Fantasy football owners know the final week of the season is unpredictable, but most only think of key offensive players sitting out games. Defensive players can just as easily be “rested” ahead of the postseason or because teams have nothing to play for. We’ll have to stay on top of all inactives on both sides of the ball when looking for D/ST sleepers, as plenty of factors could affect our Week 18 fantasy defense rankings.

The biggest worries are injuries and COVID, of course, and the biggest focus will be on the starting QBs. Not all backups automatically struggle — and not all defenses can take advantage — but most second-stringers are at least a little less likely to have success. The Broncos (vs. Chiefs), Lions (vs. Packers), and Ravens (vs. Steelers), among others, could all be starting backups again, and if they do, all three of those defenses would be in good shape. Pittsburgh is the shakiest, but it can still make some plays against a limited offense. The Packers are also in a weird spot because they figure to be resting their players, but you can only “rest” so many guys on defense, so we still think they can have a good week against a gimpy Jared Goff (knee) or Tim Boyle.

WEEK 18 FANTASY RANKINGS (PPR & STANDARD):
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight endKicker

Of course, those defenses are all highly owned. If you’re looking for some sleepers, Washington (@ Giants) is by far the top option. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of high-percentage streamers in Week 18 (at least early in the week), as most of the best matchups go to top D/STs. Tennessee (@ Texans) also looks good, and Minnesota (vs. Bears) should be in play regardless of who starts for the Bears. You could also try the Giants (vs. Washington) if you’re really a slave to matchups, but they were steamrolled by an Andy Dalton-led offense last week, so we’re not optimistic about Big Blue’s chances this time around.

SATURDAY SINGLE-GAME DFS:
KC-DEN FD | KC-DEN DK | DAL-PHI FD | DAL-PHI DK

Top D/STs with tough matchups include the Cardinals (vs. Seahawks), Rams (vs. 49ers), Cowboys (vs. Eagles), and 49ers (@ Rams). The Rams are still in decent shape since they’ll either be facing rookie Trey Lance or an ailing Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb), but the rest are more boom-or-bust than usual. Matthew Stafford throws a lot of INTs, so the 49ers might have a higher floor than we think, but we know the Rams can score in a hurry. The Cowboys force a ton of turnovers, but Philly is so ground-oriented, Dallas will have fewer chances than usual to force them.

SATURDAY FULL-SLATE DFS: DraftKings | FanDuel

The Eagles (vs. Cowboys), Broncos (vs. Chiefs), Panthers (@ Buccaneers), and Browns (vs. Bengals) have all been contributors throughout the season, but these are not the matchups in which to risk them. Consider them off limits, as even a reeling unit like Baltimore (vs. Steelers) might have more upside against a slow QB.

WEEK 18 DFS LINEUPS: FanDuel | DraftKings | Yahoo

Again, we’ll have to keep tabs on offensive linemen, skill guys, and all defense players this week. Running backs and receivers will grab more headlines, but a key offensive guard or tackle could have just as much of an impact on the rankings below.

MORE WEEK 18 DFS: Best stacks | Best values | Lineup builder

Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest player movement.

Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 18: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football

RankPlayer
1Buffalo Bills vs. NYJ
2Indianapolis Colts @ JAX
3Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. CAR
4Kansas City Chiefs @ DEN
5New Orleans Saints @ ATL
6New England Patriots @ MIA
7Washington Football Team @ NYG
8Tennessee Titans @ HOU
9Miami Dolphins vs. NE
10Green Bay Packers @ DET
11Minnesota Vikings vs. CHI
12Los Angeles Rams vs. SF
13Dallas Cowboys @ PHI
14San Francisco 49ers @ LAR
15Arizona Cardinals vs. SEA
16Cincinnati Bengals @ CLE
17Pittsburgh Steelers @ BAL
18New York Giants vs. WAS
19Chicago Bears @ MIN
20Philadelphia Eagles vs. DAL
21Los Angeles Chargers @ LV
22Cleveland Browns vs. CIN
23Denver Broncos vs. KC
24Baltimore Ravens vs. PIT
25Atlanta Falcons vs. NO
26Seattle Seahawks @ ARI
27Carolina Panthers @ TB
28Las Vegas Raiders vs. LAC
29Detroit Lions vs. GB
30Jacksonville Jaguars vs. IND
31Houston Texans vs. TEN
32New York Jets @ BUF