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Below are RotoBaller's Week 5 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 5 of the NFL and fantasy football season.

Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 5. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker. Below we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 5 defenses have good matchups and are not widely owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 5 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 5 RotoBallers!

New for this year: Confidence Rating - since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start", then the confidence rises from there. Initial rankings do not factor in Monday Night Football stats. Ranks may be re-evaluated after that game.

Editor's Note: Try our exclusive Premium Lineup Tools for free! Our proprietary Matchup Rating projections, Lineup Optimizer, DFS value picks, waiver wire rankings and more. Sign Up Now!

 

Week 5 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Teams on bye: Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Los Angeles Rams @ SEA 9.65
2 1 Carolina Panthers vs. NYG 9.45
3 1 Tennessee Titans @ BUF 9.1

The Rams posted a sub-par performance against the Vikings in that Thursday night shootout, but I think that was much more a result of running into a desperate, talented offense than it was any shortcoming on the defensive side of the ball. They managed four sacks in that game, which was certainly encouraging, and now with Seattle's porous offensive line in their path it should be safe to assume a solid fantasy effort is in the making here.

Don't let that Week 3 eruption fool you--the Bills offense that you saw shut out by the Packers in Week 4 is the genuine article. While Josh Allen has talent, he's still behind an atrocious offensive line and is making rookie decisions. We are firmly in "stream against the Bills" territory, and with the legitimately solid Titans defense up next you can keep that plan intact.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 Arizona Cardinals @ SF 8.7
5 2 Denver Broncos @ NYJ 8.45
6 2 Cleveland Browns vs. BAL 8.15
7 2 Cincinnati Bengals vs. MIA 7.65
8 2 Baltimore Ravens @ CLE 7.15

I was a bit disappointed in the Cardinals' showing against the Seahawks in Week 4, but I'm ready for them to bounce back against a C.J. Beathard-led 49ers offense. They're averaging 2.5 sacks per game, and while he's flashed a bit in past starts, Beathard is still a backup-level talent. Don't overthink this one.

The 39 points allowed were certainly disappointing for anyone who started the Browns defense, but don't overlook the fact that this unit added two more takeaways to give them an NFL-best 13 through four games (Monday night notwithstanding) and chipped in three more sacks as well. There are legitimate play-makers at every level of this unit, and we're going to be talking about Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward as defensive standouts for years to come. Joe Flacco has led the Ravens offense to surprising success this year, but with the Browns at home I like this one to devolve into an old-fashioned AFC North fistfight.

I'm pegging the Bengals for a bounce-back performance after two terrible weeks against talented offenses with the Dolphins set to come to town. The Bengals defense looked poised for a big season through two weeks, notching six sacks and five turnovers against the Colts and Ravens, but they were man-handled by the Panthers and Falcons in Weeks 3 and 4, allowing 30+ points in each game. The Dolphins are not the Panthers or Falcons. Despite their 3-1 record, the Dolphins rank 29th in the NFL in total offense through four weeks, and Ryan Tannehill has thrown for 230 yards or fewer in three of four starts. They also have no running game to speak of--the combo of Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore has mustered just about 88 rushing yards per game through a quarter of the season. Especially at home, the Bengals should provide solid streaming production for those in deeper leagues.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
9 3 Houston Texans vs. DAL 6.85
10 3 New York Jets vs. DEN 6.5
11 3 New England Patriots vs. IND 6.4
12 3 Green Bay Packers @ DET 6.15
13 3 Jacksonville Jaguars @ KC 5.75

The Texans' vaunted pass rush appears to have finally showed up. They've got four sacks in back-to-back weeks now, and while there are still some pretty significant holes in the defense (notably the secondary, which is allowing 288 passing yards per game), that resurgent pass rush is going to provide a decent enough fantasy floor most weeks. A good pass rush can lead to plenty going wrong for the offense, as evidenced by Jadaveon Clowney's fumble recovery in the end zone last week. I'm not sitting here trying to predict DST touchdowns, but the general point is that play-makers make plays.

The Patriots brought the Dolphins crashing back down to Earth in Week 4, allowing only a garbage-time receiving touchdown to Frank Gore after the game was well in-hand. Unfortunately there isn't a ton of big-play appeal on the defensive side of the ball, and while they're still frequently going to be working with a favorable game script given the offense, I think you can fade the Patriots this week, especially after watching Andrew Luck look much more like his old self.

For those keeping track at home, the Jaguars are still dominant on defense. The big plays haven't been there yet, as they have just three total takeaways through four games, but they've got two or more sacks in every game so far and they're averaging just 259 total yards of offense per game, which is best in the NFL. More importantly for fantasy purposes, they're only allowing 14 points per game. However, it's the unstoppable force meets the immovable object in Week 5, as the Jags will visit Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Kansas City offense. Plain and simply, expectations for defenses have to be adjusted against this offense, which is averaging a ridiculous 39.3 points per game through its first three games. We'll see how they fare on Monday night against the Broncos, but for now I'm fading any defense that stands in their way--even if it's the best defense in the NFL.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
14 4 San Francisco 49ers vs. ARI 5.5
15 4 Dallas Cowboys @ HOU 5.35
16 4 Los Angeles Chargers vs. OAK 5.15
17 4 New Orleans Saints vs. WAS 4.6
18 4 Buffalo Bills vs. TEN 4.35
19 4 Oakland Raiders @ LAC 3.9
20 4 Miami Dolphins @ CIN 3.25

The 49ers typically don't see this tier, but there are a few factors that have me hopeful. Josh Rosen certainly showed off his first-round pedigree against the Seahawks, as he was careful with the ball and represented a pretty legitimate improvement over Sam Bradford. However, that's still a rookie QB, and there's plenty of data to suggest that he's going to take his lumps all season. Add in his lackluster receiving options and an offensive line that's surrendering a lot of pressure and there is plenty of reason to be concerned for the UCLA product, and subsequently reason for optimism with the DST facing him.

This Saints defense has me at a loss, to be perfectly honest. They've looked positively dreadful in two games, and average-good in the other two. Their opponents in those games certainly are the indicator there (bad against Fitzmagic/Atlanta, goodish against Tyrod's Browns/Eli Manning), and that's how I've got them projected here. Alex Smith is careful with the ball and the Redskins have a decently balanced offense, but they aren't a top-tier juggernaut by any means. Therefore, I think the Saints still fall in the low-end streaming conversation. It's one of those scenarios where they SHOULD be better, but until we see them produce as a top DST like they were last year, it's impossible to treat them as anything more than a streamer.

The Bills offense is going to put the Bills defense in a tough position all season, otherwise I'd think there is a bit of upside to be found here. They have at least two sacks in every game this season, and while the game was certainly a blowout still, they did a lot of bending-but-not-breaking against the Packers offense on Sunday. I'm still likely not streaming them, but I'll have an eye on this game to see how they handle a quarterback as mobile as Marcus Mariota.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
21 5 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. ATL 2.85
22 5 Minnesota Vikings @ PHI 2.6
23 5 Philadelphia Eagles vs. MIN 2.15
24 5 Kansas City Chiefs vs. JAC 2
25 5 Indianapolis Colts @ NE 1.75
26 5 New York Giants @ CAR 1.65
27 5 Detroit Lions vs. GB 1.25
28 5 Washington Redskins @ NO 1.15

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