by Ray Kuhn
Here we are. As we enter the first week of the playoffs you are forgiven for spending the majority of your time debating which skill position players have earned the right to be in your starting lineup. That said, don’t forget about your defense. While there is nothing wrong with streaming a defense throughout the season to take advantage of match-ups, now is the time to look ahead. Not only should risk be minimized, doing so at the expense of a higher reward is warranted, but you need to think about the next two weeks as well. With that being said, let’s take a look at how the defenses rank:
- Minnesota Vikings – at Jacksonville
- Cincinnati Bengals – at Cleveland
- Denver Broncos – at Tennessee
- New England Patriots – vs. Baltimore
- Arizona Cardinals – at Miami
- Seattle Seahawks – at Green Bay
- Atlanta Falcons – at Los Angeles
- Detroit Lions – vs. Chicago
- Houston Texans – at Indianapolis
- Tennessee Titans – vs. Denver
- Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Oakland
- Miami Dolphins – vs. Arizona
- Philadelphia Eagles – vs. Washington
- New York Jets – at San Francisco
- Carolina Panthers – vs. San Diego
- The general understanding we have come to expect is that NFL quarterbacks are comfortable throwing the ball. After all, that is one of the major parts of their job functions. However, it has been apparent (admittedly so) that Blake Bortles is having issues in that department. He is coming off a 181 yard, two interception performance and the third year quarterback is up to 15 interceptions on the season (against 20 TD). Jacksonville is already on their second offensive coordinator this season and they are struggling to get on track. That lines up perfectly for the Vikings who have gone just three weeks without an interception this season and they have three weeks with multiple picks. Minnesota has yet to allow more than 26 points in a game and it shouldn’t matter the league’s best fantasy defense is on the road.
- If you are in the market to replace your defense due to a poor match-up, the Bengals are worth a look. As of Wednesday night they are owned in 65.1% of ESPN leagues with a fast rising ownership rate. Cincinnati is coming off a week where they shut down Philadelphia’s offense and made Carson Wentz look like the rookie he is as he attempted 60 passes. The Bengals are facing Cleveland and it’s possible weather will also be a factor. Cleveland has turned the ball over at the 5th highest rate this season, and they are going back to Robert Griffin under center who should be rusty. When they faced the Browns earlier this season Cincinnati came away two interceptions and allowed 17 points. A repeat of that performance would be perfect for fantasy owners.
- I know we warned against streaming defenses, but Atlanta’s match-up might be too good to pass up. We know the Falcons should be available, owned in just 17.3% of ESPN leagues, and there are few match-ups more juicy than facing the Rams. The Falcons have struggled on defense all season, reaching double digits just three times in fantasy production (based on a relatively standard scoring system), but Los Angeles should make it number four. Jared Goff was sacked four times last week, his lone touchdown came in garbage time and he was intercepted twice. In four games he has 4 TD against 3 INT and is averaging just 127.3 yards per game. There isn’t much risk associated going against the Rams’ offense as Todd Gurley looks like a much different running back than what we saw in his rookie season. Target the Falcons as a value pickwith minimal risk; although I wouldn’t expect the returns to be all that vast.
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Make sure to check out all of our Week 14 rankings: