Top 10 Fantasy Football Playoff Defenses
Although defense is an often overlooked position in Fantasy Football, there are weeks when this position could single-handedly push you to a victory. Hey, just look at what the Rams did last week. Unfortunately, not every team gets to play the Oakland Raiders. It is imperative that an owner look forward during the Fantasy playoffs, especially if you are one of those teams with a bye week. Maybe you have extra roster spots that are being occupied by useless players (Pierre Garcon, Bishop Sankey, Jared Cook, etc.); dump ‘em for a top defensive stream in Weeks 14-16. In case you don’t know which teams are the best to own over the next three weeks, I’ve got you covered.
TOP 10 DEFENSES FROM WEEKS 14-16, BASED ON MATCHUPS
1. St. Louis Rams. Before everybody starts calling this a reactionary move, hear me out. Yes, they destroyed the Oakland Raiders last week, but their value goes beyond that. The Rams are the hottest Fantasy defense in the league right now and have three great matchups in weeks 14-16: @WAS, vs. ARI, vs. NYG. Both the Redskins and the Giants are tied for third-worst in the NFL with a minus seven turnover differential this season. Although the Cardinals are 9-3, Drew Stanton is running this team into the ground. He has five turnovers in the last three games; that ultimately affects their running game, which has been trending downward. The Rams have a total of 10 takeaways, two defensive touchdowns, and 11 sacks over the past three weeks, and they held the Broncos to just seven points. This defense was poised to break out this season and simply got off to a rough start.
2. Detroit Lions. Ah, if it isn’t the defense that got off to a blazing start and then came to a screeching halt. The Lions were the top-scoring Fantasy defense throughout the first six weeks of the season but have been inconsistent since then. The next three matchups of vs. TB, vs. MIN, and @CHI should help finish the season strong, however. The Buccaneers are minus six in turnover differential and are giving up the fifth-most Fantasy points to opposing defenses this season. After that, the Lions get the Vikings in Week 15, a team they had their best performance against in Week 6. I’d expect a heavy dose of pressure on the young Teddy Bridgewater in that game. Finally, they will get the Bears in Week 16 and they showed exactly what they could do to them in that Thanksgiving matchup.
3. Arizona Cardinals. Thank the heavens Drew Stanton doesn’t have any direct impact on the Cardinals’ defense (besides constantly turning the ball over), or else he would suck the Fantasy value out of them too. In my opinion, there is not one Fantasy defense more consistent than this Cardinals team. Not only can they bring pressure, which results in sacks and turnovers, they have the personnel to turn those turnovers into defensive touchdowns. Their next three matchups are: vs. KC, @STL, vs. SEA. Really, not one of those offenses is explosive and the NFC West divisional matchups tend to be low-scoring affairs.
4. New England Patriots. This team isn’t going to wow anybody with the flashy plays on defense but they get the job done. They’ve had a few big games this season in terms of Fantasy points but haven’t performed to that level recently simply due to matchups. Their next three matchups include @SD, vs. MIA, @NYJ. The game against the Chargers could be a bit worrisome, but as long as Darrelle Revis shows up, Keenan Allen will be in for a long night. Evidence from Monday night shows that the Dolphins and Jets are prone to low-scoring divisional games, which only benefits this Patriots team.
5. Seattle Seahawks. Remember before the season when owners were drafting the Seahawks defense anywhere from Rounds 5-8? Shame on you! Let this be a lesson to you. So many things change from year-to-year and it’s not really possible to project repeat performances by defensive units. Nonetheless, after inconsistent play at times this season, the Seahawks’ defense is finally getting its swagger back. They’ve performed well over the past six weeks, recording at least two turnovers in five of those games. Their next three matchups are @PHI, vs. SF, @ARI. The only game that might pose a threat is in Philadelphia, although I don’t trust Mark Sanchez to perform well in this matchup. The Seahawks continue to dominate Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers, while I view the Cardinals offense as a punching bag right now.
6. Philadelphia Eagles. Despite allowing the fourth-most points per game in the NFL at 31.3, the Eagles are the top scoring Fantasy defense, mainly because of their special teams. I could totally see why an owner would be scared to start the Eagles against some teams, but because of their ability to score a touchdown on special teams in any game, they are matchup proof. With Darren Sproles and Josh Huff returning kicks, they could spark a play at any point. Besides the Seahawks matchup in Week 14, they face the Cowboys and the Redskins. They proved they could hold their own against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
7. Baltimore Ravens. They aren’t the defensive force they once were but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t serviceable. This Ravens unit isn’t going to light up the Fantasy scoreboards but consistency is key with this team. They’ve had at least two sacks and a takeaway in every game since Week 6, including three five-sack performances. First round selection C.J. Mosley has anchored the middle linebacker position this season and has given this team a presence they’ve been longing for. Not to mention the matchups of @MIA, vs. JAC, @HOU are pretty darn good. I know Ryan Fitzpatrick just threw for six touchdowns but he isn’t going to do that every week.
