Alan Ball Jacksonville Jaguars
After four horrid weeks to start the season, cornerback Alan Ball and the Jacksonville Jaguars are slowly emerging as one of the better defensive teams in the NFL. Reuters

Over the first four weeks of the NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars were arguably the most beleaguered defense in the league. They let up an average of 38 points and 440.8 yards per game, and lost six straight before Week 7’s 24-6 win over Cleveland.

But over the last three weeks the Jaguars’ defense has gradually improved and could be a viable start for fantasy owners in Week 8.

First, those four games were against some of the most talented and well-executed offenses in the league, and three were on the road: at Philadelphia, at Washington, vs. Indianapolis, and at San Diego.

Second, the Jags offense, led by rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, committed eight total turnovers, giving those high-powered offenses far more opportunities and tiring the defense that much more. The turnovers figure to be a problem going forward as well. Since taking over starting duties in Week 3 against the Colts, Bortles has struggled to adapt to the pro-game, which was expected, and now leads the NFL with 10 interceptions.

But the Jags tightened things up over the last three weeks, particularly against the run. After letting up 130.5 yards on the ground, the Jags have nearly cut that number in half at 83.3, and in the same span have let up 13 points per game, nearly one-third of the total through the first four weeks of the season.

For fantasy purposes, the Jags have rolled out the second-best pass rush in the league. They’ve totaled 22 sacks, behind only Buffalo’s 24, and would have been a viable start if they had managed to keep opposing offenses out of the end zone.

In Week 8 they’ll have a stiff test against the Miami Dolphins. Florida’s other team is fourth in the league in rushing with 136.3 yards per game, and leading receiver Mike Wallace has totaled five touchdowns, tied for eighth in the league. Wallace serves as the biggest issue for a 30th-ranked Jacksonville pass defense that’s generated only two interceptions.

But the Jags pass rush, led by defensive end Chris Clemons’s 4.0 sacks, is more than capable of rattling quarterback Ryan Tannehill. In losses this season Tannehill’s been sacked an average of three times, compared to twice in wins, and against Buffalo the Dolphins o-line gave up four total sacks, a number Jacksonville can equal or better.

The Jags DST shouldn’t be a fantasy owner’s No. 1 choice to start in Week 8, but it is a solid second or third choice. Let’s a look at some other DSTs owners should think about starting this week, and those they should sit.

Kansas City Chiefs

Coming off the biggest win of their season, the Chiefs managed to contain the Chargers seemingly unstoppable offense to 251 total yards and 20 points, the second lowest total of the season. They also managed to sack quarterback Philip Rivers twice and forced one interception. In Week 8 K.C. faces a St. Louis offense ranked No. 24 in the league, and an o-line that’s surrendered 16 sacks.

Miami Dolphins

Yes the Jags are a solid start, but so are the Dolphins, in a game that figures to be rather low scoring with an over/under of 43 points according to Bortles has shown promise, but hasn’t shown any sign of cutting down his mistakes. His o-line hasn’t helped Bortles either, allowing a NFL-worst 29 sacks. Both are huge boons for the Dolphins who are fourth in the league against the pass, and 10th versus the run.

Buffalo Bills

Other than the Week 6 blowout loss to the Patriots, the Bills have been a regular start for fantasy owners all season with the league’s best pass rush and allowing only 20.3 points per game. They’re on the road in Week 8 at the N.Y. Jets, a squad that’s No. 28 with 17.3 points per game and has committed 10 turnovers thus far.

Week 8 Starts/Sits

Sit: San Diego, Denver, Houston, Carolina, Cincinnati, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

Start: Kansas City, Tennessee, Minnesota, Seattle, Miami, New England, Buffalo, N.Y. Jets, Arizona, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Baltimore

Byes: N.Y. Giants, San Francisco