Defense Wins Championships, Week 5

Updated: October 1, 2013

Welcome back to Defense Wins Championships!

Each week, there will be an accompanying discussion thread for the week on Reddit’s /r/fantasyfootball. Please join me there all week! I try to answer every question posted in the D/ST discussion threads.

Week 1 (and basic methodology) | Week 2 | Week 2, part 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

As always, we start with the results from the previous week:

 Top scoring D/STs from Week 4 (ESPN Standard)

#. Team (expected score) versus/at Opponent [actual score]

  1. Tennessee (9.50) versus New York Jets [22]
  2. Indianapolis (8.92) at Jacksonville [22]
  3. Kansas City (7.58) versus New York Giants [20]
  4. Washington (6.59) at Oakland [20]
  5. San Francisco (8.22) at St. Louis [15]
  6. Buffalo (6.81) versus Baltimore [14]
  7. Detroit (1.47) versus Chicago [13]
  8. New Orleans (8.44) versus Miami [13]
  9. Arizona (7.68) at Tampa Bay [13]
  10. Cleveland (5.03) versus Cincinnati [12]
  11. Denver (7.27) versus Philadelphia [12]
  12. Tampa Bay (6.81) versus Arizona [12]
  13. Oakland (3.89) versus Washington [11]
  14. Seattle (6.58) at Houston [11]
  15. Houston (5.85) versus Seattle [11]
  16. Baltimore (6.21) at Buffalo [7]
  17. Minnesota (4.77) versus Pittsburgh [6]
  18. New York Giants (4.84) at Kansas City [5]
  19. San Diego (3.03) versus Dallas [5]
  20. Cincinnati (12.84) at Cleveland [4]
  21. Chicago (4.25) at Detroit [3]
  22. Dallas (6.30) at San Diego [2]
  23. St. Louis (6.77) versus San Francisco [2]
  24. New England (4.30) at Atlanta [-1]
  25. New York Jets (7.13) at Tennessee [-1]
  26. Pittsburgh (5.64) at Minnesota [-1]
  27. Jacksonville (3.89) versus Indianapolis [-2]
  28. Atlanta (4.94) versus New England [-4]
  29. Miami (4.24) at Miami [-4]
  30. Philadelphia (-8.00) at Denver [-9]

Clearly, it was another wild, unpredictable day for D/STs in the NFL. No one could have predicted that the Titans, the Colts, and the Chiefs would be atop the leaderboard this weekend!

Wait, what’s that? Oh, yeah, we did.

Boom, headshot

Our top 8 D/STs heading into week 5 were Cincinnati, Tennessee, Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Francisco, Arizona, Kansas City, and Denver. Of those 8 D/STs, only Cincinnati (20th, 4 points) and Denver (9th, 12 points) fell outside of the top 8.


Looking at the bottom half of the standings, we have Chicago (3 points), Baltimore (7), Dallas (2), Minnesota (6), and Pittsburgh (-1). All of those were teams rated highly by’s Expert Consensus Rankings.

Chicago, #4. Baltimore, #5. Pittsburgh, #10. Minnesota, #12. Dallas, #14. Oops!

Tennessee were rated at #15. Indianapolis were only #6. New Orleans were #20! Washington, our 13th projected D/ST and 3rd best on the weekend was rated number 26 according to the “Experts.”

Hmm indeed.

And what about Cincinnati? Well, they did indeed rate very strongly when the lines were first released. However, after opening at Cincinnati -6.5, the line steamed toward Cleveland hard. On Saturday, this is what I had to say.

A word of caution with Cincnnati: the line has been trending toward Cleveland all week long. Not sure what means, but Cincinnati are merely a good play now, not the far-and-away best I had them rated on Tuesday.

“Not sure what means,” really? Oops. Realistically though, with the data we had available, no one would have sat Cincinnati D/ST against Hoyer the Destroyer. Hoyer’s Browns turned the ball over quite often against the Vikings in week 3, and the Cincinnati D/ST has been on fire for almost a full calendar year. However, week 4 was a different story. The Bengals didn’t force a single fumble, let alone recover one, and the only interception in the game was Buster Skrine’s 4th quarter nail in the coffin. Yeah, that Buster Skrines.

And what was my favorite part of week 4? Philadelphia, projected to score -8 points, escaped their Manning-led destruction with a score of -9.


Started from the bottom, now we’re here

Where will week 5 take us? Will the Kansas City Chiefs continue their romp through the NFL? Are the New Orleans Saints for real? Just what the hell are we supposed to do with those Baltimore Ravens? Let’s find out!

Week 5 D/ST Projections:

  1. St. Louis (11.59) versus Jacksonville
  2. Chicago (10.50) versus New Orleans
  3. Seattle (10.08) at Indianapolis
  4. Kansas City (9.33) at Tennessee
  5. Buffalo (8.72) at Cleveland
  6. Cleveland (8.64) versus Buffalo
  7. Miami (8.46) versus Baltimore
  8. San Francisco (8.45) versus Houston
  9. Atlanta (8.1) versus New York Jets
  10. Carolina (7.45)* at Arizona
  11. Tennessee (7.38) versus Kansas City
  12. New England (7.16) at Cincinnati
  13. Baltimore (6.72) at Miami
  14. Indianapolis (6.68) versus Seattle
  15. New Orleans (6.41) at Chicago
  16. San Diego (5.87) at Oakland
  17. Arizona (5.52) versus Carolina
  18. Green Bay (4.92)* versus Detroit
  19. Denver (4.83) at Dallas
  20. Cincinnati (4.46) versus New England
  21. Houston (3.05) at San Francisco
  22. New York Giants (3.04) versus Philadelphia
  23. Detroit (2.12) at Green Bay
  24. Philadelphia (1.05) at New York Giants
  25. New York Jets (0.93) at Atlanta
  26. Oakland (0.89) versus San Diego
  27. Jacksonville (0.84) at St. Louis
  28. Dallas (-2.61) versus Denver

Bye week teams: Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington

*Note: the rankings were published with incorrect data on Carolina and Green Bay. I forgot to account for them playing only 3 games, not 4. The numbers above are now correct. Sorry!

