If you’re in the second round of the fantasy football playoffs, you want to feel confident about your start ’em, sit ’em decisions at every position. Chances are, you’ll be feeling a little uneasy about your D/ST, as our Week 15 fantasy defense rankings feature just a couple no-brainers. Be it bad matchups or lackluster recent performances, there aren’t a lot of “must-starts”. Fortunately ,there are several potential waiver wire streamers and sleeper D/STs available, so you can still play the matchups and give yourself a high ceiling.
One of the few easy calls is the Patriots at the Bengals. New England has been struggling in recent weeks because of unfavorable matchups, but they should return to their early-season dominance against Andy Dalton and Co. The Ravens get another favorable matchup against the Jets, and the 49ers return home to face a Falcons team that has been mistake-prone at times this year. Pittsburgh should also be fine in a home prime-time game against Buffalo, but after that, you’re taking some chances.
The top streams figure to be the Seahawks (@ Panthers) and Chiefs (vs. Broncos). The former faces turnover-prone Kyle Allen, and latter faces a rookie QB making his first NFL start in noisy Arrowhead Stadium. To be fair, Drew Lock passed his first road test with flying colors last week, but a rivalry game in Kansas City could be a different story.
You can also try your luck with the Cowboys (vs. Rams), but streaming them really depends on the health of Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and a couple other defensive starters. The Bucs and Lions play each other, as do the Giants and Dolphins, which presents favorable matchups for all four teams. While none have performed particularly well this year, they all have boom-or-bust potential and at least deserve a look if you’ll otherwise be starting someone like Jacksonville (@ Raiders), Houston (@ Titans), or Chicago (@ Packers).
The good thing is most top defenses don’t have prohibitive matchups even if they don’t have great ones. The Rams (@ Cowboys) are probably the most worrisome, but given their playmakers and the Cowboys recent struggles, you can still take a shot with them. The same goes for Tennessee (vs. Texans), though that feels like a team that should be left on your bench if one of the top sleepers is available. Other widely owned defenses, like the Bills (@ Steelers), Vikings (@ Chargers), Saints (vs. Colts), and Packers (vs. Bears) are still in play.
Reminder: These rankings will be adjusted throughout week, so check back often for updates and analysis!
Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense
WEEK 15 DFS: Lineup Builder
|1||New England Patriots @ Bengals. The Bengals have been better since Andy Dalton regained the starting job, allowing just three sacks and one takeaway in the past two games. However, they’ve still averaged just 19.5 points and allowed a D/ST touchdown last week. Over the Pats recent five-game stretch of bad matchups (Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans, Chiefs), they’ve recorded six takeaways and 10 sacks while allowing 20.2 offensive points per game. They also would have had a D/ST touchdown last week if not for a play getting blown dead too early. This is still an elite unit that beats up on bad-to-mediocre offenses, and the Bengals still qualify.|
|2||Baltimore Ravens vs. Jets. Baltimore has just two takeaways the past two games, but its recorded eight sacks and allowed just 34 points in those two games. Over the past eight games, the Ravens have allowed an average of 14.1 points per game and totaled 14 takeaways and 24 sacks. They’ve also scored five D/ST touchdowns in that span. This is an elite defense, and even though the Jets have been better at taking care of the ball lately, this is still a mistake-prone offense that can be held down.|
|3||San Francisco 49ers vs. Falcons. The Falcons have alternated being a tough matchup and a favorable one for D/STs, and it doesn’t necessarily matter on the quality of the defense its facing or location of the game. Last week, Atlanta lit up the Panthers 40 points with just one sack and no turnovers; three weeks ago, Tampa recorded six sacks, two takeaways, and a defensive TD while limiting Atlanta to 22 points. The 49ers were just shredded by the Saints a week after being limited by the Ravens, but both of these games were on the road against elite offenses. Returning home to face an inconsistent Falcons team should result in a return to form.|
|4||Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Bills. Pittsburgh continues to post elite stats, recording five more sacks and three more takeaways last week. That means 11 out of 13 games with at least two takeaways and nine with at least four sacks. The Bills have allowed 10 sacks the past two weeks, so expect Pittsburgh to get pressure and force at least a couple turnovers.|
|5||Seattle Seahawks @ Panthers. The Panthers continue to allow sacks in bunches (21 over the past four games), and that’s led to plenty of takeaways (11 in the past four games). The Seahawks aren’t anything special on defense, but they have a knack for creating turnovers (13 over the past four games). They’ll actually record a couple sacks in this game and rack up takeaways.|
