No matter how long you play fantasy football, you’re going to find yourself making the same mistakes. Maybe it’s buying in too early on rookies or reading too much intro strong preseasons or spending too much FAAB on a potential one week running back. The key is to keep working on limiting the number of times you make that mistake. For me, it’s ranking bad defenses too high just because of matchup.
I’ve been doing this long enough now that I know that the vast majority of the time, a bad defense will not deliver. They’ll hit a big week here and there and people will get excited and say you HAVE TO stream a defense against offense X, but it never works out like that. It was for that exact reason that I faded the Raiders in Week 6 and then watched as they had a huge day against the Vikings. However, on the surface, there was nothing the Raiders did differently in that game. They just had a great game and scored a defensive touchdown, and fantasy goodness followed. So even though I knew they were a poor defense, and my BOD formula didn’t like them, I put them into my Top 10 against Tyson Bagent and the Bears.
And they let us down. Big time, scoring just four points.
It’s frustrating for me to get that wrong because I focus so much on defenses and because I knew better. But the truth is, I’ll make that mistake once or twice a season and then try to dig my heels in and make sure I don’t do it again. I know that fantasy points hinge on a defense that makes big plays (just look at the Browns, who allowed 38 points and finished as a top-five unit), so we just need to keep honing in on our belief that defense performance can be random but the MOST LIKELY way to have success is to find units that create pressure and turnovers and trust that they’ll do what they do.
Let’s see if we can get back to that in Week 8.
BOD Formula and Philosophy
Just a quick reminder of the BOD formula:
(Pressure Rate) + (Knockdowns) + (Pass Defense Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover)
(% Drives ending in a Score) + (Explosive Plays Allowed Per Game)
It’s important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That’s why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.
Throughout the season I’ll keep track of how many top 10 defenses we correctly predicted. I know it’s not quite marking down if I nailed the number one defense each week or the number two, but it’s the most logical way I can think of to keep track of how often a defense I predicted would be a good play actually wound up being a good play. I know we always want the top defense, but I think, more often than not, if we get one of the ten performing defenses of the week, we’re not mad at the result.
SEASON RECORD FOR TOP 10 PREDICTIONS: 34-of-70 (48.6%)
So how do things stack up for Week 8?
Just as we put the Chiefs into the top spot in the BOD rankings, word comes out that linebacker Nick Bolton will miss “roughly two months” after having surgery on his dislocated wrist. That’s a huge loss for the Chiefs defense, and it may take us a week or two in order to really see how it impacts them. Given that the Chiefs have a solid matchup against the Broncos this week, we’re going to keep them in the top spot. The Chiefs rank second in pressure rate, second in opponents’ scoring rate, sixth in explosive plays allowed, seventh in knockdowns (sacks + QB hits) per game, and eighth in turnover rate. They’ve just been tremendous across the board.
The Eagles defense maybe hasn’t been as stout as we anticipated coming into the year, but they certainly did a good job against an elite Dolphins defense on Sunday night, holding them to 244 yards and sacking Tua Tagovailoa four times. The Eagles are now first in explosive plays allowed, fourth in knockdowns, and sixth in pressure rate, which is potentially problematic for a Washington team that has allowed a league-leading 40 sacks through seven games. That’s an absurd number of sacks, and the Eagles defense has to be salivating at this opportunity against a Commanders team that gives up the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
The Jets make their first appearance in tier one, which is surprising given how elite their defense is. Perhaps because the offense has been lagging behind, the defense hasn’t put up elite numbers so far this season, but they’re certainly turning the corner after holding the Eagles to 14 points and picking off Jalen Hurts three times before the bye week. The Jets now rank third in pressure rate and fifth in turnover rate, and continue to improve on middle-of-the-pack marks in explosive plays allowed and opponents’ scoring rate. That pressure rate is a plus against a Giants team that allows the second-most sacks in the NFL with 37 through seven games. While Saquon Barkley is now back, this Giants offensive line continues to battle injuries and Daniel Jones may return to replace Tyrod Taylor, which tends to mean more sacks and turnovers for a Giants offense that gives up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses of any team in the league. SATURDAY UPDATE: With Tyrod Taylor playing, I moved Philly ahead of the Jets.
