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Week 8 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2022 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Indianapolis Colts Defense - DST Rankings, Darius Leonard, IDP Fantasy Football

Writing about and analyzing fantasy football defenses oftentimes feels like a particularly insane task. I spent most of the week wondering if I had been too high on the Cardinals and Packers, two defenses who were rated highly in my weekly model but had failed to perform up until that point. I kept going back and forth before deciding to leave them both in my top ten, and they both ended the week as top ten defenses. However, I spent zero time questioning whether the Bucs should be an elite defense for this week against the Panthers, or whether the Patriots would be a strong play against the Bears. Both of those teams finished outside of the top 20. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense, and we need to not overreact to it.

However, overall, we had a strong week, hitting on six of the top ten defenses and also having the Titans as a strong 12-team league play. I did miss on Miami though. I haven't yet decided if the defense is starting to wake up or if Pittsburgh's offense is that bad, but the Dolphins were a terrible fantasy defense through the first six weeks, so I didn't have any confidence in their ability to muster a strong showing, and I'll have to eat that one.

As a reminder, every week I do a YouTube DST video called Pick 3(DST) where I give you three defenses I like during the week and one that I'm fading. We have some fun with it, but I think it gives a lot of the same reasoning I present here, so check it out for some video fun. And my BOD Leaderboard is available on Public Tableau, where you can see my updated BOD rankings, plus a leaderboard for the individual defensive stats I use for the BOD formula, and some of the offensive stats that I think can help us determine which DST to play or not. Also, make sure to always check back with this article over the weekend because I will my updated rankings as the week goes on when we get injury news or troubling weather information, etc.


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 8 fantasy football defense (DST) rankings. Good luck in Week 7 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)


(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.


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

36-34 correctly predicting top-10 defenses

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


Week 8 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 8

There's just a big gap between tier one and tier two for me this week.

I honestly don't think there's much to say about these defenses. These are my top three defenses for the season, and they all have good matchups. The Cowboys play a Bears team that, even after trouncing New England, still allows the 7th-most points to opposing DSTs. The Eagles face a Steelers team that allows the 9th-most points to opposing defenses, and the Bills are at home off of a bye against a Packers team that allows the 10th-most points to opposing fantasy defenses and they should also get Tre'Davious White back.

These are all elite plays, and I hope they don't pull a Tampa or New England.


Tier 2 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 8

The 49ers looked bad last week against the Chiefs, but Nick Bosa and Jimmie Ward were playing hurt, and this Chiefs team is legit. The Rams certainly don't seem to be. They give up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses, with 15 points allowed per game. This 49ers defense is 3rd in the percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score, 2nd in pressure rate, 2nd in sacks, and 2nd in tackles for a loss, so I think they remain a strong play against the Rams this weekend.

I also like the Colts against Taylor Heinicke and the Commanders. This Colts team was solid last week, but Washington gives up the 6th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. The Colts are 4th in tackles for a loss, 10th in sacks, 11th in pressure rate, and 9th in the percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score, so this is a solid overall defense against a pretty poor offense. That's the recipe for a top ten week for me.

Yes, I'm going back to the well with the Jets. They didn't have an elite week against Denver, but they allowed only nine points and didn't give up many yards or big plays. They just didn't make any of their own, and that's because the Broncos simply didn't take many chances with the ball, so the Jets couldn't capitalize. Meanwhile, New England looked to be a mess on Monday Night Football, and both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe have some turnover tendencies, which could be a problem against this Jets secondary. SUNDAY UPDATE: Mac Jones is set to start, and he plays a little more scared than Zappe. While that can sometimes mean fewer big plays for the Patriots offense, it also means he'll take fewer bad chances down the field, so I think it dings the Jets a bit. 

Yet, I think the Patriots are a solid play too. Breece Hall is out for the Jets, and while they did trade for James Robinson, the pairing of Robinson and Michael Carter isn't going to match what Hall was doing. That means the Jets are going to have to rely on Zach Wilson to move the ball more than they have been, and I just don't think he's ready. The Jets even seem to be hiding him since he completed just three passes farther than five air yards down the field last week. This could be an ugly one, which means both DSTs are in play.

I know you hate playing Jacksonville right now, and they've truly been a poor fantasy defense of late, but this Broncos team gives up the 9th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses and both Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler have been in trade discussions. Plus Russell Wilson may miss another week. This just seems like a Broncos team that is giving up this season, while this Jaguars team is full of young players still fighting. They remain 15th in pressure rate, 14th in turnover rate, and 14th in percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score, so they are an average defense in a plus matchup, which I think makes them a fringe top 1o play. SATURDAY UPDATE: Russell Wilson will play, but I don't care too much; he's been awful. I still think the Jaguars are a back-half top-ten defense. 


