Week 14 Fantasy Rankings: DefenseSporting News — (Matt Lutovsky)
Last week, two D/STs near the top of the fantasy leaderboards, San Francisco and New England, had tough matchups. Sure enough, both did next to nothing, possibly costing their squads spots in the fantasy playoffs. This week, both the 49ers and Patriots have unfavorable matchups again, so it's no surprise they're dropping in the Week 14 fantasy defense rankings. But as is always the issue when top options drop, we have to figure out which waiver wire streamers and sleepers can fill their starting spots.
This week, the matchups point to Jets (vs. Dolphins), Colts (@ Buccaneers), Packers (vs. Redskins), Seahawks (@ Rams), Texans (vs. Broncos), Falcons (vs. Panthers), and Titans (@ Raiders) all being viable options that are available on most waiver wires. Obviously, some are riskier than others, but matchups often go a long way with defenses and these matchups frequently yield the most points.
The 49ers (@ Saints) and Patriots (vs. Chiefs) aren't the only normally reliable starting units with tough matchups. The Bills (vs. Ravens), Rams (vs. Seahawks), and Bears (vs. Cowboys) are also in bad spots. It's tough to completely rule out the Rams, but the Bears and Bills shouldn't be in fantasy lineups.
When it comes to whether to play Patriots and 49ers, there is no definitive answer. Both are talented enough to produce, and the Patriots at least get the luxury of playing at home. But the risk seems higher than the reward with New England -- and it's close when it comes to the Niners -- so unless your lineup is stacked at virtually every other position, you might want to look elsewhere and hope you stay alive long enough to unleash the Pats and 49ers on the Bengals and Falcons, respectively, in Week 15.
Reminder: These rankings will be adjusted throughout week, so check back often for updates and analysis!
Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense
|1||Minnesota Vikings vs. Lions. David Blough wasn't bad against the Bears in his NFL debut (two sacks, INT, 23 offensive points scored), but his first road start -- in a noisy dome against a divisional opponent, no less -- likely won't be as easy. The Vikings have been a bit of a disappointment this year, especially lately, but we still like their chances to make the Lions one-dimensional and force Blough to pass -- and make mistakes -- early and often.|
|2||Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cardinals. Whether it was his sore hamstring or simply the rookie wall, Kyler Murray struggled against the Rams last week, taking six sacks, throwing an INT (that was returned for a touchdown), and leading the Cardinals to just seven points. The Steelers continue to be a bankable source of fantasy points, recording multiple takeaways in all but two games this year and at least four sacks in four of the past five games.|
|3||Philadelphia Eagles vs. Giants. Fantasy owners might be leery about using the Eagles after they busted against the Dolphins last week, but Daniel Jones and the Giants are even more generous to fantasy defenses. Surprisingly, New York has allowed just one sacks to the Bears and Packers the past two games, but it's turned it over four times and scored just 27 total offensive points in that span. The Eagles have at least three sacks in four of the past five games, including nine over the past two contests. With this game in Philadelphia on a Monday night, you can feel even better about Philly's chances of pressuring Jones into some mistakes.|
|4||New York Jets vs. Dolphins. Like the Eagles, the Jets also were a major disappointment last week, but also like the Eagles, they were on the road and get to return home to another favorable matchup this week. In the four games leading up to Week 13, New York had recorded 17 sacks, five takeaways, and two defensive TDs in similar favorable matchups. That includes a four-sack game against Miami in Week 9. The Jets didn't do much else that contest, but they've been much better at home virtually all year, totaling 10 of their 15 takeaways and three of their five defensive TDs at MetLife Stadium. The Dolphins have allowed at least three sacks in all but one game this year, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is always capable of a multi-turnover game. Get back on the Jets bandwagon this week.|
|5||Baltimore Ravens @ Bills. The Ravens managed just one takeaway against the 49ers last week, but they limited them to just 17 points. Over the past four games (Bengals, Texans, Rams, 49ers), Baltimore has allowed an average of 10.8 offensive points and had eight takeaways. Josh Allen and the Bills have turned it over just three times over the past eight games, so this is definitely a tough matchup for the Ravens, especially on the road. But given its depth of playmakers and potential weather issues, we still think Baltimore will cause Allen some problems and continue its run of good performances.|
|6||Indianapolis Colts @ Buccaneers. You never know which Jameis Winston is going to show up. You could get the one last week that didn't throw an INT; or you could get the one who threw eight INTs in the previous three games. Chances are, he'll toss a couple picks, and he's also more susceptible to strip sacks. The Colts have had multiple takeaways in three of the past five games, and they recorded a season-high six sacks against Tennessee last week. This is a boom-or-bust play, but we know the payoff could be huge.|
|7||Green Bay Packers vs. Redskins. Perhaps surprisingly, Dwayne Haskins and the Redskins haven't been turning the ball over much. Instead, they're simply struggling to move the ball and score points. That changed last week when they put up 29 on the Panthers, but they still allowed five sacks. Since the start of Week 3, the Redskins are averaging just 12.2 offensive points per game and have allowed at least three sacks in every game but one. The Packers surprised with no sacks against the Giants last week, but they allowed just 13 points and recorded three INTs. This is still a solid defense that should be able to take advantage of an inexperienced QB at home.|
