We had another 4-of-10 week in predicting top 10 defenses, which has dropped us to just a 50% hit rate on the season. While some of the performances totally caught us by surprise, like the Jets against the Eagles or Texans against the Saints and Bears against the Vikings, we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to adjust, and I made some changes to BOD that I hope will continue to make the rankings as accurate and beneficial as possible.
The first thing I did was change to include explosive plays allowed instead of yards allowed per play. There’s been a lot of research done to suggest that explosive plays allowed (runs over 10 yards and passes over 20 yards) correlate well with overall defensive success. It makes sense too since teams that allow huge chunk plays tend to allow other teams to score more often and are more vulnerable defenses. Those stats come courtesy of Arjun Menon, who posts them each link on his Twitter account, which you can see here.
I also decided to switch to knockdowns over sacks. Knockdowns are sacks plus QB hits, and I felt that gave up a little bit more specific context for defenses that impact the game with pressure on the quarterback since QB hits can led to rushed throws or tipped passes, and we love defenses that can do that. Lastly, I added pass defense rate to the equation. In the past, I had tried passes defended but using the raw number of passes defender unfairly helped teams who got thrown on a lot. The passes defended rate just shows us how often a team’s coverage players are able to impact a passing play. This generally indicates solid coverage teams which can lead to interceptions and just stingier defense overall.
Let’s see if we can use these changes to return to our previous efficiency in Week 7.
BOD Formula and Philosophy
Just a quick reminder of the BOD formula:
(Pressure Rate) + (Knockdowns) + (Pass Defense Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)
(% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Explosive Plays Allowed Per Game)
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.
Throughout the season I’ll keep track of how many top 10 defenses we correctly predicted. I know it’s not quite marking down if I nailed the number one defense each week or the number two, but it’s the most logical way I can think of to keep track of how often a defense I predicted would be a good play actually wound up being a good play. I know we always want the top defense, but I think, more often than not, if we get one of the ten performing defenses of the week, we’re not mad at the result.
SEASON RECORD FOR TOP 10 PREDICTIONS: 30-of-60 (50%)
So how do things stack up for Week 7?
The Bills offense has been a shell of itself over the past two weeks, but we shouldn’t hold that against the defense. The Bills are tied for first in turnover rate, rank second in pressure rate, second in knockdowns (sacks + QB hits), and they are tied for second in opponents’ scoring rate. They do give up 6.5 explosive plays per game, but I don’t think that will hurt them much this week against a Patriots offense that’s 15th in sacks allowed, 27th in turnover rate, and dead last in the NFL in scoring rate. Mac Jones looks terrible, yet again, and the offense around him is lacking any semblance of playmakers. The injuries to Matt Milano, Tre White, and DaQuan Jones will eventually catch up to this Buffalo defense, but I don’t think it happens this week.
Yes, the Browns defense benefitted from injuries to Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey on Sunday but using that as a crutch would be a disservice to this defense because they have been elite all season. They’re first in opponents’ scoring rate, fourth in pressure rate, and sixth in pass defended rate. They held the 49ers to 215 yards of total offense while sacking Brock Purdy three times. Now they get to face Gardner Minshew, who is coming off one of the worst performances we’ve seen in a while, throwing three picks, fumbling once, and taking three sacks. I expect the Browns to get after him and cause all kinds of problems.
The Browns’ foes in Week 6 make the top tier as well since the San Francisco defense continues to remain an elite unit. While they did lose to a Browns team without Deshaun Watson and Nick Chubb, they only gave up 330 yards of offense, caused two turnovers, and registered two sacks. They now get to face a Vikings offense without Justin Jefferson, which was able to accumulate just 220 yards of offense against the Bears defense. The 49ers allow just 3.3 explosive plays per game and should be able to curtail this beat-up Vikings offense. Sign me up.
I still don’t know what to make of the Seahawks’ defense . They’re 10th in knockdowns,12th in turnover rate, 14th in pressure rate, and 16th in opponents’ scoring rate, so they are outside of the top 10 in so many important metrics. They also allow 5.2 explosive plays per game, which is above average and have two defensive touchdowns on the year. They could be relying a lot on a huge day against the Giants; however, I’m also not sure that matters in Week 7 against a Cardinals offense that looks dreadful without James Conner. What was preventing us from targeting the Cardinals early in the year was that they were a cautious offense that controlled the ball and didn’t ask Joshua Dobbs to do too much. Without Conner, they’ve turned the ball over five times in two games. I think that’s a problem against Seattle.
The Bucs fell out of the top 10 in BOD following a tough week against the Lions; however, the Atlanta Falcons offense is not the Detroit Lions’. After one tremendous week, Desmond Ridder came back down to earth on Sunday, throwing three picks against the Commanders and missing open receivers throughout the game. The Bucs rank fourth in turnover rate, 14th in opponent’s scoring rate, and 18th in knockdown rate despite missing one game, which shows us that the Bucs defense may not be elite but has the talent and ability to be a solid play against a Falcons team that gives up the 6th-most points to opposing fantasy defenses.
The Jaguars defense has looked solid, ranking tied for first in turnover rate, fifth in opponents’ scoring rate, sixth in explosive plays allowed per game, and eighth in passes defended rate. They also face a Saints offensive line that just got pushed back repeatedly against the Texans, leading to two sacks and two turnovers. The Saints just have too many offensive line injuries for me, and Thursday night games tend to be sloppy, so I like the Jaguars here.
