We are witnessing history in Buffalo. The Bills offense, after another putrid performance on Sunday in a 41-9 loss to the Bears, is officially in WOAT territory:
Worst offensive DVOA ever measured through 9 games. This was the nadir of the 2005 49ers after just 299 yards in two games. And the 2018 Bills, adjusted for era, are worse. pic.twitter.com/yvIdZ8tyGk— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) November 5, 2018
In a year in which offenses are exploding around the NFL, Buffalo has fielded a comically awful unit that somehow seems to get worse every week. The team has not scored more than 13 points in a game since Week 3, and has recorded single-digit points in each of its past three contests.
The Bills’ problems largely stem from their quarterback situation, and of the three passers Buffalo has fielded this season, its current starter, second-year pro Nathan Peterman, has struggled the most. And that’s putting it mildly—Peterman might be the worst QB ever. He has thrown one touchdown and a whopping seven interceptions, contributing to a 30.7 passer rating. He has posted a negative-0.36 adjusted net yards per attempt on the season, which is to say that he might as well be spiking the ball into the turf on every play. Only four guys have finished an NFL season with a negative ANY/A since 1970, and no one has done it since 1981. It’s no wonder head coach Sean McDermott wants to jettison Peterman from the starting lineup—though first he needs one of the team’s other QBs to get healthy:
Sean McDermott says Derek Anderson would start Sunday against the Jets if Josh Allen cannot play and if Anderson is cleared from the concussion protocol. Making it clear Nathan Peterman is last in line.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) November 5, 2018
But it hasn’t really mattered who has been under center in Buffalo this season. First-round pick Josh Allen, who is currently out with an elbow injury, has two passing touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 61.8 passer rating. Derek Anderson, who missed last week with a concussion, hasn’t thrown a TD yet, but he’s managed to put up four picks and a 56.0 passer rating. That’s a total of three passing touchdowns for the Bills this season to go along with three pick-sixes, meaning Buffalo’s QBs are just as likely to throw a touchdown for their own team as they are their opponent.
This historical badness is incredible and hilarious—but it’s more than just something to chuckle at on Sundays. Week in and week out, the Bills offense provides a fantasy matchup that’s waiting to be exploited: the best DST in football is whichever one is facing Buffalo. In fact, the defense playing the Bills isn’t just one of the best fantasy DSTs you could roster in a given week, it’s one of the best fantasy assets across any position.
Nine teams have played Buffalo this year, and in all non-Bills games, those DST units averaged 5.9 points per game in ESPN’s standard-scoring leagues. Against the Bills, they’ve averaged 16.1 points—defenses almost triple their fantasy production just by sharing the field with the Buffalo offense. To put that number in perspective, the Bears are the highest-scoring DST this season, averaging 12.1 points per game. But that number is buoyed by the whopping 29 points they just put up against Buffalo on Sunday. Take that game out and their average drops down to 9.7 points, a long way away from teams’ averages against the Bills.
In standard scoring, only six FLEX-eligible players average more than 16.1 points per game: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, James Conner, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, and Saquon Barkley. That’s it. The defense playing the Bills is essentially the seventh-best non-QB in fantasy. In PPR formats, another two dozen names get added to that list, which makes the DST playing the Bills slightly less enticing but still fantasy relevant. In standard formats, though, those units are basically the equivalent of an RB1—and in many cases, they’re probably sitting on waivers.
If you’re still in the fantasy playoff hunt, aggressively tracking the defenses that face the Bills each week may be the move that vaults you into true championship contention. Here’s how the rest of Buffalo’s season shakes out (excluding Week 17, as most fantasy football leagues end the week before):
Week 10: at Jets
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Jaguars
Week 13: at Dolphins
Week 14: Jets
Week 15: Lions
Week 16: at Patriots
The Jets are the obvious immediate pickup. Not only do they play the Bills twice over the next five weeks, but the Jets are also arguably the best fantasy defense on this list—they currently rank sixth among DSTs in points per game. New York is owned in only 37.3 percent of ESPN leagues and 41 percent of Yahoo ones, though those numbers will surely shoot up as soon as waivers clear this week.
If you’re already on track to make the fantasy playoffs, the Lions defense is the one to stash. While Detroit is only 24th in DST scoring, it also plays the Cardinals in Week 14, and defenses that play Arizona are putting up an average of 12.8 points per game. Those aren’t Bills numbers, but that’s more points than the Bears’ top-ranked DST has averaged this season. The Lions face the two lousiest offenses in football in back-to-back fantasy playoff weeks, and Detroit’s DST is owned in only 7.1 percent of ESPN leagues and 8 percent of Yahoo ones. That unit could be a golden ticket to the fantasy championship game.
The rest of the DSTs on that list—the Jaguars (owned in 77.7 percent on ESPN, 72 percent on Yahoo), Dolphins (41.0 percent, 43 percent), and Patriots (62.7 percent, 73 percent)—may be harder to get, but are worth picking up if they aren’t already rostered. They each rank around league-average in DST scoring, but should of course expect a healthy bump when playing Buffalo.
With the way the season is going for the Bills, there’s really no downside to rostering DSTs that play them soon. Thing aren’t exactly looking up at QB in Buffalo, and players who average more than 16 points per game in fantasy virtually never hit waivers—especially not after Week 9. The Bills offense is there for defenses (and fantasy football players) to take advantage of—just like a Nathan Peterman interception.