In My Defense
The final week of the fantasy regular season is upon us (in most cases). Congratulations to everyone who has their playoff spots or even bye weeks all wrapped up. Good luck this week to those (including myself) who need a win to get in, and we’ll see you next year to the teams that weren’t able to come through this season. As you look ahead towards the fantasy playoffs, one position that can give you a distinct advantage over your competitors is in the DST slot. You typically won’t find a top 5 RB or WR on the waiver wire in any given week, but some of the top DSTs each week are consistently available. No other position is more matchup dependent than DST, so while teams like Seattle and Minnesota were units you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole earlier this season, they very much come into focus here at the end of the year.
The purpose of this article is to give you some ideas on the DST side so you don’t have to constantly maneuver and bid against other owners each week to find the hot dot defense everyone will be going after. Planning can land the top streamer on your team weeks before you even need them. And as we head into playoff season, it’s prudent to plan with your line-ups. Rostering a second defense to lock-in great matchups probably serves your team better than holding out hope for a bust like Hollywood Brown or hanging onto that WR5 like Darius Slayton. You are never going to play those guys in a playoff game, so why not lock in a top-notch defense for the rest of the season?
Of course, we would all like to have Pittsburgh or Baltimore in our DST slot but there’s only a handful of those “set and forget” types on defense. The point here is to dig a little deeper and help shed some light on DSTs that are most likely available in most leagues.
My favorite pair of defenses to stash for the final weeks of the season are the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Chargers. Seattle has been in the Christmas spirit all season long, gifting RBs, QBs, and especially WRs with bags and bags of fantasy points. This defense has been a mouth-watering match-up for line-ups all season, however things have seemed to have started clicking for the Seahawks defensive unit. Over the last 3 weeks the best WR performance has been 17 points from Josh Reynolds, holding players like Deandre Hopkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to low outputs. The last 3 QBs to face the Hawks have finished below expectation – Week 10 Jared Goff finished as the QB22 – Week 11 Kyler Murray was the QB11 – Week 12 Carson Wentz the QB7 (on the back of a last second garbage time Hail Mary – take away that play and he finishes around QB20). Jamal Adams has been back on the field these last few weeks and has been a force for Seattle near the line of scrimmage.
The reason Seattle is so attractive is because of their schedule – the next 3 games they play the New York Giants at home, New York Jets at home, and then the Washington Football Team on the road. The Giants and Jets have given up the 5th most, and most points to DST’s respectively. Both teams will be flying out to the West Coast and Seattle projects to be heavy home favorites for both matchups. The Giants have a respectable defense this year, currently ranking 10th in both yards and points allowed per game. Expect the Over/Under on that game to be one of the lower ones on the slate, coupled with the fact we’re probably looking at Colt McCoy under center for the G-Men.
The Jets are the Jets and are doing their best Tank for Trevor job this season. Ranking near the bottom in points and yards, the Jets defense is one of the league’s worst. I expect a bit higher of an Over/Under for this game, but all those points falling on the Seattle side. The Jets have averaged a little over 12 points a game with Darnold under center. Seattle should be the #1 DST available in Week 14.
Week 15 won’t be as easy as the last 2 weeks. The Washington Team has been playing better football the last few weeks with Alex Smith under center. Antonio Gibson has gotten better each week and Terry McLaurin looks like a young star in the making. However, Washington has given up plenty of sacks and turnovers which should give the Seattle defense plenty of fantasy points in case Washington scores a few times. Outside of this recent game against Dallas, you’ve done well if you’ve played the DST against Washington.
Week 16 the Seahawks take on the Rams at home in a tough divisional game which could be crucial to the divisional race. This game will probably have an Over/Under on the lower side, and while at one time a team to completely avoid, the Rams offense hasn’t been too imposing this year. The Rams currently give up the 12th most fantasy points to opposing defenses and being a tough divisional game at home, the Seahawks defense should be fine in this one. However, I understand the notion people may not want to play against Sean McVay’s offense in championship week, so that’s why I suggest pairing Seattle with the LA Chargers. In Week 16 the Chargers host Denver at home, who have given up the 3rd most fantasy points to defenses. This past week against the Saints with their RB carousel playing QB didn’t help at all, but these Broncos have been bad on offense all season. Denver gives up 2.2 sacks per game and leads the league with 26 giveaways.