|8||Cleveland Browns vs. Bengals. Andy Dalton impressed in his return to the lineup, taking just one sack and not turning it over, but this is the same Dalton who took 29 sacks and turned it over 11 times in the first eight games of the season. Cleveland has nine sacks and seven takeaways in the past three games, so getting their in-state rival at home in December is a good recipe for continued success.|
|9||Seattle Seahawks @ Rams. The Rams beat up on an overmatched Cardinals team last week, but fantasy owners shouldn't forget the previous three games against Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Baltimore: 27 total points scored, six sacks allowed, eight turnovers, one defensive TD. Seattle isn't quite as good defensively as those teams (which we saw in Week 5 when the Rams scored 29 points, didn't allow a sack, and turned it over twice in Seattle), but it's still a decent unit in what figures to be an intense game. In the two games prior to Week 13 (49ers, Eagles), Seattle had eight sacks and eight takeaways.|
|10||San Francisco 49ers @ Saints. This feels like it could be a repeat of the Packers-49ers game, where Green Bay came in having allowed minimal fantasy points to D/STs and wound up scoring eight offensive points, giving up five sacks, and turning it over once. The difference is this game is on the road (after another East Coast road game for the Niners), so it won't be easy, but San Francisco has the talent to provide a solid floor. Stationary QBs generally don't fare well against San Francisco, even future Hall-of-Famers like Drew Brees.|
|11||Houston Texans vs. Broncos. Houston's D/ST has disappointed this year, but Drew Lock, despite impressing in his NFL debut, is still the type of QB a defense can take advantage of. In the five games prior to Week 13, Denver allowed 21 sacks and averaged 13.8 offensive points per game. Making his first road start in a dome could prove too much for Lock to overcome.|
|12||Tennessee Titans @ Raiders. Oakland's offense has been a shell of itself over the past three games, averaging 9.7 offensive points per game despite favorable matchups against Bengals, Jets, and Chiefs. Moreoever, it's turned it over seven times and allowed two defensive TDs in that span. The Titans are coming off one of their best fantasy efforts of the season, recording three sacks, three takeaways, and a defensive TD. Tennessee has done a good job most of the season keeping the score low, getting a few sacks, and producing a turnover or two. This is another solid spot for the Titans, even if their ceiling isn't overly high.|
|13||Atlanta Falcons vs. Panthers. When these teams met in Week 11, Kyle Allen took five sacks, threw four INTs, and led the Panthers to just three offensive points. The Falcons defense has predictably regressed since then, but the Panthers have continued to allow sacks (seven last week, 29 over the past six games) and turn it over (13 times in the past six games). This is a total boom-or-bust play, as the Falcons could actually post a negative performance, but getting the Panthers at home could also result in big points.|
|14||Los Angeles Rams vs. Seahawks. Despite getting roasted by Lamar Jackson in Week 12, the Rams defense has actually been playing well lately, posting at least three sacks in each of the past six games and giving up 11 offensive points or fewer in the five non-Ravens games. They've also had three defensive TDs in that span. Seattle still allows sacks (11 in Weeks 11 and 12) and has turned it over more recently (six in Weeks 11 and 12). This is another boom-or-bust situation, but like the 49ers, the Rams should have a decent floor, especially with this game at home in prime time.|
|15||Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Chargers. Philip Rivers and the Chargers have been turnover machines lately, giving the ball away nine times in the past three games. They've also allowed 10 sacks in that time. Jacksonville wasn't able to take advantage of a favorable matchup against Tampa last week, but Rivers is less mobile and has a weaker arm, so perhaps it can get back on track here.|
|16||Los Angeles Chargers @ Jaguars. The returns of safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips didn't spark the Chargers against rookie QB Drew Lock, but this defense now has legit pass-rushers and playmakers in the secondary. It hasn't resulted in much of anything at all this year, but the pieces are in place. Facing a rookie QB could be what L.A. needs to finally put it all together.|
|17||Arizona Cardinals vs. Steelers|
|18||Carolina Panthers @ Falcons|
|19||Dallas Cowboys @ Bears|
|20||New Orleans Saints vs. 49ers|
|21||New England Patriots vs. Chiefs. The past four games (Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans) have yielded mediocre results for the Pats: 19.5 offensive points allowed, nine sacks, four takeaways, no defensive TDs. The Chiefs are as tough, if not tougher, than any of those matchups. They've scored at least 24 points in all but one offensive, had just two games with multiple turnovers all year, and allowed one or fewer sacks in seven games, including each of the past two. Even with this game in New England, it's tough to imagine the Pats scoring a significant amount of points, and the floor isn't overly high, too.|
|22||Chicago Bears vs. Cowboys|
|23||Miami Dolphins @ Jets|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals @ Browns|
|25||Denver Broncos @ Texans|
|26||Oakland Raiders vs. Titans|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Colts|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs @ Patriots|
|29||Buffalo Bills vs. Ravens|
|30||New York Giants @ Eagles|
|31||Detroit Lions @ Vikings|
|32||Washington Redskins @ Packers|