We said it last week, and we’ll say it again — if there’s one even mildly positive thing this reserve/COVID carousel does, it’s create more D/ST sleepers. Our Week 17 fantasy defense rankings reflect that — or at least, will reflect that — but season-long stats, both in terms of defenses themselves and matchup numbers, shouldn’t be completely thrown out.
As we saw last week, sometimes backup players can play reasonably well. Still, when a second- or third-string QB is under center, we want to pick on those offenses. It’s not a shock to see those players perform well for a series or two when everything is scripted, but they often wear down as the game goes on. All we need from our D/STs to pay off is one big play, so we’ll take our chances.
Heading into Week 17, some of the more traditional favorable matchups go to some of the top-drafted D/STs. New England (vs. Jaguars), Tampa Bay (@ Jets), and Buffalo (vs. Falcons) are all looking great. The highly owned Rams (@ Ravens) should pay off again this week, too, and even the Steelers (vs. Browns) have some upside against the reeling Baker Mayfield.
The Saints (vs. Panthers), 49ers (vs. Texans), and Eagles (@ Washington) have seen big upticks in ownership thanks to a string of favorable matchups lately, and they should come through again this week. Going a little deeper, the Bears (vs. Giants), Chargers (vs. Broncos), Seahawks (vs. Lions), and maybe even the Giants (@ Bears) are your top sleepers this week, at least as of Monday. More figure to emerge throughout the week.
On the other side of the coin, the Colts (vs. Raiders), Chiefs (@ Bengals), Packers (vs. Vikings), and Cowboys (vs. Cardinals) all have neutral-to-bad matchups, but given how well all of those D/STs have been playing lately, we’re not overly worried about any, especially since three of the four are at home. Moreover, most of these defenses thrive on takeaways and big plays, and they could all certainly get one or two and stay pay off even if they allow yards and points.
The D/STs we’re not touching this week are Arizona (vs. Cowboys), Cincinnati (vs. Chiefs), Denver (@ Chargers), and Baltimore (vs. Rams). Arizona is similar to some of the D/STs we listed above, but it’s been struggling lately and doesn’t look like the same unit that scored all those points earlier in the season. You can still take a chance on them making a big play at home, but against the Cowboys, we’re not excited willing to risk it.
Like we said, more D/STs will emerge throughout the week depending on who winds up on the reserve/COVID list. However, be aware that defenses that lose key players (like the Chargers losing Joey Bosa last week) can take a dip in the rankings. It’s fantasy championship week, so you better believe you’re going to need to be extra vigilant.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest analysis and player movement.
Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 17: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football
|1||New England Patriots vs. JAX|
|2||Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ NYJ|
|3||Buffalo Bills vs. ATL|
|4||New Orleans Saints vs. CAR|
|5||San Francisco 49ers vs. HOU. Davis Mills has Houston’s offense playing much better, but the 49ers defense has been among the highest-floor units in fantasy since Week 10. In the seven games in that span, San Francisco has averaged just over three sacks and 1.7 takeaways while allowing 18.6 offensive points per game. Even with Houston looking decent, we expect some mistakes here, putting the 49ers in position to have a high floor and a high ceiling.|
|6||Indianapolis Colts vs. LV. The Colts are second in the league in takeaways (31), and the Raiders have been turnover machines lately, coughing it up 10 times in their past three games. That’s enough reason to trust the Colts at home in this one.|
|7||Philadelphia Eagles @ WAS. Washington continues to spiral, scoring fewer than 18 offensive points in each of the past five games. Even worse, it’s twice allowed five sacks in the past three games. Philadelphia has had some monster performances this year, like last week’s showing against the Giants, and this is another good spot for the Eagles to go off.|
