by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
If you are a fantasy footballer who likes to stream his/her defense, let’s take a look at the best options as four NFL teams find themselves on byes:
New Orleans Saints – vs. Atlanta
The Saints have 29.0 sacks this season, placing them among the league leaders. In fact, their passing defense is among the league’s best allowing 191.4 passing yards per game and 11 TD. Considering the way Matt Ryan has been playing, with 9 INT over his past four games, it’s hard to imagine him suddenly getting back on track even with Roddy White, though it’s always possible.
The Saints have been worse against the run (114.0 rushing yards per game, 8 TD), but with Steven Jackson lining up in the backfield that’s not as much of a concern as it could be. The Falcons’ offensive line has struggled to open up holes and, while Jackson still has potential, the risk isn’t enough to keep the Saints out of your lineup. Keep in mind that Tampa Bay (Atlanta’s Week 11 matchup) offers a similar rushing defense statistically and Jackson managed just 11 carries for 41 yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers – at Cleveland
The Steelers’ defense hasn’t generated a lot defensively, including 6 interceptions and 18 sacks (though the Browns have allowed 34 sacks), but the Cleveland offense is in a near state of disaster. Jason Campbell threw 3 INT in Week 11, while the team also lost a fumble. Outside of Josh Gordon, there just isn’t much that’s going to scare you.
The biggest issue with Pittsburgh’s defense has been its rushing defense (125.2 rushing yards per game and 13 TD), but does anyone really believe Cleveland’ backs can put a hurting on them? Chris Ogbonnaya saw his role increase in Week 11 (8 carries for 69 yards, 6 receptions for 30 yards) and is obviously the player to watch. He’s still just not going to scare you.
Detroit Lions – vs. Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers are among the lowest scoring teams in the league and are on their third string running back. With Detroit’s defense being solid against the run (94.6 rushing yards per game, 5 TD), it’s safe to expect that Bobby Rainey (a Cleveland Browns castoff) isn’t going to have a similar explosive performance that he had in Week 11.
The question is, can the Lions shutdown the passing attack? They just watched Ben Roethlisberger torch them for 367 yards and 4 TD, so how can they be expected to shutdown Vincent Jackson? That’s going to be the problem and turns them into a major risk (but one of the few palatable streaming options).