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Below are RotoBaller’s Week 15 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream and start for Week 15 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Bill’s tiered defense rankings are your guide to making waiver wire pickups and adds to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 15.
Are you looking for some assistance with your lineups? Not sure which defenses have good matchups for Week 15? Can’t decide which defenses to target off the waiver wire, or whether you should stream a different defense for this week? No worries, we are here to help every week of the fantasy football season.
Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 15 defenses have good matchups and are not widely owned, representing sleeper opportunities if they are available on your league’s waiver wire for a Week 15 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 15 RotoBallers!
Week 15 Defenses: Playoffs Tiered Starts & Streams
Tier 1 Defenses: Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets
The Carolina defense rivals the Denver Broncos as the number one unit in the league, and in Week 15 they could be the top option. A week after shutting out the free-falling Falcons, the Panthers will get Eli Manning and company in New Jersey. You can bet that Josh Norman will be shadowing Odell Beckham, Jr., which should be one of the most fun individual matchups to watch this week. There is nothing to fear from the four-headed monstrosity in the New York backfield (Shane Vereen, Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa), so Manning will have to throw all day to keep pace with SuperCam and the high-flying Panthers offense. That should lead to some turnovers, and you can bet your bottom dollar Manning will be on his back early and often.
The Chiefs have officially evolved into an elite fantasy D/ST, and are coming off their second mauling of the Chargers in four weeks. Things only get easier in Week 15, as they’ll visit a Ravens team decimated by injuries. It could very well be Jimmy Clausen under center, and if it’s not they’ll get Matt “Pick-Six” Schaub. Kamar Aiken and Javorius Allen are the only two legitimate offensive players in Baltimore, and this could very well be a bloodbath.
The red-hot Seahawks are fresh off of their own destruction of the Ravens, and will now get Johnny Manziel and the Browns. The Seattle secondary should be able to hold Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin in check, and I have absolutely no hope for Duke Johnson or Isaiah Crowell either. This one could get all sorts of messy by halftime.
I’m doing it–I’m putting Tampa Bay in the top tier. They’re in the middle of a playoff push, and I don’t see any way that the Rams will put up more than 14 points against them. Case Keenum is barely an NFL quarterback, and he doesn’t have much in the way of weapons to work with. The Bucs will stack the box against Todd Gurley, and as long as they hold him under 100 yards they should have this one wrapped up.
J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets! Owners of the New Jersey-based team should have plenty to cheer about in Week 15 as they’ll travel to Dallas to take on Matt Cassel and the Cowboys. Cassel, much like the aforementioned Keenum, is barely an NFL quarterback, and he certainly isn’t talented enough to beat the Jets’ secondary–even with Jason Witten and Dez Bryant to throw to. Darren McFadden has shown he can be stopped, and the Jets have the personnel to do it. I don’t think this one will be particularly close, especially with the Jets offense firing on all cylinders.
Tier 2 Defenses: Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
The Broncos are typically an every-week elite DST, but I can’t in good conscience rank them as such with the Pittsburgh Steelers on deck. The NFL’s leader in sacks has had some sub-par performances in recent weeks after a red-hot start to the season, and they may post another against what many regard as the top offense in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger, when healthy, is a top-five fantasy quarterback, and he can make superstars out of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton on any given week. DeAngelo Williams hasn’t slowed down yet, and while the Broncos are talented enough to keep the Steelers under 30 points, they likely won’t have the sack and takeaway numbers they’re used to.
I was tempted to put the Cardinals in the top tier, but I’m giving the Eagles a chance this week as they push for the playoffs. Coming off two huge wins over the Bills and Patriots, the Eagles will need to keep pushing the offense if they want to see the postseason. DeMarco Murray is all but dead in the water, but in his absence Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews form a potent duo in the run game. Sam Bradford has looked better of late, and with Zach Ertz playing well they should be able to hang with the Cardinals for at least the first half.
Brock Osweiler proved that he is not quite ready to be a top-flight NFL quarterback last week, as the Broncos put up just 10 points against the Raiders. Meanwhile, the Steelers have posted six turnovers and eight sacks in the last two weeks–this is a recipe for success if you own the Steelers D/ST. It’s still a guessing game as to which Broncos running back will see the most work each week, and it’s gotten even more interesting with Juwan Thompson seemingly added to the mix with Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. Obviously Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas can’t do as much damage if they don’t have an elite quarterback throwing them the ball, and I love the Steelers this week.
The Bengals may have lost Andy Dalton for the season, meaning they’ll need to rely on their defense even more if they are to hold on to a playoff spot. I like their chances this week against the 49ers, who are still relying on Blaine Gabbert and Shaun Draughn on offense. The one thing giving me pause is the fact that their secondary is still banged-up, and Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith could still surprise them.
