The fantasy playoffs are in full swing and Week 14 offered up some interesting results from a streaming-defense perspective. A few early-season darlings returned to prominence as the Lions, Redskins and Chiefs all had nice outings, while other defenses such as the Cowboys and Chargers had disappointing performances despite nice matchups.
That’s the rub in trying to nail down the best streaming defense/special team options on a weekly basis as once all the film-watching, number-crunching and matchup-examining is over, the men take the field. Once that happens anything is possible, and that’s why we love fantasy football.
Speaking of loving something it’s time to take a look at this week’s options for streaming defenses as yours truly loves writing this piece. After 20 or so straight hours of DVR-watching, statistics-checking, and way too much coffee, let’s get to it.
Atlanta Falcons (at Tampa Bay)
This is a rematch from Week 12, when the Falcons defense managed just a single sack against the Buccaneers is a 34-20 victory. That would seem to make this a defense to avoid, until we take a closer look at the Tampa bay offense in the two games since the Week 12 tilt. The Buccaneers are playing fast and loose with the football, having just turned the ball over five times in their loss to Lions last week. Over the last two weeks, the Buccaneers have allowed 10 sacks while turning the ball over six times and giving up a defensive score. The Falcons are fighting for a playoff spot and will take full advantage of a turnover-plagued Tampa Bay offense this week.
Carolina Panthers (vs. Green Bay)
This is the time of year to roll with teams that have something to play for, and after winning five of their past six games the Panthers are fighting for the NFC South division title. They are also coming off a dominant performance against the Vikings, having put up six sacks and forcing three turnovers. The six sacks were the most allowed in a game this season by the Vikings who entered the contest having given up just 14 on the season. Over the last three games the Panthers have been getting it done in every facet of defense/special teams with 11 sacks, five turnovers, and scores from both the defense and the special teams. Even the possible return of Aaron Rodgers will not be enough to stop the surging Panthers defense.
Detroit Lions (vs. Chicago Bears)
Feeling lucky? The Lions defense is a turnover-based unit that roared out of the gate in 2017 on their way to a 3-1 start. In the first four games Detroit had 10 sacks, forced 11 turnovers, and had two defensive touchdowns as well as a punt return for a score. They cooled off Weeks 5-13 but did still manage to put up eight sacks along with three more defensive touchdowns and another return for a score. That big-play unit reappeared last week against a sloppy Tampa Bay offense, racking up three sacks and five turnovers. In the first matchup between these teams the Lions managed just a single sack, but you have to be encouraged by the fact that Ziggy Ansah has put up two sacks in his past three games. The Lions did return a fumble for a score in their Week 11 win at Chicago.
Chicago Bears (at Detroit)
Yes, I see this Saturday afternoon game as a fantasy bonanza for both defense/special teams units. The Bears defense is coming off a strong showing in a win over Cincinnati, having put up three sacks and a pair of turnovers. More importantly, the Lions offense has been extremely generous to opposing defenses of late. In their past three games Detroit has allowed six sacks (despite holding the Buccaneers to zero last week) and turned the ball over eight times. They have also allowed a defensive touchdown over that time. The Bears put up three sacks in the first meeting between these teams and should easily reach that total again as well as force a turnover or two.
With Carson Wentz officially done for the season with a torn ACL, the Eagles are going to need to rely heavily on their defense down the stretch and into the playoffs. Fortunately, Philadelphia has a dominant defensive line that has accounted for 29.5 of the team’s 35 sacks and racked up seven forced fumbles with three fumbles recovered. That’s the fantasy production that owners crave at this time of the year. In this past four games the Eagles have 10 sacks with eight turnovers and a pair of defensive touchdowns. The Giants are continuing to play out the string with an underwhelming receiving corps due to injuries. Look for another big day from Brandon Graham (he returned a fumble for a score last week) and company as they take advantage of a struggling New York offense.
Washington Redskins (vs. Arizona)
Let’s chase an offensive line that just lost OT Jared Velheer as well as G Earl Watford to ankle injuries. Veldheer was already playing out of position at left tackle in place of the injured D.J. Humphries (knee). You see what I’m getting at. Last week the Titans hung eight sacks on a beaten-up Cardinals offensive line that’s now allowed 14 in the last two games. Arizona is allowing an average of 11 quarterback hurries per game over the last three weeks leaving Blaine Gabbert bruised and battered. Washington’s defense is coming off a top-10 fantasy performance in its loss to the Chargers, having put up two sacks and an interception return for a score. They should continue to find success this week against a mismatched offensive line.
It’s no surprise that the Browns heart-breaking overtime loss against the Packers came after an untimely (and inexplicable) interception. Turnovers continue to plague Cleveland as they lead the league in interceptions thrown with 23 and they face a desperate Ravens defense this week. Baltimore is in a dog fight for the final AFC wild card spot and will look to bounce back from a hard loss to the Steelers. Despite failing to force a turnover last week, Baltimore has still been a top-10 fantasy unit over the past three games with eight sacks, six turnovers, and a defensive touchdown. In the first meeting between the teams in Week 2, Baltimore picked off DeShone Kizer three times finishing the game with four interceptions (five total turnovers) and three sacks.