We’re on to the second round of the playoffs, but like last week some of the top defenses face some very difficult matchups this week, making choices that much harder for owners hoping to make the championship round.
The Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, two of the better DSTs this season, are squads owners should be wary of this week. For one they’ll meet each other on Thursday night, a short week that leaves little time for key defensive players to recover from injury.
Arizona might be the most banged up. Safety Tyrannn Mathieu is already listed as out with a thumb injury, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie (ankle) and defensive end Ed Stinson (toe) are both listed as questionable.
The Rams are red hot after shutting out Oakland and Washington in consecutive weeks, but could once again miss veteran defensive end Chris Long. Long hasn’t practiced all week and his health has been an issue all season. Missing all but three games this season, Long’s recorded only three combined tackles and one sacks, but his presence greatly opens things up for to top d-end Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Aaron Donald to execute the NFL's No. 7 pass rush.
With injuries piling up, as they always do this time of year, its best to stay away from both Arizona and St. Louis this week.
Instead key in on the four teams broken down below for Week 15. But remember to always start and sit at your own discretion.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs somehow gave Oakland their first victory of the season three weeks ago, and they were playing at home. Still with a playoff spot on the line, K.C. has too much to play for compared to a Raiders team going nowhere after Week 17.
K.C. will miss defensive end Allen Bailey, but very few teams have been able to pressure the Raiders offensive line all season. Instead the Chiefs can focus on forcing rookie quarterback Derek Carr into mistakes. He’s throw only two interceptions in the last four games and is coming off his best game of the season against San Francisco’s tough secondary, but the Chiefs should learn from their mistakes from three weeks ago and flourish.
Maybe the most obvious pick of the week since they’re facing Jacksonville, but this is a Ravens D that’s struggled for much of the season. They’re No. 31 in passing yards allowed, and have only forced eight interceptions all season. But they’re coming off a huge victory at Miami, and they’re pass rush is now sixth in the league thanks to 12 sacks in the last three games alone.
Yes, the Jets are on the road this week, where they are 0-6 on the year. But they’ll face a severely limited Titans offense that lost rookie starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger for the year, and top wide receiver Kendall Wright could miss a second straight game with a hand injury. Not to mention the Titans top two running backs, Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene, are averaging less than four yards per carry. Add that up and there’s very little Tennessee’s offense can do to hurt the Jets. Figure this to be a low-scoring game for both sides, unless the Jets can force some turnovers, in which case they could be a big sleeper in Week 15.
Last week they looked like the Panthers D that wrecked the league last year, holding New Orleans to 10 points while forcing a Drew Brees interception and sacking him twice. All on the road. This week Carolina is home, where they’ve been a porous 2-4-1, but the game against Tampa Bay is critical for their chances at making the postseason. Carolina’s pass rush has come up with 12 sacks in the last five games, not great but solid, and it will likely generate a lot more against a Bucs o-line that’s tied for seventh in the NFL with 39 sacks allowed this year. Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks have also thrown a combined 17 interceptions this season, tied for the worst mark in the NFL.
Sit: Washington, Miami, Oakland, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Tennessee, San Diego, Denver, Minnesota, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago
Start: N.Y. Giants, New England, Kansas City, Baltimore, Green Bay, Carolina, Detroit, Seattle, N.Y. Jets