Two weeks into the season, it looked like the Washington Redskins would be one of the better defensive clubs in the NFL. They let up 16 total points, and forced 10 sacks and two turnovers. Then we came back to earth and realized those numbers were hugely inflated in Week 2 against Jacksonville, when all 10 of those sacks took place.
Then Washington’s DST was torn asunder by a harrowing schedule: at Philadelphia, vs. N.Y. Giants, vs. Seattle, at Arizona. During that stretch the Redskins allowed 34.8 points, and could only manage five total sacks and two turnovers.
Of course it hurt that quarterback Robert Griffin III went down, and turnover machine Kirk Cousins stepped in with eight interceptions over that four-game stretch, putting undue pressure on a talented defensive squad. Cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Akeem Jordan missing significant time were also big factors, but free agent signing and defensive end Jason Hatcher has proven to be worth every penny, and rookies like linebacker Trent Murphy and cornerback Bashaud Breeland have bloomed as solid, every-down players.
Starting with Week 7's 19-17 win over Tennessee, Washington’s improvement looked very real in its 20-17 overtime victory over the rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 8. The Skins shutdown a Dallas offense that had averaged nearly 30 points during its six-game win streak, and sacked Tony Romo five times, on top of picking up two fumbles in the win.
So in Week 9, with such solid DSTs like Buffalo and Detroit sitting out for their byes, the Redskins are worthy of a start against the Minnesota Vikings. Washington might not put up consistent numbers week-to-week like the Bills and Lions, but they serve as an excellent one-week plug in.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has shown flashes, but the Vikings own the No. 31 passing offense in the league and the offensive line has allowed 28 sacks, the second-worst mark in the NFL. Both signs that Washington will flourish this week.
Other than the Skins, there are several other DSTs owners should think about starting in Week 9, and some they should consider leaving on the bench.
Last week’s last-second loss to Arizona notwithstanding, the Eagles are still the highest-scoring DST week-to-week, with roughly 10 points per game, depending on your league’s scoring methods. Next up is a Texans squad who’s only threat is running back Arian Foster. Yes, Foster is a MAJOR threat and the Eagles are on the road, but they have a strong enough pass rush to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick and generate some turnovers.
One of the youngest and most talented defensive units in the league has been good for at least two sacks and two interceptions over the last three weeks. Unfortunately the loss at Jacksonville might have scared owners away. This week they’ll get to feast on Tampa Bay, a squad that’s managed to score more than 17 points in only one game this season, and ranks 28th in passing and 29th in rushing.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs No. 1 pass defense faces the N.Y. Jets last ranked passing offense. K.C. wont’ be able to rip up Geno Smith, but Michael Vick is well past his prime as a pocket-passer (if he ever had one). The Jets have also allowed 22 sacks, the sixth-worst mark in the NFL.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have lost two straight, giving up an average of 27.5 points. They’ve also forced only three sacks and one turnover in the last three games. But in Week 9 they’ll have a quarterback in Miami’s Ryan Tannehill that’s thrown a pick in all but two games this season. The Dolphins o-line has also regressed, allowing seven sacks in the last three, compared to 10 in the previous five games.
Week 9 Starts/Sits
Sit: Denver, New England, N.Y. Jets, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh
Start: Cleveland, Arizona, Dallas, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle
Byes: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee