If there’s one thing fantasy football owners don’t need the week before the fantasy playoffs, it’s four good D/STs on bye. Our Week 14 fantasy defense rankings are definitely feeling the losses of the Patriots, Colts, Dolphins, and Eagles, and they’re further weakened by some of the tough matchups for highly owned defenses. That opens the door for several legit sleepers and waiver wire streamers, but it’s still a tough week overall.
First, let’s look at the unfavorable matchups. The Rams (@ Cardinals), Cardinals (vs. Rams), Buccaneers (vs. Bills), and Bills (@ Buccaneers) are in a little group of death, at least for fantasy owners. The Rams and Bills have had some turnover issues lately, so the Cardinals and Bucs are still very much in play, but it’s reasonable to expect fewer points than usual. The Steelers (@ Vikings) and Ravens (@ Browns) are also in relatively tough spots on the road, at least according to the matchup stats. Given some of their recent struggles, it’s reasonable to keep them on the bench, but we all know both defenses have big-play potential.
The Packers (vs. Bears), Panthers (vs. Falcons), Titans (vs. Jaguars), Broncos (vs. Lions), Saints (@ Jets), Seahawks (@ Texans), and Chargers (vs. Giants) are all under 50-percent owned in Yahoo leagues, and all have starting potential this week. The matchup numbers all say “yes” even if the season-long numbers say “no” for some of those defenses.
The decision to trust one of these defenses or stick with your usual starting unit comes down to whether you think you’ll need big points or just a solid floor. A team like the Seahawks or Chargers could easily bust despite the favorable matchups, while the Rams and Bills will almost certainly get some sacks and a turnover or two. We generally recommend playing the matchups, but clearly this is the type of week that will put that strategy to the ultimate test.
As tough of a week as this shapes up to be, it’s good to know there are options. Big plays will ultimately rule the day, so evaluate your team needs and available D/STs and go from there.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest analysis and player movement. For individual analysis of key D/STs, click here.