Lost everything in your DraftKings or FanDuel Week 4 tournament because of a poor defense (D/ST) selection? No problem. The beauty of daily fantasy leagues is you can start all over again with a brand new roster.
However, whether it’s DraftKings, FanDuel or any other DFS platform, owners tend to ride D/ST trends for a safe pick while focusing on the rest of their roster or they fall in love with a matchup.
But, a safe D/ST pick can wreck any chance of success and matchups can be deceiving.
According to FantasyData.com, the difference between the highest-scoring D/ST and the lowest is 14 points on average this season. Granted, that statistic includes all 32 NFL defenses, and more than half of them won’t be used in standard or DFS leagues.
Yet, even if we just focus on the top 12 highest-scoring D/STs, the difference can still make or break your week. The Minnesota Vikings are the outright fantasy leaders with 16.8 fantasy points per week while the Baltimore Ravens are No. 12 with 7.0 points a week, a whopping difference of nearly 10 points that will cost you a victory.
Favoring a matchup too highly can also be troublesome. Before Week 5 begins, according to FantasyPros.com the New England Patriots have seen their price tag on FanDuel rise by $300 to $4,800 because quarterback Tom Brady is returning from suspension to face the 0-4 Cleveland Browns. On the surface, it’s quite reasonable to pick up New England since Cleveland’s averaging only 18.5 points per game.
But, the Browns also possess the NFL’s best rushing attack with 149.3 yards per game and New England’s only 15th against the run through four games. Cleveland will assuredly hand the ball to Isaiah Crowell as often as possible to keep Brady off the field, and while the Browns offensive line has surrendered 11 sacks the Patriots pass rush has only generated 7.0 sacks (19th in the NFL).
As we talked about last week, picking the right D/ST obviously involves finding the right matchup but also selecting a defense that can hit every fantasy category, and the Patriots don’t appear capable of doing so against Cleveland this week.
Instead, check out our three top D/ST picks for Week 5 below and our quick kicker rankings, which can also be the difference between a win and a loss.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (FanDuel $4,900; DraftKings $3,500)
Admittedly, like the Patriots, the Steelers are a trendy pick as their price made the biggest jump on DraftKings this week, rising from $2,800 to $3,500. But it’s quite understandable given the matchup with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets. Yes, Pittsburgh’s only 12th in forced takeaways (6), and tied for 28th with a mere 5.0 sacks through four games.
But with Fitzpatrick struggling mightily with nine interceptions in the last two games, the Steelers fourth-ranked rushing defense can take away the only currently working part of New York’s offense and force Fitzpatrick into serious trouble.
According to CBS Sports, the Jets are also coughing up 16.5 points per week to D/STs, worst in the NFL.
2. Carolina Panthers (FanDuel $5,000; DraftKings$3,300)
There’s a big split this week between FanDuel and DraftKings platforms involving the Panthers. Carolina’s price slipped by $100 on DraftKings and climbed $200 on FanDuel, as many are unsure if the Panthers can summon turnovers out of a Tampa Bay offense that’s coughed up 11 giveaways so far (second-worst in the league and better only than the Jets and one less than Carolina’s 10).
Many believe the Panthers defense has been exposed now that cornerback Josh Norman is in Washington and two rookie corners (James Bradberry and Daryl Worley) now play significant roles in Carolina’s defensive backfield.
And it’s difficult to argue against that case. The Panthers aren’t anywhere close to their defensive juggernaut status from a year ago, now ranking 28th in points allowed and opposing quarterbacks are averaging a 95.8 passer rating and have tossed eight touchdowns (fifth-worst in the NFL).
But, with Tampa Bay potentially missing running back Doug Martin for the second straight week, the Bucs offense will be limited and quarterback Jameis Winston (8 INTs) will have to throw a ton.
Also keep in mind, the Panthers are still on average the ninth-best scoring D/ST in the league.
3. Chicago Bears (FanDuel $4,200; DraftKings $2,200)
The Bears price actually dropped by $300 on DraftKings, which could make them a major value buy in Week 5. For one, they’ll meet a Colts team letting up 13.25 points per week to D/STs (fourth-worst ), and Indianapolis' offensive line has allowed quarterback Andrew Luck to be sacked 15 times through four games.
True, the injury-laden Bears defense has generated only 7.0 sacks, but even if it can’t get to Luck Chicago’s secondary is quietly having a very strong season. The Bears have actually seen the sixth-most pass attempts in the league, but are eighth in passing yardage and seventh in passing touchdowns allowed.
Bonus: Kicker Rankings
Like D/STs, picking the right kicker can ultimately decide your weekly matchup, and the five kickers below have both excellent track records this season and solid matchups. Each of these five kickers appears poised to overachieve this week.
1. Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers
2. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
3. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
4. Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
5. Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
Gano’s averaging 8.8 points a week and has connected on one 54-yarder, and the Panthers offense may have to settle for field goals often now that Cam Newton’s been ruled out. Gano’s also nearly 3 percent more accurate at home. While the Bears D has been great against the pass they haven’t done well against kickers, and Vinatieri’s yet to miss this season while connecting on three 50-plus yard attempts. Meanwhile, Tucker’s the second highest-scoring kicker in the fantasy, connecting all 11 of his attempts, and he’ll face a Redskins D that’s No. 22 against kickers. Crosby’s only attempted four field goals all season, but he’s at home against a Giants D surrendering the second-most points to kickers.