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Week 4 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2022 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Before we dive into the rankings, I want to talk quickly about overreacting and process. We're still early enough in the fantasy football season that I want to caution people against overreacting to the final total fantasy points scored and advocate for sticking to our process, even if the results aren't 100% what we want at this point in the season. We went six for ten in our top-10 predictions from last week, and after each week we should be looking at our rankings and asking ourselves if the process was right or wrong.

We had Cleveland as a fringe top-10 defense, coming in 9th in my rankings. I wasn't convinced they would have a fantasy-friendly day against Pittsburgh. Heading into the final play of the game, they had 17 points allowed, one sack, and no turnovers. That's not a great fantasy day. Then Pittsburgh tried to super-lateral-play on the final play of the game, lateraling the ball four times before fumbling and allowing the Browns to recover in the end zone for a touchdown, which drastically changed their fantasy day. Our process was good there even if the Browns finished as a top-five defense.

On the other hand, I worried about Philadelphia's Week 1 performance against the Lions, and I kept them ranked 10th against Washington. It turns out that I didn't properly react to what we saw from Philadelphia against the Vikings in Week 2. The Eagles hounded Carson Wentz throughout the whole game, racking up nine sacks and a top-three fantasy day. The process was wrong there. The Eagles are either a better defense than we thought or Washington needs to be an offense we attack each week. Either way, we need to react to what happened in this game and correct it for this week.

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What is the BOD Ranking Formula?

Last year I introduced my Best Overall Defense (BOD) rankings formula, and I'll be using it again this year. I'll give a quick overview of the formula below, followed by my general strategy for streaming defenses, and then my Week 4 fantasy football defense (DST) rankings. Good luck in Week 4 everyone!

The BOD (Best Overall Defense) formula takes into account my favorite stats for picking the right defenses (both positive and negative) and weighs them in a formula. You can view the RANKINGS AND COMPLETE LEADERBOARD of all the stats I use here. I tweaked the formula as the season went on last year, and I feel like it gives us a pretty good indicator of who has the best defenses for fantasy purposesIf you don't want to click that link, the formula is:

(Pressure Rate x 2) + (Sacks) + (QB Hurry Rate) + (Pass Break-Ups) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)

Minus

(Missed Tackles)+ (% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Yards per play)

It's important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That's why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.

Since this is Week 4, I encourage people not to use the BOD rankings too heavily because the stats have clearly not stabilized yet. Also, make sure to always check the link to my updated rankings as the week goes on. When we get injury news or troubling weather information, I will update the rankings accordingly.

 

Picking The Right Defenses To Pickup and Start

Just a quick recap of my general philosophy and what we discussed at length last year: when choosing a defense, you want to look for defenses that get consistent pressure and takeaways. Sacks and turnovers are more valuable for fantasy defense than preventing yardage and even, to a certain extent, preventing points. If a defense allows a stingy yards-per-play number, that's great and I'll cite some of those numbers below. However, they better also be able to get into the backfield or force turnovers or else it won't really matter in the long run.

Essentially, we need to move away from points against as being the most important factor in choosing a fantasy defense. In 2021, NFL offenses gained 343.6 yards per game and scored 23.0 points per game. While that's down from the 24.8 scored in 2020 (most likely because of the deep safety defenses), it's still the third-most in the Super Bowl era.

With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Season Record

15-15 correctly predicting top-10 defenses

I want to track how correctly I pick the top-10 this year, so I'll keep track below using FantasyPros total points. If anybody has other suggestions, let me know.

 

Week 4 Defenses To Start and Stream: Tiered Rankings

Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of just a point projection. This is the best way to see just how much I like one team over another. Not all one or two spot differences are the same.

A zero means "do not start," and then the confidence rises from there. Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues.

 

Tier 1 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 4

Well, this is a tiny tier one for this week, but it tells you a little bit about the state of fantasy defenses in Week 4. There simply aren't a lot of smash spots. I also think you can probably make cases against both of these teams too.

Dallas is number one for me, and I should say to people reading this on Tuesday that their BOD ranking will likely improve. Pro Football Focus doesn't update their pressure rate metrics until about 24+ hours after the games finish, so Dallas' ridiculous game against the Giants on Monday hasn't been factored into their pressure rate numbers.

