Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant (3) heads off the field after missing a field goal in the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on October 22, 2017. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 23-7. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 2 (UPI) -- With 12 teams serving their bye weeks in the last two weeks, you need to get creative when picking up kickers and defenses for your fantasy football lineup.
Although the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and flex spots are the most important spots in your lineup to fill, don't neglect researching good matchups for your defense and kicker. This can mean the difference between a one-point win and a one-point loss down the stretch and keep you from making the playoffs.
This week, the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers are serving their bye weeks.
If you own any players on those teams and need a replacement, or want to keep your opponent from getting a good matchup, travel over to my Week 9 top pickups and drops article.
My top defense for the week is the Houston Texans and my top kicker is Jake Elliott. Here are the rest of my top 20 defense/special teams units and top 15 kickers for Week 9. You can visit other positional rankings in the links below.
The Houston Texans are my top defense for Week 9 for several reasons. While this unit is without J.J. Watt and minus multiple key offseason departures, the Texans' offense has been keeping it off of the field. This week the Texans face the Indianapolis Colts in what I think will be an AFC South blowout.
Another divisional matchup includes the Buffalo Bills traveling to face the New York Jets in an AFC East squabble. I expect the Bills to establish a running game early on and dominate this contest behind a big day from Tyrod Taylor. The Bills' strong rush defense can turn the Jets into a one-dimensional offense. Buffalo is my No. 5 unit for Week 9.
Philadelphia Eagles leg Jake Elliott is my No. 1 kicking option for Week 9. Elliott has been one of fantasy football's best kickers this season on a points-per-game basis and is working with one of the best offenses in the NFL. Look for plenty of opportunities Sunday against the Denver Broncos, who could slow down this Eagles machine and force long attempts.
New Orleans Saints kicker Will Lutz also benefits from being on a great team this season and he should be busy Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lutz ranks as fantasy football's No. 6 kicker on a points-per-game basis. He hit multiple field goals in six of seven games this season. The only game in which he didn't make more than one field goal was the week he hit seven extra points against the Detroit Lions. Look for Lutz to retain value here with several extra point tries and a chance at multiple field goals again. He is my No. 2 kicker for the week against the Buccaneers in what I forecast as a blowout.
The Oakland Raiders are my No. 7 defense for Week 9 with a matchup against the Miami Dolphins. While the Raiders' defense hasn't been great, Miami owns one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season. The Dolphins were shutout 40-0 last week by the Baltimore Ravens and just traded away one of their best players in running back Jay Ajayi. It's going to take some time for this offense to turn around and it won't happen in Week 9.
The Arizona Cardinals are my No. 9 defense for Week 9 with a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. C.J. Beathard is expected to start this week, despite the team recently trading for New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo. I don't expect this matchup to turn out well for him. Expect the Cardinals to deploy a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson and control the tempo of this NFC West bash. The 49ers are the most generous defense in the NFC when it comes to allowing rushing yards, having surrendered 906 yards and six scores to the position. This contest will be low scoring and the Cardinals should come out victorious, possibly with the help of a defensive touchdown.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Mike Nugent took over for Dan Bailey in late October and he will benefit from playing alongside one of the more prolific offenses in the NFL. Nugent made four of his five attempts to finish as the No. 3 kicker for Week 8. This week he faces the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cowboys' offense could be slowed without Ezekiel Elliott. Expect another big day here. Nugent is my No. 5 option.
Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein just can't be benched. Fantasy football's top kicker has double-digit point totals in five of seven games this season. He made four field goals last week, three weeks after making all seven of his attempts against the Dallas Cowboys. Zuerlein comes in as my No. 10 option this week against the New York Giants in what I think will be a close game.
Week 9 Defense/Special Teams Rankings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has been underwhelming this season. He leads the Buccaneers' offense into a Week 9 home clash against the New Orleans Saints, a defense that has surprised preseason critics. Tampa Bay has lost four consecutive games and I don't see this sinking ship floating in Week 9. The Saints defense has put up the fifth-most fantasy points per game and is my No. 10 option this week.
The Detroit Lions are a streaming option on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers. This season the Lions have put up the fourth-most fantasy points per game as a defense. The Packers are playing without Aaron Rodgers for a second straight week and have posted point totals of 10 points and 17 points in his absence. I don't see this suddenly run-heavy offense putting a big number on the scoreboard here, making the Lions my No. 14 option for Week 9.
Tennessee Titans kicker Ryan Succop is worth a look in Week 9 as he faces the Baltimore Ravens. I'm expecting another close contest here, but I think the Titans come out on top and Succop plays a big part in this matchup. He is my No. 12 kicker for Week 9 and a solid streaming play.
One of the most interesting matchups this week will be the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins. The Raiders' defense is struggling this season, while the Dolphins' offense is their Achilles' heel. This game could be a field goal battle if the Dolphins can manage to move the ball, but I see the Raiders getting in scoring position more due to their array of offensive skill players. That makes Giorgio Tavecchio a great streaming play. He is my No. 15 option for Week 9.