Pairing these two defenses together means you’ll be playing against this schedule over the next 4 weeks:
Week 13: New York Giants at home
Week 14: New York Jets at home
Week 15: Washington Football Team on the road
Week 16: Denver Broncos at home
The next pair of defenses I like are the Vikings and the Texans. The Texans have had a renaissance as a team since Bill O’Brien was let go, winning 3 of their last 4 and Deshaun Watson looking like an entirely new QB. Before the bye week, Houston was giving up 31 points per game on average, but only 20 points per game since. Romeo Crennel has this team playing with some fire, especially on the defensive side of the ball. CB Bradley Roby was recently suspended 6 games for PED abuse, so it certainly weakens Houston on the back end. However, Houston gets enough pressure/sacks led by JJ Watt and Co. that they should provide plenty of fantasy points for your team. Houston is a team you absolutely want to play Week 14 and Week 16 but could possibly play them Weeks 13 and 15 if need be. Let’s look at their schedule.
The juicy matchups we want them in the line-up include Week 14 at Chicago, and then Week 16 home against Cincinnati. Chicago gives up the 4th most points to DSTs led by a blistering combination at QB of Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles. Man, imagine passing on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to select Mitch Trubisky? The Chicago Bears have been sputtering of late, losing 5 straight games with their highest offensive output being 25 points in a blow out last week against the Packers. Chicago gives up 2.5 sacks per game on the season, and close to 3 per game over their last 3 games. Additionally, Chicago is near the top of the league in giveaways with 18 on the season. Not on the same level as the New York Jets, but this is an offense you want to target when you can for DST.
Week 16 doesn’t need a ton of analysis to be honest. The Texans take on the Bengals at home. The Bengals were a match-up to target before Burrow went down, and now it pushes that notion even further. Led last week by Brandon Allen, we can’t expect Cincy to provide much offensive firepower for the rest of the season. Regardless if the QB is Allen or Finley, this is a team that doesn’t score a ton and gives up defensive plays in bunches. Cincy gives up 3.5 sacks per game, second most in the league. They rank right behind Chicago in the turnover department, with 17 giveaways this season. With Burrow they weren’t putting up consistent points, but had a few outbursts against Cleveland, Jacksonville, Indy and Tennessee. However, they’ve put up 9 and 17 the last two weeks respectively. So, the Bengals provide lots of sacks, giveaways and aren’t a threat to score at all. They will most likely be underdogs with very low Over/Under in their remaining games, so fire up the DST in this match up.
Weeks 13 and 15 you CAN play the Texans but pairing them with Minnesota makes a delicious schedule. Quickly, the Texans play Indianapolis Weeks 13 and 15. They haven’t necessarily been an offense to target, but not one to avoid either, currently right in the middle of the league in points given up to DSTs. Phillip Rivers has shown his age this season, however the Colts have been a somewhat “safe” offense. They’re near the bottom of the league in giveaways, and in sacks given up. They protect the ball and their QB at a high rate. While they aren’t a scary match-up like KC or NO, they aren’t a cake walk either.
That’s why I love pairing the Texans with the Vikings for this stretch. The start of the season was a rocky one for Minnesota, losing their first 3 games and 5 of their first 6. Coach Mike Zimmer’s seat was certainly on fire and looked like a lost season for this team. However, they have managed to turn things around; winners of 4 of their last 5. The defense seems to have had a resurgence, giving up 22 points per game over that stretch, compared to 32 points a game before the bye week. Minnesota isn’t a flashy defense, garnering only 1.7 sacks per game (24th in the NFL) and 13 turnovers this season (19th in the league). But they’re Week 13 and 15 matchups are too good to ignore, and line-up perfectly with the Texans schedule.