35 PRESSURES! And now they're facing a Washington team that allowed Philadelphia to sack Carson Wentz nine times. Washington is tied with Cincinnati in allowing the most sacks of any team in the NFL, 15 through three games. This Dallas defense could feast against this offense and force Carson Wentz into some really bad throws.

I'm still not sure what to make of this Packers' defense. They're 8th in the NFL in pressure rate, 9th in tackles for a loss, and 10th in the percentage of opponents drives that end in a score. However, they're 13th in sacks and 18th in turnover rate. This Patriots offense doesn't inspire a ton of fear and will likely be starting Brian Hoyer at quarterback, but they have also only allowed five sacks in three games. So, on one hand, we want to attack the backup quarterback with a defense that gets pressure. On the other hand, they're facing an offense that doesn't give up a lot of pressure. At the end of the day, defenses going up against New England have averaged 10.7 fantasy points so far this season, 6th-most in the league, so we'll roll with the Packers.

 

Tier 2 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 4

The Steelers are the number one defense for most teams this week, and I don't entirely blame you. However, I do think that's overvaluing their Week 1 just a little bit. This hasn't been the same defense without T.J. Watt. They rank 26th in the NFL in pressure rate and 20th in tackles for a loss, so they're not really making many plays in the backfield. They also have forced only one turnover and recorded two sacks outside of their Week 1 performance against the Bengals. This defense has lost some of its bite, but the Jets allowed opposing fantasy defenses to score the 7th-most points at 10 per game, so the Steelers will likely remain a solid play. SUNDAY UPDATE: Zach Wilson is back, which might be better for the Steelers. Who knows. 

This 49ers and Rams game is a bit surprising. Here we actually have two solid defenses going up against two offenses that, despite their reputation, have been really friendly to fantasy defenses so far. Through three games, the Rams give up the 3rd-most points to fantasy defenses, 12.3 per game, while the 49ers give up with the 5th-most points at 11.7 per game. Now, it's only three games, so we need to remember that it's a small sample size, but we don't want to ignore it, especially since we've seen both offenses struggle a bit with our eyes. I like the 49ers more here because they're 2nd in the NFL in pressure rate while the Rams are DEAD LAST in pressure rate. However, the Rams are also 2nd in the NFL in turnover rate, so I think both of these teams can provide some fantasy goodness as solid floor plays without immense ceilings.

This Bears team remains a top-10 defense so far this season. Now, much of that has to do with their schedule, facing the 49ers in a monsoon, the Packers, and the Texans. That's not a string of tremendous offenses. As a result, they're 3rd in pressure rate, 3rd in tackles for a loss, and 8th in turnover rate. They'll now face a Giants offense that we just mentioned gave up 35 pressures to the Cowboys. Oh, and the Giants just lost Sterling Shepard for the season with a torn ACL. This Bears defense has issues stopping the run, so there's a chance that Saquon Barkley could run all over them, but I also think the Bears can cause some problems in the backfield for Daniel Jones, which will lead to sacks and a turnover or two.

This Vikings defense had a great first week against Green Bay but has been a bit hit-or-miss since then. However, they're 7th in percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score even though they're just 15th in turnover rate and 20th in pressure rate. However, the Saints give up the most points per game to opposing fantasy defenses so far this season, so that keeps the Vikings on the edge of 12-team viability. SUNDAY UPDATE: The Vikings vault into this tier with the news that Alvin Kamara, Jameis Winston, and Michael Thomas are all out. My worry is that the Saints will go run-heavy, which will limit opportunities for sacks and interceptions, and Andy Dalton doesn't take as many bad chances as Jameis, so this might not be a SMASH spot, but I still think it's a good spot. 

The Broncos are my 8th-ranked defense on the year, essentially because they are solid, but not tremendous, at everything. They're 9th in pressure rate, 8th in sacks, 14th in turnover rate, and 6th in the percentage of drives that end in an opposing score. There are really no issues there, and now they face a Raiders team that has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing teams and has the 6th-worst turnover rate in the NFL. Still, there is talent on this Raiders team, so I don't want to write them off this quickly but I also can't ignore what they've done so far.

