Fantasy Football Week 4 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Fly, Cardinals, Fly

by NESN Staff

September 30, 2015

Welcome back to the defense ratings, where last week we told you to play the New York Jets against the spiraling Philadelphia Eagles. Sorry about that.

The Jets (five points), though, fared better than the bottom six fantasy football defenses in standard scoring formats: the Cleveland Browns (minus-three), Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers (minus-five), Miami Dolphins (minus-six) and the poor Jacksonville Jaguars (minus-eight).

So what did we learn from those bottom-six defenses? No matter how good your defense might be, don’t play them against the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots or Oakland Raiders.

Wait, what? That’s right — Oakland suddenly is becoming a viable offense. The Derek Carr-Amari Cooper combo is enough to set up three touchdown drives every week. Oakland is no longer a (total) pushover. You’ve been warned.

1. Arizona Cardinals
Week 4 Opponent: St. Louis Rams
2015 Stats: 7 takeaways (7 INTs), 3 defensive touchdowns, 1 kick-return touchdown

The Patriots just outscored the Jaguars 51-17 and have won each game by at least a touchdown, yet it’s the Cardinals who own the highest scoring differential in the NFL (+77). That’s possible because of their defense and special teams, which have more defensive touchdowns (three) and more total defense/STs TDs (four) than anyone else. The Rams are last in total offense. You do the math.

2. Seattle Seahawks
Week 4 Opponent: Detroit Lions
2015 Stats: 4 takeaways (4 fumbles), 1 punt-return touchdown, 1 kick-return touchdown

Last week the Seahawks were only ranked fifth. Let’s not make that mistake twice. Kam Chancellor is back and that is going to make a huge difference. The Lions look relatively helpless on offense. Oh, and rookie Tyler Lockett just had his second return TD of the season.

3. Denver Broncos
Week 4 Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
2015 Stats: 10 takeaways (6 INTs, 4 fumbles), 2 defensive touchdowns

Don’t overestimate the upstart Vikings. Though Adrian Peterson might give Denver some trouble (a la Jamaal Charles, despite his two turnovers), this is one of the best defenses in the NFL. Expect turnovers from the baby Vikes — especially interceptions in that terrific Broncos secondary.

4. Buffalo Bills
Week 4 Opponent: New York Giants
2015 Stats: 8 takeaways (5 INTs, 3 fumbles), 1 defensive touchdown

Odell Beckham has been hit or miss, Eli Manning is an interception waiting to happen (though he’s admittedly looked OK), and there’s virtually no run game in New York.

5. New York Jets
Week 4 Opponent: Miami Dolphins
2015 Stats: 11 takeaways, (4 INTs, 7 fumbles), 1 defensive touchdown

The Dolphins have looked terrible. The Jets still have the most takeaways in football, and they’re a better defense than Buffalo, who just stifled Miami.

6. Carolina Panthers
Week 4 Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Stats: 6 takeaways (4 INTs, 2 fumbles), 1 defensive touchdown

The Bucs are among the cellar-dwellers in terms of total offense, averaging just a smidge over 16 points per game.

6. Green Bay Packers
Week 4 Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
2015 Stats: 4 takeaways (3 INTs, 1 fumble)

San Francisco has scored the fewest points in the NFL, averaging just 15 points per game — less than the Chicago Bears, who were just shut out.

7. San Diego Chargers
Week 4 Opponent: Cleveland Browns
2015 Stats: 5 takeaways (3 INTs, 2 fumbles)

The Chargers actually are tied with the Browns for the second-most giveaways (eight) in the NFL. Cleveland’s offense is relatively poor, though, so this is an opportunistic play.

8. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 4 Opponent: Washington Redskins
2015 Stats: 8 takeaways (5 INTs, 3 fumbles), 1 punt-return touchdown

The Eagles looked a bit better this week, and they’ve got an NFC East opponent that can’t score. Darren Sproles is always a threat to take a kick back, as he did in Week 3.

9. Indianapolis Colts
Week 4 Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Stats: 3 takeaways (3 INTs), 1 defensive touchdown

The Colts have been bad, but the Jaguars have been terrible. They scored 17 points by accident against the Patriots in a game they lost by 36 points. The Colts need a spark, and despite a banged-up defense it stands to reason that a high school team could defend the Jags.

10. Oakland Raiders
Week 4 Opponent: Chicago Bears
2015 Stats: 4 takeaways (2 INTs, 2 fumbles)

Khalil Mack is looking like a very scary edge rusher thus far, and pressuring the quarterback never hurts a defense. Especially when that quarterback is Jimmy Clausen. It’s worth a shot against the Bears, who were just shut out.

Bonus: If you’re feeling bold (or have no other options), give the Chiefs a shot. Their secondary (and really entire defense) is still very good, despite getting drubbed by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Cincinnati has looked great and scored a ton of points, but QB Andy Dalton is no Rodgers, and the Bengals’ run game is in shambles.

Most Giveaways: Colts (10) vs. Jaguars; Lions (8) vs. Seahawks; Chargers (8) vs. Browns (7)

Teams With Special-Team TDs: Punt Return: Seahawks, Dolphins, Rams, Browns, Eagles, Saints; Kick Return: Seahawks, Cardinals, Redskins.

Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images

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