The Patriots added another six sacks to their impressive total (42) in Week 15, and they should do it again in Week 16. They’ll get a home game against Marcus Mariota and the Titans, and while the rookie quarterback has impressed this season I don’t see him hanging with Tom Brady. Logan Ryan has established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league, and he’ll likely shadow Dorial Green-Beckham, who is the Titans’ biggest threat on offense. Antonio Andrews won’t have much room to run, and the New England D/ST could post double-digits again.
Tier 3 Defenses: Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Eagles D/ST has had some great games this season (against the Pats in Week 13, for example), and some absolute stinkers (like their Week 12 loss to the Lions). You can’t like them in Week 15, as they’ll host the Arizona Cardials in a “Battle of the Birds”. Carson Palmer has three stud wide receivers on the field at all times, as Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd have all proven they can erupt on any given Sunday. David Johnson has filled in admirably for the injured Chris Johnson, and the Cardinals’ offense hasn’t skipped a beat. I’m passing on the Eagles this week.
The Rams are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to sacking the quarterback, but they’ve been disappointing from a turnover standpoint (just 20 all season). I don’t see them being able to slow down the Buccaneers in Week 15, as Jameis Winston is well on his way to being the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Mike Evans is his favorite weapon (and rightfully so), and he’s just getting Austin Seferian-Jenkins back up to speed. Doug Martin has been resurgent this season, and he’ll be able to get his yards no matter what defensive front he’s facing. I don’t think the Rams will be able to contain all aspects of the Tampa Bay offense, and I’ll be leaving them on the bench in all formats.
Tyrod Taylor has just one interception in his last nine games, and I don’t see him faltering against the Redskins secondary. Sammy Watkins is playing at the top of his game right now, and LeSean McCoy will be running angry after his revenge game against the Eagles didn’t go as planned. The upside just isn’t high enough for me, and in the fantasy playoffs you want upside out of your defense.
The Vikings are simply too average to start in the playoffs–again, you’re looking for upside. They’ve only surpassed two sacks in a game twice all season, and I don’t see them being able to against the Bears in Week 15. Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery are still as lethal as ever, and now that there are two viable option in the running/mid-range passing game (Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford) the Chicago offense is even more formidable. Bench the Purple People-Eaters this week.
The Jags will ascend from the bottom tier thanks to their matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. I can’t quite explain why, but Matt Ryan has been a shadow of his former self in 2015. He’s thrown for one or zero touchdowns on eight separate occasions this season, and he’s thrown seven interceptions in his last four games. Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are still bona fide studs, but with Ryan playing so poorly (and the Jaguars defense actually playing well) the Jaguars make for a very interesting steaming option.
Tier 4 Defenses: New York Giants, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins
The Giants D/ST has the Panthers in Week 15, and regardless of their highs during this season I simply refuse to start anyone against Carolina. Cam Newton is playing on another level right now, and he’s making things happen with a different player each week. Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn are his favorites, Jonathan Stewart is running like a bull, and ultimately I don’t think the Giants will slow them down.
The Texans will get the Colts in what should be a very interesting divisional battle, as both are still seeking the AFC South title. The Texans defense has been one of the NFL’s all-around best in the last month, but a lack of turnovers has kept them from being a fantasy streamer. I imagine it will be a similar scenario in Week 15–they might be able to keep Matt Hasselbeck from finding T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief for big gains, but ultimately they won’t put up the fantasy points to back it up. You need upside, and I simply don’t think you’ll find it here.
The Packers defense has a similar story; they’ve played well in the last month, but it hasn’t translated to fantasy success. This week could turn into a shootout, as Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders are due for a big game. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree were shut down by the Broncos in Week 14, but I don’t think the Packers secondary will be able to contain them. Latavius Murray is also due for a big performance, so I don’t trust Green Bay this week.
Sigh. The Bills once again seem destined for an 8-8 or 7-9 season, partially because their defense has fallen incredibly short of their pre-season expectations. They’ll face a hungry Redskins team in Week 15, and things may be too far gone for them to slow down Kirk Cousins and his pass-catchers. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are nice complementary options, but this offense seems to run best with Jordan Reed at its center. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones won’t be able to do much against the Bills’ front seven, but that shouldn’t matter. You’re dropping the Bills if you even own them at this point. Do I sound bitter? Because I feel bitter.
The Miami D/ST makes the list thanks to a matchup with the hapless San Diego Chargers. Thanks to injuries and underperformance, the Chargers have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL, and it doesn’t look great for them in the home stretch either. It’s almost unfair to judge Philip Rivers at this point, as he’s operated without Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Malcolm Floyd for most of the season (albeit at different points for each of them). The offensive line is a mess as well, so the Dolphins might be one of those dice rolls that works out. Stream them if you’re left with limited waiver wire options.