If your fantasy team didn’t make the playoffs, then you should probably stop reading now. But for those of you who drafted well, played the waiver wire tight and fast, and generally enjoyed a windfall of luck, keep scrolling to find out which top defenses you should start and sit in Week 14.
It’s the first week of the playoffs, and one false move can spell the end of the fantasy season, while a deft and smart choice could kick start a deep run to the championship.
If you’re team made it to the postseason, chances are you held any one of these top defenses: Eagles, Bills, Texans, Dolphins, Cardinals, Rams, Patriots, Lions and Seahawks.
Let’s look at each team’s matchup this week, and if owners should start or sit them the opening playoff round.
The majority of the Eagles fantasy points have come off special teams touchdowns or touchdowns off turnovers, and a pass rush with 42 sacks that’s second in the league. Philly might be able to generate some points on sacks, facing a Seattle o-line that’s let up 31 total on the year, but beaucoup points off touchdowns will be hard to come by. The Seahawks have committed only nine turnovers all year. Philly should be a second or third choice for most owners, but owners shouldn’t expect more than five to seven points this week.
Verdict: A very tentative start.
Tops in the NFL with 48 sacks, second in takeaways with 25, second with 18.1 points allowed per game, and fifth in total defense, the Bills might have the best all-around defense in the league. They’re on the road this week, where the Bills have been a respectable 3-2, but they’re traveling to Mile High to face Denver and Peyton Manning. In those two road losses Buffalo racked up eight sacks and five turnovers, and still let up 45 points. Denver’s only committed 12 turnovers all year, and has just too many weapons for any one defense to stop. Not to mention the Broncos o-line has allowed the fewest sacks of any team this season.
With J.J. Watt filling both sides of the stat sheet, the 6-6 Texans are vying for a wild card spot and still face Jacksonville this week and in Week 17. From a fantasy perspective they should feast on a Jags o-line that’s surrendered a league-worst 50 sacks, and a rookie quarterback in Blake Bortles who leads the NFL with 15 interceptions.
Verdict: A must start
There are lots of red flags not to start Miami this week against a Baltimore offense that’s sixth in the league with 27.3 points per game. The Dolphins will have trouble accumulating sacks for owners versus a Ravens o-line that’s only let up 15 sacks all season, and quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t tossed a pick in three straight games. Miami’s also ranked No. 21 against the rush and Ravens running back Justin Forsett has apparently moved into the end zone of late. Owners might have to sit the Dolphins next week too when they travel to New England. Try picking up Minnesota, who has a far better matchup against the New York Jets this week.
The Cards have lost two straight, while giving up an average of 24 points during their worst slide of the season. This is a defense that thrives on picking off opposing passers, ranking No. 2 in the league with 16, but they’ve only registered two in their last three games. And other than the seven sacks they generated against Seattle two weeks ago, this isn’t a team especially deft at rushing the passer. But this week Arizona faces a run-first Kansas City team that they should slow down with their No. 6 rushing defense. This figures to be a defensive battle all game, with Arizona coming out on top.
St. Louis Rams
One week they shut down Peyton Manning, then struggle against Philip Rivers, and then throttle Oakland 52-0. Clearly this is a Rams team that plays good teams well, and is capable of decimating lesser squads. Now the Rams will hit the road, where they’re 3-3, against a Washington offense that totaled 27 points last week with Colt McCoy at the helm, and committed only one turnover. Problem is it could have been much worse for Washington as they actually fumbled five total times but only lost one of them. The Rams collectively have a great nose for the ball, having recovered 11 fumbles, and they’ll make Washington pay for those mistakes early and often.
New England Patriots
The Pats couldn’t force a single turnover in Week 13 against the Packers, and they’re on the road again this week facing a similar Chargers squad that doesn’t really commit turnovers or allow sacks. New England could very well hold San Diego to about 17 or 20 points, but this game can easily get out of hand on either side. Both clubs sling the ball around the field, and there’s potential for big plays in every quarter. Try to avoid starting New England.
Detroit recovered from its 34-point debacle against New England by holding a talented Chicago offense to 17 points, and forcing three sacks and two interceptions. Of late the Lions haven’t looked like the defense that dominated the league in the first half of the season, but they’ll face an up and down Tamp Bay side that’s totaled 25 turnovers, tied for third-worst in the league.
As good as the Eagles have been at converting turnovers into touchdowns, they’ve coughed up even more giveaways. Philadelphia’s committed an NFL-worst 28 turnovers, and Seattle’s started to roll in the last two weeks. The Seahawks haven’t let up a touchdown in nine straight quarters, and they’ve been busy racking up seven sacks and four turnovers in the last two games. This could be a nasty game for the Eagles.