The Raiders find themselves in tier two because of matchup. They are not a defense I really like to play because they’re basically bottom third in the NFL in everything. However, Justin Fields is not going to play in Week 7 after dislocating the thumb on his throwing hand. That means Tyson Bagent will start for Chicago, and I’m more than fine with using the Raiders against him. I expect Roschon Johnson back for the Bears, but this Bears offense with Bagent is not much better, if at all, than the Patriots offense, and the Raiders just held New England to 260 total yards while causing one turnover and registering four sacks. SATURDAY UPDATE: Roschon Johnson will not return, so it’s D’Onta Foreman again for the Bears. This is still more just about playing against Bagent.
The Commanders find themselves here because of their matchup against a Giants offense that gives up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses. Washington is sixth in knockdowns, seventh in passes defended rate, and 13th in pressure rate, but I don’t love this matchup as much as I thought I would. Saquon Barkley is back and looked solid. Justin Pugh slotted into the starting offensive line on Sunday night and also looked good. The Giants could get left tackle Andrew Thomas back this week, and Tyrod Taylor just takes far fewer chances than Daniel Jones does. While that means the Giants offense has less upside under Tyrod, it also means they’ll make fewer mistakes, taking fewer sacks and turning the ball over less. I think that takes some of the potential ceiling away from this Commanders play, but the floor seems relatively safe. SATURDAY UPDATE: There’s some thought that Daniel Jones will play, which I actually think is better for Washington. Jones is clearly not 100% and he takes far more chances with the ball than Tyrod Taylor, so I think Washington should have more opportunities to make big plays on defense.
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The Lions are in the top-ten in part because I’m not just impressed with this Ravens offense right now. I keep hearing about their upside, but they rank 14th in yards per play, 16th in scoring rate, and 20th in turnover rate. They’re also 24th in sack rate against a defense that is top 10 in pressure rate. The Lions are also ninth in opponents’ scoring rate and second in explosive plays allowed per game, so they’ve been pretty stingy this year, and the Ravens seem to have no ground game going and doing trust any of their wide receivers apart from rookie Zay Flowers. The more I think about it, the more I like the Lions side here.
The Steelers are coming off a bye and now get to face a Rams team that looks like it will be without Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers. That means the only healthy running back in Los Angeles will be Zach Evans. Now, I know the Rams offense thrives because of its passing game, but you really don’t want to be one-dimensional against T.J. Watt and the Steelers. Pittsburgh ranks 4th in passes defended rate, fifth in pressure rate, fifth in turnover rate, and 12th in knockdowns, despite playing one fewer week. If Matthew Stafford is going to drop back to pass repeatedly then I think that’s going to play into Pittsburgh’s hands a bit.
However, I also think the Rams are a deep league play against a Pittsburgh offense that has struggled to move the ball this season. Yet, Diontae Johnson should be returning this week, which we have to assume will give the Steelers a bit of a boost. Even without him they only give up the 15th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses so it’s not a great matchup. SATURDAY UPDATE: Pat Freirmuth had a setback and will not play this weekend, which is a bit of boost for the Rams defense, but I still don’t think this is an elite matchup, just a solid one.
We had the Jaguars higher, yet this Saints defense has also been solid and could potentially face the Jaguars without Trevor Lawrence after the quarterback injured his knee late in Sunday’s win. On the surface, I like the Jags defense more here, but if Lawrence is unable to play then it would be hard not to slide New Orleans ahead of them. Even if Lawrence does suit up, he’s going to be less than 100% on a short week and mobility is an important part of his game.
The Falcons are a solid defense, but the Bucs give up the 21st-most points to opposing fantasy defenses. Yes, Baker Mayfield is prone to a mistake or two, but this isn’t an offense that is being overly careless with the ball, and the Falcons haven’t proved to be consistent enough to trust here.
SATURDAY UPDATE: The Bears get moved into tier three with the news that Jimmy Garoppolo will not play. I still don’t love this Bears defense, and I’m not sure they can cover Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers, but the Bears could be a deep league option in this matchup.
The Giants and Colts are flawed defenses that could be playable due to good matchups. The Browns give up the fourth-most points to opposing fantasy defenses while the Commanders give up the fifth-most. The Giants defense looked good on Sunday night, but it’s hard to know how much of that was the Bills offense just being stuck in the mud for two straight weeks. The Colts rank 25th in explosive plays allowed per game, while the Giants rank 29th, so these are vulnerable defenses, but perhaps they’re not playing the offenses who will consistently take advantage of that. SATURDAY UPDATE: The Colts get dinged a bit because Deshaun Watson should be starting a quarterback for Cleveland and not P.J. Walker. That’s a big time upgrade for the Browns.
The Eagles and Dolphins are both solid defenses for fantasy, but I don’t want to trust either defense to contain those offenses. I know the Eagles offense looked bad against the Jets, but this Dolphins defense also just allowed 21 points to the Panthers, and not in garbage time. It’s just not a situation I feel good about.
However, the Ravens could be higher barring health updates in Detroit. X-rays on David Montgomery’s ribs came back negative on Sunday, but he does not appear likely to play. Still, Jahmyr Gibbs is likely to return, so this Lions offense could remain close to full strength, and even though the Ravens are a solid defense that ranks eighth in opponents’ scoring rate, they’re also 25th in pressure rate and 21st in turnover rate, so I don’t know if they can make enough big plays to warrant being started against this Lions offense.
Even with San Francisco banged up, I just can’t start this Vikings defense against them, especially because I think the 49ers defense is going to beat up on the Vikings offense with no real running game and no Justin Jefferson. Same goes for the Bears against a bad Las Vegas offense. Maybe in deep leagues, but I can’t bring myself to play them in standard-sized leagues.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice. Especially the ones who don’t have a game.
As I mentioned above, I will update and repost this article on Sunday morning in case there are any changes with injuries or weather reports, etc. Until then, good luck to all this week!