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A football player is only as good as his matchup. For players on the fringes of fantasy rosters, that proves to be true more often than not. Take Blake Bortles, who has an average of 25.82 points per game (standard, four-point per passing touchdown) against weak pass defenses, such as the Chiefs, Patriots, and Jets. Against the Giants and Titans, considered much stronger defensively, he averaged just 11.07 points per game.

Now that we are more than 25% into the fantasy season, it’s becoming clear which defenses can and should be targeted for streaming and using borderline players against. This article is going to look at some of the worst defenses in the NFL and how fantasy owners can take advantage of them in the coming weeks.

A three-week window of upcoming matchups and streaming targets is offered for each defense. Streaming targets are owned in fewer than 60% of Yahoo leagues and ownership is current as of October 8. The viability and usefulness of these players varies depending on league depth. Most of the players owned in fewer than 10% of leagues should not be started in a standard 10 or 12-team league.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have the worst pass defense in recent memory. Tampa Bay has allowed the third most passing yards in the league despite playing one fewer game than the majority of the NFL because of their Week 5 bye. They are currently allowing the most passing yards per game, highest net yards per attempt, and the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and tight ends. They are also tied for the most passing touchdowns allowed and have allowed the second most fantasy points to wide receivers. Maligned defensive backs Chris Conte and Vernon Hargreaves are both out for the season, and if those two were starting one must wonder about the skill of their backups. Tampa Bay currently has 10 defensive backs on its active roster, and five of them went undrafted. This is a weary, banged up secondary and help isn’t on the way for Mike Smith’s defense.

This is a kitchen sink defense. As in, I would trust a literal kitchen sink to be my WR2 against Tampa Bay. If their Week 4 matchup against the Bears showed us anything, it’s that anyone can do well against this defense. Mitchell Trubisky scored 43.46 points in standard scoring against Tampa Bay. Trubisky scored only 41.36 points in his last four games, dating back to Week 17 of 2017. Most quarterbacks can be trusted against Tampa Bay, as well as streaming tight ends. It’s worth picking up a WR3 or WR4 in a pinch in a matchup against Tampa Bay as well.

Upcoming Matchups and Streaming Targets

Week 6 @ Atlanta: TE Austin Hooper (57% Owned), WR Mohamed Sanu (32% Owned)
Week 7 vs. Cleveland: QB Baker Mayfield (37% Owned), WR Rashard Higgins (1% Owned, If Active), WR Derek Willies (0% Owned, If Rashard Higgins Inactive)
Week 8 @ Cincinnati: WR John Ross (6% Owned), TE C.J. Uzomah (26% Owned), TE Tyler Kroft (2% Owned, If Active)

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Who will put up better numbers at season’s end, Patrick Mahomes or quarterbacks facing the Chiefs? For what it’s worth Mahomes has a healthy lead at 131.12 to 118.68, but Kansas City is still allowing the fifth most points per game to quarterbacks this year. That number could be even higher since they have allowed the most passing yards in the league, but they have only nine passing touchdowns against. With how easy it is to throw on Kansas City that number may rise towards the top of the league. If that wasn’t bad enough Kansas City is also allowing the highest yards per carry and the second most fantasy points per game to running backs. What really hurts Kansas City is their lack of depth in the secondary. Their starters aren’t too bad, but when someone gets hurt, such as Eric Berry has been, the Chiefs are in big trouble. Kansas City has a high-powered offense and will likely continue to be in shootouts. Their Week 6 matchup with New England has an astonishing 59.0 O/U from Vegas, the highest of the season thus far.

Most positions can be streamed against Kansas City. They have been surprisingly effective against wide receivers, allowing the 15th most points per game to opposing wideouts. The elite receivers have gotten to them though. Keenan Allen put up 16.8 standard points against Kansas City, while Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster hung 18.1 on them. They’re performance against wide receivers has benefitted from matchups against San Francisco and Jacksonville, two teams with subpar talent in the receiving corps. Kansas City is also top five in points allowed to quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends.

Upcoming Matchups and Streaming Targets

Week 6 @ New England: WR Phillip Dorsett (8% Owned), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (1% Owned)
Week 7 vs. Cincinnati: WR John Ross (6% Owned), TE C.J. Uzomah (26% Owned), TE Tyler Kroft (2% Owned, If Active)
Week 8 vs. Denver: QB Case Keenum (20% Owned), WR Courtland Sutton (6% Owned), TE Jeff Heuerman (2% Owned)

 

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s defense has fallen to pieces over the past three weeks. They have allowed 40.33 points and 327.67 passing yards per game between Weeks 3-5. Atlanta has allowed the fourth most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and the seventh most passing yards in the league. These numbers would be worse, but Nick Foles’ poor Week 1 performance is dragging them down. Outside of Foles’ four-point stinker Atlanta is allowed 28.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. In Atlanta's defense, since they haven’t put one up themselves, they have faced a pretty good string of quarterbacks over the last four weeks. They took on Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger in those four games. Still, they have been utterly helpless against the pass this season and there is no reasonable way to rationalize how bad this defense has been.