|6||Kansas City Chiefs vs. Broncos. Drew Lock has been better than expected in his first two NFL starts, taking just one sack, throwing two INTs, and leading the Broncos to 61 offensive points. The Chiefs remain a big-play, boom-or-bust D/ST, creating eight takeaways, one D/ST touchdown, and allowing just 14 points per game over their past three contests. With this game in Kansas City, we expect them to take advantage of the rookie QB and make some big plays.|
|7||Buffalo Bills @ Steelers. The Bills don’t produce many takeaways, but they’re good at keeping the score low (15 points per game allowed over past six games) and getting sacks (22 sacks in that span). Devlin Hodges has provided some stability to the Steelers offense, but this will be by far the best f defense he’s faced. As an inexperienced rookie, he’s still a worry to make mistakes in a big game.|
|8||Philadelphia Eagles @ Redskins. Washington continues to defy expectations by limiting turnovers, but it’s giving up sacks (at least three in all but one game since the start of Week 3) and not scoring many points (12.7 per game since the start of Week 3). The Eagles haven’t been consistent this year, but they’re always good for sacks and generally keep the scores low in favorable matchups (Week 13’s 37-point outburst by the Dolphins notwithstanding). If they can manage to crack the code and create some turnovers, it will be a big week for them.|
|9||Minnesota Vikings @ Chargers. In the three games prior to last week’s rout of Jacksonville, the Chargers had turned it over nine times and allowed 10 sacks to some mediocre defenses (Oakland, Kansas City, Denver). Minnesota has been inconsistent most of the season, but it’s recorded multiple takeaways in back-to-back games and just held the Lions to seven points while tying their season high for sacks (5). This is a boom-or-bust spot for the Vikings, but we expect them to come through given how much they still have to play for.|
|10||Los Angeles Rams @ Cowboys. The Rams have allowed fewer than 12 offensive points in six of the past seven games. They’ve also had at least three sacks in all of those games. The Cowboys don’t allow many fantasy points to D/STs, but they’ve struggled more recently in tougher matchups (16 ppg, two sacks and one takeaways allowed over the past three games), and this might be the toughest yet. The Rams should still have a fairly high floor.|
|11||Cleveland Browns @ Cardinals. The Cardinals and Kyler Murray have hit a wall recently, allowing 15 sacks, six takeaways, and three D/ST touchdowns over their past three games. To be fair, those were against three of the toughest defenses in the league (49ers, Rams, Steelers), but the Browns can still rack up takeaways (eight over the past four games) and keep the score relatively low.|
|12||Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Lions. The Bucs will allow plenty of points, but they also have a knack for big plays, recording 12 sacks, seven takeaways, and two D/ST touchdowns over the past three games. David Blough has been sacked five times, thrown three INTs, and averaged 13.5 offensive points in his two starts, so this is a good spot for Tampa’s D/ST.|
|13||Green Bay Packers vs. Bears. The Packers have limited offenses to fewer than 17 points and recorded at least three sacks in three of the past four games. They’ve also recorded six total takeaways in that span. Basically, when they play bad offenses, they do pretty well. The Bears don’t necessarily qualify as “bad”, but they’re not all that good, especially on the road.|
|14||New Orleans Saints vs. Colts. The Colts have turned it over multiple times in four the past six games, which plays into the boom-or-bust Saints boom-or-bust D/ST. Over the past four games, it has 18 sacks and nine takeaways. A home prime-time game should help it get back on track after last week’s implosion against the 49ers.|
|15||Tennessee Titans vs. Texans. Houston has had offensive line issues most of the year (14 sacks allowed in the past four games), and last week it also struggled with turnovers (3). Tennessee has scored a D/ST touchdown in three of the past four games, so it has a high ceiling and decent floor in most matchups.|
|16||Detroit Lions vs. Buccaneers. Tampa has turned it over 14 times in its past five games, thanks in large part to Jameis Winston’s recklessness. With Winston nursing a sore throwing hand, he might struggle even more. The Lions have a low floor, especially in a game where they’ll almost certainly allow a good number of points, but any D/ST against the Bucs has a high ceiling.|
|17||Dallas Cowboys vs. Rams. The Rams have allowed a good amount of fantasy points to D/STs at times this year, but it seems to have calmed down over the past couple games since shifting its offense to a more run-heavy approach. The Cowboys need a healthy Leighton Vander Esch (neck) to really have value here, but if he’s back, there’s some upside since this game is in Dallas and Jared Goff typically struggles on the road.|
|18||Arizona Cardinals vs. Browns|
|19||New York Giants vs. Dolphins|
|20||Miami Dolphins @ Giants|
|21||Carolina Panthers vs. Seahawks|
|22||Jacksonville Jaguars @ Raiders|
|23||Oakland Raiders vs. Jaguars|
|24||Los Angeles Chargers vs. Vikings|
|25||Chicago Bears @ Packers|
|26||Houston Texans @ Titans|
|27||Washington Redskins vs. Eagles|
|28||Indianapolis Colts @ Saints|
|29||Atlanta Falcons @ 49ers|
|30||Denver Broncos @ Chiefs|
|31||Cincinnati Bengals vs. Patriots|
|32||New York Jets @ Ravens|