Analyzing the NFL landscape to determine with streaming defenses are worth starting in Week 15, making them potential waiver wire pickups.
Don’t be a Clark Griswold. One of my favorite holiday movies is Christmas Vacation. It gives such an accurate portrayal of Christmas from the standpoint of an average American family. Filled with laughs, defeats, and triumphs, I would recommend anyone who loves Christmas to watch this with their families.
The reason why I mention the movie is because just like the main character, Clark Griswold, some fantasy owners are going to make a mistake that will ruin their holiday. In the movie, Clark wants to host Christmas at his house with his family. He wants everything to be perfect, just like it was when he was a boy. He reminisces about what Christmas used to be like and tries to recreate it. But no matter how hard he tries, he encounters many problems, including his tree catching fire, falling off a roof, and a cousin whose heart is bigger than his brain committing a felony.
Through it all, he learns that although the past was special, it needs to be left in the past. The world changes and so must we all. Fortunately for Clark, everything works out in the end. But don’t expect that to happen to you if you don’t stop thinking about the past.
For example, last week I explained how the Giants (who had been terrible all year) should be streamed while the No. 2 defense in the NFL, the Houston Texans, should be left on the bench even though they had a great defense all year. Those who listened were rewarded with 18 fantasy points. Those who chose to stick with the past were gifted 1 point. Although there are great defenses on the long-term basis, there is rarely ever a matchup-proof defense.
This week, the second worst defense in the league, the Atlanta Falcons, have a great matchup while the best defense, the Chicago Bears, have a terrible matchup. If you stick with the past, you will have a very rough holiday season, just like Clark.
Out for Blood: Atlanta Falcons
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The best streaming option of this week is the Atlanta Falcons. Only owned in 24% of ESPN leagues, this defense could be the difference maker in your matchup. Most owners will shy away from this team, which has underperformed all year on defense, and its offense is not the high-powered machine it was two years ago. But the variables are different this week. It is no longer the “regular season” for both of these teams. They have both been eliminated from the playoffs, so how they play will be much different. They also have different motivators going into the game.
The Cardinals had a terrible year and they are looking for a great draft pick (hopefully a lineman who can help David Johnson find some running space). They are also trying to develop their young talent, particularly Josh Rosen. He is talented but is still very young. Being mistake-prone and lacking offensive weapons has led to a very mediocre rookie year for the young quarterback. But Arizona is going to keep him out there to develop more experience.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is two years removed from almost winning the Super Bowl. Although the Falcons have mostly the same personnel, they have not had anywhere near the same success. It could be due to injuries or new coordinators, but the Atlanta Falcons are frustrated with the lack of success. They will not be looking to work on new talent, they will be looking to have at least one more opportunity to show the NFL what they are capable of. Look for them to light up the score board this week.
With the Falcons offense out for blood, Rosen will be forced to move the ball downfield and control time of possession. The more the Cardinals give Rosen the ball, the more likely the Falcons defense will have a great outing. For the most part, the Cardinals try to keep it on the ground with David Johnson, essentially eliminating turnovers and controlling time of possession. But the Falcons know this, and they also know that they do not have a great rush defense. They will most likely stack the box to stop Johnson, leaving Rosen with many 3rd down and long situations, forcing him to make passes downfield. Over time, the probability of the defense intercepting a pass will increase, as will the potential for a big play.
Verdict: The Cardinals will try to keep the ball on the ground, but the Falcons will soon start to put points on the board, forcing Rosen to pass more. Over the past five games, Rosen has averaged less than 170 passing yards per game and throws more interceptions than touchdowns. Add that to the possibility of them benching Johnson to limit injuries, you are left with a one-sided game. Although the Falcons defense has poorly performed all year, this week they will be a top five fantasy defense.
Prediction: PA: 10-14, Total Yards: 200-250, Sacks: 2, Fumbles: 0, Interceptions: 2, TD: 1, Fantasy Points: 8-12
Put on your Running Shoes: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have had a great year defensively, and with the addition of a quarterback who can throw and run, the offense has been spectacular as well. They are a tough team whose defense frustrates even the best offenses and their creative offensive play calling has defenses second guessing. On almost any week, I would say set them and forget them. But not this week.
Green Bay comes to Soldier Field to resume their heated rivalry. On their last meeting, Aaron Rodgers was injured, leaving the game for a short period of time. During his absence, the Bears’ defense took advantage of the backup quarterback and put the game seemingly out of reach. But then Rodgers came back into the game and led the Packers to a memorable comeback to beat the Bears. I would guess the Bears have not forgotten that. They will be looking to avenge the loss and to show that they are the new powerhouse in the NFC North. But even though the Packers are out of contention, Rodgers will still play like he is at the Super Bowl.
Verdict: The Bears’ defense has had more big plays than any other defense in the league. They constantly put pressure on quarterbacks and force quarterbacks to make throws on the run. Usually, this results in sacks, interceptions, fumbles, and even defensive touchdowns, but in this game, they will be the ones running all over the field. Aaron Rodgers thrives on the run, forcing lineman to try to chase him down. As soon as they get close, he throws a f40-yard pass downfield to a wide-open receiver. With his leg healed, the Bears will have a much tougher time keeping up with him and the receivers. Davante Adams will take advantage of the defensive backs as soon as Rodgers goes on the run, finding open gaps in the defense. With Rodgers most likely calling the plays, he will find a way to avoid the defensive pressure and put a lot of points on the board. It is going to be a great game to watch, but not for the defense.
Prediction: PA: 24-31, Total Yards: 350-400, Sacks: 3, Fumbles: 0, Interceptions: 0, TD: 0, Fantasy Points: 0-5