Week 5 waiver wire darlings

St. Louis (82% owned), Buffalo (8%), Cleveland (4%), and Miami (15%) lead the way, but which should you choose?

If you’re lucky enough to have the Rams D/ST sitting on your waiver wire, snap them up. Personally, I’m shocked to see their ownership rate so high through 4 weeks: going into week 4, they had scored just 8 points total, and going into week 5, they’ve scored just 10. 15 teams scored more than 10 points in week 4 alone! However, the Jacksonville fade is enticing enough that they’re the clear play for anyone looking to replace Tennessee, Indianapolis, or New Orleans from last week.

Be warned though, this play is not without danger. A huge amount of value is derived from the Jaguars pitiful team total of 15 points. St. Louis do not rate very well in terms of turnovers, so this play has very little upside. If you’re looking for upside, look elsewhere.

Buffalo and Cleveland are where most streamers are going to end up this week. Buffalo are riding high after 5 interceptions against aggressively mediocre QB Joe Flacco. Cleveland are led by The Destroyer. Something’s got to give here, but which side would you rather be on?

The Case for Cleveland

Cleveland are the stronger D/ST in the abstract. They have stuffed the run, they’ve forced just shy of 2 turnovers per game, and they figure to sack EJ Manuel roughly three times this weekend. All of that, combined with their ability to depress their score and a low Bills team total of ~18 according to Vegas, makes Cleveland the more consistent choice for streamers this weekend. If you already have enough upside in your lineup, Cleveland will be your best option.

The Case for Buffalo

If Cleveland are the consistent choice, Buffalo are the team with upside here. Cleveland have been a better team to face for opposing D/STs, conceding 15 PPG heading into week 4. Even Cincinnati’s stinker last week isn’t enough to overtake Buffalo, who still rank near the bottom of the D/ST points against list. If your lineup is full of consistent performers, consider going for a little extra upside and selecting Buffalo.

What’s the deal with Miami?

Miami or miasma? The Dolphins showed up big in week 1, although that was against the Weeden-led Browns. They’ve been garbage since, and they were just embarrassed by the Saints on Monday Night Football. However, we saw what Buffalo were able to do to Baltimore, and Miami may be able to replicate some of that success. Do note that Miami have been consistently overrated by these projections, and I’m seriously worried that this week is more of the same. Their sacks have slowed down, and another 5-interception day is very, very unlikely for the Ravens. I would stay away except in deeper leagues.

If you remain uncomfortable with any of the above, then consider Atlanta at home against the Jets. I would have expected this game to rate higher than it is, but Atlanta have been very bad this year. There’s a reason why they’re 1-3, and it’s not just because they’ve played against New England, Miami, and New Orleans (combined records of 11-1). They’re near the bottom of the list in terms of sacks and turnovers forced. Though anything is possible, I would not expect Atlanta to repeat Tennessee’s performance from week 4.

Where are our 100%ers?

Chicago turn up with a huge turnaround from week 4. We successfully predicted their struggles at Detroit, so why are they so highly rated right now? Well, they managed to force three turnovers in week 4, and New Orleans have been scoring less than we’ve been used to. That being said, Chicago won’t score well by keeping the score low – this week’s Chicago D/ST is the very definition of Boom/Bust. Without a defensive TD, you’ll be hard pressed to crack 10 points; Chicago just do not record nearly enough sacks to be a consistent scorer every week.

Seattle should surprise nobody at number 3. They went into Houston and came out with 11 points. They kept San Francisco out of the end zone entirely, and Houston were held scoreless for three quarters. Jacksonville scored all of their points in garbage time. You drafted them early, and you’re certainly not going to bench them in week 5, even against a Colts team who have been among the harshest in the league against opposing D/STs.

I recommended you drop New England last week, unless you were prepared to hold onto them until week 7. With the loss of Wilfork, they’re even more speculative and can still be dropped where necessary, but you could certainly do worse this week with 4 teams on bye. Cincinnati are not droppable yet, but they are on very thin ice. The Bengals should absolutely not be started this week, though. The Broncos are also on thin ice, though they have a few more weeks of gas left before it’s time to panic, and they’ve got Jacksonville and friends coming to town soon. Please do not drop Denver! San Francisco round out the list, and they’re poised for another solid week as Matt Schaub takes his Houston Pick-6s on the road to Candlestick.

A final note on results

We’re doing our best to model some very complicated scenarios with very simple data. We’re also dealing with single football games at a time, when ideally, we would be able to run each game 1,000,000+ times to better determine our accuracy. As such, not every week is going to be as profitable as week 4 was for us. I have no time machine, no almanac from the future, no clairvoyance, etc. I hope everyone who follows my advice does so because it’s the best available advice, not because they expect it to be bear out exactly as predicted!

As always, please join me on Reddit’s /r/fantasyfootball for discussion about week 4′s D/STs all the way until Sunday morning. I try very hard to answer every question posted.

Thank you for reading, and best of luck in week 5!


@dtlerch on Twitter

/u/quickonthedrawl on Reddit

t4blog at gmail dot com

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