Week 13 we see the Vikings take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Minnesota. The Jags have played a little QB roulette the last few weeks after losing Gardner Minshew to a hand injury. Jake Luton showed he wasn’t the answer and Mike Glennon almost got the Jags a win over Cleveland this past week. Whether it’s Glennon, Luton, or Minshew this is a team to target for fantasy DSTs. They give up the 12th most fantasy points to DSTs, 14th most giveaways this season with 16, and average giving up 2.7 sacks per game, the 8th worst rate in the NFL.
Week 15 makes the mouth water as we get another matchup against Chicago. We dove into the Chicago matchup a few paragraphs up when we discussed the Texans, so we can apply all those same reasons again here for the Vikings. Play your DSTs against Chicago.
Pairing these 2 defenses together means you’ll be playing against this schedule over the next 4 weeks:
Week 13: Jacksonville Jaguars at home
Week 14: Chicago Bears on the road
Week 15: Chicago Bears at home
Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals at home
Las Vegas Raiders + Arizona Cardinals
If you’re in a league that hordes defenses for some reason and even the middle tier guys like Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston and Minnesota aren’t available, the Raiders and Cardinals combo can provide solid matchups.
Digging a bit deeper in the DST streamer basket, here we have two defenses that haven’t been considered much, if at all, this season. However, let’s take a closer look first, at the Raiders. They have had a brutal schedule this year, playing several of the league’s top offenses including the Saints, Chiefs (X2) Bills, Buccaneers, Chargers and Falcons. They aren’t a sexy defense, ranking near the bottom of the league in sacks and takeaways. They’ve given up 29 points per game which ranks 28th in the NFL. So why are we considering them?
They play the New York Jets in Week 13. The Jets have been fantasy Santa this year, giving out the most points in the NFL to DSTs. They are an anemic offense led by Adam Gase, and honestly, I think having Darnold in the line-up makes them worse. As a Jets fan, I obviously hope at this point we come away with Pick #1 and Trevor Lawrence in the draft. Flacco scared me a few times there, almost pulling out a win or two. But alas, Sam Darnold is back, and right on cue the Jets came out and scored 3 points against the Dolphins. While the Raiders defense seems like one to avoid, there’s death, taxes and play your DST against the Jets.
The Cardinals have been a sneaky good defense this year. They’re 14th in the league, giving up 23.5 points per game, have 14 takeaways on the season and rank 10th in the NFL with 2.5 sacks per game. Scoring format might be different depending on league, but they’re ranked as the 11th overall DST so far this season. Arizona is only rostered in 21% of Yahoo leagues, so good chance they’re on your waiver wire. I think the stink of the last few years has carried over with them, and people aren’t paying attention to the great work Vance Joseph is doing this season. They have a great schedule to round out the season.
Week 14 they travel to take on the New York Giants. With Daniel Jones under center the Giants were giving up the 6th most points to DSTs, and now we might see Colt McCoy for a few weeks as Jones nurses a leg injury. Whether it’s Jones or McCoy, the Cardinals should be heavy favorites in this one and the DST should have a nice day.
Week 15 Arizona gets Philly at home. If anyone has watched the Eagles lately, it’s incredible how terrible the offense is. The offensive line might be worst in the league, giving up 4.2 sacks per game, ranking dead last in the NFL. Plus, they have been in a very giving spirit, with 21 giveaways this season, 3rd most in the league. Over the last 3 games they have scored a consistent 17 points each. This offense is right up there with Chicago, Cincinnati, etc. to target against DSTs.
Week 16 the Raiders take on Miami, and the Cardinals take on San Fran. One caveat here, IF Tua is starting for Miami, I think you can play the Raiders DST however if it’s Fitzpatrick, I would avoid.
For Week 16 either way you can confidently play Arizona; they take on the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers currently give up the 8th most points to DSTs, they give up 2.5 sacks per game and are right behind Philly, with 20 giveaways this season, 4th most in the league. While the 49ers offense was spectacular last season, this year has been a different story.
Pairing these 2 defenses together means you’ll be playing against this schedule over the next 4 weeks:
Week 13: New York Jets on the road
Week 14: New York Giants on the road
Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles at home
Week 16: San Francisco 49ers at home
Good luck to everyone still in the hunt and I hope this article helps brings home some fantasy titles!
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