It's really hard to rank the Bills' defense right now until we know more about their injuries. Even down seven defensive starters against Miami, they allowed just 21 points, so they're not likely to get blown out or have a terrible day. If they also get any of Jordan Poyer, Ed Oliver, and Jordan Phillips back in Week 4 then they should be a pretty solid play, especially since they have done well against Lamar Jackson in the past, showing they have the scheme and personnel to keep him from having blow-up games. SUNDAY UPDATE: The Bills appear on track to welcome back Poyer, Oliver, and Jackson for this weekend's game. That's HUGE. Plus, with the weather potentially being rainy and ugly, we could see some sloppy football. 

I mentioned the Eagles above and now you'll see them in Tier Two here. They have jumped up to my 5th-ranked defense thanks to their last two weeks. They have improved their pressure rate, locked down the big-play issues they had against the Lions, and created havoc in the backfield. We like all of that. Jacksonville has been one of the surprise teams of 2022 and are actually allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses at literally, zero a game. I'm just not sure I can fully buy into the fact that this offense has fixed all of its issues that quickly. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think they're at the caliber of this Eagles team, which now leads the NFL with 12 sacks through three games, so I think the Eagles can still be a solid floor play here.

 

Tier 3 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 4

It's a shame the Chiefs and the Bucs are facing one another because both of these defenses have been fantasy-friendly so far this year. The Chiefs have the best pressure rate in the NFL; the Bucs are 12th. The Chiefs have the 7th-most tackles for a loss; the Bucs have the 10th-most. The Bucs are 2nd in the NFL in sacks; the Chiefs are tied for 3rd. The Bucs lead the NFL in percentage of opponent's drives ending in a score; the Bucs are 10th. These are defenses we should want to play, but these are also offenses (assuming Mike Evans and Julio Jones return) that have the potency to ruin a defense's day. I prefer the Bucs' defense given how well they've played, but both defenses are playable in deep leagues just because of their talent.

This Cleveland defense should be better on the surface, but they're 22nd in turnover rate, 21st in pressure rate, and 14th in sacks. Jadeveon Clowney is banged up with an ankle injury, and Myles Garrett just got into a car accident on Tuesday, so we're not sure if the Browns will have either of their top pass rushers. The Falcons have also been middle-of-the-road, allowing just 7.3 fantasy points to opposing defenses, so this is a good play but maybe not a smash play. SUNDAY UPDATE: Myles Garrett is not playing, which is a downgrade; however, Cordarrelle Patterson may also be out, so keep an eye on that. 

The Chargers and Giants have good matchups, but their defenses haven't been great for fantasy this far, and we don't want to elevate medicore defenses too far just because of their matchups. We can raise them a bit, but we don't want to get carried away because bad defenses will always find a way to be bad. The injuries to JOey Bosa and J.C. Jackson just scare me for the Chargers.

The Bengals and Jaguars have both been top-10 defenses so far based on my BOD rankings, but I'm just not yet convinced, and their matchups aren't good. The Jaguars have been really solid so far through three weeks, and maybe we shouldn't write it off, but the Eagles are a really tough offense to go up against right now, so it's hard to be confident in the Jaguars.

Everybody wants to talk about the Colts, but they're a better real-life defense than fantasy defense. They're currently 29th in turnover rate, 22nd in pressure rate, and 28th in sacks. I know the matchup is good, but that's just not an exciting profile right now.

Tier 4 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 4

There are actually a few intriguing defenses here. The Texans have been pretty solid so far, ranking 5th in the NFL in pressure rate and 6th in sacks, and now face a Chargers team that is without their left tackle and has a REALLY banged-up Justin Herbert. Houston is also 13th in turnover rate and 19th in percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score. Maybe I should have the Texans higher. I think I might move them.

Tier 5 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 4

SUNDAY UPDATE: Seattle gets a slight bump with the news that Amon-Ra St. Brown, D'Andre Swift, and D.J. Chark are all out, but, again, this isn't a good defense, so we want to avoid playing bad defenses if we can. DFS, fine. Season-long, I'd avoid.



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