In addition to getting shredded by quarterbacks Atlanta has also allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs and sixth most to wide receivers. They have performed well against tight ends, allowing just 5.8 points per game, so we may want to avoid streaming tight ends against Atlanta. Not that we should be scared to start good players against them, but think twice before scooping up someone like Jeff Heuerman off waivers and starting him against Atlanta.

Upcoming Matchups and Streaming Targets

Week 6 vs. Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston (20% Owned), WR Chris Godwin (38% Owned), WR Adam Humphries (0% Owned, PPR Only), TE O.J. Howard (51% Owned, If Active), TE Cameron Brate (31% Owned, If O.J. Howard Inactive)
Week 7 vs. New York Giants: QB Eli Manning (22% Owned), TE Rhett Ellison (5% Owned, If Evan Engram Inactive)
Week 8: BYE

 

Oakland Raiders

Oakland has allowed 29.8 points per game this season and have struggled both in the air and on the ground. Oakland’s secondary isn’t that bad in terms of talent, but they suffer from an atrocious defensive line and linebacker corps. In addition to the loss of Khalil Mack, the Raiders are also hurting from the departure of both Denico Autry and T.J. Carrie. They are currently starting two rookies at defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense with a 35-year-old Frostee Rucker as defensive end. Bruce Irvin is the only starting caliber defensive lineman on this team, and Tahir Whitehead is the only starting caliber linebacker on this team. The teams that are scoring on Oakland aren’t exactly offensive powerhouses either. Cleveland put up 42 points, and Miami put up 28, which is an offensive explosion for the Dolphins.

We can start most players against the Raiders, but especially running backs. They have allowed the fifth most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs along with the fifth most yards and yards per carry. That includes a game where the Dolphins rushed for only 41 yards on 14 carries, with Ryan Tannehill as their leading rusher that day for 26 yards on three carries. Running backs can’t really be streamed, but for borderline start-or-sit guys Oakland is a very favorable matchup. They haven’t been as good for quarterbacks or tight ends, allowing the 14th most points per game to opposing quarterbacks and 17th most points to opposing tight ends. Don’t bench anyone good against them, but have a little more scrutiny when streaming either quarterback or tight end. Oakland has not faced a good tight end this season, with David Njoku being the only halfway decent tight end they’ve gone up against. Some of their opponents, such as the Rams and Dolphins, scarcely ever use their tight ends in the passing game. Their numbers against tight ends may be a mirage based on favorable matchups. Wide receivers have fared better than tight ends or quarterbacks, scoring the seventh most points per game against Oakland.

Upcoming Matchups and Streaming Targets

Week 6 vs. Seattle: RB Mike Davis (19% Owned), WR David Moore (0% Owned), TE Nick Vannett (3% Owned)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8 vs. Indianapolis: WR Ryan Grant (8% Owned), WR Chester Rogers (5% Owned)

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh is similar to Kansas City, in that their defense can often undo much of their offenses’ success. This has been great for players on Pittsburgh, who have been subjected to shootouts this year because of the defenses’ struggles. Pittsburgh’s linebackers are actually one of the best groups in the league thanks to the trio of Bud Dupree, Jonathan Bostic, and T.J. Watt. Their secondary is the big problem for this defense. They are relying on a washed-up Joe Haden and a group of questionable draft picks to stop opposing passing attacks, which has not worked out well. They are allowing 26.6 points per game along with the second most passing yards and are tied for the most passing touchdowns against.

When looking at players to use against Pittsburgh we definitely want to target that secondary. The Steelers are allowing the sixth fewest points per game to opposing running backs, and that may be a side effect of their weak secondary. Teams have attempted the fourth most passes against Pittsburgh compare to the 17th most rushing attempts. Don’t sit running backs against them or anything, but if this defense has a strength it’s against the run. Quarterbacks and wide receivers have hooked up well against Pittsburgh, as the Steelers are allowing the third most fantasy points per game to both positions. They have also struggled against tight ends, allowing the second most points to opposing tight ends this season. Start players in the passing game with reckless abandon against Pittsburgh.

Upcoming Matchups and Streaming Targets

Week 6 @ Cincinnati: WR John Ross (6% Owned), TE C.J. Uzomah (26% Owned), TE Tyler Kroft (2% Owned, If Active)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8 vs. Cleveland: QB Baker Mayfield (37% Owned), WR Antonio Callaway (27% Owned), WR Rashard Higgins (1% Owned, If Active), WR Derek Willies (0% Owned, If Rashard Higgins Inactive)

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