If you’re reading this, congratulations! This is either the first or second week of playoffs, depending on the league, and getting 8 points instead of 2 from your defense can make all the difference in tight playoff matchups. A lot has changed in the league’s roster of starting quarterbacks (and thus the list of Offenses worth targeting in fantasy) recently, so let’s get in to it:
Check out the rest of our weekly fantasy football advice
- Falcons’ third round pick Desmond Ridder made his NFL debut last week in place of the injured/benched Marcus Mariota, and it didn’t go great. Against a middle-of-the-road Saints defense (that was missing their best corner), he took four sacks and didn’t quite reach 100 passing yards, leading the team to just 18 points. It’s just one game, but it’s looking like the Falcons will be a viable DST target for the remainder of the season. Upside against them is a bit limited due to a heavy focus on their run game (their pass play percentage was third-lowest in the league last week), which limits opportunities for turnovers.
- Cardinals QB Colt McCoy, who was starting in place of the out-for-the-season Kyler Murray, suffered a concussion in the third quarter of last week’s game. Trace McSorley replaced him and threw two interceptions. As always, we don’t know if McCoy will clear concussion protocol in time to start next week’s game. The Cardinals are one of the few teams that doesn’t play until Sunday (the bulk of next week’s games are on Saturday). They’re a good matchup if McCoy starts, and a great one with McSorley.
- Zach Wilson returned to starting for the Jets last week while Mike White was out with a rib injury. With the Jets playing on Thursday, it’s looking like Wilson will play again. That’s good news for fantasy defenses, because Wilson is bad.
- Brett Rypien started (and won) for the Broncos last week while Russell Wilson was recovering from a concussion. Coach Hackett announced after the game that Wilson will start next week. If I have the Rams’ defense, that’s great news. We’ve all seen the mess that Russ has been this season.
- Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky started in place of the concussed Kenny Pickett last week, and exceeded all expectations, taking just one sack and leading an offense that scored three rushing touchdowns, including one of his own. (Much to my chagrin after ranking the Panthers #1 against the Steelers last week – sorry.) Given that Pickett threw three interceptions the previous week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Trubisky again, even if Pickett is healthy. After how Trubisky played last week, I’m not that interested in starting defenses against him, especially defenses as bad as the Raiders, who have the chance this week.
- Eagles superstar Jalen Hurts suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s game. While it didn’t knock him out of the game, it’s looking like Eagles, who have basically locked up a the 1 seed in the NFC, will give the ball to Gardner Minshew. This gives managers of the Cowboys defense a tough decision. They’re a great defense and Minshew is is certainly a downgrade from Hurts, but I’m still not that comfortable starting a defense against such a strong team overall, led by an above-average backup.
- While it hasn’t been announced yet, I’m expecting that Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who has missed two games with a knee injury, will return this week. Not that I would really be interested in starting the Falcons in a good matchup anyway, but the Ravens are absolutely not a viable defense target with Jackson playing.
I’m a big believer in planning a week or two ahead in the fantasy playoffs if you’re streaming defenses. These are some of the teams I would consider holding on to for Week 17 (and 18, if you’re in one of those leagues):
- DAL: I don’t love playing Dallas against the Eagles this week (even with Minshew), but they have good matchups in weeks 17 and 18, @TEN and @WAS.
- SF: If you have the 49ers defense, just keep them in your lineup until the end. They’re @LV in Week 17 and vs ARI in Week 18.
- PHI: Like the Cowboys, I don’t love them this week, but they’re a great defense, with a good matchup against New Orleans in Week 17.
- TB: The Bucs have a string of good matchups, with Arizona (sans Kyler Murray) this week, Carolina in Week 17 and Atlanta in Week 18.
- KC: The Chiefs disappointed in a good matchup against Houston last week, but I’m still keeping them on my bench for their Week 17 meeting with the Broncos.
- BAL: The Ravens have a good matchup against Pittsburgh in Week 17.