Tier 3 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 8

This is a pretty sizable tier of teams I'm not really sure about.

I also like Tennessee this week. I think Mike Vrabel has this team on the right track of late. They now rank 12th in pressure rate, 15th in sacks, and 5th in turnover rate, so while they are not a flawless unit, they are becoming a usable one and now face a Texans offense that is fairly mediocre and may trade Brandin Cooks away this week. If Cooks were to not be in Houston by the weekend, you'd want to move Tennessee up a bit more, into the second tier. SUNDAY UPDATE: The Titans are actually going to start Malik Willis, which could lead to more stalled drives and turnovers, which could actually be bad news for the Titans defense. However, I can't move them out of the top ten. 

I will say that my metrics have the Commanders as the 6th-ranked DST this week based on their recent performance and the Colts' issues on offense. The additional note that Sam Ehlinger is going to start for the Colts makes the Commanders even more enticing. They're 4th in pressure rate, 7th in tackles for a loss, and 7th in sacks, going up against a Colts offensive line that has struggled this year. However, Ehlinger is far more mobile than Matt Ryan, which may lead to fewer sacks even if it does bring a few more turnovers. The metrics want me to move Washington up higher, but I can't fully trust them yet, so I'll keep them just in the top ten conversation.

Denver remains in play but you don't want to actually watch them play. Their defense is still solid, ranking 3rd in sacks, 5th in pressure rate, 8th in tackles for a loss, and 1st in yards allowed per play. While Jacksonville has some intriguing pieces on offense and should let Travis Etienne loose this week, I think this remains an inconsistent team that is unlikely to exploit this Denver defense too often. This is a safe floor play for me.

The metrics meanwhile love the Vikings this week, but the return of DeAndre Hopkins and the addition of Robby Anderson makes me a bit unsure of what this Cardinals offense truly is. The Vikings are just outside of the top ten in many defensive metrics, so they're a solid defense but not elite enough in anything to make me comfortable moving them any higher.

This Dolphins ranking could be the metrics still heavily weighing the early weeks, but this defense is 29th in pressure rate, 22nd in turnover rate, and 19th in sacks, so it's hard to get too excited. This Lions offense could also get D'Andre Swift back this weekend and Amon-Ra St. Brown is tracking to play, which would make them a little feistier. SUNDAY UPDATE: The Lions should be pretty healthy on offense, but Jared Goff has been really bad of late. I think the Dolphins can still be played in 15-team leagues and maybe some 12s. 

The Bucs and Ravens game faces two strong defenses that have not fully delivered this year due to injuries or offensive struggles. Both Baltimore and Tampa Bay had much higher hopes for this season, but as bad as Tampa Bay looked last week, I'm still more optimistic about their offense. The Ravens' defense is talented enough to remain an option in deep leagues given the Bucs' struggles, but I'm just not convinced Tom Brady and company won't just wake up. Meanwhile, the Bucs' defense has been good this year, but the Ravens give up the second-fewest points to opposing fantasy defenses, so it's a really bad matchup.

I know the Rams are ranked higher in a few places, but I just can't do that yet. This defense should be much better, but as of now, they are 31st in pressure rate, 25th in sacks, 12th in turnover rate, and 12th in percentage of drives that end in an opponent's score. Now Christian McCaffrey has a full week of practicing with the 49ers, and I don't see this offense being one we want to target anymore. SUNDAY UPDATE: The Rams have also moved up a bit since Deebo Samuel is out, but I still don't feel super confident in them because the 49ers still have lots of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and the Rams' defense hasn't been good.

SUNDAY UPDATE: The Titans' decision to start Malik Willis makes the Houston DST a reasonable bet in 15-team leagues or maybe in DFS. 

Tier 4 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 8

Both the Giants and Seahawks could be intriguing in deeper leagues. They have both been feisty on defense, and this Seahawks DST is 4th in turnover rate and 12th in sacks, so maybe they force a Daniel Jones mistake or two, but Brian Daboll has Jones playing much better football this year. SUNDAY UPDATE: DK Metcalf claims he's going to play. Who knows. 

The Raiders are a perfect test of a bad fantasy defense facing the offense that gives up the 3rd-most points to opposing fantasy defenses. Still, I can't trust the Raiders in season-long, even with the matchup, but maybe some DFS lineups.

Tier 5 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 8

I still see some people ranking the Saints' DST inside the top 15. Please explain this to me. I don't understand. The Saints have scored more than five fantasy points once this season and that was in Week 1. Could they have a big week eventually? Sure, but why are you gambling on that? Especially against a Raiders team that gives up the 5th-fewest points to opposing fantasy defenses.

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