8. San Francisco 49ers. Despite suffering key injuries to this elite defensive unit, they’ve found ways to prosper thanks to that next-man-up theory and exceptional coaching. It also helps that they play in a division in which teams don’t put up too many points. This is one of those defenses I trust in Fantasy regardless of matchup. With that being said, they are the lucky team to face the Raiders in week 14. After that, they get the Seahawks and Chargers, which isn’t terrible. There is a chance Navorro Bowman could return as well. His resume speaks for itself.
9. Green Bay Packers. This Packers defense has some very worthy names that can make big plays, resulting in Fantasy points. They haven’t been the most consistent bunch this season but these next three matchups are the reason they made this list: vs. ATL, @BUF, @TB. The Falcons have been in disarray all season and with a faulty offensive line, Clay Mathews and Julius Peppers will have a chance to make something happen on Monday Night Football. As for the Bills and the Buccaneers, their offenses have been shaky and prone to turnovers. Despite those games being away from Lambeau Field, I trust this defense to show up.
10. Cleveland Browns. This final pick might come as a shocker but personally, I like what this defensive unit has been able to do this season. They can get to the quarterback and have at least two takeaways in four of their last five contests. The veteran additions of Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner have solidified a defense led by shutdown corner Joe Haden. Their Week 14 matchup could be tough at home against the Colts, but then they get the Bengals and the Panthers. The whole world got to see the Browns pick apart the Bengals the first time they played and the Panthers are a wreck this season.
Just missed: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and Houston Texans. With each one of these teams being a Top-5 defense for Fantasy purposes, it was a hard to leave them off the list. It came down to matchups and each of these teams has a tough schedule over the next three weeks. The only games I would recommend them are when the Bills take on the Raiders in Week 16 and the Texans take on the Jaguars this week. Other than that, you’re asking for trouble.
Week 14 DEFENSES WORTH STREAMING
Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings host the Jets this week and even if Rex Ryan plans to run the ball the entire game, they aren’t going to score many points. Keep in mind that it only takes one pass attempt by Geno Smith to make a big play happen on defense, and voila. The Jets are physically and emotionally defeated and won’t come to play in this game. The Vikings have outperformed expectations, led by rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, and I expect this game to be no different.
Kansas City Chiefs - Currently, the Cardinals are the punching bag I am looking to beat up on a weekly basis here if I am streaming defenses. The Chiefs travel to Arizona this week but it doesn’t make much of a difference where they play. Drew Stanton has been terrible and is turning the ball over at a rapid pace. Andre Ellington is banged up and might not even play this week. The Chiefs haven’t been the defense owners thought they would be but this is the week, if any, you want them in your lineup.
New Orleans Saints. Now, this is a desperation play if you really need a defense this week just because I don’t think the Saints’ defense is very good. Luckily for them, they host the Panthers this week, who I think is even worse. The Panthers have averaged just 14.5 points-per-game in the last six games and managed just ten points in their first meeting with the Saints. Their offensive line is atrocious and Cam Newton is having his worst year to date, making the Saints a start this week.
WEEK 15 DEFENSES WORTH STREAMING
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since we are picking on the Carolina Panthers, I’m just going to go ahead and continue. For the same reasons we are streaming the Saints in Week 14, we will stream the Buccaneers in Week 15. The Bucs’ defense has played a lot better lately and has at least three takeaways in two of their last three matchups. This is a divisional matchup so the players might know Newton’s tendencies more and can make a few plays on the ball. There aren’t many streams in Week 15 but this is one of ‘em.
New York Jets or Tennessee Titans. This is really a pick one and roll the dice game. The Jets travel to Tennessee in Week 15 and this game just has ugly written all over it. Imagine a shootout with Zach Mettenberger vs. Geno Smith. We might see a world record for most combined turnovers in a game. Regardless, if I had to pick one of these teams to stream, it would be the Titans. The Jets just have nothing going for them right now and Muhammad Wilkerson is banged up.
WEEK 16 DEFENSES WORTH STREAMING
Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars. A classic divisional game between two great teams . . . Not! While it is a divisional game, these are the only two lower echelon teams that aren’t going up against one of my Top-10 ranked defenses, making them the only stream in Week 16. Flip a coin here and hope for the best. Both defenses are bad, but I might lean Jags in this game since the game is in Jacksonville.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall
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