Let’s Stream Defenses: Week 15 (2020 Fantasy Football)
With the right league settings, it’s possible that you’re in the finals this week (I have one league with Week 13-14 semifinals and Week 15-16 finals). It’s more likely that you’re fighting to get into a Week 16 final. In either case, it’s probably an elimination week, so it’s worth putting a lot of thought into every fantasy decision, including finding a defense you’re confident in. If you’re reading this then I guess that means you think I’m the right person to ask, so I’m honored. In the playoffs, I think it’s worth planning ahead, whether that means finding a defense with back-to-back good matchups, or stashing a second defense for future weeks. To that end, I’ve included a list of defenses I like in weeks 16 and 17, in addition to my usual Week 15 rankings.
Week 16-17 Stashes
My list of teams to stash has once again changed only slightly. The main difference is that Philadelphia is no longer highlighted as a matchup to target after Jalen Hurts played quite well in his debut as a starter last week. That itself could still change – one game does not prove a rookie quarterback, but it does mean I’m not particularly excited about targeting him. I ordered the teams within each category in terms of preference, so you can also take this as rough Week 16 rankings. Baltimore is rostered in 97% of leagues, which probably means effectively all of them, with that 3% representing abandoned leagues. Cleveland is very interesting though – They’re a very good start this week and only 51% rostered, and are likely to be my #1 defense in Week 16.
|Two Good Week 15-17 Matchups|
|Good Matchup in Week 16|
|Good Matchup in Week 17|
Week 15 Ranks
There are a lot of teams I like this week, but unfortunately, most of them have pretty high rostership. But between CLE, TEN, and ARI all rostered in a moderately low number of leagues, and only having other playoff teams to compete with on the waiver wire, you should be able to find a streamer. Rostership numbers are from Yahoo and reflect Tuesday morning before Week 15 waivers have cleared in most leagues. 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|
- LAR vs NYJ: There’s not that much left to say about the Jets at this point. They’re the best DST matchup in the league. They scored 3 points last week, and that was their sixth game with fewer than 14 points. Their implied point total of 13.5 is rock-bottom. You’re starting the Rams if you have them, and if you’re in the 10% of leagues where they’re available, you’re picking them up.
- PIT @ CIN: The only team that’s close to as good a matchup as the Jets is the Bengals. This is a sadder story, because it’s more about losing Joe Burrow to injury, and less about criminal mismanagement, as is the case in New York. Brandon Allen actually managed to avoid sacks and turnovers altogether last week, despite attempting a not-particularly-low 36 pass attempts. That might be a little more worrying if not for the fact that the Bengals managed just seven points against Dallas, who happen to be one of the worst defenses in the league.
- BAL vs JAC: Jacksonville sort of came to their senses last week and put Gardner Minshew back in for the second half after Mike Glennon played horribly. While Minshew is definitely better than Glennon, that doesn’t mean he’s way better. Minshew, who’s averaged more than 3 sacks per game in starts this season, is still a good QB to target with team defenses, especially good ones like Baltimore.
- CLE @ NYG: Last week was a bit of a reality check for how great a matchup the Giants are. I don’t typically look at the Expert Consensus Rankings until after I publish this column each week, and was surprised last week to find out that I had ranked the Cardinals (facing NYG) way above the consensus. After New York managed just 7 points in that game, I don’t think people will be sleeping on Cleveland, even though they’re not quite as good a defense as Arizona. (I would describe CLE as “genuinely average”, compared to “somewhat above average” for ARI.)
- TEN vs DET: It’s not clear at this point if Matthew Stafford, who suffered a rib injury last week, will start for the Lions, or if they’ll turn to Chase Daniel. My current projections sort of split the difference. I used Stafford’s stats as inputs for the sack and turnover projections, but the spread of -10.5 seems to reflect an expectation that Daniel will start, compared to an opening line of -8.5 when Stafford seemed more likely. I wouldn’t be surprised, if it becomes certain that Daniel will start, if that line ends up around -11.5 or -12.5. For us, that would lift Tennessee into my top tier of teams (though still below LAR, PIT and NYJ). If Stafford does start, the Titans will probably slide down a few spots, but they won’t drop out of my top 10.
- SEA @ WAS: The Seahawks are on a streak of getting – and taking advantage of – good matchups for the past three weeks. That should continue against a Washington team who might not have starter Alex Smith. I don’t think Dwayne Haskins starting would be a huge downgrade though – Washington’s offense has mostly been on the ground, and I don’t think Haskins really deserved to be benched. In either case, this is a good (but not quite great) matchup for Seattle.
- SF @ DAL: Interim Cowboys QB Andy Dalton played pretty well and won his revenge game against the Bengals last week, but I wouldn’t read that much into it. I still expect him to struggle against a solid 49ers defense, even if he’s not the kind of disaster that some backup QBs are.
- IND vs HOU: Deshaun Watson played pretty badly against the Colts two weeks ago, suffering five sacks and breaking a 6-game streak of not throwing interceptions. The Texans were even worse last week against the Bears, so I have no reason to think the Colts can’t do it again.
- MIA vs NE: The Patriots scored 48 total points in their last two games. That’s an average of 24, which seems pretty normal – implied point totals for average offenses tend to be around that. There’s one minor complication – the actual split was 45 points against the Chargers in Week 13 and 3 points against the Rams in Week 14. I think it would be unwise to expect Bill Belichick to keep doing something that isn’t working, but the upside is there for opposing defenses. I see this as a high-risk, high-reward play. If you’re choosing between teams in this second tier and you think you’re an underdog and need to take a chance on a big day, Miami is a reasonable choice. If it looks close though, I prefer someone more predictable, like the 49ers or Colts.
- ARI vs PHI: A week ago, I expected that I’d be ranking Arizona higher this week. Jalen Hurts threw a wrench in that by playing pretty well in his first NFL start. That doesn’t mean the Eagles are suddenly a team to stay away from – it’s just one game, and rookies need to prove it at least 3 or 4 times before we start avoiding them with fantasy defenses. This does mean the Eagles are riskier – we knew that Carson Wentz was one of the most interception- and sack-prone QBs in the league, and we knew he wasn’t going to get better this season. With Hurts, we really just don’t know. Wentz-quality games are a possibility, but so are games like last week, where a good Saints defense managed just two fantasy points.