|8||Chicago Bears vs. NYG. The Bears haven’t had multiple takeaways in a game since Week 4, so clearly this hasn’t been a high-ceiling play, but the Giants are an absolute mess offensively, turning it over eight times in the past three games and averaging just 11.5 offensive points in its past six. The Bears will have a decent fantasy day regardless of who starts for New York.|
|9||Miami Dolphins @ TEN. The Titans are a tough offense to figure out. In Weeks 11, 12, and 15, they turned it over 13 times and scored 39 total points. In Weeks 14 and 16, they scored 40 points and didn’t turn it over once. Through it all, though, the Titans have allowed a decent number of sacks, and with Miami turning up the pressure (25 sacks in six games in Weeks 9-15), the Dolphins should have a solid floor with a potentially high ceiling.|
|10||Los Angeles Rams @ BAL. Baltimore has actually been better the past two weeks with its second- and third-string QBs, at least in terms of fantasy points allowed to D/STs. Regardless, we expect a talented, playmaking D/ST like L.A. to be able to take advantage of a gimpy, inaccurate Lamar Jackson, a rusty Tyler Huntley, or a below-average Josh Johnson. The Rams have posted their best four-game stretch of the season in Weeks 13-16, piling up 12 sacks and six takeaways while allowing an average of 15.8 offensive points per game.|
|11||Green Bay Packers vs. MIN. It’s not easy getting D/ST points against the Vikings, but the Packers have 10 sacks and 10 takeaways in their past four games. A home, prime-time game against Kirk Cousins figures to keep that trend up. There are higher-ceiling D/STs ranked below Green Bay, but the Packers should maintain a solid floor.|
|12||Kansas City Chiefs @ CIN. Like the Packers, the Chiefs continue to generate turnovers (at least two in each of the past seven games), and they’ve also done a good job keeping the score low (17 or fewer offensive points in seven of the past eight games). Cincinnati is hot right now, but Joe Burrow is prone to sacks and he still has a bunch of INTs on the year, so the Chiefs still have a decent floor.|
|13||Dallas Cowboys vs. ARI. Dallas leads the league in takeaways, and Arizona has produced just 28 offensive points the past two games. The Cowboys’ floor isn’t as high as usual, but you can still take a chance with them against a struggling Cardinals’ offense.|
|14||Los Angeles Chargers vs. DEN. The Chargers were a massive disappointment last week, and the Broncos played surprisingly decently with Drew Lock under center. However, Joey Bosa (reserve/COVID) was out for L.A., and his presence makes a big difference. Whoever starts for Denver will be vulnerable, so we think the Chargers can sneak out enough points to merit starting consideration.|
|15||Seattle Seahawks vs. DET. Detroit has cleaned up its act the past two games, even with Tim Boyle under center last week. Seattle is a similar defense to Atlanta, but they have more big-play ability, at least at home. With four sacks in each of the past two games, they’re reason to think the Seahawks can have a solid showing against the Lions this week.|
|16||Cleveland Browns @ PIT. The Steelers had been tough to score fantasy points against most of the season, but things came to a head last week when Pittsburgh turned it over three times and scored just 10 offensive points against the Chiefs. The Browns have a stronger pass rush, and even though they aren’t quite so turnover hungry, they can cause problems for Big Ben. Consider them a high-floor, medium-ceiling play this week.|
|17||Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CLE. Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense is struggling, but Cleveland could very well just run all over the Steelers’ leaky defense. We’ll still give Pittsburgh a nod of respect here since it’s talented and playing at home, but its ceiling is low in this matchup.|
|18||New York Giants @ CHI|
|19||Las Vegas Raiders @ IND|
|20||Arizona Cardinals @ DAL|
|21||Cincinnati Bengals vs. KC|
|22||Carolina Panthers @ NO|
|23||Tennessee Titans vs. MIA|
|24||Denver Broncos @ LAC|
|25||Atlanta Falcons @ BUF|
|26||Baltimore Ravens vs. LAR|
|27||Detroit Lions @ SEA|
|28||Minnesota Vikings @ GB|
|29||Washington Football Team vs. PHI|
|30||Jacksonville Jaguars @ NE|
|31||Houston Texans @ SF|
|32||New York Jets vs. TB|