The BOD formula has the Seahawks fourth this week, so we’re going to trust the formula here. The Browns give up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, will be without Jerome Ford and have both Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson banged up. The Seahawks have also been solid in their own right, ranking third in knockdowns per game, 10th in opponents’ scoring rate, 13th in passes defended rate, and 15th in explosive plays allowed. That’s enough to get them into the top ten this week. SATURDAY UPDATE: Jerome Ford seems set to play, but he will likely not be near 100% with that high ankle sprain. P.J. Walker will also be under center for the Browns, so we still like this matchup.
While the New England offense showed up against the Bills on Sunday, I think that has way more to do with the injuries and inconsistency on the Buffalo end and less about New England all of the sudden being a good offense. They rank 31st in scoring rate, 25th in turnover rate, and 26th in yards per play. That’s not an offense that’s going to keep up with the Dolphins. Mac Jones is going to be forced to drop back often, which plays into the hands of a Dolphins defense that’s first in knockdowns per game, seventh in pressure rate, and 12th in explosive plays allowed. Miami doesn’t typically force turnovers, but I don’t envision that being a huge issue this weekend against a Patriots team that allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing DSTs.
I faded Baltimore last week against a strong Lions offense and that blew up in my face spectacularly as Baltimore trounced Detroit 38-6. They gave up 337 yards but picked off Jared Goff once and sacked him five times. However, the Ravens continue to confound when it comes to those sack totals because they rank 25th in pressure rate but first in knockdowns. That basically means that every time the Ravens get pressure on the opposing quarterback, they make it count. Is that something that can’t continue or is it the sign of a good defense? The Ravens are also fourth in opponents scoring rate, seventh in passes defended rate, and seventh in explosive plays allowed, so it’s a stingy unit. The Cardinals only have 15 sacks allowed on the season but six of them have come in the last two weeks with James Conner out and the team needing to pass more. Over those two weeks, fantasy defenses against the Cardinals have scored 10 and eight points, so Baltimore should be able to snag a few sacks and get 8-10 points and sneak into the top 10.
Jacksonville delivered a solid performance on a short week against the Saints last week, even without Tyson Campbell at cornerback, so I expect another solid performance against Pittsburgh in Week 8. The Steelers are a better offense with Diontae Johnson back, but they are certainly not an elite unit. Meanwhile, Jacksonville ranks fourth in turnover rate, fourth in passes defended rate, fourth in explosive plays allowed, and fifth in opponents’ scoring rate. I think they’re going to make it hard for Pittsburgh to move the ball, and while I don’t expect many sacks, I think they can force a turnover or two and give us a solid line.
The Cleveland defense has been elite for much of the season. They rank first in opponents’ scoring rate, fifth in passes defended rate, sixth in pressure rate, and eighth in knockdowns per game. They had four sacks and four turnovers and a defensive touchdown last week against the Colts. They also allowed 456 yards and 38 points to the Gardner Minshew-led team. That gives me a little bit of pause against a Seahawks offense that should get DK Metcalf back and is loaded with talented players on offense. I still think you can play the Browns defense because they’re good enough to get you a solid floor at bare minimum, but I will admit that there is some risk here this week. SATURDAY UPDATE: Kenneth Walker seems set to play with his calf injury, but he only get in one practice, so it’s clear he’s not at 100%. Tyler Lockett (hamstring) is also not at 100%, and it’s a question of just how healthy DK Metcalf is after missing last week’s game. The Cleveland offense could put their defense in bad situations, but this Seahawks offense may not have its usual firepower.
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New Orleans has done its job for us. They were a defense that we drafted for schedule, and they’ve given us solid results against some below average offenses despite ranking 11th in turnover rate, 16th in explosive plays allowed, 27th in pressure rate, and 30th in knockdowns per game. What’s working in their favor is that they’re facing a Colts offense that has turned the ball over eight times in two games with Gardner Minshew at quarterback. This is a solid overall Saints defense that I believe can take advantage of those issues, but we also saw that the Colts can still score in bunches, so the Saints defense is a bit risky to me this week which is why they’re at the edge of top 10 value.
The Chargers defense just continues to fail to deliver based on what the talent on that side of the ball should bring. They’re 10th in turnover rate and 12th in knockdowns per game, but 22nd in pressure rate, 27th in opponents scoring rate, and 31st in explosive plays allowed. The good news for them is that they play a Bears offense that has not made many explosive plays this season and look to be with Tyson Bagent under center again. I know the rookie had a solid game this week, but the Chargers can be a bit feistier on defense than the Raiders. Of course, the Chargers also remain an inconsistent unit that tends to fall short of expectations, so they’re just a fringe top 10 team in a matchup that probably warrants being higher.
