The Defenses and Kickers Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
The Big 2 Defenses
Per the Trends tool, so far this season defenses with a salary of at least $3,500 on DraftKings (33 teams) have averaged 9.76 points with a +1.57 Plus/Minus and 7.9 percent average ownership, while defenses with a salary of at least $4,800 on FanDuel (33 teams) have averaged 8.55 points with a +1.24 Plus/Minus and 6.5 percent average ownership. More than a quarter of the way through the season, paying up for defenses has been more valuable on DraftKings. That said, defenses on FanDuel closed both the PPG and Plus/Minus gaps this week. On DraftKings, 42.4 percent of these teams have scored at least 10 points; on FanDuel, 36.4 percent of teams have reached 10 points.
- Seattle ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel)
- Jacksonville ($3,700 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel)
Let’s swim move.
The 12th Man Invades the Big Apple
The Seattle Seahawks travel to New York as 5.5-point road favorites to take on a receiver-less Giants team implied to score 17.5 points (the second-lowest mark on the slate). Seattle currently has the top ceiling projection for both sites, and the Giants have allowed 50 percent of opposing defenses to score at least 10 points against them this season. In 97 games since 2014, visiting teams implied to hold their opponents under 20 points have averaged 9.71 points with a +1.41 Plus/Minus on DraftKings and 9.81 points with a +2.12 Plus/Minus on FanDuel. Seattle is the No. 1 rated defense in Adam Levitan’s Model for DraftKings this week, and, because of their large price tag, we have them projected at just two to four percent ownership.
Per Pro Football Reference, through their first five games of the season, 31.0 percent of drives against Seattle have resulted in a score (10th-lowest), and 13.8 percent of drives have ended in an offensive turnover (tied for eighth-most). The Seahawks have intercepted 2.8 percent of passes attempted (tied for 11th) and have recorded a 5.9 percent sack rate (tied for 11th-lowest). Enemy quarterback Eli Manning has thrown five interceptions and been sacked 16 times so far this season. The Giants’ 7.2 percent adjusted sack rate allowed (per Football Outsiders) sits 17th so far this season.
Big Cats on the Prowl
The Jacksonville Jaguars failed to score at least 12 points as a defense for just the second time in six games this season. This week, the cats get to lick their wounded egos against an Indianapolis Colts offensive line that has allowed the third-highest adjusted sack rate (9.9 percent) in the NFL this season. That’s great news for a group that has registered the highest sack percentage (10.4 percent) and most total sacks (23) this season. The Colts have yielded a top-five Plus/Minus to opposing defenses on both sites. Moreover, the Jaguars have intercepted the most passes (10) and lay claim to the highest interception percentage (5.1 percent) in the league. Unsurprisingly, Jacksonville has the second-highest projected sack total (3.9) in our NFL Models this week. The Jaguars’ averages of 15.4 points per game, a +6.97 Plus/Minus on DraftKings, and a +7.66 Plus/Minus on FanDuel lead all defenses this season.
Bump and Run
Jam ’em at the line.
New Orleans Saints ($3,000 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): Who dey? Admit it: You were one of the 20-plus percent of people to play either Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara or both in your Millionaire Maker lineup last week, but stacking them with the Saints defense never crossed your mind (less than one percent of players thought to do this). Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about this defense differently. New Orleans currently has a top-three projected sack total (3.6) and top-seven projected ceiling in our NFL Models for both sites. The Saints defense has scored at least 14 points for three straight weeks, during which time they have averaged 20.7 points per game. New Orleans travels to Green Bay as five-point road favorites against the Brett Hundley-led Packers. Green Bay’s run defense is slightly below-average in terms of points allowed to running backs, so revisiting an Ingram and Saints D/ST stack this week is potentially a sharp move.
Pittsburgh Steelers ($3,200 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel): Checking in with the highest projected sack total (4.0) and currently the No. 1 rated defense in the Bales Model for FanDuel (where Bales recently won 197k) is the Steelers. Pittsburgh hosts Cincinnati as five-point favorites, with the Bengals implied to score just 17.8 points (third-fewest on the slate). Pittsburgh’s defense currently leads the league in allowing only 25 percent of drives to end with an offensive score.
Los Angeles Chargers ($2,400 DraftKings, $4,100 FanDuel): The Chargers currently have our highest projected ceiling (16.3) and second-best Projected Plus/Minus (+3.52) on DraftKings. They host the Denver Broncos, who lost receiver Emmanuel Sanders to injury last week, in a pick-em game with a 40.5 total. The Chargers defense has had Denver’s number recently: In five games since 2015, the Bolts have averaged 10.40 PPG with a +4.11 Plus Minus on DraftKings and a +3.83 Plus/Minus on FanDuel; they have met their salary-based expectations in all five of those games on both sites.
The One Big Kicker
Let’s put it through the uprights.
It’s not the New England Patriots kicker taking up this space this week but instead the kicker facing the Patriots: Matt Bryant ($5,300). Bryant’s Atlanta Falcons travel to Foxborough for a Super Bowl rematch that currently has a massive 56.5-point total. Bryant has the highest point projection (11.7) in our Models and has scored the second-most fantasy PPG (11.1) over the last calendar year. Kickers with a salary of $5,000 or more playing in a game with a total of 50 points or higher have averaged 9.01 points per game in 69 games. Kickers at home in those games have been slightly better (9.24 PPG) than kickers on the road (8.74 PPG), but Bryant has crushed in these high-total affairs: He has produced 12.44 PPG with a +4.08 Plus/Minus and 77.8 percent Consistency. That said, in all nine of those games he was at home.
The Onside Kick
Get the hands team out there.
Stephen Gostkowski ($5,100): See above. Gostkowski is the No. 1 rated kicker in the Bales, CSURAM88, and Adam Levitan Models this week.
Jake Elliott ($4,600): Elliott hasn’t scored fewer than 10 points in a game this season and is currently tied for the second-highest point projection in our Models at 11.6. Elliott’s Eagles take on the Redskins as 4.5-point home favorites with Philadelphia implied to score 26.5 points (third-highest on the slate).