- LAC: The Chargers have a great remaining schedule, @IND this week, vs LAR in Week 17, and @DEN in Week 18.
- CLE: After you use them this week, the Browns will be usable again next week @ WAS.
- JAC: The Jags have an OK outlook this week, and a great matchup @HOU next week.
- ARI: The Cardinals could be a solid play against the Falcons in Week 17 if Desmond Ridder fails to impress again this week.
Week 16 DST Projections
Despite having the whole league playing, this is kind of a shallow week with respect to good streamable defenses. Fortunately, there won’t be as many teams competing on the waiver wire in the playoffs. If non-playoff teams are still making roster moves in your league, you should find a new league. Rostership numbers are from Yahoo. You can find me on Twitter or Mastodon.
|The Start Them With Confidence Tier|
|The Still a Fine Choice Tier|
|The Maybe you Can’t Find Something Better Tier|
|The Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier|
- BAL vs ATL: Rookie Falcons QB Desmond Ridder didn’t impress last week against an average Saints defense, taking four sacks and failing to reach 100 passing yards. Now he has to face a pretty good Ravens defense, who are an excellent start this week.
- BUF @ CHI: I was a little surprised to the Vegas-based points allowed projections come in at just 16 points for Justin Fields and the Bears. That reflects trust in a good Bills defense, and a cold, windy forecast for Soldier Field. Additionally, Fields was sacked six times last week by a similarly strong Eagles defense. That’s his seventh game with four or more sacks, so Fields offers a solid floor for good defenses.
- CLE vs NO: The forecast for this game on Saturday is includes 30 MPH winds and temperatures below 20F, as a big winter storm gets ready to hammer a big chunk of the country. As a result the Vegas total for this game is a rock-bottom 31.5 or 32, depending on the book. That means expectations are at an all-time low for a Saints offense that already ranks in the bottom third of the league in points per game.
- DEN @ LAR: It’s a real shame that the Broncos don’t have an offense to go with their top-5 defense. In two weeks as the Rams’ QB, Baker Mayfield has led the team to just 29 total points, while taking nine sacks, and those games were against a below-average Packers defense, and the actual worst defense in the league, Las Vegas. The Broncos are going to eat Baker for breakfast (and still lose the game).
- TEN vs HOU: Texans QB Davis Mills had one of his better games of the season last week, though it didn’t result in the win because the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. While the Titans’ defense is average on balance, Football Outsiders ranks them #1 against the run. I expect that to force Mills to throw, which is great news for his potential to take sacks and throw interceptions.
- TB @ ARI: The Cardinals’ starting QB will either be Colt McCoy, who is currently in concussion protocol, or third-stringer Trace McSorley. The Buccaneers are viable either way, but if we get confirmation that McSorley will start, they’ll jump into my top tier as an excellent play.
- SF vs WAS: I say this every week: if you have the 49ers defense, you should start them in most matchups, including this one. The Taylor Heinicke-led Commanders might not be the best matchup in the league, but they’re a pretty good one, and well above the bar for starting San Francisco.
- LAR vs DEN: Russell Wilson has made the Broncos the embarrassment of the league, and he’s back this week. A good week for the Rams defense is not guaranteed – we saw flashes of Russ’s old self before he got hurt in Week 14 – but my expectation is that he’ll give the city of Denver another lump of coal on Christmas day.
- NO @ CLE: Because the weather has scoring expectations so low for this game overall, both sides are viable. The Deshaun Watson-led Browns have failed to reach 14 points in back-to-back games, so it’s not like expectations would be very high for them even in calmer winds.
- JAC @ NYJ: Zach Wilson and the Jets made a mediocre Lions DST #4 in scoring last week, thanks to four sacks, two turnovers and less than 20 points. The Jaguars defense is similarly mediocre. They aren’t bad enough to rule out of a matchup this good, but they’re bad enough to not be excited about it.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | SoundCloud | iHeartRadio