The Lions dropped the ball last week against the Ravens, but the Raiders are not the Ravens, even with Jimmy Garoppolo back under center. The Lions rank 11th in explosive plays allowed, 13th in pressure rate, and 13th in turnover rate, so they’re outside of the top 10 as a defensive unit but are certainly playable against a Raiders offense that ranks dead last in turnover rate, 23rd in scoring rate, and gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
Dallas and San Francisco are two teams inside my BOD top six who are in tier three because I don’t love their matchups. The Bengals and Rams don’t give up lots of fantasy points to opposing defenses (21st and 26th respectively) and both feature elite passing games that can drive the ball down the field in a hurry. Both the Cowboys and 49ers are at home and are strong teams, so I don’t expect them to get blown out, I just don’t believe there is a ceiling in their respective matchups to rank them higher than the teams I have above them currently. SATURDAY UPDATE: I moved the 49ers down some because their whole situation confuses me this week. CMC is banged up but looked great last week. Deebo is not going to play. Brock Purdy is in concussion protocol but practiced this week. Will the 49ers really risk their starting quarterback one week before a bye if he’s battling concussion symptoms? If Sam Darnold goes play, will he put the defense in some bad spots against a talented Cincinnati offense that’s now healthy? I dunno. I just don’t love it.
Atlanta has been a really solid defense so far this year, ranking fifth in pressure rate, eighth in explosive plays allowed, and 12th in passes defended rate. If Malik Willis starts over Ryan Tannehill then it’s very likely I’ll move Atlanta up in my rankings. SATURDAY UPDATE: Atlanta moves just outside the top 10, with Will Levis starting at quarterback, but they make me nervous. I could see the Titans going really run-heavy, which could mean this game has 50-60 rushes. That will make the game quick, with fewer plays, which means fewer chances for sacks and turnovers, which could keep Atlanta’s ceiling lower than people want.
Pittsburgh is a solid defense in a better-than-expected matchup against a Jaguars offense that gives up the 14th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses at 7.3 per game. Meanwhile, the Steelers are seventh in turnover rate, ninth in pressure rate, ninth in knockdowns per game, and ninth in passes defended rate. They give up too many explosive plays, but they’re a fringe top-10 defense in a fringe top-10 matchup, so I like them as a deep league play with a solid floor and likely not a huge ceiling.
SATURDAY UPDATE: Houston moves into tier three based on matchup. Carolina has been very giving to fantasy defenses, and I’m not sure it matters if Miles Sanders is back. I think the Texans make for a solid deep league play this week.
We’re starting to see the cracks in the Buffalo defense with Tre White, Matt Milano, and DaQuan Jones out for the year. Too many missed tackles and gaping holes in the running game. The good thing for them is that they play a Bucs defense that is one of the worst run offenses in baseball. The Bucs are 29th in rush yards per game, 31st in yards per carry, and 31st in expected points added by the running game. The Bills are still getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and turning the ball over, and while the Bucs don’t tend to give up many turnovers or sacks, Thursday games tend to be a bit weird, so I think the Bills could still be a deep league option. THURSDAY UPDATE: I moved Buffalo out of the top 10 this week with Ed Oliver likely not at 100% and questions about Von Miller’s health still. I think there are just too many injuries on this defense to trust them right now.
The Giants have been playing solid defense of late and now rank 11th in passes defended rate, 15th in opponents’ scoring rate, and 21st in pressure rate. That’s clearly not the profile of an elite defense, but the Jets also give up the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, so the combination makes the Giants a potential deep league option this week.
The Packers and Vikings are both on the border of playable defenses considering injuries to both offenses. Aaron Jones is not 100%, Christian Watson got hurt again for the Packers, and they have injuries across the offensive line. Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson remains out, and T.J. Hockenson got hurt twice on Monday night but continued to play through the ankle injuries. Even with those potential weaknesses, I don’t feel good enough about either defense to move them out of Tier Four.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice.
As I mentioned above, I will update and repost this article on Sunday morning in case there are any changes with injuries or weather reports, etc. Until then, good luck to all this week!