where they have to press on offense. Pressing inevitably leads to turnovers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. NYG)

It's gone largely unnoticed, due largely to the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't exactly renowned for their defensive play. But Todd Bowles' unit in Tampa has been light-years better than last year's leaky squad. The Buccaneers are actually ranked seventh in both total defense and fantasy points after last week's win over the Carolina Panthers, numbers that could make the team a sneaky-good spot-start Sunday against a floundering Giants team that may be rolling out rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback. They're likely available in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.

Washington Redskins (vs. CHI)

On the surface, the Washington Redskins are a team defense that's best left alone by fantasy owners—the team has given up over 30 points in both games this season and ranks at the bottom of the NFL in fantasy points. As in the absolute bottom—32nd of 32 teams. However, that's something the Redskins rather have in common with the Bears. Through two games this season, the Bears are dead last in the NFC in total offense (263.5 YPG) and scoring offense (9.5 PPG). In the latter category, only the woeful Miami Dolphins have been worse this season than the scuffling Bears.

Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)

At first glance, there might not appear to be a ton to like about the Arizona Cardinals defensively in Week 3. The Cardinals have given up at least 23 points in both of their games this year and rank well outside the top 20 in fantasy points. But this week's matchup with the Carolina Panthers is an interesting one. The Panthers are in free-fall after losing two straight at home to open the season, and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton just doesn't look right physically. At the very least, the Redbirds are a decent streaming option if the waiver wire's rather picked over.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

Baltimore Ravens (at KCC)

The Ravens are playing as well as any team in the NFL two weeks into the season, and the defense deserves a fair share of the credit for that. The team ranks well inside the top 10 in fantasy points in most scoring systems after wins over the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals to kick off the year. But the gravy matchups for the Baltimore defense come to a screeching halt Sunday, when the Ravens travel to square off with the Chiefs. Against the Raiders in Week 2, Patrick Mahomes threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns—in the second quarter alone.

Pittsburgh Steelers (at SFO)

It almost feels like piling on to throw the Steelers under the bus here, but there are a few reasons to be concerned about the Steelers Defense. First, the San Francisco offense just lit up the Bengals for almost 575 yards of total offense and 41 points. Second, the Steelers haven't exactly been playing well defensively to begin with—after giving up 28 points to the Seahawks at home in Week 2 the Seahawks are allowing over 30 points a contest. Finally, while Mason Rudolph looked OK against the Seahawks, it can't be disputed that losing Ben Roethlisberger is a huge blow to the Steelers offensively.