It’s do or die this week. For most leagues, it’s the last week of the regular season. That means there are probably only a handful of teams that really care about this week. It’s likely that half of your league is eliminated from playoff contention, and one or two teams are locked, meaning in a 12-team league, there are about four teams who would not even bother picking up a defense for this week. That adds to what is already a great week for defenses, thanks to all the bad offenses being past their byes and facing non-horrible defenses. If you’re one of the teams locked for the playoffs then you should absolutely stash a Week 14 defense. If you’re in the hunt, I still recommend it if you can afford the bench space.
Fantasy Playoff Stashes
The below table lists all the teams I’m interested in using at any point during the fantasy playoffs. They are grouped by the number of usable weeks they have between weeks 14 and 16, and the order within each group represents how much I like the defense. This isn’t massively different from last week, and I’m glad – I would hate to have to tell you my advice from last week has changed massively. Which opponents are worth targeting is the same, but my opinion on how much I like each defense has changed a bit. The biggest difference is that Seattle’s defense has improved appreciably. Earlier this season I would have stayed away from good-but-not-amazing matchups like Washington, but if they keep playing like they have for the last three weeks, I’m more comfortable.
|Three Good Playoff Matchups|
|Two Good Playoff Matchups|
|One Good Playoff Matchup|
Week 13 Rankings
This is an excellent week for defenses. Six teams is as big as my top tier has ever been, but I’d really be happy to start any of them. There are actually two late byes this week, but the Buccaneers and Panthers are teams you don’t generally start fantasy defenses against anyway. Rostership numbers are from Yahoo and represent Tuesday morning before (this week Thursday-morning) waivers have cleared. You can find me on Twitter.
|The Start Them With Confidence Tier|
|The Still a Fine Choice Tier|
|The Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier|
*This line is an educated guess by me, because there are no public lines for this game due to the uncertainty over several Baltimore players who are currently on the Covid list. My rankings assume that most of the Ravens, including Lamar Jackson, will be able to play Week 13. If Jackson is out, Dallas will move up in the rankings to be a low-end starter, but I think Baltimore’s defense will be playable either way.
- MIA vs CIN: Whether it’s Brandon Allen or Ryan Finley starting at quarterback, the Bengals are one of the best DST targets in the league. Miami’s defense is pretty solid so there’s no reason to doubt their ability to take advantage of a matchup like this.
- BAL vs DAL: Andy Dalton is actually one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but he is definitely still a backup. We saw him at his best against Minnesota in Week 11, but he came back to earth against a good Washington defense last week. I don’t expect Baltimore’s defense to be missing many people to Covid quarantine by the time they play in Week 13, even if Lamar Jackson is still out. Healthy, the Ravens are good enough that I expect Dalton to perform closer to his floor than his ceiling.
- GB vs PHI: Much has been written about the decline of Carson Wentz. He’s had one of the bigger year-over-year drop-offs in NFL history. At this point in the season, it’s hard to think it isn’t here to stay, at least for this season. This excellent video by Brett Kollmann gives a thorough breakdown of what Wentz and the Eagles are doing wrong, and why it’s not likely to change in the near future. The Eagles are a Tier-1 target for fantasy defenses, and I would start anyone against them.
- SEA vs NYG: Three weeks ago I would have told you not to start the Seahawks against anyone. In the intervening weeks, they’ve taken a big step forward and played well against the Rams, Cardinals, and Eagles. The Eagles might be a dumpster fire, but the game against the Cardinals is actually impressive. I wouldn’t call them a good defense, but they’re out of the gutter and into the mix of teams I would start in good matchups, which the Giants certainly are.
- PIT vs WAS: Alex Smith keeps failing to make the case for starting him over Dwayne Haskins. Washington’s run game is more impressive and lit up the Cowboys last week, but the Steelers’ defense is on a different planet. They’re one of the best against the run and the best overall defense in the league.
- LV @ NYJ: The Jets’ future is safe in Joe Flacco’s hands. That is, they are in no danger of winning a football game, and are on track to achieve perfection this season, going 0-16 and securing the opportunity to destroy Trevor Lawrence’s career like they did Sam Darnold’s.
- KC vs DEN: The Broncos just gave us the single most entertaining football game since the Snow Bowl in 2017. Going from not-actually-a-quarterback to Drew Lock will be a big improvement, but that doesn’t mean Lock is exactly good. The ceiling is massive as we saw with his four-interception meltdown against Miami, but the mean expectation – 1-2 interceptions and 2-3 sacks, is pretty good for the opposing defense as well.
- CHI vs DET: The Lions bounced back from being shut out by the Panthers, but their bounce back still involved losing and allowing four sacks against a not-particularly-good Texans team. As is tradition, Chicago’s defense is quite good this year, even when their offense isn’t. I expect a high-floor performance here with multiple sacks, even if multiple turnovers aren’t particularly likely, limiting Chicago’s ceiling.
- MIN vs JAC: Mike Glennon took over as the Jaguars starter last week and looked pretty good, avoiding sacks and turnovers entirely. If that keeps up the Jaguars aren’t an interesting target for defenses, but last week is only one game. Glennon hadn’t started in the NFL since 2017 and has averaged almost three sacks per start in his career. So unless we get a couple more games like last week, my expectation for Glennon is for him to go back to playing like a backup.
- NO @ ATL: The range of possible outcomes for Matt Ryan is huge. He might be a Hall of Fame QB and has had games earlier this season where he played like it, but he also recorded an incredible eight sacks just two weeks ago the last time he played against New Orleans. To think New Orleans will crush the Falcons so thoroughly again is optimistic, but it’s reasonable to expect Ryan’s performance will be in that neighborhood.
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